As the mediums of discourse have changed in the last decade, so too have the techniques of discourse. Emerging from social media, especially from the nature of Twitter, is a new social order, an order of those well-versed in the technique of sitting and waiting for others to make mistakes. Performing for their many followers with some “um-hello?-racist-much” tweet, the new commentariat cause a stir in the twitter-verse, taking offense on others’ behalf, destroying reputations and lives with a crusade of costless tweets, declared on the world’s stage with gloat and indignation. Importance in this new order is determined both by the unique ability to cope with and even perversely love and feed the rancorous anarchy, elevating the otherwise talentless into relevance, and by a technique for sentimental wit and passive aggression that once upon a time was fitting for “The Way I See It” quotes on Starbucks cups—and we could thankfully throw those away.

The evangelical social justice warrior is a member of this new order. The evangelical progressive Jonathan Merritt, for example, who seemingly roams the internet like a knight-errant searching to destroy the unjust, has enough followers to compel even notable historians to respond to his struggle against the powerful. The medium has made these people relevant, privileging those who have mastered a particular technique of engagement. They are not academics or public intellectuals; they are a new class—the Twitterati—arising from a new mode of discourse. And the more enmeshed we all are in the spectacles of the Twitter high-rise, the more their importance grows. They have a class-interest in the normalization of online mayhem. But while technique and the new medium are crucial for their success, there’s more to these people than thriving in anarchy.

The purpose here is to uncover the deep-seated motivations of these evangelical SJWs. The theory I’m proposing is that they are driven by a confluence of the Western, white pathologies of doubt and guilt. In the attempt to restore some tranquility to their uncertain lives, they crave and gaze upon the confidence of the non-white other. That is to say, their feverish SJWism on behalf of non-white people—people who have the right to confidence and exhibit confidence—is ultimately to acquire from outside themselves what they refuse to have (or recognize) inside themselves. SJWism therefore is ultimately and ironically all about remedying the effects of the self-imposed dysfunctions of SJW whiteness.

The Doubt and Guilt of the Post-Fundamentalist

We first must recognize that many evangelical SJWs grew up in fundamentalist contexts. By “fundamentalist” I refer to the recent Christian right and the purity culture of the 80s and 90s. In these decades, evangelical Christianity was thoroughly political, being full of political sermons and publications, having close involvement in the Republican Party, and having a sense of moral decay that gripped the average evangelical and drove them to action. This brought about a voting bloc that remains relevant in American politics to this day.

The fundamentalists were in part responding to certain features of modernity, such as the increased sense of doubt and uncertainty in the Western mind, caused by both the seeming collapse of Western religion into myth (through textual criticism and Darwinism) and the general failure of Enlightenment philosophy and social science to bring about the perfection of man, which became clear in the aftermath of the two world wars. What once invigorated European societies, engendering Christian piety and civil-religious solidarity and motivating many to fight and die for God and country, and what left upon the landscape both magnificent, religiously-inspired works, is now in ruins as modernity presses European society into enervation and exhaustion. Being unmoored from history and place (and even repelled by both), Western man no longer has a sense of himself, no positive identity that springs from within and for one’s homeland. The Western mind is full of self-doubt, unwilling to take a leap of confidence into self-affirmation and a love of home, for the foundation of self and home is contested and doubtful. As Douglas Murray recently wrote, “Where once there was an overriding explanation (however many troubles it brought), now there is only overriding uncertainty and question.”[1] Modern Western man is surrounded with towering images of the past and relics of an age reminding us that men once had wills to live and had the self-assurance to stand and contend for the ground, imprinted by his ancestors, that sustained him. The landscape is an enduring sign that the Christian West knew what it was capable of and wasn’t ashamed of it. But the reasons that inspired the past no longer have their effect, having been tossed aside as antiquated by modern thought.

Fundamentalism in the United States was in part a response to the crisis of the West, asserting the Christian basis of Western culture and the primacy and truth of the Bible. This explains why fundamentalists are so insistent upon the Christian origins of the American founding (and why their detractors so oppose it). The fundamentalists hoped to inspire confidence and resolve for Christians to act on behalf of their own Christian origins, culture, and place—that they might have a positive and affirming relationship to people and place and the willingness to defend it before the modern world.

