In a time of national reckoning when racism dominates the media, this message presents a unique perspective that God’s people are challenged to embrace. How should followers of Jesus respond to the polemic positions of individualism versus structuralism? How can Antioch be a lesson for the church today? Is peacemaking an escape from conflict, or an engagement among a hostile society?
Learn how to effectively dialogue with those of diverse backgrounds, and ultimately reconcile a distressed world to the Prince of Peace. In this presentation, Finny Kuruvilla presents kingdom solutions to the evils of racism.
The presentation ends with an interactive question-and-answer session from the audience.
Recommended: “A Biblical Perspective on Racism” (related presentation by Finny to compliment this sermon)
- Is your natural inclination toward individualism or structuralism and why?
- Have you observed racism? If not, how would you accurately discern how pervasive racism is, outside your experience?
- Have you observed tendencies in your own heart to look down on others because of their ethnicity? How might you guard your heart from a lack of compassion? Remember that love “does not rejoice in iniquity…[but] believes all things, hopes all things.”
- Pursuant to being a peacemaker, are you situated in places of conflict? If not, how can you practice peacemaking in places of unrest? What practical steps can you take to live out the gospel in a multi-ethnic setting?
- Jesus had table fellowship with people from every walk of life (nationalistic Zealots, prostitutes, tax collectors, etc.). We often speak of following Jesus–how does this diversity of fellowship match your current lifestyle? Or is your experience more homogeneous and comfortable? How might you improve on this? How can you engage in System II dialogue and win people of diverse backgrounds to the truth?
Amen, thank you brother Curt. It’s great to be with you here this evening. Obviously, I wish I could be with everyone in person like it normally is but we’re making the best here and I hope to share my heart on this very important topic.
So I’m going to be speaking, as brother Curt mentioned, on this topic of “Racism and Civil Unrest” and thinking about how we as two-Kingdom Christians ought to be responding.
As all of us know, there are scenes like this occurring often in the news. For those who only have audio access, this is a photograph of a store burning in Minneapolis.
Here’s another photograph of some individuals celebrating as a police building behind them is burning.
Here we have a photograph from, I believe this is Seattle, where some young people are standing over this banner that reads “Abolish the Police.” And as I think most of us knew, they set up an autonomous zone there that was ostensibly its own government.
Seems like this all over the country of various statues that have been decapitated and caked with graffiti.
Here in this photograph we have a statue of a Catholic missionary. This is in California, and you can see this young lady is spray-painting his hands and his head with red spray paint.
Here we have another common scene of a line of police officers and then some young people standing opposite them using a signal of the raised fist, which is a symbol of defiance. These are common pictures that were seeing all over and what I’m going to do this evening is share with you three topics.
The first topic is to actually start with a very foundational perspective on what race is from the perspective of genetics. So some of you may know that I’m a physician and by training and I spent a number of years is a postdoctoral research fellow doing genetics. I’m going to give some introductory material on that. Then we’re going to look at two perspectives on the issue of racism. Finally, we’re going to look at what it is to be a peacemaker during civil unrest. And then finally, we’ll summarize with some applications. So we’ll move through each of these topics now beginning with the first.
So as I mentioned, I spent a number of years as a scientist, a full-time scientist doing research in genetics. And I love genetics. It’s a very powerful tool to help us understand questions. Like how much do our genes contribute to our attributes like height or intelligence or lifespan? and a lot of you have heard the debate of nature versus nurture, genetics versus environment. How much do our genes contribute to disease risk? this happens to be an area that I spent quite a bit of time on and published in. And then, can we reconstruct the history of populations and their migrations using genetics? And in fact, you can. There’s very powerful tools you can use for this.
As was mentioned, I spent four years after my PhD working as a research scientist at a place called the Broad Institute to the Joint Research Institute between Harvard and MIT doing medical and population genetics. And if anyone is interested, you can look at some of those publications here.
So I’m going to share a summary of how I came to view the topic of race through the lens of being a scientist. And in order to do that, I need to illustrate the principle here with an ethnic group that gets a lot of attention. It’s a group called Ashkenazi Jews. So some of you know the Ashkenazi Jewish population. There are well-known and the lore is that they have very high intelligence, this particular group. There are only about two percent of the US population and 0.1 percent of the world’s population. But as you can see with these statistics they have outsized results. Twenty-seven percent of the Nobel Prize winners in the US are Ashkenazi, 25% of the field’s medal winners are Ashkenazis; the field’s medal is the highest award given in mathematics, 50% of the world’s chess champions are Ashkenazi, and all of you know, Albert Einstein he was an Ashkenazi Jew. There’s a long famous list of some of the most bright individuals that you would know who come from this heritage.
And so people have wondered and ask questions about what is their genetic contribution here? Is it genetic? Is it nurture? What is it? And again, to further illustrate, I’m going to show you this. This is I think a very interesting game where an individual who is very skilled at chess plays a simultaneous exhibit where they’re playing against multiple players at the same time. So the person in the middle, his name is Magnus Carlsen, he’s the number one chess player in the world and what he’s doing here is he’s playing about 20 individuals and you can see they’ve arranged the tables in a square format and what he does is he simple simply cycles through the table and the only rule is that you have to move by the time the center player comes to your board. So he’s playing all of these individuals and very quick format and they’re very, very incredible to watch.
When I was doing my graduate work when I was a PhD student, I was teaching organic chemistry, I was a teaching fellow at Harvard doing organic chemistry and I heard that one of the students in my course was going to be doing one of these against, again, about twenty people. And there were some very, very good chess players in this particular competition and I raised my hand and I said, I want to try. I’m not a good chess player. I’m very mediocre. And this student, his name was Sherwin, he played all twenty of us, and he beat all twenty of us, and he didn’t just beat all twenty of us, he thrashed all twenty of us. It was an absolute devastating loss. One of the most sound losses that I’ve ever experienced there, and I’ll show you his picture here. This is the individual who beat all twenty of us. His name is Sherwin McClellan. And you might be thinking, “Wait a minute. I thought you were talking about Ashkenazis here. This is an African-American.” You’re right. He is African-American and I was talking about Ashkenazis. The Ashkenazis were actually on the outside of the table they were sitting next to me and they were defeated by Sherwin who went on to be a very successful chess player and went on to actually become a doctor.
Did that surprise you at all? Did it surprise you that the individual in the middle who beat everybody who beat these Ashkenazis, who beat me, who beat everyone in the room was a young African-American individual.
The reason that I share this story from my experience back in the ’90s is that it illustrates a very, very powerful and important principle in genetics, which is the following, that: “Within group differences are several fold greater than between group differences.” Now, I know that’s a mouthful and you might not have grasped that at first glance. So we’re going to unpack this. I’ll repeat it again for those who are just listening. You can – here on the screen you can read it. If you can have your Zoom access visually, you can read this. So I said, “Within group differences are several fold greater than between group differences.”
Okay, so I’ll illustrate this by an example because I think it’s easiest to see by example. So let’s imagine that you have some ethnicity. We’ll call it ethnicity X and they measure the heights of all the men in this particular ethnicity and they find that the men in that ethnicity are on average a half an inch taller than the men in another ethnicity, Y.
