Shai Linne—who recently wrote a searing piece for The Gospel Coalition on George Floyd and Me—posted a tweet thread over the weekend:
A thread on labels, categorizing and discourse amongst Christians in our current cultural moment:
— Shai Linne (@ShaiLinne) June 14, 2020
It was a helpful overview, so I asked if I could reprint it here. He graciously granted permission. I’d encourage you to read (and heed) the whole thing.
These days, the labels are flying around like crazy, often used pejoratively and almost always unhelpful. “SJW” [Social Justice Warrior], “Woke,” “Marxist,” etc. or from another standpoint, “Karen,” “White Evangelical,” “Trumpers”, etc.
I understand the desire to label and categorize people and their positions. It helps us to file them away in our mental folder. Once I stick a label on you, I can easily say “He or she is an ally” or I can say “canceled” and be done with them. I get it.
First thing, there is nothing Christian about “cancelling” anybody. Christians are commanded to “bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:13).
Along with that, it’s become popular to accuse people of “virtue signaling.” It seems to me that by definition, you can’t lob that accusation at someone without judging the motives of a person’s heart. But we’re Christians, so we try not to do that, right?
But I chuckle when I hear “virtue signaling” said about me because if doing/saying the popular thing is what drove me, I would have started years before now! I’d probably have fewer grey hairs, and a few more fans and former friends still around if I did.
One of the reasons I’ve always been hesitant to engage a lot on social media is because of what I perceive to be its inherent limitations regarding nuance and context which are necessary ingredients for effective communication.
But I understand that social media is a primary form of public discourse in our culture and so I try to steward it and use speech that won’t leave me ashamed at the last day when I have to give account (Matt. 12:36). I don’t always get it right and I need God’s grace for when I don’t.
Much of what I’ve said recently may seem new to some people, like I’m caught up in a current wave or something. But I’ve literally said these things for years. It’s on my first album. It’s on the Atonement. Really sprinkled throughout my work, actually.
But it was “sprinkled” intentionally rather than “saturated” because I believed then and still believe that the gospel must be primary. The person/work of Christ is the most important thing I can share with anybody. But I’m not going to ignore important gospel implications.
I’ve tried to be faithful to the conviction of knowing nothing but Christ and Him crucified for close to 20 years of public ministry. So if a single tweet or article can throw me into your “SJW” folder, you might want to examine why it’s so easy for you to do that.
People are complex beings. That’s how God made us. Most people are bigger than the mental folders we place them in. It’s possible for two (or 2,000) things to be true at the same time.
I can wholeheartedly agree with and appreciate things about John MacArthur, or Jonathan Edwards, for example, and at the same time, wholeheartedly disagree with them about other things. And you can fill that blank in with any number of Christian public figures.
Jesus does not fit neatly into our common modern polarizing categories, so why should we expect His followers to? If we’re faithful to the Bible, there should be times where everybody’s toes get stepped on, including our own.
So am I Reformed?
Does that make me a Democrat?
Am I “conservative”?
In some ways.
Am I “liberal”?
Liberal about what?
Justice for the poor and oppressed?
Yes, depending on what you mean.
Do I hate and grieve abortion?
Do I hate and grieve police brutality and racial injustice?
Do I see a place for peaceful protest of both things?
Do I support rioting and looting?
Do I think proclaiming the gospel in word and deed is the church’s mission?
Do I think many reformed churches are severely lacking when it comes to discipling members on issues related to racism and injustice?
I could literally go on for hours, and if we sat down for a (socially distanced) cup of tea, there are many things I’m sure we’d be surprised to learn about each other. But none of that would change the fact that Christ is our treasure and the gospel is our only hope.
The benefit of the doubt is something we always want from others but have a hard time extending. That’s because it’s a gift that we’re more prone to give to those we love. So if you love me, I’d really appreciate that gift! And I’ll try to give it back. Thanks.