Malcolm X with a Joni Eareckson Tada Finish

The incident in Charlottesville gave Jemar Tisby another chance in the op-ed section of the Washington Post. No one could disagree with Mr. Tisby’s estimate that this protest was an instance of white supremacy or that it is ugly and a threat to public order and the rule of law.

But I do wonder if Mr. Tisby lost his nerve when speaking to a national audience. For instance, in an earlier post last spring about another incident in Charlottesville, he wrote this at his own blog:

As much as city leaders sought to gain support for removing Confederate monuments and symbols, they never had complete consensus. Officials in New Orleans kept the date and time of the monument removals secret for fear of reprisals from their opponents. The Confederate flag came down in South Carolina in the middle of vocal defiance of the decision. Yet come down they did.

In the church as in the world, the time is always right to do right. Racism is sin. Leaders should not take a gradual approach to killing racism just like they should not take a gradual approach to killing any other sin. Nor should they think it necessary to build a consensus to combat this sin. True leadership initiates righteous changes even when they are unpopular with those being led.

That is the kind of radicalism that Charles Finney took to Oberlin College. If it’s sin, you break with it immediately. Any delay is even more sin. It is even in the ballpark of the sort of radicalism that Malcolm X promoted. If you have a system that is so brutally and obviously bad, you need to blow it up or leave it. That was part of X’s appeal — he advocated black nationalism and black separatism, and given the nature of Jim Crow and police brutality, you could understand why.

But at the Post, Mr. Tisby backed away from that sort of radicalism and admitted that we will always have racists with us:

Let’s also be clear that we can’t really end white supremacy. In the Christian view, racism is a sin, and sin cannot be completely eradicated on this side of eternity. But we are called to fight against sin in all its forms, so we should expect positive change in our churches and society at large as we fight against it.

So how do we fight white supremacy without taking Malcolm X’s path? Cue Joni Eareckson Tada:

1. Admit the American church was built on white supremacy.
From the Colonial era to the present day, white churches have helped build a society that privileges whiteness and denigrates blackness. In light of the white church’s involvement in creating and maintaining white supremacy, white pastors can presume that their churches are already part of the problem, intentionally or not.

2. Confess and repent of past sins.
Many congregations were formed in a fit of “white flight” from cities. Many Christian schools, particularly in the South, were explicitly created to preserve racial segregation in an era of court-ordered desegregation. Christians and church leaders must ask themselves how much they have acknowledged their own history. Have they gone through their church records and rulings to tell the full story of how their church, community, or denomination has cooperated with white supremacy? A failure to face white supremacy in the past will lead to a failure to confront it in the present.

3. Commit to responding to white supremacy with the vigor that the problem requires.
When we examine the history of race and the American church, the story is often worse than we expect. The church hasn’t simply gone along with white supremacy — it has assembled and established it. If white Christians have historically been so intentional about building up barriers between the races, then they will have to be just as intentional to bring them down.

4.Listen to black people.
We’ve been saying all along that a Charlottesville could easily happen. For years, the alt-right and white nationalists have employed the Bible to justify their racism, in public online. But many white Christians have never heard of the alt-right, much less been equipped to filter their messages biblically. We kept trying to tell them that this obsession with the Confederacy and its cultural artifacts sabotaged efforts at racial unity.

In addition to the fourth point, which is an implicit pitch for Mr. Tisby’s podcast, this is advice right out of a w-w play book — take every thought captive. It’s all about thinking and making personal resolutions.

But imagine telling that to Germans living in the 1930s under the tyranny of National Socialism. When evil is so institutionalized and so oppressive, as Mr. Tisby has long argued, do you simply commit to do things differently? Or do you actually think that Malcolm X had a point? You overturn the system or get out and form a separate nation? Mr. Tisby’s recommendations strike me as the equivalent of what I hear about climate change. What do I do? I feel badly and commit to do better, even when the entire food distribution system and development of town life in the U.S. is predicated on the use of fossil fuel.

In other words, Mr. Tisby’s recommendations are sort of like saying don’t trust the system but don’t forget to work with the system. Glenn Greenwald spotted the flaw in this logic when he went after those who complained about the ACLU’s defense of Charlottesville’s white supremacists’ rights to assembly and free speech:

. . . the contradiction embedded in this anti-free-speech advocacy is so glaring. For many of those attacking the ACLU here, it is a staple of their worldview that the U.S. is a racist and fascist country and that those who control the government are right-wing authoritarians. There is substantial validity to that view.

