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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Liberalism as a White Man's Religion

Mark Driscoll has some very interesting comments on liberalism (the religious kind) and its insistence that all religious beliefs are equally valid. Basically, he looks at what's going on in the Episcopal church and says this infatuation with religious tolerance it has all the earmarks of a "white man's religion." Here's the crux of his comments:
In a curious plot twist, last summer the African bishops of the Anglican Church showed up unannounced at the family feud to condemn their liberal American counterparts as heretics promoting a different religion. American Episcopalians now have their robes in a bind trying to figure out how to spin their defense as Civil Rights nobility: the generally white, educated, and affluent First World American women and homosexuals fighting unjust opposition at the hands of generally black, less educated, and less affluent Third World African heterosexuals.

Admittedly, whatever one’s position on the issue you have to admire the Africans’ willingness to lean over the plate and take one for their team. In doing so they have exposed three very glaring weaknesses of liberal American Protestantism:

  1. The liberal insistence that all religious beliefs are equally valid is a very white, Western European bias left over from the Enlightenment’s concept of knowledge and values. This bias has no right to be preeminent over other views, including heterosexual black African fundamentalism.

  2. The Bible’s stance on homosexuality and feminism is "offensive" because of cultural prejudices held by white Americans; the controversy is not universal and is therefore little more than a form of cultural discrimination masquerading as tolerant open-mindedness.

  3. The moral outrage expressed by liberals in defense of feminism and homosexuality is hypocrisy because while they espouse tolerance of all views (especially those from the Third World), they disdain the African position. They’ve exposed themselves as equally narrow-minded fundamentalists.
Did you catch that? What he's saying here is that 'religious tolerance' is actually a product of a specific culture: the rich, white, upper-middle class, American/European (liberal) religious establishment. In other words, religious liberalism is biased to allow us Westerners to do whatever we want (with whomever we want). Driscoll points out that this 'anything goes' attitude is actually antagonistic to the religious convictions of the new center of Christendom - poor, ethnic, non-white Christians in the southern hemisphere (think Africa and South America).

Regardless of what you think about Driscoll (or the issue of feminism/homosexuality), the point he's raising deserves consideration. What makes relativism a 'better' value than the idea that some things are right and some things are wrong?

I'd love to get some feedback from those of you who would be sympathetic to the liberal positions here. Specifically, what do you think of Driscolls argument, and why?


At 6:48 PM, June 22, 2006, Blogger sattvicwarrior said...

Great Article!!!!! well presented and true to a point

At 10:34 PM, June 22, 2006, Blogger goodnight moon said...

When it comes to the ideal of world-wide tolerance of beliefs, he is preaching to the choir (me)...I have ALWAYS been frustrated by this notion, because everywhere I travel I find it so ironic that we all have such polarizing beliefs and yet our culture seems to be the only one that has embraced this idea of universalism and tolerance (but just think about it...if we have to be tolerant of every view out there, that includes views which are NOT tolerant to our view of tolerance...which I guess is the point he's making).

That being said, after reading his entire article, well, Christian, you know my thoughts on women's roles and I just have to say that "if we deny the basic Biblical tenets that we were made equal but distinct as male and female, with differing God-intended roles in the church and home, then homosexuality is the logical conclusion" is a bit extreme. Though he doesn't explicate on those roles, I'm sure we can all figure out what he means...and based on what I believe to be faithfully Reformed hermeneutics, I and many other conservative Christians do not come to the same conclusion. So from where I'm standing, it isn't being faithful to the text to dismiss women's issues as a purely liberal, cultural phenomenon.

At 11:00 PM, June 22, 2006, Blogger Christian said...

I hear you Denise - I was just focusing on the relativism issue.

That does raise the issue of how people approach the text, though - I'm leery of saying 'that bit there was relative for that culture back then' because it seems to be a very slippery slope, and many of the folks arguing for acceptance of homosexuality in the PCUSA are using the same arguments that they folks who wanted to ordain women used.

I'd much rather seek to understand the text in a non-relativistic way (unless the text itself makes it clear that its speaking relatively, or non-imperatively). Now, taking that approach, I think there's still a lot of room to talk about what women CAN do.

Not sure if that helps or not. Hope I haven't just ticked you off or sounded insensitive. Just throw something at me if I am... :-)

At 10:15 AM, June 23, 2006, Blogger goodnight moon said...

well, i don't think i could throw that far ;) but no worries, i understand where you're coming from as well. i probably should become more familiar with the arguments used on both sides of women's ordination, and it is helpful that you explained the issue in that way.

a few thoughts: 1) i don't think driscoll himself is talking about the arguments used but rather that the first belief logically leads to the other 2) i don't necessarily think that the "cultural card" is wrong to play in the case of women's ordination...we hold many biblical ideas as "cultural" (e.g. head coverings, slavery, etc) but more importantly, i think the whole of scripture speaks to women's roles more than a few shaky proof texts 3) if playing the "cultural card" creates a slippery slope into the ordination of homosexuals, then maybe it's another good indication that proof texting simply will not hold water

now that i've thoroughly taken your conversation off track and have probably gotten myself in over my head, let me just go back to the religious tolerance issue and say yes, right on, i agree completely :)

At 12:52 PM, June 23, 2006, Blogger Master Aegidius said...

Having been friends with numerous African Nationals while I was in Chicago, I can verify that they are all too often dismissed with the attitude of "sit down and listen up, 'cause I am the edusated one (polite smile)". This is unfornately done by conservatives and liberals.

Fortunately, the African Nationals were not to be put out. They were for the most part Christians who had earned their spurs the old fashioned way, and I have a lot of respect for them.

It is just to bad that in addition to having to fight Muslims and Spiritists, they have to toe off with Western christians.


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