What the principle basically says is that if you pick two men at random from ethnicity X which, as I said, on average are half an inch taller than those in ethnicity Y, so these two men, let’s call them X1 and X2. They are likely to be much more different to each other than just half an inch. So in other words, X1 might be 5 feet, 8 inches; X2 might be 6 feet, 2 inches. That’s a 6 inch difference. And basically what this principle is saying that when you have a group the differences of just different individuals within the group are much greater than the difference is when you look at group averages. Okay, so they like I said, here in this stylized example, the group average is only half an inch difference. But within that, you have to realize that the variance is much greater within the group. Hopefully that’s clear. Different geneticists have estimated this number. Famous geneticist named Lewontin feels like and estimated that it’s about six fold greater, the variance within a group compared to between groups.
So for this reason group averages are usually not very helpful when you’re considering individual because the variance, the variation within the group is so much broader and introduces so much more diversity than simply considering the group that they’re a part of. In addition, the black population which is of course under much discussion right now today, has by far the highest within group variation of any population in the world.
Back when I was a research scientist, I was studying principally three populations: a Nigerian population, a European population, and a Japanese population. And I remember – I’ll never forget this day. I was measuring the variation in their DNA sequences within the group. So taking two Nigerians, two Europeans (they happened to be from France), two Japanese, and as it turns out for reasons we won’t talk about now, but the variation within the African population is much, much higher than it is in any population of the world and that’s a universally agreed upon finding there. So this is the first principle from genetics this notion that within group differences are several fold greater than between group differences.
And I’ll illustrate yet again using another way because this is such an important principle. So after I finished my time as a scientist there, I had a job offer to become director of research for a company called 23andMe. It was a start-up. This was back in 2008. Where, what you basically do is you spit into a tube, and you mail this tube into a laboratory and they measure your DNA out of the spit. And then they will email you your results of your ancestry and then your risk of different diseases.
So I thought I have this job offer to be director of research there. Why don’t I take this test and see what the results are. I didn’t end up going to the company, but I did get my results. And so my results were – I’ll share them with you here. So my top result was 94.6% South Indian. Okay, so I saw this and thinking, “Wow, consistent, right 95% South Indian.” My parents are from State called Carolina in South India and on a surprise there. What about the other five and change percent. And a part of me was hoping maybe I’ve got something exotic there, maybe some – I don’t know – oh, something from some interesting country; that would be a nice story to tell people. Well, want to take a guess what the other percentage is? Take a guess. The answer is I was 5.2% North Indian – and so pretty boring there. And then I thought about it afterwards, I’m thinking, “Well, of course, I get it that the population that my parents are from has been basically in the same geography for thousands of years, and not very much migration has happened there, unlike, for example, the European population. So if you take this test and you’re Caucasian, you will find almost certainly that you’re a much more mixed group of different geographies there. But I’m about is as boring or as homogeneous as you can probably come up with even, though I’m actually born in California, but my parents both came from that part of India.
So, the reason I say this is, so now as I realized this and I go to different family events and I look around the room and we’re all basically cousins and all from the same little area of India there. I look around and I realize wow, some of us are a slim. Some of us are overweight. Some are tall. Some are short. Some of us are educated. Some don’t like schools. Some are introverts. Some are extroverts. We’re all over the map. And here we are from a very, very homogeneous group ethnically there, and it’s all over the place. I have a younger brother; he’s very different from me. A lot of people are surprised when they see him and they say, “You don’t really look like your brother.”
In addition to that, I have identical twins boys. I have seven children, and I’m always amazed. Here is the geneticist dream, right? We have two boys with identical DNA, and the same home, same roof, same environment, very different personalities. They like different foods. They speak differently. One is right-handed, one is left-handed. There’s a lot of differences there with the identical genetics. So again, the take home here, is that even from populations of very similar ancestry, in genetics there, you can have tremendous variation and to use and rely so much on just superficial thoughts on where you’re from is very misleading.
So then what then is race and how do we conceptualize what race is? Well, there’s some people who have gone as far as saying, an anthropologist saying, “There are no races. There are only clines.” So a cline is related to the word incline – so think of a slope or gradient – and think of this individual who’s studied the field very carefully. He points out that really you should think of humanity as being on these up and down landscapes of hills and valleys, and to put everyone into discrete categories is a very difficult enterprise. And for that reason many people have made statements like this.
Now, long before I was in college, I had some studies myself of the Bible and I personally don’t like the terminology “races.” I believe there’s only one race, the human race. I never use the term “What race are you?” You’ll never hear that come out of my mouth because I genuinely do believe that there’s only one race. There may be other ethnicities, but there’s only basically one human race across all humans on the planet. This is not controversial. Human DNA is 99.9% identical. And so we are far more identical than we are different, and yet we often will try to make a lot of the 0.1% percent that differentiates us.
It is true. There are differences in ethnicity across traits. Differences: on average some populations can digest lactose differently. Some have different likelihoods of having diseases, like sickle cell anemia or muscular dystrophy. Those differences are overwhelmed by individual variation. So, we talked about before the within group variance.
In addition – this is a secular geneticist – he’s actually Jewish, David Reich, this is a Professor at Harvard. He says this, “A great surprise that emerges from the genome revolution, that studying DNA is that in the relatively recent past human populations were just as different from each other as they are today, whether the fault lines across populations were almost unrecognizably different from today.”
So he’s involved in sampling skeletons and getting DNA from skeletons and studying their DNA. And basically, we talked about this landscape there. The landscape has changed and what we think about today as someone from Yugoslavia is totally different than the group of people that would have been living in that same region say a couple of thousand years ago. These concepts are not fixed over time. The landscape is indeed changed quite a bit. So for this reason the population genetic community has generally moved away from the word race to the term “ancestry,” and I much prefer “ancestry” or “ethnicity” because I think that’s a more precise term that communicates better these truths that I’ve just laid out for you here.
So this is a very quick primer on race. What I’m going to do now is just give you a little bit of caution here to beware of arguments that smack of inferiority. So, we all have heard of Charles Darwin who, of course, introduced the theory of evolution in the eighteen hundreds. And if I were to ask you what his most famous book is you would probably say, “It’s the book ‘On the Origin of Species.’”
Well, in fact, this’s an abbreviated title. The full title is this “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.” And Darwin introduced many pernicious ideas. Some of you who have heard me speak on this know how much I speak against Darwinism, mostly on scientific grounds, but here in the context of this discussion, it’s very interesting to see what he wrote in his books. Here’s an example from a book “The Descent of Man” where he says, “The Western nations of Europe now so immeasurably surpassed their former savage progenitors. They stand at the summit of civilization.” Here he says “The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races through the world.” And many people seized on these ideas and made them the basis of their justification of slavery and colonization. So have to be very, very careful about who we hitch our wagon to, and I trust that you all are not drawn to Darwinism. But even if you’re not, we have to be careful about the attending ideas that ride along with it.
Okay, the next topic is to talk about – now that we’ve laid a basic idea of race – and as I said that there’s one race, the human race, we have different ancestry. We have different ethnicities, but really the within group variation overwhelms differences that one population would have relative to another.
