As we look back over the last week or so, I think we can agree that it was a week filled with horrors. It began with the terrible death of George Floyd, his neck pinned under a policeman’s knee. And after that, Minneapolis erupted and burned, and then orchestrated and obliquely related riots spread to other cities. All over the Internet, hot takes began appearing almost right away, and every manner of accusation began to fly. Whatever it is appears to be working, but for various reasons, I believe those appearances are deceiving.
I do beg your pardon in advance, as this post is kind of a beast. But if you are concerned with the subject, as I believe every diligent citizen ought to be, I would plead with you to take the time to read through all of it. Because all of it matters.
Get Oriented First
I will get to the tragic death of George Floyd shortly, not to mention the subsequent rioting, but we have to clear the workbench first. But before we clear that workbench, just so that we know where we are, I do have to make one overarching point about the nature of superficial tribal affinities and true spiritual solidarity.
In an attempt to display their tribal affinity with George Floyd, the rioters went on to display their actual spiritual solidarity with Derek Chauvin. The rioters set out to prove that they could be just as lawless as Chauvin had been, and just as contemptuous of the standards of basic decency. And in this they have succeeded. A lot of frustrated Christians (from the old school) understand instinctively that this kind of deep affinity is established, not by the color of the skin but by the color of the heart. Lawlessness answers to lawlessness, and all lawlessness is a sickly green.
Clearing the Work Bench
But in order to understand it fully, we really do have to go back and clear the workbench.
If we want to think through this mess biblically — which is the only thing that will prevent it from being just one more hot take — we have to be careful to frame the question properly. And this means that we have to come to realize that the conflict that is tearing our country apart is NOT a question of reconciling blacks and whites, a thing already done in Christ, but rather is the result of attempting to reconcile good and evil, a thing that can never be done, by definition. And so what do I mean?
There are two rival reconciliation projects before us, and the tumult we are witnessing is the result of their collision. The first belongs to Christ, and the second is a vain aspiration of alienated man. Let us start with the first one, the gospel of free grace.
The True Reconciliation
This gospel in and through Christ alone is a gospel that displays, as one of its central trophies, the reconciliation of bitter enemies, once divided by tribal and ethnic enmities.
“Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
Colossians 3:9–13 (KJV)
Allow me to restate this in my own words, but changing nothing of substance.
Because Christ is all, and in all, and through all, we should acknowledge that all of our former rivalries, strivings and hatreds fade into nothingness. Whether Greek or Jew, whether slave or free, whether barbarian or Scythian, we are all invited to reason in the same spirit and so therefore to include all others within this circle of His reconciling love. This would include black and white, male and female, and rich and poor. In our new demeanor of grace toward one another, this means that we are to put on tender mercies, of the sort that yearn to get to the point of a full and complete and free and final forgiveness. This kind of forgiveness puts the hostility away; it does not draw the hostility out into a series of endless recriminations.
The other thing that we are instructed to do in this context is to stop lying to one another. The redemption offered in Christ means that we are set free to hear the truth as it is spoken to us, and we ourselves are set free to speak the truth to others. And that is what I am seeking to do here. There will be more about this point in a subsequent section.
This reconciliation of all tribal enmities in Christ is not something that might get accomplished somehow, if only we get our act together. The foundation for this mansion is already poured, and in Christ the great hall is going up. The pages of the New Testament are rustling over one another in the breeze of this good news. All are reconciled in Christ, and the task of believers is to proclaim this good news, and not to try to improve upon the good Lord’s methods. God has reconciled the world to Himself in the blood of His Son, and so our message is therefore “be ye reconciled.” God reconciles us to Himself first, and to one another as a consequence. Therefore, the thing being done, we are to go out and act like it has been done. But we can only do this in Christ our Lord.
A Rival Reconciliation Project
The sad thing is that fragmented and alienated man has appointed himself as the great god of unity, whom we may call our Lord Pretender.
This is the reconciliation project that has been undertaken by secular man. But because secular man has rejected the one in whom we all live and move and have our being, all his attempts are of necessity a downward integration into the void. Their proud project of universal toleration consistently spirals downward into the acids of hatred and violence.
In America, because of our Christian heritage, this project is an attempt to reconcile the trappings of traditional Christianity with the central dogmas of cultural Marxism, and it represents the high water mark of duncical folly. It is an attempt to reconcile squares and circles, good and evil, light and darkness, folly and wisdom, God and the devil. The cosmic reconciliation purchased by Christ has nothing whatever to do with this sort of monstrosity.
