Doug Wilson and I have been at this exchange for about two weeks now. Much has been said and much more could be discussed. But, alas, we have to bring things to an end at some point. For my part, this post will be my last comment on Black and Tan. I’m guessing Wilson will want to reply to the substance of this post, then perhaps we’ll end with some form of a summary comment.

Since the publication of Southern Slavery as It Was and Black and Tan, many readers have charged Wilson with either “racism” or being “racially insensitive.” Most would regard those charges as serious. I do, too. We live in a day where it’s no longer socially acceptable to be a racist or racially insensitive. It was perfectly fine—even expected—for certain persons to be racist and racially-motivated during the period we’ve been discussing (the 1800s). But much has changed, including the hearts of many people and the social standards by which we live with one another. Because of those changes and to protect those advances, we now also live at a time when such charges need to be proven, or at least an effort to do so ought to be made.

In this post, I want to lay out a few thoughts about Black and Tan and what I regard to be its racial insensitivity. I think I owe this to Wilson and to any reader who read my allusion to these issues in my very first post. I need to be accountable for the words I speak and I find this medium a sometimes effective place for receiving admonishment and accountability. So we begin….

What Is “Racial Insensitivity”?

Some commenters have suggested that the charge of “racial insensitivity” is little more than being overly sensitive. They’ve equated racial insensitivity with hurt feelings, implying or stating that the person with hurt feelings simply needs to “grow up” and be “adult” about such things. While I’m sure some people do need to grow up, please forgive me for saying that such counter-responses are themselves immature and have sometimes been evidence of the insensitivity in question.

It seems to me that discussions of this sort require definitions, lest we descend in a spiral of allegations, dismissals, and counter-allegations. Such definitions are notoriously difficult. Is “racial insensitivity” one of those things, like beauty, that’s forever imprisoned in the eyes of the beholder? Or can different eyes see it and all know it when they do? Or is it the opposite of beauty—can we define it but not know it when we see it? We need a working proposal?

We all have some sense of what we mean by “racial,” even though that term itself introduces ambiguity. For our purposes, let’s just assume a “man on the street” definition of “race.” The trickier term is “insensitive.” A Webster’s Dictionary definition for “insensitive” is “not responsive or susceptible” or “lacking feeling or tact.” Some synonyms include: compassionless, hard- or cold-hearted, heartless, inhumane, pachydermatous (my favorite!), pitiless, remorseless, and ruthless. Antonyms include: charitable, compassionate, humane, kindhearted, sympathetic, tender, warm, and warm-hearted.

At the level of word meaning, “racial insensitivity” involves being unresponsive or lacking in feeling or tact toward people of different races or issues associated with race. I would suggest it’s a certain inability or unwillingness to sense and lovingly consider the concerns, feelings, and perspectives of others across racial lines.

Who Gets to Decide What Is “Racially Insensitive”?

Of course, offering a definition only gets us started. We need to also offer some thoughts about how we know racial insensitivity has occurred. In a world where charges are made and denied, who gets the final say-so?

Here’s where being dismissive of other people’s feelings—not to mention their statements, perspectives, cultures and the like—actually becomes a big deal. Insensitivity is fraught with feeling, and usually the lead indicator that something insensitive has happened will be one emotion or another. The emotion could be bitterness, like the wife whose dinner lies cold waiting on a husband who for the thousandth time has broken his promise to be home for dinner. Or, it could be deep sadness, like the man told his wife has been unfaithful. A thousand examples could be imagined. But you get the point. Insensitivity provokes feeling, and if we’re dismissive of that feeling or insensitive toward it we’ll only compound the problems we have across racial lines.

So, who gets to decide? I don’t know if they get the final word, but the person so hurt should at least have the first word. And the person doing the hurting should really stop and listen for what they missed. That listening turns out to be crucial because the nature of insensitivity is that it fails to sense something. When we’re insensitive we have a blind spot, at least. At worst, we’re knowingly and intentionally trying to cut and hurt. In either case, we’ll never properly fix the hurt or help the hurting feel differently or address our own heart issues (out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, right?) if we continue tone-deaf to that leading indicator—the other person’s feelings.

How Does Racial Insensitivity Affect Us?

Bulls in china shops really do cause a lot of damage. Scripture warns us repeatedly about the deadly destruction of our tongues.  So, it should be obvious that such insensitivity affects us deeply. The effects range from hurt feelings, to broken relationships, discord among brothers, hardened hearts, mistrust, and significant sins against each other.

In the context of race relations, both inside and outside the church, we’ve paid a tremendously high cost for our racial insensitivity. We continue, by and large, to worship the same Savior in different churches. We continue to suspect and mistrust one another. We continue to make the same cross-cultural gaffes and we continue to avoid seeking forgiveness and understanding for those gaffes. Some continue to hate. Some continue to pretend ignorance of deep hurts, and some others just want to “get past it all.” Many continue to cry out, “How long?” but they’re addressing the racial other, not the Lord. There are the costs in missed opportunities for friendship, worship, mission and partnership. The stakes are really quite high and the effects are difficult to number and assess. This is why willful ignorance ranks among the most significant contaminates in cross-cultural or inter-ethnic relationships.

What Ought to Be Done When Racial Insensitivity Occurs?

We should apply the Bible. We should go to our brothers and show them their faults. If he hears us (there’s that listening thing again), then we have won our brother over. If he will not hear us, we should take two or three witnesses with us who can establish every fact of the matter. And if we’re in the same church, we may just get to the point of having to tell the entire church. It seems the Master’s instructions in Matthew 18:15-17 apply pretty specifically to the personal offense of racial insensitivity.

Or, perhaps we would be wise to consider Titus 3:10. We should warn the divisive person once. We should warn them a second time. And if the behavior isn’t repented of after the second warning, we should have nothing to do with them. We regard them as brothers, but we can’t have meaningful fellowship with someone who continues to wound and sin without acknowledgement of the hurt they’ve caused.

All of this suggests to us that charges of “racial insensitivity” ought not be made lightly and they ought not be treated lightly. The fellowship and witness of our Lord’s church is at stake. Which brings us to our key question for this post.

Is Black and Tan Racially Insensitive?

Before we answer that question, let me remind us of a couple things stated in earlier posts. Wilson makes it clear repeatedly that he abominates and disavows racism, racial vainglory and white supremacy. He does not write anywhere in the book that one race is superior to another. Instead, he offers a rather sound biblical anthropology that emphasizes our common descent from Adam, our close cousinage biologically, and our common need for the Savior because of our common problem of sin. I think it’s important to hear him at these points and to take him at his word about these things even as (especially as) we take issue with his words at other places.

I am not here leveling a charge of “racism” against Wilson. But I do want to enter a charge of “racial insensitivity.” In my mind, racism is related to racial insensitivity the way criminal cases are related to civil cases. The former (racism, criminal cases) require higher levels of proof to substantiate. The latter require a lower threshold, some indication that damages have occurred, even sometimes when a person has been acquitted in a criminal case. Think O.J. Simpson’s criminal acquittal for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and his subsequent civil conviction in a suit brought by her family.

With that in mind, I want to quote a series of things from Black and Tan and offer very brief explanations for why I think they’re racially insensitive or what I think Wilson fails to sense in these comments. Some of these illustrations will be more minor and some more serious. The point is to demonstrate something of the range of statements that might leave an honest reader offended and hurt by such remarks.

A Benign Slavery Ended Wrongly

“It was the contention of this booklet [Slavery as It Was] that the way in which slavery ended has had ongoing deleterious consequences for modern Christians in our current culture wars, and that slavery was far more benign in practice than it was made to appear in the literature of the abolitionists” (p. 14).

This, the central premise of the book, fails to sense how horrific an experience slavery was for African Americans. It fails to take into account, that though removed from chattel slavery by 150 years, African Americans consider the 350 year slave experience foundational to their condition here and we regard the 100 years or so of Jim Crow segregation a modified continuance of systematic oppression based on race. This quote fails to recognize that the abolitionists are the heroes to African Americans, not the villains. To repeat this premise throughout the book without ever showing consideration for how African Americans view that history or hear these words is an instance of racial insensitivity, in my opinion.

Labels Like “Paleo-Confederate”

“I’m a paleo-Confederate” (p. 15).

Wilson works hard to distinguish himself from “neo-Confederates” and to define what he means by “paleo-Confederate.” But “Confederate” hits the black ear with cuffed hands and leaves the listener shell shocked and momentarily disoriented. I don’t want to argue that Wilson shouldn’t use this label for himself. But I think if he continues to do so, he should offer a definition without the wordplay and “snark” of Black and Tan. The label “Confederate” has a lot of negative connotations. Wilson appears insensitive to the fact that for African Americans “Confederate” connotes white subjugation of Blacks and conjures nightmares related to lynchings, segregation, cross burnings, and the like. Rightly or wrongly, to embrace the label is to embrace the connotations. A lot of those associations, which Wilson seems to understand (p. 15), have to do with racism and racist attitudes. It then becomes insensitive to take on the label without plainly, tactfully, and sympathetically defining and distinguishing what is meant or not meant for those you don’t want to offend. As it is, that label and its proud use feels like a giant defiant finger in the eye.

The Inferiority of Black Culture

“Both Northerners and Southerners were misled by the obvious inferiority of black culture at that time, which had nothing to do with whether blacks bore the image of God in man, and everything to do with whether the gospel had yet had an opportunity to do its work within black culture” (p.18).

“All men exhibit the image of God equally, but all cultures are not equal. As we look at all the tribes of men, we see some that have landed a man on the moon, and some that have not yet worked out the concept of the wheel. We have some with one whole row in the supermarket dedicated to shampoo, while in another tribe hair is washed with cow urine” (p. 33).

Now, I need to hasten to add context to these words before I explain why I think they’re racially and culturally insensitive. In both places, Wilson denies that the relative superiority/inferiority of cultures has anything to do with race or racial differences. He attributes differences to the effect of the gospel in cultures. Some have received the gospel and been aided and changed by it, while others have not. He argues that racists make the misstep of attributing the “obvious differences” to race, but he does not. That’s important context. Leaving these quotes to stand alone would misrepresent his actual argument.

But what of his actual argument? I find it offensive on at least three grounds. First, he binds the gospel up with spurious assessments of cultures. He means to adorn the gospel (I get that) but as a Christian I think he effectively tarnishes the gospel by associating it with claims and perspectives the biblical writers nowhere make. There’s an implicit civilizationism here that needs to be detangled and questioned for the sake of the Good News.

Second, Wilson writes about the “obvious inferiority of black culture” with seemingly no understanding or acknowledgement of how the Southern culture he’s defending actually actively guaranteed black underdevelopment! With one broad stroke he lumps all of “black culture” (as if there’s only one) into one bag and deems it inferior to (I presume) “White culture” improved by the gospel. He does that while failing to mention that the supposedly gospel-enlightened white culture has its boot on the necks of people in the “inferior” black culture. His comments fail to sense this incongruity and it fails to acknowledge that a black culture of both resistance to inhumanity and promotion of everyone’s humanity—whites included—was well under way. One might argue that a culture of such tolerance, patience, and humanity is superior to one lacking those traits, no matter it’s economic and technological state.

Third, these comments fail to be sensitive to the fact that this very notion of cultural superiority has led to imperialistic abuses in the name of “civilization” all over the world. It was one justification for European colonization and a host of resultant crimes against others. It was justification, as Wilson notes (p. 34), for the racist attitude and actions of others.

These comments are racially and culturally insensitive to a host of things. In fact, shortly after the last quote, Wilson reveals an indifference that probably contributed to the tone and insensitivity of Black and Tan. “For those who do not want to listen to the argument, I have nothing more to say. For some, the mere denial of egalitarianism is enough to brand one as a racist forever, and since I am interested in taunting egalitarianism every chance I get, I have little hope of gaining there favor” (p. 34). Wilson seems to be digging in. I suspect that attitude, while aimed at his detractors at the time, creates a blind spot for Wilson when it comes to perceiving how his words wound others not in his immediate view. In stoning himself against those who call him “racist,” he may in fact have made himself insensitive to a ton of other people as well.

Little Black Sambo

In a more autobiographical section of the book, Wilson recalls a high school town meeting to discuss racial harmony.  He was a student on that panel and recalls that, “One of my co-panelists was aggrieved over the book Little Black Sambo. But Sambo was not an African American; he was from the subcontinent. And besides, as I recall saying that evening, I had nothing but the highest respect for Sambo. If anyone asked me to turn tigers into butter for my pancakes, I confess that I would be entirely nonplussed” (p. 24).

Honestly, I staggered over the racial insensitivity in these comments. Not only that, I couldn’t fathom how these comments served any real purpose in understanding one another. I suppose most readers will know that Sambo came to be a very hurtful racial trope and image. It’s a racial slur and Sambo iconography, like the “Mammy” figures once so prevalent, exaggerate and transmogrify racial features so much that many African Americans still have deep visceral reactions to them. They’ve been such a potent tool of hatred, oppression and misrepresentation that I simply can’t fathom why Wilson would (a) miss his co-panelists grief over the book and the racial insensitivity associated with it and (b) trivialize the entire matter with comments about butter for pancakes. If you want to know what racial insensitivity looks like, it looks like this anecdote. With all Wilson’s learning and reflection on these issues, it’s difficult for me not to think this anecdote isn’t an example of that racial insensitivity born of willful ignorance.

More Skilled at Confessing the Supposed Sins of Black People

“None of us is clean in himself. So do whites need to seek and receive forgiveness for their treatment of the black man? Absolutely. But blacks also need the cleansing blood of Christ—some of it for treatment of fellow blacks, some for responding to white hatred with hatred, some of it for taking mistreatment of a great-grandfather as a license for crime, and so on. We are, all of us, sinners. And it is not fitting for a sinner to look sideways at someone else and say, ‘Well, I’m less of a sinner than you’” (pp. 29-30).

Reading this I was left wondering, Why is Wilson so expert at confessing Black people’s sins and so slight and general in confessing the sins of white people in a book partially about slavery? He’s certainly correct to say we all need forgiveness. But that’s not all he says. He goes on to identify a few instances of sin that Blacks need to be cleansed of. The net effect is that Black people come off looking like the bad guys in a book about slavery! Again, all of this without attending in any way to the causative factors of white oppression. Instead, he imagines some black people justifying their crime by referring to a great-grandfather’s mistreatment. The section reads like a chastisement of Black people. I don’t doubt that some people need chastisement. But the question is whether Wilson displays any sensitivity in making these comments. I don’t think so. He seems to conveniently forget that whites commit crimes against whites; whites claim Twinkies made them kill their parents;  and whites have used the “mistreatment” of other whites as grounds for their mistreatment of blacks. Do we remember Emmet Till who supposedly offended a white woman, or Rosewood, or even Trayvon Martin whose offense was walking while Black*? Wilson’s comments here lack tact, compassion, and charity. They are, in a phrase, “racially insensitive.”

On Black Lives and the Implied Charge of Black Indifference to Abortion

Finally, I find it insensitive toward black life that Wilson and many commenters continually bring up black lives in abortion in this discussion but refuse to countenance the cost of black lives in the antebellum South. For instance, Wilson writes: “Who cannot lament the damage to both white and black that has occurred as a consequence of the way in which slavery was abolished? I am forced to say that, in many ways, the remedy which has been applied has resulted in problems that are every bit as bad as the original disease ever was. Christians who doubt this should consider whether it was safer to be a black child in the womb in 1858 or in 2005″ (p. 60).

I don’t get the sense from the overall tone of the book that Wilson was truly “forced” to write these things. One gets the sense that he took a kind of delight in saying them. And I can’t help but see the omissions and blind spots that make these comments insensitive. We’re frequently told of the over 600,000 lives lost in the Civil War but not once do I recall a mention of the 4-5 times that number of lives lost in the Middle Passage and Southern slavery up to the war. It strikes me as at least inconsistent and at worst opportunistic to emphasize one’s concern for black lives today while writing in a manner that suggests indifference to black lives then.