This political activity however led to criticisms of hypocrisy, the lust for power, the baptism of the Republican Party platform, anti-intellectualism, the reduction of Christianity to a set of policy positions, and culture warriorism. Some of this criticism is fair. In addition, the purity culture of the 90s, with its “purity rings” the “purity pledges,” was for some a damaging time of hypocrisy that ruined people’s faith. Also, there is a growing sense that American Christians have departed from political principles of the Christian tradition. For these reasons and others, many began to question both fundamentalism and even the Christian faith.

Since fundamentalism was a steady bulwark against (at least some features of) modernity, the rejection of it often threw people into the modern malaise described above—into a state of existential doubt and uncertainty. Many of those who didn’t reject Protestant theological orthodoxy altogether still embodied or released into the Western malaise. Hence, though they are unmoored from what enlivened the Christian West, they still desired to remain orthodox. These are the post-fundamentalists. The central difference between the fundamentalist and the post-fundamentalist is that the latter now takes his confidence from outside (and against) himself, his history, and culture. Both are essentially political in orientation. The post-fundamentalist has however released himself thoroughly into the modern psyche and thereby adopted the prevailing sentiment of Western man, which includes a serious doubt of one’s faith; and yet he seeks to resolve the cognitive dissonance between extreme doubt and the certitude of faith with undoubted activity on behalf of those from whom he acquires his confidence.

For what exacerbates the Western man’s self-doubt, and yet also saves him, is the West’s “legacy” of -isms and -phobias: racism, colonialism, sexism, nativism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc. The West is uncertain of itself not only because of philosophical and religious uncertainty, but also because of its history of oppression. The Western man for this reason is plagued with both doubt and guilt, reducing him to diffidence in action and effectively separating him from any positive regard for himself, his territory-bounded people, and the land on which he and his people dwell. He is paralyzed with self-doubt and self-distrust.[2]

But the way out of this inhuman condition comes extra nos—from outside us. The confidence that is so basic to human well-being does not, for the Western man, come from within. Rather, confidence in action is made possible by the non-white, who is free to assert his or her confidence as an individual and as part of a people. As Murray writes, “Most people outside Europe…share none of these fears, distrusts, or doubts [characteristic of the modern West]. They do not fear acting in their own interest or think that their own self-interest or the self-interest of their kind should not be furthered.”[3] The Western man, by which I mean the “white” man (to use an SJW construct), needs the non-white for basic human confidence, for of themselves whites have only self-doubt, self-distrust, and self-hatred. They need an alien confidence. Distrusting the familiar, they flee to what is foreign.

Non-white confidence functions for SJW whites both as a symbol of what whites (according to SJWs) do not deserve to acquire out of themselves and as an opportunity to atone for their sins in service to the confidence of non-whites. White SJWs act on behalf of non-whites because non-whites provide whites the opportunity to strive towards what they deny themselves. In other words, non-whites are objects of the white SJW gaze and concern in order for them to perform self-denial and self-flagellation and practice vulnerability before themselves and others, and thereby publicly declare their unworthiness, and at the same time to do what humans need to do: act in confidence, though they act in confidence only because they act to affirm the confidently self-affirming non-white. So the existential crisis generated by guilt and doubt is seemingly averted because they act on borrowed confidence, permitting them to affirm an inhuman self-hatred and rejection of their home with oikophobic swagger while escaping the natural inactivity arising from such self-repulsion with effusive obeisance toward the foreign Other. This performative obsequiousness and leg-tingling xenophilia is perverse by any measure of history, but for white SJWs it is empowering.