The enmity between Jew and Gentile seemed irreconcilable until the blood of Christ was applied to it. That blood was applied because it was the will of the Father, and the will of the Father came from the heart of the Father. The blood of Christ was given for us because that is the way the Father is. But God and evil do not seem to be irreconcilable; they are in fact irreconcilable. God cannot be tempted, and He Himself tempts no one. He dwells in unapproachable light. The holy God and unholy wickedness are truly and immutably irreconcilable by definition. There is no sacrifice that could ever bridge that chasm.
The reason the streets of Minneapolis are on fire is because secular man in his pretended wisdom has been trying to reconcile two completely different methods of reconciliation — the way of atonement through the blood of Christ together with his way of accusation, recrimination, reparations, and retribution. But these two methods of reconciliation are at war with one another, and have been since the Garden. In that place God Almighty first established the antithesis, the settled antipathy between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). This attempt is being made in order to get patsy Christians to go along with it, as though it had anything whatever to do with what Christ did on the cross. It does not.
But there can be no peace between the God of forgiveness and the god of recrimination, the God of no condemnation and the god of all condemnation.
Should we reconcile blacks and whites who were caught up in bitter enmity with each other? Of course. That is what the gospel does. Should we try to reconcile the world’s way of reconciling with God’s way of reconciling? Of course not. The world’s way only foments more and more bitterness, while God’s way breaks down the middle wall of partition. The world’s way is impotent, and God’s way saves to the uttermost.
There are many Christians who do not see what is happening, and who do not understand a blessed thing about it, but who are trying to help out with this monstrosity by decking out the secularist approach to reconciliation in the language of Christian reconciliation. They point out that ethnic reconciliation is a good thing in Scripture, which is true enough, but then they want to drape the Christian language of reconciliation over the secular way of doing it, which contains no authority, no sap, no salt, and no blood.
The short form of this atrocious compromise is this: Because the blood of Christ puts all ethnic enmities to death, we think we can just go straight to the group hug, declare all ethnic enmities a form of bigotry and a violation of America’s core values, and dispense with the blood of Christ. And then we wonder where all this hatred is coming from.
So when I take a glance at this particular sheepskin gliding smoothly along, growling as it goes, I see one pointy ear on the left that has identity written on it, and another pointy ear on the right that has politics written on it. But God hates this ravaging wolf, and so should we.
And I am not talking about “disapproving” of the wolf. I am talking about fighting and killing it.
Lying White Preachers
We are almost to the point where we can discuss the death of George Floyd, but only almost. We are almost to the point where I can bring up the “black privilege” from my title, but only almost.
I said earlier that those who are together members of the new man in Christ must leave off lying to one another. When it comes to ethnic tensions between whites and blacks in America, my goal is to be the kind of writer who is known by his black brothers to be the kind of man who will tell them directly what he believes to be true. Because I love my black brothers in Christ, I refuse to blow sunshine at them. This approach stands in sharp contrast with white people telling other white people what they have been told that black people want to hear. I cannot imagine what it must be like for a black evangelical, surrounded by skittish white people who hasten to tell him their virtuous lies all of the time.
When you tell your brother what you think, you are telling him the truth. When you tell your brother only what the latest sanitized pc talking points told you to say, he can never be sure what is going on with you. He doesn’t speak your simpering and sanctimonious white person jive. The current received wisdom among respectable white folks is that ethnic harmony can be achieved if only they adopt the demeanor and posture of a guilty Labrador Retriever who ate the slippers. But you cannot develop a relationship with your brother by crawling on your belly. Stand up, look your brother in the eye, and talk to him like you were both Christians.
If a black brother comes to me with an admonition or rebuke, and he has an open Bible with him, may God give me the grace to hear him out completely. If I come to him with an open Bible, may God give him the grace to hear me out in the same way. But if anybody, white or black, comes to me in the name of that bitch goddess intersectionality, I have absolutely no time for that crap. I am a Christian, and don’t want to lend an ear to any prophecies from that woman Jezebel.
There is no proclaimed gospel in the New Testament that does not begin with the word repent. And when we preach this gospel to sinners, white or black, we must name the particular sins that they need to repent of. We do not urge them to turn away in a mild and inarticulate dismay from anything they may or may not have done that was less than proper. The only thing we can repent of is sin.
