How Liberalism Abets Sin

People who self-identify as Christian scholars have issued a statement that condemns racism:

Racism should be denounced by religious and civic leaders in no uncertain terms. Equivocal talk about racist groups gives those groups sanction, something no politician or pastor should ever do.

The Christian basis for such denunciation is that all humans are created in the image of God. So far, so uncomplicated.

The statement also includes an affirmation of civil liberty:

Even as we condemn racism, we recognize that the First Amendment legally protects even very offensive speech.

The statement could include freedom of assembly, and freedom to publish. But these Christians see that our laws protect speech even when it is offensive.

Now imagine if the abolitionists had made similar assertions about slavery:

Slavery should be denounced in no uncertain terms.

Even as we condemn slavery, we recognize that the First-Amendment legally protects slavery advocates to express their ideas.

I don’t think that kind of toleration was in William Lloyd Garrison’s playbook.

I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; —but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.

And so, the problem that proponents of certain moral positions in public face is that in a free society, we make room for sinners.

Even as we condemn adultery, we recognize that we don’t want police going into private homes to see what people are doing.


Even as we condemn the desecration of the Lord’s Day, we recognize that those who try to observe the Fourth Commandment should not receive special protections from law enforcement officials for their beliefs.


Even as we condemn Communism, we recognize that the freedom of association allows the Communist Party USA to enjoy the protections of tax laws and civil and corporate codes.

In other words, a liberal society will not allow government to root out sin. It even protects its practice.

That is an especially difficult aspect that this statement does not address. The authors acknowledge that racism has taken many forms in U.S. history:

Slavery was formally abolished in 1865, but racism was not. Indeed, it was often institutionalized and in some ways heightened over time through Jim Crow legislation, de facto segregation, structural inequalities, and pervasively racist attitudes.

American law and policy have addressed some of these instances of racism — Jim Crow, structural inequalities, voting rights. But can legislation do anything about racist attitudes or the efforts of those who hold them to meet and publish?

Probably. But then you may no longer have a free society.

In which case, what does speaking out do?

Even without liberalism, will always have sin with us. With it, we have different interpretations of sin and so vice receives protection.

32 thoughts on “How Liberalism Abets Sin

  1. Liberalism is worse than moderation or toleration. If you won’t kill slave-owners. that means you are giving permission to slave-owners Pacifists are not patiently trusting God to judge sin. Pacifists are tempting God when they refuse to fight for God’s side and then expect the everlasting arms to protect them and theirs. There is no neutrality. If you won’t kill a Nazi, then you are a Nazi.

    When liberalism fights against what is illiberal, that’s only natural. And liberty is much more than mere toleration Moderation alone is like the Bible only without clergy and magistrate.

    Sarcasm alert.

    Shane Kastler serves as Pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Lake Charles, Louisiana He is also the author of “Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Redemption” a biography of the great Confederate general


  2. “Racism should be denounced” “Even as we condemn Communism”

    Sheesh. Can Christians get off their grandstanding soap boxes, for even ten seconds.

    Of course not. Public statements are too much fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, we will always have racism because we will always have sin. But in a free society, we find that certain expressions of racism must be prohibited by law while others are protected by law. And we need to discover the differences between those two sets of expressions and why making that distinction is consistent with keeping a free society.


  4. Curt, we’ve known the difference for about 20 years. Some people want to (and think we can) eliminate racism -period. Heck, you oppose tribalism.


  5. Mean it.

    In the wake of the violent protests at the University of Virginia, Father John Jenkins, President of the University of Notre Dame, used the opening Mass of the academic year as an occasion to condemn the rising tide of racism in America.

    “Racism, anti-Semitism and hatreds of any kind are malignancies of the heart,” said Jenkins. “If we allow these cancers to spread, they will destroy our community, our nation and ourselves.”


  6. Really mean it.

    DiMarzio pointed out that only a day before, the U.S. bishops had set up an ad hoc committee that will “challenge the sin of racism,” listen to those “suffering under this sin,” and encourage coming together in the love of Christ.

