To watch the first part of this conversation, “True North, Ep. 11 | A Discussion on a New Poll about the Black Church,” please click here.
LiVecche: All right everybody, welcome back to part two of our discussion with Derryck Green and Keith Pavlischek. In part one, you’ll recall we ended with Keith Pavlischek’s enticing, provocative question to Derryck. And Keith, if I could invite you just to briefly restate your question and set us off here on part two.
Pavlischek: Yes, I left off with talking about Glenn Loury and John McWhorter as an example. There are other Black intellectuals, but these two in particular have been very strongly critical of the new religion of wokeness and identifying it as a new form of religion. I think McWhorter has a book that he’s publishing called THE ELECT, and that includes critical race theory. And I guess the question that I wanted to pose to Derryck was why is it that if this is indeed a new religion and there’s something really different going on here, why do we have to hear from Black intellectuals like Loury, who describes himself as an apostate Christian, or McWhorter, who’s a self-described I guess agnostic or secularist. Brilliant, genius guys, but the question comes up: where are the Black Christian intellectuals or public intellectuals or Black church leaders speaking pastorally into these issues, speaking with as much force and criticism as they are?
Green: It’s a good question, and I think there’s a number of answers. I think one of the answers is that the majority of Black intellectuals out there are on the left, so there’s not going to be too many on the right that are going to be speaking out on these issues the way that Loury, Steele, and McWhorter have been doing for a number of years. I think another reason why that is is because, Michael Emerson and I can’t remember the other author’s name, his last name is Smith, but they came out with a book 20 years ago called Divided by Faith, and what their data showed is that the more religious groups of people were, whether they were White, Asian, or Hispanic, the more religious they were, the more right of center their politics were going to be. Every demographic followed that same trend with the exception of American Blacks. Blacks, again, as we talked about before, are still the most religious demographic in the country, but their politics are still decidedly left of center. And so, all that to say is that the religion and politics aspect of a lot of Black churches and Black Christians are intertwined to the point in which what it means to be Black, how they conceive of a Black identity, how they nurture a Black identity, or perpetuate a Black identity, is intertwined with oneself. Whereas you have people who are like McWhorter, Steele, and Loury, they’re not Christians per se. They are comfortable in their own skin. They don’t prioritize their Black identity and they don’t define their Black identity primarily with being a victim of White oppression. They define what it means to be Black more comprehensively, and so, I think that they’re comfortable in their own skin. There’s no intertwined with the religion that reinforces a negative view of Black identity, which allows them the courage to stand on their own two feet and call out a lot of these things. And that’s unfortunate. So, it’s a number of issues. You have these people who are not involved with the Christian church in Black politics who are comfortable in their skin to speak out. And that’s why you have it where a number of people who are speaking out in the Black churches, I can think of one, Voddie Baucham is one who has consistently spoken out against these types of issues. I think, to a lesser extent, Anthony Bradley has also spoken out against these things. But there’s not too many people that are going to have the courage of who they are as individuals to go against the grain, to speak out against American Blacks in the way that McWhorter, Steele, and Loury have been doing. And I hope they continue to do so.
Pavlischek: Of course, McWhorter describes himself as a center-left guy. And increasingly we’re seeing people on the left beginning to realize that this new wokeness is something different from liberalism. And so, that causes me to ask the question sure, for understandable reasons, the Black church has been identified with the center-left of the political spectrum. Would you think that you would begin to see not just onesies and twosies, maybe not Black intellectuals, but Black pastors and maybe Black intellectuals who are Christian, who self-identify as Christians, begin to speak out against the new “Great Awokening”?