Moreover, many of these comments insinuate that Black people themselves are callously disinterested in Black life today. Case in point: This paragraph from Wilson’s initial post struck me as tremendously insensitive about men he does not know (at least he does not know me):

The blood of Jesus also makes it possible for the white liberal to repent of his exasperating and cloying insistence on a soft bigotry of low expectations, coupled with his destructive subsidies of all the wrong things in the black community. But the blood of Jesus makes it possible for the liberal to repent of Margaret Sanger’s war on black children in utero. In addition, it requires that he repent of celebrating, and giving awards to, those rap thugs who want to teach America’s next generation to think of black women as bitches and ho’s who are supposed to be beneath contempt. In the face of this demolition job being run on the black family by progressivism, with black children killed by the million, and black women publicly degraded by black men, and other black men standing by letting them, let’s get out there and rebuke the three remaining people who think that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man. Way to keep the priorities straight.

Brothers, I don’t have a problem with you standing up for and protecting your people. I do have a problem with your failure to do so.

Ouch! Whoa! All this from a blog post and a tweet. I don’t know how “the soft bigotry of low expectations” or liberal support of “destructive subsidies of all the wrong things in the black community” came into all of this. But it sounds to me like so much racially-loaded and insensitive speak. I’ve never given awards to “rap thugs” and I don’t use the language Wilson felt free to use in description of black women. And I don’t regard myself as “standing by” while such treatment goes on or children are killed. Nor do I think any of Wilson imaginings in these paragraphs amount to my failure to stand up for and protect my people. They’re his imagination and racially insensitive ones at that.

To be frank, I think Wilson should retract statements made in Black and Tan and really should apologize for the comments made in his post, “With a Bit of Menthol.” These comments are well beyond the lines drawn for us by our Lord in His word.

Conclusion

There are other examples I thought to provide. But this has gone on far longer than I’d hoped or planned. I wish I could write these things more succinctly. On second thought, I wish I didn’t have to write these things at all. I wish racially insensitive comments were not a part of Black and Tan, or a part of any internet exchanges between brothers. But, such comments are and we have to try to charitably work through them. I pray this post has made even incremental progress to that end. Racial insensitivity (and racism) is real. The hurt it causes is real. The loss to the church and its witness is real. But real, too, is the power of the Holy Spirit, the hope of the gospel, and the indwelling of Christ which can lift us above these thins by actually resolving them and reconciling. May the Lord be pleased to grant us such victory with one another and not over one another.

———

* A couple of readers of this post found this reference to Trayvon Martin insensitive. I take their point and have offered an apology in the comments thread and separately in this post. I asked their counsel as to whether to leave the comment in the post or delete it. Those who replied suggested leaving it in the post with this kind of notation. Again, I offer a sincere apology for using a reference that would cause confusion, consternation, doubt, or anger for any reader. In an effort to argue for sensitivity in our communication about volatile issues, I certainly do not want to be insensitive in the process. May the Lord be gracious to us all.

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Comments:


168 thoughts on “Illustrating “Racial Insensitivity” in Black and Tan”

  1. I think you meant Nicole Brown Simpson instead of Nicole Kidman.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Thanks brother! I did mean that. I’ve changed the post.
      T-

  2. Tim says:

    Pastor Thabiti,
    Wouldn’t you agree that it is clearly sinful to add to Scripture? Wouldn’t that include making up a sin, i.e. racial insensitivity?

    How do church discipline passages apply to a made up sin?

    Don’t you think that your initial tweet showed remarkable insensitivity, calling your brother foolish and his thinking primitive, before you even read what he had to say?

    Isn’t it a sign of maturity to not be so easily offended?

    How can someone repent of a made up sin?

    Would you think it insensitive to call a group of people a brood of vipors?

    Isn’t “insensitivity” an entirely abused category? I assume you have done marriage counseling. What do you think of a partner who accuses the other partner of insensitivity? Isn’t this many times just a selfish controlling demand?

    Can you think of a biblical passage that condemns insensitivity of any sort?

    1. Bill says:

      Tim,

      I can almost agree with your complaint about the category of ‘insensitivity’. But isn’t it obvious that the biblical category it fits is love? We must love others as we love ourselves. It can’t be that hard to go back and reread this post with that in view.

      1. Bill says:

        And the reason I can almost agree is for the reason RJS states below. The category of racial insensitivity is too light in my opinion, but I understand that Thabiti is seeking to be careful and not more harsh than he needs to be.

      2. Tim says:

        Rjs,
        I appreciate the reply. The first rule of biblical confrontation is to confront sin. This is what Matt 18 says. If you see your brother sin. As a result, if you are going to comment sin, you need to show specifically what verse or verses a person is necessarily violating.

        As a result, if you make up a category like racial insensitivity, and appeal to webster’s and not the Bible. You may not convince someone that they have indeed sinned.

        Insensitivity is not a biblical category but a very fuzzy subjective one.

        If you say Pastor Wilson has failed to do unto others as he would have done unto him, that’s a Biblically grounded complaint that can be addressed Biblically. Biblical love requires that we speak the truth. Therefore, if the abolitionist cause was unbiblical, it would be loving to point that out, because it would be true, despite the fact that your brother considers abolitionists heros. The issue is whether or not it’s true.

        Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to confront lies. Very often when you tell a counselee that Joyce Myers is a heretic, they are going to call you insensitive.

        Is that insensitive?

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Hi Tim,

          Thank you for joining the conversation and contributing. I tried posting a reply yesterday but for some reason it repeatedly failed to post. So here’s my response as best I can reconstruct it before running out the door. Please forgive any briefness caused by my rushing.

          First, I would agree that it is a sin to add to scripture. I disagree that “racial insensitivity” is “making up a sin” or adding to scripture.

          Second, church discipline passages apply here just as they would to any other real sin.

          Third, my original tweet did not show “remarkable insensitivity” because I did not call Wilson “foolish.” I called arguments that attempt to defend slavery foolish and “paleo, or primitive.” For the original tweets, see here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2013/03/12/why-respond-publicly-to-douglas-wilsons-black-and-tan/. It baffles me how you think those tweets are “remarkable insensitivity” and you don’t seem to think Wilson’s writing rises to that level???

          Fourth, it may be a sign of maturity not to be “easily offended,” but rushing out the door at the moment I can’t think of a text that says so. Prov. 19:11 is the closest perhaps. But I can think of text that link maturity with speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), agreeing together (Phil. 3:15), doctrinal understanding (Heb. 6:1-3), and thinking (1 Cor. 14:20). More often maturity seems to be associated with repentance and forgiveness it seems to me (for example, Matt. 18:21-35; Eph. 4:32).

          Fifth, I don’t know how someone can repent of a sin that is “made up.” But I’m here describing a real sin. I’d root this sin in dozens of texts, but let me give you two: Titus 3:10, which addresses divisiveness and Eph. 4:32 which enjoins kindness, tenderheartedness or compassion, which are concrete expressions of love (1 Cor. 13) and are the antonyms of “insensitivity.”

          Sixth,I don’t think it was insensitive of John the Baptist to call a group of people a brood of vipers, keeping in mind the Spirit of god indwelled John from the womb. I think it can be insensitive for any one of us to do so depending upon a host of things.

          Seventh, whether “insensitive” is an abused category or not doesn’t mean insensitivity does not happen. In fact, admitting the category can be abused establishes that the category exists. What matters is whether or not I’ve shown that one or more of Wilson’s comments have been insensitive.

          Finally, I would point you again to passages like Eph. 4:32 and other passages that call us to consider one another or understand one another (for ex., Phil. 2:4; 1 Peter 3:7; passim).

          I hope that helps. Grace and peace to you,
          T-

          1. Tim says:

            Dear brother,
            I appreciate the response.

            In terms of 3:
            My only point there was that we need to get the log out of our own eye. Everytime I read those tweets I thought that they were insensitive, but not sinful. I’m careful to distinguish the two and therefore put insensitivity issues in a category of offenses which it is a glory of a man to overlook. We must never overlook sin. As a result, if someone wants to go down that road, I wonder if they have thought through the implications.

            In terms of the rest of your response. The disagreement is over whether or not insensitivity is a sin. To that effect, I would encourage anyone to stick to biblical language when addressing sin. It is a lot less subjective and messy.

            If a husband and wife come to counseling and the wife accuses the husband of insensitivity. One must first ask her to explain. If she says that her husband farts, burps, and makes course jokes in front of her, even though she asks him not to. One would then need to get him to confirm that he knowingly does these things against her wishes. Then, a person seeking to keep from adding to Scripture would not confuse the issue by getting him to repent of insensitivity. One would point out relevant passages such as preferring one another, dying to self, not seeking one’s own interests but the interests of others, etc. and get him to repent of violating those specific commands. One would also need to ask how the wife responds when he does these things and if she is angry, bitter, resentful, or keeping a record of wrongs, get her to also repent of those specific sins.

            One doesn’t have to judge the heart. Just ask questions and address the answers, don’t supply motives.

            I think your confrontation fails, because you added unnecessary categories which confuse the issue and your analysis depends on supplying negative motives to Pastor Wilson. For example, how can you accuse a man of being divisive, who desires racial reconciliation. He is very clear about this. He is just using methods you do not think are wise and you do not believe will work, therefore you call him divisive. Maybe he doesn’t believe your solutions work and that his are more biblical and will be more effective long term. These seem to be clearly wisdom issues that you are confronting, not sin issues.

            1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

              Hi Tim,

              If I understand your analogy using the wife and the husband, you think things should roughly follow the below steps:

              1. “first ask her to explain” what she means by “insensitivity.”

              2. “then get him to confirm that he knowingly does these things against he wishes.”

              3. then avoid confusing the issue by using extra-biblical language.

              4. instead “point out relevant passages such as preferring one another, etc….”

              5. Then help the wife repent of her sins.

              I hope that’s a fair summary. Assuming for the moment that I’ve captured you correctly, here’s how I would respond.

              1. I’ve spent several posts attempting to understand what Wilson meant in Black and Tan. Wilson says I have understood his argument and that I’m the first to do so in ten years of controversy.

              2. I emphasize your word “knowingly” there because I think it’s a poker tell. It insinuates that no offense has occurred and a person should feel mistreated if the offending person didn’t know that’s what they were doing or intend to do it. But surely that disallows people the dignity of feeling what they feel and having experience of actual incidents (in this case words) that are real even if they aren’t known to the offender. Moreover, that qualification contradicts the reality that sins may be unknown by the sinner for a time (Lev. 4; Matt. 18:15; 1 Tim. 5:24-25). If we’re going to be biblical we can’t restrict our assessment of sin to the sinners knowledge of said sin.

              3-4. I don’t have any problems with you on this. And to be clear, I primarily put this post in the context of Titus 3:10 where divisiveness is in play. I should think that the divisive effects of the book are obvious. Moreover, this divisiveness occurs almost entirely over issues and statements that have nothing to do with the necessary kinds of divisions we make on cardinal points of Christian doctrine. Black and Tan is not a defense of the Trinity but of Southern secession and the South’s right to own people as slaves.

              5. I’m sure I have heart issues, as we all do. In this discussion, I don’t know what they are. So I’m in the position of steps 1-2 above of needing someone to help me see and deal with the issues. But as best as I can know my own heart, I’ve tried very diligently to be gracious, fair, and precise in all of these posts. I think most people would judge that I’ve done that. I hope I have. And with that hope, I hold also the comments I’ve given you about the nature of the sin I think is involved with Black and Tan. I think I’ve even managed to do procedurally what you seem to think I haven’t done (hence this reply). I welcome being shown my error, but thus far I can’t see it and would need to listen more.

              Grace and peace to you,
              T-

            2. Tim says:

              Thabiti,
              I appreciate your gracious response and summary of my concerns. I do believe you represented my suggested pattern of dealing with sensitivity issues well.

              In terms of 1:
              I have very much admired the conversation and the manner which you have proceeded, until this post. I do believe you have done an excellent job of demonstrating that you understand Douglas Wilson’s argument. I lament that you did not do the same thing in terms of asking basic questions about why Doug has communicated the way that he has communicated in this book and give him a chance to explain. (more on this later)

              In terms of 2:
              I do not believe you have understood me fully.

              You said:
              I emphasize your word “knowingly” there because I think it’s a poker tell. It insinuates that no offense has occurred and a person should feel mistreated if the offending person didn’t know that’s what they were doing or intend to do it.

              I think that you would interpret me this way if you are maintaining that insensitivity is a biblical sin. If insensitivity is a biblical sin, the one can offend someone without knowing it and still be guilty of sin. Intentionality is not the ultimate test of whether or not an action is sinful, correct?

              My problem is that I reject insensitivity as a biblical category of sin, and gave an example of how I would deal with the claim of insensitivity. I would ground the claim in clear biblical instances of sin, which in my mind changes the game entirely. If you are not working with insensitivity as a biblical category, and working with the categories I mentioned, the intention does matter, in some cases.

              It’s not a sin to fart or burp, but it necessarily violates the command to prefer your wife to do so in her presence, provided that you are aware that it is displeasing to her. Intention matters for this sin.

              In terms of the course jesting example. On one level, a course joke is a course joke. It does not matter if you are trying to offend your wife, the bible condemns a course joke, so intention is not as relevant. The same is true of many sins, like adultery. Adultery is a sin, regardless of intention. The same is also true of adding to Scripture. Adding to scripture, categories of sin that the Bible does not present and binding them on anther’s conscience, is adding to Scripture, regardless of intention

              When we stick to clear biblical categories, I think that it will caution us in being too hasty in our judgments. If you get rid of “insensitivity” as a category, I do think that would naturally lead one to consider the motive of a person more carefully. For example, if my wife were to respond “harshly” to something I have said, when I know in my heart I did not mean to be rude or offensive. I can proceed in two ways: 1) I can call her to repent of her rudeness, harshness, annoyance, and anger; or 2) I can ask her an simple question, honey, I am having trouble understanding the tone of your response, it seemed to be a strange sort of response to my question, can you explain why you responded this way? I do not want to misinterpret you. In doing so, I may find out that she sounded annoyed because she is pregnant and having trouble breathing and it had little to do with me. These types of situations caution me against being too quick to be the ultimate judge of things like “insensitivity,” “harshness,” “rudeness,” “disrespect,” etc. More often than not, I am wrong, my judgements are not good, and I am being presumptuous. I do believe you should have asked Douglas Wilson about the tone of his book and let him give answers and listen to the answers and then have a conversation about those answers. I have been waiting the whole time for this to come up and have been disappointing. You may have demonstrated that you understand his argument, but you haven’t demonstrated that you understand why he wrote the way that he wrote.

              As I understand you, in regards to point 5, let me ask a question. Are you suggesting that your major concern with Black and Tan is that it is divisive? Is this because you believe that Wilson has taken a stand on 2nd or 3rd tier issues? Would this mean that the truth value of his claims is irrelevant? Am I to understand that I should not speak dogmatically about 2nd or 3rd tier issues and if I do, and people are offended, I am being divisive? If the main issue is divisiveness, give a thorough biblical defense of why Douglas Wilson is necessarily divisive. Prove it.

              Thanks for the responses.

            3. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

              Hi Tim,

              Last comment from me, then I’ll leave you the last word.

              I hope we can agree on a couple things:
              1. We disagree about whether “insensitivity” is a “biblical category.” I don’t know what more to do than to point to the texts that require kindness and compassion and consideration, which are synonyms for “sensitivity.” If we can’t agree about that as a category, then let’s just agree that we disagree.

