339 CYNICAL THEORIES and a FALSE GOSPEL

Some current illustrations reveal a disturbing, highly aggressive ideology, rooted in cultural Marxism and deeply racist in nature.  When announcing his cabinet nominees, Joe Biden said little about their qualifications while routinely stressing their membership is certain groups—black, Hispanic, female, gay, etc.  In Oregon the state board of education has decreed that mathematics is patriarchal and white supremacist inasmuch as it invokes objectivity.  So math must now be taught to encourage various aspects of the “woke” dogma.  Chicago’s teachers successfully revised the city’s teacher qualifications to emphasize empathy for disadvantaged groups rather than academic proficiency.  A book entitled Engineering and Social Justice, declares:  “getting beyond views of truth as objective and absolute is the most fundamental change we need in engineering education.”  Tennis legend Martina Navratilova endured savage attacks for saying men claiming to be women ought not compete with  biological women.  It’s evident that “identity,” real or assumed, matters much to many of those controlling us.   And we’re facing what Douglas Murray, in The Madness of Crowds, describes as “antiracist racism.”

The complex roots and branches of this phenomenon is explored by Helen Pluckrose and James Lidsay in Cynical Theories:  how activist scholarship made everything about race, gender, and identity-and why this harms everybody (Durham, N.C.:  Pitchstone Publishing, Kindle Edition, c. 2020).  The word cynical means faultfinding, captious, or currish, and the theories examined are precisely that—filled with rancor, rage, malice and calumny.  The two authors (Pluckrose is British, Lindsay American) are deeply committed to the Enlightenment-incubated European and American liberalism that flourished for two centuries.  So they are deeply distressed by the Postmodernism promulgated by today’s Leftists who dismiss “objective truth as a fantasy dreamed up by naive and/or arrogantly bigoted Enlightenment thinkers.”  They inevitably espouse epistemological skepticism and ethical relativism and now fly the flag of “social justice,” which has “either become or given rise to one of the least tolerant and most authoritarian ideologies that the world has had to deal with since the widespread decline of communism and the collapses of white supremacy and colonialism” (p. 13).  To disabuse readers of any positive illusions regarding today’s “social justice warriors” this book was written.

In rejecting “metanarratives” such as Christianity or Marxism, Postmodernists have also rejected science, reason, and other pillars of post-Enlightenment Western Democracy while advancing what they call “Theory.”  Their forebears include, most notably, some French professors—Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-François Lyotard—whose intellectual heirs now occupy some of the most powerful positions in our world.  They “are obsessed with power, language, knowledge, and the relationships between them.”  Everything is reduced to a power-struggle between social groups, primarily race, sex, gender.  “To an outsider, this culture feels as though it originated on another planet, whose inhabitants have no knowledge of sexually reproducing species, and who interpret all our human sociological interactions in the most cynical way possible” (p. 16).  Literally everything—knowledge, history, religion, art, etc.—is culturally constructed.  Postmodernists see what they want to see, not what actually is.  They value what pleases them, not what is intrinsically valuable.  

Inasmuch as anything unites postmodernists it’s their rejection of the correspondence theory of truth.  Denying the possibility of objective truth and reason, they need not demonstrate or prove anything.  Neither data nor logic much matter.  Instead, they assert their “truths” and seek to impose them by manipulating the powers that be by any means possible. They also reject the metaphysical notion of selfhood (the autonomous individual), asserting that persons are mere members of certain groups.  They claim there are “other ways of knowing” far better than empirical science and deductive logic—mainly it is “lived experience,” meaning personal stories rather than facts.  Emotion, especially, shows how strongly-felt “truths” need no objective validation.  As is true of many ideologies, Postmodernists “have created a new religion, a tradition of faith that is actively hostile to reason, falsification, disconfirmation, and disagreement of any kind.  Indeed, the whole postmodernist project now seems, in retrospect, like an unwitting attempt to have deconstructed the old metanarratives of Western thought—science and reason along with religion and capitalist economic systems—to make room for a wholly new religion, a postmodern faith based on a dead God, which sees mysterious worldly forces in systems of power and privilege and which sanctifies victimhood.  This, increasingly, is the fundamentalist religion of the nominally secular left” (p. 212).

