Lived Experience Trumps Open Debate – Should It?

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Let’s get this out of the way first: I am so sorry for the Trump reference in the title of this post—it does not refer to the former POTUS but is a quote from one of the articles I refer to in this post.

In an opinion column in today’s Daily Telegraph (unfortunately behind a pay wall for many) spiked columnist Ella Whelan comments on The Twitter mauling of Joe Rogan in the wake of the US comedian and podcast host suggesting that «the trajectory of “woke” culture is such that eventually “straight, white men won’t be able to talk”».

Her article illustrates and confirms something American theologian Voddie Baucham said in a recent interview (text summaryvideo) with Church Leadership Magazine and in his book, Fault Lines.

Here is the section from Ella Whelan’s column in the Telegraph:

According to some Black Lives Matter activists, white people need to “sit down” and stop talking about race. Feminists have long argued that men need to “lean out” or “shut up” and listen to women when it comes to issues relating to women. Transgender activists claim that any non-trans person deviating from the repetition of their “trans women are women” mantra must be a bigot, and therefore should be silenced. Teenage climate activists tell us we should be quiet and “listen to the science” rather than debating the best way to tackle environmental challenges.

In a recent online debate on intimacy during lockdown, I was told I couldn’t possibly comment on the benefits of dating apps for sexual exploration because I am married. In almost all aspects of contemporary politics, lived experience has trumped open debate, meaning that unless you fit into whichever identity or experience is being discussed, your views are deemed less valid.

In the interview in Church Leadership Magazine, Dr. Baucham discusses Critical Race Theory (CRT) which underpins the current social justice movement. He says it isn’t just a pseudo-religion but is rather its own religious movement. It has all the trappings of religion, a point which even atheists have made. The movement has its own cosmology, its own saints, its own liturgy, and its own law.

And here is the section where it meshes perfectly with what Ella Whelan says in her column:

What we have in our culture is not an objective truth, but we have a cultural hegemony that is designed for the purpose of oppression. Because of this we have to look at other ways of knowing. This is where narrative becomes very important, story telling becomes important, it’s one of the central tenets of Critical Race Theory. So in Critical Race Theory, if you want to know the truth when it comes to race and racism, you have to elevate black voices, you have to listen to the voice of the marginalized. And this is what people are talking about in church today, right: We have to listen to black voices, we have to elevate the voice of the marginalized. Well, in Critical Race Theory we do this because that’s the way you know truth—not through knowing God, not through knowing God’s Words, but through listening to the voices and the experiences of  the people who we determine to be marginalized.

So, even when we talk about having the conversation—and people will say, “You’re just trying to shut down The Conversation About Racism!”—that’s rooted in principles of Critical Race Theory, that’s saying that storytelling is the way we find knowledge and not through pursuing objective truth.

Since narrative, story telling, are the ways to find true knowledge, when folks tell their story they must be believed, their story must be taken at face value, however much it flies in the face of your own experience, of objective—even scientific—knowledge, or revealed truth.

But because it is only the narrative and the stories of the oppressed and marginalized, whether it be people of color, women, or those who identify with “alternative sexualities”, only their stories are worth listening to, and others, especially privileged white males, need to shut up rather than contribute their own experiences or opinions.

And finally, even those who belong to the oppressed and marginalized groups are only welcome to tell their stories and experiences if they fit into the grans narrative of Critical Race Theory. A black man, like Dr. Baucham, who tells a different story is dismissed as having “internalized racism.”

This edict, that all who are not fully supportive of the narratives and stories considered authentic voices of the oppressed need to be silenced, is at the root of what has come to be called the “cancel culture”, with the “de-platforming” of speakers who represent contrary views.

One of my own observations, and which all this bears out, is that it is typically those who call for tolerance and even affirmation of their own views and positions end up most intolerant of other views and positions. Even Christians are guilty of this: demanding freedom of religion for Christians in places like Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, etc., while at the same time discriminating against followers of visibly foreign religions in our own countries. It seems to be part of our sinful human nature.