              2. But, I am not “adding to scripture” any more than you’re adding to scripture if you use the word Trinity. You’re using an extra-biblical term to describe what is in fact taught in scripture without the term. I’m doing nothing more or less when I use the term (in)sensitivity. I would be appreciative if you would refrain from continuing that charge.

              3. As for Wilson’s motivation in writing, I have acknowledged a couple times what Wilson states in the book–namely that he writes amidst a firestorm of criticism by folks who claim he’s a racist. Not only have I stated that repeatedly, but I have sought to take him at his words and conclude that he is not a racist. Even in the examples above (paleo-Confederate, inferiority of Black culture, Sambo), I briefly state the context and the intent of Wilson at various points. In other words, I don’t need to first ask him what he meant when, in fact, he writes in the text what he meant and why he said it.

              4. Fourth, intent does not excuse content. We shouldn’t redefine what Wilson writes by what he intended to write. One of the things I greatly admire about Wilson is his skill with words. This man is no rhetorical klutz! But we cannot have a double-standard here. If Wilson (or anyone else) desires that I take him at his word when he says he is not a racist, then in consistency he should accept being taken at his word when he writes insensitive things. He shouldn’t retreat to motives in the latter and insist on his actual words in the former.

              Now, if we take his words seriously, then we’re left to decide not “what was he thinking or feeling or intending when he wrote them,” but “what did he say and what was the effect on others”. That’s the only way to have an honest conversation here.

              5. Finally, my major concern with B&T is that it’s wrong in a number of significant ways (discussed in earlier posts). The effect of those errors is the insensitivity which causes division. As for proof, do you need more proof than this comment thread, or the back-and-forth we’re having? There’s ten years worth of proof. Plentiful proof.

              I’m going to leave you the last word, but I want to encourage you to step back from your defenses (of a man who several posts said he neither felt attacked or in need of anyone to defend him in this conversation because he feels fairly treated) and to simply try to understand me, ask what did I mean, look carefully for what’s good, true, lovely, etc. In other words, live true to your own principles by applying what you ask me to apply to Doug to your response to me.

              You have the last word.
              T-

            4. Tim says:

              To put it simply, If my wife spoke to me in a way I found offensive, the loving thing to do would be to give her the benefit of the doubt and ask her to explain her tone, then listen to her and ask more questions. I believe Douglas Wilson at least deserves that consideration, as much as one can deserve anything.

            5. Tim says:

              I wrote that last comment before I realized you had responded.

              The only thing I would add I will be praying for your conversation. I believe one needs to confront by citing specific biblical sins, chapter and verse. To fail to do this is and to appeal to webster is messy and subjective. I don’t understand how you can bind someone else’s conscience to webster, but that is between you and God. I pray that you consider the implications of your position on this, because the standard that you use to judge others will be uaed against you. It is very serious to charge someone with sin and sadly it happens all too often when men take stands on issues that are not p.c. It’s very easy to cry insensitivity, when a man takes an upopular stand. The homosexuals and the feminists do it all the time and call us divusive. I cant understand how you are doing anything different.
              Blessings

            6. Here’s the verse you’re looking for: “Love is . . . not . . . rude” (1 Cor. 13:5).
              Rude means being unnecessarily offensive. That can be intentional or unintentional. When it is unintentional rudeness, we call it “insensitive”.

              Now, excuse me while I try to apply that verse to myself!

            7. Tim says:

              Haha!

              We have to disagree on that one though. I agree with the first statement rude is intentional offense, not the second. As a result, I would ground rudeness in intention.

              John,
              Surely you have been called rude before? Surely you hace been called insensitive? Must one always ask forgiveness simply because someone takes offense? Surely people are also responsible to be offended at the right things?

              Not to trivialize this conversation, just trying to establish a principle…
              What if your brother had an allergic reaction to tree bark which caused him to lose his hair for life… And you were unaware of this… And you said in his presence… This bread looks like tree bark… And then he concluded you were insensitive and making fun of him… Should you repent as if you had sinned?

            8. Tim says:

              I think you have created an impossibly high standard brother… That would render someone asking forgiveness for being finite

            9. Hi Tim,

              From extensive experience, I’m an expert on being accused of being “rude”. Most of the time it is from offensives I’ve unintentionally given. And many of those times the accusations are correct. We all teach our children not to be “rude”, that is to be sensitive to others.

              Another scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That is, think how what you are saying or doing will effect your neighbor. I dare say that claiming you would have fought with the army that was fighting for the enslaving of some of our neighbors is failing that test. If one is not aware of that, as I believe the case with Wilson, he’s “insensitive”, a passive, unintentional lack of love.

            10. Tim says:

              Brother,
              My questions remain.
              As a Christian, are you mandated to ask forgiveness everytime someone accuses you of being rude or insensitive? Why or why not?

              Do Christians have any responsibility for being improperly offended? Is there such a thing as righteous anger and unrighteous anger? How do you distinguish the two?

            11. Thabiti says:

              Dear Tim,

              Since you’ve made your position clear and haven’t been persuaded by any attempts in the comments, why don’t we leave it at that. Some of us think insensitivity is indeed a sin. I particularly appreciated the citation of “Love is not rude.” But you remain unconvinced. It seems that going further is counterproductive at this point.

              Much grace to everyone contributing,
              T-

            12. Tim says:

              It is your blog, so I will definitely respect your wishes. Would I be allowed a two or three sentence farewell?

            13. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

              Hi Tim,
              My point is not that you’re no longer welcome to comment. By all means, stay in the discussion. It just seems to me that this line of inquiry isn’t bearing any fruit and we should move on to something else. But you’re welcome to contribute to that “something else” if you’re inclined. So, please, feel free to add 2, 3 or 23 more sentences! You’re welcome here.
              T-

            14. Hi Tim,

              If I may answer your question, No, one is not obligated to apologize every time someone claims they are “insensitive.” However, they are obligated to apologize when they really are insensitive (defined as unintentional rudeness, and therefore the sin of a lack of love).

              I believe Pastor Anyabwile has well documented several such occasional of Wilson being insensitive. Imagine if someone said that they would fight with the armies that were trying to keep you enslaved. I think you’d consider that “insensitive”. That word would only occur to me after I had calmed down.

            15. Tim says:

              Thabiti,
              I assure you I’m not unreasonable if you answer my questions I am able to be convinced :)
              I agree there are sins in which intentions do not matter, I already listed some. I am also saying that in regards to other sins intent is the issue, example lust Matt 5:28. Agreed?

            16. Tim says:

              John,
              Who gets to decide what should be considered insensitive and really insensitive? Who makes the call? By what standard to we judge a real claim vs. a false claim?
              Tim

            17. Hi Tim,

              Good question. This is where I might part ways with Pastor Anyabwile. My emphasis would be throughout it all on the truthfulness of the historical claims Wilson makes. If Wilson is right historically, then he’s not really being “insensitive”, he’s just educating people and they are responding to the education he’s trying to give them with unnecessary offense.

              I’m confident that Wilson is historically and factually wrong. I have such confidence because I know the research on slavery pretty well, having been a teaching assistant for Robert W. Fogel who won a Nobel Prize for his work on the subject and one of the main sources upon which Wilson tries to rely. And I know what it is like to “offend” people with the truths of history. Professor Fogel asked me to deliver the lecture on the economics of slavery to the class and as I was presenting the facts which make slavery appear not as harsh as often presented (e.g. that slaves ate more and lived longer than free White, Northern city dwellers), an African-American student sitting on the back row began shaking her head as if to say “no, no, no”. I guess I offended her for presenting the facts. But Fogel’s conclusion is the opposite of Wilson’s. Fogel still insists that slavery was wrong and had to be ended and celebrates evangelicalism for being the primary force behind it’s demise. He has no illusions that it was going to end peacefully, as does Wilson, and certainly knows better than to take the anecdotal accounts that Wilson also relies on at face value.

              So, generally truth makes the call (although even the truth can be presented insensitively. But when Wilson makes a claim that the antebellum South was a model of racial harmony, that he would have fought for the Confederacy because they were for limited government (never mind that they were enslaving some of their populace), and the Civil War was unnecessary because the Southerners were going to give up their slaves as soon as they were spoken to sweetly, he’s being insensitive because he’s being false. Love for the people he’s dealing with should have motivated him to do some real research into the topic.

            18. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

              Hi John,

              I don’t think shifting the ground solely to whether something is factually accurate or not is sufficient. We can say true things in unloving ways (as you acknowledge). But the Bible calls us to speak the truth in love, to let our speech be seasoned with grace. To communicate in a sanctified manner, we need both things–truth and love. I’d rather a man be wrong in the facts and charitable than to be factually accurate and unloving. The former may be corrected with a little evidence; the latter actually tarnishes the truth we should love.

              Again, the easiest way to dispense with the entire conversation is not to get caught up on insensitivity conceptually. We need only ask ourselves if I’ve given sufficient evidence of insensitivity practically or specifically. It’s odd to me that thus far there’s not been much commentary on the examples I cite. Rather, folks have turned this into a referendum on (in)sensitivity. Even when we shift to more explicitly biblical language and texts, we don’t seem able to then say, “Okay, now what about those passages? Do they meet our Lord’s requirements or not?” That’s the real conversation.

              Grace and peace to all,

              T-

            19. Tim says:

              John,
              I have nothing more to say.
              Amen brother

              I don’t have the historical knowledge to evaluate these things, but I will vigorously defend one’s right to offend with the truth, no matter how painful, provided that it is spoken in love.

            20. Tim says:

              Pastor Thabiti,
              I read your examples and I kept thinking. What if Doug is right? I believe he makes a better biblical case. I believe he didn’t gloss over the hard texts. I believe he is not minimizing the text. If he is right, then he is right. I don’t believe that people pay enough attention to the biblical instruction on the matter. If the abolitionists are wrong they are wrong, no matter if it hurts. I can’t evaluate the historical issues. But, I do know that truth hurts. So if you think he is in error, confront the historical errors, I think that’s the issue. I don’t believe I’m qualified to judge the heart. I know how difficult it is to say things that are not p.m. I know how much it hurts to offend people you don’t want to offend, but you love them enough to say it anyways and watch the relationship end. It’s an awful thing. So I show a lot of grace to those who are put in that position. I have been there many of times. All I have say is argue with his case.
              In love,
              Tim

            21. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

              Hi Tim,

              Let’s for the sake of discussion say Wilson is right in all he posits about the connection between our current culture wars and the Civil War, about the more “benign” condition of slavery, about the pervasively Christian character of the South, about the exaggerations of abolitionists, about his exegesis of the biblical texts, and about the notion that slavery should have been ended gradually through the effects of the gospel. Let’s say he’s right in the content of all he says.

              Does that mean he should say it in a way that alienates significant numbers of readers–Black and White? As best you understand the scripture, should he write to be winsome or to be off=putting? And if he found himself being off-putting when he had no intention to do so, should he defend his word choices or amend them?

              I’m guessing you know your Bible well enough to know there’s a difference between offense caused by the pricking nature of truth and offense caused by a failure to be kind. That’s the issue here, not “confronting the historical errors” (which, by the way, I did and Wilson responded partly agreeing). If you’ve only read this post/the post charging racial insensitivity, or you think those posts have been the main comments about this book, then I think you’ve dropped into the discussion far too late. I first summarize his book (which Wilson commends as both accurate and kind), then engage the logic of his argument, offer a New Testament theology of slavery (which again Wilson completely agrees with, with the exception of some cases where immediate manumission might not be most loving), then take up the history that’s assumed–not presented–in the book, and only after several back-and-forths at each point come to these posts where I think racial insensitivity are in play. As far as Wilson has stated, I’m the only discussant to talk fairly in public about this book in 10 years of controversy!

              So, c’mon, man. Give me credit for covering a lot (if not all) of the bases in this discussion. And, please, do me the honor of evaluating Wilson’s statements as cited. Look at the actual words, consider them as impartially as you can, and tell me whether you think they’re loving or if in any way they lack tact and kindness.

              If you don’t think so, then fine. It’s all good. But, please, respect me enough to stop dismissing the argument and the evidence I have indeed put before you.

              Pursuing you for truth and grace’s sake,
              T-

            22. Tim says:

              Pastor Thabiti,
              I appreciate you for being gracious enough to interact with me on this.

              I have been following this discussion quite carefully. I have spent too much time on it honestly, because the subject matter is very important. I have lost a little sleep over it, because the discussion is important. I have read all of your and doug’s posts, and I have read both of Doug’s books in the past two weeks. I have appreciated the interaction on both of your parts. I wasn’t suggesting that you haven’t interacted with Doug on the truth and historical claims, I have appreciated that way you have. My point is that I believe these are the real issues.

              1) paleo- confederate
              I can understand how an African American man might take offense at this, however if Doug is right and history has been distorted. It does seem important to reclaim a proper view of the South and the label. We do have a responsibility to take the time to listen. All of what I have said hinges on the truth value of his claims.

              2) The inferiority of black culture
              Once again, I think it is demonstratively true that my race had a superior culture at that time in history. Provided that we are thinking in terms of technology. I look at the statement and say, well of course. I don’t believe myself racist for saying that, it just seems axiomatic. I can see how a people group who has been told historically that they are inferior can take offense at being told so one more time. But that isn’t what Doug said. He is not speaking of categorical inferiority.

              3) Little Black Sambo
              Let me confess that I am a little too young for this one. I am not sure what this discussion is about and haven’t had time to research it. The reference sounds vaguely familiar, but before my time.

              4) More skilled
              I think this is just unfair. Doug is a Pastor. He spends his life dealing with sins. He is in the business of dealing with primarily white sins, if you want to put it that way. I think you are reading way more into those comments than need be there. I believe this is a heart judgment. You can’t take statements like this and supply evil intent. He rebukes white people ALL the time. I understand how one could read into these statements more than what is there, but I also understand that there seems to be a great double standard at work. I listen to African American pastors speak about the sins of white people frequently and yet it seems very like the opposite is not able to happen, or cries of racism and insensitivity will be leveled. Brother, I am not sure the rules, but whatever they are let’s keep them the same. I say all this with no emotion. These are just honest observations. What are the rules? Doug said it best, we have eyes.

              5) On Black Lives
              Dear Brother, why are you reading in between the lines? I have learned not to do this. I am almost always wrong. You are reading into the silence something that is probably not there. He is just saying that the way slavery was abolished cost a lot of lives. He is not valuing white life over black. He is very clear about this. His point is that if you value black, which he does, the best long term solution would be to end the war differently. He believes, as you know, the war was ended in an unbiblical way. If this is what he believes, why is it shocking? This is a biblical/ethical discussion not a sensitivity one. I understand that slaveryis an offensive subject. But I ALWAYS lean towards the guys that don’t apologize or gloss over the hard passages. What can I say? I love black people. I have many black friends. But what does the text say? I have a very difficult time arguing with Doug’s exegesis. It is going to take a lot to tell me that the household laws are irrelevant. Once again these are truth issues.

              Conclusion
              I’m not sure what to say. I know also that Doug has some pretty developed views on how to speak in different situations. I asked you to ask him why he spoke the way he spoke for this reason. Whatever Doug is, he is not boring. I simply give the guy the benefit of the doubt, because I don’t want to judge motives or the heart, and at the end of the day, I don’t think I am qualified to judge things like gentleness, kindness, etc. When I read the books, I saw a lot of love and a lot of pastoral concern for people today. I saw a lot of wisdom in how to navigate the issue of abortion. I believe Doug is very consistent and clear headed. I may be guilty of being too quick to show grace in things like tone, or too hesitant to read in between the lines. But I think we should try our very best to come up with the best interpretations of our brother’s actions and give the benefit of the doubt. I know what it is like to offend people you don’t want to offend. I know what it’s like to lose relationships over truth.

