Tuesday, March 05, 2013

White Christian Males and the Good News of Equality

Let us clarify what we mean when we talk about equality. Because conservatism is based on the idea that some deserve and others don't, that those on top should stay on top and those in the bottom need to stay there, it does a pretty bang-up job of disseminating false information concerning equality - as it does about the word "freedom." Equality doesn't mean that each person gets the same stuff. It also doesn't mean that each person is treated exactly alike. Equality means that each person - and each grouping of people - has the same opportunity and is treated with the dignity of people who have lives, experience, value, and worth that are different than the next person's. Not less, different*.

So when one claims to not believe in equality, one fights against the idea that all human beings are human beings. The Christian who fights against equality doesn't accept as doctrinally central the idea that all humans are created in the image of God - male and female. He fights against the idea of a God of impartiality, but rather serves a version of God that is on the side of the status quo - of Rome, of Babylon, of Egypt - over and against the slaves and exiled and oppressed subjects. This is the very first thought that Church of No People brings to mind here (and in his clarification here which, to be honest, I don't think is all that clarifying) - and is thoroughly reinforced by a bad and quite oppressive interpretation of the Pauline letters. All of which ignore the calls and strains of justice evident within the Bible - from Moses to Samuel and Nathan to Isaiah and Amos and Micah to Jesus and the disciples to John the Revelator, James and - gasp! - Paul.

The very same Paul who told a slave master to accept his slave (read: property) as his own kin. The same Paul who upturned the Greek status quo by equalizing slaves and freeborn, males and females.

In his proof-texting, Matt seems to misunderstand that humility is a route to justice, as it causes those with power and privilege (for example, Jesus) to humble themselves to a point of being allied with the oppressed ( for example, the poor). Rather, in his interpretation of humility, humbling is a weapon against the marginalized and oppressed. Against survivors. Against single mothers. Against the poor. Against trans* people. Matt needs to understand, without apology, that those who have already been humbled by their marginialization do not need to be further humbled.

Furthermore, Matt makes it apparent that the poor, that women, that people of color, that GLBTQ, those with disabilities etc, etc, do not get to have agency. That he gets to define what injustices are for other people and - as with most injustices concerning people in power and their apologists - that the issue at hand will be addressed at the opportune moment. To which Martin Luther King replied, "It is always the right time to do the right thing."

Anti-Chen Protest Day 32 - Million Men March
"Go home and be humble!" is NOT the Gospel

Some other issues with this post (and I know I'm only scratching the surface) that I largely tweeted upon first reads:

I'm not sure that every feminist believes in equality. First because feminism is a large label used for many movements - but most believe that women should be treated as fully human and complex people. The idea of equity between men and women (for starters) would probably not fit with a few on the extreme margins of feminism. To be honest, there is much inequity in the center of feminism (where affluent white women's concerns are brought to bear in affluent white women's voices as de facto women's rights), but at least the idea is that men and women should be equally respected in matters of justice. So, while there are several definitions/manifestations of "feminism," that doesn't mean you get to claim your own for your own self when it is contrary to the spirit of feminism.

And if you are a male and do not believe in equality, you probably most definitely are NOT a feminist.

If you claim to be a feminist because you "protect" and shelter your wife, your argument is invalid.

Further, if you think that love means putting others on a pedestal, you misunderstood "Love your neighbor AS yourself."

If you think the good news, the Gospel, is somehow antithetical to the message of equality and justice, then you should learn what it means to love justice and walk humbly with the Lord, dear white male Christian.

Finally, white males don't get to preach at marginalized, telling them they should "lay down their lives" more than they already are.

Post-Note:
I'll be adding the voices of other bloggers on this issue and in relation to these specific blogs as I find them.
Sarah Moon: On Equality, Humility, and Privilege
Dianna Anderson: Heavy Words and Co-Opted Meanings

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*I know that conservative mouthpieces like Limbaugh like to make fun of "liberals" (in whatever way that term is meant, usually pejoratively) for that phrase - but that speaks to the lack of conservative imagination. Conservatism doesn't want to think of people and cultures as being worthy of respect, so it defames even the notions of such whenever it gets the chance. In conservatism, White, Male and Monied are best - everything else is inferior.)

12 comments:

  1. Greetings. I just want to say that I certainly appreciate the engagement you have given this topic. I know that any time such loaded words as "equality" and "justice" are brought up, temperatures are going to be raised, because a thousand different definitions are going to be assumed by all parties.

    However, I politely submit that I have clarified my thinking: I am speaking primarily to myself as someone who is not generally oppressed. It makes no sense for me to say to someone who is poor or oppressed "You need to give up power, wealth and authority." I have clarified how my thinking plays out in my home - that my wife's needs come before my own.

    I am at the point where I do not know what else I can say to convince those who would misunderstand me that I am not an egotistical, misogynist monster who wants women, minorities, the oppressed and poor to continue to be mistreated.

    I can tell you have a heart for all of these issues, and I trust that your intentions are pure. I only ask that you grant me the same charity.

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    1. Matt, are you saying that you clarified this issue somewhere else? Because, honestly, your post labeled "clarification" was not helpful in this regard.

      May I suggest reading some literature from CCDA - specifically how they ally with partners? It may be a language barrier here, but it's an important set of issues that needs to be addressed.

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  2. Yes, I am referring to my "clarification" post. I am sorry, but if that does not help you, then I feel I am out of words to clarify. I can only say that I think our hearts are in the same place, but our voices are speaking different languages.

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    1. [M]y social media feeds are often littered with Christians complaining about the government, the “1%” or Sasquatch chipping away at their rights. I know, you’re pissed off about taxes, guns, soda sizes in New York, whatever. But complaining about your own rights being infringed on while millions of people survive in slums under tyrannical dictators, that is what strikes me as coming from an egregiously oblivious position of “privilege.”

      I'm not sure what you're trying to clarify there. What it sounds to me like is that if I were to "complain" about the 1% (and, tangentially, about economic and wealth disparity and injustice, about worth, about the leveling of POC and the white working class), then - because I'm not in the global south - I really have nothing to complain about.

      By this same logic, nobody has anything to complain about, though. Because those in the Third World are always better off than __________.

      I don't know your heart, Matt. I'm not here to judge your heart. But your words, here, are harmful. They are harmful to me, they are harmful to my friends, they are harmful to my clients, they are harmful to my students. Because they silence (whether or not it's your intention) the voice of justice.

      Additionally, the idea of humility that you are applying in your clarification is harmful. Too much spiritual abuse happens because good Christian people believe that they are never, ever humble enough. Again, I'm sure that's not your intention, but that is the message.

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  3. "If you claim to be a feminist because you "protect" and shelter your wife, your argument is invalid."

    THIS.

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  4. I should clarify that I think this post on its own is lovely, but I feel you're arguing against something that I don't think Matt really said.

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    1. I would like to be proved wrong. But I read the clarification again and had the same response as the first time. I'll edit my statement on the clarification, slightly...

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    2. Please don't feel pressured to edit your clarification. If you didn't respond differently that's on the re-read that's valid. (No sarcasm!)

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Be kind. Rewind.