17 September 2014

Doing That to Some BODY

by The Late Frank Turk


So after I announced that I would be returning from Hiatus, things happened that no one was looking for or could foresee -- and it turns out that one of them was this:
I've had lunch with Darrin Patrick.  Frankly, there are only one or two things in 15 years I have ever seen him do which I would raise an eyebrow to, and I see him as a faithful brother, a leader who smells like the sheep he is serving, and a "friend" in the theological, Blogological and Internetilogocal senses of the word.  He's a loving father, a devoted husband and pastor, and he's the kind of guy Acts29 aspires to produce and nurture.

I like Darrin Patrick.

So for the next few weeks, I'm going to say a few things for the sake of encouraging others on this topic.  I think there's a larger question involved here which I have written about and linked to over and over again since I originally wrote it in 2008.  Clever readers of this blog will see that this post is really a version of that post.

For my money and time, this is only one place to start this discussion.

When Martin Luther King Jr. told us in 1962 that (in his words) "the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination ... on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity," he did not foresee something that is evident today which I am certain would have been on his list of crippling, enslaving, and isolating barriers to freedom.

I think that all of us, as a culture, are utterly desensitized to violence -- particularly, the brutality of gun violence.  It's funny for the comic book guy to have to explain this to you, but maybe I'm the only one who really gets this.  The only people that I know who are actually re-sensitized to it are my friends who have served in the military under fire in hot war zones.  For the rest of us, gun violence is something that we use for entertainment.  We watch the Expendibles, and we play Call of Duty, and maybe we hunt once in a while.  Watching the way men use bullets has somehow translated for us from an unthinkably-final act made necessary only by the worst-intended and least-explicable sorts of aggression into a kind of dramatic device.

You know: Captain America's shield (which is not a gun) is a dramatic device.  There is nothing in the whole (real) world which can do everything that it does -- and the one thing it does most of all is define who has the upper hand.  When Cap has his shield, he has the upper hand and is nearly invincible; when someone else has it, it is a visual cue that Cap is no longer in control.  When someone else carries a fake version of the shield, they are either trying to pay homage or to trade in Cap's rep.

My point being this: somehow we see gun violence exactly like Cap's shield when we try to think about gun violence in this country -- that is, somehow it is only a dramatic device to be used as a rhetorical flourish or a way to advance a plot development, but not the sort of thing which frankly leaves at least one person on the pavement bleeding out painfully in the last minutes of life, and the other changed forever - usually for the worse.

Here's how I know this.  This video exists on YouTube:

I picked that one rather than a rap video only because the dehumanization of the shooter and the target is here so obvious.  Seriously now: the point of it is to make the idea of a bullet which generates shrapnel a thing of beauty and art -- in order to create the idea that this is a kind of dramatic device and not a weapon which anyone can use to spill someone's guts out all over the street or all over a room.  But what we're actually considering in this video is doing that to some BODY for any reason whatsoever.

My point in saying that is not to go on to some pacifistic rant about taking guns away from everyone. I'm not interested in those sorts of comments from other people at all.  The problem really is not that there are so many guns and bullets.  I'm already on record plenty about that.  The problem I am underscoring here is that somehow when we talk about the times when guns are at the center of a controversy, we often speak -- on both sides, mind you -- as if we are talking about exploding watermelons instead of husbands and sons who are on both sides of the barrel.

Look: the first best thing to do if we open up a "theological" or "gospel" discussion about "racism" here is to begin with the obvious first step.  We have to humanize this discussion before we try to theologize the discussion.  Some people will tell you this has it backwards, but those are also people who have never successfully spoken to another human being about anything ever. If we don't humanize the discussion right away when we are discussing the topic of racism -- especially the charge of racism in a police shooting -- what we are actually doing is minimizing the real human toll of events (like the one everyone is so sincere and troubled about in the last few weeks) on real people for the sake of the drama rather than the sake of getting our minds and souls right.  If we are minimizing the human toll, high-brow sounding language about "gospel" and "theology" is forgetting one of its two foundational categories for presenting themselves to anyone about anything.