So now we’re going to do is we’re going to talk about these two issues of racism and two different perspectives on it. So, there’s two sides of this debate. Some of you have heard me speak on this before so I’m only going to summarize it today. The one camp are the “structuralists” and they see the main cause of ethnic disparities as being systems and institutions and historic forces. They’re very interested in how these larger movements of geopolitics and laws and all of the different forces that come to bear in history, how those have shaped us. And then there are the “individualists” who see the main cause of ethnic disparities as being individual choice. Some individualists will point to genetics, not all, and I’m not going to go much into this. I would really encourage you to look at a talk I have online that goes more into detail about this which is called “A Biblical Perspective on Racism.” It’s on YouTube and there I provide references and authors that go deeper into these positions.
As I said, I’m not going to go into it. I’m only going to spend just a couple of minutes on the structuralist position before moving on. One of the main arguments for structuralism is looking at how Jesus looked at people and, if you remember, in Matthew 9 – a very famous passage when Jesus looks at the people, he has compassion on them. And why does he have compassion on them? Well, that the text is very clear. It’s he has compassion on them because they are like sheep without a shepherd. And he attributes the blame. He’s burdened. He’s groaning in his spirit. He has compassion because they don’t have proper leadership. He sees people as sheep. All of us are sheep and Jesus here grieves that there is not the level of leadership that they need to have in order to flourish. This is a very common theme in the Bible where in the Old and New Testament God puts a heavy charge, a heavy obligation and judgment often on the leaders for misleading or neglecting the sheep that are under them. So these are arguments that feed into the structuralist argument that says, “Hey look, look at how Jesus looks, at how God speaks of people as being moved by their leadership in the structures above them.” The structuralist would say the telling people to make better choices is just laughably simple. It’s over simplified and they would say you are far more shaped by your parents, by your heritage, by your schools, by your culture than you even know.
And right now as we’re having all of these discussions about the way that the black community has been treated, they would say, “You can’t just tell people who are marginalized and that have had historic oppression to just fix themselves because there’s much deeper forces at play.
They would say, if you don’t believe this look at these kinds of arguments here. We know education begins education. If your parents went to college, you probably went to college. If your parents didn’t, you probably didn’t. If your parents were wealthy, you’re probably wealthy. If they were poor, you’re probably poor. If you come from a fatherless background, it tends to create and beget more fatherlessness. Crime begets crime. Again, these are facts that we all know. We all know this; we all see this and we all appreciate this and the structuralist would say this is a very important way that we ought to look at the world.
On the other side are the individualists. I should say that the structuralists tend to be, although not always, they tend to have sympathies with more liberal policies. When I say liberal, politically liberal, but not always. I’m generalizing here. The individualist often tend to have more sympathy with politically conservative positions, like the Republican Party. The individualist often begins with Ezekiel 18. Ezekiel 18 is the famous passage where God says, “I’m only going to judge the children on their own terms, and not because of the sins of the father.” And God rebukes those who speak a proverb that “The fathers have eaten the sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” And instead, he says every individual is going to be judged on his or her own merits, and how they have responded to me in faith, and for the works that they have done in this life. And so this is often a key passage that individuals make. Judgment, of course, happens at the individual level. We stand before God one day, not as a church, not as a family, stand before God alone.
And the individualists point out that humans can transcend difficult circumstances and many people in the Bible overcame the pull of the group. Abraham came overcame the pull of the polytheistic environment that he was in. So we should be encouraging and positive and many individualists fear that the structuralist’s position can propagate a victimhood sense.
Now, the thesis that I have laid out is that these are actually complementary perspectives; that you can’t say that one is wrong and the other one is right; that both have strong elements of truth, but you have to be able to use them and see them as complementary. And the other element in this is that very few people have carefully studied the subject and fewer still have studied the other position. When I say “Carefully study the subject,” meaning having read a couple, two or three, good quality books on the subject. Instead what happens is both sides tend to listen to their own camp alone, which reinforces their position as they live in this echo chamber.
It’s often very difficult for an individualist to understand a structuralist and vice versa. If you come from, and many people on this call come from a very godly heritage, you’ve had excellent training as youth, you’ve been raised in a God-fearing setting, you’ve been given a good work ethic, good education. When you look at someone who comes at the world from a more structural perspective. It’s often very difficult for you to process that – and that’s okay. And I think we just really need to recognize that. And then vice versa. It’s very difficult for the structuralist understand the individualist.
Then you have polarizing rhetoric that is deep in the divide. And right now we are at a fever pitch of polarizing rhetoric as both camps are yelling at each other and seemingly unable to dialogue. Making it worse, social media and the news often promote very superficial thinking, sound bites here, sound bites there, a lot of jabs, a lot of vitriol, making fun of one another. It does nothing to help the situation and it only makes it worse.
I often say that a well-written book is far better. You can’t compare the value of a well-written book on these subjects. And again, to see some of those resources, see that other that other video I mentioned before. And then finally, there’s way too much jargon out there that confuses this issue. I want to illustrate this with a case study here. So, these are two photographs of some recent looting that has occurred. So, here we have some young men that have looted a store and you can see they’re running down this alley and there’s some police in the distance behind them, and then down in the lower right we have again some youth here that are looting a Target, and you can see they’ve got this shopping cart full of goods that they stolen. Now when you look at these pictures, it’s a great test to see, “Now are you from a more individualist perspective or from more structural factors?” And again, I’m not saying that either is wrong. It’s merely something that we need to understand and appreciate. And individualists will often look at this and saying, “Why are these people doing such wrong unlawful acts. These people are taking advantage of these store owners and companies. This is wrong.” Maybe feeling some sense of anger and Injustice when you look at this, some desire for them potentially to be to be reprimanded or apprehended in some way. That’s usually how an individualist would look at this with some measure of consternation and frustration and grief.
A structuralist would look at this picture and say, “Why are these individuals doing this? And what about their background has led them to operate this way? Why is it? Where are their parents? What happened in their upbringing? What happened in their lack or presence of religion and church influence there?
What are the set of factors that contributed to their viewing these crimes – and both sides would think that they’re crimes – but when you look at it from that perspective, the structuralist is more interested in the “why” and would try to get at these individuals more as the products of systems that have produced this kind of desperate criminality. So, where were you when you saw these pictures? Where did your mind naturally go to?
Okay, we’re going to move to the third topic here my third and final one, which is now we’re going to try to bring these two together and try to synthesize a perspective on how we can be peacemakers during this period of civil unrest.
And as I said, go on to applications in our final section. Okay, so this is a very precious verse hopefully to all of us. This is of course Jesus speaking these words in the Beatitudes in Matthew Chapter 5 where he says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Very important verse. There’s an obvious corollary. There’s an obvious assumption or deduction that we can make from this verse which is that, to be a peacemaker you have to be in the midst of conflict. Right? It only makes sense to speak of someone being a peacemaker if they are resolving conflict. And for this reason, non-resistant people should move toward conflict, not run away.
And I’ll illustrate this by way of analogy. Let’s say in this Beatitude that Jesus hypothetically said something like “Blessed are you physicians for healing sick people” – something like that. And you then look at this group of people that are proclaimed to be in these positions that heal sick people, but they only are hanging around people who are well and they’re never visiting sick people and they’re not applying their medical skills in any way. You would say, this is very odd. I thought that your Master was blessing you for this function of healing sick people and treating sick people. You can’t really do that if you’re not around sick people. You can’t be that if you’re around if you’re merely just with other well people. So this is the analogy. A very simple concept, but we often don’t think about this and don’t think about this obvious conclusion that you have to be somehow in the context of conflict for this to make any sense. And so for this reason, I think the Early Church nicely demonstrates this that non-resistant people are often found right in the midst of difficult situations bringing in Christian peacemaking.