Green: Yeah, I would hope so, but I think, here’s the thing, conservatives and people who are center-right have been speaking out against this topic for a long time, but they’ve been disparaged because they have been conservative. So, their complaints haven’t really been given a lot of credibility because they’re on the center-right. And so, they can be demonized and disparaged anyway to dismiss their legitimate complaints. What we need more of are people like McWhorter, who is center-left, but he’s a liberal. We need more liberals to speak out, because there is a distinction between liberalism and leftism. And as we spoke of earlier, leftism has consumed liberalism. Now, those people who are still liberal, they have to speak out, because if they’re still in the center-left they’re going to be taken with a bit more credibility than those people who are going to be on the right. So, we need more liberals to speak out. I don’t know if I’m optimistic that a lot of Black theologians or Black pastors or Black intellectuals who self-identify as Christian are going to be speaking out anytime soon, and i’ll tell you why. Post-Civil Rights, I think that the Civil Rights idea, after the legislative wins and Civil Rights moving of a majority of Blacks into the American mainstream was so successful, that the Civil Rights idea has been appropriated by progressives and attached to different issues, calling it the new extension of Civil Rights. Whether it was the 20-year push to not only recognize, broadly recognize, homosexuality, but to legitimize and legalize gay marriage. Now it’s been appropriated with the trans movement, so the Civil Rights movement has been appropriated to address issues that were in no way, shape, or form close to what many realize as the Black freedom struggle in America. Blacks didn’t speak out loudly or consistently enough during those times. They should have been saying listen, you’re not going to appropriate Civil Rights. If you want to give your movement a particular moral authority that was reflected in Civil Rights, it’s incumbent upon you to do that. But you cannot appropriate the Civil Rights movement to do that, with gay marriage particularly, since gay marriage is looked down on primarily in the Black Christian community. Not because they’re bigots, but because they take God’s word seriously. It doesn’t mean they hate homosexuals. They just simply say that gay marriage is an oxymoron and the concept isn’t what God ordained in Genesis and repeated throughout the books of the Bible. They should have been speaking out more then, but they didn’t. So, they didn’t speak out then; they’re not speaking out now when it’s being appropriated for the trans movement. So, all of that is to say we’ve had opportunities to really speak out and call White progressives to account to say you cannot appropriate this moral movement for something that many people in our community see as immoral and unjust. They didn’t do that, so it’s going to be very difficult for them to find their voice now having ignored plenty of opportunities in the recent past to speak out about these things. Going forward, I hope that they do. But the moral authority I think has been lost, because they were so silent on these previous issues that have negatively affected not only Black communities but the country as a whole.
LiVecche: It is interesting because we touched in part one, Derryck, on abortion in the Black church, and the one spot that I think I have seen some within the Black community push back against the appropriation of the Civil Rights movement has been in connection with abortion. Sometimes you’ll see campus campaigns talking about the civil rights of the unborn, and sometimes those have been kibosh because they were seen as appropriation and bringing two things together that don’t belong together.
Green: Yeah, they have, and I think you’re starting to see more Black Christians say okay, if Black lives matter, let’s not define it so narrowly to the five or ten or fifteen Blacks or unarmed Blacks that are shot by police officers every year. Let’s put that to the Black unborn, where a lot of people in Christian communities and even secular communities are saying that one of the most dangerous places for Black children is in the womb of their mother. So, this is something that needs to be addressed. And then those children that are lucky enough to make it out of the womb of their mother are in dysfunctional and chaotic communities in which gang violence takes a lot of those children that made it out of the womb. So, there’s this perpetual cycle, so let’s start from the very beginning if Black lives matter. Let’s prove it, right. Let’s demonstrate it here, and then take it from the womb all the way to the tomb. And I think that more people are starting to speak up on that. And this is where, we talk about racializing certain things, this is where the help of White evangelicals comes in that we can work in collaboration with one another on this issue. We don’t have to see it as a politicized issue, and that’s the central issue of White evangelicals particularly, since the majority of babies that are aborted are Black. Christians of all hues can come together to say this is unjust. There’s a lot of talk about justice going on in our culture, but this is not only unjust, it is unrighteous. And that is the recoupling of justice and righteousness that we find in the Bible that has been divorced in secular culture over the last 20 years. People talk about justice, whether it’s redefined, but it doesn’t reflect biblical justice that walks in hand with biblical righteousness. This is an issue that we can do that for. And then once you take it from the womb then you get into education and academia. Why are we systematically giving Black children terrible education? This isn’t to excuse Black parents for voting for a political party that forces their attention on unions and prioritizes unions above the education of their children. We’re not going to excuse your culpability in this, but we are saying it is unjust to continually give Black children poor education. It is unjust for you to lower the standards for these Black children. It’s unjust and unrighteous. We can reshape this whole conversation, it’s just we need courageous Christians to do so. To get out of their seat and start doing so.
