Mohandas Gandhi is often attributed with a quotation actually spoken by American union worker, Nicholas Klein in 1918. Both men knew a thing or two about resistance to overwhelming force, but it was Klein who actually penned the phrase,
“First they ignore you. Then, they ridicule you. Then, they attack you and burn you. And then, they build monuments to you.”
Taking a cue from their own broad generalization of the so-called Oppression Class, Evangelical Intelligentsia leaders are choosing to ignore the signers of the Dallas Statement on Social Justice. They’re also encouraging others to boycott the signatories. This is Phase 1 for how the power establishment mitigates the consequences of criticism from vocal minority groups, and we’ve seen them do this before many times.
In this case, the vocal minority group is led by John MacArthur, and the evangelical establishment desires to stifle dissent. The evangelical establishment runs a spectrum from right to left and includes The Gospel Coalition, Together for the Gospel, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, 9 Marks, Reformed Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Westminster Philadelphia. The establishment also includes more long-running and visibly leftist organizations like Jim Wallis’ Sojourners, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and other mainline evangelical denominations like the United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, and the American Baptist Convention. On the topic of social justice, these organizations on both the theological right and theological left are in almost total agreement, a bizarre and recent political paradigm shift in thought that has for the first time in decades had both sides in almost total unity on at least one issue.
The exception to this right-left unification on Rauschenbuschism is a small group of Gospel-conscious thought leaders from a relatively small section of American evangelicalism who have spoken out against the shift of thought by crafting the aforementioned Dallas Statement. The establishment cannot tolerate that dissent, and they will seek to mitigate the damage. They will do so first by trying to ignore the statement, which currently has more than 5 thousand signers.
The strategy thus far – all a part of “ignoring” in Phase 1 – has been three-fold. First, the establishment has claimed the statement is nebulous or vague. In doing so, they can claim ignorance regarding its meaning and make its drafters seem confused or befuddled. This tactic, in particular, is obnoxious, as the Evangelical Intelligentsia purports to be wiser and smarter than the rest of us. The Dallas Statement is incredibly clear and concise, and any attempt to argue the statement is vague should rightly be considered an insult toward one’s own intelligence and reading comprehension. Second, the establishment has claimed to be in general agreement with the statement and therefore sees no need to sign it. Again, the idea is that because they agree already there’s no need for the statement, and therefore no need to sign it. Taking a cue from the ERLC and the SBC Executive Board who claimed they had never received a complaint about the MLK50 Social Justice conference (an absurd, demonstrable, and outright lie) here the Intelligentsia acts confused as to whether or not there’s even a controversy, making the statement’s signers and drafters seem altogether unhinged. And third, the establishment has called for an outright blacklist of those who drafted or signed the statement.
It’s the third part that concerns me most in this article.
In a post at Religion News Service (which is now, incidentally, run by soulless Lifeway hack, Bob Smietana), Jemar Tisby urged everyone to ignore the signers of the document.
I’m tempted to refute the recent statement on the gospel and social justice point-by-point — showing how it falls short of the Bible’s call for justice. But I think our time would be better spent on other pursuits. There’s too much work to be done — work that will be delayed by endless debates.
Here’s my advice.
Many of the people who authored and signed this statement have large ministries and platforms.
Of course, the affirmations and denials in the Dallas Statement came from some of the most respected names in evangelicalism. Their ideas, even if wrong, should be responded to. Thousands have signed the statement, and these thousands of names represent hundreds of thousands of church members across America. A point-by-point examination of the document would seem to be required for critics. But for Jemar Tisby – a co-founder of the Reformed African American Network, now The Witness – the assertions of the Dallas Statement should be, like the signers, ignored. Simply put, those ideas are “not worthy” of refutation. Tisby has better things to pursue (like reparations and saving dolphins).
The “avoid them” line is reminiscent of Paul’s command regarding heretics in Romans 16:17. The “endless debates” line from Tisby is reminiscent of Paul’s exhortation to avoid pointless arguments in 2 Timothy 2:23 and Titus 3:9. After all, “conservative” evangelicals have been for Social Justice for all of five minutes now, so the debate is supposedly settled.
Find other authors, preachers and teachers from whom you can learn. People like Austin Channing Brown or the podcasters and bloggers at Truth’s Table or The Witness, where I am a contributor. Or read Howard Thurman, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Bryan Stevenson, James Baldwin or the other writers who have explored issues of justice.
If the supporters of statements that dismiss social justice as a distraction from the gospel headline a major conference, state your concerns to the organizers. If nothing changes, then don’t go.
If they do an interview on a podcast, find another episode to listen to. If they write more blogs to state their case, share other ones instead.
Tisby then recommends a list of preachers to pay attention to, most of whom – like Dr. King – deny plenary inspiration, penal substitution, or other core and essential Christian doctrines. He encourages a blackout and boycott of the signers of Dallas Statement.
To be very clear, ignoring the Statement will not work. Mark my words, and mark them good. Coming next (and we are already seeing it) is ridicule. In the next week, you’ll see mockery and making fun that you can’t believe.
And after that will come the stake. But, fight the power…
[Editor’s Note: HT Alpha and Omega Min]