    He specifically mentioned the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, alt-right, white supremacists and anti-Semites, as groups that have their roots in racism and need to be rejected.

    “Racism remains the pre-eminent sin of not only our nation, but also of our church,” said DiMarzio. “We should not tolerate monuments to people who were racists or tried to destroy our democracy. We in the United States have our own particular original sin. It is called racism.”


  7. Really really meant it.

    Following the racial ugliness on display recently in Charlottesville, Virginia, America’s leading Catholic expert on African-American theological ethics, and perhaps the country’s best-known black Catholic priest, says the Church still has a long way to go to live up to the U.S. bishops’ own 1979 declaration that racism is a “radical evil.”


  8. Can’t mean it.

    Talking about reconciliation in the face of events like Charlottesville is usually the first and only thing churches do because it avoids the painful process of confronting the brutality of white privilege that continues to wreak havoc on black and brown lives. When asked if he would embrace white South Africans in a show of forgiveness during the apartheid era, a black South African remarked: “How can I embrace you, when you’re standing on my head?”

    Before any talk of reconciliation, according to theologian and minister Leonard Lovett, we need to begin with conciliation, the process to “overcome the distrust or hostility.” There is no precedent for racial harmony in American history; we have to begin to create a world that is not predicated on white privilege but on a common humanity.


  9. So if you were involved in crafting this statement, how would you change it?

    The authors seem to acknowledge the limitations they face advocating for a certain moral stance in a liberal society, and their solution is largely non-political, advocating counter protests and prayer for racists. I also don’t see any indication that they believe that racism will ever be eliminated in this fallen world, or (as a former president has stated) that racism is unnatural.


  10. “Overt racism is alive and well . . . ” It may be alive but it is hardly well. Have our venerable historians forgotten the 1920’s?

    The Southern Poverty Law Center has put the number of KKK members today at 5,000 to 8,000. The largest Neo-Nazi group has fewer than 400.

    Re: amending the document, they should scrap then entire thing, think about the numbers that are involved (I’m confident they can count to at least 5000), and then IGNORE the overt racists. Of course ignoring a group of losers will not garner any pats on the back.


  11. D.G.,
    I think we are still struggling to know the difference as we see it applies to other groups as well.

    And yes, I oppose tribalism but I am never sure that we mean the same thing. I don’t know why you wouldn’t oppose a group loyalty that leads to moral relativity.


  12. D.G.,
    It’s actually observable and the dynamics are understandable. As loyalty causes people in a group to see the specks in the eyes of other groups and to be blind to the logs in their own eyes, that moral relativity.

    Mere belonging to or having an affinity for a group isn’t tribal. It’s when loyalty grows and the ability objectively think and observe shrinks that tribalism emerges.


  13. D.G.,
    I don’t believe that any attachment to Reformed Protestantism, or any other group is tribal. Here, I think that for whatever reason, you are missing an important part of the definition of what i mean by tribalism. Tribalism comes into play in group identity when loyalty to that group becomes so great that one loses objectivity in being able to see the faults of one’s own group and the merits of other groups. Tribalism always involves a certain degree of loyalty rather than any degree of attachment.


  14. Why is it so difficult to for Christians to understand their bibles do not create nor promote public legislation?


  15. D.G.,
    It is called observation and the ability to make distinctions. And I am not the only one who observes these things after all the definition I give for tribalism is really based on dictionary definitions.

    It is difficult for me to see why Christians would be so loyal to a group that right and wrong depends on who does what to whom. Is that kind of loyalty biblical according to you?


  16. Curt, sorry, but the distinctions you make are largely in your head.

    But even after statistically taking them all into account, the connection remained strong: Higher diversity meant lower social capital. In his findings, Putnam writes that those in more diverse communities tend to “distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television.”

    Tribalism is inherently human. Anti-tribalism is inhuman.


