I’ll just leave this here . . . it’s a bit long, lots of documentary notes, some funny comments. But this is important thinking:
So I have been reading a new book by John Piper: Providence (Crossway, 2021). It may be Piper’s masterpiece. It’s a monster at over 700 pp. and is available right now at only $20 from Westminster Books (in a special introductory offer from Crossway through the end of March) — Get. The. Book!
You can find it here at this 50% off price: https://www.wtsbooks.com/
Piper looks at providence from before creation, at creation, in Ancient Israel (multiple historical parts), in the new covenant era, and then from many theological perspectives. It has been a joy to read . . . and to be reminded of the goodness and mercy of God in all aspects of life. It has been a balm to my soul . . . and I am only 110 pp into it!
I could say more, but just buy the book. It is big, yes, but each chapter is accessible, bite-sized, and rich.
Over Spring break, I also began (again!) The Lord of the Rings, and am about to complete Book I (they are making for the Ford of Bruinen) — such a joy to read, remember, and smile. Then there has been some reading in Wilfred McClay’s majestic history of America: Land Of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story. Another book that I highly recommended.
Finally, I stay up until 2:30 am one night finishing my first read through Honor Among Thieves, the first part of the “HeartStone Trilogy” written by the inimitable Jameson E. Beates. Haven’t heard of it? Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s not “out there” yet — but I was privileged to be an early reader. Wow! It was so good I’ll say that backward . . . W.O.W.! I can just say this: when it comes out to the public, you will want to read it. Set in the fantasy genre, the story is in the tradition of Tolkien and Lewis with overt shades of the triadic virtues of classicism woven through out. I found myself engrossed by this writing in ways I have not been in a long time. My first words to Jameson the next day were, “Okay buddy, you better get the next volume written! You can’t leave me hanging like this!” You won’t want to miss Honor Among Thieves when it comes out to the public!
As Solomon said, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Eccl. 12:12b). With that in mind, it’s encouraging to read some enjoyable stuff. Someone else said, “So many books, . . . so little time.” So use your time wisely!
Blessings to you all,
Finding lots of intriguing stuff these days. These two (one from Colson Center, one from WSJ columnist) are both worth reading today. Blessings to you all,
Colson Center: Rescuing the Victims of the Sexual Revolution: Katy Faust’s Them Before Us
John Stonestreet, 03/8/21
Imagine a young man with every advantage. He’s well-educated, goes to church, lives in a nice neighborhood, able to secure strong employment . . . but he grew up without ever having known his father. Even as he moves into adulthood, his desire to know his father, his sense of loss for what he missed, is somewhere between insistent and consuming.
There used to be a time when fatherlessness was considered a tragedy. Now, raising a child without a father or, in some cases, without a mother is a perfectly acceptable intentional choice. The only thing that matters are the adults making the decision who have desires to meet. The adults are put first; the children, all too often, come in a distant second.
This sweeping social change didn’t happen overnight, or by accident. It’s the logical outcome of the three fundamental lies of the sexual revolution. These lies are now so widely embedded in modern society that we don’t give them a second thought. But it wasn’t always this way.
The first lie of the sexual revolution (and I owe my friend Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse for the wording here) is that sex, marriage, and babies are separable. That these created realities were part of a biological, social and religious package deal, went unquestioned until quite recently. Technological innovations, such as the pill, IVF, and surrogacy, legal innovations such as no-fault divorce, and cultural innovations such as ubiquitous pornography and “hook-up” apps, have all made it increasingly easy to imagine that sex is not inherently connected to childbearing, and that childbearing is not necessarily best placed in the context of marriage.
The second lie of the sexual revolution (thanks again to Dr. Morse for this wording) is that men and women are interchangeable. What we mean by this has evolved to a much more fundamental level. Interchangeability in rights was a good thing. Interchangeability in roles was, at times, good and, at other times, blurred biological distinctions. Today, of course, we talk as if men and women are interchangeable in reality, as if men can bear children and “not all women menstruate,” and as if love can make a second mom into a dad. None of this is true.
The third lie of the sexual revolution is that human dignity derives from autonomy, that our ability to sexually self-determine, not only in our behavior but our identity, is the essence of human dignity. In that equation, those unable to sexually self-determine, or who stand in the way of someone’s “true self” (typically defined by happiness) are excluded from the category of dignity.