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Empowering the Culturally Conservative Majority?

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Allister Heath writes in The Daily Telegraph (May 13, 2021),

«What is wrong with France, a wonderful country relentlessly let down by its politicians? There is an unmistakable whiff of panic in the Parisian air, a growing sense among sections of the ruling class that France, riven by culture wars, its economy and society in never-ending decline, its housing estates in the banlieues permanently on the brink, is nearing a tipping point.

For all the sneers, Boris Johnson’s latest electoral triumph did not go unnoticed. What, the more far-sighted intellos ask themselves, will be France’s equivalent of Brexit, if, or rather when, it finally comes? Will it be another 1961 (a failed putsch), 1968 (hard-Left student insurrection), 1981 (communists in government), 1789 (proper revolution) or, hopefully, something milder, more constructive? 

The gilets jaunes two years ago were a false alarm, but how will the rage of la France profonde manifest itself next time? Emmanuel Macron has admitted that “Leave” would win a vote on Frexit, though nobody will want to risk one. It’s a great shame: France, the country in which I grew up, needs a cathartic reset like Brexit, a political earthquake that is neither hard-Left nor hard-Right but which finally empowers the culturally conservative majority.»

Here are my non-expert thoughts on this:

The problem is that, increasingly, even the “moderate left” view themselves as the elite, superior to cultural conservatives whom they view as “hard-Right”[1]. Therefore they will not easily countenance anything that empowers these “deplorables“, to use Hillary Clinton‘s deplorable diction. This is true not just in France but all over the West.

It will be interesting to see how things continue in the UK. As much as I regret Brexit, it seems to have brought about or at least started just such a “reset”. But while these larger countries (Britain, France, even Germany) might go through a Brexit or Frexit or Gexit without too much damage to their economies, for all the EU’s shortcomings leaving it, or its complete break-up, would have disastrous consequences for smaller countries and even Italy or Spain. Among other things it would mean the total domination of our economies by the US and China, without any counterbalance.

__________
  1. for example when they insist on the reality and immutability of biological sex, marriage only between a man and a woman, or the protection of unborn life[]
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Prince William propagates “White Saviour” — Really?

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In a letter to the editor published in profil 18/2021 biologist and elephant researcher Dr Hannah Mumby from the University of Hong Kong writes,

“In 2018 Prince William travelled to Tanzania, Kenia, and Namibia to learn about conservation. At a conferenc he presented a video about his trip to Tanzania. Many NGOs criticized that the video was promoting a  “white saviour” image, because only one African, a student, spoke in front of the camera while the remaining interviewees were international conservationists.”

I assume that the video which Prince William presented reflected his trip to Tanzania: what he experienced, who he talked to, etc. It should not be too surprising to anyone that a politically prominent figure like the Prince primarily encounters carefully selected people on a trip like this; people who are judged by the security teams (both his own and those of the host country) to be harmless and unlikely to be a danger. That this selection criterion results primarily in prominent experts and activists, and that these, for any number of reasons tend to be mostly white Americans and Europeans, does not surprise me either.

I am also not surprised (because this phenomon is not new) but rather irritated that activists and propagandists (and I use these terms without any negative connotation) have the tendency to consider everything someone says propaganda, or to dig through it for things that could be interpreted as propaganda.

Most of us normal folks (and I assume that this applies to Prince William as well) are not constantly in propaganda mode when we comment on something; much of the time we simply report, without value judgments, on what we have experienced; we are not at all concerned with how others could interpret what we say as propaganda or promotion of this or that.

And so I also assume that Prince William travelled to Africa to express his interest in conservation and to support various conservation initiatives; that he presented his video for these same reason, without worrying overmuch about who he had talked to or interviewed. I am pretty sure that he was not seeking to make some political statement about the ethnic or national identity of the conservationists he spoke to. If “many NGOs” wish to interpret his video that way, then it is because they assume that everyone else thinks in the same categories and patterns as they themselves — and that’s pretty naïve and stupid.