Pavlischek: One of the difficulties of course, it ties back to the last conversation we had, was if the church the church leadership and the folks in the pews are so tied in politically with the party, even if they have objections to the rise of wokeness or they have objections about the way schooling is funded or the nature of the schools, the nature of American politics is coalition politics. And so, it’s not merely a matter of abortion, but it becomes very difficult to break ranks. And of course, that raises all kinds of issues about if there are very wealthy White progressives that are putting forth the new wokeism, why the Black church would want to be so tightly tied to that. And I guess that leaves another form of the question that I originally asked. I guess we’re getting to part of the answer that maybe the McWhorters and the Lourys and the Steeles aren’t tied into a community where they have to worry about that, other than getting harassed at the university or not getting a pay raise with tenure or whatever. Shunning in the university. But that’s a different thing than being a pastor speaking out in an inner-city church. And then we know the way those games are played.
Green: Yeah, listen, a pastor in an inner-city church has an obligation to speak out more so than a pastor probably in the suburban church because there’s a lot of social dysfunctions that happen in inner-city communities that aren’t necessarily prevalent in the suburbs. It doesn’t mean that they’re absent, they’re just not as prevalent out in that area. But, again, the point is if your religiosity and your politics are so intertwined, you’re going to be in a situation in which you can’t call it out. So, Blacks don’t call it out. But too, I truly think that the Democrat Party pays off Blacks, almost to buy their silence so they can do other things. So, they’re not going to speak out against this because they’re going to ruin whatever that’s being promised to them in any given election year. They don’t speak out on all these kinds of things, and so they and their children are the victims of not speaking out. White progressivism has really truly become a boutique political philosophy. It is really a boutique political philosophy, because at ground level, a lot of the things that they profess, whether it’s social justice, racial justice, environmental justice, any other compartmentalized justice, raising of the minimum wage that increases the unemployment of Black children and Black men specifically. All of these issues that they address, Blacks, and Christian Blacks, should be calling them out, because the victims of those are always Blacks first. That’s where it needs to happen, and I think Blacks have had the courage in the past to speak up. They’ve had the courage in the past to say we are going to dictate our own fortunes and our own fates, but they don’t have it anymore. And so, it’s a bad commentary on Christian Blacks, because these politics are ruinous. There’s no other way to describe that. There’s too many examples in too many cities in too many states across the country where these politics for the last 60 years have been utter disasters for the communities in which they’ve been tried in. At some point, Blacks have to say, “enough.” And again, they have to say not only enough of you doing this to us, but enough of us giving you power to do this to us. Without the Black vote, these things don’t get passed. These political leaders don’t get elected. But because Black identity is so wrapped up around Democrat politics, it’s very difficult for people to extract themselves to say no, this is bad for us. This is bad for us. So, this is one of the reasons why we congratulate people like Loury and McWhorter for speaking out on these things. Again, McWhorter still is a self-identified liberal. Loury says he was apostate from being a regular Reagan Republican, has come back to the conservative side, and for a time was a very articulate spokesman in defense of former President Donald Trump. So, it’s interesting to me. And this is one of the things that I hope I get to talk to Glenn Loury about is that he is a self-identified religious apostate, but he was also a political apostate. If he was able to find his way home politically, he can find his way home religiously as well. And I think that if he puts enough as much energy into that as he did with politics, he is going to be a very articulate spokesman, Christian spokesman, that can speak out on these issues from a comfortable position for Christians. And I think someone like him speaking out gives other people courage to speak out as well.