These three lies of the sexual revolution were largely justified by a myth, one repeated over and over in different ways, to assuage our collective consciences as we fundamentally violate the created and social order. That myth was “the kids will be fine.”
But, of course, they aren’t fine. Not even close. In her new book, Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children’s Rights Movement, Katy Faust documents all the ways the kids aren’t fine, and all the ways their well-being is sacrificed on the altar of adult happiness. This is essential reading, not only so we can take our place in Christian history among those who stood for and defending children from hyper-sexualization, abandonment, abuse, and social experimentation, but also because too many Christians embrace cultural norms about reproductive technologies, sexuality, and marriage. In doing so, the Church is complicit in putting children at risk.
In Them Before Us, Faust begins in a crucially different place than the sexual revolution: the rights of the child, not the happiness of adult. That’s what “them before us” means. Simply put, adults must do those hard things that honor the fundamental right of children to be known and loved by both mother and father.
The results of the sexual revolution are in: Children are the victims of our bad ideas. In response, Christians are called to be agents of restoration in whatever time and place they find themselves. For us, now, that means advocating for children’s rights. As Faust writes, “Our culture and our laws must incentivize and encourage adults to conform their behavior to the needs of their children if we are to have any hope of a healthy and thriving society.”
Meghan and Harry: Aristocratic Victims for Our Times
Our elites parade their grievances before us, demanding sympathy and remorse from the masses.
By Gerard Baker, March 8, 2021
When some future historian, or perhaps some honest parodist of our modern mores, seeks an event that captures the inversion at the core of our continuing cultural revolution, he should examine closely the television spectacle that aired on CBS Sunday evening.
There they were, assembled dreamily in the verdant grounds of a California mansion, poster victims of our irredeemably unjust system: the sixth in line to the throne of the United Kingdom, his wife, a so-so actress who nonetheless enjoyed considerable fortune before she married into the highest levels of the English aristocracy, alongside one of the most successful television celebrities on the planet, bemoaning the injustices that have befallen them in a systemically cruel society.
You’d struggle to find a better metaphor for one of the dominant narratives of our age: our elites parading their grievances and preoccupations for the masses, demanding sympathy, issuing a call for the ordinary people to do better to acknowledge their own sinfulness.
Economic inequality is greater than it has been in decades, and widening still further after a great recession and a global pandemic. The poorest neighborhoods in this country, many of them dominated by ethnic minorities, are beset by levels of violent crime and disorder not seen in a generation. Educational opportunities for those most blighted are drowning in a sea of neglect, ideological rectitude and acquiescence to the demands of teachers unions. All the while, we are forced to listen as chief executives, tenured academics, Hollywood celebrities and now a prince and his wife lecture us about what are supposed to be the real systemic flaws in our society: the terrible legacy of American history; sexism, racism and “transphobia”; the endless stream of microaggressions caused by an errant word, a contentious writer or the illustrations in the Dr. Seuss books.
None of this is to deny that our three figures, up there on their little Californian Calvary on Sunday, have, like all of us, had to bear their crosses.
Oprah Winfrey was there as the facilitator. She is a woman of exceptional talent and character who overcame crushing hardship in early life to achieve deserved success. When she speaks—or in this case facilitates a discussion—about hardship, we are well-advised to listen.
The duke of Sussex—the name provides a clue—had no such misfortune of birth, though he did suffer the unspeakable grief of losing his mother at a young age in violent and public circumstances, an event that surely left the deepest of psychic scars.
Even the duchess, the squeakiest of the wheels, commands some sympathy. The costs of marrying a royal are sometimes overlooked. Whatever their virtues, the Windsors will never be known for an openness of manner or spirit. They seem to have combined in their personalities in fact the relaxed informality of their German heritage and the sunny warmth of their adopted English homeland, so, we can assume Meghan’s distinctly New World style probably went over like supermarket kibble in the corgis’ breakfast bowl. And while claims about a yearning for privacy can be taken with a pinch of salt coming from an actress with a penchant for self-publicity that was notable even by the standards of her profession, it’s also true that the British press can be aggressively intrusive in ways anyone would find painful.