In addition, a major theme of the New Testament, really the whole Bible, is ethnic reconciliation. I don’t have time to unpack this in any detail, but I will just briefly say that Jew / Gentile friction was a major problem in the ancient world for centuries, and the books of Romans and Galatians are motivated by ethnic strifes that Paul seeks to heal.
And the Book of Romans was written, not as a book for Paul to write a systematic theology, but because he knew that when the Jews had returned to Rome in AD 57, that there was fighting and friction between the Jews and the Gentiles, and he seeks to resolve and heal that clash between different groups within the church. It runs through so many books of the New Testament. I appreciated what Brother Curt had said there in the book of Acts; where the church is born, it’s born in a multicultural context and there’s something very beautiful about that, the Bible seems to be pointing to where all of the nations are described and both Old Testament and New Testament is coming together under God’s banner. And I hope that that vision excites you. You know, there’s this concept of a vision statement. A vision statement is where you’re going to be in a few years, and God has given us the vision statement already. He’s painted that picture very clearly in the Word. And what any good worker does is work towards that vision statement and the vision statement is that all the nations of the Earth are united under God’s banner.
So, how do we get there? I’m going to mention this book. It’s a secular book by an individual Daniel Kahneman. He actually won the Nobel Prize in economics. And there’s some very useful concepts in here that apply for peacemaking. The book is called “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” And his framework is as follows. He says that we have two basic systems in our mind – as I said in the secular book, so I’m just taking it here not in a Christian context, but this is useful just to think about how our brains function. System I thinking is fast. It’s reflexive. It’s unconscious. So, an example would be: you see a homeless person asking for money, and just without even thinking about it, you’re not even trying to do that, you might think or have questions: “Maybe this person is lazy. Should I give this person money?” You have these very quick thoughts that come to your mind this happens to all of us.
And there are System II thinking which is slow, and it’s deliberate, and it’s intentional. And so an example here would be someone writing a computer program. You don’t do that just as a reflex; you have to sit and deliberate and think very clearly about that. And so, both of these systems are useful in the right context, but what can happen is that, unfortunately, sometimes we can be in System I thinking when we should be in System II thinking.
And so, System I run amok is all over the place. Most of the language that we hear around Covid-19, the BLM Black Lives Matter, vaccines, religion. Most of it is System I. I have many, many talks with people about all of these topics, and the number of people that have spoken to me about vaccines that have no idea what an adjuvant is, the difference in a T-cell and B-cell, and they have very strong feelings. They’re obviously reflexive. They’re obviously intuitive. They’re not born out of that careful, patient, slow study. Which means that most of what you hear around these topics including the Black Lives Matter discussion, and what we’re talking about racism is frankly just shallow and it’s not edifying because it’s this very – again – reflexive, quick judgment that’s not really, very helpful. And then on top of that when you get into a debate you get into refutation mode. And again, we’ve all been there, when you feel challenged you’re almost always in System I mode. You’re not really listening, but you’re thinking about how to answer in a way to justify yourself. You’re really in a hostile mode there.
To make things work worse, you’re probably overconfident. Kahneman talks about this a lot in the book that humans unfortunately do poorly at our level of confidence. There’s the famous Dunning-Kruger effect where the Dunning-Kruger effect says that the less you know about a subject, the more confident you are about it. And that has been demonstrated time and time again in many fields that the less you know, the more confident you are in the field. It makes no sense that this is human nature.
System II, however, kicks in when you face a contradiction in your beliefs and you have a safe space, a non-rushed space where people aren’t jumping all over you, and then suddenly you can stop and meditate on the reasons why.
Alright, here’s an example of System I thinking: there’s an essay from a woman Marilynne Robinson called “Puritans and Prigs” and she demonstrates that people dismiss the Puritans as narrow-minded, judgmental, and ignorant, and the irony that she points out is that they’re exhibiting those very traits in denouncing them. Most people have no idea who the Puritans are. They never read them. It’s just this byword of being those terms, and ironically as she said here, they’re using the same puritanical attributes they think the Puritans have as they discuss them. So she says, very simply, it is a great example of our collective eagerness to disparage without knowledge or information about the thing disparaged when the reward is the pleasure of sharing an attitude one knows is socially approved.
This is a powerful phenomenon. And this is in play right now on both sides. Much of today’s civil unrest is System I thinking. I like how T. S. Eliot puts it: When we do not know or when we do not know enough, we tend always to substitute emotions for thoughts instead of “Let me go study that,” or “Let me go think about that.”
Another individual Jon Haidt says, “Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second, moral intuitions arise automatically, and almost instantaneously long before moral reasoning has a chance to get started and those first intuitions tend to drive our later reasoning.” So, if you can understand this, you will understand a lot of how people work.
You can also understand why liberalism, socialism have gained so much traction. We heard last night from Melvin Lehman about socialism in particular. Well, why has it gained so much traction? And most people don’t appreciate this. Most people don’t appreciate that one of the key factors, I’d say, it’s one of the top three reasons why the world in general – all governments slowly move in that direction. The reason is that political liberalism emphasizes compassion and looking out for the underprivileged.
And there is a very powerful social currency that is gained from these virtues. Now, I hope you all know and we would all agree that we are not politically allied with either side. We don’t ally with political conservatives. We’re not Republicans, we’re not Democrats, we’re not two party people. We’re Two-Kingdom people. And I hope you know what I’m saying; these things that I’m saying them not from a perspective of allying with either party.
But I will say that when you look at young people, when you look at how these movements gained in stature, it’s because there’s this this affinity that we have towards compassion and looking out for the underprivileged. In contrast, the political conservatives are often perceived as being harsh and judgmental. So, this basic reason is a fascinating explanatory variable.
Now, the question is, “How is Jesus perceived?”
So now, we’re not speaking about earthly politics anymore. But when Jesus was on this Earth, how was he perceived? And I would contend that Jesus was known and admired because he was so compassionate and he was known for lifting up the downtrodden. And this is something that we need to fight for, and to recover among our own people, among our own churches.
System I thinking tends to bind (it tends to join persons to a team), and it tends to blind. It tends to miss alternative perspectives. I want to go through these quickly before giving some biblical perspectives on this.
So this is a group called the Westboro Baptist Church there in Kansas and they’re a group that’s quite famous for going to various events, funerals and holding up very hostile signs. Very obnoxious signs. Here you can see on the left this woman holding up signs. One sign says, “Thank God for dead soldiers.” And then down on the right this woman. Her name is Megan Phelps-Roper. She’s holding up a sign saying “God is your enemy.” Well, what’s very interesting is that this young woman on the lower-right, she’s actually left the church.