Merging with some Marxist currents in the 1990s, today’s “applied postmodernism”  now promotes the “Social Justice scholarship” so pervasive in our schools and universities.  Earlier Postmodernists  merely discerned the covert powers making our world.  Today’s devotees (following Marx’s injunction to change, rather than describe things) prescribe stringent solutions to societal inequities.  Consequently, we now have postcolonial, queer, and critical race Theories, along with gender studies, disability studies, and fat studies, all demanding political action.  Scholars have become activists.  No longer do university professors dispassionately weigh contending views, trying to disregard personal biases.  Instead, Social Justice Warriors turn lecterns into pulpits, writing incendiary manifestoes rather than nuanced analyses.  “Teaching is now supposed to be a political act, and only one type of politics is acceptable—identity politics, as defined by Social Justice and Theory” (p. 63).   Abandoning the canons of traditional scholarship in order to do “research studies,” their publications are distinguished not by rigor or quality but by their identification with and advocacy for a variety of ever-increasing number of oppressed groups. 

These teachers and their “studies” have powerfully influenced politicians, bureaucrats, technocrats, clergy, and business executives.  Most obviously is the pervasive fixation on race.  A black Harvard law professor, Derrick Bell, first set forth what is called “critical race Theory.”  He argued that whites only allow blacks to progress in ways that maintain their white privilege and power.  He denied “the possibility that any moral progress had been made since the Jim Crow era,” declaring, in his 1987 book And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest for Racial Justice, that recent advances in civil are mere mirages papering over the fact that whites do everything possible to stay in control.  If you cannot find obvious discriminatory practices you look for camouflaged micro-aggressions, hate speech, cultural appropriations, etc.  

Rather quickly Bell’s critique infiltrated the worlds of education and media, wherein we’re “told that racism is embedded in culture and that we cannot escape it.  We hear that white people are inherently racist.  We are told that racism is ‘prejudice plus power,’ therefore, only white people can be racist.  We are informed that only people of color can talk about racism, that white people need to just listen, and that they don’t have the ‘racial stamina’ to engage it.  We hear that not seeing people in terms of their race (being color-blind) is, in fact, racist and an attempt to ignore the pervasive racism that dominates society and perpetuates white privilege” (p. 121).  

Consequently we behold the extraordinary success of Robin Di-Angelo’s White Fragility.  She (a white woman) says all whites profit from their white supremacy.  That’s “The Truth According to Social Justice,” and she insists no one dare question her.  To do so is a mark of “fragility”—the inability to accept what she assumes demonstrably self-evident.  Anyone daring to do so must be “cancelled.”  Instead, to prove we’re as righteous as she, we must embrace her “Truth” and join her in exploring it, “learning how to deconstruct whiteness and white privilege, which is billed as the necessary work of ‘antiracism.’  This is quite staggering.  DiAngelo, a white woman, contends that all white people are racist and that it is impossible not to be, because of the systems of powerful racist discourses we were born into.  She insists that we are complicit by default and are therefore responsible for addressing these systems” (p. 206).  Superficially good, caring whites deceive themselves, for they are irredeemably immersed in an intolerable racism. 

Most fashionable these days is what’s called “intersectionality,”  popularized by Kimberlé Crenshaw.  For example, if you’re black and female and homosexual you are the product of a privileged “intersection” of three oppressed groups!  You can triple your anger!  Everywhere you look you can find “power imbalances, bigotry, and biases” demanding redress.  Intersectionality “reduces everything to one single variable, one single topic of conversation, one single focus and interpretation:  prejudice, as understood under the power dynamics asserted by Theory” (p. 128).  Prejudices abound everywhere.  “Therefore, in Social Justice scholarship, we continually read that patriarchy, white supremacy, imperialism, cisnormativity, heteronormativity, ableism, and fatphobia are literally structuring society and infecting everything.  They exist in a state of immanence—present always and everywhere, just beneath a nicer-seeming surface that can’t quite contain them” (p. 182).  Radical activists groups such as Black Lives Matter and Antifa, LGBT and feminist demonstrators, are demonstrable manifestations of this Social Justice ideology. 

Pluckrose and Lindsay have clearly read and honestly report what’s shaping these various strands weaving together in various kinds of intersectionalities.  What’s obvious in their presentation is the civilizational threat these theories pose, for inasmuch as they repudiate “the foundations upon which today’s advanced civilizations are built,” we must resist and defeat them.  Committed secularists, they believe the best antidote to Critical Theory is traditional Liberalism. 