              I love you brother
              Thanks for the conversation

            23. Tim says:

              Clarification paragraph 1
              I believe the real issues are the truth/historical issues.

            24. Tim says:

              I thought this might be helpful.

              Here is my reasoning process.
              If we are not dealing with insensitivity as a category, but dealing with rudeness, gentleness, kindness, graciousness, and love. I have a hard time condemning Wilson. I really do. You do not. Why? Why do two different people, people who love the Bible differ on their understandingo tone?
              1) I could be racist
              Which I am not
              2) I could be insensitive
              Who knows?
              3) maybe there is a little subjectivity in assessing these types of things…
              This is why I think calls to repentance are inappropriate for these things.

              My conclusion is that I’ll leave it to God to judge, and I’ll be quick to give ANY brother the benefit of the doubt and the best possible interpretation of their words. That is what I want done to me.

            25. Tim says:

              You’re trying to show how it is understandable that people can interpret Dougs words in the worse possible light. I understand how they could be interpreted that way. I’m always going to argue with that and try to show how my brother, whoever he may be, should be interpreted in the best light. Love thinks no evil and believes all things.

            26. Tim says:

              Last thing then I’ll shut up
              In my mind racial reconciliation is just like any other reconciliation. You can’t reconcile groups so much as you reconcile individuals. How do you reconcile individuals? You get the husband and wife to repent of known obvious sins. If there is any unclarity on the sin, you supply the best motive and put the words and actions in the best possible light. You overlook things not clearly sinful, and get rid of the record of wrongs. You orient your lives around the gospel and truth.

          2. Tim says:

            Sometimes it takes a little work to get to the fruit. If we are talking about calljng a brother to repentance, it may take these sort of discussions to hammer out nuance. These questions have enormous practical consequences.
            If one defines “insensitivty” as unintentional rudeness, as John did, that means that a christian brother has sinned whenever he is accused and needs to repent.

            Just to clear things up, I am not saying that nothing that typically falls under the rubric “insensitivity” need be repented of. There are many different biblical sins that do for example rudeness. Biblically rudeness is offense given with the intent to offend. So if someone is charging his brother with rudeness he needs to prove intent. The categories we use matter.

            Rest assured I’m not trying to beat a dead horse or hijack threads, just responding to responses. I don’t mind ceasing out of respect if you wish. I can let the responses go.
            Tim

            1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

              Thanks for your comment Tim. I would simply disagree, based on Lev. 4, that intent is required for it to be insensitive or to be sin. And if there was no intent of offending, shouldn’t that make apologizing easier to do? I would think such a circumstance would be easy to clear up.
              T-

            2. Tim says:

              Thabiti,I assure you I’m not unreasonable if you answer my questions I am able to be convinced :) I agree there are sins in which intentions do not matter, I already listed some. I am also saying that in regards to other sins intent is the issue, example lust Matt 5:28. Agreed?

      3. Tim says:

        Bill.. Not rjs… Typing on phone

        1. Tim says:

          John K,
          Thanks for trying to ground racial insensitivity in specific passages. The weaker brother issue is a very specific instance of a stronger Christian restricting his liberty so that his example might not lead a weaker brother into idolatry.
          Example:
          A strong Christian may refuse to eat meat offered to idols, not because it is defiling in of itself, an idol is nothing, but in order to not cause a weaker brother to see his example and in turn think that he approves of idols and be led into idolatry.

          I don’t think this has anything to do with the above discussion. If a person thinks himself to be the weaker brother, he is not the weaker brother that Paul has in mind. Many people use similar arguments to control others. For example, please do not drink alcohol because that offends me, shouldn’t you care about the weaker brother? It’s no virtue to be the weaker brother.

          If you try to ground racial insensitivity in the 2nd greatest commandment, that is a controlling category that needs to be fleshed out with specific Scriptural examples. The 1st and 2nd commandments serve to summarize the whole law and prophets, they are the controlling categories. As a result, find a more specific passage, because one’s definition of love for brother might be entirely different than another. Part of biblical love for our brothers is confronting lies that they may be tempted to believe, this is quite often called insensitive, when it is actually the most loving thing that a person can do for their brother. In short, debate Wilson’s facts not his heart.

          Gentleness is a very specific fruit of the spirit that Wilson MAY be violating. However, it is certainly a very subjective thing to determine. One’s man’s definition of gentleness is not the same as others. We need to be careful not to judge motives or judge the heart (Matt 7:1). Jesus, John the Baptist, and Paul often use very direct pointed speech when addressing sin. Wilson has explained the historical context of writing this book. He wrote the book in an attempt to discourage modern day would be John Browns. As a result, it is important to consider the context by which he is writing to assess things like tone. At the end of the day, we are not the Lord and we do not see the secrets of the hearts. So we should be very careful to charge a brother of sin, unless we can cite VERY SPECIFIC passages that they are NECESSARILY violating. If there is any doubt we need to believe the best about our brother’s motives.

          1. Robert says:

            Racial sensitivity is in practice only granted to certain groups and denied to other groups. I posted this earlier in this discussion and all I heard was crickets.

    2. John K says:

      Actual racial insensitivity falls under the 2nd greatest commandment, if nothing else. Perhaps it falls under a lack of gentleness as one of the fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians 5. And it can fall under other areas, I’m sure. Its not made up. Of course, real unintentional ignorance may mitigate or render it completely accidental. But not when its willful and/or intentionally ignorant. It also in some cases may be a weaker brother issue. When Wilson uses “paleo-confederate”, I think this can definitely cause newer believers to stumble. It’s a meat he should not consume over concern for these, if for no other reason.

      1. Tim says:

        See above…
        We should be very humble as we confront. If someone commits adultery, that is very clear, no need to judge the heart or motives. When you start accusing your brother of insensitivity, you are on much less sure footing, and could be guilty of evil judging. If you believe your brother’s tone to be less than gentle, it might be more appropriate to ask him to explain his tone before you accuse him of sin. We need to be very careful that we are not making up sins, which are unable to be scripturally evaluated because they have no textual basis.

  3. RJS says:

    I think you are being too kind Pastor Thabiti. After reading this post the charge of insensitivity is too light. I find what I read to be appalling and clearly racist. I hope the evangelical world will live out the truth of God’s word in Titus 3:10 and have nothing to do with Douglas Wilson until he repents of all this. It is abhorrent to the cause of Christ and clearly without love. If you honesty can’t see the sin in the above outlined comments and attitudes then you are avoiding reality. He has had numerous opportunities to retract statements and apologize and he has not done it.

    The rest of us should have nothing to do with him (no speaking engagements, no book sales, no nothing) until this is dealt with.

    1. Jason Kates says:

      RJS, where have you been the past 2 weeks. Thabiti IS dealing with it. And this post clearly lays out the difference in a charge of racism and racial insensitivity. You, as would we all, would do well to read with the intent of listening to Thabiti when he writes, “Before we answer that question, let me remind us of a couple things stated in earlier posts. Wilson makes it clear repeatedly that he abominates and disavows racism, racial vainglory and white supremacy. He does not write anywhere in the book that one race is superior to another. Instead, he offers a rather sound biblical anthropology that emphasizes our common descent from Adam, our close cousinage biologically, and our common need for the Savior because of our common problem of sin. I think it’s important to hear him at these points and to take him at his word about these things even as (especially as) we take issue with his words at other places.

      I am not here leveling a charge of “racism” against Wilson. But I do want to enter a charge of “racial insensitivity”.”

      Thabiti – Thank you for your string of posts. It has been very educational, practical, humbling, etc. for many of us who have followed along the way.

  4. bg says:

    “So, because historians like to have set dates on which to hang their hats, we may say that the first Christendom died there in 1865. The American South was the last nation of the first Christendom.”
    Douglas Wilson, Angels in the Architecture (page 203)

  5. Mike says:

    Is it acceptable for white folks to critique black culture? Or is that racist / racially insensitive? As a white person, I truly need to know.

    This racial PC stuff is mind numbing. I pray for God’s grace often as I try to navigate this minefield in my discussions with my black friends.

    1. Bill says:

      Mike,

      Thabiti is not saying that White folks cannot critique black culture. He is saying that any critique must be done in a more careful and loving way than Doug Wilson has done. If you critique black culture, consider whether you have also commended the good of black culture, stated your love for AfAm brothers and sisters, and not lumped all AfAm people into one homogeneous group. Unfortunately, many white people have a very hard time finding the beauty of AfAm culture.

      1. Mike says:

        Thank you. Well stated.

      2. Robert says:

        I think that the country that the White Person comes can play a factor in this and who is being criticized.. For instance, Canadians have a very different history in its White Black relations. Ninetly five percent of Canadian Blacks are immigrants and their Canadian born children. Canadians only had slavery for a handful of years efore it was outlawed, not centuries.

  6. RJS says:

    Jason, I have been reading this entire thread of posts between both. I have not commented over the past few weeks because honestly it seems pointless (and maybe it is). What I am saying is, as convenient as it may be for Wilson to “say he is not racist”, his comments and attitudes are racist in my opinion. I think the charge of “racially insensitive” is way too light.

    My point is not that Thabiti is not dealing with it. He is. I am saddened to see he is the only one from @TGC to be speaking about this. Where are all the other white evangelicals taking a stand on this. The ones who usually love to write on issues like this. Why only him?

    Mike, If you can’t figure out the diference between critique of black culture and racial insensitivity then I would suggest re-reading the above post about 20 times.

    1. EMSoliDeoGloria says:

      RJS… thanks… I agree and also would hope that Pastor T knows he does not stand alone in the body of Christ – whether or not any other official members of the gospel coalition stand with him in this.

  7. RJS says:

    Mike, by the way, what on earth is “black culture”? Can we critique on “white culture” as well? How would you define critique of “black culture”? How is it possible to make a critique based entirely upon the color of someone’s skin? I find it to be impossible to do that with any degree of validity.

    1. LT says:

      People who live in predominantly or even equally African-American communities know exactly what this is. Black culture or white culture is the shared values of a group of people based on a number of different factors. A critique of such culture (whether black or white) is a biblical evaluation of the theological and social values that create and sustain the culture.

      Though we term it black or white culture, and it generally runs along those lines, it is more frequently tied to socio-economic status. In other words, white and blacks of similar socio-economic status living in a similar community will share values and the culture which those values breed.

    2. Mike says:

      If you don’t know what black culture is, you should come to Chicago where I live. I will show you.

  8. Steve says:

    All of the points Pastor Thabiti makes seem to me quite sound and compelling. As a white ministry leader, I found his set of examples quite helpful and instructive.

    I’d also point out (or continue to point out, since Thabiti touches on it as well) how truly troubling is Wilson’s equation of “cultural superiority” with technological development. Superior cultures are technologically proficient – hence the jabs about “shampoo” and “landing a man on the moon.”

    I think this probably derives from Wilson’s post-mil eschatology, as well as a distorted view of human “dominion” popular in far right circles. But it’s just not Biblical. Ancient Israel was FAR from the most technologically advanced of the the ANE nations. Indeed, they were pretty much “cultural” bumpkins in comparison to the great empires of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Yet, they had something far more important – God’s Word. I’d like to see a SINGLE passage in the prophets that calls Israel to start developing their “culture” (understood in Wilson’s sense). On the other hand, you’ll find quite a bit about repenting of oppression of the poor, the immigrant, the widow, etc. Fast forward to the New Testament, and you find a church that is remarkably free of cultural “movers and shakers.” The earliest Christians were often lower class, and the Gospel spread most quickly among the poor, women, and slaves (and for that reason was despised by upperclass Roman “gentlemen.”) None of this seems to have concerned the Holy Spirit in the slightest.

    In other words, the only Biblical measures of “civilization” are MORAL and ETHICAL, not technological. From a Biblical perspective, technological superiority tells you precisely nothing about a culture’s “advancement.” The Nazis were a remarkably scientific people.

    That’s not to say technology or science is inherently evil; they are not. But this Triumphalistic “white Christendom” nonsense simply has all the wrong priorities; it’s a horribly distorted way to view history.

    From a Christian perspective, which was the greater “advancement” of antebellum American culture? The cotton gin, or Black Spirituals?

  9. Joe Blankenship says:

    Thank you Thabiti. May the LORD use your gracious words to bring repentance to many and a furtherance of the gospel.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Thank you,brother. And may the Lord make His face to shine upon you and give you peace!

  10. Joe Blankenship says:

    It would truly be amazing grace if Mr. Wilson were to express a real apology without a lot of “buts” and “explanations/justifications”. I pray that he does and that his example might impact many.

    1. Robert says:

      What would you have him apologize for?

      1. He can apologize for: False teaching on the subject of race and the Civil War; refusing to accept the truth when confronted with it from a variety of sources; for failure to love some brothers and sisters in Christ to the extent that he actually said he would fight to keep them slaves (even if, somehow, unintentionally); being rude (even if just the unintentional “insensitive” variety) as documented above.

  11. Tom Spencer says:

    “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” Have you already done this, i.e., told Doug his fault privately?

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Tom,

      Thank you for your question. Wilson and I were in complete agreement about the way I was choosing to proceed with these series of posts. See http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2013/03/12/why-respond-publicly-to-douglas-wilsons-black-and-tan/.

      T-

  12. Philip Larson says:

    “And if the behavior isn’t repented of after the second warning, we should have nothing to do with them.”

    Doesn’t Matt. 18 say instead say that “if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector,” that is, to regard Doug Wilson as an unbeliever? If you wish to apply Matt. 18, you may be stuck with this conclusion, not the one you desire.

    I’m so glad this discussion is happening. But I wonder if reconciliation will be impossible until both sides are more distant from their diverse pains. As in, several generations hence. Hopefully not.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Philip,

      I join you in a deeply held desire to see the reconciliation Christ achieves in His body on the tree be realized in our lives. He himself has become our peace (Eph. 2:14).

      As for Matthew 18, (a) assuming we were in the same church, (b) I brought a charge privately and failed to “win my brother,” (c) 2-3 witnesses heard the situation, found my charges to be legitimate, and also failed to win our brother, and (d) we escalated to the church who likewise found Wilson guilty, then, yes, I would be happy to obey the Lord in treating Wilson or anyone else so examined according to Matt. 18:17. I don’t want to back away from that conclusion, though obviously none of the above applies to me and Doug.

      T-

  13. Robert says:

    QUOTE We live in a day where it’s no longer socially acceptable to be a racist or racially insensitive. UNQUOTE

    I must disagree with this statement. All that has changed is the zeitgeist regarding the identity of who may be persecuted safely. I have written a historical fiction book about the Crystal City Internment Camp of WW2. Crystal City was the most multiracial family camp of the war. About forty percent of the population was German American, about forty percent was Japanese American and the rest were people of various Axis ethnicities from Latin American countries who were brought to the United States for internment whether they were citizens of those Latin American countries or not. It is not uncommon for Japanese Americans to have extremely negative reactions to being informed that German Americans were interned. No one has any concerns about German American sensitivites, I can assure you of that. I posted an excerpted video produced by the Department of Justice about Crystal City so you will know that I am not making this up.

  14. LT says:

    Thabiti,

    I thought this was a profitable conversation up until now. I thought this post was easily the least profitable post of this exchange, and I think Doug has done a good job of responding to it with grace and sensitivity.

    I think you in between a rock and a hard place now. You have suggested that this is a Titus 3:10 kind of matter. Do you really wish to say that? Are you prepared to denounce Doug over this in those terms? I can’t imagine that, and I hope you will back off that statement.

    I encourage you also to speak directly to people like RJS who, for some inexplicable reason, in spite of everything that has been said, continues to charge Wilson with racism.

    1. John K says:

      I thought Wilson’s post prior to his response LT references here was not very charitable or profitable, not to mention the bad historical error and his only partial ackowledgement of error in the comments.