  17. D.G.,
    Though the concept of tribalism as it relates to group loyalty came into being around the same time I did, it did originate in my head (see ):

    In the early 1950s, tribalism was extended to refer to the behaviors of any group of people characterized by strong group loyalty to an array of characteristics and institutions, including attitudes, language, religion, social causes, political leanings, economic interests, race, and ethnicity. In the 1960s, references to tribalism became increasingly problematic and complex. In anthropology, experts in tribal societies argued that the term had become too ambiguous to be useful (Fried 1967; Helm 1967)…

    Since the 1990s there has been a resurgent use of tribalism in terms similar to those found in the period of colonialism and in the 1950s. In political science and in public rhetoric, Huntington (1993, 1996) has argued that tribalism based on ethnicity, religion, and/or language is the dangerous result of the end of the bipolar enmity of the Cold War. From this standpoint, tribalism is a negative reference to groups seen as inferior and insular that resist and oppose other forms of organization and political authority claimed as legitimate and found in nation states and global systems.

    As for your article, it points to a correlation and it does not provide any cause and effect relationship or any explanation of the dynamics involved. And I believe that the scholar being referenced has been studying Western societies only though I would have to read his book to verify that. In addition, while I am pointing to strong group loyalty that produces certain kinds of responses that qualifies as tribalism, your definition of tribalism includes a less than strong degree of loyalty within a group.

    In addition, you seem to be using the terms ‘human’ and ‘natural’ interchangeably. But regardless of the term you use, Paul lists other items which are quite natural or human to us including sexual immorality, selfish ambition, hatred, fits of rage, drunkenness, orgies, etc. And though we certainly don’t legislate against the existence of what is natural here, we do legislate against some expressions of what is natural. For example, we do legislate against murder which is an expression of hatred. So when Paul tells us not to practice what is ‘natural’ or, to use your term ‘human,’ is he telling us to be inhuman?

    Finally, what follows from premise of the article you cited? Based on what was reported, do you think we should reinstitute Jim Crow? Did you know that Hitler wanted to eliminate those who were different in society in order to make Germany strong again?


  18. D.G,
    Editorial correction here in my first sentence. It should read

    Though the concept of tribalism as it relates to group loyalty came into being around the same time I did, it did NOT originate in my head


  19. Curt, if tribalism is so bad, you should advocate getting rid of professional sport — Red Sox Nation?

    You can try to make me look bad. But at some point you need to acknowledge silly.


  20. D.G.,
    You make an excellent point that has been made by others. But one could accomplish the same task by not being a rabid sports fan. After all, being a rabid sports fan is just another way of being a manic-depressive.


  21. Curt, in other words, if I gave up being human I could avoid tribalism. You love the whole which explains in part your romantic attachment to socialism and solidarity. You don’t understand that most human beings find meaning by identifying with a group to which they belong. You want one world. I want the local and familiar. You drink at Appleby’s. I prefer Pub & Grub.

    And then you tell me I’s selfish and tribal.



  22. D.G.,
    No, if you are Christian, don’t you want to avoid practicing moral relativity? Tribalism occurs when loyalty to a group has grown to a point where it includes embracing moral relativity. Tribalism occurs when because of the degree of one’s loyalty to a group, right and wrong is determined by who does what to whom. Thus there are no absolute moral values or standards.

    So how is it inhuman, or unnatural, to be belong to a group and be loyal to it but, at the same time, be able to hold to absolute moral values and be willing to criticize one’s own group while being able to recognize the merits of other groups? I never said that mere identity with a group is tribalism. I’ve said multiple times that tribalism occurs when a high degree of loyalty causes one to embrace moral relativity.

    There is no reason why we can have both one world and the familiar. It depends on what we are willing to share and accommodate on. Problems occur when we make absolute either one world or the local and familiar.

    But if one makes absolute the local and familiar, doesn’t support for Jim Crow follow?


  23. Curt, in other words, you are worried about hypocrisy. Why not speak like a normal person?

    In case you haven’t notice, part of being human is picking battles. Do I give up moral absolutes if my wife won’t memorize the catechism?


  24. D.G.,
    Hypocrisy is a result of embracing moral relativity. So moral relativity should be the focal point.

    And talking about how one is speaking, why speak with those you disagree with as an equal?


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