Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.
If you’ve been on social media over the past ten years, then you’ve seen the articles and the reposts and so forth. Over the last few weeks alone, I’ve seen these headlines:
“Demanding trans people come out to potential partners is deeply transphobic.”
“White People Are The Ones Who Made America This Way — It’s Our Job To Undo It.”
“White people calling for “unity”: Your good intentions aren’t enough”
I could go on. I could address the numerous logical fallacies associated with these arguments (the most dominant ones being special pleading, argumentum ad nauseum, onus probandi, and the fallacy of division). However, it has been explained to me by a rather angry young lady that logic is a form of rape (which seems rather insulting to reasonable women), and anyway, there is a more pressing issue, which is the spiritual effect this is having on our generation.
The point is, there is a clear and consistent message coming across the soundboards. If you’re white, and especially male, and doubly so a “cis-gendered white male” (that greatest of pejoratives), then you are wrong. It doesn’t matter what your life experience is, or how empathetic you are, or even what steps you take to change for the better. As we’ve seen at Black Lives Matter rallies where the white protesters were forcibly segregated from the persons of color, it doesn’t even matter if you do literally everything in your power to atone for your perceived sins. You’re just wrong.
You are stained, white as blood, and you will never be clean.
I have white friends who genuinely struggle with this. They try everything they can. They confront their white privilege on a daily basis, they read the experiences and perspectives of persons of color, LGBTQ+ and other marginalized groups, and they wrestle with the history of our species.
I watch these people – honest, loving and compassionate people – drive themselves to despair in their desperate attempt to feel free from the guilt of being white. Yet no matter they do, they are wrong. Simply because of their DNA, they have no chance of a valid voice in the groupthink of the so-called “social justice” community. And this phenomenon isn’t limited to my white male friends. I’ve seen persons of color, LGBTQ+, women, and mentally disabled people experience the same struggle – a black woman crying to me because she cannot learn to properly respect the gay community, and a suicidal white girl hating herself all the more because “African-Americans have things so much worse.”
I have literally seen people drive themselves out of their own minds, and away from their families, and friends, because of the guilt they feel for things they either cannot control or are not responsible for. I’ve seen despair, anger, self-loathing and suicide as a result.
Worse still, the many rules and protocols put on put on us – mostly on white cis-genders but on the rest of us as well – are self-contradictory and vague. A rule that must never be broken or a judgment made on a particular action or lack of action oftentimes exists in direct conflict with another unbreakable rule. One friend of mine, in her frustration, wrote:
“If you say anything, you’re silencing minority voices and speaking for us. We can speak for ourselves. But if you’re silent, you’re contributing to the violence. March with us and declare we matter. But we don’t want your whiteness here; black spaces need to be honored. Ask questions and listen. But minorities have no obligation to explain anything to you and if you ask, you’re adding to their burden. Every way we perceive the world and how we are treated is right. Yours is not. If you ignore me, it’s racist. If you address me, clearly you’re trying to belittle me.”
So it raises the question: is there some virtue in this? Is it right, or Biblical, to feel this level of responsibility for the feelings of others? More to the point, is it right or Biblical to ask others to feel this level of responsibility?
The Scriptures warn about many idols, but none as clearly as the idol of pride and self-righteousness. Indeed, C.S. Lewis argues that the original sin – the one that predates the eating of the fruit – is the pride of self-righteousness. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to us, then, that this sin has persisted through time and cultures. The problem with the Pharisees wasn’t that they were wrong – it was that they would stand in public and declare their righteousness, praying loudly to be heard by all, flaunting their strict adherence to the law. It is what we now call “virtue-signaling.” They made up a bunch of rules, and insisted that anyone who didn’t follow them was unvirtuous. They made arbitrary standards of behavior, and applied them selectively. They were hypocrites. And they haven’t gone away. They simply worship a new god – the god of social justice.
The thing is, as Jesus said, the rules they recommended weren’t necessarily bad. Let’s look at a modern equivalent – say, a white male acknowledging Western Culture’s history with anti-Semitism. Is it wrong for us to encourage our white male friend to do so? Surely not. But it is wrong for us to burden them endlessly as a requirement? Is it wrong to deny them dignity until they have met our standards of penitence? If Christ is to be trusted – which I hope we can agree on – then yes, such burdening is wrong. It tears souls apart. Christ’s behavior was typified by grace and forgiveness, and He calls us to do likewise. His burden, as you know, is light. Why must ours be so heavy?
One of the recurring themes I hear from Trump supporters is that the left has belittled them, dehumanized them, called them xenophobes, homophobes, racists, greedy uneducated rednecks, and have done so for years. This theme is recurring, and constant, and continuing. The problem here is that – especially in the area of “social justice” – there is no grace. There is no forgiveness for the crime of being white. And the burden placed on their shoulders is unbearable.
If we, as Americans, want to move past the Trump era, then we need to start here. We need to show grace, we need to remove burdens, and we need to stop being 21st century Pharisees. We need to stop basking in our self-centeredness, stop this ridiculous preoccupation with identity politics, and treat each other as beings made in the image of God. In short – and this may surprise you – we need to do what Jesus said to begin with.