Discerning between Injustice and Ideology: The Christian Third Way

Written by Mark Farnham

On June 8, 2020

The last few weeks have been a time of national agony. Agony for all who saw the video of the last eight minutes of George Floyd’s life and found themselves short of breath in sympathetic response. Agony for African Americans in seeing another brother needlessly killed. Agony for whites who have been told they bear guilt for being who they are. I have heard all three expressed.

The challenge of this national agony is that ideological groups are parasitically attaching themselves to a genuine act of injustice. This partially explains the angst that many feel about the situation. Protests were overshadowed by rioting in the first week after the incident. Genuine efforts at righting injustice were hijacked by Antifa and other radical organizations pushing a more sinister agenda. Constructive attempts to change problematic structures and institutions were drowned out by unrealistic and extreme solutions more fit for a full-scale revolution.

Left and Right are quickly drawing up lines and digging in. For Christians, however, this ought to be a time where a distinctly Christian third way is proclaimed. We dare not fall into uncritical acceptance of political or ideological answers from either side. 

As theologian Denny Burk states so well,

The error from the right will be a refusal to acknowledge any racial disparities in encounters with police and how those disparities shape a community’s despairing attitudes toward law enforcement. If we aren’t guarding ourselves from errors on the right, we might gaslight some of our brothers and sisters and not be able to commiserate with them like the Bible commands, “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). They will not feel like we are hearing them, which will in turn lead to alienation from them. It will also keep us blind to injustices that the Bible says we ought to expose: “And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Eph. 5:11).

The error from the left includes ideologies like Critical Race Theory and intersectionality that are at odds with the gospel and that frame many people’s thinking about these events. These ideologies reflect materialistic worldviews that view all of life through the prism of racial identity and power relations. They tend to produce blanket condemnations of law enforcement that are not fair to the vast majority of officers that are serving our communities well and that abhor police misconduct as much as we do. Some people use such ideologies to justify the rioting and looting that have undermined the aims of peaceful protestors around the country.

In the coming days I hope to untangle the issue of injustice from the barnacle-like parasites that have attached themselves to this critical issue and present a Christian third way that gleans the wisdom from left and right while avoiding their errors. 

Next up tomorrow: If I Am Guilty for Who I Am, the Gospel Is of No Benefit.

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