It might seem then that white SJWs are subservient to non-whites. But the opposite is true. SJWism is itself a creation and ultimately a concern for white psychology; it is a largely unconscious creation of white people for white people. Non-whites, particular blacks, receive so much attention from white SJWs because blacks are useful for whites to tranquilize their cognitive dissonance and lack of self-confidence. Blacks have been instrumentalized as unwitting therapists for Western psychological pathologies.[4]

Evangelical SJWs have merely Christianized this SJWism. As post-fundamentalists, they are products of modernity, lacking confidence in everything originating from themselves and needing something outside themselves for confident belief and action. For after all just about everything that white people (and not only white people) love about their church traditions (e.g., the music, confessions, theology, liturgies) were developed in the absence of black people and for this reason are tainted and need correction, as Duke Kwon argued.[5] Underlying the repeated insistence from evangelical leaders that white evangelicals must “listen” to our “brothers and sisters of color” is the assumption that white evangelicals cannot say, do, or believe anything with confidence that hasn’t already been affirmed by a person of color. The same goes for civic action. As Thabiti Anyabwile says, the white evangelical disagreement with reparation proposals amounts to a “scandal” and betrays an unwilling heart. Disagreement is a heart issue, not an intellectual one; it shows that you haven’t listened with humility.

This reflects a basic principle of SJWism: a white person can confidently state only what a non-white has already stated. Or at the very least, the absence of non-white diversity makes all activities, liturgies, beliefs, loves, and concerns suspect and most likely grounded in whiteness and racism. This explains the need for the MLK Conference, which provided white evangelicals an arsenal of confidence. The general obsession with race at evangelical organizations such as The Gospel Coalition serves a similar function, along with the recently discovered obligation that evangelicals deliberately read non-white authors. Finding their traditions tainted, evangelical whites must sheepishly “stay low,” yet repent from their “white gospel” and “fragile fatigue,” and strive to infuse their white traditions with non-white diversity to remedy their inherent whiteness. Evangelical SJWs increasingly refuse to tolerate confident belief and action among white people that isn’t derived from and on behalf of non-white people. It seems to be a unique and exclusive Christian duty of white people to hate themselves while loving others for loving themselves. All of this is part of an effort (conscious or not) to proselytize white evangelicals into Western doubt and white guilt viz., bringing them into the modern malaise, and thereby making them open to “listen” with “humility.” Evangelical SJWs are missionaries of modernity. And it doesn’t matter how hard you humbly listen and plead to exhaustion for racial reconciliation and social justice, nothing you white folks do is praiseworthy.  

The evangelical SJW striving for “justice” is ultimately not about justice at all. Rather it is a sad and vain attempt to tweet oneself out of white psychology. But since no amount of effort can ultimately appease or atone (and yet the white SJW must still relentlessly strive for appeasement and atonement), he is like Marx’s laborer: the harder he works, the poorer he becomes; the greater the effort, the greater the psychological degradation and squalor. But strangely, with a mist-enveloped mind, the SJW finds it all liberating, denying himself for the recognition of another who won’t reciprocate. It is twisted and unjust.[6] As for faith, their faith is not what sustains their SJWism; their SJWism sustains their faith. They don’t act by faith; they act for faith. But in their SJW activity they derive a confidence that only covers and conceals, but does nothing to eradicate, the ruinous doubt within. For if they lacked the doubt and guilt, they wouldn’t elatedly reject for themselves, with pathetic self-abjuration, what they celebrate in others.

The Method and Mode of Evangelical SJWism

Along with embodying both the doubt and the remedy of SJWism, evangelical SJWs have likewise adopted their mode of rhetoric (see here and here). SJW rhetoric is twitter-rhetoric, even if the medium is not Twitter. It consists of a neatly packaged set of lines, tricks, red herrings, passive aggression, and shaming; and they all work best when the non-SJW has made a mistake. (As I said, that’s the SJW specialty: waiting for people to make mistakes). Discourse today is not about solid argumentation but about wielding the proper set of lines with good, social media technique. SJW rhetoric is effective because it exploits prejudices i.e. largely unexamined sentiments, and serves to solidify them. What has emerged is an unsystematic and incoherent set of beliefs or sentiments that the SJW rhetorician can easily press to cause a reaction in others. But this set, despite being largely a collection of “thin beliefs” (beliefs that do not rise above prejudice, even if passionately asserted), serves as the material by which the average SJW asserts his or her confidence. Uncostly reactions to fleeting events have taken on a surprising role, serving as the mode of certitude. This is a new form of an old ideological hegemony, with social media rhetoricians serving as the cordon of the unsystematic mess of acceptable beliefs. But this jumble of highly-regulated belief and sentiment, despite having no necessary and indeed little correlation to reality, is the plane of certainty in and by which one can act in confidence.