Why, then, would people who believe that simultaneously want to vest in these same fascism-supporting authorities the power to ban and outlaw ideas they dislike? Why would you possibly think that the List of Prohibited Ideas will end up including the views you hate rather than the views you support? Most levers of state power are now controlled by the Republican Party, while many Democrats have also advocated the criminalization of left-wing views. Why would you trust those officials to suppress free speech in ways that you find just and noble, rather than oppressive?

Greenwald’s question is one I’d like to hear Mr. Tisby answer. If the United States was founded by racists, prolonged its racism through slavery and Jim Crow, and now continues that racism in policies of mass incarceration executed by Republicans — and there is validity to this understanding of U.S. history, I’m not saying it’s wrong — then why continue the United States? Why obey the laws of the U.S.? Why submit to police? Why not instead rebel and bring down such an oppressive regime?

Is it because the next regime will also be a sinful one that has its own oppressive bugs (not features)? In which case, is the argument that sin is structural really self-defeating? It certainly gets attention and inspires outrage. It also gives you a platform that will never go away because you’ll always have a system to oppose. But at a certain point, the protest looks like only pious advice unless it counters the unjust structure not with a commitment to do better but an alternative structure.


29 thoughts on “Malcolm X with a Joni Eareckson Tada Finish

  1. I predict the strategy you describe in your penultimate paragraph will become more appealing to some reformedish evangelicals before long. There is the small matter of Peter and Paul and that “rendering” business. But just as support for hard lines on the sexes and the offices of the church are weakening, so may the commitment to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.”


  2. Psalm 76: 10—“Even human wrath shall praise you, for you are to be feared. Who can stand before you when your anger is roused.”

    James 1:19 “Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God requires”

    Isaiah 10: 5 Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger;
    the staff in THEIR hands is MY fury!
    6 Against a godless nation I send him,
    and against the people of my wrath I command him,
    to take spoil and seize plunder,
    and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.

    Isaiah 10: 12 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, God will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes

    God using the wrath of the powers does not make those powers lawful or legitimate but temporary. God using Assyria is not the same thing as God “needing” Assyria.

    dgh—do you overturn the system or get out and form a separate nation?

    mcmark–you can’t come out—it would be too radical
    it’s your duty to be loyal to both kingdoms, or three kingdoms (if you happen to born in a church situated in a contested territory)

    dgh–why continue the United States? Why obey the laws of the U.S.? Why submit to police? Why not instead rebel and bring down such an oppressive regime?

    mcmark–Those are not the only two choices. Failure to participate in voting and otherwise add legitimacy to the “we have rights” creed is not the same thing as the attempt to replace the current occupation with a different regime. Failure to kill for the “we have rights ” creed is not the same thing as lack of submission to those who will one day be utterly destroyed by the God revealed in Jesus Christ (and who even now are disarmed).

    If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”― Marcus Aurelius

    The older brother was not a peasant, with a short term spend it today ‘fix everything ” attitude Instead of wasting all that money on a party , the father should have instead invested that money so that he would be able to regularly assist those who prove that they are worthy of being assisted.

    Judas, don’t worry about it. There will still be plenty of racists left long after I’m gone.

    True, some old school people in the south have not always agreed that everybody has unalienable rights
    But things are always going to be racist until Jesus comes.

    Nothing we can do about it and even the Jews only need the earth for a thousand years. And then after that we live in heaven but perhaps in two segregated kingdoms, with various jurisdictions (one for those raised without mother church)

    My cynicism should not be confused with humility

    Scott Clark — Reformed Christians and churches face a stark choice between Christ (death to self) and culture (amusing ourselves to death). One is an idol of the heart, as Tim Keller says, the other is the Christian life….Happiness has come to signal euphoria. Americans have become less interested in heaven

    The American civil creed, as Sen. Ben Sasse likes to say, confesses that citizens in the civil realm have been given by God certain “unalienable rights.” Something that is “unalienable” is something that the State did not create and cannot remove. It belongs to citizens inherently. Americans have, from time to time, evidently forgotten the this creed and have ceded at least some of their unalienable rights. E.g., the idea that ministers should not preach “political” sermons would have been entirely foreign to the founders of the American Republic. Ministers regularly preached them and were encouraged to do so.


