Kneeling in the Church of Social Justice
Over the past several years, a social justice philosophy has arisen that is less a political program than a religion in all but name. Where Christianity calls for people to display their moral worth through faith in Jesus, modern Third-Wave Antiracism (henceforth TWA) calls for people to display their moral worth through opposition to racism. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, this vision has increasingly been expressed through procedures, routines, and phraseology directly patterned on Abrahamic religion.
America certainly has work to do on race. For one, while cops do not kill black people more than white people, they harass and abuse black people more than white people, and the real-life impact of this is in its way just as pernicious as the disparity in killings would be. If the tension between black people and the cops were resolved, America’s race problem would quickly begin dissolving faster than it ever has. But making this happen will require work, as will ending the war on drugs, improving educational opportunities for all disadvantaged black children, and other efforts such as steering more black teenagers to vocational programs training them for solid careers without four years of college.
These are real things, upon which we must behold scenes like in Bethesda, where protesters kneeled on the pavement in droves, chanting allegiance with upraised hands to a series of anti-white privilege tenets incanted by what a naïve anthropologist would recognize as a flock’s pastor. On a similar occasion, white protesters bowed down in front of black people standing in attendance. In Cary, North Carolina, whites washed black protesters’ feet as a symbol of subservience and sympathy. Elsewhere, when a group of white activists painted whip scars upon themselves in sympathy with black America’s past, many black protesters found it a bit much.
“washing the feet of the organizers and asking for forgiveness.”
Cary, NC pic.twitter.com/TqSYBtt6Ky
— Jason Fuhrmann (@JasonFuhrmann3) June 7, 2020
Such rituals of subservience and self-mortification parallel devout Christianity in an especially graphic way, but other episodes tell the same story. Many conventional religious institutions are now rejecting actual Christianity where it conflicts with TWA teachings. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a chaplain was forced to resign after writing a note exploring the contradiction between roasting the police as racist and the Christian call for love of all souls. Unitarianism has been all but taken over in many places by modern antiracist theology, forcing the resignation of various ministers and other figures.
The new faith also manifests itself in objections to what its adherents process as dissent. A friend wrote on Facebook that they agreed with Black Lives Matter, only to have another person—a white one, for the record—post this reply: “Wait a minute! You ‘agree’ with them? That implies you get to disagree with them! That’s like saying you ‘agree’ with the law of gravity! You as a white person don’t get to ‘agree’ OR ‘disagree’ when black people assert something! Saying you ‘agree’ with them is every bit as arrogant as disputing them! This isn’t an intellectual exercise! This is their lives on the line!”
This objection seems studiously hostile until we compare it to how a devout Christian might feel about someone opining that he “agrees” with Jesus’ teachings, as if the custom were to think one’s way through the liturgy in logi
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