When it comes to reforming the church, one of the crucial things that must be done is the hard work of cultivating an awareness of the strategies of the enemy and manfully dismantling them. At the top of the list of munitions desperately needing disarmament is the weaponized apology.
The weaponized apology is a politicized call for repentance and has oft been a tool of the left, particularly as it continues to champion identity politics. It is a rhetorical device widely accepted by the broader culture in which a moral conclusion is presented without reason and then applied generally. It is often effective among the people of God because we have a tender conscience, know the need for repentance, and are often easily played.
How does it work?
First, an emotionally driven negative response is made in regard to some event. Social media is most often the venue for deployment, and topics are usually centered around race, immigration, nationalism, and sexuality. These highly emotional reactions take the form of moral outrage and are fundamentally not grounded in any systematic moral reasoning or principles; they are assumed conclusions.
Second, an extremely broad, generalized statement is applied without qualification or specificity to an entire group of people.
For a more in depth analysis of how this works, check out this very astute article from Stephen Wolfe.
While these tactics have been going on in the secular culture, the weaponized apology, or call to grief, has also been employed by prominent evangelicals as a way to smear opponents while avoiding rational discourse.
A recent tweet from Beth Moore is a good example. After Trump was issued an impeachment notice from The House, Moore issued a series of tweets that placed the blame for the election of the immoral Trump at the feet of the evangelical community (80 percent of which voted for him).
Without rational argumentation, Moore concludes rather passive aggressively that Trump’s election is owing to a church (and its faith leaders) riddled with sins like nationalism, sexism, and white supremacy. Nearly every culturally abhorrent pejorative is assigned to the church as a foregone conclusion. The net effect of this divisive rhetoric is that we’re left to assume anyone who disagrees with Moore is a sexist Klan member who delights in theft and the abuse of power.
As Doug Wilson helpfully points out in Rules for Reformers, this is the very thing evangelicals need to stop taking the bait on.
A Christian must always distinguish those who want you to apologize so that the relationship can be restored, and those who do it to steer and manipulate you.
What we desperately need are men who will stand up to this sort of rhetorical smearing and demand a systematic, well-reasoned argument for such claims on the basis of sound moral principles. What we need is to run this strategy through the lens of Scripture.
First, the Bible calls for repentance of specific sins committed by specific persons.
“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private” (Matthew 18:15).
It’s impossible, for example, to repent of ethereal notions of white supremacy or sexism in general because they are such murky terms (and usually defined by a God-hating society).
And that is exactly the point: The goal of a weaponized apology isn’t to promote repentance; it’s to polarize and vilify your opponent. It’s to make white men feel overwhelmingly and vaguely guilty about they know not what. To ram a misplaced narrative of shame down our throats without rational argumentation, cause, proof, or evidence, thus demonizing detractors.
It’s also a violation of the ninth commandment, whereby guilt is assigned to a person without proper witness or evidence. This highlights the volatility of the public discourse at present: We make a man (or an entire country) guilty simply by tweeting it. A man’s career can be ruined by one #MeToo tweet without a trial, witnesses, or jury of peers.
By the way, Moore did this same thing awhile back when she accused the SBC of being a misogynistic boys club. Instead of arguing the validity of her main point from sound exegesis—that women ought to be allowed to preach and teach in the church—Moore threw the #MeToo grenade, which immediately polarized her opponents as white sexist pigs. It’s an effective, albeit entirely dishonest, tactic.
As Christians, this is the sort of thing up with which we must not put. When people like Beth Moore employ this tactic, it’s pure manipulation.
So, when you read this sort of inane tweet, you ought to ask yourself: Is there an actual, specific sin being pointed out with solid evidence to back up the claim? Is any specific person in question actually guilty of this sin? Where is the argument, from Scripture and facts, to back up this claim?
Second, the Bible and not the culture defines sin.
As identity politics would have it, white men are guilty simply for being born into the “oppressor” hierarchy. In turn, we are called to “repent” of our “whiteness” and male genitalia. Alex, I’ll take “Loads of Crap” for $1,000 please.
While there are long lists and explanations of sin in Scripture, having white skin and a penis isn’t one of them. Shocker. When Scripture does speak of sin, it assigns guilt because of actions committed or omitted, not to people who just happen to have biological traits like blue eyes or long toe nails or curly hair.
