The Splintering Question

September 9, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement

This is part 5 of a multi-part series reviewing Thaddeus J. Williams’ book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice. This book is published at a critical time when many in our nation, including Christians, wrestle with the concept of justice. Williams starts with the clear biblical command that Christians must “do justice” (Micah 6:8) and “seek justice” (Isaiah 1:17). Not everything labeled “justice,” however, is necessarily biblical justice. Therefore, Williams poses twelve questions to help Christians discern true, biblical justice, while calling us to do true justice. I commend this book if you want to dig deeper and be more faithful in seeking justice. 

The fifth question Williams poses is the “Splintering Question.” He asks, “Does our vision of social justice embrace divisive propaganda?” (p. 54). Behind this question, Williams wrestles with how can a group of humans dehumanize another group of humans to the extent that they want to exterminate them? He dived into the histories of the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazis, the Rwandan genocide, the Khmer Rouge, and more to find a commonality. In every single situation, propaganda was used to dehumanize one group and to empower tribalism. 

In surveying the propaganda for these heinous, sinful movements, Williams identifies three common marks in the propaganda. “One, propaganda offers a highly edited history that paints the most damning picture it can of a given people group. Two, it encourages us to treat individual neighbors as exemplars of their damnable group. Three, it gives us a way to blame all of life’s troubles on that damnable group and its members” (p. 54). 

This sort of propaganda was not only used in the horrific genocides of the 20th century, but Williams demonstrates that it continues to be in use in some of the current justice movements. History continues to be edited to paint the most damning picture of a given people group. We are encouraged to treat individuals according to the group with which they are identified. And, an entire group is blamed for the all of life’s troubles for another group. Do you think I’m speaking of just one side of the spectrum? No. Williams demonstrates that both sides of the spectrum use propaganda like this. “In my home country, at the moment, we find ourselves in a situation, full of irony, in which the far-right and far-left sides of the political spectrum are playing exactly the same game they think the other side is so deplorable for playing” (p. 60). 

A biblical ethic of justice calls Christians to rise above this sort of tribal propaganda. A true survey of history will demonstrate that, yes, humans have acted in wickedly sinful ways since the Garden of Eden. We cannot tell an edited history that paints one group of people as utterly more sinful than another group of people. Christians do not dehumanize any single person, regardless of race, ethnicity, social/economic status, or gender, but we are called to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” We are not to treat or judge someone based upon the identity markers our current culture wants to emphasize. And Christians are to be wiser than to blame all of life’s troubles on one particular group of people. The problem of evil (including all injustices) lies in the heart of every single person; and the only power to overcome such evil is in Christ.

 

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