And sin is defined by the Bible. It is a sin for cops to abuse suspects they have apprehended. It is a sin to loot a Target. It is not a sin to be white or black.
But there are many “gospel-centered” very white preachers today who, if directly commanded by the archangel Gabriel to go and preach repentance for specifically black sins to black men and women, would choose rather to wet themselves.
This is because they do not love black men and women, but rather themselves. Because they love themselves, they want to be seen as being all about racial reconciliation. But seeming and being are two different things. White men can never bring about real reconciliation with black men by flattering them. This is just a species of lying, and the one new man in Christ was told to stop it with the lies. “For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know . . .” (1 Thess. 2:5).
So whatever happens, tell the truth.
The Death of George Floyd
So what should we think of the death of George Floyd? From all that I have seen and read, I believe it was appalling and indefensible. There are more than ample grounds for an indictment to be brought and a trial to be held. I do believe that Derek Chauvin should get an open and fair trial and, if convicted of murder, he should pay the full consequences of having murdered someone. The fact that he was wearing a badge when he did it makes it far worse, not better.
That said, I would want my public comments to be of a sort that would not preclude me being able to serve on the jury at Chauvin’s trial. I am not a big fan of the common practice of pronouncing full sentence before all the facts are presented. The first autopsy that was done on Floyd indicated that he did not die of asphyxiation, which could affect the murder charge. But that said, I am glad that Floyd’s family is bringing in an outside medical examiner. Since one of the possibilities here is that of systemic departmental corruption, and another possibility, less drastic, but just as problematic, is the problem posed by a standard sort of CYA investigation, we should want two or three independent witnesses on the point of what precisely was the cause of death. If Chauvin was not the cause of death, then he shouldn’t be charged with murder. But if he was, then he should be. But at the same time, even if he was not the cause of death, then he should be charged with all the things he did do.
When I left work on Friday, there was a woman out on the sidewalk, holding up a sign for passing cars that urged all of white America to be ashamed of themselves. We exchanged views for a few moments, and when I challenged the idea that this was somehow a shame to an entity called “white America,” her response was that the guilt was “systemic.” It was not that all white people had somehow knelt on Floyd’s neck until he died, but rather that systems were in place that enabled this kind of wretched thing to happen, and that these systems were protected by powerful interests.
And, you know, I buy that. Let’s begin our systemic reforms by eradicating police unions, thus making it easier for bad cops to be fired. Let’s eliminate bureaucratic protections for incompetence and wrong-doing. Let us continue our systemic reforms by reversing the awful trend of militarizing local police departments. Let’s strengthen our Fourth Amendment protections. Let’s outlaw asset forfeiture.
We do have serious systemic problems with law enforcement, but the problem is that we have a system where white and black citizens can get worked over unjustly by white and black policemen both. This really is a grave problem, and we should not complicate it by pretending that it is somehow at bottom an ethnic one. Bad cops come in all colors, and their abused victims can and do come in all colors.
“But some American police methods are evil past all parallel; and the detective can be more crooked than a hundred crooks.”G.K. Chesteron, What I Saw in America
So in sum, what happened to George Floyd shouldn’t happen to anyone, and justice should be pursued in his case, and systemic reforms should be pursued to prevent it, as far as possible, from happening to anyone else. But the systemic reforms have to be real reforms, implemented in line with the demands of biblical justice, and not in line in any way with the demands of our modern grievance politics.
There are two kinds of black privilege. The first is the kind of black privilege that is created by God. To be a black man or a black woman, created in the image of God, is a high privilege indeed. That is a true privilege. This privilege is tempered, as it also is with white men, with the shame and guilt that attend being a sinful member of a fallen race. The image of God is marred in every ethnicity, but it is still there, and it must be honored and respected there. Anyone who begrudges that privilege has a problem with God.
The objectionable kind of black privilege is the kind that we see on display in the current rioting. It is not a privilege granted by God, but rather a privilege granted by the secular, progressive left. It is not actually black privilege, but rather a sin privilege for blacks. Provided someone in the recent past did something outrageous to someone who happened to have the same skin color as yours, according to leftist wisdom, you have the privilege of smashing the windows of stores and taking whatever you want from people who had nothing whatever to do with your initial grievance. There are actually people, a lot of them, who are prepared to defend this. They want blacks to have a sin privilege, a license to commit all manner of mayhem.
