The idea of structural maladies is systemic and, being so, largely unproven. No proof is offered, indeed, none needed when claiming problems are systemic. The idea, says John Piper in a recent article entitled Structural Racism, is built into the Christian worldview. (For another great response see here.)
“Bible-shaped people should expect to see structural racism almost everywhere in a fallen world.”
In other words, Bible-Shaped people should view the world through racialized lenses. It should be a filter through with they view the world. Race should be a worldview. Piper defines “race” as “a group of people distinguished primarily by skin color, but also by facial features and hair type.” He defines “racism” as “an explicit or implicit feeling or belief or practice that values one race over other races, or devalues one race beneath others.” Structural racism is the “cumulative effect” of racist views in society.
Look carefully, Piper defined racism as a reality we all live with and then he defined a “racist” as one who recognizes that reality. Steve Sailer noted that racism is noticing. Now, I would disagree with Piper’s definition of race. Borrowing a friend’s definition: Race is a biological term and a feature of the natural world that we observe and falls generally under the category we would term general revelation rather than being explicitly defined in scripture. Members of sexually-reproducing species mate largely with those who live nearby. Over time, isolated from other groups they will develop a distinctive range of genetic traits. These localized varieties are races. Races are, broadly speaking, kindred nations (ethnicities) that are extensions of families. For example, see the relationship of the Israelites to the Edomites (Numb. 20:14; Deut. 23:7). The bible speaks with more clarity regarding the divisions among nations and ethnic groups, but also assumes what we call race or racial characteristics (Jer. 13:23, I Sam. 16:12, 17:42; Song of Solomon 5:10, Lam. 4:7) in its descriptions. Ethnicity is, broadly, a sociological term and describes the social behavior of individuals who perceive themselves as belonging to a group. The category is somewhat permeable and is connected to and with identity. New ethnic groups certainly have and do come into existence as mixing occurs.
“Racism”, however, has always been weaponized language, used initially by Marxists and concurrently by social revolutionaries. The same thing is true with the terms “structural” and “systemic”. They are explicit categories designed to fracture, divide, exploit, freeze, and destroy. Not noticing this or not addressing the usage of this weaponized language is a large flaw in the writings of popular Evangelical leaders.
Hence, throughout his article, Piper does not offer proof that his idea of “racism” is a sin. It is an assumption, an axiom. About 1/3 into the article, he begins to assume “valuing one race over another” is wrong. Piper says, “Therefore, the power of human depravity to produce racism — along with every other sin — is compounded by the supernatural demonic power to secure and intensify that evil.” Why is valuing one “group” over another sinful; one skin color, one facial feature, one ethnic custom? A friend remarked: This sort of confusion bedevils the minds of better men than Piper, too. Wilson talks about this in terms of racial “pride” and “vainglory” but he never defines what he means. As though “preference” itself, which is natural, is sinful.
Is preference sinful? Piper was very careful to define things up front. But somehow he slipped “sin” into his definition of “racism” along the way, and yet he hasn’t demonstrated why preferring one group of people (however defined) is sinful. If preferring people based on their skin color is racist, then are the majority of people racists for preferring to marry, befriend, dwell, contract, live and die within their own racial groups? Is preference for groups itself sinful? Is it sinful for a man to prefer his wife first? For Americans to prefer America first? Should people do away with preference? for this seems to be what Piper implies by valuing, which he also does not define and which takes on a sense of any inclination for one over another.
Piper speaks of structural sins and would do well to write another article condemning “Structural Adultery” or “Structural Theft”. But every time someone in polite Christian society points out that taxation is structural theft the reply is, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Live and let Steal. Live and let Lust. Permit the systemic breaking of the ten commandments while fighting the good fight against “racism” which cannot be found in biblical language.
About 90% of the article is Piper talking about sin generically. Piper’s article begins with reality and logic and then immediately takes flight into the spiritual world of abstractions about the inner workings of the soul. I would hope Piper to address his open use of weaponized language, his definition of racism as sin, and the neglect by the Church and Society of other Structural Sins which the bible does name and which Piper uses in passing analogies to call out another.