We don't have to convince God racism is wrong.  We also don't have to convince anyone that God thinks racism is wrong.  The point of trying to talk about theology and racism really turns out to be a discussion about whether or not we are talking about and talking to people who are not worse sinners than ourselves in order to show how God's solution for sinners applies to the situation in question.  You can't do that if they hear you say, in effect, that gun violence is justified because it's done to sinners.

When someone shoots someone else in the street, the person who goes down does not go down bloodlessly.  He doesn't get up again.  It's not a routine thing, as if this is what we do instead of our barbershop quartet.  It's not scored to an epic martial theme.  And in many cases, unlike most of the fight scene in a Marvel movie, it's not always white people taking out white people.  It's often more racially complex than that -- for the most part because there is crime in both white and non-white communities which the police must do something about.  The police go to all communities on crime calls because if they didn't, it would also be called (for good reason) a subtle form of racism.  And when someone goes down like that, someone else has done it, and has to live with it because let's face it: he probably didn't get out of bed intending to do something that terminal today.

So if you are asking TeamPyro -- or specifically, me -- to talk about this subject, my first reaction to the request is this: I'm not going to address this topic as if it was some sort of theological/sociological drama in which it's pretty obvious who the good guys and the bad guys are.  This is a topic about how sinners behave in a real world.  I'm also not going to treat it as if this is an abstract subject -- because in this case, abstraction dehumanizes those we are talking about and leads us to presuppositions which are both unwarranted and unhelpful.  That approach is dehumanizing -- and dehumanization is loveless, thoughtless, and godless.  It forces us to treat someone who is a person as if he was not a person, and is not related to other people.  Most importantly, however, I am definitely not going to tell you what you want to hear.  I am warning you before we get to the meat and potatoes here (or even the drinks before dinner) that I am definitely going to offend you because I am absolutely certain of one thing as I start to gather my thoughts on this subject: you (whoever you are, great or small) are part of the problem in this public discussion, and at least some of your perceptions and opinions are wrong.  You are, after all, a sinner.  Our objective in this discussion ought to be to fight against all the sinful inclinations we have toward other people and deal with them first before accusing them of being or doing something we shouldn't have expected in the first place.

The main take-away from today's post, however, needs to be this: every single time a gun is fired at a person in our nation, a brutal act of violence has been done by one human being to another.  A melon is not exploded; a player is not sent to respawn.  More than one human life is ruined in a bloody and irrevocable way. Unless you can accept that premise and work out your own views by accepting that fact, you really have no business in this discussion at all.

More next week.

16 September 2014

A word of advice, young feller

by Dan Phillips

Since age is a matter of math, and not maturity, I qualify as an old guy. It comes with lots of aches, lots of pains, and lots of regrets. I figure there have to be some perks to it — one of which is the right to issue sagacious lectures to yoots.

Like the one that follows.

A while back, a young feller doing a sort of intern ministry in a church confided to me, a visitor, that he felt like some people were despising his youth (cf. 1 Tim. 4:12). Without even having to think, I replied that looking back I think the problem was that people didn't despise my youth nearly enough.

Here's the thing: when you're young, often matters look a lot sharper simply because you don't know as much. The picture is crowded by fewer details, and far less experience. It's like looking at the most rudimentary map, on paper: this dot is where you are, that dot is where you're going, and there's just this line with a few jogs and curves connecting the two dots. How hard can it be? Enough with the planning and providing and deliberating — let's go!

Take this satellite shot of a secret fishing place I've known for decades.

The trail is off in the trees to the right. The lake is on the left. As you look at this shot, you think, "Should be easy as pie. Just leave the trail, head straight west, and bang, you're there." Yeah, except no. For one thing, there is no trail to this lake. For another, no sign says where to leave the main trail. For yet another, the trail is in tall pine trees. No landmarks are visible from the trail, indicating where the lake is. What's more, the whole trek is through pine trees, over shifting boulders, through scratching bramble, and off into another little forest.