Bear in mind, the cultural and evangelical elites who would have us suffer under an eternal weight of guilt about white masculinity have no problem making bedfellows with LGBT ideology, same-sex attraction, or funding Planned Parenthood. Are those really the people we want to give permission to define sin for us?
When we see tweets like Moore’s, we should ask: Who is defining sin? Is it a biblical or culturally driven definition?
Third, biblical repentance depends on a efficacious atonement and offers a definitive restoration of relationship.
With biblical repentance, there’s confession, repentance, and restoration. Right here, right now. There are definite sins, definite sinners, and definite steps to restoration. There is the Cross of Christ and an atonement that definitively takes away God’s wrath and reconciles us to Him.
For those who weaponize the apology, there’s nothing but an eternal weight of guilt with no hope of actual restoration. It’s a form of secular penance without any ultimate reconciliation.
Al Mohler demonstrates this identity politics ideal when he said repentance over racism (a real, historic sin in the SBC’s past that virtually no one at present is guilty of) is something the denomination will have to live with indefinitely (an unbiblical definition of repentance if ever there was one). What it ends up looking like is a bunch of posturing before the world.
Fourth, biblical repentance doesn’t promote partiality or silence any group after it is complete.
Have you ever noticed that if a person does accept the heinous sin of his whiteness or maleness, he’s told that he can no longer have a voice in public discourse? White men are told to shut up and let their black or brown minority sisters to take it from here on out. You don’t get to participate in this conversation.
The aim isn’t a biblical impartiality or restoration but severe partiality and division of humanity into groups of oppressors and oppressed, those who get a voice and those who don’t, the very things the Bible prohibits (James 2:1-7). Instead of doing what Christ’s work did in tearing down dividing walls (Ephesians 2:14), the weaponized apology erects new walls and fosters enmity between groups.
Clamoring for Power
Ultimately, the embrace of this sort of rhetoric betrays the overwhelming desire many celebrity evangelicals have for acceptance from social elites. In order to be effective cultural witnesses, so the thought goes, evangelicalism has to show that it too cares about societally acceptable issues like backing the LGBT mob:
The proper objects of our witness are the culturally and socially dominant—those who, for example, fill the ranks of the editorial boards of East Coast newspapers. How do we appeal to them? By seemingly taking the lead on issues that they care about and that we, as socially-conscious Christians, might as well. And the way to take the lead is by adopting their rhetorical posturing, their methods of denunciation, and their us vs. them approach to socio-rhetorical control. — Reformation500
This is also why evangelical elites hate the white working man (Deplorables), as well as every Christian who voted for Trump—they are collectively destroying these celebrity Christian’s play for power in the cultural kiddie pool. Make no mistake, elitist Christianity is at war with hard men.
Oddly enough, these self-appointed elites, from Russ Moore and the ERLC to SBC President J.D. Greear, claim to represent evangelicalism but the last presidential election (or current polling) doesn’t seem to support that claim. The truth is, these elites don’t represent a majority of the church, and especially not men:
They are not conferred legitimacy by their alleged followers, but by meeting the standards of social legitimacy established and sustained apart from their followers—from the broader social forces of modern society. They qualify to be the face of an organization striving for a seat at the respectable table of public discourse—to “engage culture.” The divide between leader and follower is therefore a class divide. Evangelical leaders are not “one of us,” and their legitimacy has nothing to do with the consent of their “followers.” Despite being anti-anti-establishment, they have many of the privileges of the very establishment elite that regular evangelicals loath. — Reformation500
The church overwhelmingly rejected these self-appointed “leaders,” which is good news. It’s also interesting that the majority of working class men without college degrees voted for Trump and against the practitioners of this rhetoric. This provides an important lesson for the future of the church.
If the church is intent on advancing the kingdom, it’s got to reach the working man. And it isn’t going to do that with effeminate, manipulative, passive aggressive attacks on folks who work with their hands, love their country, and support the military. It means we need more hard men in the pulpit and more violent men in our pews who don’t actively disdain the working man.
It’s also time for hard men to stand up to the supposed “voices of evangelicalism” and ask, Who died and made you king?