  3. Mark,
    You omitted the next sentence from your quotation:

    I think that was a bad idea and a serious confusion of categories but as a matter of civil liberties many Americans have accepted the notion that a church’s “non-profit” 501 (c) 3 status may be made contingent upon not verging upon certain topics.

    I do not think that ministers should be preaching political/civil sermons. As Darryl has illustrated, that practice did not produce wonderful fruit in the life of the church. That said, I don’t think that the federal government should be regulating the church’s speech. That is an ecclesiastical matter. As Calvin said, we live under a “twofold government.”


  4. “Christians and church leaders must ask themselves how much they have acknowledged their own history. Have they gone through their church records and rulings to tell the full story of how their church, community, or denomination has cooperated with white supremacy?” And maybe the government can help fund these exercises!


  5. McMark, yes, not the only two options. There is the Amish one. But I keep hearing how the system is structurally unjust. Isn’t allowing it to go on a form of compromise with sin?


  6. To me, this argument is quite rational (if also somewhat cold and deflated)…But it also leaves me grasping for straws because it shoots holes in everyone’s best arguments and just walks away without offering up a better one.

    In one sense, this is honorable. Imagine if Dr. Hart had instead lectured us on the inability to create just and honorable institutions and then followed it by saying, “alright folks, now that I’ve told you why everyone is wrong listen to MEeeeee as I tell you MY plan for solving inequalities.” We’d call him a hypocrite and surely dismiss any of his previous arguments that got us to that spot. Thus, there’s a certain humbleness in walking away without providing a prescription of his own.

    My issue, then, revolves around that famous question, “How, then, shall we live?” If we can’t ultimately fix present institutions and rid them of their systematic biases, nor can we start new ones without introducing new biases, are we supposed to simply sit in our hands and wait out the storm of life? Are prescriptive committals (those of which Mr Tisby advocates) appropriate as personal aspirations rather than as a public course of action?

    My initial thought after reading this article is that one solution could involve placing oneself in “layers” of societies (e.g. Nation, Church, Family, interest groups, etc.), that way oppressed victims within one societal group can find solace and refuge amongst their other communities. This response, however, only seeks to mitigate pain caused by systematic oppressors and prescribes no means for reversing them. But if Dr Hart is correct, this may be the only option.


  7. PAH, another option is that the situation is not as bad as Jemar Tisby thinks. He may be a product of the therapeutic alienation that John McWhorter attributed to post-Civil Rights black America, one that sees oppression everywhere even while never having it better (compared to slaves or segregated blacks). Glenn Loury also thinks that African Americans have it much better than blacks in other parts of the world and should act like it. In that case, racism is still there but it’s not the blight that some say it is. What is a real problem, is the criminal justice system.


  8. Dr. Hart, I can’t say that I love this answer either, but it may hold some water. All of this still bothers me, possibly because I’ve been surrounded by a culture of niceness most of my life. It’s tough to tell someone “In light of the Fall, this may be the best you can get”, but that may be better than deceiving them with ideals that will never come about until Christ returns.

    It’s honestly easier on my conscience to like a few Facebook posts about how we need to do better about creating a tolerant society than it is to look at the world for what it is. The world is not nice, and it breaks my heart to think that “African Americans having it much better than blacks in other parts of the world” is considered a positive achievement. Maybe the biggest danger is this culture of niceness that gives people unrealistic expectations and blinds them to the powerful effects of the Fall.


  9. PAH, on the upside, you can rejoice in the grit and determination of blacks in the face of enormous opposition. It’s kind of a reverse inspiration. See The Wire (if your conscience will bear it). For me, I get goosebumps seeing how Bunk, Omar, and Gus endure.


  10. DGH– yes, not the only two options. There is the Amish one. But I keep hearing how the system is structurally unjust. Isn’t allowing it to go on a form of compromise with sin?

    mcmark–sure, if it makes it easier for you to do a label, say “Amish”. But I don’t own a horse, and they do. And I don’t vote and approve war and killing for other people to “do for me”, and they do. Amish legitimate both kingdoms as you do. They merely exempt themselves. The Amish don’t say that the war system is structurally unjust.

    As for me, I am not “sovereign” so I do not “allow” Satan’s kingdom. If you rape my grandmother, it’s not my failure to own or use a gun which “permits” that evil. God is sovereign, not only to command me not to overcome evil with evil, but also in ordaining even the evil. This does not justify our sin nor does excuse resistance to evil. But you should not conclude that the only way to resist evil is using evil. Nor should you assume that anything you might do to resist evil is good.