Pavlischek: Yeah, he’s very passionate about what we were saying. He sees the counterproductivity of these elite White policies and programs and ideologies, and he doesn’t pull punches. He says do you have any idea, like McWhorter, who I guess he was one of these kids that was very precocious. And he could look back at his own biography and look at a situation where like why are you coddling these Black kids for the sake of identity, or why are you actually not having high requirements for them. You know the old Bush slogan, what was it, soft bigotry of…
Green: Low expectations.
Pavlischek: Of low expectations. But now that’s on steroids.
Green: Oh yeah, now it’s the hard bigotry of no expectations.
Pavlischek: And it’s encased in an ideology that actually says that hard work is a White thing.
Green: That’s right.
Pavlischek: I mean, quite frankly, I can’t think of anything that, and here’s the marine in me too, and this is the way I parented, it’s like no whining. If you want to keep whining, you’re going to get my size nine and a half where the sun don’t shine. I can’t think of anything worse for a young, precocious, bright Black kid, but even just somebody who has to struggle to make it through, than to tell him he’s a victim and he’s not in charge of his own destiny. And that’s what I think is enraging even the liberals like McWhorter. And Loury does say like I’m a Black guy, you’re doing this to young Black kids. You’re doing it to my people. So, it’s not he’s just some academic completely above the fray or something who doesn’t identify as a Black guy.
Green: I think he identifies as American Black, as does McWhorter. I just simply think that they have a more comprehensive understanding of who they are as men. They don’t, again, their Black identity isn’t grounded in victimization. They are in the line of a Booker T. Washington or a Frederick Douglass or Blacks at the turn of the 20th century, where immediately out of slavery, you have instances in which these Blacks were freed but they were working in greater numbers than their White counterparts and they were married in greater numbers than their White counterparts. And this is right after slavery. So, if they were able to do it in an America that was really racist, why aren’t Blacks able to do it in a time and place where not only is America not as racist as it was a hundred years ago, but we’ve been living in the life of racial preference policies for 55 years. Which means we are prioritizing American Blacks and other underrepresented minorities to get them in positions where they can have influence, power, and move them into the middle class. So, I like the message that they are talking about. They are talking about self-determination. This was the message of the latter part of the Civil Rights movement. This is certainly the message of the Black power movement, although their strategy contradicted self-determination. But nevertheless, it is about saying, they both say we are advocates of Black agency. We are able to do these things if White people, or White progressives, would just get out of our way, we are able to do these things. Blacks have the capability to do it, because we’ve demonstrated it in the past, and in situations that were much more trying than they are today. We come with that legacy. If we were able to do it then, we are certainly able to do it now. We just can’t talk about self-determination but then be agents of our own destruction by supporting people and policies that work against self-determination and Black agency. Our race isn’t deterministic. What we want to accomplish, that’s the way it should be. But progressives just simply want to help, as so they say, but their good intentions mask very disastrous results.
LiVecche: I had asked you offline, Derryck, and you had a good answer to this question that I think might be helpful. I had asked you where the, in terms of Whites or White progresses maybe specifically, why does that dynamic continue to happen? Is it born, you said it’s born of a desire to help. Is it truly? Or do they continually undermine Black self-determination out of some sort of hidden animus, out of sheer ignorance? We don’t genuinely know how to help, though we genuinely want to. Or is it out of a sense of we’re so guilty for things that have been done in the past that we are going to be a part of the solution no matter what. Where does this come from?
