Pastoral Thoughts on Jemar Tisby's "Color of Compromise" Seminar at Ashland University
"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ."
Colossians 2:8 NIV
The Compromise of Christ
Three Take-Away's from Ashland University's Seminar on "The Color of Compromise" with Jemar Tisby
Last night several men from Hopewell attended a seminar at Ashland University. I wanted to take a few moments to review the event and pass on a few pastoral reflections regarding it.
The speaker was Jemar Tisby, author of the best selling book "The Color of Compromise." The seminar, which was hosted in part by AU's Religion department, was supposed to be an informative event about the dominance of whiteness and white supremacy in America. In sum, it was a presentation which promoted Critical Race Theory.
The evening deserves some thoughtful commentary for a variety of reasons. First, it should be obvious that CRT is not just a "big city" problem. Even little old Ashland is infected with its false teaching. Not only has the university and many of its staff given it a platform for wide open promotion, but several pastors and ministry leaders from the area attended the event, giving it a favorable nod.
Second, the event is of note because Mr. Tisby is one who "runs in our circles." Up until recently Mr. Tisby was a member of a Reformed church (the PCA, i.e. the denomination which holds my ministerial credentials) and he attended a highly respected Reformed seminary. Furthermore, Tisby has been a contributor to The Gospel Coalition, a website that would traditionally be recognized as Reformed friendly.
With that being said, what were my take-aways?
1) There's no real hope or redemption in this worldview.
Dr. Tisby spent the time expressing how whiteness is enshrined as supreme all over the globe and expressly dominates the American scene. According to him, whiteness is the all controlling "cognitive and affective structure" which "seduces people." Whiteness is supposedly that which makes meaning in society and, as a result, marginalizes all other ethnicities. Black people are thus essentially destined to live under the yoke of whiteness because whites hold the power and don't "want to" change.
Tisby not only expressed the dominance of whiteness, but also the terror of it. He gave several stories about lynching's and acts of racial terrorism which whites inflicted in the past. But instead of noting how our society has progressed and overcome many such ills, he preached that these linger on today. White folk are just as guilty of those past acts and are complicit in every aspect of (systemic) racism today.
"Racism never goes away,” Tisby declares; “it adapts." Such are the bonds which society is doomed to bear.
All in all, Tisby's outlook is bleak for blacks and whites. Of course, there's reason for this: When you disregard the "good news" of the gospel and look at life through a lens other than God's Word, one will find that life has little else to offer than misery and sadness. The book of Ecclesiastes well illustrates how grim the "under the sun" approach is.
The Bible, however, gives us a great contrast. Not only does it allow us to see life through more than just skin color, it instills within us joyous confidence. While tragedies and miseries abound, Jesus declares, "Take heart! I have overcome the world." He gives us the promise of victory, assurance of redemption, and the understanding that His mighty Hand is moving in this world to bring about the wonders of His saving plan.
2) There is a rather deep disconnect in reasoning.
I appreciate the insight of Jon Mould, who has been reading Dr. Tisby's Color of Compromise. Jon said that Tisby, "Paints with some rather broad brushstrokes."
This was quite evident at the seminar. One such example regards his contention with "White Christian Nationalism." Tisby pointed out that in 1915 a group of whites came together to start this movement. They burned a cross and placed on an alter a Bible and an American flag. He then quickly transitioned from this story to the January 6th storming of the US Capitol Building, which he says was an example of the same sort of Christian nationalism.
These two events were connected in Tisby's eyes solely on the basis of there being at the Capitol building people holding wooden crosses, Bibles, and American flags. The mere symbols were, in his argument, enough to prove that white supremacy is alive and well.
It does not take much to understand that this is some very shallow reasoning. Like the arguments for evolution which fail to give any "transitional forms," Tisby's argument fails to show real historical, ideological, and personal connection between the two events/people. He glosses over the +100 years that separate the acts by flashing a few images and pointing to evidence that would hardly be called circumstantial.
Unfortunately, too, this was but one of the deep disconnects in Tisby's presentation. His promotion of the whole notion of today's "white supremacy" reduces to "We know what happened back then with slavery and Jim Crow, and we know that not much has changed."
3) CRT doesn't have answers for even the most basic problems.
During the question and answer time after the presentation, one simple question stood out from all the others. It was this: How do we deal with the hate? What can we do to combat the hate?
To my best recollection, Dr. Tisby really didn't give any kind of answer except to say that there are some people we should not be around.
I will also say that, as far as I can understand, there's no real answer that CRT can give other than that. When it comes to the common problem of hatred, CRT only breeds contempt. It does not offer a cure for it.
One would expect that a man who is a church leader and graduate from a respected seminary could do more though. Unfortunately, blinded by the Color of Whiteness and Blackness, Tisby is at a loss.
The Bible has simple and straight forward solutions for hatred though:
These are merely some of the instructions Scripture gives, and these have been the tools that Christ has used to transform people throughout time.
Even though Dr. Tisby wants to talk about the Color of Compromise, he has actually put forward a "Compromise of Christ." In so doing, he has locked himself and his followers into a system of contention which offers no joy, no reconciliation, and no ultimate hope.
The good news is that those who reason Biblically and build a biblical worldview will not be taken captive by such vain philosophies as CRT. Rather, they have the everything needed to gain the much needed victories in the world.
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