Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Green Hornet

Recently I watched a couple of presentations by Matt Chandler on race and religion:

1. There's a certain paradox in these presentations. If I want to hear a minority perspective, why would I listen to a white guy presume to educate me on the minority experience? There are black American Christians, black African Christians, Latino Christians, East Indian Christians, Chinese Christians, Chinese-American Christians, Korean-American Christians, &c., I can turn to to get a minority perspective or Third World perspective. There are Bible commentary series by Third World contributors.

2. I agree with Chandler that evangelical pastors can preach hard-hitting sermons on safe issues. We saw that failure in the Jim Crow South.

3. Chandler's presentation was basically a feel-good message. That's because it was so lacking in particulars. He gave very few details about how contemporary black Americans are ongoing victims of racism. Perhaps that's because, if he ventured to be more specific, that would make his indictment easier to challenge. Maybe he didn't take the risk of inviting factual refutation.

4. Instead of rational persuasion, he repeatedly dismissed people who don't share his viewpoint as "fools". He said the 300 members of his church who left when he starting preaching these messages were "fools" or "ignorant fools". But that means he's not making a serious effort to convince people.

5. He preemptively discounted conservative blacks. He says they're probably "trying to win approval or position".

6. He pedaled equivocations about African history and church history in reference to Egypt and North Africa. But that doesn't mean church fathers who were Roman colonists were black Africans. He might as well say Francis Nigel Lee was African. For a corrective to some of his equivocations, read Edwin Yamauchi's Egypt and the Bible.

7. He mentioned the Ethiopian church. That has a fascinating history, but the black experience in America is far removed from the history of the Ethiopian church. Weren't most slaves from West Africa rather than Egypt or Ethiopia?

8. He said most Americans are ignorant of African history. True, but then, most Americans are fairly ignorant of world history. And it's not as if most folks outside the USA have in-depth knowledge of American history, so that cuts both ways. Is Matt Chandler an authority on world history?

9. He made sniping remarks about football fans who resent players who refuse to salute the flag. But that goes to the issue of whether the narrative promoted by Black Lives Matters is factually accurate. You can't sidestep that issue. If Chandler's going to use that example, he needs to take a position and back it up.

10. Finally, he discussed "white privilege" in terms of his growing up at a time and place where he was surrounded by people who looked like him. In real life, on TV, in magazines.

i) It isn't clear how that amounts to white privilege. Is it Korean privilege to grow up in a predominately Korean-American enclave? Or Chinese or Japanese or Latino?

ii) Perhaps what he's groping at is that if most people you see on TV or film are white while you're a minority, then you have no role models or heroes with whom you can identify growing up. I suppose there's a grain of truth to that.

But does that mean that only members of your own race can be heroes and role models? I recall watching The Green Hornet as a kid. Bruce Lee as Kato was way cooler than the square Van Williams–titular star of the show. Was a white boy like me unable to relate to a minority actor? No. And I doubt I was exceptional in that regard. Lee is the only reason anyone remembers the short-lived show.

iii) Say you're white and most movie and TV dramas are by and for a white audience. Is that white privilege? But if most of the character are white, that means most of the villains are white. Is that still white privilege?

iv) From my reading, "white privilege" is defined in terms of "unearned advantages and benefits". Suppose, as a white man, I know hardly any minorities, I know little about minority cultures or Third World cultures. But is that an advantage or disadvantage? Isn't there a sense in which I'm disadvantaged if my experience is that provincial and ethnocentric? Wouldn't I benefit from having cross-cultural experience? Aren't I intellectually deprived if all I know is my own ethnic heritage?

v) Hollywood didn't have any significant roles for Asian-Americans until Bruce Lee single-handedly popularized martial arts in the west–as well as popularizing the kung fu film genre. Instead of complaining and waiting for Hollywood to take the initiative, he took the initiative. Not only is he a role model for Asian guys, but for many young men generally. That's not specifically Christian, but it shows the difference one man can make.


  1. It's one thing to espouse the views of the social justice class such as white privilege and how the history of the church is filled with racism. In that, I believe he is woefully misguided and deceived. Where it gets even more dangerous, perilously so, is when he calls those who disagree with him "ignorant fools" or where he claims that black conservatives aren't really conservative, they're just looking for approval. I believe, if he's not there already, he's very close to resign and repent territory.

  2. I currently have a class teaching this garbage. I cannot stomach it. I seriously have no clue why being around people who look like you is such a problem. I am biracial but, I do not wake up every single day thinking about my ancestry.
    In this country everybody has it so good there isn't a dire need, if any, to bemoan so called grievances that everybody does not have an equal pie slice.

  3. I wonder if white Americans living in South Korea are distraught over finding primarily Korean girl dolls in the toy store for their daughters or having to look in the bookstore for 15 minutes trying to find books with people that look just like them?

    It sickens me when the church imbibes and then uses the language of the political left. It's a serious problem that is going to have long term implications. To mindlessly accept and utilize their vocabulary is to weaken your position at the outset.