In Pakistan, Asia Bibi Acquitted After 8 Years in Prison

Long time readers of this blog will recognize the name Asia Bibi, a Christian women imprisoned in Pakistan on charges of blasphemy against Muhammed. She was on death row for eights years and had one last appeal to Pakistan’s Supreme Court. This morning, it is being reported widely that she was acquitted.

This is of course tremendous news for her and her family. Her cause has been a focus of many groups, religious and non-religious, since her wrongful conviction eight years ago. Many in Pakistan wanted her to be executed for blasphemy. Pakistan’s high court did not find the evidence compelling and acquitted her. There isn’t any news at this point about when she will be release or where she will go. She certainly won’t be safe in Pakistan. She has been offered asylum in France among other places in the world.

Anti-Social Justice Website Says Social Justice Threatens Human Rights, Invokes Hitler and Stalin

I have written recently about John MacArthur’s complaints about Christians who seek social justice. In short, he believes the pursuit of social justice is a hindrance to the purity of the gospel. You can read all about it here.

Last week, MacArthur and some like minded folks released the “Social Justice and the Gospel” statement. To support that statement, the signers posted an article on their website by Samuel Sey.  All at the same time, Sey manages to trivialize the Holocaust, compare ideological opponents to Nazis, and define social justice in a manner that social justice Christians won’t recognize. Here is a sample of the bizarre claims:

Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party were a threat to Jews because social justice is a threat to human rights.

Social justice was the basis for stripping rights away from Jews in the Khmelnytsky Uprising. Social justice was the basis for discrimination against Jews in the Soviet Union. Social justice was the basis for the holocaust in Nazi Germany. Social justice is the basis for South Africa’s initiative to strip property rights from White farmers. Social justice is the basis for stripping a pre-born baby’s right to life.

Bad people have invoked Christianity for evil deeds, should we blame Christianity for their actions?

In fact, actual social justice was not the basis for any of these catastrophes. The impulse to basic fairness that social justice Christians are calling for isn’t the basis for any of these events. If innocent people are being killed, deprived of their rights, or discriminated against, social justice isn’t at work.

Rambling Man

Sey then rambles selectively through social justice history. He mentions the Frankfurt School as leading social justice but fails to mention that the Nazis closed the school down.  Although he does correctly note that a priest is credited with coining the term “social justice,” Sey doesn’t tell readers that social justice has become a vital part of Catholic practice and witness.  One would not be smarter about the subject after reading this piece.

Social Justice Is Awful Until It Isn’t

Most of this article is incoherent. He starts with Hitler, then rambles around awhile on his way to telling us what he favors. However, what he favors in one breath, he disfavors in the next.

When the Bible commands us to “hate evil, love good, and establish justice” (Amos 5:15), it isn’t instructing us to eliminate disparities in society. Instead, it instructs us to identify evil and oppressive laws in society, so that being led by compassion and conviction, we would work to protect human rights for all. In other words, we should be like or support people like William Wilberforce and Francis Grimké, who identified slavery and segregation, respectively, as violations of human rights and worked tirelessly to establish liberty for all.

If we can identify objectively evil and oppressive laws against members in our society today, then we must name these laws. We should not, however, be distracted by perceptions of privilege and disparities. Otherwise, we will sow division into society and division into the church, and thereby threatening work to establish human rights and threatening work to advance the gospel.

First, Sey wants us to be like Wilberforce and Grimke but then he says we should not be distracted by “perceptions of privilege and disparities.” Wilberforce worked to end the slave trade and Grimke helped found the NAACP. Sorry, Mr. Sey, Wilberforce and Grimke weren’t distracted, they were focused; focused on eradicating privilege and disparities in the extreme.

In sum, the bizarre attempt to use Hitler and Stalin as negative examples of social justice fails miserably. One must have passionate hatred for social justice initiatives to bring Hitler and Stalin into the discussion.

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John MacArthur: Victims are Everywhere

Last Sunday, John MacArthur preached on social justice at his church. This is an extension of his recent blog posts which have ignited passionate responses from opponents and supporters alike.

In his Sunday sermon, MacArthur repeated many of the statements and themes from his blog posts. In this post, I want to touch on his definition of social justice and victimization.