 

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Persecution for Christ’s Sake?

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Increasingly there are reports of Christians getting into trouble with police for publicly preaching against homosexuality and gay marriage, most recently this report on the site churchleaders.com. The verdict of “Incitement” against Pastor Olaf Latzel in Bremen is another example.

Here are my thoughts on this:

Of course Christians, like everyone else, should have the right to exercise their constitutional right of freedom of opinion and speech, and the fact that this right is increasingly eroded by labelling some opinions “hate speech” is a problem and politically concerning.

BUT: From a spiritual perspective our task as Christians and as the church is NOT to preach Christian morality to an unbelieving world, but to preach Jesus Christ as Lord and only Saviour.

When people come to Jesus and are born again then the Holy Spirit will lead them into all truth, and He cannot be arrested by police.

Of course, as Christians we will be increasingly discriminated against when we express our convictions on various topics, or when we refuse to participate in certain activities (i.e. abortions, same-sex weddings), and this is a deplorable development in countries that boast of their liberal society because it is the very people who most vocally demand tolerance for their views who are most intolerant of others.

But I warn against claiming persecution for our faith, even obliquely, as long as we are permitted to preach Jesus as Lord, as the crucified and risen Christ and Saviour.

The problem is this: if we call the discrimination which we experience on certain subjects here in Europe and other western countries, “persecution for Christ’s sake,” when Christians in countries like China, North Korea, or India experience violent oppression and persecution including imprisonment and even death, or while Christian refugees in refugee camps here in Europe experience violent persecution from Muslim fellow refugees, we are effectively risk minimizing the suffering of these persecuted Christians as we focus on our own discomfort. If we complain of being persecuted right now, how will we cope if we ever are faced with real persecution?

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A Growing Tide of Antisemitism

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In an article on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Eichmann trial in Israel Holocaust historian Deborah E. Lipstadt writes,

«Today, amid a rising tide of antisemitism, I am troubled that so many people only see this scourge among their political enemies and never among their compatriots. This happens at both ends of the political spectrum.

But … the evil of antisemitism must be fought irrespective of its source. Even as I fight those with whom I have nothing in common and whose views are a complete anathema to me, so too must I call to account those whose views on other matters I share.»

This is an important thought, not only but especially in the context of antisemitism, and nowhere more so than in the countries directly responsible for the Shoah, including my country of Austria.

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What does “FTP” stand for?

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In my reading in recent months I have come across a lot of new acronyms such as, for example, “BLM“. One that recently caught my attention, because I use it a lot, is “FTP“. This is, apparently, a ruder and more comprehensive variant of “Defund the Police“, being shorthand for “f*ck the police“.

This puts me in a quandary, because, as I said, I use this acronym a lot, in its original meaning of “file transfer protocol“, a venerable part of the standard UNIX/Linux networking tools.

So I wish to make it very clear, lest anyone misunderstands:

Whenever I use the acronym “FTP” in a neutral or approving manner, I am referring to the File Transfer Protocol, its various implementations across different operating systems, and the action of using such implementations to transfer files. Sometimes, because there are actually more convenient ways of transferring files, I may even use the acronym in a negative or disapproving manner to refer to the file transfer protocol and the apps implementing it.

Only very rarely will I use the acronym FTP in its contemporary “political” sense because I am opposed to abusing words in this fashion, and I am opposed to abusing the police. When acts of police brutality or other illegal actions by police officers happen (and I have no doubt that they do because policing involves the exercise of power and that attracts people with a pathological desire for dominating others), there are more effective and suitable means of dealing with it than the obscene suggestion implied by “FTP”.

 

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White Privilege?

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The UK’s venerable children’s charity Barnardo’s is in hot water over a guidance it published online (sorry, this might be behind a paywall) telling parents and others caring for children to teach them about “white privilege.”