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A “parasitic false gospel of social justice” within Evangelicalism is critiqued by Jon Harris in Social Justice Goes To Church: The New Left in Modern American Evangelicalism (Greenville, SC:  Ambassador Books, c. 2020; Kindle Edition).   Its seed was sown by a few “young evangelicals” half-a-century ago—most notably Jim Wallis, Tom Skinner, John Alexander, Ron Sider, and Wes Granberg-Michaelson.  In short, informative chapters, Harris sketches biographies of these men.  All were reared in conservative churches but embraced New Leftist thought while attending colleges and universities in the ‘60s, and they believed “it was necessary to rescue Christianity from enslavement to the corrupting influence of evil cultural forces the New Left had warned them about.  Yet, they recognized the ultimate answer to society’s maladies was not a secular revolutionary or Marxist philosophy, but a renewed understanding of Jesus and Christianity” (p. 19).  

Arguably the most prominent and influential of them is Jim Wallis, who published Agenda for Biblical People in 1976.  Reared in a fundamentalist Plymouth Brethren church in Detroit, Wallis attended Michigan State University and there joined the Students for a Democratic Society and helped organize campus protests.  Sufficiently radicalized, in attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and joined with other like-minded students discussing how to integrate faith and social action.  Particularly agitated by the Vietnam War, they distributed antiwar leaflets, organized sit-ins, and published a few issues of the “Post-American, their very own social and political magazine” (p. 24).  (I early subscribed to this publication and unfortunately perused and pondered Jim Wallis’s works for too many years!).  Soon thereafter Wallis and some close associates decided, in 1975, to re-locate to the nation’s Capital, where they renamed both their community and its publication “Sojourners.”  He envisioned a growing community of Christians who would begin to see things through “Marxist eyes” and act out their “‘zeal for social change’” (p. 26). 

Wes Granberg-Michaelson, after graduating from Hope College, attended Princeton Seminary.  Classes on liberation theology helped free him from much of his conservative rearing, and he went to Washington in 1968 to intern with Oregon’s progressive Republican Senator Mark Hatfield.  After receiving the first copy of Wallis’s Post-American, he showed it to Hatfield, who approved its contents.  “This opened the way for Sojourners to come to Washington, D.C., Granberg-Michaelson to join the community, and Jim Wallis to collaborate with Hatfield” (p. 30).  John Alexander, the son of a fundamentalist pastor, attended Trinity College in Chicago and began questioning most everything about his faith.  He was deeply disturbed by social inequities and developed his own understanding of a “version of Christianity based upon ‘love’ for ‘the God of the Bible’ who cared about social justice.”  Embracing aspects of Rudolph Bultmann and liberation theology, he came to believe that “‘it doesn’t matter much what you believe as long as you care about peace and justice.’  Later Alexander admitted, “I may have been a socialist when I was young.” (p. 35).  After briefly teaching at Wheaton College, he moved to Philadelphia and began publishing The Other Side—another publication to which I subscribed, back in the day! 

Ron Sider grew up an Anabaptist (the son of a Brethren in Christ pastor), so teachings regarding social activism were congenial to him.  Attending graduate school at Yale University, he joined other young radicals calling for significant changes in America.  Moving in 1968 to Philadelphia, he taught for a while at Messiah College’s Philadelphia campus and worked among the poverty-stricken blacks in North Philadelphia.  In 1972 he served as secretary for “Evangelicals for McGovern,” and in 1977 he published Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, which sold 250,000 copies and was listed by “Christianity Today as one of the top hundred books of the century.”  Later in life Sider said it “was a book he ‘had no business writing’ since ‘biblical studies, economics, politics, [and] social ethics’ were topics he ‘didn’t know hardly anything about’ when he wrote it” (p. 40).  Nevertheless, it proved amazingly (and unduly) influential. 

Evangelical feminists found their slot in the social justice agenda.  Letha Scanzoni, after attending Moody Bible Institute, rejected the patriarchy of conservative churches and joined with Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, a graduate of Bob Jones University, to promote a “biblical feminism,” which properly valued women.  Mollenkott teamed up with Nancy Hardesty (who had graduated from Wheaton) to promote an “egalitarian” (rather than “complementarian”) view of marriage and urged women to become pastors in All We’re Meant to Be: A Biblical Approach to Women’s Liberation.  Their biblical hermeneutics and logic enabled others to call for normalizing homosexuality.  “The Metropolitan Community Church, formed in 1968 by a Moody Bible Institute graduate named Troy Perry, had a statement of faith similar to the National Association of Evangelicals, yet a mission toward ‘meaningful social action’ toward the ‘gay community itself’” (p. 58).  Following the 2015 Obergefell v Hodges Supreme Court decision, only Ron Sider affirmed traditional marriage, whereas other “pioneers of the evangelical left, like Jim Wallis, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Wes Granberg-Michaelson, supported same sex marriage” (p. 148). 