Evangelical twitter is a Christianized version of this, wielding speech almost entirely consistent with the ideological hegemony enforced by the Western ruling class. The persuasiveness of their activity indeed relies on the ideology of the ruling class. Many (though I’m certain not all) don’t even realize their dependence. As I demonstrated here, even quoting a Bible verse for support of some position or in reaction to someone or something can rely on popular sentiment for its persuasive force. This is clearly and daily revealed on evangelical Twitter where evangelical twitter-rhetoricians tweet what they take (falsely) to be self-evident or they tweet what is undisputed to affirm what no one denies to imply that their opponents deny it. The persuasive force of the rhetoric relies on common sentiment acquired elsewhere. Besides the use of Christian language, the only real difference between secular SJWs and evangelical SJWs with regard to rhetoric and background assumptions is that while both are aggressive the latter specialize in aggression that is at once sentimental and passive.[7]

Since evangelical SJW activity relies on the ruling ideology of Western society, their faith not only relies on their SJW activity, but also and originally on the ideology generated and sustained by the secular world and the technique of the new medium of discourse. And their ends are increasingly, if not already entirely (minus perhaps abortion), the same ends as the Western ruling class. There is no “disruptive witness” in evangelical SJWism. They are enforcement agents for and the evangelical face of upper-class interest.

If in theory and practice this Christian SJWism were simply a way to keep millennials in the faith, then it might be tolerable (and it might be tolerant). But regardless of what its engineers intended, it has become more than an Ed Stetzer-like marketing technique for angst-ridden young people. Being fueled by the modern unease and communicated via modern mediums, it is, much like modern liberalism, devoted to domination and ideological imperialism, and evangelical SJWs have Christianized every tool of the world to do it. Furthermore, since their certitude of faith is inextricably linked with the certitude of SJWism, which is itself linked with ruling class ideology, every shift or progress in society’s prevailing ideology will force evangelical SJWs, in the interest of the certitude of their faith, to shift or progress with them. And the rest of us are then shamed into conformity or silence.

Racist!

But before concluding, allow me one corollary. The favorite accusation of the evangelical SJWs is “racism.” As many have said, the terms lacks any coherent definition by design: its force in argument is not due to its intellectual content but to its social force, for it forces the accused (regardless of the view, speech, or state of being that occasioned the accusation) into a defensive position from which he must dig himself out, and of course the act of denial is treated as an admission of guilt. But there is, I think, a simple definition of racism as the term is used today: any view, speech, or state of being that obstructs the gaze of whites upon non-whites. “Racist!” is about white people, particularly white SJWs who need non-whites for their own psychological well-being. Anything that hinders that gaze is racist. This explains why white SJWs, with solemn deference, refuse to ascribe any negative qualities to non-whites; and when they do, whites are at fault. This also explains what some have called “hate-facts”: the accusation of racism for stating what is factually true of non-whites (e.g., black crime statistics and, in the European context, sexual assaults by Muslim men). Even if the statement is true, ascribing negative qualities to non-whites casts doubt on the effectiveness of the white SJW gaze and therefore such statements violate SJW speech-codes. The protection of marginalized groups from the “harm” done by such statements is ultimately for the psychological well-being of fragile white SJWs.

Conclusion

One may question my lack of specificity. Who am I referring to? Why use a disputed term, “social justice warrior”? One reason is that it’s an accurate term. The fight for social justice has been sacralized and strengthened by resolve and with a sort of warrior ethos. Christian SJWs are on a crusade, a holy war.  Also, I’m not referring merely to the “evangelical progressive” or to the “evangelical left.” The “SJW” is an ambiguous term as to its extension because it captures a spectrum. We are all, especially young people, conditioned by the state of the modern West, social discourse, and other factors to be social justice warriors. Some evangelicals, such as Brad Mason and Alan Noble, have fully embraced that conditioning as if true sanctification is easing one’s resistance to the zeitgeist. Others simply revel or take comfort in  self-deprecation. Being prepared to believe and act as SJWs, we’re all susceptible to influence from the imperial ambitions of the evangelical woke. After all, the modern malaise is the meta-narrative of discussions on social justice, with its differing possibilities of self-affirmation. This is implicit or explicit in almost all social justice discourse. This essay then should, in addition to describing the motivations of social justice warriors, help us understand and read ourselves and uncover the background narrative of our thoughts, actions, and postures. The meta-narrative needs to be deconstructed, first within ourselves and then society.