Social Justice

MacArthur says

Social justice is a term that describes the idea that everyone has the right to equal upward mobility – everybody in a society: equal upward mobility, equal social privilege, equal finances or equal resources. And if you don’t have those rights and you don’t have those opportunities the society is, by nature, unjust.

Earlier in the sermon he claims social justice is a “part of classic socialism.” I can’t say with certainty but I doubt many social justice evangelicals mean this when they advocate for social justice. I know I don’t.

I will acknowledge that I haven’t seen a consistent definition of social justice. However, this simply doesn’t look right to me. Discussion about economic policy is a distraction here. Most justice minded Christians who are bothered by MacArthur’s views aren’t socialists. They simply believe Christians should advocate for what’s right when the status quo is unjust and wrong.

Victims are Everywhere

Rev. MacArthur doesn’t speak well of victims, except when he does. In a 2016 tweet, he seemed to call for social justice for a young girl in his congregation.

MacArthur called on people to sign a Change.org petition targeting 13 government officials in an effort to get a just result for a young child. I don’t know enough about the situation to give an opinion but I can understand why someone would advocate for this child to stay with the foster family. In my opinion, creating and signing a petition to attempt to bring awareness to a wrong is a great thing to do.

In contrast, in his sermon, he seems to mock people who have truly been harmed.

So we have a growing category of victims of all kinds of microaggressions. And these are the people that are demanding social justice, and by that they mean they want to stop being oppressed by all the oppressors in society. And the more victim categories someone is in, the more empowered that person is, the more important that person is, the more truthful that person is, the more authoritative that person is. If you’re in multiple groups this is a new idea called “intersectionality.” All the segments of victimization come together for you, and your multiple victim status makes you the most authoritative person, the one to be listened to. But if you are not in any victim group, you have nothing to say, “Shut up, and sit down.” That’s where we are. We have an ever-increasing belligerent mass of victims who are defining their lives by what other people have done to them.

At one point, he inexplicably highlights the #metoo movement.

All who die under the judgment of God die for their own sin and not somebody else’s. That is clear and unambiguous. But it is human nature to fight against it to say, “I’m a good person. I’m a good person. There’s just bad people around me who have done bad things to me,” sometimes two hundred years ago, sometimes two generations ago. Sometimes it’s just part of the dominate male chauvinistic culture. Or sometimes it’s just homophobia.

“All this has been done to me.” And so, hashtag, “Me too. I’m a victim.” “Me too, me too. I was abused, I was abused, I was abused.” “Somebody offended me. Somebody made a micro-aggression against me.”

So I’m a victim of certain regional attitudes or gender attitudes, or sexual preference attitudes, or hate speech, or economics, or education. I’m just a victim of intersecting prejudice and oppression, and I’m victim.” I’ve go so many categories I ought to be given a medal of honor for all my categories of victimization.

Everybody’s offended me, people I don’t know. Dead people have offended me, living people have offended me. You offend me. I’m a victim of past injustice and inequity. and present rejection, discrimination, offense. And most of you don’t even know how much you offend me, it’s unconscious. And by the way, if you’re not a victim, then you’re a part of the oppressor group. You must repent. I’m not surprised that exists in the culture, because that’s what Adam said. I mean, that’s how fallen people react. They don’t take responsibility, they just blame somebody else; and they’re perfectly happy to blame God.

When MacArthur makes light of the suffering of real people, it makes his assurances of concern for them ring hollow. Also in this sermon,  he said:

That is not to say that we’re not to love people and live justly, and care for them, and minister to the people who have been treated unfairly and unkindly and mercilessly; we are as Christians. Of course, we are. We are to be known by our love, love to one another and love to the whole world. And we are to be as Christ was to them, caring for them, meeting their needs, ministering to them, loving them. That is a result of salvation. The question is, “Is the social gospel a part of the saving gospel, or is caring for people a result of the gospel?”

I submit you can’t minister to people who have been treated unfairly if, at the same time, you dismiss them or make light of their situation. Part of living justly and treating people fairly is taking them seriously. Ridiculing, belittling, and minimizing the reality of their situation and status in society does not communicate love and concern.