After portraying the leading leftist evangelicals, Harris turns to analyzing and evaluating their impact and influence.  Their ideas (given currency by Carl F.H. Henry’s The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism) quickly flowed into church colleges and seminaries.  In the early ‘70s Fuller Theological Seminary, scarcely resembling Charles E. Fuller’s “old fashioned revival hour,” was championing “social concerns,” addressing racism, poverty, and injustices of various sorts.  Para-church organizations such as World Vision and Inter-varsity Christian Fellowship stressed the importance of compassionate ministries.  In 1970 the Urbana Conference, mainly renowned for promoting foreign missions, celebrated “Christ the Liberator,” and the keynote speaker, Tom Skinner, “denounced ‘Americanism,’ the ‘police,’ which he maintained were ‘nothing more than the occupational force in the black community,”’ and portrayed a “‘revolutionary’ Jesus who was arrested for coming ‘to change the system’” (p. 94). 

Decades later the aging evangelical leftists promotes the same agenda and have enlisted numbers of younger cohorts.  Jim Wallis supported Black Lives Matter and Ron Sider assailed Donald Trump.  New terms may be used—“equity” rather than “equality,” “woke” rather than “radical awakening,” etc.  “Still, the basic New Left concepts which motivated progressive evangelicals of the 1970s are making their way into the heart of the evangelical movement. The prophets for social concern are accomplishing their mission, though much later than they originally wanted to” (p. 152).

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In Why Social Justice Is Not Biblical Justice (Grand Rapids:  Credo House Publishers, c. 2020; Kindle ed.), Scott David Allen provides what Wayne Grudem says is “an eye-opening, insightful, and (to my mind) truthful warning about the deeply anti-Christian ideas behind much of the modern “social justice” movement, a movement that insists on dividing all of society into the oppressors (people of privilege who can do nothing good) and the oppressed (people who can do nothing evil).  By contrast, Scott Allen firmly grounds his argument in biblical ideas of justice.  He does not hesitate to name specific people and evangelical organizations that are in danger of being led astray by following contemporary calls for social justice instead of true biblical justice.  Highly recommended!”  

Allen begins by carefully defining terms, determined to help Christians understand their importance and guard against their abuse.  Unfortunately, an “ideological social justice” agenda (shaped by Critical Theories in the universities) has shaped large numbers of peoples’ worldviews.   “Now it is the reigning worldview throughout nearly every aspect of education, both K-12 and higher education. It dominates big business, the media, entertainment, high tech, and much of our government, including our systems of justice. In the words of essayist and cultural critic Andrew Sullivan, ‘we all live on campus now’” (#147).  And that’s especially true of many churches!  So we must recover the right meaning of words such as justice, for:  “Just societies are built upon the rule of law, the understanding that the law applies equally to everyone,” whereas “Unjust societies, by contrast, are governed by the rule of man, which acknowledges no transcendent law” (#587).  

Which is precisely why today’s rampant ideological social justice is so injurious, for it reduces truth to power.  Whoever can construct the most influential narrative can impose his will, whatever evils may ensue.  “The highly aggressive advocates of the Revolutionary Narrative employ tactics very similar to those used in the past by Marxist revolutionaries.  They treat their narrative as sacrosanct.  You cannot do or say anything that calls it into question, and woe to the one who tries.  And if you choose to not advocate for it—that too will be viewed as complicity in racism.  Anyone who dissents from the narrative can expect to be denounced as a racist and summarily bullied, shamed, intimidated, threatened, or fired.  Advocates of the Revolutionary Narrative have little interest in engaging in free, open debate.  They want submissive compliance.  The bending of the knee is a perfect symbolic expression for the Revolutionary Narrative as a whole” (#2195).  This revolutionary narrative, pushed by social justice warriors, wields great power in the academy, media, progressive politicians, Big Tech, major corporations, credentialing organizations and Mainstream Protestant denominations.  

Now “Evangelicalism appears to be fracturing in response to” it, with prominent clergy and institutions at least dipping into its tenets.  “Race, more than any other issue, is leading evangelicals into the arms of ideological social justice.”  During the past decade a corps of evangelicals have begun denouncing “whiteness” and “white privilege.”  They joined President Obama in decrying the shooting of Trayvon Martin and supported the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  (Within my own denomination, the Church of the Nazarene, a prominent pastor made available BLM signs, and a university promises to provide anti-racism training for all faculty and staff and will offer a class on the sociology of whiteness!)  Inasmuch as they are opposing racism these Evangelicals are absolutely right, Allen says.  But if they root their understanding of justice in the Bible they must uphold a truthful definition of it, rejecting the view “that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race—and then work hard for racial reconciliation” (# 2540).