A group of conservative MPs has complained to the charity itself as well as to the Charity Commission about this “move into political activism.” Earlier, the Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch had told MPs that teaching children about “white privilege and their inherited racial guilt” could be breaking the law.

A Barnardo’s spokesman denied that the charity is promoting critical race theory and said,

“… we certainly don’t believe Britain is racist or that anyone should feel guilt about being from a particular background. We do know that in our country in 2020 being non-white creates particular and additional needs – indeed the blog itself was written based on what children in our services told us they wanted to convey. To be ‘colour blind’ would be to fundamentally fail in our duty to address the needs of these children.”

So, what to make of this? Here is my take on it:

If you are not promoting a particular theory or political ideology you should not be using its buzzwords.

Apart from being closely associated with critical race theory, the term “white privilege” is misleading and sends the discussion about racial inequality in the wrong direction.

A privilege, as opposed to a right or entitlement, has the connotation of an unearned benefit. If having adequate housing, a job, and generally feeling safe are described as “white privilege,” the implication is that you are not entitled to these things, and that therefore the solution would be to take them away from you in order to create equality.

Other things that are described as aspects of “white privilege”, such as the preponderance of white teachers, white police officers, judges, and jurors, are, in a country like the UK which is still predominantly white, not at all related to being white or black; if you go to, say, Nigeria or Zimbabwe, even as a white person you are unlikely to encounter white teachers, police officers, judges, and jurors. Also, our energy should be turned towards encouraging everyone not to commit crimes in the first place rather than worrying about the ethnicity of the police officers when a crime has been committed.

And when Barnardo’s writes that it is “white privilege” to have a managerial job, it ignores the fact that only a small percentage of all working people, regardless of ethnicity, have managerial jobs.

In reality, equality is fostered when we work to ensure that minorities of every kind enjoy adequate housing, a job with a living wage, and a safe environment — for these are not (or should not be) privileges, but human rights.

I agree with the Barnardo’s spokesman when he says,

“We believe those who nurture the next generation of children should be supported in understanding racial inequality in all its complexity, so that they in turn can find appropriate ways of discussing this with children – much in the same way other big parenting conversations happen already. In a year of so much upheaval and debate about race,  shying away from the subject doesn’t mend division.”

I agree we ought not to shy away from the subject of racial inequality. But rather than appropriating a term so closely linked to a controversial academic and political theory, with all its misleading connotations, it would be far better to frame the discussion in terms of extending the human rights many people enjoy to those who, for whatever reason, are currently denied them.

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An encouraging judgment

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On Ian Paul‘s blog “Psephizo“, Dr Julie Maxwell writes:

You may have seen the recent media coverage of the Judicial review brought by Keira Bell and Susan Evans against the Tavistock and perhaps you wonder what on earth this is all about. This was a landmark judgement that will have world wide repercussions as well as implications for churches and society in general.

Read the full article here.

Dr Maxwell is a part-time Community Paediatrician and who also works for Lovewise, a Christian charity which provides relationships and sex education from a Christian perspective, one day a week. She is married and has three children, and is involved in leading youth work at her local church. Her personal and professional experience led her to became increasingly interested and concerned at the rapid growth in the numbers of children and young people presenting with gender identity issues and the way this was being managed.

 

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This illustrates how perverse our society has become

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Normally, I don’t give a hoot for what goes on at places like Eton College, the venerable English publicpublic school in England and Wales is a fee-charging endowed school originally for older boys which was public in the sense of being open to pupils irrespective of locality, denomination or paternal trade or profession. What other countries call a public school is called a state school in England and Wales. (i.e. private) school, but there is currently a controversy involving Eton which to me illustrates how perverse our society has become. Continue reading This illustrates how perverse our society has become

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Guillotine Chic

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Written in an American context, but it is a warning we should heed in Europe as well – whether it be Brexiteers ascribing sinister motives to EU officials, Remainers dehumanizing Brexiteers, Hungarian “patriots” denouncing George Soros, the extreme right in Germany and Austria railing against refugees, Continue reading Guillotine Chic

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