Juneteenth Pride, Cakes, and Broken Eggs | Steve Berman

Juneteenth was not a holiday I was even aware of until the last five years, to which I plead ignorance. I also ask mercy. In 1984, the best band since the Beatles—U2, and I’ll fight you over that—released “Pride (In the Name of Love).” The third verse goes like this:

Early morning, April four
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky.
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride.

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect, but the war still raged. The last slaves in America would not be freed until June 19, 1865; 71 days after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, and 66 days after Lincoln’s assassination. The event marked the arrival of 2,000 federal troops in Galveston Bay, Texas.

The last military battle of the Civil War occurred in Palmito Ranch, in Cameron County, Texas, on May 12-13, 1865. Fittingly, it was fought by 250 Black federal troops from the 62nd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment, augmented by about 250 men from other units. There was no stunning victory—after several skirmishes, a Union battle line was “hammered” by Confederate artillery, and Col. Theodore Barrett ordered his men to retreat.

But the victory achieved on June 19th resounded through Black history in America. It’s the date the last slaves in the U.S. were freed, and now it’s a federal holiday. I have no problem with this, because as U2 wrote, “they could not take your pride.”

Those who want to suppress Juneteenth as some kind of twisted U.S. history version of Kwanzaa—a made-up holiday to appease Critical Race Theory bloviators and race hustlers—should examine their motives. If it’s out of ignorance, like me (I never opposed Juneteenth, I just didn’t know what it was), then ask mercy. If it’s out of “owning the libs,” or “southern heritage” or some other rubbish, then you’re one of the people Bono was singing of in the verse about that Memphis sky. You’re “they.”

Celebrate with pride that America forcibly, in the bloodiest put down of a rebellion on this continent, with over 600,000 dead, fought to free Black slaves, to the last man, woman and child. The answer to Critical Race Theory is celebrating victory over the evil of racism.

America has made giant strides, and lots of small steps backward, in our fight against racism. In the rush to stamp it out, many on the political left have spread sparks and flames, making the problem worse rather than eliminating it. To me, there’s little value in forcing people to segregate and admit their inherent, privileged, latent and unexpressed racism because their skin color matches the majority.

It’s much better to celebrate Juneteenth together, white, Black, Asian, Jew, gentile, Hispanic, Arab, and all the melting pot colors, races and ethnicities that make up America. We cannot take their pride.

Critical Race Theory is not a theory, it’s a worldview

I am not a fan of Critical Race Theory. You can read some of my thoughts on it and the SBC here. I was criticized for writing that CRT is incompatible with the Gospel, full stop. I am not the first to say that, and I did not say it best. Neil Shenvi and Pat Sawyer explained it for The Gospel Coalition. To sum up, CRT asserts

  • Race is a social construct – this is true and compatible with the Gospel
  • Hegemonic power is real – culture drives norms and values, along with both intentional and unintentional biases (i.e. tribalism). This is also true and compatible with the Gospel
  • Critical Race Theory functions as a worldview – in that it competes with the exclusive claims of Chritianity.
  • Critical Race Theory defines all relationships in terms of power dynamics, which applies to all issues: class, race, gender, religion.
  • Critical theory claims that members of oppressed groups have special access to truth because of their “lived experience” of oppression.

As Shenvi and Sawyer wrote: “[CRT] answers our most basic questions: Who are we? What is our fundamental problem? What is the solution to that problem? What is our primary moral duty? How should we live?” These are questions to which a Christian must only turn to the Bible and its Author for answers.

In contrast, critical theory is associated with a metanarrative that runs from oppression to liberation: We are members either of a dominant group or of a marginalized group with respect to a given identity marker. As such, we either need to divest ourselves of power and seek to liberate others, or we need to acquire power and liberate ourselves by dismantling all structures and institutions that subjugate and oppress. In critical theory, the greatest sin is oppression, and the greatest virtue is the pursuit of liberation.

It’s a slippery slope to accept some of CRT without applying all of it. More:

Critical theorists classify racism, sexism, capitalism, heteronormativity, cisgender privilege, and Christian privilege as forms of oppression. In all these cases, a dominant group has imposed its values on a subordinate group. And in all these cases, the solution is to dismantle the norms that keep the minoritized group in bondage. Christians who embrace the paradigm of critical theory as a solution to racism or sexism often question a biblical understanding of gender roles, gender identity, sexual orientation, marriage, parental authority, and even the uniqueness of the Christian faith.