    Adam sinned against God’s command, but Adam’s sin was not merely “allowed” by God. Nor does God “allow” any for whom Christ die to be born in the new covenant and then lose possible grace by failing to meet conditions.

    You should not assume that the pacifist (parasite or weak brother) was so sovereign that the pacifist “could have” prevented the evil. Nor should we assume that the only thing we can do to prevent murder (of our family and church) is to have a gun and use it.

    The God revealed in Jesus Christ has not been a pacifist, nor will this God become a pacifist. God can and does prevent anything God wants to prevent. God now prevents what God has always planned to prevent. God did not “permit” all of us to murder His Son. God did not even “allow” those specific Jews and Romans who did murder Jesus Christ to do so. God ordained it. God planned it.

    Acts 2:21 Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed

    Proverbs 25 (Romans 12) if your enemy is hungry, feed him.
    If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
    For in so doing
    you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.

    Leithart—Matthew Levering starts with the church fathers and takes the story to the present worries (from David Hart among others) that predestination endangers the innocence of God. Levering gives a careful, dispassionate treatment of Calvin. He highlights Calvin’s rejection of scholastic notions of “permission,” and traces Calvin’s opposition to a concern about distancing God from creation and about raising questions about the goodness of God.

    On the first point, Levering writes, “After giving a variety of biblical examples of God willing evil deeds so as to punish the wicked and bring about salvation, Calvin notes that by contrast the doctrine of permission makes God aloof from salvation history. The God construed by the doctrine of permission cannot truly be the active Lord of history. For Calvin, those who rely upon the doctrine of permission depict God ‘as if he sat in a watch-tower waiting for fortuitous events, his judgments meanwhile depending on the will of man.’ This aloof, detached, passive God is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible, Calvin observes, acts within the minds of human beings not only to enlighten them, but also to blind them and to intoxicate them. God thereby compels the wicked to serve him” (103).

    The second point is counterintuitive, given the widespread impression that Calvin’s doctrine of predestination implies that God is an oppressive ogre. Levering writes, “The danger with the doctrine of permission is that it seems to question the goodness of the omnipotent God’s eternal decree. In observing that predestination means ‘the eternal decree of God, by which he determined within himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man,’ Calvin puts his finger on the difficulty: God’s permission of everlasting rebellion cannot be disjoined from God’s eternal will. God fully knows and freely wills this order, which includes everlasting rebellion. Since God is free and all-powerful, he is not constrained to create this kind of order. God wills an order in which some are left out from union with God, and so this must be a good order, one that does not need the covering of the doctrine of permission. Calvin senses that the doctrine of permission originates in doubts about the justice of reprobation ‘by the just but inscrutable judgment of God, to show forth his glory by their condemnation.’ Discussing Paul’s interpretation of Malachi 1:2–3 (see Rom. 9:13), Calvin urges that the doctrine of double predestination in fact elucidates the scriptural doctrine of undeserved grace, God’s bounty rather than harshness” (106). The notion of permission is a way of opening a gap between the ultimate outcome of history and God Himself, the Lord of history. Calvin on the contrary insists on the goodness of God’s plan, which is a plan that includes the destruction of the non-elect


  11. mcmark, aren’t the Amish — as much as I love them — a tad parasitic? What currency do they use? What roads have they built? Which legal system have they established to protect their property? Could the Amish actually govern a society?

    Just askin’.


  12. Barclay — The Reformation did not “rediscover” grace (which was near the center of practically every form of medieval theology), nor did it simply reinvigorate the Augustinian tradition. As an isolated slogan, grace alone tells us far too little about its precise configuration. What is Reformed is not only the relentlessly Christological reference of grace, but also its permanent state of incongruity. On these grounds, believers live perpetually from a reality outside of themselves, a status of divine favor enjoyed only in and from Christ.

    So you only want to earn your keep in one of your kingdoms, and accept being a “parasite” when it comes to ‘spiritual salvation”. ? The “invisible hand” needs your contribution. Sure, the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, but I want to see every head bowed and every hand raised to do their part to justify themselves by their utility each and every day (not before God but before the rest of us)

    Some small groups of Mennonites have attempted to build in South America a separate nation-state of their own. It went just as badly as the vainglory of the British and American Empires.