And the reason that she left was, she got a message on Twitter from, interestingly, a Jewish man whom she looked down upon tremendously for being Jewish, and the man responded not like most people did with vitriol and more fighting, but with curiosity to know why she believed what she did. He was very kind. He was very gentle. They actually ended up meeting at one of these protests and little by little she ended up finding that his position, his reasonableness was more compelling than her current way of thinking and she left the group. And how did she change? Fascinating commentary here written by an author Allen Jacobs who says “A wonderful account of what happens when a person stops believing what she’s told, and learns to think for herself. But here’s the really interesting and important thing. That’s not at all what happened. Megan Phelps-Roper didn’t start thinking for herself. She started thinking with different people. To think independently of other human beings is impossible. And if it were possible it would be undesirable. Thinking is necessarily, thoroughly, and wonderfully social. Everything you think is a response to what someone else has thought and said.” He’s a Christian author who has noted quite a bit on how humans think of our thought processes there.
In addition, he goes on and says, “Let’s think about this phrase, ‘Think for yourself.’ This is a point worth dwelling on. How often do we really say, ‘She really thinks for herself’ when someone rejects the views that we hold. No, when someone departs from what we believe to be the true path, our tendency is to look for bad influences. ‘She’s fallen under the spell of so and so. She’s been reading too much X, or listening to too much Y, or watching too much as Z.’” Very profound thoughts here. Very profound ideas that are right at the heart of what is happening in the world today and certainly in America today.
What about blind? I’m going to give you one example here from an individual, a blogger, named Scott Alexander. He commented here that he was rebuked by his readers when he said that he was relieved years ago when Osama bin Laden died, and people that he admired showed conspicuous disgust that other people could be happy about Bin Laden’s death. He says, I hastily backtracked and said I wasn’t happy, per se, just surprised and relieved that all this was finally behind us.
But then Margaret Thatcher died. Then on my Facebook wall many of these same intelligent reasoned and thoughtful people – the most common response was to quote some portion of the song “Ding-Dong! the Witch Is Dead.” Another popular response was to link the videos of British people spontaneously throwing parties in the streets with comments like, “I wish I was there so I could join them.” From this exact same group of people not a single expression of disgust or ‘Come on, guys, we’re all human beings here.” So I hope you can see how these pockets, these groups of people that we get attached to, and that many people on the side of the civil unrest, there’s this this binding, there’s this blinding going on that explains so much of how people do an act as they are. So he points this out, and by the way, the readers couldn’t understand what the problem was about celebrating Thatcher’s death.
So I’m going to move. I’ve got about five more minutes here and then we’ll stop for questions here.
About six months ago. I was reading a book. I think it was by an author who was coming into a Catholic church. I don’t actually remember now, but I was very, very intrigued at this description here. And I want you to think with me about this. Think very carefully. This is this of my most important slides out of the whole presentation here. So, this author who came from a non-Christian background said that he thought the sequence in coming into the church was this was as follows: he thought you had to first Behave, it would be a nice person, not tell lies, don’t swear, be an upstanding citizen. Then you Believe various truths about, in this case, Catholicism. And then finally you Belong to the church. That’s what he thought. And as I was engaging with this book and wrestling with these ideas – and again, I actually don’t remember the specifics now, it’s been several months – but the idea was thrown out that perhaps the sequence is in fact different. Perhaps the sequence is normally Belong, then Believe, and then Behave. Now by “Belong” here, I don’t mean church membership. I mean that you feel an affinity with a group of people, you feel that they are loving you, that you find a certain affinity with them, in terms of family with them. And in that belonging we come into this this place of being able to believe as that plausibility structure is filled out, and then finally our conduct becomes like that of the group. So again, I don’t here mean belong as in church membership. But in the interest of time, we don’t have time to get into this theologically and biblically, but I think you would find that there’s a lot of merit for the normal phenomenology of how we become part of a group, that this sense of belonging, believing, and then behaving. And the church therefore has an attractive and alternative social structure has great potential. So if we for a moment consider this paradigm of belong, believe, behave and last night, we heard from Brother Lehman that to the extent that healthy churches can be I like the phrase that he used they’re close communities with a mission and Brother Melvin said it well there. To the extent that we can be that in a multi-ethnic setting and offer this winsome compassion, it can draw people in and in this belonging sort of way, that they feel a sense of love, sense of belonging, a sense of “I fit here; these people love me,” and that then draws them into that healthy System II dialogue which we want to get people to where they actually can reason clearly from Scripture and have the transformation based on the Gospel call of Scripture. And my thesis is that this is the best antidote for the civil unrest that we have today to situate healthy churches in these places of civil unrest, being these close communities with a mission that offer this beautiful, winsome compassion as Jesus did.
A helpful test: Jesus chose disciples. Some of his disciples were zealots. That means they were anti-Roman who wanted to defeat the Roman government. Other disciples like Matthew, they were pro-Roman; they were tax collectors who were profiting from the system. And I find it fascinating that Jesus could bring such different people together under his leadership. And what it speaks to is that he transcended the normal axis that existed during the day, just as we should transcend the normal axis of Democrat versus Republican. He ate with sinners and Pharisees, he fellowshipped with prostitutes and engaged with Samaritans. Note the diversity, and there’s a powerful test here: how are we doing here?
You know, we all sing want to be like Jesus. I hope we all say we want to be like Jesus. But can we really say that if we’re not following in his steps of the company that he kept, particularly the diversity?
A very profitable step to grow and compassion – I don’t know how many of you recognize this picture here. But this is Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, he was held in Soviet prisons in the gulag. Very, very gifted writer, and he endured tremendous abuse and hardship while he was in the gulag prisons. And he had this leap forward where he realized one day that the guards that were overseeing him. He said, you know, do I really know that I would be that different from them if I were raised in their environment, if I had their family background, if I had their religious background, if I have their instruction, do I really know that I would be that different? And this enabled him to sympathetically identify – not to agree with them – but just sympathetically identify, that he began to love them and bless them and even understand them, and certainly to grow in their compassion.
When you think about those looters there, could you do something like that? Could you sympathetically identify with them? This is part of what it is to be a servant of Jesus who puts into practice enemy love, non-resistant love.
Okay, so we’re going end now with some summary applications, hopefully brings all of this together. So, as I said at the very beginning population differences are small compared to individual differences. And when really you’re wise, you’ll put much more attention on listening to an individual story because the individual is where the action is at. That’s where the variance is. Each person has a unique attributes, strengths, and weaknesses, and basically racism is essentially lazy overgeneralization.
Be aware of your tendency to either structuralism or individualism. I have a tendency; you have a tendency. We all do. Read good books from the opposite perspective to complement your worldview. I really feel this is a time that we all need to be doing this. I give those some of those references in that other lesson that I mentioned online. Be diligent to understand the issue. The news and social media I have found to be nearly worthless. It’s just way too shallow. I start with books and have rich discussions from that. Those of you who know me know that a lot of what I do is I meet with people over books and I say, “Hey, let’s read a book together,” and we just go through chapter by chapter. Usually in a given week, I’ll be doing that at least once or twice with various individuals. That an excellent platform to have those rich System II based discussions.
Peacemakers naturally must be in places of unrest, just like doctors have to be around sick people. Peacemakers are supposed to be around people who are in positions of unrest. I think it’s a conclusion that we ought to be living and working in places of multiple ethnicities where we do have these frictions. Be active in evangelism and discipleship in those places. The Bridge is the place we have in Boston here, but wherever you live find the place where you can embody this. Let our lives not be just mere talk. Talk is cheap.
Many and perhaps most of our beliefs are shaped by our social structures. The church is supposed to be this winsome structure that brings in those from the outside into System II level Gospel transformation, and that attractiveness is going to be driven by compassion, by thoughtfulness, by kindness. How well can we do with those?
