Beyond isms

Modern society believes that “isms” are the greatest ills in society, and that destroying existing power brokers and structures is the only way to alleviate them. We are sadly mistaken, and our people will pay a terrible price for this delusion. Father forgive us, for we do not know what we are doing.  

A football coach loses his job after reading a comment aloud to his team, written by a player, that someone considers racially insensitive. A seminarian’s career collapses after a woman complains that he made her feel “uncomfortable.” A bakery owned by Christians is nearly driven out of business by a nearby college after some students accuse the proprietors of racism. Four border patrol agents on horseback, using reins to control their steeds, are punished after President Biden promised punishment, despite being cleared of whipping Haitian immigrants.[1] The esteemed Martin Luther King Jr. said that there were three evils in the world, racism, poverty, and war.[2] Sixty years later, “isms,” whether racism, sexism, or something else, are seen as the greatest evils in America. Some would say that America is the greatest evil in the world.

For purposes of this article, racism is the belief that different groups of humans possess different traits and can be ranked as superior or inferior on that basis. Sexism is similar but is based on biological sex rather than skin color or some other factor. Such “isms” include discrimination against one group or another.

The Greatest Evils – Racism, sexism, and other isms

The logic behind the idea that racism, sexism, and other isms are the greatest evils in the world, insofar as there is logic, seems to be like this:[3]

  1. Man, by nature, is morally good, or at least morally neutral.
  2. Death, suffering, injustice, and other bad things exist in the world.
  3. God, if he, she, or it exists, cannot or will not eliminate bad things from the world.
  4. People in power have the ability and the responsibility to eliminate these bad things from the world.
  5. These people, predominately white males in the past three centuries, have not eliminated bad things from the world. In fact, they have often (or always) derived personal benefit from these bad things.
  6. Whatever progress has been made is insufficient.
  7. The world is in danger, from nuclear war to climate change, because of the neglect and wickedness of those in power. Again, these accusations are targeted primarily at white males, since they have had power (political, financial, military).
  8. Racism, sexism, and other isms are only possible for those who have power. People without power to discriminate cannot be racist, sexist, etc.
  9. Powerful people, predominately white, need to admit their privilege, their power, and their failure to eliminate bad things from the world. They must repent, tear down the failing power structures that they have made, and step aside for the new groups to take power and make things right in the world.
  10. Since those in power in the past and present have not eliminated evil, including racism, sexism, poverty, and war from the world, other people need to take power.
  11. The new power brokers – women, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Indians, LGBTQ+ people – will save the world and usher in a final utopia.

Such reasoning raises many questions. If all mankind is inherently good or at least neutral, it is not clear where those currently in power went wrong. Are some groups, such as whites, inherently wicked and everyone else good? Did power itself make people wicked? If so, what will keep the new groups from becoming wicked once they take power? If whites are inherently evil, unlike all other peoples, what will be done with them in the new world order?

Taking this question into a larger historical and geographic context, what about the other groups who did not eliminate the three evils of racism, sexism, and war? Chinese Communist leader Mao Tse Tung ranks above Hitler and just below Stalin as the greatest destroyer of lives and prosperity in modern history.[4] In terms of lethality against his own people, Pol Pot takes the prize, killing 31% of the population of Cambodia in the 1970s.[5] From the 10th to the 16th centuries, the Turks, the Aztecs, the Mongols, the Songhai, and many others like them had power, and yet racism, sexism, poverty, and other isms remained.

Presumably, smart people who believe in this line of reasoning have written convincing answers to these questions. I would be happy to see their arguments.

