I don’t think that many people understand that the current concentration of anti-racism can have detrimental effects to the ideals of equality.

Let me briefly explain. For many people today, especially those who believe in the imago dei (Lat. “image of God”) within every human, the ideal of equality is axiomatic to their philosophy. In other words, there is simply no other choice than to see all people as equal. Even when our selfish sinful drive seeks to place our needs above others, the truth that our theology demands always militates against our sinful, selfish actions.

This is different than it has been in various places and times of human history. We are certainly not perfect, but with regard to our rearing in this area, it is unspeakable for many of us to believe that one country, race, sex, or so-called privilege makes us any better than another. It would destroy the foundation of our anthropological world-view.

However, often times the prominence of such a message which, for one reason or another, elevates the voice of any rejection of the antithesis of this philosophy, can actually make people subconsciously more open to alternatives to equality.

Although he is not referencing our current issue, Barry Schwartz argues in his book the Paradox of Choice, when given more seemingly legitimate choices in any matter, we are prone to be less secure in the choice we have made or will make. Often times, the introduction of too many choices excites an indecisiveness which leads to agnosticism in the matter.

When my children hear the megaphone of anti-racism in multiple benign or vacant settings, they begin to think “wait, I did not know that there were other (seemingly legitimate) options or choices.” “Of course black lives matter. Who is saying something different and why?” These represent actual statements from my kids.

The protests for what is evident to so many often times makes such realities, ironically, less-evident. It is the Hamlet “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” In such cases the loud and excesses volume of one whose protestations should be self-evident, creates a category of options that dilutes the self-evident nature of the issue and then is destructive to the cause. When we are continually telling people we did not lie about this or that, we find ourselves in a prime position where people think we must be lying. The protests introduces new options that (legitimate or not) were not there before and people doubt truths that they would never have doubted before.

I am definitely not saying that protestation is never necessary. I think that it is, but it must be calculated, shrewd, measured, and to the right audience at the right time. It must feel as if the punishment accurately represents the crime. And am not saying that the beliefs of my family are necessarily representative of what is held and acted upon in other areas of our country (or world). I know it is not. What I am saying is that protestation is too important a tool to take lightly. One just has to count the cost of the protestation and consider that it might sometimes be doing more harm than good. Maybe the excessive protests, which hardly represent civilized justice, is a perfect illustration of cutting off the nose to spite the face? Maybe, in the words of Will Smith, “Racism is not getting worse, it is getting filmed” and, thereby, the protestation seems so excessive to many who have healed to a great degree. It opens a wound that is almost healed just because we can. But the ensuing infection is not only going in the wrong direction, but is destructive to so many years of progress.

What do you think?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    7 replies to "Are We Protesting Racism Too Much?"

    • Josh

      Let’s praise the peaceful protesters and condemn the violent ones. The violent ones are usually out of town revolutionaries that get something out of causing chaos I’ve observed. Let’s focus on justice for Mr. Floyd and getting rid of officers that have 18 complaints and two reprimands before they murder someone that they are supposed to serve and protect.

    • Matt Stangl

      Thanks for writing this Michael. I think many African Americans would agree that “Racism is not getting worse, it is getting filmed”. However, they would deny that racism is getting better and that progress has been made. Black people have been targeted by the police for many years. For many, the violent deaths of George Floyd reveal the rot of racism in American society and the lack of progress made on this front. The progress isn’t retarded by these protests, the lack of progress is revealed.

      Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning that racism has never disappeared, it has evolved instead. Anti racism then seems to make visible progress, but the underlying racism is not addressed. Slavery is abolished, only for racism to manifest in a different way in sharecropping and Jim Crow in the South. The civil rights movements worked for equal voting access and an end to segregation, but racism changed and manifested itself through redlining, and a disproportionate amount of arrests to people of color. Progress for many who are white can be seen by looking at how far we have come, e.g., abolished slavery, ended segregation. While for many people of color, progress is seen by how far we still have to go, e.g., similar pay, similar incarceration rates for similar crimes, and unbiased hiring practices.

      Additionally, many would not see this as a problem of individual sin. Whether you or your daughters believe black lives matters is not the underlying problem. The underlying problem is a systemic one, where America’s political, legal, education, and justice systems are all corrupted by racism. As Eugene Rivers says (https://www.plough.com/en/topics/justice/social-justice/powers-and-principalities), racism is best understood as a principality, and the damage wrought by this principality is not only in individual hearts and minds, but into the very fabric of American society.

      Many black Christians are in anguish and want release from their fear and they desire freedom. They keep crying out and when they look around, they see white Christians ignoring them or sitting silent. Or many white Christians are telling them their sorrow is unjustified, and that these are merely isolated incidents, representing the abhorent actions of individuals. A failure to mourn with those who mourn has marked the response of many in the white church for too long. Many are tired or the failures of the church, and they are tired of waiting. They want change now. With the psalmist, they cry “How long, O Lord?” Protest then is a reaction to the continued oppression and silence many see. To sit still and do nothing was the great sin of the white moderates during the Civil Rights movement. The status quo is wrong, and leads to innocent people dying. Something needs to be done, and protest is a way to express that truth.

      Before considering the question of whether protests are a good idea, I think we first need to see how they are understandable. They may be a bad idea, but we need to first be able to say “I understand” to the problem before I can say “I disagree”. I’m not sure how well the protests will succeed, especially given the lack of coherence and leadership, along with the inclination to violence and looting (admittedly among a tiny minority of protestors). But I agree we need to do something, and now seems as good a time as any. Sometimes the cry “How long O Lord?” leads to God acting through us and saying “no longer”.

    • Kenny Willians

      I just don’t understand how systemic racism by the police can honestly be claimed when the facts show otherwise. Just read articles by expert Heather MacDonald. She provides very telling stats. The police make about 11 million arrests each year. It’s expected some incidents will go wrong and, when so, should be prosecuted accordingly. I support the police—they are God’s servants against evildoers.

      • gregory anderson

        Wow. I would have to remind you that Roman soldiers, Centurians, Generals and Caesars were also God’s servants against evildoers. Saying that does Not Represent any fact relevant to the issues of Racism; especially since it was widely supported by the Founding Fathers and the majority of Christian churches throughout our history.

        Perhaps I’m confused about God’s gifting us with rational thinking and Christians actually using it as aliens and strangers in the nations where we live.

        I for one am ending my subscription to these blogs. I pray for humility for me and a servant heart submitting to my great God and Savior, Master and King Jesus.

        Y’all can do whatever you wish to do, and will do so with or without my blessing. I pray for all the ignorance in the Name of Jesus as a cover.

        • Christopher Pattin

          Thanks Gregory!

    • Charlie McClelland

      Nuanced Response.
      At first I agreed with the Black Lives Matter movement until I read [What We Believe] on their website. Among the positive message of protesting the unjustified shooting of unarmed black men, I read–

      We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.

      We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise). https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/

      I wish for a more nuanced approach to seeking justice for black people. Jeremiah 22:3 says “Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.” (Jeremiah 22:3, ESV)

      This seems to encompass the positive aspects of the BlackLivesMatter movement without calling for the destruction of the human family.

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