The White Man’s Burden

With all the talk of intersectionality and white privilege, it now turns out that white men themselves can play the victim card. We too are oppressed and marginalized as Pete Enns recently discovered:

White male privilege really is a thing, I never see it from the outside in, and I was never challenged to critique white male privilege as an expression of my faith. Rather, it was allowed to fit far too comfortably with my faith.

Not being an oppressed person puts me at a disadvantage. I rarely need to cry out as the psalmists do about being treated with injustice, prejudice, with violence. I don’t need to worry about being pulled over by uniformed protectors of the public. There are many more places I can go and things I can do because I am part of the dominant culture.

And I don’t worry about my competence or value being questioned because of my gender. I am the default, the norm. I do the judging.

An iteration of the Christian faith that doesn’t see the problem here, really see it, is its own refutation.

But here come some complications when men of privilege grasp for the ring of oppression:

Was the fact that Pete was a victim of white male domination at WTS its own form of oppression? On the scales of social justice this instance of maltreatment (according to some) does not itself rise to the level of what people of color have experienced. But Pete needs to see that white male privilege only goes so far when it collides with other white men with privilege. Ten years ago the Psalms would have made total sense of Pete’s experience.

But that raises a question about using as expressions of lament the prayers of kings, which is much of the OT Psalter. Should a victim of oppression really appeal to a prayer from an officer who according to social justice warriors is inherently oppressive? After all, the left has taught us that the wealthy and powerful are chief among the perpetrators of injustice. So how do you sing the songs of lament of the wealthy and powerful, like kings as opposed to the oppressed people (who haven’t left much of a paper trail)?

One last wrinkle: can a white Christian man really appeal to the text of Hebrews even if that is his academic specialty? Isn’t this a form of cultural appropriation? If Oberlin College students have taught us about authentic tacos in the cafeteria, and if Pete wants to approve the arguments that currently fuel the politics of identity, hasn’t he gone to the wrong place if he turns to the Psalms? Wouldn’t T.S. Eliot be a better fit for a white Christian man if he were — hypothetically of course — to experience oppression?

The gods of social justice are a demanding bunch. Call on them at your peril if your complexion is pink or ruddy.

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12 thoughts on “The White Man’s Burden

  1. Imagine a powerful Jewish king writing a love song to a dark-skinned woman working in the fields.

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  2. I can hardly wait for Authentic Christianity from the Global South to take over and displace White Republican Evangelical Christianity. The long suffering of Pete Enns, Russell Moore, Miroslav Volf, and Ed Stetzer will finally be lifted as the Vibrant, Multicultural, Happy, Sin-Free, Soulful, Spiritual Masses from the Third World reinvigorate our stale, boring White Bread, Conservative Republican, Trump Loving White Evangelicals. True Christianity, found only in the Global South, is a rebuke to American Evangelical White Republican Christianity. The Happy Peoples from the Global South would be truly puzzled by the Evils Practiced Only by White Evangelical Republican Christians such as Racism, Bigotry, Homophobia, Greed, Violence, and Injustice. They don’t have those things where they’re from, of course. Because they’re not white.

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  3. Thank goodness we have another white privileged liberal “Christian” telling us how he has come to see his white privilege and is now more enlightened than the rest of white conservatives. There certainly hasn’t been enough of them lately.

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  4. Robert,
    When judging other groups, it might be helpful to remember the parable of the two men praying. How we really relate to God can often be measured by how we relate to or view others.

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  5. Curt,
    1. You judge groups all the time and hold others in scorn. (Like you categorizing who is in the group of the praying Pharisee and who is in the group of the man looking up to God saying have mercy on a sinner like me.)
    2. You need to understand the difference between condemning judgment and discerning judgment.
    3. I think you actually do understand the difference you are just deliberately selective with it and engage in studied ambiguity to suit your social justice worldview.

    By the way, get a new tune. Your answer for everything is the parable of the two men praying. Or at least apply it accurately. Speaking of application, it is hot out there, be sure to apply sun screen at the protest rally today and stay hydrated. The rest of us net tax producers will be at work in air conditioned buildings.

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  6. E. Burns,
    Your second point is good. THere is a difference between condemning judgment and discerning judgment. The pharisee from the parable exercised condemning judgment. And that judgment consisted of claiming superiority over the person. And considering that tune comes from the Gospels, I see no need to change.

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  7. Curt,

    Why is it that when you makes observations and assessments on what group is right or wrong you are being discerning and wise, whereas when people who are on the opposing side of the argument make observations they are almost always (to some degree or another) bigoted and displaying superiority complex or engaging in condemning judgment???

    Who’s really the one with the moral superiority complex over others in these discussions?

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  8. E. Burns,
    Let’s compare and see if there is a difference.

    One of the latest comments I made is I challenged Robert about what he said about liberals. But was I upset that he was judging liberals or was I opposing how he talked about liberals? Was he talking about liberals as fellow sinners or was he putting liberals below conservatives like him? Or to put it in your words, was that a condemning judgment I made or a discerning one? Well read what Robert said about liberals. He wrote:


    Thank goodness we have another white privileged liberal “Christian” telling us how he has come to see his white privilege and is now more enlightened than the rest of white conservatives. There certainly hasn’t been enough of them lately.

    Or look at my first comment here. I wrote:


    And the mockers of Social Justice can be a cold lot. In addition, they seem unable to see diversity in the groups they hold up for scorn.

    Doesn’t the use of the word ‘And’ include the mockers of Social Justice with the Social Justice people being referred to in the article? So have I put one group above the other?

    From other posts, what other groups have I held up to scorn? Is it 2kers? If you say yes, then why have I repeatedly commented on the contributions that 2KT makes? Where have I held people up to scorn instead of exercising ‘discerning judgment’–to use your words–on this blog?

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  9. Curt, given your dismissal of any criticism of any aspect of left of center politics as “conservative libertarianism” “informed more by Ayn Rand than the Bible”, your holier than thou pedantic criticism of how we should see the diversity within groups rings hollow. Pot/Kettle and all that.

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  10. Iconoclasm will lead the way to Reformation.

    Motadel —“The prototype of all modern forms of iconoclasm Noyes found in Calvin’s Geneva and Ibn Abd al-Wahhab’s Mecca. Sixteenth-century Geneva witnessed one of the most devastating waves of religious image-breaking in history. Incited by a group of charismatic theologians – among them John Calvin himself – mobs raged against objects associated with miracles, magic and the supernatural, destroying some of the city’s most precious pieces of Christian art. Invoking the Second Commandment, they denounced these works as idols, and as remnants of a rural, feudal and superstitious world, a world corrupted by Satan.”

    https://billypenn.com/2017/08/15/mayor-kenney-on-frank-rizzo-statue-now-is-the-right-time-to-discuss-removal/

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