Green: I think it’s the latter two. I think if they really want to help but they don’t know how, partially they don’t know how, I think that they know how. But knowing how is allowing Blacks to do for themselves, which doesn’t do much for distancing themselves from the historical shame of being part of a demographic that oppressed and subjugated American Blacks. That’s what it is. I see progressives doing to Blacks what they do to homeless. They make homeless people comfortable with being homeless by not enacting the policies that are necessary to get the majority of people off the streets. Even if they aren’t able to live on their own, at least they’re off the streets, getting help with mental illness or getting help conquering drug and alcohol addiction and abuse. It’s the same thing with Blacks. They want to help, but also the focus of their helping is to distance themselves so they’re not seen as a racist. And so, what that means is lowering the standards, socially promoting Blacks into positions that they may not be equipped for. It has no focus on Black development for lasting success. It’s simply to get them into situations. So, I’ve always said for the last fifteen years, this push for diversity, which affirmative action is to get people into colleges and universities, the White progressive will say yes, look at how diverse this freshman class is. Well, I don’t really give a care about that freshman admitting class. I want to know if Black graduation rates are going up. So, I want to see what it looks like on the back end, and the back end is never talked about. I don’t want to see social promotion through college so there’s a higher Black graduation rate, I want to see proper preparation in the primary and secondary level so affirmative action is removed, so then these Black students can say listen, we don’t want to major in sociology or religious studies or human resources or education. We want to go to a science-based curriculum. We’re going to go to math-based curriculum. We need to prepare them for that, but White progresses simply say no, we’re going to lower the standard. We’re going to remove all standardized testing. We’re going to remove this. They think that that’s helping, but that’s simply to assuage their own consciousness. So, not only are they trying to distance themselves from historical racism, but not knowing how to fix the problem. It’s also what Tom Steele talked about 25 years ago on their quest for cosmic justice to right the wrongs cosmically. Well forget cosmically, let us try to repair the problems that are easily repairable. If Blacks were to control what they were able to control, the White progressive would have no need for them. There’s no need for them. And I think that’s the fear amongst a lot of White progressives, that if Blacks were to do for themselves and to take Black development and flourishing seriously, there would be no need for the White progressive. How is the White progressive going to distance themselves from the historical shame of racism if Blacks are doing these things on their own? So, they intercede and broker on our behalf, and that has caused multi-generational disappointment and frustration amongst Blacks. But their consciences are swayed because they think that they’re doing good. But they’re not doing good. They’re not doing any good for Blacks at all. And that stigma that goes along with lower standards, again, we talked about this. The idea that you got into your situation because somebody lowered the standards really does have a Black cloud over the accomplishments of what Blacks were able to do, particularly those Blacks that got into positions without affirmative action and without these types of racial preference programs. Now they have to defend their abilities and their accomplishments to everybody who thinks that they have been tainted with the smell of affirmative action and lower standards. That’s really difficult, and that creates a lot of resentment in a lot of American Blacks. And so, you actually create resentment where there might not have been any, and now you have to deal with that. And then the White progressive comes in and says well it’s because of racism. Yes, well it is because of racism, just not the way you’re defining it. I think lowering the standards and preferences for Blacks is racism. To say that Blacks can’t do for themselves unless we intervene on their behalf is racism. I think that is racism, and I think that Blacks should start calling that out more frequently. Yes, it may put a target on your back, but so what? So what? We’re talking about Black communities across the country. We’re talking about children rejecting the nihilism that is inculcated in children from a young age, robbing them of the hope and optimism and the initiative that it takes to be competitive with their multi-ethnic counterparts. It robs them of creativity. They may want to do things, but they’re told from an early age no matter what you do, this big, evil, invisible force of systemic racism is going to stop you. Well, if they’re telling me that at seven, why would I even want to try? So, then you have people dropping out of school and going into Black market economics and gang activity. Okay well, you’ve created that. And you have a lack of fathers who are not there to put them back on the right path. We’ve just created this everlasting Black hole for Black life in this country, and it’s at the hands of White progressives, the ideology of White progressives. And it’s at the polling station by Blacks by pulling the lever ensuring that it continues. We need a break from that. We need a break from that.
