I am not going to rehash the controversy over Jay Green’s article on Christian political discourse. I wrote a little more about it today at Current. I agree with Jay–the piece shouldn’t have categorized people without evidence. Jay has apologized for this. As Executive Editor of Current, I apologize that the piece was published in this form. I do think that Jay’s categories are very well-conceived and any retweets I have made about the piece were made in support of those categories. Whatever one thinks about Jay’s piece, he made a good-faith effort to try to map the landscape of Christian political discourse. He was engaging in the free exercise of ideas. I am not going to back down on this.
But that is not the point of this post. On her piece, “On Why I Don’t Think I’m Illiberal,” Kristin Kobes DuMez writes:
I’ll speak for myself, now, because this is personal. The protection of liberal norms and institutions has been one of my primary motivations in nearly everything I’ve done over the past several years. In my writing and in my social media presence, I’ve worked to elevate the discourse. I don’t participate in “cancel culture,” even as I’m often the target of right-wing cancel culture. I answer questions honestly and take pains to engage intellectual and ideological opponents with integrity. I am intentional about listening to and learning from those who think differently, on both sides of the ideological spectrum. And I will not hesitate to call out falsehoods, wherever they may be coming from. As I am doing here.
According to Green, there should be great animosity and entrenched conflict between people like me and Emancipatory Minimalists. Instead, I have publicly and privately gotten along exceedingly well with all of those named in the Emancipatory Minimalist category. There is significant mutual respect among us even as we openly disagree on some important issues. We are not only civil, but some of the folks mentioned I’d consider friends.
Even as I have great respect for these individuals and value their contributions, I can’t help but wonder, in what word do folks like Tim Keller, Tish Harrison Warren, Russell Moore, David French represent the whole of the Emancipationist good guys club?
Green himself defines the category in terms of supporting the rights, liberation, and pursuits of happiness of women, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ Americans, and all those oppressed through systemic injustices. Yet nearly all of the examples he mentions are complementarian, none affirm LGBTQ Christians as far as I know, and all are white.
I can’t help but wonder what moves one from the Emancipatory Minimalist category to the Emancipatory Maximalist one? At first glance, it seems like anyone to the left of Green on any social issue ends up a Maximalist? This confuses his axes but makes sense of where he plots people. Maybe simply affirming the rights of LGBTQ individuals and openly and freely acknowledging them as sisters and brothers in Christ–even while defending traditionalists from accusations of bigotry–is all that it takes to qualify one as illiberal and land one in the Maximalist category?
Read the entire piece here.
I want to affirm Kristin’s liberality. In her scholarly work, including Jesus and John Wayne, she clearly operates within the bounds of liberal discourse as I understand it. People seem to think that I disagree with Kristin’s argument in Jesus and John Wayne. As I told her when I interviewed her on my podcast, I supported the argument of the book. We have disagreements about the history of American evangelical Christianity, but these are differences of interpretation. As I write this, I learned about her recent this Twitter thread. I affirm what she wrote there. I want to have a hard conversation about our disagreements without the participants in the debate feeling defended, hurt or betrayed. This has never been about personal animosity for me. It is about ideas and debate. This is what intellectual pluralism is all about. As I wrote today, I don’t think Twitter is the place to do that,. You won’t see me arguing there any more.
In any kind of intellectual debate, people make mistakes. They say things they shouldn’t. They act out of anger and emotion. I have certainly done this and I am not proud of it. Apologies are necessary. I have apologized to Kristin privately. I now apologize to her publicly.