CYNICAL THEORIES and a FALSE GOSPEL

Some current illustrations reveal a disturbing, highly aggressive ideology, rooted in cultural Marxism and deeply racist in nature.  When announcing his cabinet nominees, Joe Biden said little about their qualifications while routinely stressing their membership is certain groups—black, Hispanic, female, gay, etc.  In Oregon the state board of education has decreed that mathematics is patriarchal and white supremacist inasmuch as it invokes objectivity.  So math must now be taught to encourage various aspects of the “woke” dogma.  Chicago’s teachers successfully revised the city’s teacher qualifications to emphasize empathy for disadvantaged groups rather than academic proficiency.  A book entitled Engineering and Social Justice, declares:  “getting beyond views of truth as objective and absolute is the most fundamental change we need in engineering education.”  Tennis legend Martina Navratilova endured savage attacks for saying men claiming to be women ought not compete with  biological women.  It’s evident that “identity,” real or assumed, matters much to many of those controlling us.   And we’re facing what Douglas Murray, in The Madness of Crowds, describes as “antiracist racism.”

The complex roots and branches of this phenomenon is explored by Helen Pluckrose and James Lidsay in Cynical Theories:  how activist scholarship made everything about race, gender, and identity-and why this harms everybody (Durham, N.C.:  Pitchstone Publishing, Kindle Edition, c. 2020).  The word cynical means faultfinding, captious, or currish, and the theories examined are precisely that—filled with rancor, rage, malice and calumny.  The two authors (Pluckrose is British, Lindsay American) are deeply committed to the Enlightenment-incubated European and American liberalism that flourished for two centuries.  So they are deeply distressed by the Postmodernism promulgated by today’s Leftists who dismiss “objective truth as a fantasy dreamed up by naive and/or arrogantly bigoted Enlightenment thinkers.”  They inevitably espouse epistemological skepticism and ethical relativism and now fly the flag of “social justice,” which has “either become or given rise to one of the least tolerant and most authoritarian ideologies that the world has had to deal with since the widespread decline of communism and the collapses of white supremacy and colonialism” (p. 13).  To disabuse readers of any positive illusions regarding today’s “social justice warriors” this book was written.

In rejecting “metanarratives” such as Christianity or Marxism, Postmodernists have also rejected science, reason, and other pillars of post-Enlightenment Western Democracy while advancing what they call “Theory.”  Their forebears include, most notably, some French professors—Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-François Lyotard—whose intellectual heirs now occupy some of the most powerful positions in our world.  They “are obsessed with power, language, knowledge, and the relationships between them.”  Everything is reduced to a power-struggle between social groups, primarily race, sex, gender.  “To an outsider, this culture feels as though it originated on another planet, whose inhabitants have no knowledge of sexually reproducing species, and who interpret all our human sociological interactions in the most cynical way possible” (p. 16).  Literally everything—knowledge, history, religion, art, etc.—is culturally constructed.  Postmodernists see what they want to see, not what actually is.  They value what pleases them, not what is intrinsically valuable.  

Inasmuch as anything unites postmodernists it’s their rejection of the correspondence theory of truth.  Denying the possibility of objective truth and reason, they need not demonstrate or prove anything.  Neither data nor logic much matter.  Instead, they assert their “truths” and seek to impose them by manipulating the powers that be by any means possible. They also reject the metaphysical notion of selfhood (the autonomous individual), asserting that persons are mere members of certain groups.  They claim there are “other ways of knowing” far better than empirical science and deductive logic—mainly it is “lived experience,” meaning personal stories rather than facts.  Emotion, especially, shows how strongly-felt “truths” need no objective validation.  As is true of many ideologies, Postmodernists “have created a new religion, a tradition of faith that is actively hostile to reason, falsification, disconfirmation, and disagreement of any kind.  Indeed, the whole postmodernist project now seems, in retrospect, like an unwitting attempt to have deconstructed the old metanarratives of Western thought—science and reason along with religion and capitalist economic systems—to make room for a wholly new religion, a postmodern faith based on a dead God, which sees mysterious worldly forces in systems of power and privilege and which sanctifies victimhood.  This, increasingly, is the fundamentalist religion of the nominally secular left” (p. 212).