Pavlischek: Do you see any changes on the horizon? Because sometimes I’m extremely discouraged, but other times I see the rise of center-left traditional liberals finally saying hey, we’ve had enough. I mean, I can’t rehearse them now. Everybody from Andrew Sullivan to Bari Weiss, and so, that leads me back to my question. I would hope that you would begin to see Black Christian intellectuals or Black pastors at some point say enough is enough. I’m not going to watch Glenn Loury and McWhorter in the closet anymore. They’re going to say hey, because not only does it affect my community and is counter-productive for all the reasons you say, but this is a threat to the Christian faith. It’s people getting tied up into if it’s indeed a new religion, and I think these powerful arguments show it is. If we’re talking about the new elect, the first people this should be speaking into are Christians generally. But because it’s going to be more powerful and it’s more important for the Black community, for Black pastors and Black intellectuals to finally say enough is enough. And I don’t know. Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
Green: It depends on the day. Some days I’m more optimistic than others. Sometimes I’m thoroughly pessimistic. But it comes back to Black churches taking their stand, righting the wrongs of the last 60 years. It really does come out to say okay, we have to be able to articulate a very clear Christianity as a bulwark against these things. So, you need courage. You need to speak with Christian language, because again, most Blacks understand Christian language. They certainly understand Old Testament, Christians of the Old Testament. So, speak in terms of the Old Testament. Particularly when you have Black pastors who are 65 and above who still teach primarily from the Old Testament, they understand this language. So, let’s start talking about these issues from a biblical perspective so we can equip these people to go out and make a moral stance against it. But it’s not just the Black church, it’s the American church as well. Not only is it a waning influence, you have this new religion seeping into churches across the country and intertwining itself. So, it almost sounds like orthodox Christianity, and people are taking that and running with it, where it’s a counterfeit gospel. And Paul said if you hear another gospel, a different gospel than the one that is preached by us, let them be accursed. And I think that we need to take that seriously. It is a counterfeit gospel that has infected almost every part of our culture. Joshua Mitchell just wrote a book called American Awakening, which is a phenomenal book. And he talks about how this new religiosity has appropriated Christian terminology. I think he ties it to the waning influence of the mainline Protestant churches. But they appropriate this terminology, and they go out into the world, and it is thoroughly religious. And the only way to counter that is with orthodox Christian language and terminology to show where this falls apart. Yeah, I hope that there are more Christian intellectuals that are seeing this and will say I know there’s going to be a target on my back, I know I may be ostracized from the social aspect of Black communities, but I have to stand on the truth. I have to stand on the truth. And this is one of the things that Bari Weiss said in her recent article, is that these people know what’s going on. They just don’t want to say it because the payoff is too great. So, they are choosing to complain in silence and to sit silently so their children get into these Ivy League schools. Well, okay, that’s the decision that you’re making, so, it’s very difficult, whether they are posh parents sending their kids to these schools that cost 50 thousand a year or they’re American Blacks. You are making the decision to sit silently while this wreaks more destruction on your families. With respect to these parents and with respect to American Blacks, if you’re choosing that, then you cannot complain about the destruction that comes from it. You are a passive participant in that destruction. The only way you can legitimately say I’m complaining about this and have moral authority is if you come out knowing what comes with you. Martin King stood up; he was assassinated. Malcolm X, there was a lot of good things in his public ministry, there was a lot of bad things too, he was assassinated. You’ll get canceled now. You’re not going to be assassinated. They’re two different things. So, be canceled by the people who you are standing against. Trust me, there are a lot of people in the shadows that are just waiting for more numbers of people to come out. There’s always courage in numbers. You have to take that stand. Canceling is not as bad as assassination by any stretch. So, I’m optimistic some days and I’m pessimistic some days, but I’m hoping that the younger generation who isn’t so intertwined with this Black-White binary of oppression and oppressor, as the Pew poll showed, are going to be more integrated into American society in which there’s not going to be this kind of racial bifurcation. It’s going to be some more of a community aspect to their understanding, and hopefully that seeps in to some of the Gen Xers and older people who are so wrapped up in this Black power against manipulating White guilt paradigm. That just hasn’t borne any good fruit.
LiVecche: Gentlemen, I would love this conversation to continue. It ought to continue. This is part two of hopefully more. But I have to leave it there. We’re 33 minutes in and we’ve got to call it a day. Keith Pavlischek, Derryck Green, thank you very much for a great conversation. Please, let’s do this again. I think we were that close to resolving all of it. So, thank you guys.