But the personal struggles, real as they are, aren’t the subject matter of the lesson we are enjoined to learn from them. The ex-royal couple have enough wit to understand that their own hardships don’t occasion many tears outside their lachrymose celebrity friends.
Instead they frame themselves as victims of much larger societal evils.
Harry and Meghan have seized the moment to sign on fully to the woke creed, ascribing their trials to that original sin of racism, not just from the royal family itself, but from the British press, feeding the ugly prejudices of the masses. They conveniently forget that the arrival of Meghan was greeted by the same press—and the same masses—with joyous acclaim, that she was portrayed as somewhere between Grace Kelly and Diana Ross.
But that’s the beauty of the new dispensation: You can always blame systemic injustice. Meghan may be pointing the finger at unnamed royals for her victim status, but we know that’s just a proxy for the wider evil that, improbable as it seems, makes her the victim. Even as you sit there in your alabaster palaces, your Silicon Valley boardrooms or your elegantly appointed dressing rooms, you can point to the real cause of society’s inequity: the Trump- and Brexit-voting hordes with their unenlightened views on immigration, crime, the climate, Western history.
And it’s one of the ironies of our leading social-justice revolutionaries, fighting to overturn the social order. When you have on your side the people who control most of the nation’s corporations, newsrooms, universities, celebrities, the federal government—along with a duke and a duchess—can you really be that oppressed?
But then, there’s this that just makes one shake one’s head. Like Duh . . . are you shocked? Really? Were you that deluded? Apparently so:
So . . . I’m not a conspiracy theorist . . . really. But the last 12 months sure could make someone believe some loopy things. But I don’t think this is loopy — I think it is serious and a strong take on what’s been happening. It’s bad news, but important reading:
Now for some good news. Take a look at this video — I know . . . it’s like 30 minutes, but it may encourage your soul. It’s worth it. See what you think:
Stay faithful . . . blessings to you all,
In this week’s “Briefing” from Al Mohler earlier this week, he dove into the news that Bethany Christian Services has “pivoted” in their position — now serving “all people” including LGBT community people. See here (it’s long, but part I gets you there):
But of course, they are not really serving all people, right? They draw a line at deviants, perverts, those who indulge in child sacrifice and child sexual abuse. So they don’t serve all people. They have just moved the line of whom they will serve to avoid governmental restriction. Notice too that the statement from Bethany does not mention “marriage” only “parents” and that good Christians can reasonably disagree on numerous doctrinal issues. True, but while we might disagree on issues like the form of baptism, meaning in the elements of the Lord’s Supper, or the return of Christ, that is one thing; however, when the disagreement gets to the fundamental mission of an organization (serving children in adoption and foster care), then concepts like “marriage” and “parents” are not areas we can disagree on, right?
The Scriptures could not be more clear about God’s creation order and the way of family and life. And this will be the battlefield for the next generation: What will we be willing to sacrifice in order to avoid government restriction and cultural cancelation? Are we willing to discard fundamental Christian truth and creation order? Then remove the idea of “Christian” from your mission. By like the YMCA and remove the M, and the C and just become “The Y.”
And next time you hear that an organization decided to “pivot” on an issue of cultural importance, think “capitulation” not pivot. Ask what did they just give up in order to gain the love of the world? When The New York Times lauds your “pivot” . . . you had better ask what I did wrong. Remember, Jesus said, “When the world hates you, remember that it hated me first” (John 15). If the world, the culture, love your position, your cultural progress to a new stance, you are almost certainly losing Christ to gain status.
Notable & Quotable: Another Classic ‘Fact Check’
‘USA Today confirmed that all of the details of the Instagram post, including the quote, were absolutely correct. Why, then, did it flag it as misleading?’
Feb. 3, 2021
From “Lincoln High School and the Latest Fact-Checking Pitfalls” by Kalev Leetrau, RealClearPolitics.com, Feb. 2:
On Dec. 16, Not the Bee, which describes itself as a “humor-based news, opinion, and entertainment site,” shared on its Instagram account a photograph of Abraham Lincoln titled “San Francisco to rename ABRAHAM LINCOLN High School because—I swear this is real—‘he did not show that black lives ever mattered to him.’ ” Four days later, Facebook fact-checking partner USA Today (which receives funding from Facebook) published a fact check of the post, issuing a verdict that it was “Missing Context.” This means that anyone viewing the Instagram post since then has seen a large red warning label saying, “Missing Context. Independent fact-checkers say information in this post could mislead people.”