In fact, there is no real conflict between the actual gospel and social justice. African-American pastor Terrance Jones certainly doesn’t believe there is. He attended The Master’s Seminary and is candid about what he experienced at the school. I will leave it to readers to determine the meaning of what Jones shared in his most recent post:

Placement is a unique hallmark of The Master’s Seminary. Not only do they train you to be a pastor, they also serve as a bridge between graduates and churches/ministries around the world. Churches can upload their information and available positions, while students can upload their résumé as they near graduation. When I was a student, the seminary boasted of having a 90% placement rate. This meant that within 6 months of graduating a student could expect to find a staff position within a church/ministry somewhere or enroll in another degree program. What wasn’t discussed with African American students was that we were a part of the 10% that could not be placed in a ministry position. I put my head together with faculty and admissions staff members to figure out the numbers. We determined that by the time I graduated in 2011 the school had only facilitated the placement of approximately 3 African American students in 25 years. According to people connected to TMS since 2011, not much has changed.

The rationale given to me as to why this problem existed was, “black churches don’t want sound doctrine.” What??? Black people do not have a monopoly on bad theology. I can think of several heretics of different ethnicities.

What is it that is keeping those placement rates depressed? Is it the gospel? Surely not! What else could it be?*

After all of this, let me advocate for intentional efforts to right wrongs when we see them. This shouldn’t be controversial or require a dissertation to justify it. When we see a wrong, we need to speak out about it, even if that wrong is being perpetrated or overlooked by people in our tribe, political or religious. Where we disagree about what’s wrong, let’s talk about it like we’re in this together, because whatever you think about the afterlife, we are here now.

*I asked Terrance Jones about how many black students attended the seminary during that time frame and he said about 50. He had reliable information that none had been placed from 2015-2018. Of course, if the school has an official statement on the subject, I would be happy to include it here.

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John MacArthur Doesn’t Know Any Evangelical Churches Which Disrespect Minorities

Possibly in response to reaction to his remarks to seminary students last week, John MacArthur took a more conciliatory tone in his most recent blog post on social justice. Published Monday August 27, MacArthur said, “I do not relish controversy, and I particularly dislike engaging in polemical battles with other evangelical Christians.” However, he defended his stance on social justice saying, “But as my previous posts in this series demonstrate, when the gospel is under attack from within the visible church, such controversy is necessary.”

About racism, MacArthur wrote:

Racism is a stain on American history that has left shame, injustice, and horrible violence in its wake. The institution of slavery and a costly civil war left a deep racial divide and bred bitter resentment on every side. No sensible person would suggest that all the vestiges of those evils were totally erased by the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century. Civil rights legislation now guards the legal principle of equal rights for all Americans, but no law can change the heart of someone who is filled with prejudice or bitterness.

In the next passage, he seems to move from understanding the ravages of racism in our history to not understanding it.

As Christians we know that the human heart is evil, so undoubtedly there are still people who secretly harbor animosity against ethnicities other than their own. But any open expression of acrimony, ill will, or deliberate antagonism across ethnic lines will be scorned and emphatically rejected across the whole spectrum of mainstream American life today.

Of course, people everywhere still tend to be oblivious to or inconsiderate of customs, traditions, community values, and ethnic differences outside their own culture. Culture clash is a universal problem, not a uniquely American quandary—and it’s not necessarily an expression of ethnic hostility. But Americans’ contempt for racial bigotry is now so acute that even accidental cultural or ethnic insensitivity is regularly met with the same resentment as blind, angry racism—and even a simple social gaffe is likely to be treated the same as bigotry. There are people—increasing numbers of them—so obsessed with this issue that they seem able to find proof of racism in practically everything that is said or done by anyone who doesn’t share their worldview.

I understand when fallen, worldly people filled with resentment lash out at others that way. I don’t understand why Bible-believing Christians would take up that cause. I thought the evangelical church was living out true unity in Christ without regard for race. That has certainly been my experience in every church I’ve ever been part of, and it’s also what I have seen in the wider evangelical world. I don’t know of any authentically evangelical church where people would be excluded or even disrespected because of their ethnicity or skin color. Just last Sunday night—as we do every month—we received about a hundred new members into Grace Church. It was another testimony to God’s love crossing all ethnic lines, as the group was composed of Hispanics, Filipinos, Chinese, Ugandans, Nigerians, Mongolians, Koreans, Ukrainians, Armenians, Lithuanians, Russians, Austrians, people of Arabic descent, as well as black and white Americans.