Also, the terrain is much more rugged and uneven than it looks in the picture. The rocks are a lot more challenging, the trees a lot thicker and more blinding. It's a rough slog, and what really is easy is to shoot too high or too low — and once you do that, you don't know which you've done. Is the lake further up, through brambles and bushes? Or is it back down, over rocks and between trees?

"Wow," you say, "it doesn't look like that at all. It looks flat, straightforward, simple. How do you know all that?"

Because I've been there. Again and again, since my father took me probably 45+ years ago. I've made all those mistakes, and I've finally worked out a system.

Everything looks easier on paper, and let's be honest: to a young guy, most things still are on paper.

The "plus" of the clear-eyed, goal-oriented, let's-go-get-'em perspective of yoots is that old guys can get bogged down in the process. They (we) can get overly concerned with nuts and bolts and details, and they can lose sight of the objective — lose sight of it, and, buried under the necessities, lose the joy and excitement and insistence of it. This makes young guys lose patience with old guys, and sometimes provokes them to over-correct. They may bellow "Blast the details! You sit and figure! I'm going!" The old guys shake their heads, roll their eyes, and get back to listing and calculating, or maybe just to shoring up and maintaining.

The Gospelly truth of the matter — as I have preached and written at length — is that we need each other. The young man who impatiently sets out to find a church exclusively made up of and led by young people is a fool, to be blunt about it. But the old folks who dismissively wave aside youthful enthusiasm and energy are equally foolish, and shortsighted to boot. (Cf. Proverbs 20:29 for both.)

The solution to this divide is the same as the solution to racism: a strident and resentful sense of victimhood and entitlement!

Hah, just seeing if you're still awake and thinking. No, of course the solution literally and simply is the Gospel, and the graces born of the Gospel — graces of love and patience and forbearance and compassion and humility and longsuffering-without-acting-like-you're-suffering-all-that-long-or-all-that-much.

Now I speak often to the older folks, urging them to welcome and hear the young, not to exclude them. This time I want to target the young. I will remind you (as I did the young man mentioned earlier) that there's a reason why God named the leading office in church "elder" and not "younger." There's a reason why respect for your elders isn't just a 1950s value, it's a Biblical value (Leviticus 19:32; Proverbs 16:31; 1 Peter 5:5). For the sake of this discussion, I will assume (charitably) that you have things to say that the older folks in your church need to hear.

So how will you make it easier for them to hear what you have to say, with unpursed lips and unraised eyebrows? Simple. Three steps.
  1. Introduce yourself to them all, learn their names, get to know them as people. Don't stand off in your youth-ghetto, until you want to come and ask for something. If you retort "But they stand off in their oldth-ghetto," I'd reply (A) yeah, real mature response, bro ("They did it first!"); and (B) they probably figure you'd be uninterested in them. They hear that message a lot in the culture. But we are supposed to be counter-cultural, where the culture sneers at God. So show them wrong. It really, really is to your benefit, as well as theirs and the church's.
  2. Attend all the church meetings you can. Yep, you heard me. Think about it. That's where the life of the church happens. Learn what questions they're asking, what their concerns and needs are as expressed in prayer. Learn more about what your church is teaching and doing. Perhaps you can help. But more to the point, in this way show that you are part of the whole life of the church. You're not just some fly-by, strafing the church with opinions and demands and big ideas and projects, set to move off any second for marriage/college/job, leaving them to resume the heavy lifting — in addition to clean-up and repair work from your ideas. Otherwise, if you're not usually there when the family gets together, what's the natural conclusion? 
  3. Volunteer profligately for service opportunities. You're young, you have time and energy. So use it to serve the Lord in your church. See, think about this: these older folks you may sneer at are the ones who built that church, under God. They paid for it all. They painted it, weeded it, maintained it, serviced it. They prayed for it, wept for and with it, bore with it, built it. They've hung in there through fads and movements and insurrections and dramatic comings and departures. They've borne the heat and pressure of the day. On unglamorous church work days, where there's yard-work or furniture moving or painting or suchlike, who do you think makes up the majority of volunteers? The under-thirty crowd? Or the over-fifty? And you just want to ride in, attend one service a week, never participate in fellowship, and tell them how they're doing this or that all wrong? Earn their respect before you insist on it. When they've seen you volunteer kid-watch detail, or painting, or weeding, it's a lot easier to hear your thoughts about the direction or messaging of the church.
I want to see youngers and olders listening to each other, loving each other, pooling their resources, and working together for the spread of the Gospel and the health of the local church.