The more woke evangelical SJWs are obsessed with race because they must be obsessed with race. It conceals their own cognitive dissonance that structures their mental life. In reading this article, evangelical SJWs have discovered that there is nothing more white than repudiating their own whiteness. However, those who reject SJWism, including those who spend a significant amount of time articulating reasons for their rejection, are (typically) not obsessed with race, for they have no reason to be. Indeed, though I do see race as largely a social construct (as articulated in the Dallas Statement) and I affirm that social constructs are real (insofar that constructs are real), race plays almost no role in my political theory. This discussion of race here is only in reaction to the SJW obsession with race and assumes the SJW meaning of terms only to reveal the motivations and pathologies of white SJWs.  

Furthermore, I invite non-white people, in light of my argument, to join us in opposing SJWism. Unlike SJWs, I have no need of you with regard to your skin color. Unlike SJWs, I don’t need it for my self-confidence. I offer only that you join us as fellow humans, as those equally endowed with reason and with equal possibilities of dignity, self-respect, and self-affirmation. That’s not to say that we reject all the claims concerning present effects of past discriminatory social systems and government policies. Certainly, past discrimination is a major originating factor in present racial disparities. My point is simply that we don’t need your skin color to act in confidence and therefore we can join one another in mutually self-confident dialogue and friendship.

 


[1] Douglas Murray, The Strange Death of Europe, 213.

[2] See Pascal Bruckner’s The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism.

[3] Murray, Strange Death, 225.

[4] It is likely however that many prominent black SJWs are aware of their role as therapists to white SJWs, deciding to accept the role for its benefits of power and privilege, for a greater marketing base for their writings, and perhaps for the ability to make absurd and crazy statements without consequences.

[5] Kwon’s argument seems to assumes a biological basis for black cultural practices, which is usually considered racist. And if Kwon applied the principle consistently—that all practices developed in racially homogenized settings are tainted—then black cultural practices are tainted as well, for they were developed in racially homogenized settings, and therefore need the infusion of white culture (or at least some non-black culture) to correct them. That isn’t necessarily my conclusion; it’s the logically necessary conclusion from his principle (or at least what seems to be his principle).

[6] Please don’t respond with a tu quoque.

[7] Matt Smethurst, and Jared C. Wilson, and Sam Allberry are good examples of evangelicals who use sentimental passive aggression on Twitter. Duke Kwon is the master of it.

Thomas Bradstreet
Contributor

Thomas Bradstreet is a Ph. D. candidate in political science and teaches at a university in the southern United States.

2 Comments to: The Gaze and Malaise of the Evangelical SJW

  1. Avatar

    Steve

    January 21st, 2019

    “Such as some of you were but now you are free” removes the need for further repentance due to social short-comings.

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    January 26th, 2019

    Q. Can you clarify how interacting with social justice issues runs against the Westminster standards?
    A. How is anything resembling SJ a church mandate and how should that look? I think SJ is a humanistic prideful phenomenon that is centered on leveling playing fields….there is a power element to it and an almost hidden ideology that is grounded in uprooting the statusquo…..
    I also think there is a pride element meant to puff up man in pursuit of righting wrongs….. at least here in the States. So not sure this is what Jesus had in mind. Not sure Jesus wants to work through political systems to produce equitable outcomes… because the state sees the church as a means to fulfill a humanitarian and ultimately dehumanizing sustainability agenda that is ultimately gnostic at its core…..

    So folks like Rockefellers and Soros would like to use Social Justice to remove Christ from Christianity and make the churches a pagan extension of the state…. I will stand by my belief of this no matter how I am criticized for it….but this is what has happened to many once faithful and now fallen denominations…. think PCUSA

    Reply

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