Police shootings and protests have filled the news in recent years, leaving us with no illusions that America is free of racial problems. Skin and Blood invites us to look honestly at both white sins and black sins…and to look hopefully at the red blood of Jesus, which is their only cure.
The evening news and social media are telling us how to feel, and Evangelical Christians today only echo what Black Lives Matter says about racism. However, when a culture is mired in guilt, as ours is, then it does not matter how many statements denouncing racism you put out. You will always be guilty of white privilege and the condition of blacks in America will not change.
The only solution to racial guilt, both black and white, is the Gospel and the only way towards racial reconciliation is our reconciliation in Christ, in whom there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, black nor white.
Douglas Wilson has been a pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho for forty years and is the author of Reforming Marriage, Joy at the End of the Tether, and Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning. He also founded educational institutions such as Logos School, Greyfriars Hall, and New Saint Andrews College.
AUTHOR: Douglas Wilson
PAGE COUNT: 164 pages
ISBN 10: 1957905263
PUB. DATE: October 25, 2022
OK first of all, since this book is by Douglas Wilson, obviously it says many things about race that people with common sense, especially Christians with common sense, have long been thinking, and it says them in an unapologetic and often pithy way. It applies the Gospel to racial discussions in America, and surprise! Turns out everyone is sinful, everyone needs a Savior, and everyone (including every culture) can be redeemed. Wilson has for years had to defend himself against charges of racism from unbelievers and fearful Christians, and has also had to upbraid actual white racists who think they know what Wilson is doing and that he agrees with them, or that he ought to (they are wrong on all three counts).
Now, on to the not-so-good. This is not a unified book, building a methodical argument to a stunning conclusion. It's a collection of essays, sermons, and blog posts, many of them written in direct response to current events of past years. So, though the chapters all refer back to the Gospel and in that way could be considered to relate to each other, some of them are better expressed than others.
I mainly want to take issue with Chapter 7, "Pride and White Privilege." Wilson points out, correctly, that in terms of what God requires of us, if someone is born with "privilege" (I have a quarrel with this word, but hold that thought), they should respond not with pride or guilt but with gratitude. And if someone is born without privilege relative to someone else, they should respond not with envy but with contentment. And both should love the other.
Unfortunately, Wilson does not stop to define his terms. This is an uncharacteristic lapse, because he usually defines his terms really well. So, let's back up and ask what is the actual definition of privilege. I would say it is something like this: a legal or procedural right, which is an exception to the general rule, conferred upon the recipient by an authority. So, King Richard could give Robin Hood the privilege to hunt in the king's forest. Xerxes could give various privileges to the man the king delights to honor.
So, in this more carefully defined sense, do white people in America, as a class, have privilege? The answer is clearly no. What legal rights do we have that have been conferred upon us, but denied to nonwhites? The right to bear arms? To trial before a jury of our peers? To own our own cars? To buy land? To assemble and worship on the Lord's Day?
I will push this definition a little further. If I have the normal rights of a citizen in my country, and someone else is being unfairly denied one or more of those rights, even then it is not accurate to say that I have privilege relative to that person. This would imply that actually, I too ought to be oppressed, and being allowed not to be is a special exception made just for me. It is more accurate to say that injustice is being done to the other person, and is not being done to me. Every citizen ought to have the normal rights of a citizen. This is not privilege, it is rule of law, liberty, etc.
Most of the things that Wilson describes as privilege in this chapter (wealth, education, intelligence, good looks) should more accurately be called advantages. And everything he says about the requirements to be grateful, generous, etc. applies to advantages such as these. (Some of them - birth order, age, experience - cannot even be called clear advantages, since as Thomas Sowell points out, the oldest child might think being the oldest child is a hardship, while the younger ones see it as an advantage.) To be fair, all these things do in fact get called "privileges" in common parlance. But by allowing the race and class hustlers to define privilege, instead of defining it more carefully, Wilson is conceding way too much to them.
There is a reason the word "privilege" was chosen to describe advantages that many (not all) white people have relative to non-whites in the United States. The goal was, in fact, to evoke the original definition of privilege so as to make it sound as if these advantages were handed out by some authority instead of being the natural results of different people's life circumstances. It was also meant to evoke the most negative and corrupt connotations of the word privilege, such as for example if a vice president's son were given the privilege of being able to break the law without being prosecuted, and to imply that any advantage, benefit, blessing, or gift that anyone has is actually this kind of nepotistic, corrupt privilege conferred by people in power or by "the system."
Great book, focused on biblical definition of sin. Very helpful resource in navigating the precarious waters of race and the cross.
"Skin and Blood" was certainly one of the most engaging and thoughtful books I've read on the subject of race in a while. Though large swaths of the Reformed community are selling out to CRT and other such nonsense, this book offers a refreshing presentation of gospel truth applied to real life. I would recommend reading it in conjunction with Voddie Baucham's "Faultlines" for both a thorough survey of race relations in America and a positive vision for applying the Christian worldview to the question of race.
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