One begins to suspect that the folks down at Woka-Wola have been snorting coke again, doesn’t one?
Of course, if they have been, then there is really nothing unusual, right? They fit right in with every other HR department of every other major corporation in North America, all of which have clearly been continuing to mess around with mind-altering drugs.
Coke’s most recent venture into this field of inadvertent publicity occurred when somebody leaked some of their internal training materials, in which the hapless employees of this corporate monstrosity were being taught how to be “less white.” Of course, hilarity ensued, but also a teachable moment emerged.
And so, boys and girls, it is clearly time for a little ethnicity training of our own. We need to get back down to basics, and to set the tone for that, allow me to recall a song I was taught as a child by some of the minions of the power-hungry oligarchs.
Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world,
Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world
And if you find this infuriatingly patronizing, and an entirely inadequate response to racial injustice—a bromide calculated, not to fight racism, but rather a little ditty calculated to make complacent white people feel like they had already conquered racism, and aren’t we swell?—then I am afraid I have some difficult news for you. You and your bad attitudes are right at the heart of all our ethnic problems.
Where the Sin Is
Let me begin by noting a technicality, albeit an important one. We are accustomed to dealing with all of this in terms of race, but there really is just one race, the human race. We call it racism whenever someone is winning an argument with a liberal, but what we are actually dealing with is ethnicity, tribe, and culture, not race. That acknowledged, there is really no such thing as racism, and it is therefore not a sin.
There are two sins, biblically defined, that frequently show up in ethnic controversies, but the thing that makes them sinful is not the ethnic component. Those two sins are ethnic vainglory and ethnic animosity. In these cases, the ethnic component is just the delivery platform for the sin. A person could be just as vainglorious or malicious over some other thing—their GPA, the fact that their father went to Yale, how nice their new car is, or the fact that their daughter is prettier than a rival’s daughter.
And of course, Scripture deals directly with both of these sins, which would include the occasions when ethnicity was the chosen point of pride or malice.
“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”
1 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV)
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice”
Eph. 4:31 (KJV)
So then, we don’t get to preen ourselves in front of others, and we don’t get to hate others. Scripture is clear on that point. As my father would put it, sin, sin, sin.
Where the Sin Is Not
Now the driving engine of all our current turmoil is not the sinning of the vainglorious or the sinning of the spiteful. Those are genuine sins, and in other eras, they were glaring sins, and frequently outrageous. This is not to minimize the grotesque things that past eras have tolerated with aplomb.
But one of the best ways to tolerate current enormities is to be all whipped up over what other people did, centuries ago, on the other side of the world. This is sure to distort your ability to maintain any kind of perspective at all. Sure, other generations sold black babies, but at least they had the decency not to chop them up in pieces before they sold the parts. And I have noticed that virtually all the black think leaders hectoring me about my white privilege have bumper stickers on their cars that support candidates who will guarantee this ongoing carnage among their unborn brothers and sisters. These black quislings would sell their own mothers into a charnel house if it suited their purposes, and we know this because they have already done it with their daughters.
And so the current enormity that we are sinfully accepting is the sin of envy. The body politic is riddled with it. We are so diseased that we have fallen in love with our affliction, and the splotches that are now appearing on the skin are deemed by us to be beauty marks. We think they are quite fetching.
“A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; But a fool’s wrath is heavier than them both. Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; But who is able to stand before envy?”
Prov. 27:3-4 (KJV)
The place where envy really has us by the throat is when it comes to definitions. Envy—that driver of egalitarianism—defines any kind of inequity as injustice. It is unjust by definition. But according to a biblical calculus, inequity necessarily results from the blessings of God, and the blessings of God are not an injustice.
“’Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’”
Matthew 20:15 (ESV)
This is why the language of “white privilege” is so revealing. The thing that sticks in the craw of the envious is the privilege part, and not the alleged crimes of history that led to the privilege. Those crimes were alluded to in the early part of the debate, but they have fallen away so that envy might have full play in the confrontation. This is because envy wants to hiss, and spit, and scratch, and it wants to attack the privilege in its true colors, under its true name. And that name is blessing.
Throughout the course of my life, I have been genuinely blessed, and in countless ways. I know that I am not nearly grateful enough, but I really am grateful. I could have been born in a time and place that led to me being hacked to pieces in the Rwandan genocide, and I could have died there with flies on my face, but instead I was born in the naval hospital at San Diego. The fact that I am white is obviously involved in this. I was given multiple gifts, none of them deserved, but which included an ability to clothe and feed and educate three children, all of them white. They in turn are doing the same with their children. The current demand that I drop my white privilege with loathing and shame is in fact a demand that I become a terrible ingrate. It is a demand that I become like the Whiteness-B-Gone trainers at Coca-Cola.
And if some critics come back at me for saying this, and charge me with being guilty of any sort of ethnic hate or pride, I will simply add that I received another privilege that not everyone received, which was an education that enables me to read what other people write with some degree of comprehension.
Another Sin That Is Not Actually a Sin
While we are on this general topic, I should point out that ethnic prejudice is not a sin at all. It would be a sin to be so wedded to your prejudices that no array of facts, however compelling, are able to disabuse you of your pet notions. That would be sinful—it is the sin of stubbornness and pride. As an example to the flock, an elder must not be self-willed (Tit. 1:7). He must not be mule-headed.
We are finite creatures, who frequently move from familiar surroundings into unfamiliar surroundings. Before we make that entry, we all have certain ideas of what we will encounter. Those ideas are based on things you have read, things you have heard, things you assumed, and things that your lizard brain came up with unbeknownst to you. When you enter that new situation, and you cling tenaciously to all your old assumptions, regardless of what happens, such a hidebound prejudice is sinful and willful, and much to be deplored.
But suppose you are going to go on vacation in Italy, and some experienced travelers tell you to carry you wallet in your front pocket, not your rear pocket, and you should do this to help thwart the pickpockets. “A lot of pickpockets in Italy,” your friend sagely warns. “I know three people . . .” Now if I went to Italy after hearing such advice, would I do as he cautioned? You bet. Would I feel bad about it? Not at all. But I am most certainly being prejudiced. I am prejudging the possible behavior of the Italians, without having met a single one of them.
But prejudice like that is no sin. We all engage in prejudgments all the time. We should be willing, as Theodore Dalrymple was, to rise in praise of prejudice. It is a function of our finitude, and we should embrace it. Hidebound bigotry is not a function of our finitude, however, and we should be sure to knock that kind of stuff off.