Finally, let the company of people that you keep be a metric for how much you are like Jesus.
I actually had one more: to grow in compassion. Try to sympathetically identify with those who are very different from you. Those looters – I showed you that picture of that – would you try to sympathetically identify with them? Would you do what Jesus did, and have compassion on them as people who are like sheep without a shepherd? Remember Jesus didn’t condemn them. He didn’t criticize them. He had compassion for them and I think often we struggle to do that well, and for that reason can lose ground to a culture, as I said, that lifts up compassion that lifts up, and that’s why often we’re on a footing that’s not the best there.
So we have some discussion questions. I’m not going to read these here. They’re posted in the email that was sent out earlier. So, with that I’m going to stop sharing here and I’m going to turn this back to Brother Curt for a time of Q & A.
Question and Answer period begins:
Curt Wagoner: Well, thank you, Brother Finny. That was a tremendous blessing. It sure did make me think a lot, reflect, engage in self examination, and I’m certain that others, many others, were doing the same. We do have some questions that we’d like to present to you. Brother Philip Hess, as you can see him there on the screen, is going to be asking the questions. We’ll approach this like somewhat of a dialogue, a conversation. Brother Philip will ask the question, I’ll be kind of standing back here in the background, and you will be, Brother Finny, providing an explanation or an answer, and I may be interjecting a few comments as well. So I think we’re ready. Brother Philip, go ahead.
Philip Hess: Thank you, Brother Finny. I personally found your talk there very fascinating. You talked on quite a number of subjects that I’m very interested in. You talked about population genetics. You talked about Darwinian influence on racism. You talked about how our thought processes and intuitions are shaped by our environments and the people we listen to. And I find all those things very fascinating. So, I really appreciate that. We’ve had a lot of engaged listeners, also, I think probably found it equally fascinating. They’ve been asking questions. So let’s just fire away and see how many of these we can knock out. Okay, so I will start with the first one.
“Jesus treatment of the Syrophoenician woman could seem racist at first glance,” please explain.
Finny Kuruvilla: Yeah, that’s of course the story of the woman who comes to Jesus and he says – he uses that analogy of “it’s better to keep the bread for the children and not have it go to the dogs.” And, yeah, at first glance that does seem to be a racist comment that he would make there. However, we would spend a lot of time talking about this, but the better way to think about it is what Jesus is doing there is, he is he’s sharing kind of the staple way the Jews regarded Gentiles at that time. So we know that Paul, for example, quoted Proverbs about people in Crete, and I forget exactly how what he says, but he says they’re something like “lying, lazy, gluttons” something to that effect. And in the same way what Jesus seems to be doing is repeating the standard way that the Jews and Gentiles were supposed to be relating. Not necessarily as if that were his advocacy. But because he was wanting to see how she would respond. And of course she responds in a very bold way, “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table,” and she recognizes in some way that I don’t think we fully appreciate that there was a plan by which the Gentiles would share in the blessings that God gave to the Jews and overflowed. And this is analogous to even how Jesus interacts with the rich young ruler, where when the rich young ruler comes to Jesus, and “Good teacher…” Jesus, as you know, “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.” You know, he’s not denying his deity there. He’s challenging the way that the rich young ruler is speaking to him to basically say, “Do you really understand what you’re saying?” And so Jesus often speaks in these enigmatic, very beautiful ways that we have to take carefully there. And as I said, I think there he’s giving to her the standard line at the time and she shows that she understands the deeper meaning behind the thrust of the Old Testament, which is that the Jews would be the channel of blessing to the whole world.
Philip Hess: Thank you. That’s interesting. Now we’ve got some questions about how we should respond to the racist problems, and the conflict that is happening in the light of what you shared. So start with this one:
If Christians should move toward conflict, should we then have gone to the cities where rioting was happening and try to bring peace?
Finny Kuruvilla: Yeah. In fact, I do think that that’s the case, and of course we’re speaking here about whole churches here. And we as individuals have a finite ability there, but I believe that we as the church should be known for that. And I’m not sure if he’s on the call, but we have a couple of brothers here in Boston, one whose name is Zack Johnson, who went to Minneapolis, and we’re in the midst of doing a church point there in Minneapolis. And we have some promising starts, are admittedly very early. So I think that’s exactly right and just like, again, to go back to this medical analogy, if you’re a doctor and you’re well-trained, and you hear about the tsunami in Indonesia, you have the skills, isn’t that the best place to go and use your skills when there’s that many people who are so in need. And this notion of being people who are going strategically to these areas of unrest is exactly what the apostles did in the book of Acts. And for those who want to go deeper into this. There’s an excellent book called “The Rise of Christianity” by Rodney Stark, where he documents how this is the way that the early church operated. They would go into cities where there were a lot of people, for example, dying of plagues, with those a lot of ethnic strife. Antioch is a great example of this. Antioch in Syria was, of course, the base city that Paul used for all three of his missionary journeys, and you may or may not know that Antioch was an area that had tremendous ethnic rioting and in fact even had to put up walls between different sections of the city. There were people from China, there were people from Persia, and there were people from all over that were living there, and in that environment there were often riots that happened between different groups as they would fight. And isn’t an interesting that’s where the Christians were first called Christians and where the gospel flourished and took off and it became the launch pad for, of course, tremendous church planting out of that. So yeah, I would I would definitely advocate that, and I would hope that we as churches can think strategically about how to do that.
Philip Hess: Thank you. I certainly think often about the verse where Jesus says that “to whom much is given of them as much required” and I have to admit, I think about that verse with trembling because, you know, we live in a time of unprecedented wealth, easy travel, access of information, and I just don’t know who has been given more than I have, and probably most of us on this call can say that.
Finny Kuruvilla: Yeah, amen. I agree.
Philip Hess: We’re responsible. Here’s another one.
Is there any worth in dialoguing with people of opposing views on social media such as YouTube comments, or is it just in vain since we’re all likely in System I thinking?
Finny Kuruvilla: You know, I will generally say there’s very little value to that. There may be exceptions there, but generally where – the phrase is “trolls” – live, you’re just going to get baited into discussions that are not particularly profitable. There’s not much end to that. I find it far better to engage with people one-on-one, do a Zoom call, do a phone call, meet in person, and to have our contacts be used more as the bridge to get to a more calm discussion like that. So, we’re speaking in generalities here so I don’t want to say it’s always unwise. What I would say generally it tends to not be very profitable.
Philip Hess: Thank you. What are you what are your thoughts about that brother Curt?
Curt Wagoner: I appreciate that statement, that analysis, I think that’s probably true. I really appreciated your point that you made and your summary applications about listening to the individual story. And I question whether you can really get their story if you engage in arenas like we’re talking about here. You can do that a lot better when you actually face to face with them and can ask questions and provide inputs and that sort of thing.
Finny Kuruvilla: Yeah. Thanks. To add on to that. You know these – I’m not active on Facebook myself – but I think that there is a function where these platforms, you can do a one-on-one and say “hey, message me privately” and you can engage there in a much more unhurried, calm way where you can really listen to the individual and open up hearts. So yeah, amen to that.
Philip Hess. Yes. A lot of Christians promote “All lives matter.” Why or why not should Kingdom Christians do this?