It seems to me that there are many minority brothers and sisters who have been crying out in the church hoping that establishment white preachers will listen to the disrespect and exclusion that they experience. MacArthur says in this paragraph that he doesn’t know any “authentically evangelical church” where this is happening. One of his alums, Terrance Jones, wrote a response to one of his blog posts recently. I wonder if he read it.

When he says those who seek racial reconciliation are a disaster for the gospel, I suspect they feel disrespected. Perhaps, white pastors who dismiss minority voices should listen first and speak later, much later.

Furthermore, look and listen to the culture. We have a president who has hosted 100 evangelical big names last night who early in his term said there were “very fine people” among neo-Nazi demonstrators. That same president prefers immigrants from white Norway versus black and brown “s***hole countries.” These same evangelical leaders give this president the highest praise.

When evangelical leaders are silent when the president or other elected leaders divide us through their racism or xenophobia, somebody must come along side them. Social justice minded Christians have done so. What good does MacArthur’s criticism do?

MacArthur finishes his post by criticizing apologies to groups for past wrongs.

So by this view of “social justice,” a person’s skin color might automatically require a public expression of repentance—not merely for the evils of whatever culture his ancestors were part of, but also for specific crimes he cannot possibly have been guilty of.

There’s nothing remotely “just” about that idea, and certainly nothing related to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The answer to every evil in every heart is not repentance for what someone else may have done, but repentance for our own sins, including hatred, anger, bitterness, or any other sinful attitude or behavior.

When it comes to personal salvation, of course individual repentance is necessary. However, no social justice advocate I know ever promoted public repentance as a way to salvation. This is a straw man.

Taking it a bit further, the value of representatives of government or of a church saying we were wrong is symbolic and can be healing. Individual leaders took actions on behalf of organizations or nations. Leaders today should lead those organizations and nations and say those actions were wrong. For instance, I am a supporter of the Native American Apology Resolution.  Conservative Christian Sam Brownback pushed it through Congress when he was a Senator and it was signed by Barack Obama (even though it was never really publicized well).

A critical response to MacArthur’s series on Social Justice posted Wednesday by TMUS alum Terrance Jones.

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Image: The Master’s University, by Lukasinla [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons 

The Social Justice Debate: Jordan Peterson on White Privilege

Last week I posted John MacArthur’s response to a seminary student’s question about social justice in the church. In that reply, MacArthur invoked the concept of intersectionality and defined it in a manner which echoed Jordan Peterson in his infamous lecture on white privilege.

Since I first heard Peterson on white privilege, I have considered writing a critical response. The MacArthur post provoked me to finally get to it.  In the 10 minute clip below, Peterson explains why he doubts the privilege associated with “white privilege” is actually due to whiteness. Here is the clip. He begins with his views of intersectionality, followed by a critique of white privilege which starts at 4:45.

He doesn’t play fair here by only criticizing one theoretical article from 1988. Nearly all social science concepts start with a notion of some kind which then serves to generate testable hypotheses. As of now, there are empirical studies on the concept. However, his audience leaves thinking white privilege is only the idea of an isolated professor.

At 7:01, Peterson reads from a list of attitudes and behaviors taken for granted by white people. The list was crafted by Peggy McIntosh in a 1988 paper (the full list is here) titled, “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies.” Note that she says it is a personal account.

Okay, so here’s her white privilege list, some of it, there’s like 50 things. ‘ I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.’ ‘If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.’ That’s actually a wealth thing, by the way. ‘I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.’ ‘I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.’ ‘I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.’ ‘When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.’ There’s 50 of those, I think, something like that.

Okay, is that white privilege, or is that, like majority privilege? Is the same true if you go to China, you’re Chinese, is the same true if you’re Chinese? Is it majority privilege, and if it’s majority privilege, isn’t that just part of living within your culture? So let’s say you live in your culture, you’re privileged in that culture, well obviously. That’s what the culture is for. That’s what it’s for. Why would you bother building the damn thing if it didn’t accrue benefits to you? Well, you might say one of the consequences is that it accrues fewer benefits to those who aren’t in the culture. Yeah, but you can’t immediately associate that with race. You can’t just do that. Say it’s white privilege. There’s many things it could be. Certainly could be wealth. And the intersectional people have already figured out there are many things it could be. So like, what the hell? Seriously, well, what’s going on?