  15. Daniel Kleven says:

    @Thabiti

    I was tracking along, and being stretched in my thinking, until I hit “Trayvon Martin, whose offense was walking while Black.” I don’t at all mean to derail the comments onto a tangent, but I bring it up because I think it’s a great example of how race plays into the larger discussion.

    MAYBE Zimmerman killed Martin “just because he was walking while Black.” Maybe. The man hasn’t even stood trial yet, and yet you have assumed a racial “motive” for an alleged “crime.” I was shocked to see Trayvon Martin used as an example in this post. The facts are far from clear, and yet a racial motive is being assumed, simply because Zimmerman is Hispanic and Martin was Black.

    I think this type of jumping to conclusions (which was done by the media on a grand scale at the time of the incident, including manipulation of pictures, and editing of sound files to make Zimmerman appear “racist”) is what Wilson is frustrated by, and causes (rightly or wrongly) some of his reactionary analysis of “Black culture.”

    If Zimmerman is indeed convicted of actually murdering Martin because he was black, he should be held up as an example of the vile and ugly wickedness of racism. We shouldn’t make assumptions until that actually happens.

    This sort of viewing everything through the lens of an assumed racism is another of those blinders that needs evaluating in order to have profitable and charitable discussions across the many “walls of partition” that impede our unity.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Daniel,

      Fair enough. But please don’t losethe main issue because of a passing reference. In that same section I mention Emmett Till and the Rosewood massacres. I think the point stands even if we drop Martin, which I’m happy to do.

      And to mention the examples is not to “view everything through the lens of an assumed racism.” I couldn’t have been clearer in saying I wasn’t making that charge. I’m not wearing “blinders” of that sort.

      I think it remains for fair-minded persons to read Wilson’s words in context and decide if they meet any definition of “racial insensitivity.” What do you think?

      T-

      1. Daniel Kleven says:

        Hi Thabiti,

        To be completely honest, I’m not really sure what to think. Reading only your post led me to think, “wow, that’s pretty insensitive.” But as soon as I read Wilson’s response, I thought, “Oh, okay, well now that makes a little more sense.”

        In reverse, I can read a Wilson post and think, “What’s the big deal, Thabiti?” and then read a response here, and think “Okay, I can see how Wilson could come across as insensitive.”

        To be completely honest, I like Wilson’s amended definition of sensitivity a bit better. But then again, I have no idea, whatsoever, of what it’s like to be oppressed, or come from a line of oppressed people, or how that could affect my view of almost everything. Probably the fact that I’ve never had to deal with real oppression might be behind my inclination to say whatever I think (on lots of subjects) , and wish that everyone else had thicker skin.

        I don’t think I’m throwing out the larger point with the Martin bathwater. I do think a readiness to read race into a case like Martin’s is somewhat similar to the readiness to read “insensitive” into situations where it might not actually be the case.

        Where it indeed IS the case, it ought be exposed and repented of. I’m still trying to sort out which is the case here.

        1. John K says:

          His amended definition sounds good, until you allow for the possibility that he is saying that Thabiti’s concerns don’t fit into that definition, and also the further possibility that Wilson views all charges of him in that light as not fitting into that definition. BTW, when Wilson talks about deflecting charges of being neo-Confederate by using “paleo-Confederate” we have to ask: 1. Why not get rid of the word “Confederate” altogether (after all, its the word “Confederate” being objected to, not “neo” or “paleo”) 2. Why was he being accused of being a “neo-Confederate” in the first place?

          1. John K says:

            In light of the apology Wilson made in the response where he responds point by point to racial insensitivity accusations, I apologize specifically for my questioning his motives concerning the definition of racial insensitivite statements/insensitivity in the above post. I shouldn’t have done it and I’m sorry.

        2. Curtis says:

          Daniel:
          You said:
          “To be completely honest, I like Wilson’s amended definition of sensitivity a bit better. But then again, I have no idea, whatsoever, of what it’s like to be oppressed, or come from a line of oppressed people, or how that could affect my view of almost everything”

          It really has nothing to do with you being the recipient of oppression. Just read the amended definition for what it is. Especially in light of Wilson’s basketball metaphor. Then you will observe that Wilson wants to be a player in the game pushing and bumping in the paint, and then he wants to be the referee determining what constitutes a foul. That only works in a pick-up game at the playground, and even then the majority rules. But in organized basketball, the ref determines when a foul has been committed, not the players or the coach or the fans.

          Please inform Mr. Wilson that he cannot have it both ways. Thabit makes a good ref (this Doug has said in so many words). Doug needs to simply put his hand in the air so that the scorekeepers (like you) will know he’s the one who committed the foul and submit to the call of the gracious ref. And be glad he’s not thrown out of the game for what could be seen as a flagrant foul.

          1. Daniel Kleven says:

            H Curtis,

            Wasn’t Wilson’s point that some players are laying on the floor, holding their ankles, and he hadn’t come within two feet of them? I don’t think we can read this much into an analogy, and then “hold” Wilson “to” it. It’s an analogy. It seems like Doug and Thabiti are both players (as are Lorrits, Bradley, etc.) Thabiti says “you bumped me” Doug says “well let’s figure out if it’s a foul. But let’s make sure our definition of a “foul” takes account for flopping as well as actual contact.”

            “I feel like you might have bumped me” is different than “you actually hit my arm on the way to the basket.”

            I don’t take Wilson’s definition as dismissive of Thabiti at all. It seems like he’s taking him seriously. But he also has an eye on those other players (a three on one that Thabiti was originally a part of) and wants to make sure the rules are fair.

            If anything, Wilson has apologized to Thabiti. I take him as sincere. Hardly a dismissal or a “trying to have it both ways.” This is bigger than Doug v Thabiti, though, that’s why he’s asking for a more careful definition.

            1. Curtis says:

              Hey Daniel:
              You’ve seemed to have taken the easy way out from Doug’s analogy. Let’s hold on to for a while, it’s every helpful. It points to a fundamental issue in this whole conversation. Don’t miss it man.

              Read Doug’s definition again! I call Doug a player because he says he is. I call Thabiti a referee, because Doug in so many words says he is. It’s Doug’s analogy and one thing we know for sure, the players do not make up the rules nor enforce them, the referee does.

              Doug cannot admit to being a player as he did and then make up the rules as he did in his definition. Can’t you see this is what Doug has done. This is the fundamental issue in this whole conversation, people like Doug want to have it both ways.

              They simply can’t.

              Now if my brother offends me, I go to him, right. Well if my going is always met with “you’re not really offended” or “you have not right to be offended”, then the offender becomes the arbitrator.

              Doug’s words have proven to be harmful over the years. He’s accused of fouling a lot of people not just Thabiti. As a matter of fact, it seems he’s fouled out of the game completely, like so many others who refuse to SUBMIT to good, kind and gracious whistles.

              Many have come after him to rethink his words, yet he refuses. He refuses because at the end of the day, he’s both player and referee.

              Thabiti may not be your choice for referee, but he is certainly not a player, he didn’t write the book, he’s not accused of committing a foul.

          2. Daniel Kleven says:

            To your point this is pickup basketball. There’s no “American Evangelical Counsel on Race and Inter-cultural Relations” with a judiciary committee to determine who’s insensitive, who’s racist, and who’s playing fair. Guy’s have to figure it out, as per the guidelines laid out in the Bible.

            1. Curtis says:

              Daniel:
              I will grant you the “pickup basketball” analogy. It’s hard to do because Doug introduced referees in the analogy. Don’t remember any refs in “pickup basketball.

              But I will go with your addition to the analogy. We will say it’s a pickup game. Now we all know (those who have played lots of pickup basketball) you will have guys on the court that call fouls every time you breathe on them. Then you have the guys who will run you over and never want to be called for a foul.

              What happens on the court with these two extremes in every game? Well, you defer to the gentleman on the court. The reasonable one, the one who loves the game and just wants guys to get along so they can get on with the game. He’s known to call fouls against his own team and he’s often found deferring to the man running headlong over people, because sometimes he’s not charging, the other guy stepped into his lane.

              So for the sake of argument I will call Thabiti, Doug, Lorritts and Bradley all players. In doing do it seems to me that Thabiti has demonstrated out of all of them that his head is level, he’s objective, reasonable, understands the game. Most everyone who’s seen him play knows this about him, Heck the other team has said this about him time and time again.

              So Daniel, we really don’t need an “American Evangelical Counsel on Race and Inter-cultural Relations with a judiciary committee”. You’re killing the analogy of a pickup game of basketball.
              All we need is a reasonable man on the court, and we have one.
              So let’s defer to the reasonable guy in the bunch and let him call it.

              So T, was Doug fouling or not? We know your answer.

          3. Daniel Kleven says:

            To your point this is pickup basketball. There’s no “American Evangelical Counsel on Race and Inter-cultural Relations” with a judiciary committee to determine who’s insensitive, who’s racist, and who’s playing fair. Guys have to figure it out, as per the guidelines laid out in the Bible.

      2. Robert says:

        Would reation be different if Doug Wilson were not a White American say, a Chinese American from Mississippi?. I am not accusing anyone of racism, but sometimes a messenger can be confused with the message, depending on who the messenger is. I do not know if this is the case, but it is worth considering.

        1. I believe if Wilson were either a minority or from the South, he’d have a great deal more understanding of the subject and would not have written the “foolishness” (as Pastor Anyabwile) called it, that he did.

      3. Nigel Hunter says:

        Pastor T-

        I think the response to your inclusion of Trayvon Martin proves your point about insensitivity. His inclusion in that list doesn’t immediately invalidate the list, but it sure does make it hard to see the point you are making.

        Pastor Doug’s comments on slavery doesn’t immediately invalidate his anti-federalist argument, but it sure does make it hard to think he might be right.

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Hi Nigel,

          I was thinking the exact same thing. In an unintended way, it proves the point. And it illustrates why as the writer I need to be willing to listen to people say, “Hey! That’s insensitive or offensive.” It exposes my blind spot as a writer and clues me in to the fact that something else is happening in the minds and hearts of the reader. If that something isn’t what I’m intending, I should be able to pretty easily retract or re-phrase the offending statement. Which was why I was happy to say to the first person who pointed it out, “Fair enough. Let’s drop Martin.”

          I would hope we would all retract or re-phrase things other people find unnecessarily offense, by which I mean offenses that are not the offense of the cross and are not necessary to the points we’re trying to make. I hope to learn to be able to do that well.

          T-

          1. Nigel Hunter says:

            I hope so as well and that is really what is the most beneficial and profound result of this conversation with Pastor Doug. I pray that Pastor Doug sees why his book causes such a ruckus. But even more than that, I’ve been praying that we get more of the grace and humility you are displaying in dealing with the logic as well as your hurt.

            Like I said before, if this online discourse is all we get out of it, praise God. We now have an incredibly appropriate model for true engagement on the internet. I wish the same thing face-to-face.

            God bless you and keep you, Brother.

    2. Jessica says:

      Daniel Kleven, George Zimmerman’s brother recently tweeted a picture of Trayvon Martin along with one of the teenagers arrested on the charges of fatally shooting a baby. The suspect is also black underneath those images Zimmerman’s brother wrote,’A picture speaks a thousand words… any questions?’
      ‘Alleged FBpics of 13mo. old Antonio Santiago’s alleged killer & #TrayvonMartin #uncanny,’ Zimmerman tweeted. Later he added,: ‘Lib media shld ask if what these2 black teens did 2 a woman&baby is the reason ppl think blacks mightB risky.’ Cops regardless of their own race are more likely to misidentify an object as a gun if a black man is holding it due to stereotypes about black men. I think Trayvon Martin should be included because of the racial prejudices and stereotypes underlining the arguments of the defenders of George Zimmerman. Trayvon Martin was a victim. He should never have been compared to a murderer just because they share the same skin color. I have never heard or seen someone justify the killing of a white teen because of the later actions by an unrelated white person months after the fact. Have you?

  16. Tom says:

    Question: Would Wilson have done better to, in his critique of present-day “black culture,” criticize the “ghetto” subculture instead?

  17. Jerry Nanson says:

    For the most part, I agree with your position that Wilson is quite insensitive, but I find it hard to find that particular sin in Scripture. I find it more biblical and more useful to describe Wilson’s sin as what it is: unloving towards his brother. I see no overarching value that justifies the writing of Wilson’s book to begin with, which I think is the ultimate proof of this unloving position. I do think you might be misreading the last quote of Wilson’s in your section about abortion (or I maybe I’m misreading it). It doesn’t appear to me that he is accusing you (or other African Americans) of giving awards to “black thugs” or of even using the language mentioned in the quote. It appears to me that he’s indicting white liberals in this quote primarily and secondarily, what he considers the failure of the majority of the African American community to speak out against the sins of the white liberals. Again, maybe I’m misreading the quote and not understanding it properly.

  18. Justin says:

    Thabiti, thank you for your labor of love for the sake of the church, and for the gracious tone you have maintained throughout this exchange.

    The first time I spent an extended period in a cross-cultural setting, a setting in which *I* was the minority, was on a missions trip in which I lived for an extended period with an indigenous host family. I had been on other missions trips, but always as part of a group, and always with a more surface-level experience of culture. This time was different. The stories people inhabit that make sense of their social world, the unspoken attitudes that shape the very questions that people think to ask — these vary from culture to culture. And the gospel critiques every culture.

    So please correct me if I am wrong. But I think what you are saying is that “insensitivity” (whether we label it racial, ethnic, cultural, or whatever) means that we fail to realize that not everyone sees or responds to things the same way. This is *not* an argument for any sort of relativism, but rather an experienced reality. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that the collective experiences of cultures differ, that some cultures embody some biblical values better than some others do, that every culture has blindspots and sins to which the Lord would speak.

    And so “insensitivity” is sin not only on account of its failure to love the neighbor. It is sin because it privileges, whether through passive indifference or active antipathy, *my* perspective as superior. It fails to recognize that I need correction too, that my culture stands in rebellion against the living God as much as any other. And that, I submit, is a form of idolatry.

    I will never forget a breakfast meeting several years ago with a dear brother in Christ who is black. We had been talking about what it was like to be a black man in a predominately white church, and I asked him what I was missing, what he could see that I could not. I hope that conversation has made me a better man and a better pastor.

  19. Brian Metzer says:

    Thabiti,
    It seems from reading Wilson’s most recent reply that he has 2 standards for communication – not just between believing brother and those outside the family of God (the nuances of which _might_ be justified Scripturally), but between brothers who he perceives treat him well and brothers who do not. Thabiti you won him in this way – well, at least to be listened to – because you were gentle with him. You’ve treated him with kid gloves. Wilson would do well to follow your example. I think it shows that Wilson perhaps feels every bit as wounded as others, but in his wounds – like Loritts and Bradley – puts on gloves to fight. None of this is like Jesus, but in our natural selves, who isn’t vulnerable to do the same? In the end for all of Wilson’s reasoned patience, he’s not much different than the others.

    1. Brian Metzer says:

      I should add myself to the list with Loritts and Bradley.

  20. Richard says:

    I think this is a good and helpful article, however I’m sorry to skip the main argument for a minor point but I too was completely thrown off when I read Trayvon Martin was killed for being black. It seemed a rather odd statement given the state of that case and actually struck me as possibly racially insensitive.

    Again, I apologize for pointing it out in light of your overall excellent article but it feels to me it might be a hindrance to the article and especially to reaching the people your trying to reach (people who condone Wilson’s insensitivity).

    1. John K says:

      Lets all drop the Trayvon Martin concerns. Thabiti dropped it, we should all drop it from consideration.

      1. Richard says:

        Sure will John K. When I wrote my comment I hadn’t seen Thabiti’s response about dropping it.

