I’m on the last pages of the holiness theologian Mildred Bangs Wynkoop’s book A Theology of Love: The Dynamic of Wesleyanism. She’s Christian, and so am I, but I thought to myself as I wondered whether I should post this on my secular blog, given all of the white Christian nationalism going on right now, maybe Christians will rethink their stance on race if they read a conservative Christian theologian’s words on reconciliation. Christians have been accused of always talking about racial reconciliation and never doing anything about it. I agree with this assessment, and am joining a Black church as a result.
Back to Wynkoop. Wesleyanism is a branch of Christianity from which Methodists, Free Methodists, Nazarenes, and Pentecostals originate. It is practically the opposite of Presbyterianism (which is Calvinist and believes in predestination, though I’m sure there are theologians who would update Calvin’s old frameworks for today, thereby making it more palatable for the 21st century). I’m currently getting a certificate in Wesleyan studies at NNU. In Diane Leclerc’s class (she’s one of my favorite theologians) and I learned about Wynkoop and read Wynkoop’s book. Check it out in Wynkoop’s words, three pages from the end of the book (spoiler alert!):
“Reconciliation is the healing of moral estrangement and requires that the union be morally mutual. Holiness must be initiated by God, but it cannot be a completed experience until a suitable response comes from [humans]. Holiness is not a bestowed but a moral-mutual relationship and a living involvement in that relationship. Therefore every requirement of grace is in the interest of moral integrity. Nothing is done for us that moral integrity demands that we must do. Holiness is moral soundness, the precise antithesis of perfectionism. It is of deepest necessity Christ-centered and the very negation of self-centeredness. It speaks of the whole-[human] relationship to God and [humans], not merely a juridical or intellectual or emotional or moralistic relationship. It is dynamic – a ‘way,’ not a state; a life, not a static goodness.”Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, A Theology of Love p. 360
This, and Wynkoop’s discussion of “decision” (in the theological sense, whereby one decides daily, hourly, by the minute even, to align their hearts with the will of God) reminded me of how in anti-racism work we commit to a lifestyle and are always on a scale based on our choices in our actions on a daily basis. In anti-racism we also come to a point of decision.
There can be no reconciliation without justice, as many in the church have realized since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Reconciliation and racial justice are a moral issue (click here for a recent post on Robin DiAngelo as a moral leader and why she’s important, and here for a post on why it’s problematic to use only her frameworks). But they’re also a moral issue from the Christian perspective from which Wynkoop writes. Because our compromise can have devastating impact on the Black community.
Basically, given the history of racial strife in our country, races are estranged from one another and amongst themselves. I’ve been covering Jason L. Riley’s work in the Wall Street Journal. My article led to one reader’s commenting at length on my post:
Jason L. Riley is part of an unofficial cohort of Black intellectuals that are often marginalized for their opposition to victimhood culture. Cloistered by wokeness in the media to the occasional talking-head appearance on Fox News, their decades of rigorous academic study, thoughtfulness and experience as Black in America, is distilled to “Oh, that Uncle Tom?” Other notable members of the cohort are Shelby Steel, Glenn Loury and Thomas Sowell on the right and Coleman Hughes and John McWhorter on the “sane” left. Thankfully for the curious, all of these brilliant minds are prolific writers and/or YouTube creators who deserve more exposure.
The Wall Street Journal didn’t “get a Black man to say it.” He’s been saying it.
It’s not about villainizing the black community. It’s about recognizing that individual responsibility and self-reflection is a far better tool for improving one’s lot than a nebulous blame on another racial group with the sole evidence for that blame being that there is not perfect statistical parity among the races. I wouldn’t expect there to be parity given different historical, economic and cultural trajectories. It would be more odd if there was.“Lars,” published as a comment February 27, 2021 on this post (https://seahurstlearns.com/2021/02/23/anti-asian-american-violence/)
There is a lot of mistrust. And conservative politicians and commentators are ridiculed. It’s not fair and it comes down to framing. Jason L. Riley’s posts are important in the Wall Street Journal and they get me to think; however, in the Wall Street Journal framework (conservative, Fox News and WSJ are both run by Murdoch) all it does on a discursive level is to get conservative readers to dismiss the suffering and social justice activism of the Black community.
I am reminded of one pastor’s sermon that I heard talked about how before cell phones were everywhere, if he got lost and needed to ask a white person for directions, he would change his whole body language, greet the person obsequiously from a great distance, and wave and smile really big, just so he could ask for directions. He had to seem extra grateful.
Is that true reconciliation?
White people often come across as entitled regarding people of color’s time, needs, and priorities and even cross racial interactions that are motivated/propelled by things other than racially-motivated entitlement, people of color still often see a racial undercurrent and think that people of color in their position wouldn’t be so entitled. This happened to me personally. I was engaging with an antiracist group and finally met the leader, a Black man. We met for an hour and talked about the nature of his work and then I reached out to him separately. I treated him the same as I would have any man as I shared my critiques of society, but he felt attacked and I really hurt him, he lashed out and said he wouldn’t collaborate, and then I was publicly shamed and called racist. Now, of course, perhaps I was more entitled to his time than I would have been otherwise. I have thought about it and I don’t think so, but who knows? But it was a high stakes interaction, the fallout of which I wrote about here.
Point is, once we see reconciliation as moral then we can actually get Wesleyans and other more traditional branches of Christianity to get on board with racial justice. And maybe, just maybe, it will be sustainable. Because it will be seen as Biblical.