    But you seem to be playing both sides of the fence, with two arguments that contradict each other. On the one hand, you rightly criticize those who would attempt to subvert and replace the structures of the status quo. But on the other hand, you criticize those who accept their exile status as people who both “allow evil” and who also “benefit from evil.”

    I have reminded you before that God in holiness governs and uses evil. Now, unless you accuse God of not being able to judge evil, since God “benefits from evil”, then I would be careful about judging those who wait for Jesus to come without thinking that they need to thank killers for their service.

    Did you know that the Amish pay taxes? Did you know that the feds impose by force on us their money? Or is it your assumption that you should pay taxes only for things with which you agree? You can’t kill people who kill to show them that it’s wrong to kill. If you kill people , then you become the people who kill. And then perhaps you call that “building roads and defending property”

    If everybody acted like Jesus and failed to make themselves useful to the Roman occupation, what would happen to civilization as we know it? Would we all still be peasants, living day by day, with no thought for tomorrow?


  13. McMark, I have PA Dutch blood and soil in my background. So I am far more inclined to the Amish than most Calvinists — what a mmmmeeeeEEEE! All I’m saying is that living in exile and upholding society’s order with guns is different from living in exile and not upholding society’s order with guns. And it’s also different not to hold guns and then tell Christians who do that they are sinful for using guns.

    I like the Amish. I like Witness (the movie — beware Greg). But I don’t trust them to have my back when neo-Nazis or black separatists come after me. mirong


  14. Jemar gets frustrated answering questions about what whites should do in response to racism:

    I speak about issues of race and justice all over the country at churches, colleges, conferences, different events. The single question I get asked most often by the white participants is, “What do we do?” In a sense, that’s an encouraging question, because it presumes they’re on board with the principle of reconciliation and justice. Now, they want to act it out. Now, they want to live it. In a certain sense. It’s also logical, right? If I’m the one talking about it, then perhaps I have solutions. If I’m the minority who’s affected by it, perhaps I have ideas about how to rectify it.

    I get that, but one also has to understand that minorities get asked this question all the time, and it is a double burden to bear the effects of white supremacy, which we didn’t create, it was foisted upon us, and then also be responsible for coming up with the solution. In many ways, especially in the information age, there’s a presumption that the minority is going to do the work of both explaining the problem and solving it, when in reality, a simple Google search can answer a lot of basic preliminary questions, reading several books.

    We’ve got lists on the website and they’re all over the place. Different syllabi for Ferguson, for Charleston, and I just saw one starting to get formed for Charlottesville, can inform you. The point is take some of that burden on yourself. Own your own learning and don’t always sort of … It’s almost taking the easy route just to ask the minority instead of doing the hard work yourself of informing yourself and devising solutions for your unique context.

    But a national problem requires a national “solution.” Is having Dick Allen as my Gravatar ID my unique solution?


  15. Austin, never compiled one. Ararat, Birdman, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Thirty-Two Short films about Glen Gould would be at the top. Add to that movies by Coen Bros (Miller’s Crossing is arguably their best), Barry Levenson (Liberty Heights), Whit Stillman (Barcelona), Stephen Daldry (Billy Eliot and more), and Woody Allen (Annie Hall) and you’re in the ballpark.


  16. dgh—I have PA Dutch blood and soil in my background

    Genesis 17: 20 As for Ishmael, I will certainly bless him; I will make him fruitful and will multiply him greatly. I will make Ishmael into a great nation.

    Genesis 22:17 I will indeed bless you (Abraham) and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the gates of their enemies. 18 And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you (Abraham) have obeyed My command.”

    Matthew 3: In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” … . 9 And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 10 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees!

    Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

    Matthew 19:29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit lasting life.

    Luke 4:5 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon

    John 4: Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar near the property that Jacob had given his son Joseph ….20.Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, yet you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem .21 Jesus told her, “Believe Me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem

    I Peter 1: 18 For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from THE FATHERS, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20 Christ was chosen before the creation of the world but was revealed at the end of the ages

    P1 God promises to save the elect children born of Christian parents.
    P2 God promises to save the elect children not born of Christian parents
    (John 1:13; Galatians 3:7-9; Romans 9:7-8, 11, 24-26; 10:11-13; 11:17)
    P3 Physical heritage is irrelevant to God’s promise to save the elect.
    P4 God’s covenantal faithfulness is determined by His promise to save the elect.
    We need to stop equivocating on what “the promise” is, precisely. Is it to Christ and His elect, or is it to all our children generally?