In its fact check, USA Today confirmed that all of the details of the Instagram post, including the quote, were absolutely correct. Why, then, did it flag it as misleading? In the paper’s words, “It is true that a renaming committee included Abraham Lincoln High School on a list of 44 schools whose namesakes met its renaming criteria. But the committee has not finalized its recommendations, and the school board has not voted on the name changes—so at this time, it’s not accurate to say that the school will be renamed.”
Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8
Appeared in the February 4, 2021, print edition as ‘Notable & Quotable: ‘Facts’.’
And the primary lead editorial today in WSJ also addressed the new “Truth Control” that is rearing it’s ugly head. This is important and will require resistance, being canceled, and perhaps even more as the future unfold:
Liberalism’s Ministry of Truth
Academics and the progressive press mull state media controls.
By The Editorial BoardFeb. 3, 2021
The academic establishment and progressive press want you to know two things: First, conservative claims of social-media bias are bogus. As Silicon Valley firms police content, their decisions are, miraculously, wholly uninfluenced by ideological preference.
Second, there is an urgent need for a much wider crackdown on political speech, perhaps led by the Biden Administration and requiring the creation of new government agencies. In other words, all that conservative suppression that’s, er, not happening? We need more of it.
New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights released a brief this week that is being amplified in the press entitled, “False Accusation: The Unfounded Claim that Social Media Companies Censor Conservatives.” It argues that “some conservatives believe their content is suppressed on partisan grounds when, in fact, it’s being singled out because it violates neutral platform rules.”
That is sometimes true, but the report doesn’t remotely prove that it always is. What about when Twitter and Facebook tried to suppress a New York Post story about Hunter Biden before the 2020 election? Even the report concedes that “the question of whether social media companies harbor an anti-conservative bias can’t be answered conclusively.”
That doesn’t stop the authors from unabashedly asserting that “the claim of anti-conservative animus is itself a form of disinformation.” It is perpetuated partly because “it appeals to the same conspiratorial mindset that has fostered the QAnon movement.”
Got it? Anyone who argues social-media moderation has a progressive slant is spreading disinformation, and possibly drawn to a bizarre cult. And remember that disinformation is against the rules—which, once again, are neutral.
Among the solutions to the non-problem of progressive bias is, naturally, government control. The NYU report recommends that “the federal government . . . press Facebook, Google, and Twitter to improve content policies” and “cooperate with these companies” on enforcement. This political suppression—er, neutral government-backed content policy—“could be enforced by a new Digital Regulatory Agency.”
Since we’re devising new entities for speech control, the New York Times offers another idea. Experts recommend “that the Biden administration put together a cross-agency task force to tackle disinformation and domestic extremism, which would be led by something like a ‘reality czar,’” the beacon of progressive tolerance avers.
When disinformation (or at least disinformation that is not useful to the Biden Administration) spreads, then according to the Times, “a centralized task force could coordinate a single, strategic response” and enlist the tech platforms. That “could become the tip of the spear for the federal government’s response to the reality crisis.”
Government as the “tip of the spear” against political speech? Imagine if Donald Trump had floated that one.
Intellectuals don’t merely want the Biden Administration to promote progressive policies. Flush with power, they’re now suggesting that government should police the flow of ideas and assume the authority to define reality itself. So bring on the truth commissions. And if any political minority group complains that the Ministry of Truth is biased, worry not—the reality czar can make quick work of such disinformation.
This is worth reading today:
If you were an enthusiastic Donald Trump supporter, are you ready to enter a re-education program?
By Gerard Baker Jan. 25, 2021
Can you feel the unity?
Have you come together to bind the nation’s wounds?
Have you renounced your white privilege? Your unconscious bias probably hasn’t been eradicated in the last week, so it will need attention. But don’t worry. If you work in the federal government, you’ll soon have the opportunity—sorry, obligation—to get that fixed with a series of bias-elimination sessions. If you work for a large company, you’ve probably already watched the videos, so you’ve no excuses for continuing not to recognize that America’s foundational malignity is all your fault.
