Wednesday, February 01, 2023

What’s in the Glass?

There’s an old bromide about a glass that may be considered half empty or half full, depending on whether the person drinking it is an optimist or a pessimist. Nobody ever stops to ask what we are in the process of consuming, which seems to me to be the more fruitful inquiry.

Before we ever begin a discussion of whether its half-emptiness or half-fullness is more desirable, Christians need to learn to ask this simple question: “What’s in the glass?”

Some substances you don’t want to drink at all, even if it’s only six ounces.

A Supreme Education

Like all Leftist devices, the intrusion of wokeness into Christian education succeeds by either suppressing or censoring all dissent, or (more often) by framing the argument in such a way that the other side has lost before discussion even begins.

One inglorious example of the latter technique is Jessica Hooten Wilson’s recent article in Current entitled “Is White Supremacy a Bug or a Feature of Classical Christian Education?” The very title makes the article wholly unnecessary. In case it isn’t obvious, Hooten Wilson has posed a “When did you stop beating your wife?” question, a rhetorical cheat. She does not seek to establish the relative value of the contribution made by people of European backgrounds to classical Christian literature, she simply labels the status quo “White Supremacy” and moves on to discussing how we can get rid of it.

Hitting the Brakes

Christians dealing with the woke movement in all areas of life — church, workforce, family, political arena — need to learn to brake hard, pull a 180 degree turn and go back to examine the terminology we are accepting and using. A proposed course of action may seem perfectly fair and equitable, but before we buy into anything presented to us as a “course correction”, we need to ask the question “Is this concept biblical?”

You will laugh at my naiveté, but I may have foolishly assumed that pointing out the necessity for defining our terminology with an open Bible in one hand was largely superfluous among educated evangelical believers. I will not make that mistake again. Over and over again, I am seeing people I thought to be relatively solid critical thinkers uncritically swallowing the assumption that “diversity” and “inclusion” (as defined by the Left) are necessary criteria to be used in assessing the value of everything from local church membership to leadership to the composition of boards of directors of Christian institutions. Jessica Hooten Wilson now proposes diversity and inclusion be applied to the curriculum used by Christian educators.

Exclusion by Another Name

“Inclusion” is one of those fuzzy feel-good virtue-signaling values embraced by millions because nobody stops to point out that wherever capacity for expansion is finite, every new book or person included necessitates the exclusion of someone or something else. It reminds me of this wonderfully grim verse penned by the late Gord Downie:

“I was in a lifeboat designed for ten and ten only
Anything that systematic would get you hated
The selection was quick, the crew was picked in order
And those left in the water got kicked off our pant leg
And we headed for home”

It is clear we are not talking about decisions as drastic as who lives and who dies, but the principle that inclusion usually entails exclusion remains a valid one. A lifeboat designed for ten may save eleven, or even twelve. It cannot save four thousand.

In short, within finite systems, inclusion of new voices demands the exclusion of existing voices, or the exclusion of other potential new voices with important things to say that just happen to be packaged in the wrong color of skin.

Some Church-Related Examples

Likewise, a group of elders or board of directors that becomes too large ceases to function effectively. Decision-making becomes increasingly difficult and less profitable the more voices we include in the mix, and the less qualified those voices are.

Again, any church building has a maximum seating capacity, after which decisions must be made about expansion or hiving off. Whatever decision is made, the interpersonal dynamics of that church will inevitably change. Inclusion may help or hurt, depending on what is done.

Gatherings of Christians open for all to share vocally have fixed durations, meaning that everyone who speaks excludes someone who might have otherwise spoken. When everything said is profitable and accurate, that may not matter much, but to the extent the teaching gift given by the Holy Spirit is minimized so everyone can be included, the value of the gathering diminishes proportionately.

Finally, in any given semester, Christian students can only read a certain number of profitable texts. Adding new books to the mix means deleting others from the curriculum.

Half a Glass of What?