This would help.

You're welcome. Er, y'know... dude.

Dan Phillips's signature

15 September 2014

Let It Go

by the Late Frank Turk

Well: did you miss me?  Did anything happen while I was gone?

Yes, sure: you have a list.  Me personally?  I have a list of items which I would like to use to return from Hiatus in a clear and cautious way.

ITEM: It was Trogdor who branded me "the Late Frank Turk" via twitter in Summer 2014, and I'm happy with it.  Here, anyway, that will be my handle from now on.

ITEM:  You have no idea who they are, but this blog would not exist today without the tireless and thankless work of two men who shall continue to remain nameless who are the minions who, every week, in spite of personal burdens and preoccupations, continue to fill and re-fill the Dose of Spurgeon and the Best of Pyro editions.  We'll get to Dan in a minute, but let's face it: those two features constitute 33% of the days there are available for posting, and in the last year it also constituted more than 50% of the blogging which happened here.  While they may continue to remain nameless and faceless, let's today not allow them to go thankless for doing more to improve the blogosphere than most people will ever recognize or appreciate.

ITEM: So that his place in the world of things is not overlooked, my friend Dan Phillips is, frankly, a pillar of a man in his family and in his church, but he has done what few people would have agreed to for the last year or so: he has manned the helm of a blog known globally for setting the world on fire essentially as the one guy.

He had one job, as the meme goes, but rather than producing an epic fail, he has frankly preserved our readership and our reputation with steady hands and (it seems right now anyway) a pure heart, a clean conscience, and a good faith.  And no medication was needed in the aftermath.

ITEM:  I suspect it will also go live today, but in case you missed it (the kids say ICYMI; to which I say, speak English), starting today I am also a contributor to the Reformation21 blog.  I think someone is likely to be brought up on charges before the session for allowing a Baptistic Dog's Breakfast like me into the fold, but because it will make all the right people angry, I'll be pleased to do it.  There are two sub-items associated with that:
SUB ITEM #1: There's no way for me to blog more than once a week about things other than building CosPlay props, so my participation here will be balanced with my participation there.  Sometimes you'll find my paw prints here, other times there.  There will be no particular method, but only the usual madness. 
SUB ITEM #2: One reason in particular for blogging at both venues will be that the internet is wrong -- but in this case, I want there to be no cause for the internet to be wrong about whether or not I'm still the same guy who wrote all the open letters and who also wrote this specific post to my fellow Pyro.

ITEM: Because I love this graphic ( →→→ over there, to the right ), some version of it will appear in all posts from me going forward for the sake of engaging those who are bound to  ask.

ITEM: For those of you who are interested, this last summer at church I expanded and revised a class I did at my previous church in 4 Sundays to 9 or 10 Sundays, and I'm pleased with the results.  I wanted to do "How We get the Bible in English," and I did.  It goes from the origins of the written word all the way through the Greek and Hebrew, the Vulgate, and then ends up with 2-3 weeks on how and why the Bible gets translated, and whether one method is better than the other(s).  You can find all of them right here.