Well, we let these pseudo-disciplines into the university because we’re stupid and guilty, seriously. And they have no methodological requirements and plenty of power and plenty of time to produce nonsensical research and produce like resentful activists and now we’re bearing the fruits of that. It’s not pretty, so white privilege.

So Like Seriously What’s Wrong?

Other than Peterson’s argument by exasperation, the main problem I see is his assumption that majorities of one kind or another build and own the culture. In America, that is silly, and an aspect of white nationalist fantasy. I realize he is Canadian but his arguments apparently appeal to Americans who like the majority white. In America, our history leads us straightaway to race. You can’t talk about majorities and minorities without talking about race.

Let’s apply his argument to America instead of China and see if it doesn’t sound like race is at least one of the important issues of privilege in America. Remember he is criticizing the idea of white privilege. Here is what he said in the video. After that I will substitute America for China.

Okay, is that white privilege, or is that, like majority privilege? Is the same true if you go to China, you’re Chinese, is the same true if you’re Chinese? Is it majority privilege, and if it’s majority privilege, isn’t that just part of living within your culture?

Now let’s substitute America for China.

“Okay, is that white privilege, or is that, like majority privilege? Is the same true if you go to [America]? If you go to [America], you’re [American], is the same true if you’re [American]? Is it majority privilege, and if it’s majority privilege, isn’t that just part of living within your culture?”

See the problem? He seems to be saying that the real, true Americans are the majority Americans. He solidifies this messages by asking, “isn’t that just part of living within your culture?” Jordan, what do you mean “your culture?” In America, the culture isn’t mine as a member of any majority. It is supposed to belong to all citizens. However, it is very clear to me that simply because I am white, I never have had to deal with some things that my African-American friends have had to deal with. By law, it is just as much their culture as mine but they contend with different social rules that they did not get to construct.

Peterson continues to talk about “your culture” as if it belongs to some unspecified majority alone. In what is the most shocking part of this rant to me, he justifies majority privilege as the right of the majority. Then he essentially excludes the minorities from the culture by saying they “accrue fewer benefits” and “aren’t in the culture.”

So let’s say you live in your culture, you’re privileged in that culture, well obviously. That’s what the culture is for. That’s what it’s for. Why would you bother building the damn thing if it didn’t accrue benefits to you? Well, you might say one of the consequences is that it accrues fewer benefits to those who aren’t in the culture. Yeah, but you can’t immediately associate that with race. You can’t just do that. Say it’s white privilege.

An American distinctive is the belief that people from all kinds of backgrounds can make good and have a better life. Many of us want to believe in the promise of America for everybody to realize the same benefits of being an American. Peterson appears to promote a backward view toward an America where the majority stores up benefits for themselves. In the end, he doesn’t refute the concept of white privilege as much as he tries to shout it down. For what purpose? I can’t think of any good one.

While I believe the concept of white privilege does need more empirical support, I also believe there is a use of the term which is simply descriptive. It stands for the observation that race matters in American society and has mattered since the founding. One does not need to embrace identity psychology to simply recognize that racism has not been eradicated from our cultural institutions (e.g., the church, political parties, law enforcement, etc.) and that efforts to minimize that fact are corrosive to our culture.  White guys stomping around yelling, “seriously, what the hell?” doesn’t get us any closer to treating others as we want to be treated or ensuring equal treatment under the law.

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Image: Dr.Jordan Peterson delivering a lecture at the University of Toronto in 2017. March 20, 2017, Source: Adam Jacobs, Wikimedia, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

In Honor of Kanye: Historian Kevin Kruse Explains the History of Political Parties and Civil Rights

Princeton University history professor Kevin M. Kruse is a Twitter Ninja Warrior. He can slice and dice and bring the facts with a devastating wit.

Kevin M. Kruse – From Twitter page

In this Twitter thread he educates and illuminates a topic which has been muddied by Christian nationalist history writers such as Dinesh D’Souza and David Barton: The history of political parties and civil rights advocacy.
This thread is a wealth of information all in one spot and as such I highly recommend it. About the only thing I would add is a link to information on Lily White Republicans which he implied but didn’t name when he wrote:

That said, both parties in this period had their share of racists in their ranks.
When the second KKK rose to power in the 1920s, it had a strong Democratic ties in some states; strong GOP ones elsewhere.

