So much has been said and is being said about the tragic death of George Floyd that it almost feels excessive to add to the conversation. But to continue on with the “regularly scheduled blog posts” without addressing such a significant event would also be bizarre.
Many people have already written on how tragic and unjust Floyd’s death was. This post is not here to elaborate on that. If you’re reading this, I take it that you already agree. Many people are also addressing how unbiblical racism is, and that Christians should actively be working to combat it. This post is not here to elaborate on that either—again, if you’re reading this, I take it you agree. I say this up front, because I know some will read the following thoughts and think I don’t care about Floyd’s death or the problem of racial injustice because I’m not talking about them specifically. Please know that’s not the case; they just aren’t the focus of this particular blog post.
What I do want to focus on are the problems I’ve seen with many Christians’ response to this cultural moment. In particular, it seems Christians are getting swept into a secular worldview as they respond to Floyd’s death…without even realizing it. Here are five ways I see that happening. As parents, it’s extremely important that we think carefully about these issues in order to raise kids who are prepared to grow up in a culture of this nature.
1. We’re too quickly jumping on social bandwagons hitched to secularism.
Christians, we need to open our eyes to a very important fact: research shows that those committed to a biblical worldview are now a minority. This means that if everyone around you is jumping on a bandwagon of some kind, there’s a really good chance it’s not a bandwagon rooted in values consistent with a biblical worldview.
Maybe that’s not the case in a given situation, but you won’t know unless you take the time to thoughtfully evaluate what’s going on and determine if this is a bandwagon a Christian should be on. If you don’t, you may unintentionally be espousing the values of a worldview in significant conflict with your own.
How do we do a better job of being mindful of this?
- Carefully read statements of belief on the sites of organizations you support and promote. For example, before you champion the organization Black Lives Matter, be sure to read the statement of beliefs on their site (these reach far wider than a statement of black equality—their support for abortion, desire to “disrupt” the traditional family structure, and call to erase all gender lines are just a few of many concerns here).
- Before you donate, look at public financial statements to see where funds are being used. An organization’s statement of belief might be broad enough to not raise a red flag, but where the money goes speaks volumes.
- Don’t use hashtags until you understand where they originated, what they represent to the people who created them, and what they (likely) communicate to those around you.
- Before purchasing books, look at the endorsers (are these people you already trust to hold to a biblical worldview?) and read both 5-star and 1-star reviews. Many times the 1-star reviews will expose the underlying assumptions of the book. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t read books you disagree with, but rather that you should be fully informed going into the book regarding the worldview from which it’s been written.
2. We’re conflating empathy with agreement on action.
There’s a huge emphasis right now on the need to listen to the experiences of people from marginalized communities, and that’s a really good thing. If you’re personally unaffected by the issues these communities face, it’s far too easy to live in ignorance and not feel the sense of urgency for change. I’ll personally acknowledge that the extent of the (peaceful) protests has raised my own awareness of just how much sadness, anger, and injustice simmers under our cultural surface. If we don’t take the time to listen, our ignorance will only deepen the wounds.
It’s extremely concerning, however, when it’s implied that listening with empathy and compassion means 1) the listener has no further place in the conversation, and 2) truth is dictated by the experience of the person being listened to. When the call to listen with empathy and compassion turns to, “Be quiet (permanently) because you have no right to speak to an issue if you don’t fit a specific profile,” there is a major problem from a Christian worldview. Abortion, for example, doesn’t suddenly become morally acceptable just because a black person shares their experience of discrimination and injustice, then states that it’s oppressive to the black community to be pro-life (something I’m seeing a lot of online). This should be a simple matter of logic, if only because multiple people who have experienced discrimination and injustice can have different views on abortion (whose view wins?). But beyond this self-evident logic, Christians believe that objective truth exists—truth that applies to all people, regardless of their demographic profile or personal experience.
Compassion doesn’t equal agreement on action.
3. We’re being shamed into accepting secular definitions of love.
If there’s something pretty much everyone does agree on right now, it’s that we need to love one another. Given the importance of love in Christianity, one might think this is an area where the secular world and Christians can align. Unfortunately, however, that’s often not the case.
As I explain in chapter 10 of Talking with Your Kids about Jesus, the key to understanding why is in Matthew 22:36–40. A Pharisee asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
If Jesus says that one commandment is the greatest, we need to listen closely; it implies that any other commandments should be obeyed within that context. In this case, he’s telling us that what it means to love others depends on what it means to first love God. This is why Christians so often clash with culture on what love is—we have different objectives. Christians (should) strive to love others given God’s standards. The secular world strives to love others given self-defined standards.
If someone shames you for not being “loving,” remember that Godly love is wanting for others what God wants for them—even when that’s not what they want for themselves.
4. We’re unknowingly getting caught up in Critical Theory.
Critical Theory is the ideology that underlies many of the popular responses to racial injustice that we’re seeing today, and it’s a secular view that is unfortunately spilling into the church in shocking degrees. This ideology views reality through the lens of power, dividing people into oppressed groups and oppressor groups along lines like race, class, gender, sexuality orientation, physical ability and age. Truth becomes relative based on your status in one of these groups. If you’re unfamiliar with the term Critical Theory, you’ll be blown away when you learn about it and see how it explains so much of what you see happening today.
Dr. Neil Shenvi specializes in this area and has written extensively on his site about it. PLEASE read the introductory resources he has here. He has also reviewed several books on racial injustice on his site, exposing how they conflict with a Christian worldview given their grounding in Critical Theory (e.g., White Fragility). I highly recommend you search his site and read what he has to say about many of the popular books being recommended right now (even by churches).
Additionally, I highly recommend the new ministry of Monique Duson, The Center for Biblical Unity. She came out of Critical Theory herself and is now working toward unity from a biblical perspective.
5. We’re neglecting opportunities to demonstrate how a secular worldview fails.
As Christians get swept into secular ways of thinking, we lose sight of the highly relevant opportunities right now to show how a secular worldview fails to explain what everyone is saying they intuitively know: that every human life is valuable, that there are things that are objectively wrong, and that justice matters.
None of those things fit with a godless worldview.
If God doesn’t exist, the universe came into existence by chance, the first living cell developed from non-living matter by chance, and all living things are the eventual product of the blind, undirected process of evolution. In such a case, human life is no more valuable than dust, and there is no basis for saying that any life matters. Only if there is an author of life who creates and imbues us with a meaning greater than our physical parts can lives actually matter, and in an equal way.
If God doesn’t exist, there’s also no objective standard for labeling an action—such as murder—wrong. If we’re all just the product of blind, purposeless forces, morality is just an opinion. Unless there is a higher-than-human moral authority, no one has a basis for claiming that murder is objectively wrong.
And finally, if God doesn’t exist, the concept of justice is meaningless because there can be no right or wrong in the first place to require justice. As C.S. Lewis famously said about his conversion to Christianity, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” Justice requires a standard, and there is no objective standard in a purposeless universe.
The desire for justice is a beautiful thing, and is rooted in the reality that our God is a just God. But we can go about seeking justice in some very ungodly ways. As Christians, we must always check our responses to culture to make sure the secular worldview hasn’t crept into our own. When we don’t, culture will influence the church more than the church will influence culture.