ITEM: Along those same lines, I have made a commitment to my friends at my home church that, going forward, if I would not teach about it during Sunday school, I'm not going to blog about it here.  That limits the subjects I'll cover here pretty narrowly.  It's probably best that way.

ITEM: Also along those same lines, unless someone commits a felony (and even then, it would have to be feloniously innovative), I am personally through opining about and writing open letters to or about that fellow in Seattle.  My expectation is that the readers of this blog will not bring it up.  What has finally happened there is a terrible loss for so many reasons that to trot them out could be seen as less than virtuous.  But one can't be blamed if one wonders how this could have shaken out if the people who were so concerned about privacy and process had engaged as seriously as they are right now 5 years ago.

ITEM: Wednesday is coming.  Prepare to be boarded.

14 September 2014

Giving the keepers their due

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Speeches at Home and Abroad, page 97, Pilgrim Publications.

My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred. Song of Solomon 8:12 

I sat on Monday last by the bedside of one of my old members. I went to comfort her, for I heard she was ill; but, instead of comforting her, she set about comforting me, so that I went away rejoicing.

She began in this way, “My dear pastor, I shall never be able to tell to any soul what I owe to you, both personally and relatively.” I said, “Now, do not talk about that.”

She replied, “I will, for my former pastor, Joseph Irons, once preached a sermon upon the words, ‘King Solomon shall have a thousand, but they that keep the vineyard shall have two hundred,’ and that dear man of God said, ‘Give God the glory, give Solomon his thousand, but let his ministers who are keepers of the vineyard have their two hundred. Give them all the encouragement you can.’

Now (said she), that sermon did me good. I used to be afraid to cheer ministers and tell them what God had done by them, for fear that they should be proud; but from that sermon I learned that it was God’s business to keep them humble, and my business to encourage them.”

12 September 2014

Some here, some there — September 12, 2014 (special #TGCBlockedParty edition)

by Dan Phillips

Once again we'll start small. Do check back through the day, it will grow!
  • You've enjoyed some tweets I've lifted from the parody account The Gospel™ Corp. I have no idea who writes it, but it is just about the deftest parody-account I've seen. I mean, come on:
  • And how could you not love...
  • So I was genuinely surprised to find this:
  • I asked if it was a joke, learned to my astonishment that it was not. I honestly couldn't believe it. The TGC blocked this parody-account? How tone-deaf can you get? Were they trying to validate all criticism of their echo-chamber culture?
  • (By contrast, the Joel Osteen parody account is not blocked.)
  • So, moved by curiosity, I tried to follow TGC — to find that I too had been blocked at the user's request. Then others started checking and finding that they also had been blocked. So someone started the #TGCBlockedParty hash tag. Hilarity ensued. For instance:
  • ...and...
  • ...and...
  • Why did they do it? Was it a glitch? I've not been contacted, and I'm pretty high-profile and easy to find. I just checked the TGC account to see if there were any tweets about glitches creating false blocks, and found none. What did the blocked have in common? Some had objected to Mahaney and TGC's handling of all that, but I don't think I've written a word on that subject. What was the common factor?
  • Cripplegate's Jesse Johnson had a suggestion:
  • Jesse's other suggestion was this post about Driscoll.
  • The first result is that TGC is cementing its image of insular isolation and uber-prickly inability to entertain even the mildest criticism from outside clubhouse walls. Like this:
  • The second result is that being blocked by TGC is becoming a badge of honor. Like this:
  • I can envision the day when folks will say, "X is kind of a squish. I mean, he couldn't even get himself blocked by TGC."
  • Also, it's giving some good brothers a sad. Tony Miano felt left out for not being blocked.
  • And:
  • So: we've known for some time that its the stance of TGC and many of its writers that they are "unable to see" Pyromaniacs or anything we produce, no matter how effectively it forwards the convictions and truths they say they love and want to promote.
  • At least one TGC writer removed us from his blogroll (though he is still on ours). Why? Did we stop being Gospel-centered? Did our analyses of the scene drift from accuracy? History has since answered both. 
  • And so now apparently TGC is blocking critics of any sort on Twitter, though even then not with consistency.
  • What makes all this so sad — and what has taught me the bitterest, most unwelcome lesson in recent years — is how it relates to their own stated mission:
  • Yes, perhaps — but only if you're in The Club. Phil's question has now been answered.
  • Maybe if TGC isn't using their mission-statement anymore, another organization could take it over?
  • Chris Dean has a thought:
  • All these revelations have been hard on Carl Trueman. He's in our prayers.
  • Trueman is in interesting company, but he already knows that. Prof. Kevin T. Bauder may be on to something in some cases (obviously not in Trueman's), when he suggests that a better name might be The Gospel Coalition and Anti-Dispensational League. (h-t tweet from Scott Aniol)
  • What are your predictions as to how this will resolve? Will they find a way to strike a hurt, offended pose and make it look like everyone else's fault, make everyone else look foolish and small? Will they just start unblocking, without a word? Will it follow the flow-chart?
  • In other news...
  • Clint Archer writes a post for single men that reads something like a companion-piece for this post, though he doesn't mention it.
  • Are you going to get the new Apple watch? I haven't heard yet whether or not Phil will...
  • Should Christianity be Cool? Gene Veith says what Phil Johnson was saying right here on this blog years ago. (See this from 2010, this from 2012, this from 2008.)
  • Well, that's all right. Evidently lots of people like writers and sites that do a lot of playing catch-up. But we already talked about TGC and its bloggers.
  • No no no, the Parliament of World Religions is going to be held in Salt Lake City. Not at Saddleback. So quit that.
Again, check back through the end of the day.

