I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller. -G.K. Chesterton
We are seeing disparate institutions in America push back against Critical Social Justice (CSJ) in support of liberalism, free speech and equality. Just last week, the Jewish Institute of Liberal Values introduced a “Jewish Harpers Letter”, mirroring the earlier Harpers Letter, with such prominent signatories as Bari Weiss, Jonathan Haidt, and Stephen Pinker.
In last week’s podcast, we spoke to Izabella Tabarovsky, a Jewish immigrant from the former Soviet Union, who underlines some of the concerns within the Jewish community over collective demonization and CSJ.
We see signs within LBGTQ+ circles of those expressing a need to embrace viewpoint diversity, opposing a lot of CSJ rhetoric including notables like Zander Keig who joined us on an earlier podcast, Buck Angel (forthcoming podcast) and even Caitlyn Jenner who is currently under attack from those within her own community.
This week we hear a voice from the Christian community who questions if CSJ and Christianity are compatible. Neil Shenvi tells us that there are four underlying principles to Critical Social Justice:
1. Culture is divided into oppressors and oppressed.
2. Oppression is subtle and embedded in our systems and norms.
3. Give authority to lived experiences as truth.
4. Dismantle all forms of social oppression.
Jesus was all about social justice, so how does Critical Social Justice and Christianity diverge? Neil gives us 3 important cornerstones of Christianity that don’t fit neatly within then CSJ paradigm:
1. Christianity emphasizes human unity, which connects people across our divisions and imbues individuals with value and dignity.
2. There is solidarity in sin, whether an “oppressor” or “oppressed”, everyone is a sinner.
3. Under one savior, Christians are united as brethren in faith, not balkanized along lines of race, class and gender.
Each of these foundations rest on the idea of unity within the Christian tradition that doesn’t square with the idea of intersectionality and competing grievances among those claiming oppression.
Additionally, focusing on lived experiences when it comes to theology is simply incompatible. The lived experience of a Hindu leads one to find truths in Shiva and a host of other Gods and Goddesses. The lived experience of a Muslim finds truth in the Quran. And of course, the lived experience of a Christian finds truth in the Bible. The stories we tell are important to our truths. We crave stories and CSJ has entered into the dialogue with its own parables that do not permit other stories to coexist.
The dogmatic rigidity of CSJ eschews viewpoint diversity that may challenge its agenda, and silences critics as heretics (or racists or a number of other pejorative slogans meant to circumscribe dissent). The ideological austerity of CSJ is starting to exhibit incongruity when applied to a variety of other identity markers, including religion, weakening its universality as a theoretical meta-narrative.
In the Hold my Drink — navigating the news and politics with a chaser of civility — and Counterweight podcast, Episode 29, we speak with Neil Shenvi, writer and author of a forthcoming book on Christian apologetics. Neil explains how the basic foundation of Critical Social Justice is not compatible with Christianity, especially some of the most important principles of unity and kinship under Christ. All discussed with a chaser of civility, of course, and a pinot noir, bourbon and a seltzer water.
Hold My Drink welcomes all people with all kinds of beverages to join us as we discuss what it takes to imagine a new American identity, together.
What Neil is reading
Is Everyone Really Equal? Ozem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo
Cynical Theories, Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay
Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth, Thaddeus Williams
What Jen is Reading
The Incompatibility of Critical Theory and Christianity, The Gospel Coalition, Neil Shenvi and Pat Sawyer
A Short Review of Morrison’s Be The Bridge, Shenvi Apologetics, Neil Shenvi
Compromised? A Long Review of Tisby’s Color of Compromise, Shenvi Apologetics, Neil Shenvi
Dr. Neil Shenvi has a Ph.D. in Theoretical Chemistry from UC Berkeley and an A.B. in Chemistry from Princeton. He has published in The Gospel Coalition, Themelios, Eikon, and the Journal of Christian Legal Thought and has been interviewed by Allie Beth Stuckey, Summer Jaeger, Greg Koukl, Frank Turek, Alisa Childers, and Mike Winger. He homeschools his four children through Classical Conversations and can be found on Twitter at @NeilShenvi. His writing on critical theory from a Christian worldview perspective can be found at www.shenviapologetics.com.
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