The Bible unequivocally states that in the eyes of God there is perfect equality among people. One person’s lived experiences are no less, or more, valid than another’s. We don’t need to look to CRT to understand its useful parts. The Bible provides many, many lessons.

James chapter 2 warns us not to treat the rich and privileged better than the poor and oppressed.

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

In James 1, the Bible declares that “Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.” The Bible clearly states that the poor occupy a higher position in God’s economy (but not in His mercy or grace) than the rich, who have plenty in this world. 

James goes on to write “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

We don’t need CRT to tell us to help the oppressed. The prophet Micah told us:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Christians don’t need Critical Theory. We need the Bible. The power structure teaching of CRT both parallels and replaces Biblical truth. I don’t want my kids learning that when they can learn the same truth Biblically.

A few broken eggs

Those who believe the Bible is hogwash and superstition (and most haven’t read it) would take CRT, which borrows many Biblical concepts, and shove it down the Christian’s throat.

Immediately after the Supreme Court rebuked the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for persecuting Masterpiece Cakeshop proprietor Jack Phillips because of his Christian worldview, another person called to request a couple of cakes they knew Phillips would not make.

There’s plenty written on the details of this, by T. Becket Adams and by Erick Erickson. A quick summary: Autumn Scardina requested Phillips create a cake, pink on the inside, blue on the outside, to reflect her gender transition. She also requested a cake depicting Satan smoking a marijuana joint. Phillips politely declined.

The State of Colorado agreed to drop two cases, including Scardinia’s, in 2019, which freed Scardinia to pursue her own lawsuit, which, of course, she did.

Now we’re back to Square One, as a judge ruled Scardinia’s cake request is not compelled speech, because the state isn’t party to the case (only cheering it on).

“[A]nti-discrimination laws are intended to ensure that members of our society who have historically been treated unfairly, who have been deprived of even the every-day right to access businesses to buy products, are no longer treated as ‘others,’” said Denver District Court Judge A. Bruce Jones in his ruling. “This case is about one such product — a pink and blue birthday cake — and not compelled speech.”

The state can’t compel speech, but can an individual? I think the Supreme Court will need to see this one through, and the battle is not over for Mr. Phillips.

But let’s take that context further. If the State of Colorado, which has already been tagged as anti-Christian in its enforcement of rules and laws, can cheer on a civil lawsuit to force the same result as it wanted to achieve by fiat, and that’s wrong, why is it right to Gov. Brian Kemp, or Gov. Greg Abbott, to ban CRT?

I agree that CRT is a worldview that competes with religious views and requires faith in its tenets; that it’s pernicious and in opposition to Christian teaching. I agree that religion should not be taught in public schools, favoring one over the other. Therefore CRT should not be favored as the lens through which other subjects are taught.

In other words, if every history lesson is constructed to frame an oppressor and an oppressed party, then it’s not being taught correctly. If the lessons gleaned from English or math classes include the social value of grammar and the oppression of People of Color by “white European” mathematicians, it’s being taught wrong.

But to issue some kind of ban against CRT, to try to compel speech by expunging something undefined and cultural from the classroom, or from the board room, favored by many on the right, is to grant Colorado permission to cheer on Autumn Scardina as she hounds Jack Phillips into making a Satan cake.

We need to take care in how we employ the powers of government, knowing that, at some point, like the Civil War, all government decrees may end in forced compliance by the barrel of a gun. Fortunately, these issues are correctly being litigated in court, yet the cultural forces behind them won’t stop at the courtroom.

I agree to a large degree with Ed Willing, who wrote in The Racket News yesterday that Critical Race Theory is not a threat. It’s not a threat to free speech unless we make it one. Banning it will do more to amplify the threat than to stamp it out, just like the leftists who want to use CRT to stamp out racism where it doesn’t exist, we will be igniting sparks where there’s no fire.

Those who believe in power dynamics always say it’s necessary to break a few eggs to make an omelet. But that’s not true. We need to save all the eggs, even the rotten eggs. What’s a rotten egg to you might be my good egg, and when I break eggs in the name of getting rid of the rotten ones, I’m giving permission for others to break mine.

Free speech is a foundational right, without which the other rights are weakened to the point of failure. We must fight the battle for Jack Phillips, and companies that kowtow to CRT panic, by boldly standing with those they oppress. We must not give in to the temptation to do the same thing they’re doing.

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevengberman.

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