And you can only comment on this post if you've been blocked by TGC! (Kidding, kidding...)

Dan Phillips's signature

11 September 2014

Omniscience, Certainty, and "The Far Side of Neptune"

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Dan back in June 2011. Dan made the case that only Christians have grounds to be (humbly) certain about anything.

As usual, the comments are closed.
To profess certainty, non-Christians must feign omniscience. This thought touches on what I might call the "Far Side of Neptune" argument. 

Just think of all the "scientific" theories in all of human history that have died horrible deaths in the light of new discoveries. The positions were always held with great confidence right up to the moment they had to be abandoned...and sometimes even afterwards. One new fact, or one new set of facts, provoked a paradigm-shift, however eventual and reluctant.

So, how many facts are there, in the universe, total? More than ten? More than a trillion? More than ten decazillion, cubed? Of course, we could never even guess the number — let alone their nature — of all facts.

That being the case, who can say with certitude that one fact, existing only ten miles under the surface of the far side of Neptune, and only within an eight-inch radius, would not change everything we think we know about... any given subject? One can scoff, he can dismiss, he can bluff... but he can't answer that question. He cannot honestly say that he knows for a certainty, one way or the other, that some fact not yet in evidence would not constitute a transformative, revolutionary revelation.

Yet nobody lives with such uncertainties. Nobody speaks exclusively in the subjective mood. We love the indicative, even more than we should.

So we announce that (say) evolution is an undeniable fact, that the world is X-zillion years old, that homosexuality is not a chosen behavior, that the unborn are not human, that this or that is right or wrong. We speak as if from a perspective of not only omniscience, but omnisapience; as if we both possessed and understood all facts... even though neither is true.

Yet someone has to keep pointing out the emperor's illusory garb: unless the speaker has an infinite grasp of both the identity and the meaning/significance of every last fact in the universe, he has no right to speak with certainty.

Yet the unbeliever regularly does so speak. He does not possess omniscience. He merely feigns it. His intent is to cow opposition (and quiet his own conscience [Rom. 1:18ff.]) by a show of bravado. As we have seen, the tactic often works in the short run.