  21. Ken Davis says:

    Thabiti,
    Thank you so much for all the posts on this matter. They have helped me. Thanks for taking on a task that could not have been easy. Your effort to maintain true Christian charity succeeded in my opinion. But what I appreciated most about the whole thing was the expression of strong social, cultural, values that do not often get expressed in the evangelical wing of the Christian world – at least not in the part of it I travel in. I have grown exceedingly weary over the years with Christian from the left side of the spectrum being willing to dump Scripture and other Christians with, shall we say, leanings a little to the right, being willing to tromp on people. Thank you for your faithfulness to Scripture and faithfulness to people. The two great commandments.
    I was told a few years ago by someone who was in the know that it is impossible to find a book with a strong commitment to the Scriptures and a strong commitment to social justice. Thank you for proving that there is at least one man who can write that book. I enjoyed this immensely.

  22. Jerry Nanson says:

    This entire interchange between Thabiti and Douglas reminds me of the conversation I had with my son several months ago. He wanted to make a political statement indicating that he was opposed to what he considers the abuses of the federal government and its over-extension of its authority in our daily lives. He wanted to put a confederate flag in his truck window as what he considered the symbol of this position. I challenged him and asked him how he thought this would make his dearest friend (a black teammate, and, more importantly, a brother in Christ & spiritual mentor)feel? He said that he didn’t think it would bother him and I then asked him how it might make his friend’s parents fell when he drove his pickup with the obligatory tool box in the bed, into the driveway of their home with what at the very least, people of their generation would consider a symbol of Jim Crow discrimination. My goal was to teach my son that, even though this symbol may mean one thing to him, God’s word demanded that he consider how this symbol my be perceived by his neighbor and that he was to weigh his desire to make a statement against God’s command to love his neighbor as himself. He immediately understood my point and chose not to put the flag in the back of his truck because he loved his neighbor more than he cared about making a point or a statement. This is the crux of the discussion here, not whether Thabiti is too sensitive, but whether Douglas loves his neighbor as himself.

    1. Nigel Hunter says:

      And this is a huge point. Pastor Doug is in an environment where he is not pushed in love. Both Pastor T and Pastor Doug acknowledge this is the first time someone has truly interacted with Pastor Doug’s ideas in a charitable and honest way devoid of a prejudiced agenda.

      Too many commentators on this blog and in wider evangelicalism are not taking into account Pastor Doug’s circle of influence. Even here, there has been little recognition of the cultural context of Moscow, Idaho or New Saint Andrews or Christ Church.

      Pastor Doug is prominent enough in the blogosphere and wider Internet audience that he ought to have more exposure to the wider African-American community and heritage. But most people have as much exposure to him and his writings as he does to the African-American community.

      This is important because, if you spend enough time in his environment you begin to see the difference between (1) someone being racially insensitive, (2) being personally offended by the insensitivity, (3) responding to your own offense, (4) responding to the person’s insensitivity, and (5) racism.

      Just because I’m used to it, doesn’t make him right. And just because you aren’t used to it doesn’t make it wrong. I cannot praise God enough for Pastor T responding like a sober-minded, mature Christian and engaging the logic and rhetoric of Pastor Doug’s argument. Most people only respond out of their offense.

  23. I, too, was thrown off by the reference to Trayvon Martin. The idea that he was shot for walking while black came from a doctored version of the 911 call made by Zimmerman.

    Other than that, I think Thabiti Anyabwile has presented his case extremely well and I have found the entire exchange edifying.

  24. Alia D. says:

    Pastor Thabiti,

    As this conversation is winding down I want to ask a question that is sort of tangential but has been on mind as I have read these posts. My intuition is that just because Christianity was basically incompatible with slaver, Christian influence in the American south made slavery worse. The Christian idea that all humans were equally made in the image of God, and equally in need of salvation made the idea of holding another human as a slave uncomfortable. But when economic and other factors encouraged slavery some solved the cognitive disanance by thinking of their slaves as some how not quite human. Some made up scientific sounding theories of how the ‘black race’ was some how dramatically different in basic nature from the ‘white race’. People used this as an excuse and their desire to assert this untruth encouraged some to treat slaves like animals and worse than animals. As a lesser consequence this lead to treating legal rules as if they could trump reality and peril imaging someone’s category over their individuality. And it seems to me that both sides of the political debate are still dealing with this. Do you think this intuition is just a distortion based on my perspective or do you think there might be some foundation to it?

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Alia,

      Thank you for your very fine question. In my opinion, your reading of things is perfectly fair and accurate.

      T-

    2. Hi Alia,

      One of the debates in studies on racism is whether Europeans were basically racists and went out to enslave Africans because of that or whether, for economic reasons, they took African slaves and then made up racism in order to justify the slavery. I believe the later is the case. One piece of evidence: Shakespeare’s “Othello” in which the title character is black (a “Moor”) but almost nothing is made of the race issue in the play. It’s an incidental characteristic to Othello. This becomes just before English people started getting involved in slavery.

  25. Scott Kerr says:

    Has anyone figured out what the point of writing such a book was? What result was the author seeking from anyone reading this book?

    1. Heather says:

      Scott,

      Douglas Wilson himself has given a short account of his reasons for the first book (Southern Slavery..) here,

      http://www.dougwils.com/Autobiographical-Fragments/the-designated-ambition-pole.html

    2. I think all this controversy illustrates why, generally, wise pastors don’t weigh in on issues which don’t directly impact the gospel and that are far out-side their area of expertise.

      As someone who knows Robert Fogel’s research on slavery fairly well, it’s obvious that Fogel doesn’t. Wisdom should have told him to stay away from this.

      1. correction, I meant that it’s obvious that Wilson doesn’t know Fogel’s research well.

  26. Bill says:

    I’m disappointed by Doug’s response. I think he failed to see what Thabiti said about sensitivity: “that leading indicator—the other person’s feelings”. Doug seems to think that the leading indicator in this is his (supposedly) benign intentions rather than the other person’s feelings. And he seems to think that the second most important indicator is that there are some people who are oversensitive (and by the way he talks, you would think that most black people are oversensitive). Come on Doug, don’t determine whether you lacked love by how some people misinterpret your statements, and functionally cloak your apology and almost hide the gravity of it by pointing out (once again) other people’s sins.

  27. Earl says:

    I have just picked up in this, and can already tell which religion our author truly follows: politically correct liberalism. It was first given away by his examples of hurt feelings involving a man hurting his wife, in both examples. In the religion of liberalism, men are always the oppressor, women are incapable of bad behavior.

    Racial insensitivity is NOT a sin, and does not justify the use of Matthew 18 or Titus 3. Are you kidding me? I know that this violates the religion of liberalism, but hurting someone’s feelings is NOT a sin in Christianity.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Earl,

      Welcome to the conversation. Since you’re just picking up in this, let me kindly suggest you might gain better perspective about me, the author, and what I believe by going back to the earlier posts and perhaps sampling the blog more widely. I am not a “politically correct liberal” and that certainly is not my religion.

      We have attempted with much prayer, patience, and charity to have a polite conversation about things we don’t normally bring up a dinner parties. Jumping into the discussion with name-calling and misrepresentation is not edifying or helpful.

      As I’ve said in previous comment threads, to keep things charitable I will have to delete comments that fail to honor Christ and honor one another. I’ll leave this comment to stand but will delete any others along these lines.

      Grace to us all,
      T-

      1. Jerry Nanson says:

        I have mixed emotions on this issue that affect my thinking and am greatly appreciative of this dialogue. What I have not appreciated is the way in which Earl seems to be spewing venomous accusations against Thabiti instead of entering into this discussion with grace towards those with whom he may disagree and a desire to be a peace maker, which we are all called to be if we profess to be children of God. I do not know Thabiti personally and I sometimes disagree with his blogs, however it is clear that Thabiti is far from a “liberal” and far from being concerned with political correctness. It doesn’t take long to peruse his blogs to understand this fact. Earl, I exhort you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to refrain from the venomous manner in which you are communicating and encourage you to enter into this discussion with a humble & contrite spirit, seeking to glorify Christ and Him crucified rather than grind an ax on the wrong grindstone. Peace and grace, brother Earl.

  28. RJS says:

    One question that keeps rattling around in my mind is this:
    What sort of fruit has Douglas Wilson’s approach had towards reconciliation between races?

    In one of his recent blogs Wilson says, “Real racial reconciliation is not a game, and so if we want it, we have to stop playing games. We have to be willing to have conversations in which everybody says what they actually think, and where we all stay at the table after we have said it. That’s what love actually looks like.”

    So, my question is, has Wilson’s approach that he has been using for at least 10 years been working to win the game?

    Is Wilson’s church diverse in both audience and leadership?

    Is Wilson’s circle of friends and relationships diverse?

    Is Wilson seeing, by God’s grace, true progress in the area of racial reconciliation?

    It most assuredly is not a game. I agree with Wilson on this fact.

    However, I must say, his “game plan” in this arena seems about as good as the game plans developed by the coach of the Washington Generals.

    I am guessing, the reason for this, is his unwillingness to consider that in this arena he may actually not only be less than an expert, he actually may have no rightful place to even comment given his lack of experience in working this out in real life.

    1. Earl says:

      I see some fruit in just this article: people are realizing that no matter what you say or do, no matter how much you prostrate yourself, no matter how long it has been that someon has let another walk all over them, the religion of PC Liberalism will never forgive them, and it is better/more valuable to be professionaly honest than to be tactfully sensitive. In other words, we are here learning that if someone says “you hurt my feelings” the response should not be “how so?” but “what that is said is factually wrong, and what is your citation/refernce.”

      America is getting sick and tired of feelings, tolerance, and diversity as it is defined solely by the liberal PC overlords. Liberals don’t get a monopoly on defining these subjective values, and some are sick of letting them be the judge jury and executioner in these matters.

      1. Earl says:

        So to make a perfect example by answering your questions:

        “Is Wilson’s church diverse in both audience and leadership?”

        “Is Wilson’s circle of friends and relationships diverse?”

        “Is Wilson seeing, by God’s grace, true progress in the area of racial reconciliation?”

        No, no, and no; probably not, according to *your* standards, which people are really getting sick of trying to discern, and dance around appeasing them. I would venture that your definition of “diveristy” hardly goes beyond color of skin. I would posit that this definition of yours is racialist, race obsessed, and perhaps ever racist in the true definition of the term- meaning an assumption that because Wilson’s friends are perhaps all white, they are inherently inferior to a theoretical group with less whites.

      2. I don’t think that’s a helpful response.
        The problem with Wilson is not that he’s been prostrating himself and still hasn’t been forgiven.
        The problem is that he’s written things (over the span of 17 years), been repeatedly factually corrected, that he should know they are both untrue and offensive (and offensive because they are untrue) and yet still remains recalcitrant.

    2. Robert says:

      1. “Is Wilson’s church diverse in both audience and leadership?”

      I attend Doug Wilson’s church. I posted a census link for the towm we are in. Moscow is a college town in the middle of small farming communities that are have family run farms. We have no migrant labor here. The largest minority population at Christ Church is Asian American. From time to time, Blacks have attended Christ Church as members while they attended school. There have quite a few adoptions of Ethiopian orphans, many of whom have HIV, by members of Christ Church. None of the church leaders are minorities, but one of the Elders is married to an Asian American.

      2. “Is Wilson’s circle of friends and relationships diverse?”
      His brother-in-law is an Armenian from Turkey. I know of one Hispanic frined he has and one Jewish friend.

      3. “Is Wilson seeing, by God’s grace, true progress in the area of racial reconciliation?”

      You’d have to ask him.

    3. Dan Glover says:

      RJS,

      Your questions to Pastor Wilson might betray how much you have bought in to the standards of culture and walked away from the biblical standards.
      - As for church membership, I believe that anyone who confesses the same Triune God and can say amen to his church’s creeds and confessions may be a member of the flock Pastor Wilson shepherds along with other men and I know his circle of fellowship extends well beyond this. I minister in the same denomination and know there is no such underlying spirit of racial insensitivity. A good example would come from a sister church in Vancouver, BC, Canada, where approximately half of the congregation is made up of visible minorities.
      - When it comes to church leadership, last I checked, the Bible doesn’t include diversity as one of the qualifications for Godly church leadership. If someone of a visible minority and who was a member of Pastor Wilson’s church qualified as an elder or deacon, I’m sure they would be welcomed into that role.
      Diversity is not evidence of real Christian love. In fact, as someone who works in the corporate world as well as ministers in the church, I have witnessed many cases where diversity is a bad substitute for love.

  29. Adam Hawkins says:

    Pastor Anyabwile,
    Your grace and patience in these exchanges is an example to all.

  30. Dan Glover says:

    Below are some pertinent passages that I think ought to inform the discussion of racial insensitivity and that also ought to guide how we conduct this discussion, whether we are principle participants or just those commenting are. Also, if “racial insensitivity” seems somewhat nebulous to some folks, perhaps calling it a deficiency of love or a lack of gentleness toward others in matters of race might reframe it in more biblical language. Regardless of what we call it, we have to be speaking of real sin if we are going to be calling anyone to confess it.

    Heb. 12:12-15, esp. 14a – I think that when writing or speaking one must use extra care so as not to trigger the “off switch” of one’s listeners when it comes time later or in another setting for them to hear you on the gospel. We should put no offense in their way other than the offense that the truth of God’s Word always is to all sin and that the gospel of grace alone, through faith alone, in the work of Christ alone, already presents to sinners who would like to go on thinking that not only do they not need salvation but, if they did, they’d like to accomplish it themselves. I think that this is partly what is meant by “strive for peace with everyone” in verse 14a. I think that the goal of Christian discussions on racial issues should be to “make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather healed” (v. 13). I’d say the racial situation shows lameness in the body of Christ, but we want healing, not to make it worse and put it out of joint. Therefore not only what we say but the way we say it ought to be of equal importance. If we offer a cup of cold water to someone, we ought to hand it to them so they can drink it, not splash it in their face.

    Phil. 2:1-4, esp. 3b-4 – While this whole passage (indeed, the whole book of Philippians) has much to inform this discussion, I think the primary portion that informs the discussion on racial insensitivity is where Paul calls us to “in humility, consider others as more significant than yourselves.” In all our speaking and writing, each of us is to “look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” For many people following this discussion, this might be precisely what they think Doug hasn’t done in B&T. However, I don’t always see the same standard applied to the comments of everyone following this discussion that Doug is being held to. In fairness, from Doug’s unbalanced emphasis in B&T, to his style, which can often be abrasive and biting (a style which perhaps is more legitimately appropriate in many other contexts – like where he is calling husbands and fathers to be men of God rather than 30 year old adolescents – than in one so potentially explosive and with so much baggage), to Thabiti’s initial tweet about “hammers” prior to having read B&T, to at least a good third of the comments on either Pastor’s blog and the vast majority of comments left by some individuals in particular, this standard applies to all of us. It amazes me how loudly some of the most biting commentors are crying for Doug’s holistic and unreserved apology, but these are cries which, in the context of their own words directed at Doug in the comments, come across with an air of “do as I say, not as I do.” In order for us to truly obey Paul here, we need to first sympathetically listen and understand in order to know what the other’s interests are that we are called to consider. Was B&T written in a spirit of humility and considering others more significant than self? Was the original tweet? Have all of our comments in this discussion been so? The very words of Paul here demand that each of us ask this about our own words and attitude before we rush to ask it about others.

    1 Timothy 6:11-16 – One of the most important things to note is that Paul is calling Timothy to “fight the good fight of the faith” and he is to do this with, among other equally important fruits, “love” and “gentleness”. I have to say that this exchange between Pastors Anyabwile and Wilson has been an example of love and gentleness, even when they don’t agree, and I think that is largely because each acknowledges that the other is a brother and that together, in their respective callings as shepherds of God’s flock, they fight on the same team in the cause of the gospel. Whether everything each one does or says or writes is always done in this same spirit, specifically B&T, is what this latest interchange is about.