The Greatest Evil – Sin

Since antiquity, the Bible has taught that the greatest evil in the world is sin. Sin, defined as rebellion against God, entered the world through the first humans, Adam and Eve, and has given rise to every wickedness since. The flow of logic, and most people I know who hold this view would not mind it being called logic, is as follows:

  1. God made man, male and female, totally good, but with free will.
  2. Man chose to disobey God, rebelling against His cosmic authority and introducing evil into the world. This evil affects the nature of the physical world as well as the nature of man, resulting in death and destruction.
  3. Sin, not death, destruction, suffering, poverty, war, or injustice, is the greatest evil in the world. It can be manifested by:
    1. Worshiping other gods, idolatry, forgetting the Sabbath, failure to honor parents, killing, committing adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, and coveting
    2. Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride.
    3. Many others, including such evils as racism, sexism, poverty, and war.
  4. God is eliminating sin and other evils from the world, but He is doing it in His time and in two ways. First, God is changing the hearts of His people to make them less likely to sin. It works. People who are religiously observant are far less likely to fail in school, use drugs or alcohol, have mental health problems, or suffer from a panoply of bad health outcomes.[6] Second, God the Son, in the person of Jesus Christ, will come again for the final judgment. He will smash all evil, including racism, sexism, war, poverty, suffering, and death. The Almighty is not eliminating these evils as quickly as we think He should. But when God comes to destroy evil, He will destroy all of it, including every evil in each person’s heart. Who among us is without sin? Who among us has the blinding, penetrating righteousness of God? In the Lord’s final judgment, who would not also be consumed with fire?
  5. Everyone is a sinner, including all races, both sexes, all ethnicities, and all nationalities. Regardless of how we classify ourselves or are classified by others, we are all sinners.
  6. Everyone has the option of following God and having His power to diminish sin in their lives. The work of Jesus, resulting in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, changes hearts, minds, households, and ultimately societies.
  7. Societal problems, such as racism, sexism, poverty, and war, will improve as the hearts of the people of this nation improve. Slavery in the United States died in part because of the work of Christian abolitionists.
  8. No group, race, sex, or other category of people is inherently better or worse than another. Each man and woman is responsible for his or her own actions, good or bad. God will reward the faithful regardless of the how the world ranks the success or failure of their endeavors.
  9. Everyone has some degree of power. No one is powerless. Each person must use all the power that they possess, within the framework of godliness, to address evils in their world.
  10. Though perfection is a pipe dream on this earth, Christian-majority nations and other groups have made remarkable progress towards justice.

Conclusion

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Christian minister, and I trust that he understood that the greatest evil in the world is not racism, sexism, poverty, or war, but sin. The blood and sweat of followers of Jesus Christ have been poured out for two thousand years to make this world the best it can be, and mankind has made marvelous progress, but only God can usher in perfection. Ultimate justice will be done for every man, woman, and child who has ever lived, but we won’t see the consummation of this justice until eternity.

For today, we must realize that the world’s explanation and solution to address the “isms” of the world is wrong and foolish. Those who gain Christ will lose racism, sexism, war, poverty, and other evils. Those who do not gain Christ will lose everything.

[1] Katz E, Border Patrol Agents Are Cleared of Striking Migrants, But Still Face Discipline for Their Harsh Actions, Government Executive, 8 July 2022, https://www.govexec.com/oversight/2022/07/border-patrol-agents-cleared-striking-migrants-face-discipline-harsh-actions/374014/.

[2] Martin Luther King Jr. Saw Three Evils in The World, Racism was only the first. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/02/martin-luther-king-hungry-club-forum/552533/.

[3] Logic, and even mathematics, has been described as racist, and proponents of such theories may be offended at having their thinking described as “logic.” Rantz J. ‘Math is Racist’ Crowd Runs Rampant in Seattle, Portland, Newsweek, 29 April 2022. https://www.newsweek.com/math-racist-crowd-runs-rampant-seattle-portland-opinion-1701491.

[4] Rummel RJ. Death by Government (Transaction Publishers, NJ, 2008) 8.

[5] Rummel RJ. Death by Government (Transaction Publishers, NJ, 2008) 5.

[6] Balboni TA, VanderWeele TJ, Doan-Soares SD, Long KNG, Ferrell BR, Fitchett G, Koenig HG, Bain PA, Puchalski C, Steinhauser KE, Sulmasy DP, Koh HK. Spirituality in Serious Illness and Health. JAMA. 2022 Jul 12;328(2):184-197. doi: 10.1001/jama.2022.11086. Erratum in: JAMA. 2022 Aug 23;328(8):780. PMID: 35819420.

Author: MD Harris Family Institute

MD, MPH, MBA, MDiv, PhD, ThM, DECBA Colonel, US Army (ret)

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