A second idea lurks under the surface: "Thus Christians alone not only can be, but are obliged to be, humbly certain." The Christian, insofar as he actually practices the faith he professes, necessarily affirms the inerrancy of Scripture as the very word of God. In so doing, he claims to possess a revelation from the only one who actually does know and understand absolutely everything that exists, since He is the Creator of absolutely everything that exists.

Ironically, however, there are those who (A) claim to be Christian, but (B) choose to feign uncertainty on unpopular issues where the Bible is pretty clear.

These are not murky penumbras, but clear doctrines. Not that a devoted opponent cannot fabricate some murk; it is axiomatic that great distance from the Word necessarily creates greater murkiness (Isa. 8:20). Any clear statement can be smudged... including this one. But the professed believer who adopts a pose of tentativeness on such issues is in the precise-reverse position of the unbeliever who adopts the pose of certitude.

In sum: the person who denies God's revelation is obliged to speak uncertainly about everything; the person who affirms God's revelation is obliged to speak certainly about some things (Amos 3:8; Acts 4:19-20; 5:29; 1 Cor. 9:16).

10 September 2014

In The Name of Human Opportunity

My guess is that if you read this blog, you have never read any W.E.B. DuBois. In fact, I'll bet that if you read this blog, you cannot tell me who this fellow is. Since last week we cited the greatest aspirational speech ever in our nation on the topic of race, I thought it would be perfectly and sincerely vital to look back a little further into the history of Black people in this nation to the man who might be the one who has best explained the world they live in. If I have any concerns about reprinting this here today, it is only that it leap-frogs backwards in time to a place before the height of Black culture in America. But that time would never have existed without DuBois' writings and thoughts.

Before we go there, let me say this as the last breath of my hiatus goes away: anyone asking the fellows at TeamPyro for some insight about theology and racism who have not themselves read DuBois and Langston Hughes and Frederick Douglass and Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright and James Baldwin and so on (forgive me for listing none of the great voices of Black women) -- please don't lecture me about who I ought to have invited to dinner. Please don't expect me to take you seriously when what you think we ought to do is simply accept that we are ignorant and awful.  We didn't expect that the best we could do to take in the Black experience was to listen to rap music -- as if the White experience could be gleaned from country music.  Some white people have grown up among black people, and wanted to love them, and listened to them as they told us from their best voices what we ought to believe about who they are. We listened then, before most of the users of the internet knew there was a world bigger than their own neighborhood, and we decided early on that our expectations for any person would be the ones we had for ourselves -- namely, to expect the best, forgive honest mistakes and the faults of immaturity, and to do to any person what we would expect to be done to us.

The text below is from the first chapter of The Souls of Black Folk, copied and pasted from bartleby.com.  I have updated the paragraph breaks for internet readers.

fter the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.

This, then, is the end of his striving: to be a co-worker in the kingdom of culture, to escape both death and isolation, to husband and use his best powers and his latent genius.

These powers of body and mind have in the past been strangely wasted, dispersed, or forgotten. The shadow of a mighty Negro past flits through the tale of Ethiopia the Shadowy and of Egypt the Sphinx. Throughout history, the powers of single black men flash here and there like falling stars, and die sometimes before the world has rightly gauged their brightness. Here in America, in the few days since Emancipation, the black man’s turning hither and thither in hesitant and doubtful striving has often made his very strength to lose effectiveness, to seem like absence of power, like weakness. And yet it is not weakness,—it is the contradiction of double aims.

The double-aimed struggle of the black artisan—on the one hand to escape white contempt for a nation of mere hewers of wood and drawers of water, and on the other hand to plough and nail and dig for a poverty-stricken horde—could only result in making him a poor craftsman, for he had but half a heart in either cause. By the poverty and ignorance of his people, the Negro minister or doctor was tempted toward quackery and demagogy; and by the criticism of the other world, toward ideals that made him ashamed of his lowly tasks. The would-be black savant was confronted by the paradox that the knowledge his people needed was a twice-told tale to his white neighbors, while the knowledge which would teach the white world was Greek to his own flesh and blood. The innate love of harmony and beauty that set the ruder souls of his people a-dancing and a-singing raised but confusion and doubt in the soul of the black artist; for the beauty revealed to him was the soul-beauty of a race which his larger audience despised, and he could not articulate the message of another people.