Inclusion is exclusion by another name. That’s just a fact of life. So inclusion is never an unqualified good. Inclusion is beneficial when what it proposes to add is quantifiably preferable to what it will remove, and bad when it sidelines something better than its replacement simply for the sake of change. We must always ask, “Inclusion of what, and at what cost?”

The same question applies to diversity. What’s in the glass? Diversity of what, and at what cost? Diversity may be a strength in some contexts, but in others it’s a fatal weakness.

By all means give the poor Christian in your congregation a place he would not get out there in the world. By all means give practical expression to the truth that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek. By all means greet one another indiscriminately and with enthusiasm. These sorts of diversity are healthy, biblical and good. They are part of the natural, intended design of the body of Christ. They come about organically wherever the word of God is read, respected and followed.

But the kind of fake diversity that imposes quotas in order to rectify real or imagined historical injustices is not healthy at all, and will produce nothing of value. Hooten Wilson writes:

“In our textbooks, we should peruse the authors of the works and, if applicable, the editors or introductory writers to ensure an assortment of voices from various nations and cultures, as well as an equality of both sexes. If we look at the table of contents of a textbook or a reading list for a semester and find not a single woman or person of color in that list, then that curriculum is misrepresenting the classical Christian tradition.”

Wait. Stop. Hard 180. What’s in that glass, Jessica?

An Equality of Both Sexes

“An equality of both sexes”? 50/50? Really? What an interesting statement. Bear in mind we are talking about a Christian education in the classics here. A list of literature from any historical period is bound to reflect the demographic realities of its time. It cannot do otherwise. During the first millennium AD, if a hundred men wrote recognized classics for every woman who did (or if a hundred whites, Greeks or Jews wrote classics for every black, Hispanic or Asian who did), then any effort to “equalize” the representation of women, blacks, Asians or Hispanics by making the curriculum for that era more “diverse” will simply have the effect of watering down the curriculum. We will be giving the designation “classic” to books that are merely incidental, and we will be excluding better and more profitable works in order to check politically correct boxes and pat ourselves on the back.

Moreover, far from representing the classical Christian tradition more accurately, we will be misrepresenting it egregiously because we will be imposing on it the values of our present generation … and not even Christian values at that!

Biblical Considerations

These are merely practical considerations. What about biblical ones? What shall we say about a book comprised of 66 books all written by men? For every page of the Bible explicitly composed by a Mary, Hannah or Miriam, we have literally hundreds written by men. For every passage explicitly articulated by a Gentile (Nebuchadnezzar, Balaam), we have hundreds written by Jews.

What shall we say about a book in which all the priests are men, and all from the same Israelite family, no exceptions? This was by God’s design, not man’s, and anyone who took exception with his rules perished in nasty ways or was divinely afflicted with leprosy.

Not a terribly diverse project, is it? Are we going to rewrite it, or accept it as it stands?

Mary was commended for sitting at the Lord’s feet, but when he chose twelve to be his disciples and later his apostles, they were all Jewish men. When he sent out the seventy, there is not the slightest suggestion there were women among their number. Paul did not permit women to teach or exercise authority over men in church meetings. When he gave standards by which to judge prospective church leadership, they applied only to men. We can hardly be surprised that both scripture and the literary tradition that grew up around it were almost entirely the work of males.

The Value of Diversity and Inclusion

That does not mean the Lord Jesus or Paul loved or valued women less than they loved or valued men, or, for that matter, that they loved and valued Jews above Gentiles. It does mean they didn’t particularly value diversity and inclusion as operating principles, and certainly not as be-all and end-alls. Rather, they valued the word of the Lord from those to whom it came and from those who were permitted to share it.

Diversity and inclusion, as the world defines those values today, have no place in the church and no place in Christian institutions of any kind. In themselves, they are content-free expressions, good or bad depending on the things or people they propose to diversify or include, and depending on what and whom they exclude. They are not metrics for evaluating anything of spiritual importance.

As Christians, we really need to start asking what’s in the glass before we all sit down and take a swig, and especially before we offer others a sip. In the case of social justice, cultural Marxism and/or woke Christianity, the glass is half full of rat poison.

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