    The above passage also comes in the context of Paul calling Timothy to flee from certain behaviours, which Paul lists and which he says are characteristics of false teachers and those who teach with ungodly gain in mind. Among the behaviours Timothy is to run from is “an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words.” He is to flee this because it produces “envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people”. While these are some of the traits of a false teacher, presumably even someone who preaches and teaches the true gospel may be guilty of slipping into this manner or Paul wouldn’t be warning Timothy to flee it even as he charges him to hold to the truth of the teaching which he received.

    I think that we have to take Doug at his word and believe that he intended no offense to African-American people, simply because they are black, when he wrote B&T. And I think we have to take Thabiti at his word that, despite Doug’s intentions, offense was really taken by some black brothers who would otherwise be willingly labouring alongside Doug in the cause of the gospel. As Philippians 2:2 clearly states, the goal of Christian unity is to have the same mind, the same love, and to be of one accord and of one mind. It is not enough merely to agree to disagree. Both Doug and Thabiti have acknowledged this already in their posts. I pray God brings this kind of unity between all who are participating and not just Thabiti and Doug. For this to happen, we all must apply Philippians 2 to ourselves first, irrespective of how we think others might or might not apply it to themselves.

    1. The question, though, is how could any informed person write what Wilson did and not know that they would be offensive? Further, how could he seriously have examined the facts and actually believed the historical statements he makes?

      1. Robert says:

        Just because you are offended doesn’t mean that you are right. A Native American I know posted that on facebook a few weeks ago. If a pastor only writes unoffensive things then he can not address anything. The question becomes how does the pastor respond to criticism. I haven’t seem Wilson insult anyone. He keeps his cool at all times. I wish that I were so calm.

        1. Hi Robert, I’m not black; in fact, my ancestors fought for the Confederacy and were slave owners. I might be exorbitantly wealthy today if the South had won. My offense is two-fold: I’m offended that Wilson has stated falsehoods (and I know that to be the case because I have some expertise in the field) and, as a Christian, I’m offended that he has expressed support for a cause that would have enslaved some of my brothers and sisters.

          By the way, keeping ones’ cool while being wrong is not a particularly impressive virtue. You want to see virtue: read Pastor Lorrits blog that first addressed Wilson, entitled “The Other”.

          1. Robert says:

            Do you honestly think that Mr. Wilson is deliberately disseminating falsehood?

            1. I don’t know. What I do know:
              1. Wilson is disseminating falsehoods.
              2. Wilson has been repeatedly corrected with facts.
              3. Wilson has continued to disseminate falsehoods.

              Example:
              1. Wilson says: “slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War [the Civil War] or since.” (“Southern Slavery: As It Was”, p. 38). Since those slaves were held forcibly and many of them took the opportunity to flee when given it, we can ascertain that that is false.

              2. Wilson has been corrected by a number of people, including historians.

              3. Instead of apologizing for “Southern Slavery: As It Was”, instead, as I understand, he wrote “Black and Tan” as a defense of it.

  31. RJS says:

    Dan,
    I did not say it was required did I?
    Don’t put words in my mouth.
    Wilson has said he takes seriously the issue of racial reconciliation. (He says its not a game)

    My question is, if he feels expert enough to write books and dialogue on the subject, what sort of experience does he have in the actual real world experience of racial reconciliation?

    1. Dan Glover says:

      RJS,

      You are right, you did not say diversity was required “by Scripture”. My apologies, I should have responded more carefully. Can you please forgive me for “putting words in your mouth”?

      However, you did state that diversity was required by you. You did imply (actually it was your whole point) that if Wilson’s church and life did not evidence diversity (how much and by whose standard?), then you would not believe his claims to take racial reconciliation seriously or that he had ever bourn fruit toward that end. So, while you didn’t say that diversity was required by Scripture for a pastor and church to be obedient and biblical you implied that diversity (hard numbers – what percentage would be acceptable to you?) in his Church, in its leadership, and in his personal relationships is required by you for Pastor Wilson’s claims of taking racial reconciliation to be judged truthful. Then, without Pastor Wilson answering you on these questions of diversity, and without two or three witnesses of the facts on the ground, you went on to “guess” that there was no diversity in his life to be found. You went on to “guess” that this is why his “game plan” on racial reconciliation isn’t working and why he has no right to speak to this. But you made these guesses based on no actual evidence from his life or the ministry of his church because he hadn’t answered your questions about diversity. You asked the questions and pronounced (or at least “guessed” at) the judgement in the same post.

      What would you say if Pastor Wilson did reply that diversity was present in his church and relationships?

      1. Dan Glover says:

        RJS,

        I do agree with you that there ought to be fruit in people’s lives, especially in areas that they claim to take very seriously. I think that there are many forms that true fruit might take. Your post that I commented on above seems to me to ask about fruit and then assume there is none and draw conslusions based on that assumption.

        If I have misunderstood you, then in hopes of unity, I am happy to be corrected, brother.

  32. Valerie says:

    >>or even Trayvon Martin whose offense was walking while Black<<

    Pastor Anyabwile,

    Maybe I'm too sensitive. I'm a sinner, and I do not always read things the right way, or in the spirit in which they are intended, but to me this statement is honestly shocking from a Christian pastor.

    You have no evidence that Zimmerman shot Martin for "walking while Black". We don't know what happened. It is possible that Zimmerman was trying not to die that night. We just don't know.

    For me, it is difficult to understand how this is not a racially insensitive statement. To me, it says, "I know why WHITE PEOPLE carry guns. They do it because they hate black people. White people are really bad people, and I already know that before the evidence is in on a particular white person."

    Would you consider a more thoughtful apology than "Fine. Drop Trayvon. I don't need him anyway"?

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Valerie,

      Thank you for joining the conversation and for opening up in this way. I’m grateful you were willing and felt safe enough to do so.

      I will be glad to offer a more thoughtful apology and will do so in a subsequent post so that it’s not lost in the comments thread.

      You’re not alone in taking offense at that line, so I do not regard you as “too sensitive.”

      I do think that perhaps you took the comments farther than I was intending. In context, I simply wanted to illustrate what I found insensitive in Wilson’s comments by reversing them. He enumerate a number of sins he thought black people as a category should be cleansed of, and he did so without confessing similar sins for white people as a category. That was, in my opinion, the source of the insensitivity. In failing to make that clear, I replicated not only the error but also the harm. I am truly sorry for that. I will endeavor to write more carefully as we go forward. I fully understand if that line costs me the point I was trying to make in that section or costs me your empathy as a reader. I will have earned those losses. And as I said earlier, I will both offer a more complete apology to all my readers and attempt to write more carefully as we go forward.

      The Lord be gracious to you,
      Thabiti

      1. Valerie says:

        Thank you so much for that, pastor. We all share in the sins of our father Adam, and I for sure do! I’m sorry I took offense so fast. I should have asked about the statement first.

        Aah! I’m really glad that Jesus received me knowing just what he was getting! I’m a work in progress.

  33. RJS says:

    Valerie, are you serious? Thabiti took the comment down the moment he was called out. Give me a break

    1. Valerie says:

      Sorry, I just read the article. Maybe I am wrong to be offended by that statement. Could be, but to me it isn’t right.

      He took the comment down? What do you mean?

      1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

        Hi RJS and Valerie,

        Valerie, I’ve left a fuller comment to your original reproof. I hope it begins to repair the offense.

        To be clear, I have not taken the comment down. I’m open to counsel as to whether I should. As a general rule, when I blunder like this I tend to leave the comment up and give an account rather than quietly delete it and go on as if nothing happened. I’m not sure that’s the correct thing to do, but that’s been my thinking and practice. I’m open to counsel from anyone who wishes to give it.

        The Lord bless and keep us all,
        T-

        1. Daniel Kleven says:

          Thabiti,

          I didn’t want to leave this hanging where it was. Your apology is completely accepted, in fact the result is quite humbling for me. Why should you apologize to me? Yet you perceived offense and were active in rectifying it. Thank you for a great example. I think it does strengthen your overall point to do so. Personally I like that you leave it stand in the post, and address it further in the comments.

          Further reflection over a day or two makes me appreciate how you’ve dealt with this whole subject (including my comments!) with grace and truth. It get’s really messy sometimes, but you’ve led the way. Thank you. I’ve been stretched and challenged and the effects will probably continue for some time.

          ~Daniel

  34. RJS says:

    Dan,

    I said, “However, I must say, his “game plan” in this arena seems about as good as the game plans developed by the coach of the Washington Generals.I am guessing, the reason for this, is his unwillingness to consider that in this arena he may actually not only be less than an expert, he actually may have no rightful place to even comment given his lack of experience in working this out in real life.”

    1) I know for a fact that the approach he has taken is not biblical o helpful towards racial reconciliation. Thabiti has already done a far better job than me in outlining this.

    2) That he lives in Moscow, Idaho is reason enough to know he has, at best, very limited experience with living out the ideals of racial reconciliation. If I claimed to be an expert in deep sea divng but had lived my entire life in the middle of North Dakota I would have very little ground to stand on.

    3) I know for a fact his church is not diverse and does not have to interact with these realities.

    So, yes I guessed, but I made an educated guess based on the content of Wilson’s own words, his geographic location and the visiblw rwality of his congregation.

    I also want to emphasize that all of these things dont undermine the valid miniatry h e has. I am simply pointing out Wilson swims in waters he clearly (with his own words by the way) he has no business even aticking his toes in.

    1. Dan Glover says:

      Of course Wilson hasn’t lived his entire life in Moscow, it is a university town 20 minutes away from another university town, he travels widely, and has had African Americans minister in the College he helped found which itself has international students in the student body.

  35. RJS says:

    Valerie and Thabiti,

    Sorry I misspoke. I thought he took it down. He did admit it was not right the moment he was called out. And by the way, I think leaving it there but apologizing is wise. I think an asterik or link in the article to note that you realize the example was not right might be wise as well?

    1. Valerie says:

      Thanks for helping me with this, RJS.

  36. Valerie says:

    I only skimmed the comments far enough to see him say, “I think the point stands even if we drop Martin, which I’m happy to do.”

    I have no idea of George Zimmerman’s heart, but it’s very wrong to assume, “Well, he was a white guy, and we all know what white guys are like.” It’s not just insensitive. It’s wrong to call someone you don’t know a racist murderer unless the evidence for that is pretty clearly in hand.

    1. John K says:

      George Zimmerman is not “white”. Per Wikipedia he is a “multi-racial Hispanic American.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Trayvon_Martin

      1. John K says:

        His father is “white” but his mother is Peruvian, so you can say he’s part white or half white or half Latino/hispanic. This article tackles the issue, but it also says that Zimmerman considers himself Latino. Sorry for the confusion.

        http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/crime/george-zimmerman-white-or-latino

  37. Justin says:

    Pastor,

    Thank you very much for your gracious interaction with Pastor Wilson. It is very encouraging to my wife and I, who were married by Wilson, to see him confronted with respect. It hasn’t happened often enough. Thank you very much.

    As I read your post, I thought of some questions that I’d like to ask. At what point does insensitivity become sin? And, are feelings of being hurt and offended the standard by which we judge whether or not to say or write something?

    Thank you again, and God bless you.

    1. Valerie says:

      I want to understand, but I guess I don’t. I don’t see this kind of thinking in my life, among my friends, or not as far as I can tell.

      Outside the church, there are “white” and “black”, “Jew” and “Gentile”, “Hatfields” and “McCoys”, but the Body of Christ has a shared racial heritage in the second Adam, Jesus. We who are in Christ are far more alike than different, and we feel it.

      However, we are *very* different from those who are in Adam. Even when our external features are similar, we have different affections, different priorities, different values. We treasure different things.

      In Christ, we treasure one another. The Blood of Jesus is “thicker” than the blood of ethnicity or family. (Matt 10:34-39)

      Normally, when two people get into a misunderstanding over words, both will find sin in themselves. As we work through offenses, it is normal that we both end up sorry for our sins.

      With my kids, it is almost always the case that when children are having a tiff, all the children involved are disobeying I Cor 13:4-7, which makes clear references both to offenses taken and offenses given.

      My African-American friends who have children say that they same is true of their kids. When they bicker and fight, there is plenty of sin to go around. The shared human condition is a deceitful, desperately sick heart (which is, in Christ, sanctified by degrees).

      While adulthood changes the frequency of our quarrels, we all still tend to disobey I Cor 13. It is hard for me to imagine that a difference in skin color changes the sin mix when offenses have been given and taken. Communication is always a two way street. We have to put love filters on our mouths and our ears both.

      Is it true that if a white person speaks and a black person is offended, the white person is _ipso facto_ *the* sinner in the equation? To me, it is insensitive to assert that when a black person and a white person sit down to talk, it is likely that the white person will sin more and sin more egregiously than the black person. Doesn’t that necessarily say untrue things about the universality of sin in all people, and the work of the Holy Spirit in believers?

      I love it when we discuss hard things, take positions and defend them. Iron sharpens iron, so we shouldn’t be afraid to engage one another.

      But, I agree with the Westminster Larger Catechism that there are duties all around–
      Q. 144. What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?
      A. The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbour, as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbours; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocency; a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report concerning them; discouraging tale-bearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requireth; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.

      In which, I have already offended in this conversation. This is what we do–persevere in love, persevere in repentance.

      1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

        Dear Valerie,

        Thanks for your comment here. I want to speak to one part, in particular.

        You wrote: Is it true that if a white person speaks and a black person is offended, the white person is _ipso facto_ *the* sinner in the equation? To me, it is insensitive to assert that when a black person and a white person sit down to talk, it is likely that the white person will sin more and sin more egregiously than the black person. Doesn’t that necessarily say untrue things about the universality of sin in all people, and the work of the Holy Spirit in believers?

        No, it is not true that the person accused is “ipso facto the sinner in the equation.” I don’t think that’s said or implied anywhere in our exchange. Perhaps you’ve come into contact with that kind of thinking elsewhere. But that’s not what I believe or what I’ve written here.

        T-

        1. Valerie says:

          Oh, thank you. I am relieved by that. This is a little confusing.

          I’ve been in fellowship with churches that were anywhere from 100% white to 95% black, depending on the demographics of my community. And face-to-face with Christian friends I have never felt like conversation is risky.

          But I just wrote some things about Little Black Sambo on this forum, because I like the book, my kids like the book, and I have friends who like it. And I am trying to understand where the evil lies in enjoying it, or saying so.

          I did know about the controversy, but I hadn’t really taken it seriously in terms of it actually, possibly being an ethical breach to like it, or to say so. My own kids were first introduced to the book years ago by a missionary friend who is in a biracial marriage, so…. Puzzling.

          Posting my comment, I hoped that it would be helpful, but at the same time I feared that I could be taken as shockingly insensitive. Eek! I don’t want to be that kind of person!

          I have been in situations with unbelievers where my whiteness was offensive, where I was told that being white equals being racist, but among Christians, never.

  38. Wesley Roy says:

    Pastor T. your patience and grace throughout this exchange has been admirable.

    I think that many of those interacting on this thread fail to see that insensitivity shuts people off to the Gospel because in the African-American community this insensitivity is seen as disrespectful and there are few things that are viewed as seriously as disrespecting a person. People do not understand the extreme reaction to being disrespected until they have spoken to someone who has seen their parents and grandparents called boys and girls by people who were not half their age who they had to call sir or ma’am.

    This small illustration and the reaction to this post reveals the reason that racial reconciliation in America remains so illusive. African-Americans are speaking but many European-Americans are only willing to listen and take seriously what they already agree with. If it is something that challenges what they are doing or what they think many respond with insensitivity or disrespect by declaring to the African-American “there is no boogeyman under the bed you can go back to sleep”. Until that changes very little will change.