As Kruse documents, the story of the evolution of the Democrats from Jim Crow to Civil Rights is one of the major stories of American political history. Thanks to Kevin for this thread.

On This Day in 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was Executed

On April 9, 1945 Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged in a Nazi concentration camp at Flossenburg Germany. He had been involved in getting Jews out

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

of Germany and resistance to the Nazi regime.  Arrested by the Gestapo in 1943, Bonhoeffer was killed along with his brother and other conspirators. A brief but helpful summary of Bonhoeffer’s work against the Nazis can be found at the Holocaust Museum website.

The Church and the Jewish Question

Setting the stage for his resistance activities was a paper written in 1933 titled, “The Church and the Jewish Question.” I can’t find it online but you can see it in Google books preview of The Bonhoeffer Reader and Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works.  In it, Bonhoeffer sets forth a relationship between church and state which might seem foreign to modern day evangelicals who support Christian nationalism. Even though Bonhoeffer, as a churchman, did intervene in his government, it was a last resort under the most extreme of circumstances. According to the Bonhoeffer, “There is no doubt that the church of the Reformation is not encouraged to get involved directly in specific political actions of the state. The church has neither to praise nor to censure the laws of the state.” He added that there is a “radical separation between the place of the gospel and the place of the law.” According to Bonhoeffer, the “true church of Christ, which lives by the Gospel alone and knows the nature of state actions, will never interfere in the functioning of state actions in this way. by criticizing its history-making actions from the standpoint of, say, any humanitarian ideal.”
Rather, according to Bonhoeffer, the church may critique the state as either creating too much or too little law to fulfill the governmental function. The church may rightly complain if the state uses “force to such a degree as to rob the Christian faith of its right to proclaim its message.” On the other hand, if the state doesn’t create enough law and as a result a group is deprived of rights, the church may also speak. “There is too little law and order wherever a group of people are deprived of its rights,” he wrote. In such cases, there are three actions which the church may take.

First, (as we have said) questioning the state as to the legitimate state character of its actions, that is, making the state responsible for what it does. Second is service to victims of the state’s action. The church has an unconditional obligation toward the victims of any societal order, even if they do not belong to the Christian community…The third possibility is not just to bind up the wounds of the victims beneath the wheel but to seize the wheel itself. Such an action would be direct political action by the church itself.

In his essay, Bonhoeffer cited a threat of too little law when a group of citizens is deprived of rights. On the other extreme of too much law, his example was the church being told that baptized Jews must be excluded from Christian congregations or banning missions to Jews. Bonhoeffer asserted that “the church cannot allow the state to prescribe for it the way it treats its members.”
Bonhoeffer did not say that the state cannot create laws which touches the religious beliefs of individuals. He distinguished between the church as an entity and individual Christians when he wrote the following:

At the other extreme from too little law and order, there can be too much law and order. This would mean the state developing its use of force to such a degree as to rob the Christian faith of its right to proclaim its message. (This does not apply to restriction of free conscience — that would be the humanitarian version, which is an illusion, since every state in its life impinges on the so-called free conscience).

As a possible case in point, I have a sense that Bonhoeffer would reject the state making pastors officiate at gay weddings, but he might not have a problem with anti-discrimination laws regarding Christians providing services in the marketplace.
Bonhoeffer’s essay provides a useful foundation for considering how Christians today could consider religious liberty and church and state relationships. In his day, he chose to intervene because there was too much law. My reaction is that many religious liberty issues which occupy Christians politically today don’t rise to the level of “too much law” as framed by Bonhoeffer. I would like to see the church spend more time and money on fulfilling Bonhoeffer’s second point. As for his third point, in America, in my opinion the essential Christian message is in no danger of government restriction.
Additional reading:
The Bonhoeffer Quote That Isn’t Bonhoeffer’s

Yesterday, Liberty Counsel Celebrated Christian Freedom Day

Yesterday, like presidents before him, President Trump issued a proclamation commemorating Thomas Jefferson’s work in writing Virginia’s