Merging with some Marxist currents in the 1990s, today’s “applied postmodernism”  now promotes the “Social Justice scholarship” so pervasive in our schools and universities.  Earlier Postmodernists  merely discerned the covert powers making our world.  Today’s devotees (following Marx’s injunction to change, rather than describe things) prescribe stringent solutions to societal inequities.  Consequently, we now have postcolonial, queer, and critical race Theories, along with gender studies, disability studies, and fat studies, all demanding political action.  Scholars have become activists.  No longer do university professors dispassionately weigh contending views, trying to disregard personal biases.  Instead, Social Justice Warriors turn lecterns into pulpits, writing incendiary manifestoes rather than nuanced analyses.  “Teaching is now supposed to be a political act, and only one type of politics is acceptable—identity politics, as defined by Social Justice and Theory” (p. 63).   Abandoning the canons of traditional scholarship in order to do “research studies,” their publications are distinguished not by rigor or quality but by their identification with and advocacy for a variety of ever-increasing number of oppressed groups. 

These teachers and their “studies” have powerfully influenced politicians, bureaucrats, technocrats, clergy, and business executives.  Most obviously is the pervasive fixation on race.  A black Harvard law professor, Derrick Bell, first set forth what is called “critical race Theory.”  He argued that whites only allow blacks to progress in ways that maintain their white privilege and power.  He denied “the possibility that any moral progress had been made since the Jim Crow era,” declaring, in his 1987 book And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest for Racial Justice, that recent advances in civil are mere mirages papering over the fact that whites do everything possible to stay in control.  If you cannot find obvious discriminatory practices you look for camouflaged micro-aggressions, hate speech, cultural appropriations, etc.  

Rather quickly Bell’s critique infiltrated the worlds of education and media, wherein we’re “told that racism is embedded in culture and that we cannot escape it.  We hear that white people are inherently racist.  We are told that racism is ‘prejudice plus power,’ therefore, only white people can be racist.  We are informed that only people of color can talk about racism, that white people need to just listen, and that they don’t have the ‘racial stamina’ to engage it.  We hear that not seeing people in terms of their race (being color-blind) is, in fact, racist and an attempt to ignore the pervasive racism that dominates society and perpetuates white privilege” (p. 121).  

Consequently we behold the extraordinary success of Robin Di-Angelo’s White Fragility.  She (a white woman) says all whites profit from their white supremacy.  That’s “The Truth According to Social Justice,” and she insists no one dare question her.  To do so is a mark of “fragility”—the inability to accept what she assumes demonstrably self-evident.  Anyone daring to do so must be “cancelled.”  Instead, to prove we’re as righteous as she, we must embrace her “Truth” and join her in exploring it, “learning how to deconstruct whiteness and white privilege, which is billed as the necessary work of ‘antiracism.’  This is quite staggering.  DiAngelo, a white woman, contends that all white people are racist and that it is impossible not to be, because of the systems of powerful racist discourses we were born into.  She insists that we are complicit by default and are therefore responsible for addressing these systems” (p. 206).  Superficially good, caring whites deceive themselves, for they are irredeemably immersed in an intolerable racism. 

Most fashionable these days is what’s called “intersectionality,”  popularized by Kimberlé Crenshaw.  For example, if you’re black and female and homosexual you are the product of a privileged “intersection” of three oppressed groups!  You can triple your anger!  Everywhere you look you can find “power imbalances, bigotry, and biases” demanding redress.  Intersectionality “reduces everything to one single variable, one single topic of conversation, one single focus and interpretation:  prejudice, as understood under the power dynamics asserted by Theory” (p. 128).  Prejudices abound everywhere.  “Therefore, in Social Justice scholarship, we continually read that patriarchy, white supremacy, imperialism, cisnormativity, heteronormativity, ableism, and fatphobia are literally structuring society and infecting everything.  They exist in a state of immanence—present always and everywhere, just beneath a nicer-seeming surface that can’t quite contain them” (p. 182).  Radical activists groups such as Black Lives Matter and Antifa, LGBT and feminist demonstrators, are demonstrable manifestations of this Social Justice ideology. 

Pluckrose and Lindsay have clearly read and honestly report what’s shaping these various strands weaving together in various kinds of intersectionalities.  What’s obvious in their presentation is the civilizational threat these theories pose, for inasmuch as they repudiate “the foundations upon which today’s advanced civilizations are built,” we must resist and defeat them.  Committed secularists, they believe the best antidote to Critical Theory is traditional Liberalism. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A “parasitic false gospel of social justice” within Evangelicalism is critiqued by Jon Harris in Social Justice Goes To Church: The New Left in Modern American Evangelicalism (Greenville, SC:  Ambassador Books, c. 2020; Kindle Edition).   Its seed was sown by a few “young evangelicals” half-a-century ago—most notably Jim Wallis, Tom Skinner, John Alexander, Ron Sider, and Wes Granberg-Michaelson.  In short, informative chapters, Harris sketches biographies of these men.  All were reared in conservative churches but embraced New Leftist thought while attending colleges and universities in the ‘60s, and they believed “it was necessary to rescue Christianity from enslavement to the corrupting influence of evil cultural forces the New Left had warned them about.  Yet, they recognized the ultimate answer to society’s maladies was not a secular revolutionary or Marxist philosophy, but a renewed understanding of Jesus and Christianity” (p. 19).  