    God’s covenantal faithfulness is demonstrated by God saving those God has promised to save.
    God has promised to (among others) save some of the children of believers.
    Though there is a distinction between water and the baptism that saves, there is no distinct way of salvation for the children of believers since God’s faithfulness is also demonstrated when God saves the children of non-believers


  17. So you have a gun and are willing to use that gun when some state attempts to take away “the unalienable rights”” of these Amish folks (like cute poodles in a window that you like)? If these rights are something that no nation State create why would you need to kill to prevent some nation state from removing liberties fro parasites ? Are you calling for violent resistance in favor of one regime against another?

    from an academic (sociologist) who made a living out of representing the Amish
    Did you like the movie Witness?
    I was disappointed that the movie was made in the first place. The filmmakers did not ask the Amish; they did not discuss it with them. The movie represents very immoral behavior—unlikely behavior—created just for entertainment.


  18. McMark, Wars happen. If you live in a society that gives you some protection, the optics of not joining with others to defend it.

    Are you like Michael Dukakis? You wouldn’t protect your wife?

    Don’t tell Greg about The Witness. Those were the days when Kelly McGillis was straight.


  19. Does having a wife mean becoming sovereign? Does me becoming sovereign mean not trusting God either to protect us or not protect us? Is the only way to protect good people like ourselves to threaten to kill the bad people like our neighbors? When a new neighbor moves into your part of the place, is it good optics to show the good neighbor so that he will know that you are willing to kill for him (even if he happens to be a parasite)?

    Fred OK. So you’re a pacifist. Say, you’re driving a truck. You’re on a narrow road with a sheer cliff on your side. There’s a little girl sitting in the middle of the road. You’re going too fast to stop. What would you do?

    Joan I don’t know. What would you do?

    Fred I’m asking you. You’re the pacifist.

    Joan Yes, I know. All right, am I in control of the truck?

    Fred Yes

    Joan How about if I honk my horn so she can get out of the way?

    Fred She’s too young to walk. And the horn doesn’t work.

    Joan I swerve around to the left of her since she’s not going anywhere.

    Fred No, there’s been a landslide.

    Joan Oh. Well then, I would try to drive the truck over the cliff and save the little girl.


    Fred Well, say there’s someone else in the truck with you. Then what?

    Joan What’s my decision have to do with my being a pacifist?

    Fred There’s two of you in the truck and only one little girl.

    Joan Why are you so anxious to kill off all the pacifists?

    Fred I’m not. I just want to know what you’d do if…

    Joan If I was in a truck with a friend driving very fast on a one-lane road approaching a dangerous impasse where a ten-month old girl is sitting in the middle of the road with a landslide on one side of her and a sheer drop-off on the other.

    Fred That’s right

    Joan I would probably slam on the brakes, thus sending my friend through the windscreen, skid into the landslide, run over the little girl, sail off the cliff and plunge to my own death.

    Fred You haven’t answered my question. You’re just trying to get out of it..


  20. Why identity is not politics:

    Identity politics on the left was at first about large classes of people – African Americans, women – seeking to redress major historical wrongs by mobilizing and then working through our political institutions to secure their rights. It was about enfranchisement, a practical political goal reached by persuading others of the rightness of your cause. But by the 1980s this approach had given way to a pseudo-politics of self-regard and increasingly narrow self-definition. The new identity politics is expressive rather than persuasive. Even the slogans changed, from We shall overcome – a call to action – to I’m here, I’m queer – a call to nothing in particular. Identitarians became self-righteous, hypersensitive, denunciatory, and obsessed with trivial issues that have made them a national laughing stock (drawing up long lists of gender pronouns, condemning spaghetti and meatballs as cultural appropriation,…). This was politically disastrous and just played into the hands of Fox News.

    What the new identitarians demand is more than mere recognition, though. They demand that you see this country exactly as they do, reach the same moral judgments about it, and confess your sins (which is what the word “privilege” is a secular euphemism for). The most recent books by Ta-Nahesi Coates and Michal Eric Dyson are quite explicit about this need for repentance. The subtitle of Dyson’s is A Sermon to White America. And the use of the term woke is a dead giveaway that we are in the mental universe of American evangelicalism not American politics.


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