Cover of Getting Jefferson Right, used by permission
Cover of Getting Jefferson Right, used by permission

Statute for Religious Freedom (full text here) which was adopted by the Virginia legislature on January 16, 1786. The law ended the establishment of the Anglican church in Virginia and recognized freedom of conscience in the state.
Jefferson meant for that freedom of conscience to extend beyond Christian denominations to all religions or none. However, ultra-conservative Liberty Counsel does not appear to recognize the breadth of Jefferson’s work. In their press release, the Statute on Religious Freedom is described as follows:

Religious Freedom Day is celebrated in America each year on January 16 to commemorate the 232nd anniversary of the passing of the 1786 passage of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom that ended the state-established church in Virginia, finally protecting religious rights for all denominations. The Anglicans had fined, persecuted, jailed and murdered Christians who were not part of the state-established church. However, Jefferson, a lifelong fervent advocate for the rights of religious liberty and religious conscience, worked hard to protect and defend those Christians. (emphasis added)

Liberty Counsel’s presser refers to denominations of Christianity and to Jefferson’s work to defend Christians. In the past, Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver has questioned the status of Islam as a religious worthy of First Amendment protection. Staver is also of the David Barton school of thought regarding the First Amendment — that the purpose of it was to prevent a Christian denomination from being established. In other words, when the First Amendment says religion, it means Christianity.

What Did Jefferson Mean?

In fact, there was an effort in the Virginia legislature to limit the scope of Virginia’s statute to Christians during debate on the bill. Jefferson wrote about it in his autobiography:

The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally past; and a singular proposition proved that it’s protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read “departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Islam], the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.

According to Jefferson, the effort did not succeed. He meant his religious freedom bill to cover all people, of all religious ideas or no religious ideas.

What Religious Freedom Really Means Now

Ultimately, religious freedom at this particular time for this particular group means the freedom to discriminate against people, usually GLBT people in providing public services. In general, I think those who provide services to the public should provide them to GLBT people, even if they personally disagree with some aspect of those they serve.
But that’s just me and my beliefs. I know others believe differently, and the beauty of this nation is that they are free to believe it. What we will find out over the next few years is if they are free to discriminate based on that belief.

I Have a Dream Speech – Martin Luther King, Jr.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. today, I link to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered August 28, 1963 in Washington, D.C. during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Be inspired.

For a transcript of the speech, you can consult the National Archives at this link.  It is fascinating to examine the draft of the speech. In particular, the phrase “I have a dream today” isn’t in the draft. He improvised the phrase.  He had used it before but it wasn’t in the prepared remarks. In the moment, inspiration came to him and he took the speech to another level. See this interview with Clarence Jones for more on that story.

W.H. Chief of Staff John Kelly Can't Get the Confederacy Right

no Confederate flagAs has been widely reported, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly last night on the Laura Ingraham Show said Robert E. Lee was an honorable man and the Civil War was fought because the North and South couldn’t compromise. Kelly was brought into the White House to keep Trump from stepping on verbal landmines. However, he has stepped on a few of his own in recent days.
The unforced historical error comes amid two indictments and the revelation yesterday of an even more damning guilty plea from a former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos relating to the Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Some historical matters arouse little passion, some are critical to get right. Anything involving slavery and the Confederacy and understandably critical to get right. And it isn’t difficult. Lee fought for the South in the Civil War which was fought to keep African slavery as a moral good. All the compromising took place before the war and was evil. See, not hard.
A good social media place to look at for a response to Kelly is Ta-Nehesi Coates thread on Lee and the Civil War.
For more from past posts, see below:
Robert E. Lee on slavery – This post contains a letter from Lee to his wife.
The Vice-President of the Confederacy Alexander Stephens on slavery as the reason for the Confederacy – This post contains the words of a speech by Stephens declaring slavery as integral to the new Confederacy.
Unfortunately, it appears that Kelly may have read too much history from David Barton. Barton believes Lee was a good guy and isn’t in favor of removing the Confederate statues. Even though Barton correctly attributes the cause of the Civil War to slavery, he falters on many other alt-right talking points.
UPDATE:
And of course, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, W.H. Spokesperson came out and defended Kelly’s comments.


The heads of thousands of sane historians explode.
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