In a recent interview with Collin Hansen (above), Dr. John Piper explained why he didn’t gravitate toward the language of color-blindness. At his Church (Bethlehem Baptist -- which is where I currently attend), his successor, Jason Meyer, just preached on the annual emphasis of racial harmony. In light of these events, and of course, Martin Luther King Jr. day, I thought this would be a good opportunity to flesh out my views on the issue.
Why Piper Wants to Avoid Color-Blindness
To be fair, he does not want to avoid it altogether. In fact, he praises color-blindness in a certain context -- specifically the context in which people of various ethnicities are in fellowship. However, his contention is that, if he (and his church) were color-blind, there would not be any racial diversity in the church for them to be blind toward. He argues that because of simple inertia of life, people typically don’t associate with others who are different from them. So, it seems that Piper is arguing for a type of “color-awareness” up front, which seeks diversity in relationships, for the sake of being color-blind within the context of those relationships. In and of itself, this is commendable.
The Problem of Color-Awareness
However, there is a dangerous problem which I fear Piper (and many others) seem to be blind to –– and it is a problem which stems from a failure to understand the wider ideological wars going on in our society. There is another group of people who speak often, and loudly, about the need to be aware of racial differences, and you likely know exactly who they are: the political (and ideological) “left” or “progressives”. Particularly lately, the left has drummed up a fever pitch of emotion and rhetoric surrounding “race relations” in America. The unknowing conservative evangelical may want to jump on the bandwagon, and may even begin to borrow their lingo of “white privilege” when speaking from the pulpit - in efforts to sympathize with the hurting minorities alongside the liberal. What the unwitting evangelicals fail to see though, is that it is not concern for racial minorities which drives the left (or their rhetoric of “white privilege”), but their radically collectivist ideology.
Collectivism & Racism
You see, collectivism (the opposite, and only alternative to individualism) is the modus operandi of the social left –– and that is because it is the only alternative to the individualism of Capitalism, which they fear and despise so much. Rather than viewing people as individuals, collectivism views everyone in collectives, or groups, or ‘tribes’. Doing so allows the collectivist to bypass all forms of objectivity (it being a corollary of individualism) for the sake of subjectivity: whether it’s the objective rule of law, objective truth, or objective value, the collectivist wishes to replace it with subjective law, subjective truth, and subjective value, in order to progress their irrational ‘values’ in society. Among many other insidious goals, collectivism aids in the inflation of the left’s god (Government) by breaking up people into groups and causing a constant state of class-warfare, in which their god of Government is the final arbiter and sole beneficiary. Racism, as described eloquently in following quote, is simply one more form of such horribly irrational collectivism:
"Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors."
-Racism, Ayn Rand
This is true whether we are speaking of a racism which enslaves blacks, or a racism which denounces whites. All racism is crude and evil, because all collectivism is crude and evil.
Since individualism is the solution to collectivism in general, I think it will prove to be the solution to racism, in particular. Individualism means: viewing people as primarily individuals; as human beings with independent minds, values, and volitions. To use the language from above, this is being “color-blind” –– i.e. viewing people as individuals rather than as members of some race, culture, or ethnic group. And this really does seem to be the major thrust of the New Testament position on the issue of ethnicity:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” - Gal. 3:28
“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” - Col. 3:11
What about Intentional Ethnic Diversity?
What about Piper’s concern though, that apart from some level of intentionality, there won’t be any ethnic diversity? Part of his concern is also born out of passages like the following:
“You were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation” - Rev. 5:9, speaking of Christ.
Piper sees here, an emphasis on diversity which is aimed at glorifying Christ. I think he’s right –– in what he sees, but wrong in his application of it. Surely, Christ is shown as more glorious for purchasing for Himself people from all over the earth, of all races and ethnicities, rather than from one, or a select few. However, what is the emphasis in this? Is it on the diversity of those purchased, or the unity of those purchased? That’s a big difference. The diversity highlights the cultural and ethnic differences among various peoples. The unity highlights that which unifies them: namely, Christ. And I think there, we have our answer. The key to unity is not an orientation toward diverse peoples. The key to unity is such a passion for the object which unifies, that one hardly notices (if noticing at all!) that which is diverse.
I think that if (and this is a big ‘if’) Christians could grow appropriately in their affection for the good and the true of God in Christ, ethnic diversity would be a natural overflow, rather than a forced chore. If Christians loved God as they should, the passion to spread their delight in Him would blind them to ethnic differences -- and that same passion would have them moving so quickly, there would not be a problem with “staying in one’s comfort zone”. And isn’t there really a deeper issue behind “comfort zones” than ethnic differences, anyway?
Just like the talk of duty is easier than the talk of delight in living out the Christian life, so also the talk of intentional ethnic diversity is easier than the talk of genuine passion for the glory of God (which is blind to ethnicity, while passionately bringing in all people –– regardless of ethnicity). But easy doesn’t mean better. In fact, often times, easy means dangerous. And I think that is the case, here. Not only does the emphasis on ethnic diversity neglect to address the deeper heart issues of failures to love God as one ought, but it also carries the modern evangelical into the dangerous and evil streams of collectivist thought which will inevitably bring doom upon all ethnicities, through ethnic class-warfare –– thus precipitating the very evils which it aims to fight against.
Footnote: As many already know, I owe a huge intellectual debt to Piper, and admire him very much. Likewise, I cherish the opportunity to sit under Jason Meyer’s preaching and pastoring at Bethlehem, and count it as an enormous blessing. My disagreement with them on this (and potentially other issues) should not be seen as eclipsing the tremendous value I see in the teaching and preaching ministries of these men.