If you’re a woman, have you shared a restroom with some strapping-looking figure you’re sure used to be a man but now says she’s all female? I hope your high-school daughters are doing their part to unify the country by ceding whatever hope of athletic success they had to the new class of 6-foot-tall girls with bulbous triceps.
In the service of national unity, you should by now have agreed to welcome a new influx of illegal aliens into your community. Better yet, perhaps you’re an immigrant who’s been through the costly, protracted process to become an American citizen and are looking forward to welcoming those who opted to take the less “documented” route.
If you work in fossil fuels—maybe you’re employed on the Keystone XL pipeline—aren’t you grateful that your imminent joblessness is bringing the country together?
If you were an enthusiastic Donald Trump supporter, are you ready to enter a re-education program? You may not realize that your reprogramming is essential to the preservation of democracy, but after attendance at a series of camps led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a team of journalists from the Washington Post, you’ll once again be able to contribute—civilly—to political discourse.
If you expressed doubt online about the reliability of the presidential election result, your contribution to bringing the nation together might be an interview with a pair of nice federal agents.
As a commentator on a conservative platform, I’m ready to do my part for national harmony by being deplatformed by technology companies the next time I step out of line. But if you’re that rare thing, a conservative in academia, you might want to make sure your barista skills are up to snuff, though you probably won’t be welcome in any of the Starbucks in Cambridge or Ann Arbor—or anywhere else.
After four years of hateful, divisive leadership that stoked raging enmities and fuelled murderous bigotries, I hope you’re feeling the soothing balm of comity as it pours forth from executive orders, presidential declarations and the various ministries of truth that used to be news organizations.
In President Biden’s inaugural address—which in its composition and significance was reminiscent of Lincoln’s second inaugural, Pericles ’ funeral oration and the Sermon on the Mount—he emphasized that the path to national unity lies not only through our acquiescence to the Democrats’ agenda, but in a renewed communal asseveration of the truth
“There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for profit and for power,” he said. “And each of us has a duty and responsibility . . . to defend the truth and defeat the lies.”
It must have been in that spirit that on day one some administration official told CNN that the Biden team had discovered that their predecessors had left them a nonexistent coronavirus vaccine distribution plan. It was presumably heeding the president’s call to defeat lies that the CNN reporter decided not to challenge the official, given that, with almost 40 million vaccines already distributed, there might have been some plan in place.
Then there was defending the larger truth about Mr. Biden’s plan to get 100 million doses into American arms in 100 days—a million a day. An ambitious goal, his team called it. An ambitious goal, the press repeated, helping to lower the expectations bar for the new president.
Only in the small print did we learn that in the final week of the Trump administration, doses administered were already up to well over 900,000 a day, on a rapidly rising trajectory. Ambitious indeed.
Truth is attested to by actions as well as words. Wearing a mask, Mr. Biden has told us, is essential to saving lives. But on inauguration night, there he was, celebrating, maskless. His press secretary, in a searing moment of truthfulness, told us it was fine because he had “bigger issues” to worry about.
That admission, in its own way, was a clarifying one, capturing as it did the real meaning of our new era of truth and unity: the truth is that our unity will be achieved by your doing what we tell you to do.
I used to read WSJ just for Noonan — a lyrical, rhetorically beautiful writer with a sound sense of reason. But whatever you think of Donal Trump, she has clearly gone over to the side of the “Never-Trump, self-righteous, elite, expert class who knows better.” Her recent columns in WSJ have been sad. Today’s piece (found here for anyone: https://peggynoonan.com/; or found here at WSJ: https://www.wsj.com/articles/america-emerges-disunited-but-intact-11611271116?mod=searchresults_pos1&page=1) was more of the same. My new favorite read? Most anything from Barton Swaim or Holman W. Jenkins.
Following is my letter to the editors at WSJ written immediately after reading her column:
To the Editors,
It must’ve been difficult for such a fine writer as Noonan to string together so many strained and contradictory ideas in one piece (A-13, Sat/Sun 01/23-24/2021). “A relatively normal inauguration” in a militarized, deserted, walled off Capitol? With Lady Gaga “delightfully freakish”? Nothing normal about her, or her being part of a presidential inauguration. “Everyone [she] knows and every conservative had tears in their eyes”? What? Who is she watching?