  39. I believe that Wilson is not at all racist. And I believe that’s part of the problem. If he had been racists, like a young John Piper, and after becoming a devout Christian, which I also believe Wilson is, he would have awakened to the bitter taste of racism, gone through a process of repentance and grief (perhaps even outrage) at it, leaving him with sensitivity to the issue.

    I believe he lacks that sensitivity because he is almost entirely untouched by the issue and so he writes of it like it is a theory, far removed from the realities of life. This is, I believe, what Pastor Lorrits was getting at in his touching, original critique.

  40. Gloria says:

    @Pastor Anyabwile, Thank you for taking the time to do these post with grace. I realize I don’t possess the grace needed for converstaions like this.

    I thought the comment made by Wilson, “celebrating, and giving awards to, those rap thugs who want to teach America’s next generation to think of black women as bitches and ho’s” totally disrespectful. There are many on this post that have not even commented of this but are up in arms over the Trayvon Martin comment. It seems to me that many of them don’t get it, black failure seems to be magnified even in the church. The bible tells us the whole world lies in wickedness and under the sway of the wicked one, yet we in the church under grace are held responsible for them also.

    I am originally from the Bahamas living in Savannah with my husband who is originally from Maine. My first brush with racism was travelling to Daytona beach to do missionary work and fellowship (I was 17 years old at the time). Our group was about sixty most of uor age range between 14 and 18 years old. There were four white Bahamians in our Choir who were pulled aside and asked why they were singing and fellowshipping with us.

    Those people at that church introduced race into a group that have grownup in the same church and went to the same schools. Racism was foreign to us and shocked us to the very core. Now living in Savannah has not helped much and I fear I am becoming mistrustful. This is post has helped me to be more patient, but after reading Wilson the tone of the response has made me realize we are a body of believers that are disconnected. The wrist is broken yet the hands still wants to go on picking up items dispite the pain. The foot still wants to walk even though the heel and big toe is blistered.

  41. John-Mark says:

    Thabiti,

    I just wanted to say thank you for the patience, wisdom, and grace with which you have handled this conversation. As a white pastor of a multi-racial church, I want to affirm that white Christians everywhere need to carefully consider what you are saying so we can learn to make our speech more judicious. Love requires us to carefully consider what words “fit the occasion” so that they can “give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29). When white people (like me!) wittingly or unwittingly use words in a way that seems to minimize the suffering of racial groups that have been historically oppressed by whites, it seems clear enough that we are not walking in wisdom and love. Over the years, there have been several occasions on which members of my congregation have approached me about something I said that they found insensitive. I’ve learned that on these occasions, my responsibility before Christ is to listen humbly, say “thank you for having the courage to share this with me,” ask forgiveness for my insensitivity, and try to be more careful in the future. It is a beautiful thing to be forgiven and taught by the congregation in which God has made me a shepherd.

    Keep pressing on, brother! I’m excited to keep learning from you.

    Yours in Christ,
    John-Mark

  42. RJS says:

    Honestly all this talk of “what is insensitivity” and “is sensitivity sin” reminds me of the Pharisees in Luke 11:37-54.

    Thabiti has laid out very clear and articulate points of grievous sin by Douglas Wilson. And the entire conversation has focused not on these articulate realities but on the definition of insensitivity and if it is sin.

    One word: ridiculous!

    Wilson has no more place to enter into this discussion on race and slavery than I would on lecturing about the ins and outs of open heart surgery.

    He needs to pull his book, apologize and start listening. All the duelde does is ramble on and on and on and on in attempts to justify himself.

    His work is divisive and fruitless.

    I will ask again since no one has answered:

    What fruit and progress has Wilson ever experiencex in racial reconciliation to justify that he should open his mouth on this topic? He lives in Moscow, ID and his words have proven to show him clueless.

    Take the book out of print. Apologize. Spend a looooong time listening and building relationships with folks of different races and perspectives.

    But please quit rambling on with such nonsense Wilson it is not helpful.

    1. I agree with you and with Pastor Thabiti remarks: “It’s odd to me that thus far there’s not been much commentary on the examples I cite.”

      It’s interesting that there is more interest in the theory of “insensitivity” than the actual examples of it laid out here.

  43. RJS says:

    By the way, lest I be accused again of the same thing, I AM NOT SAYING THAT WILSON MUST HAVE A DIVERSE CHURCH OR BE FEIENDS WITH THOSE WHO HAVE A DIFFERENT SKIN COLOR IN ORDER TO BE A GOOD PASTOR.

    I am saying that he should naturally have the context and relationships in place that cause him to have to wrestle with and live out racial reconcilliation. From all the facts and research I have seen he does not have these experiences or relationships. How can someone be a fruitful writer on a topic they have so little practical application with? Answer: they cannot.

  44. Valerie says:

    Regarding the children’s book, Little Black Sambo, I’m a bookseller specializing in used and rare children’s books.

    Can I share a little background about this story? Helen Bannerman, the author, was a Christian who grew up on the mission field in Portugal. After she married, her husband worked as a doctor in India, so she lived a couple of decades in southern India.

    Due to the privations where they were stationed, Bannerman’s children sometimes lived with a nanny in a drier climate. LBS was written by Bannerman as a gift for her children, a love letter from their mama. The book was later published in the US, where it was widely received and enjoyed for decades, with no controversy.

    A search of the title at Amazon shows the history of illustration for this book. While there are a couple of awful exceptions, most of the illustrations over the last 100+ years have been very beautiful and respectful to little children. Some editions of this book are among the most beautifully illustrated 20th century children’s books and are very collectible as a result.

    Bannerman is said to have loved children and to have enjoyed her time in India. She was horrified when, later in her life, concurrent with some illegal, pirated editions and some pejorative illustrations, some African-Americans demanded that her book be banned from schools.

    Of this, her son said, “My mother would not have published the book had she dreamt for a moment that even one small boy would have been made unhappy thereby.”

    This said, in my profession, I have heard from dozens of people who will say that this was their favorite childhood book, and a few of those who loved it as a child and who have wanted to share it with their children and grandchildren have said that they are African-American, and have claimed to be as puzzled by the hatred for Sambo as I am.

    So what is the godly and inoffensive way for Christians to respond? My own kids already like this book. It is a favorite; they adore Sambo, as a character. And I know AA children who already like this book. Sambo is brave, smart, and creative. For a lot of little kids, Sambo is the boy they want to be, if tigers come.

    On the heels of the controversy, and the demands for banning, LBS was rewritten as Little White Squibba in 1965. In an attempt to rescue what had formerly been a economically valuable and beloved children’s book, the courageous little Indian boy had been exchanged for an equally courageous white girl. Does love demand that we only read and speak of this version?

    Following the banning of Sambo, African-American children were less often shown in children’s books for a few decades. Perhaps this was deliberately racist, perhaps it was coincidental, but it is also possible that no one wanted to risk publishing another book that could be banned.

    Is any of this insensitively stated? Or, hopefully, it isn’t wrong to tell this story. (?)

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Valerie,

      That’s wonderful. You, your children, and lots of people around the world should continue reading and enjoying Little Black Sambo. The point isn’t censorship, and I don’t think there’s a moral issue at stake in your enjoying the book. None at all. Tell the story. The true story will help to undo a lot of the hurt and misunderstanding.

      However, if you want to be sensitive to many other African Americans, you’d do well to remember that “Sambo” and the kinds of caricatures that developed from that story are also a part of a very painful racist past. Having had the discussion we’re now having, you just don’t want to trod on unaware of this aspect of things and insensitive to how some would be hurt were you to make references that conjure that racist past. So, don’t call any African American you know “a little black Sambo.” You probably don’t want to watch or recommend “black face” entertainment from decades past. “Aunt Jemimah” jokes or comparisons for Black women won’t earn you any friends either. Do you see what I’m saying? At a certain level it’s not about the book at all. It’s about what’s been done with the imagery and the racist stereotypes and themes that have been associated with the book. You may say one thing and find the person next to you hears centuries worth of something else. If you can avoid that without paralyzing yourself, that’s all I’d hope for.

      Grace to you,
      T-

      1. Valerie says:

        Oh, thank you for that. It’s very helpful. And thank you so much, Pastor, for entertaining my thoughts and questions.

        Yes, those things that you mention, we know that they are unfriendly, unkind name-calling, and (it’s hard to see otherwise) intended to cause pain.

        >>You may say one thing and find the person next to you hears centuries worth of something else. If you can avoid that without paralyzing yourself, that’s all I’d hope for.<<

        Beautifully stated. That's so sad, but thank you for saying it that way.

        Early in the 20th century, LBS appeared on educators' literature lists, which were compiled by the Black community, as a recommended positive role model for Black children. The book gradually moved from recommended, to recommended with caution, to eventually being dropped from such lists. (But privately, there are still a lot of people who love it.)

        There were those outrageous illustrations in a few versions (most were lovely), but teachers also said that some little children were being called "Sambo" by their classmates. Honestly? I could be wrong, but I wonder if that would have happened if American culture had owned more than *one* children's book with a strong dark-skinned (Black or Indian) character! (But who knows?)

        I have a friend who is blind. She enjoys a joke that makes reference to the progression of acceptable speech: First she was blind, then she was visually impaired. Not long after this, she developed low vision. Now she is blind again, but she still can't see.

        "Disabled person" and "person with a disability" are equal in the dictionary, but the former is considered rude. "Handicapped" is certainly unacceptable and has been for some time. However, it became unacceptable when those syllables were expressed in an unloving tone, from an unfriendly heart, far too many times.

        Regardless of who we are talking to, we must replace words and wording that have been used too often to hurt. I want to bless my friends–I want to KEEP my friends, haha–so I want to choose words that are just right, but I also think that in the face-to-face world genuine affection makes a good context for the best words that we know to use.

      2. pduggie says:

        Isn’t her explanation of the actual storybook Sambo and what Wilson was trying to say to the aggrieved person pretty much the same.

        Explaining that, in its origin, the Sambo story isn’t intended to 1) represent Africans at all 2) demean Africans and 3) presents a pretty clever protagonist.

        Wilson never claimed “hey calling someone Sambo is fine”. he was trying to provide context on the book, just as Valerie has, in terms of explaining why perhaps offense-taking at the mere existence or enjoyment of the book is unwarranted.

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          HI pduggie,

          Thanks for commenting and joining the conversation. No, I don’t think the comments are the same. I don’t doubt that they both could give this history on the book. And, I don’t doubt that there’s a place for that kind of analysis.

          Nor did I ever claim Wilson said calling someone that name was fine. That’s not at issue.

          My use of that anecdote as minor evidence of insensitivity has nothing to do with the history of the book. My point was simply this: You had a young Black student expressing some grievance he thought was racially insensitive. In response, young Wilson makes a dismissive remark because he thought the entire thing to be staged. What’s the problem with that? Two things: First, at the time the incident happened, it seems to me Wilson did not sense the powerful ways in which ‘Sambo’ is a racist slur, a trope of incredible caricature and devastation. I don’t doubt that there might have been some staging to this event, but I wonder whether we should therefore discount the student’s comments altogether. Should we be more aware of the real hurts that attend such things? Second, and more importantly, Wilson uses the incident much later in life, as an adult and pastor who should now know something more about these things, in a way that was unnecessary to his argument in Black and Tan and still omits any sensibility for how this trope works in the minds of some of his African American readers. The entirely dismissive nature of the comments and the apparent ignorance of this term’s use is what creates the insensitivity. The young kid on the panel might be excused for a youthful remark. The adult inserting the remark in a highly charged atmosphere should have shown better discretion. In that sense, he even showed a fair amount of insensitivity to his own cause and person.

          As I said, this is a minor illustration. I don’t have any problems with folks reading LBS and so in. In the list of illustrations, I was attempting to give folks a sense of the problematic tone and balance created by these kinds of remarks. As I’ve said elsewhere, Wilson’s fine points in the book get overshadowed by these kinds of things, unnecessary in my opinion.

          Grace and peace,
          T-

  45. RJS says:

    Thabiti,

    What is your counsel, at present given no apology from Wilson (according to his last blog post), on having someone like that speak publicly for an organization or church?

    I see his blog is still linked prominently at the Gospel Coalition website.

    I see there are plans to have him speak at very large gatherings/conferences.

    In my city, if he would come to speak at a conference for instance, it would draw media coverage and criticism from those who see what he has written in B&T as racially insensitive. I can see a news story now about a Christian ministry having a pastor from Moscow, ID who argues for slavery being benign and the slave holding South being the most Christian nation in the world. Oh that will be such wonderful testimony for the glory of Christ! I feel sick already.

    If he does continue to hold fast and not repent and appropriately change the words he uses in B&T it will have detrimental effects on gospel ministry in cities with a diverse population where he would go and speak.

  46. Jon Marq says:

    I can see how some people might feel that Wilson’s views on slavery in the South come across as insensitive, but I don’t see how they can be characterized as “racially” insensitive. That knife cuts both ways. Wilson might hold a mistaken opinion of the gravity of the slavery system in the South, and he might even come across as insensitive to the plight of slaves, but he clearly opposes racism and slavery. And he does so on the basis of the gospel of God’s grace. So in principle, his views of slavery and race are shaped by the gospel. To assume that Wilson’s opinions on slavery in the US/South have something to do with the skin color of slaves is off base. Those who assume that must also assume that criticisms leveled against slaves owners must have something to with the skin color of slave owners. The charge of insensitivity might be reasonable, but the charge of “racial insensitivity” is not. It seems like an underhanded way to say “He shows partiality and stands condemned for not walking straight with the truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2). Now it is worth asking Wilson if he would make the same kinds of arguments against slavery, et al that he made in B&T even if the slaves had been White, and the owners had been Black. If so, the charges of “racial” insensitive would be baseless, but the charges of insensitivity might stand. If not, we would do well to oppose him, for he would be out of line with the gospel (Gal 2) and, as he is a brother in Christ, he would need to be restored in a spirit of meekness (Gal 6).

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Jon,

      Thank you for your comments. Let me make a quick but important distinction. I am not saying Wilson is “racially insensitive” due to his views on slavery in the South. He’s not the first to hold those views, dating back to the antebellum South itself. While I disagree with his views and don’t believe he substantiated them in Black and Tan (an assessment Wilson himself grants because that wasn’t his purpose in writing), the charge of “racial insensitivity” has to do with comments he makes either about or without regard to race, racial dynamics, or racial history. Those comments are the ones in dispute.

      I hope that helps.
      T-

  47. Robert says:

    Pastor T. Since you are neither an American nor a Mexican, would you consider writing on your blog something about our illegal immigration situation? I certaily believe that their is sins on both sides. Some teaching on the issues, I am sure you are aware of them, from a pastor who has a little distance, might be of some help.

  48. thank you for your great work, continue pray for you and your great vision… Pastor Anburaj in India

    “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).

    anburaj2005@gmail.com

  49. TonyW says:

    Folks,
    Very interesting topic. We have to remember Christians is about righteousness not race. In 1 John 4:20 this is what it said.

    “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

    My prayers is we understand what true righteousness is all about…God bless!!

  50. MatthewS says:

    Thabiti,

    I just stumbled across this, some 4 or 5 months on. I’m a white guy who grew up in an area not so demographically different from Wilson’s hometown. I truly had no concept of what life was like in other areas, for other people.

    If I were in your shoes, I don’t how I’d possibly be so gracious and calm. Of course, I’m not in your shoes, which is exactly part of this whole discussion. I appreciate your courage and grace. Your style here is an inspiration. I hope you have guys letting you know they have your back.

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Thabiti Anyabwile


Thabiti Anyabwile is assistant pastor for church planting at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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