Liberals Are Eating Their Own

Liberals are eating their own. The Google Engineer who wrote a piece appealing to science to explain gender differences, and who has received massive blowback (including a denunciation from the new Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance), doesn’t sound like a conservative of any kind to me. He sounds like a libertarian, a kind of classical liberal. His opening words:

I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes.

He also writes,

People generally have good intentions, but we all have biases which are invisible to us.

And:

I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more.

But he didn’t genuflect hard enough; he doesn’t believe hard enough in Diversity. And now he is facing the wrath of the powers that be in the only eschaton Western secularist liberals believe in: Social Media Judgment Day. Read more about the dust-up here.

Analysis

One of the most signal signs of spiritual blindness I see in our culture is the slogan that “diversity” has become. Like “tolerance” before it, “diversity” has a definite and rather contestable definition, but it’s whole appeal lies in its supposed utility as a perspicuous, undebatable, universal concept. Like “harm” and “fairness” and “discrimination,” the shape of “diversity” cannot be debated in any real way without it faltering as a cultural standard. Its votaries cannot permit themselves to notice that their “diversity” is violently circumscribed. Only certain differences are cool.

As it is written in Stanley Fish, in one of the most epochal paragraphs I’ve ever read:

A supposedly neutral principle such as “free speech”— just like “fairness” and “merit” [ed. or “diversity”]—rather than a concept that sits above the fray, monitoring its progress and keeping the combatants honest, . . . is right there in the middle of the fray, an object of contest that will enable those who capture it to parade their virtue at the easy expense of their opponents: we’re for fairness and you are for biased judgment; we’re for merit and you are for special interests; we’re for objectivity and you are playing politics; we’re for free speech and you are for censorship and ideological tyranny.

(The Trouble with Principle, 16)

And nearly as epochal for me in this late-modern Western culture of ours:

Strong multiculturalism…. is strong because it values difference in and for itself rather than as a manifestation of something more basically constitutive. Whereas the boutique multiculturalist will accord a superficial respect to cultures other than his own, a respect he will withdraw when he finds the practices of a culture irrational or inhumane, a strong multiculturalist will want to accord a deep respect to all cultures at their core, for he believes that each has the right to form its own identity and nourish its own sense of what is rational and humane. For the strong multiculturalist the first principle is not rationality or some other supracultural universal, but tolerance.

But the trouble with stipulating tolerance as your first principle is that you cannot possibly be faithful to it because sooner or later the culture whose core values you are tolerating will reveal itself to be intolerant at that same core; that is, the distinctiveness that marks it as unique and self-defining will resist the appeal of moderation or incorporation into a larger whole. Confronted with a demand that it surrender its viewpoint or enlarge it to include the practices of its natural enemies—other religions, other races, other genders, other classes—a beleaguered culture will fight back with everything from discriminatory legislation to violence. At this point the strong multiculturalist faces a dilemma: either he stretches his toleration so that it extends to the intolerance residing at the heart of a culture he would honor, in which case tolerance is no longer his guiding principle, or he condemns the core intolerance of that culture (recoiling in horror when Khomeini calls for the death of Rushdie), in which case he is no longer according it respect at the point where its distinctiveness is most obviously at stake. Typically, the strong multiculturalist will grab the second handle of this dilemma (usually in the name of some supracultural universal now seen to have been hiding up his sleeve from the beginning) and thereby reveal himself not to be a strong multiculturalist at all. Indeed it turns out that strong multiculturalism is not a distinct position but a somewhat deeper instance of the shallow category of boutique multiculturalism.

(“Boutique Multiculturalism, or Why Liberals Are Incapable of Thinking about Hate Speech,” Critical Inquiry, 23:2 [Winter, 1997], 382–383)

Evaluation

I believe in diversity—defined Christianly. All people are made in God’s image, and there is ultimately “no male or female in Christ” (Gal 3:28). I am as saved from my sins as my wife is (in fact, she is a little ahead). And yet when saints “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” come to praise the Lamb in the last day (Rev 7:9), there will still be recognizably different nations, tribes, and peoples. Every knee will bow, but some of those knees will be different colors (and some will presumably be shaved while others are not). This is biblical diversity.

(To be clear: I’m with John Piper in Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian: the erasure of “racial” lines through intermarriage is a good thing pointing toward the ultimate unity of all people in Christ—and even in Noah! I’m only saying that the Bible predicts that not all those lines will ultimately be erased.)

Also, God’s created goodness lies in all cultures, so I can expect that some cultures will see some beauties of God in their art and music and greetings and dress and customs and folktales that other cultures don’t see. But the fall has twisted all nations, so I can expect to reject or refine various elements in any given culture, too.

I find it helpful to have a minority worldview, because the majority never lets me forget (as they so often do) that my own viewpoint is contestable. When I start thinking of all my beliefs and conclusions and ideas as obvious to any sane person, I become a triumphalist who cannot permit his or her mortal enemies (such as a poor libertarian Google Engineer) to utter a word in the public square without the severest repercussions. We must all make judgments about what kind of talk is reprehensible, but the Christian is, or at least should be, more capable of grace because final judgment is in the hands of another (Matt 12:36).

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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