Arguably the most prominent and influential of them is Jim Wallis, who published Agenda for Biblical People in 1976.  Reared in a fundamentalist Plymouth Brethren church in Detroit, Wallis attended Michigan State University and there joined the Students for a Democratic Society and helped organize campus protests.  Sufficiently radicalized, in attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and joined with other like-minded students discussing how to integrate faith and social action.  Particularly agitated by the Vietnam War, they distributed antiwar leaflets, organized sit-ins, and published a few issues of the “Post-American, their very own social and political magazine” (p. 24).  (I early subscribed to this publication and unfortunately perused and pondered Jim Wallis’s works for too many years!).  Soon thereafter Wallis and some close associates decided, in 1975, to re-locate to the nation’s Capital, where they renamed both their community and its publication “Sojourners.”  He envisioned a growing community of Christians who would begin to see things through “Marxist eyes” and act out their “‘zeal for social change’” (p. 26). 

Wes Granberg-Michaelson, after graduating from Hope College, attended Princeton Seminary.  Classes on liberation theology helped free him from much of his conservative rearing, and he went to Washington in 1968 to intern with Oregon’s progressive Republican Senator Mark Hatfield.  After receiving the first copy of Wallis’s Post-American, he showed it to Hatfield, who approved its contents.  “This opened the way for Sojourners to come to Washington, D.C., Granberg-Michaelson to join the community, and Jim Wallis to collaborate with Hatfield” (p. 30).  John Alexander, the son of a fundamentalist pastor, attended Trinity College in Chicago and began questioning most everything about his faith.  He was deeply disturbed by social inequities and developed his own understanding of a “version of Christianity based upon ‘love’ for ‘the God of the Bible’ who cared about social justice.”  Embracing aspects of Rudolph Bultmann and liberation theology, he came to believe that “‘it doesn’t matter much what you believe as long as you care about peace and justice.’  Later Alexander admitted, “I may have been a socialist when I was young.” (p. 35).  After briefly teaching at Wheaton College, he moved to Philadelphia and began publishing The Other Side—another publication to which I subscribed, back in the day! 

Ron Sider grew up an Anabaptist (the son of a Brethren in Christ pastor), so teachings regarding social activism were congenial to him.  Attending graduate school at Yale University, he joined other young radicals calling for significant changes in America.  Moving in 1968 to Philadelphia, he taught for a while at Messiah College’s Philadelphia campus and worked among the poverty-stricken blacks in North Philadelphia.  In 1972 he served as secretary for “Evangelicals for McGovern,” and in 1977 he published Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, which sold 250,000 copies and was listed by “Christianity Today as one of the top hundred books of the century.”  Later in life Sider said it “was a book he ‘had no business writing’ since ‘biblical studies, economics, politics, [and] social ethics’ were topics he ‘didn’t know hardly anything about’ when he wrote it” (p. 40).  Nevertheless, it proved amazingly (and unduly) influential. 

Evangelical feminists found their slot in the social justice agenda.  Letha Scanzoni, after attending Moody Bible Institute, rejected the patriarchy of conservative churches and joined with Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, a graduate of Bob Jones University, to promote a “biblical feminism,” which properly valued women.  Mollenkott teamed up with Nancy Hardesty (who had graduated from Wheaton) to promote an “egalitarian” (rather than “complementarian”) view of marriage and urged women to become pastors in All We’re Meant to Be: A Biblical Approach to Women’s Liberation.  Their biblical hermeneutics and logic enabled others to call for normalizing homosexuality.  “The Metropolitan Community Church, formed in 1968 by a Moody Bible Institute graduate named Troy Perry, had a statement of faith similar to the National Association of Evangelicals, yet a mission toward ‘meaningful social action’ toward the ‘gay community itself’” (p. 58).  Following the 2015 Obergefell v Hodges Supreme Court decision, only Ron Sider affirmed traditional marriage, whereas other “pioneers of the evangelical left, like Jim Wallis, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Wes Granberg-Michaelson, supported same sex marriage” (p. 148). 

