A Reader Writes: Trump's Election Is "White America's Dorian Gray Moment"
24 March 2017 | 1:41 pm

The following response by Dulcis Memoria to yesterday's discussion of the Princeton seminary controversy is so powerful that I want to lift it from the comboxes here and share it with all of you as a posting. Dulcis writes, 


This is analagous to the people on the left saying we need to "reach out" to rural Trump supporters in order to understand their point of view and perhaps bring them back into the fold. 
What nobody is mentioning is that only white liberals and pundits (beside Van Jones) are charging us with this responsibility. Besides the obvious reasons of personal relationships and familial ties, I have a theory for why this is. 
I have been calling this election period "White America's Dorian Gray Moment." What I've realized is that, even good, liberal, non-racist white people still believe in the illusion that "we're the good guys!" The election was so traumatic for many whites because the illusory curtain fell, and they were actually able to see their fellow whites the way people of color and other vulnerable populations have seen them all along. Frankly, they were shocked at the breadth, scope and proximity of the rot in their midst. 
Dorian Gray remains beautiful for public consumption while his true image rots in private. The portrait, locked away from prying eyes, pays the price for his eternal youth. The few times he actually regards it, he must take in the horrors that have ravaged his true self: age, license, cruelty and dissipation. 
I feel that something akin to Dorian seeing the portrait is happening to American whites. It's interesting to note that the majority of the false equivalency mavens are the ones least affected by the injustice. Thus, it is easy to keep one's powder dry and only address the issue in the abstract. These are the same people who call their rabidly conservative relatives "good people." 
To my white brothers and sisters, I say to you: It's time to decide. Is America a White-Nationalist country? Do you stand with people of color, especially African-Americans whose disproportionate contribution to this country has made this country great? Do you stand with the USA as it presents itself with all of its diversity? Do you stand with LGBTQ people? Do you recognize that this is and has always been a country of immigrants, which necessitates the need to stand with immigrants. Do you stand against anti-semitism and the pernicious spread of neo-fascism? We already know the answer if we're speaking about white Evangelicals and most white Catholics. 
As I've said to Bill before, if you're only nice to people who look, think and believe as you do you're not really a good person.

The Princeton Seminary Controversy: Concluding Thoughts About White Male Privilege and Intersectionality
24 March 2017 | 1:34 pm



The discussion about the furor regarding Princeton Seminary's decision to withhold its Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness from Presbyterian pastor Tim Keller continued at various internet sites yesterday. I blogged about the controversy yesterday morning, and about Jonathan Merritt's response at RNS to Princeton's decision.


A sample of some of the online back and forth: Rachel Held Evans and Jonathan Merritt debated the Princeton decision on Twitter yesterday. A thread with that discussion is here. As you'll see if you click on it, the argument hinges around whether Keller is being unfairly marginalized by liberals who employ a double standard when it comes to issues of free speech (Merritt's position), or whether it's preposterous to claim that a privileged white man who is having an award withheld from him can claim to be marginalized (Held's position) — with apologies to both for summarizing in my own words and possibly putting words into the mouths of either.

As I read Sunnivie Brydum and Evan Derkacz's takedown of Andrew Sullivan's critique of intersectionality today at Religion Dispatches, it struck me that what's really being debated in these discussions about whether privileged white men are somehow due awards, and are due a deference never given to less privileged members of society, is the issue of intersectionality itself. Intersectionality is ipso facto a serious challenge for privileged white men, including privileged white gay men for whom "privilege" + "male" + "white skin" outweigh sexual orientation in many discussions.

Such that some privileged white gay men — Peter Thiel and Milo Yiannopoulos come to mind — can be gung-ho Donald Trump supporters. . . . Can anyone say, "Roy Cohn"?

African-American pastor Michael Eric Dyson sees the possibility — indeed, the imperative need for — a coalition ranging from "agreeable agnostics to fire-and-brimstone Protestants, from devout Catholics to observant Jews, from devoted Muslims to those who claim no god at all" to come together and build a more humane America around a shared vision of moral repair and redemption. The protest that Reverend William J. Barber III led at Paul Ryan's office on Wednesday afternoon brought together Christian ministers of many religious stripes with rabbis, imams, and leaders of other religious groups.

It brought together men and women, black and white folks, people from different sectors of American society and different geographic locations. I feel quite sure it brought together straight and LGBTQ people, as well.

As Taylor Branch's magisterial biography of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. shows us, it was when King became more intentionally intersectional in his civil rights crusade — when he moved from focusing more or less exclusively on racial issues to focusing on issues of economic exploitation that bound poor white and poor black people together — that he became a more serious threat to the powers that be in the U.S., and was assassinated. When he moved from talking more or less exclusively about matters of race to denouncing the Vietnam War and leading a poor people's march on D.C., he became a serious threat to the people running the country.

To the white men running the U.S., that is to say . . . .

It seems to me not a great deal has changed, despite Barack Obama's double election to the White House. If anything, that historic event has caused the people running the American show to double down on their discriminatory intent and their efforts to inflame resentment among various marginalized groups with propaganda and lies setting group against group. I don't find it strange that, in such a situation, many privileged white gay men would choose to stand with other privileged white men who feel embattled, and who feel intersectional movements crossing lines of gender, race, and sexual orientation are a serious threat to the unmerited power and privilege they enjoy because they are white, male, and living in the right places with the right social and educational connections.

I do, however, find the lack of critical insight and the lack of solidarity extremely disappointing. It's perfectly obvious to me that, from King to Dyson to Barber, the key to challenging oppression and discrimination in our society lies in solidarity. It lies in intersectionality. 

I find the inability of many white men, including gay ones, to examine our unmerited power and privilege as males who have the "right" complexion disappointing in the extreme. And I find the argument that, though it's clearly theologically illicit to use religious warrants to bolster racial discrimination, it's licit to use religious warrants to bolster misogyny and homophobia, silly. As a friend emailed to say to me today, in response to the Princeton brouhaha and the anger that people like Jonathan Merritt feel that Keller is not being given an award, "Why doesn't Princeton invite a KKK member to speak about his views of African-Americans, Jews and the LGBT community?"

I'd like to see those angered that Princeton has walked back its award for Keller defend that.

As Day Goes On, William J. Barber's Prophetic Moral Testimony about Trump-Ryan Take Health Care Away Death Bill
23 March 2017 | 6:45 pm



Reverend William J. Barber III speaking yesterday at a protest of the Trumpcare legislation — by way of Charles Pierce


We must begin to say, no more. When all of this is done, thousands of people of all colors will die. These are not souls whom we as clergy can stand over and say, "The Lord called them home." These will be people who have died because of government policy, and policy violence. They are poor and elderly, sisters and brothers. Mr. Trump's and Mr. Ryan's Take Health Care Away Death Bill is immoral and it is sin. And we need to start using that language, as this debate about healthcare and the value of the lives of everyone is raging in our society.

And then he said to one of Mr. Ryan's aides,

We're ministers, and preachers, and rabbis, and we wrote him to meet with him. This is not a game for us. This is not an exercise in futility. People will die. We want to look him in the eye. We want to hold him accountable to the Scriptures. He claims to be a Christian. We know that the number one thing for Christians is healing, to care for others. This legislation is sin. It's immoral. My daughter could die. To think that, if she misses a payment, she could have to pay a penalty to a greedy and sick business society in order to keep her insurance, and she's been sick since she was a year-and-a-half, I need to see … him.

From very early in Christian history, iconography has summed up the significance of Jesus' life and ministry by depictions of him healing: this example from the 4th century is from the catacombs of Ss. Marcellinus and Peter in Rome.


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