Biden, she says, wants to be the “Great Unifier” (with capital letters for goodness sake?); then within hours the new chief executive sent out a raft of divisive, politically leftist, job-killing executive orders and firings? “Good for him” she said . . . just not good for the other half of America. I fear Ms. Noonan has finally and fully displayed that she (along with the “moderate,” so-called conservative, and “Expert Class” in caps) lives in a Lala Land disconnected from reality or life in the trenches in our diminishingly great land.
For a dose of Biden-realty I hope Noonan reads the piece from Ms. Shrier directly below on how Biden’s first day in office begins the end of girls’ sports. There’s a unifier for ya! [that article is found here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/joe-bidens-first-day-began-the-end-of-girls-sports-11611341066%5D
Dr. Michael S. Beates
Winter Park, Fla.
Sometimes you are just beat, tired, fatigued. Paul Simon captures my sentiments almost perfectly today. Some of you know some of the travail the Beates family has suffered the past year — not sure anyone but Mary and I know all the depths. But this song . . . well, give it a listen.
From WSJ, Weekend, Jan 16-17. Tis is an important read! A bit long, but worth it!
For centuries black Americans debated how to overcome racism—but they always emphasized human agency and individual responsibility.
By Robert L. Woodson Sr. and Joshua Mitchell Jan. 15, 2021
The history of black American responses to slavery and Jim Crow generally followed three paths. They were hotly debated, but all emphasized human agency, sought liberation, and rejected despair.
First, there were the recolonization or “back to Africa” movements championed by the likes of Marcus Garvey. These movements sought an exit from America.
Second, there were the insurrectionists of the 19th century, who believed that black Americans should engage in armed rebellion or vocal opposition so that they might find a home in this country. Here lie Nat Turner and, later, W.E.B. Du Bois. They wanted to have their resistant voice heard in America.
Third, there were accommodationist movements of the sort undertaken by Booker T. Washington, who thought that loyalty to America was the best course.
Exit, voice, loyalty—however different these strategies were, each supposed that human agency mattered, that oppression wasn’t destiny. That is why, even amid great struggle, black Americans responded by building their own institutions and businesses. Great universities, medical schools, hotels, restaurants, movie companies and even a flight school sprung up. All of this was self-financed—and made possible by two-parent families, churches and other cultural institutions that provided shelter against the outside storm of racism.
In the 20th century, that same creative conflict between these three schools of thought reappeared. Debaters included the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Black Panther Party and the Republic of New Africa, which sought to establish a separate black state within our borders as an exit strategy.
King offered an inspiring combination of the strategies of loyalty and voice. In 1960, when students in Greensboro, N.C., became frustrated with the slow pace of legal action favored by Thurgood Marshall, King was sent to discourage them from engaging in civil disobedience. The students told King to lead, follow or get out of the way. They were determined to liberate themselves. They understood the difficulties and were undeterred by the obstacles. Like King, they were willing to persevere toward justice even when it was inconvenient, and to suffer the consequences of their actions. Hope, not hopelessness, animated all that they did.
King paid a heavy personal price for his hope that America was redeemable. Twice his home was bombed; once, his wife and daughter were nearly killed. Surrounded by hundreds of angry, armed black men after that bombing, he discouraged retaliatory violence. He was assaulted several times, and jailed as well, but he remained steadfast in his commitment to nonviolence. He united black Americans behind the proposition that racism is evil in itself, not simply because white people visited it upon blacks, and that all must unite to combat evil. He warned us about the self-destructive path of violence, not only for blacks but for the whole nation.
One of the original arguments to justify slavery was that blacks were morally inferior and thus incapable of self-government. John C. Calhoun famously asserted: “There is no instance of any civilized colored race of any shade being found equal to the establishment and maintenance of free government.” Black efforts at self-liberation in the 19th and 20th centuries were based on the opposite assumption.