If you suggest, however mildly, that just because you are black and live in a time of unrest, that shouldn’t mean that you get to burn down somebody else’s small business, or beat up passers-by, or obtain a free television for yourself, the response comes back immediately that you must be defending Derek Chauvin. Not a bit of it, and everybody needs to stop being ridiculous for a minute.
Christians should hate lawlessness across the board. They should hate it when it done by men in blue, they should hate it when perpetrated by men with white skin, they should hate it when blacks do it, and they should hate it when the FBI does it. They should never excuse or explain it away. Sin is sin, and crime is crime.
Whoever wants to carve out room for this kind of sinful black privilege is guilty of the same kind of offense against a holy God that all claims of sin privilege bring with them. In the past when white mobs have rioted and destroyed property it was the same sin as when blacks did it in Minneapolis this last week. This kind of black privilege is currently in the ascendancy. But there were times, in living memory, when whites exercised the same kind of wicked privilege themselves. There was a time, not that long ago, when your membership in the KKK was the kind of thing you could put on your campaign brochures.
But that was not true white privilege, it was a claim to sin privilege. This is not true black privilege, but rather a false claim to sin privilege. This kind of privilege is a lie from the Pit, and because all true Christians renounce the works of the devil, we renounce this also.
A Brief Aside
This is not the theme of this post, but we should point something out as it is not entirely irrelevant. It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that there are massive forces at work in our country who hate Donald Trump so much that they are willing to burn the whole country down if only Trump can be removed as a result. This is another way of saying that all of what we have been going through — the Russian collusion story, the economy wrecked over the COVID panic, and a riot coming soon to a city near you — is simply Election 2020. Clausewitz once said that “war is the continuation of politics by other means.” For our tumultuous times, we might want to reverse this and say that our politics is the continuation of war by other means.
Only Two Races
I do not believe that there is a sin in the Bible called “racism.” This is because, ultimately, there is only one race, the human race. But if we accept the common use of the word as it describes what the Bible calls tribes or nations, the sin resides in what should be identified either as racial vainglory or racial malice.
Ethnic vainglory consists of pretending that your group is somehow inherently superior, and ethnic malice consists of simple hostility or hatred.
But there is another sense in which there are two races among men. There is the race of humanity in Adam, the fallen and broken version of humanity. Whites and blacks and Asians and Hispanics are all fallen and broken together in that humanity. Whatever their differences, they have certain racial characteristics in common. “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3). That is the human race in Adam. That is what we are like, biting and devouring one another. That is our central racial characteristic. We love our sin, and hate our Creator. Because we hate our Creator, we hate His image in our neighbor.
If you cannot see the image of God in your black brother, it is because you are blind, and not because it is not there. If you cannot see the image of God in your white brother, it is because you are blind, and not because it is not there.
The fact that Christ is described as the second Adam indicates to us that God’s intention was to build a new humanity, using for His materials the wretched detritus cast off from the first humanity. And in Christ, He has done it. But we must receive one another, and we must stop listening to the devil and repeating his lies. We are together in the new man, and so we must be done with lies. Sin is sin, and righteousness is righteousness, and they are not the same thing.
So here is the gospel, straight and true. It addresses the central problem of every human heart, which is that we are all of us crooked and false.
Christ is the eternal Word of God, and He took on human flesh in order to be able to die. He lived a perfect sinless life, ran afoul of the authorities, was arrested by the police, was crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day, He rose again from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, where He was seated and enthroned at the right hand of the Ancient of Days. On that great coronation day, He inherited every black tribe and every white tribe, not to mention all the other tribes, and declared His everlasting purpose to do something glorious with all of them.
That “something glorious” did not include building a whites-only country club. That “something glorious” did not include looting a store and running off with a free PlayStation.
I admit to being somewhat frustrated because there is so much more to say. But here it is in a nutshell: Christ is everything. America needs to be pierced to the heart. It is Christ or chaos. If you get the chaos, it is because you loved it more.
For Further Reading
Skin and Blood
What is racism? Why is it sinful? How should we respond when we find it in ourselves and in our culture?
Police shootings and protests have filled the news in recent years, leaving us with no illusions that America is free of racial problems. Skin and Blood invites us to look honestly at both white sins and black sins…and to look hopefully at the red blood of Jesus, which is their o…