Finny Kuruvilla: Yeah, so this is a great example of where – there’s this debate out there “Black lives matter,” “All lives matter,” Blue lives matter,” and I find it to be almost intentionally polarizing and not helpful. I don’t like any of those statements at all. And you know, one of the things that the devil loves to do is to divide people needlessly. And when I first – this “Black lives matter” thing has been around for many years, and when I first heard it, it wasn’t clear to me what the full meaning of that sentence was. Was it “Black lives matter along with other lives”? Was it “Black lives matter more”? Was it “Black lives matter…”? What does it mean? What does it mean exactly? Other people have pointed out that when you say things like “Black lives matter, especially those in the womb” then that provokes a very negative reaction. And then I would hear that, I think “That’s the sounds good to me.” So it’s intentionally an ambiguous statement that has this provocative feel to it that I don’t find helpful at all. And I don’t – I will say for myself – I don’t like any of those statements, any of those jargons, and I would rather, again, sit down with a person, “What do you mean by the statement?” And I think some people do have a good intent in that. So that’s why I’m not – I don’t want to say it’s the evil phrase or something like that. But it’s just it’s too intentionally ambiguous. There’s a great case to be made that many people mean by that “All lives matter and because all lives matter, black lives matter,” you know. Something like that, I think, is a more reasonable, unpacking. But again, like what does it mean? And I would rather not play these sloganeering games where we’re just caught in these ambiguous provocative statements that are designed to divide, because you can’t capture the richness of these ideas in three words. You just can’t. And why would we fall prey to these kinds of these gimmicks? And so that’s exactly what I meant before in the earlier part of my talk where I just don’t like these phrases and I would rather sit down and read a book and go through something or more carefully.
Philip Hess: That’s good.
Curt Wagoner: What about a follow-up question to that, Brother Finny? I’ve noticed recently that last three or four months that there are signs popping up in various yards that I observe and the statement is “Love thy neighbor.” Would you categorize that the same as you would the statements like “Blue lives matter,” “All lives matter?”
Finny Kuruvilla: I wouldn’t, and of course “Love thy neighbor” is taken straight from Scripture and I’m more comfortable with that type of statement. Now, I’ve seen that appended to other things that – there’s a sign that I saw, there’s a few of these were something like “Love thy neighbor; all people are welcome here,” and it’s written in Arabic and Chinese and lots of different languages there. It doesn’t have the same level, to my knowledge, of baggage and polarization as some of those other phrases do. Now I could be corrected in that. I’m not always the most astute on the latest thinking there. But there at least we have firm ground and that it’s a Scriptural command there. So I wouldn’t, at least based on what I know now, be uncomfortable with that.
Philip Hess: Great. Yeah, the problem with slogans is they boil something down too fine, and you miss so much. I hear what you’re saying there; it needs to be a conversation. Here’s another one. Maybe you have some experience in this you want to share, just some ideas, but:
On your list of questions, you suggested that we think about how to engage in System II dialogue. Maybe you’d like to give us a little advice on that. How can we engage in System II dialogue?
Finny Kuruvilla: Yeah. Yeah, so that’s a great question and one of the things that I would highly suggest is that you reach out to an individual or maybe a small group, and you pick a book and you say, “Okay, this this week we’re going to read chapter 1 of this book and then we’re going to discuss that,” and you have a moderator who goes through that, and you’re able to, on the on the platform, on the substrate of some well written content there, you can discuss that. And it doesn’t have to be a book that you agree with. It can be a book that you don’t agree with; that’s okay too. But there’s something about having that space where you have something that you’ve all discussed, something that you’ve all read, and then you’re going to come together and go over that very carefully. And even what we just talked about there with that expression “Black lives matter” is, there’s some great books that have come out about that. “What is meant by that?” and I’m sure we could affirm a lot of great things about that. I mean, hopefully all of us here would be, you know, championing, and if you listen to the other video that I have online, championing the plight of the black community and has been oppressed for centuries. And I would love for more of us to be doing that – reading good books, getting educated, and building relationships around that. I think that’s far and away one of the best tools that one can use.
Philip Hess: Great, Brother Kurt, do you have any comments on that?
Curt Wagoner: Well, when your comment, Brother Finny, about reading a book and then having discussions about that book was made, I happen to think back to the sentiment that I’ve carried with me for quite a while. Reading a book like “King Jesus Claims His Church” would be a good one to, also to discuss.
Finny Kuruvilla: Yeah, I agree.
Curt Wagoner: If we could find the author.
Philip Hess: That would be a helpful one. How much time do we have left, Brother Curt?
Curt Wagoner: I think we have maybe five minutes yet.
Philip Hess: Okay, great. Brother Finny, can you comment: to what extent did Darwinism create racism and to what extent it simply justify what was there?
Finny Kuruvilla: Excellent question. Yeah, it certainly did not create it. And it was there long before Darwin made his case there in the books that I mentioned. What it did, though, and what would Darwinism did in so many different ways, what is, as Richard Dawkins himself said – Richard Dawkins is a very famous atheist, he said that Darwin made it intellectually satisfying to be an atheist. So he provided a framework around which atheists could now hang their hat, because before Darwinism, what was that really to explain how the diversity of life came into existence and in a very in a very similar way what Darwin gave was a scientific justification for the supremacy of one race versus another. And of course, the whole premise of Darwinism is survival of the fittest. You have these random mutations that are occurring in the population and whichever organisms, whichever populations are the strongest and the best are going to eat up the other ones and can out-compete the other ones for resources. And so, one of the great conclusions of Darwinism, is that when you have a group that rises in prominence, with respect to military might, wealth, power, what have you, that’s survival of the fittest and as that process works itself out, you should you should want that to happen because that’s what Darwinism does. And it’s one of the great contradictions of the modern liberal ideology than on the one hand often lifts up Darwinism, but on the other hand is trying to champion the cause of the poor and the weak. It doesn’t really make sense. It’s a very odd juxtaposition there that we have. But nonetheless, Darwinism, no doubt, did that. And I’ll also say this that Darwinism later on led to the justification of forced sterilization. So, if you know Margaret Sanger and what she did with starting Planned Parenthood – that was – many, many of those ideas, again, were natural offspring of this whole ideology.
Philip Hess: Yeah. Well along with that, has Darwinism today, or liberalism, been able to disassociate itself from those ideas.
Finny Kuruvilla: Yes, there’s a rare, very, very, very random number of people who have, but in general to question Darwinism in the rubric of what today is the modern secular agenda is virtually impossible. I mean, you’re totally ostracized and dubbed a fool in, certainly in the academy and in media, so unfortunately not, and maybe that will change one day, maybe not. I don’t know. But now they’re unfortunately still bedfellows.
Philip Hess: Sure, okay, we had a request for a reading list, and you’ve mentioned books shape our thinking. Can you make some recommendations?