After portraying the leading leftist evangelicals, Harris turns to analyzing and evaluating their impact and influence.  Their ideas (given currency by Carl F.H. Henry’s The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism) quickly flowed into church colleges and seminaries.  In the early ‘70s Fuller Theological Seminary, scarcely resembling Charles E. Fuller’s “old fashioned revival hour,” was championing “social concerns,” addressing racism, poverty, and injustices of various sorts.  Para-church organizations such as World Vision and Inter-varsity Christian Fellowship stressed the importance of compassionate ministries.  In 1970 the Urbana Conference, mainly renowned for promoting foreign missions, celebrated “Christ the Liberator,” and the keynote speaker, Tom Skinner, “denounced ‘Americanism,’ the ‘police,’ which he maintained were ‘nothing more than the occupational force in the black community,”’ and portrayed a “‘revolutionary’ Jesus who was arrested for coming ‘to change the system’” (p. 94). 

Decades later the aging evangelical leftists promotes the same agenda and have enlisted numbers of younger cohorts.  Jim Wallis supported Black Lives Matter and Ron Sider assailed Donald Trump.  New terms may be used—“equity” rather than “equality,” “woke” rather than “radical awakening,” etc.  “Still, the basic New Left concepts which motivated progressive evangelicals of the 1970s are making their way into the heart of the evangelical movement. The prophets for social concern are accomplishing their mission, though much later than they originally wanted to” (p. 152).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In Why Social Justice Is Not Biblical Justice (Grand Rapids:  Credo House Publishers, c. 2020; Kindle ed.), Scott David Allen provides what Wayne Grudem says is “an eye-opening, insightful, and (to my mind) truthful warning about the deeply anti-Christian ideas behind much of the modern “social justice” movement, a movement that insists on dividing all of society into the oppressors (people of privilege who can do nothing good) and the oppressed (people who can do nothing evil).  By contrast, Scott Allen firmly grounds his argument in biblical ideas of justice.  He does not hesitate to name specific people and evangelical organizations that are in danger of being led astray by following contemporary calls for social justice instead of true biblical justice.  Highly recommended!”  

Allen begins by carefully defining terms, determined to help Christians understand their importance and guard against their abuse.  Unfortunately, an “ideological social justice” agenda (shaped by Critical Theories in the universities) has shaped large numbers of peoples’ worldviews.   “Now it is the reigning worldview throughout nearly every aspect of education, both K-12 and higher education. It dominates big business, the media, entertainment, high tech, and much of our government, including our systems of justice. In the words of essayist and cultural critic Andrew Sullivan, ‘we all live on campus now’” (#147).  And that’s especially true of many churches!  So we must recover the right meaning of words such as justice, for:  “Just societies are built upon the rule of law, the understanding that the law applies equally to everyone,” whereas “Unjust societies, by contrast, are governed by the rule of man, which acknowledges no transcendent law” (#587).  

Which is precisely why today’s rampant ideological social justice is so injurious, for it reduces truth to power.  Whoever can construct the most influential narrative can impose his will, whatever evils may ensue.  “The highly aggressive advocates of the Revolutionary Narrative employ tactics very similar to those used in the past by Marxist revolutionaries.  They treat their narrative as sacrosanct.  You cannot do or say anything that calls it into question, and woe to the one who tries.  And if you choose to not advocate for it—that too will be viewed as complicity in racism.  Anyone who dissents from the narrative can expect to be denounced as a racist and summarily bullied, shamed, intimidated, threatened, or fired.  Advocates of the Revolutionary Narrative have little interest in engaging in free, open debate.  They want submissive compliance.  The bending of the knee is a perfect symbolic expression for the Revolutionary Narrative as a whole” (#2195).  This revolutionary narrative, pushed by social justice warriors, wields great power in the academy, media, progressive politicians, Big Tech, major corporations, credentialing organizations and Mainstream Protestant denominations.  

Now “Evangelicalism appears to be fracturing in response to” it, with prominent clergy and institutions at least dipping into its tenets.  “Race, more than any other issue, is leading evangelicals into the arms of ideological social justice.”  During the past decade a corps of evangelicals have begun denouncing “whiteness” and “white privilege.”  They joined President Obama in decrying the shooting of Trayvon Martin and supported the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  (Within my own denomination, the Church of the Nazarene, a prominent pastor made available BLM signs, and a university promises to provide anti-racism training for all faculty and staff and will offer a class on the sociology of whiteness!)  Inasmuch as they are opposing racism these Evangelicals are absolutely right, Allen says.  But if they root their understanding of justice in the Bible they must uphold a truthful definition of it, rejecting the view “that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race—and then work hard for racial reconciliation” (# 2540).