This waste of double aims, this seeking to satisfy two unreconciled ideals, has wrought sad havoc with the courage and faith and deeds of ten thousand thousand people,—has sent them often wooing false gods and invoking false means of salvation, and at times has even seemed about to make them ashamed of themselves.

Away back in the days of bondage they thought to see in one divine event the end of all doubt and disappointment; few men ever worshipped Freedom with half such unquestioning faith as did the American Negro for two centuries. To him, so far as he thought and dreamed, slavery was indeed the sum of all villainies, the cause of all sorrow, the root of all prejudice; Emancipation was the key to a promised land of sweeter beauty than ever stretched before the eyes of wearied Israelites.

In song and exhortation swelled one refrain -- Liberty; in his tears and curses the God he implored had Freedom in his right hand. At last it came,—suddenly, fearfully, like a dream. With one wild carnival of blood and passion came the message in his own plaintive cadences:
“Shout, O children!
Shout, you’re free!
For God has bought your liberty!”
Years have passed away since then,—ten, twenty, forty; forty years of national life, forty years of renewal and development, and yet the swarthy spectre sits in its accustomed seat at the Nation’s feast. In vain do we cry to this our vastest social problem:
“Take any shape but that,
and my firm nerves Shall never tremble!”
The Nation has not yet found peace from its sins; the freedman has not yet found in freedom his promised land. Whatever of good may have come in these years of change, the shadow of a deep disappointment rests upon the Negro people,—a disappointment all the more bitter because the unattained ideal was unbounded save by the simple ignorance of a lowly people.


The bright ideals of the past,—physical freedom, political power, the training of brains and the training of hands,—all these in turn have waxed and waned, until even the last grows dim and overcast. Are they all wrong,—all false? No, not that, but each alone was over-simple and incomplete,—the dreams of a credulous race-childhood, or the fond imaginings of the other world which does not know and does not want to know our power. To be really true, all these ideals must be melted and welded into one.

The training of the schools we need to-day more than ever,—the training of deft hands, quick eyes and ears, and above all the broader, deeper, higher culture of gifted minds and pure hearts. The power of the ballot we need in sheer self-defence,—else what shall save us from a second slavery? Freedom, too, the long-sought, we still seek,—the freedom of life and limb, the freedom to work and think, the freedom to love and aspire. Work, culture, liberty,—all these we need, not singly but together, not successively but together, each growing and aiding each, and all striving toward that vaster ideal that swims before the Negro people, the ideal of human brotherhood, gained through the unifying ideal of Race; the ideal of fostering and developing the traits and talents of the Negro, not in opposition to or contempt for other races, but rather in large conformity to the greater ideals of the American Republic, in order that some day on American soil two world-races may give each to each those characteristics both so sadly lack.

We the darker ones come even now not altogether empty-handed: there are to-day no truer exponents of the pure human spirit of the Declaration of Independence than the American Negroes; there is no true American music but the wild sweet melodies of the Negro slave; the American fairy tales and folk-lore are Indian and African; and, all in all, we black men seem the sole oasis of simple faith and reverence in a dusty desert of dollars and smartness.

Will America be poorer if she replace her brutal dyspeptic blundering with light-hearted but determined Negro humility? or her coarse and cruel wit with loving jovial good-humor? or her vulgar music with the soul of the Sorrow Songs?

Merely a concrete test of the underlying principles of the great republic is the Negro Problem, and the spiritual striving of the freedmen’s sons is the travail of souls whose burden is almost beyond the measure of their strength, but who bear it in the name of an historic race, in the name of this the land of their fathers’ fathers, and in the name of human opportunity.