Finny Kuruvilla: Yeah, so I would encourage those who can to look at the previous lecture that I gave that I mentioned some of those works there. These are all secular, and so I will say before I mention anything here that all of these I would want to disclaim the underlying ideologies and isolate simply what they’re speaking about with respect to race only and nothing about any kind of Christian ideology there. I’ll say that one of the one of the first things to do is understand the history. So if we focus here on the black population, I think it is just absolutely horrific what has happened to them. Not just pre-abolition but post-abolition under Jim Crow, and really understanding the history is extremely helpful for developing your ideas on why a community is experienced what they’ve had and I’ll give an example here. There’s an author whose name is Richard Rothstein who has a book called the “Color of Law” and he’s documented very carefully how the black community was systematically and methodically marginalized with respect to where they would live in cities. Why is it today that most cities in America there’s the black part, then there’s the white part, and there might be a part where Asia and the Chinatown, something like that. Well, these are all intentional products of historical forces, namely lending companies, and I’ve heard Richard Rothstein lecture, and not a Christian, but when you read about how this has occurred, it’s just absolutely heartbreaking. Just to add onto this, of course the quality of the schools there wasn’t as good, the jobs there weren’t as good. So you had crime brewing, and then you had heavy police brutality that would come into those communities. Absolutely tragic. There’s an evangelical author’s name is William Stunts who has written about the American justice system and how that was collaborating with all of this to create very harsh criminal sentencing; very well documented as well. And those would be a couple of authors on that side. There’s another author who’s written a piece in the Atlantic called “The Case for Reparations.” And again, I really want to disassociate myself from a lot of his ideas, but it’s a very good writer who is a structuralist who’s pointed out again some of the histories; his name is Ta-Nehisi Coates. And then on the individual aside, there’s two African-American authors. One is name is Thomas Sowell. He’s at Stanford at the Hoover Institute. And then Shelby Steele would be another author, also at Stanford, both very, very gifted. Shelby Steele grew up as an African American in the 50’s. Amazing story if you read his book. Before what we had with the civil rights movement and he tells the story about he wanted to play baseball. Of course, he couldn’t play baseball. He wanted to be a bat boy then to at least be around baseball games and it would not even allow him to come into various stadiums there. And then he documents how much things have changed and he and Sowell believe that a lot of the problems today are because of the welfare system that he feels was he well intended but very misguided, and then it rewarded – it incentivized different kinds of behaviors that were not helpful for the health of the black community. And speaking, listening to both of them who are aged African Americans who have lived through all of this, and who are incredibly articulate, brilliant people, I think you’re going to get great perspectives on the individualist side as well. So I read them both. I’ve read both sides. And I’ve tried myself to really put my best effort into getting both perspectives, and I really appreciate elements on both sides, while even though I don’t necessarily agree, necessarily with the underlying ideologies.
Philip Hess: That’s good. I appreciate you giving us perspectives from both sides because if someone was to take one of those books and read it and not really have a grounding or be aware of the other side it could really influence them in a direction you’re not trying to influence them. So…
Finny Kuruvilla: Exactly. Yeah, we have to be very careful and guarded here. And that’s why I say we want to isolate this to specific discussions of how politics, how history have influenced the black community, and how policies have made an impact there these authors. None of these authors are two-Kingdom Christians. And for that reason, we have to be guarded for that reason.
Philip Hess: Sure. Well, I think we’re about out of time, so before I give a couple comments that came in, do you have anything you want to add there Curt?
Curt Wagoner: No, I don’t. Again, I will say that I have appreciated this very, very much. I’ve appreciated the responses to the question, Brother. Thank you for that.
Philip Hess: Yes, and I apologize to the people who sent in questions that we did not get around to, but I’ll just read a couple comments. This one says:
“Black lives matter” means that we as black people have been ostracized to the place where our lives never mattered as slaves, and don’t matter today because of mass incarceration and the inequality of cops murdering blacks.
Maybe you want to just make a comment on that real quick, Brother Finny?
Finny Kuruvilla: Yeah, and I would be the first to say, and I hope that that individual can listen to the other talk that I gave where I laid out the structuralist case there, and I personally have a heavy burden on my heart for the historic oppression that has occurred, both pre-abolition as well as during the Jim Crow period. And I know we don’t have a lot of time here; so I’ll just say: please go back and listen to that. You’ll hear a lot more of my heart on that, and I would agree with a lot of that sentiment there, that there has been tremendous injustices done there. And frankly often with the sanction of, I would say, the broad American church where the broad American church has not done well and advocating there for the injustices that African-American community has suffered. One of the great tragedies and blights of the history of America. So I hope you can go back and listen to that and I’d be very sympathetic with what that individual was saying.
Philip Hess: Sure. Well, okay, you can share the link with us and that can be sent out in a way that that person can receive it. I’d be interested in listening as well. And then the last comment I have here is:
Superb, foundational equipping and challenging that are so needed. Thank you and may the Lord bless you, Finny.
Finny Kuruvilla: Thanks for the encouragement. Really appreciate it.
Curt Wagoner: Thank you, Brother Phillip for addressing those questions and very adeptly taking care of this for us tonight. I want to encourage all of us to think hard and think long about these truths that have been presented to us. And let’s think humbly about this. I appreciated the comment that was made near the end of the session from Brother Finny. This is not an exact quote but it’s a paraphrase “Independent thought is impossible.” And maybe original thoughts occur, but I would suggest that they too are quite rare. And when we think about that, it should cause us to recognize our own smallness and our own inadequacies and to really begin to listen to other people. And it’s by listening that we can really enter into fruitful conversations and gain enhanced understandings. So just blessed greatly by what we have heard tonight. Thank you again, Brother Finny.
So just a few comments as we kind of wrap things up here this evening. Again, there are some questions. Brother Finny has some questions and they will again be presented on the screen for those of you who are Zoomed in. For those of you who are not, I’ll just read them to you and you can consider them and perhaps engage your small group, your local church, perhaps your family unit, however it is, in some discussion on these questions.
- Is your natural inclination toward individualism or structuralism and why?
- Have you observed racism? If not, how would you accurately discern how pervasive racism is outside your experience?
- Have you observed tendencies in your own heart to look down on others because of their ethnicity? How might you guard your heart from a lack of compassion? Remember that love does not rejoice in iniquity, but believes all things, hopes all things.
- Pursuant to being a peacemaker, are you situated in places of conflict? If not, how can you practice peacemaking in places of unrest? What practical steps can you take to live out the gospel in a multi-ethnic setting?
- Jesus had table fellowship with people from every walk of life. Nationalistic zealots, prostitutes, tax collectors, etc. We often speak of following Jesus. How does this diversity of fellowship match your current lifestyle, or is your experience more homogeneous and comfortable? How might you improve on this? How can you engage in System II dialogue and win people of diverse backgrounds to the truth?
Those questions will be displayed on the screen for those of you that are Zoomed in for about five minutes after we conclude with prayer and then the Byler family singing will again take place. You’ll have a privilege to listen to that a second time. A reminder that at 10 p.m. Eastern time this evening, Brother Bill Shiley will be speaking to us again on “The Problem of Pain.” This will be Part Two. The first part was shared last evening.
So, thank you, each one for tuning in. Let’s close in prayer:
Gracious God, heavenly Father, as we approached you at the conclusion of this session tonight, we thank you for your goodness. Thank you, Father, for the way that we’ve been challenged, the ways that our lives have been checked. We recognize as we engage in some self-examination that we have too often failed to be the kind of Kingdom Christians that we ought to be. Father, bless Brother Finny. Keep him safe in your care, and keep him safe from the attacks of the enemy, and bless us each one with security and Christ and a desire to live the teachings of Jesus to a greater degree. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.