Today many black leaders defer to angry white progressives who make the same arguments about blacks’ lack of moral agency, reject the country’s founding principles, and seek to undermine its institutions. For months, the radical left has been exploiting the country’s genuine concern for fairness to keep blacks in a constant state of agitation, anger and grievance, urging them toward behavior that lives down to the slanderous stereotypes of white supremacists. The leaders of these movements insist that every inequity suffered by blacks is caused by institutional and structural racism, that they have no power to liberate themselves, and that they will remain oppressed until white people change. Even to raise the issue of what role self-determination plays for blacks earns you the label of “racist.”
Civil-rights organizations and their leadership, as well as the Congressional Black Caucus, need to wake up before it’s too late. A faction of black leaders has been silent about, or complicit in, the takeover of the civil-rights movement by the radical left. The effect of this is not to glorify black achievement but to crucify low-income blacks, who are represented in national media outlets by their worst-behaved members, and bear the brunt of the attacks by the woke radical left on the cities where they live.
“Justice” for black America cannot be achieved by framing it solely through the distorted lens of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others in fatal police encounters. For every unarmed black American killed by the police, hundreds are killed in neighborhood homicides.
Those who call for the defunding of police departments, such as leaders of the official Black Lives Matter organization, are silent about this inconvenient truth. They have a narrative and cannot let the facts get in the way. Their story is that the whole of American history is stained and the whole of America must be overthrown. When citizens declare that they support Black Lives Matter, do they share its opposition to the nuclear family, its objective of abolishing the police, and its view that the Christian cross is a symbol of white supremacy? These positions of the organization—language that has largely been scrubbed from its website—in no way improve the lives of black Americans. They give up on black America and encourage its needless suffering.
Like all Americans, blacks have triumphed over their circumstances only when they have adopted bourgeois virtues such as hard work, respect for learning, self-discipline, faith and personal responsibility. In the 19th century, Frederick Douglass found reading to be the key to his own personal liberation amid slavery, and he understood that whites deliberately withheld literacy from blacks precisely because it was so valuable. Bourgeois values drove blacks to build the powerful religious, fraternal, and other voluntary associations that helped them thrive in the worst days of Jim Crow and cultivated the essential virtues in the next generation.
There would have been no civil-rights movement without this. But radical progressives now insist that such virtues are the legacy of white supremacy, colonialist values that reflect the continuing bondage of blacks to oppressive Western culture. The only “authentic” expression of blackness in America, they claim, is the opposite of bourgeois self-restraint and discipline—indulging in the passions of the moment, whether anarchic rioting, insulting teachers or other unsalutary forms of expression. The radical left—disdaining exhortations toward work, family and faith as “respectability politics”—argues that blacks should feel free to indulge their “true” nature, echoing the age-old white-supremacist notion that said nature is violent, lascivious and incapable of self-restraint.
The slave masters’ trick of old was to dissuade blacks from adopting bourgeois values precisely so they could be kept in servitude. Marriage was forbidden and families were split apart. Douglass observed that slaves were encouraged to indulge in drink and debauchery during the holidays so they would be “led to think that there was little to choose between liberty and slavery. We felt, and very properly too, that we had almost as well be slaves to man as to rum. So, when the holidays ended, we staggered up from the filth of our wallowing, took a long breath, and marched to the field—feeling, upon the whole, rather glad to go, from what our master had deceived us into a belief was freedom, back to the arms of slavery.”
But there were always those who saw through the trick and used the holidays to hunt, make items for sale, visit distant family members, and hire out their own labor. Some of these were even able—eventually—to purchase their freedom.
Tellingly, leftist elites teach their own children the values of working and studying hard even as they encourage behavior among blacks that will make sure they remain uncompetitive but “authentic.” By the time young blacks today discover, as did the slaves of Douglass’s time, that freedom understood as “do whatever you feel like” is no way to build a worthwhile life, it will be too late. The fruits of the civil-rights movement’s hard labor—teaching the young to be so self-disciplined that they were able to resist responding in kind to hatred and abuse from whites—will have been lost.
We must turn away from the present course, which preaches despair rather than hope. Black achievement must be glorified. The crucifixion of black America by the radical left must halt. There is a grander, more fruitful future for us all.
Mr. Woodson, a veteran of the civil-rights movement, is founder and president of the Woodson Center and author, most recently, of “Lessons From the Least of These: The Woodson Principles.” Mr. Mitchell is a Washington Fellow at the Claremont Center for the American Way of Life and author of “American Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time.”