Headed South Again

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Dr. Tracy McKenzie is a professor of history at the University of Washington, and he was the one who first identified the citation problems with the original edition of Southern Slavery As It Was. In the most recent edition of World magazine, he wrote the editor with two basic points. His first point was that the citation sloppiness was to him “obviously unintentional.” Since this was a point that Dr. McKenzie was clearly under no obligation to make, I want to thank him for going out of his way to make it. Throughout our disagreements (which continue to be significant), Dr. McKenzie has consistently sought to behave as a gracious Christian gentleman and scholar, for which I thank him also.

But speaking of those disagreements, that brings us to the second portion of his letter. He says that far more serious were the other problems with the booklet, which in his thinking included “logical errors, factual mistakes, misreading of evidence, and ad hominem attacks.” All this together falsely models “what it means to love God with our minds,” and our defense of Southern slavery (as he read it) constitutes a “stumbling block of monumental proportions for many sincere seekers.”

The first is an observation of principle, and one I certainly agree with on that level. Logical errors, factual mistakes, misreading of evidence, and (illegitimate) ad hominem attacks do falsely model what it means to love God with our minds. The question or debate in this instance is whether or not any like that happened. Since the word count constraints of a letter to World prevented Dr. McKenzie from presenting or establishing his case, I would like to invite him to participate together with me in any written or live forum in order to discuss or debate this together. My book Black and Tan will be out shortly, and after that I am sure we could agree upon a proposition to be discussed and/or debated, along with a location and venue. If we keep it in the realm of letters to the editor, the result is that the conclusions are just asserted, but nothing is shown or demonstrated — which amounts to an illegitmate ad hominem critique. It would be a genuine honor to debate Dr. McKenzie, and so I await his pleasure. If we manage to set something up, we will post the information here.

In the meantime, the second matter of the “monumental stumbling block” is a pragmatic and pastoral concern. I presume he is referring here to matters of inter-racial fellowship and harmony, and so the only observation I can make here is that our congregation is markedly and harmoniously integrated. If my views on the War Between the States and the ante bellum South have presented a barrier to our Christian communion across ethnic lines, I certainly haven’t noticed it. Some might think that in northern Idaho the only substantive ethnic lines are those between drivers of Ford trucks and drivers of Chevy trucks, but that just goes to show the level of bigotry that still exists against Idahoans. Though in some ways, a town like Moscow can seem like “Little Norway,” we still have significant ethnic diversity here, and it all shows up at church — for which we praise God. At the same time, we attack the statist egalitarian attempts to accomplish racial reconciliation on their idolatrous principles, and we critique those sectors of the Church that want to ape the world’s methods of bringing this about. The middle wall of partition comes down in Christ, and only in Christ.

However, I do confess that my views on biblical absolutism have caused a certain amount of disharmony with the Intoleristas — but that is not really a bad thing. Racial differences are a gracious gift from a gracious God. Jackbooted diversity-mongering is something to be repented of.

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