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Documentary, Movie Reviews

Uncle Tom: An Oral History of the American Black Conservative

Documentary 2020 / 106 minutes Rating: 8/10 "Uncle Tom" is an insult thrown at blacks by other blacks for supposedly being too eager to get approval from whites. It's leveled at Larry Elder, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Candace Owens, Allen West, and the many other black conservatives who aren't willing to unquestioningly back the Democratic Party and the policies that it pushes. This conservative group is a small minority – in the US, blacks are a cohesively liberal voting block, with 9 out of 10 casting their ballot for the Democratic presidential candidate in the last election. But, as this documentary shows, the conservative minority is willing to wear insults as a badge of honor. They aren't going to stay silent about the damage that's been done to their black communities by government welfare policies and by a victimhood narrative that tells blacks they can't succeed because the system is stacked against them. Uncle Tom is conservative commentator Larry Elder's project, and offers his perspective which is, ultimately, a very hopeful one. Yes, he details the bigotry that has existed and continues to exist but he also notes that real progress has been made, and that "this is not your grandfather's America." President Obama is shown echoing that point, speaking of Martin Luther King Jr. and his generation as being "the Moses generation" that "took us 90% of the way" and the task for today's "Joshua generation" is to work on that last 10%. Elder contrasts that hopeful message with the scaremongering Democrats (including Obama) are running with now, where Republicans are caricatured as so racist that electing them will threaten black voting rights. The argument Elder makes is that it isn't a racist system, or racist boogie men that are blacks' biggest enemy, but the victimhood narrative. And he counters that narrative by showing and celebrating the successes of a broad assortment of black entrepreneurs and leaders. Cautions Some of the exchanges we see are not polite ones, so there are language concerns, including the uses of the n-word (from blacks directed at other blacks), and quite a number of f-bombs, as well as some other words that we might not want our young children to know. Another caution concerns how this film might seem unfairly biased. Many of us have grown up in the church, read God's Word daily and heard it expounded each Sunday, and that has equipped us with fairly reliable sniff detectors – even when we aren't able to put it exactly into words why we don't trust what's being presented, we can still sniff out lies. But in this case, I suspect some folk's sniff detectors might register a false alarm. The alarm will go off because there is a clear Republican conservative bias here, but just as offering a Reformed perspective is a bias too and doesn't preclude a fair treatment of opposing views, I'd argue the bias in Uncle Tom doesn't get in the way of a generally fair presentation. The Democrats are given plenty of screen time, and while their clips usually don't show them in a good light, these are the real positions Democrats hold and there is nothing deceptive about sharing what they actually believe. So yes, there might be too generous an appraisal of Donald Trump, and other points that we shouldn't be swallowing whole, but the overall argument against the victimhood culture is a solid one. Conclusion While there are Christians in the film, and some Christian perspective is offered, we never really get a concise summary of why the victimhood narrative is sinful (though lots of clues are offered). Parents watching this with their older teens might want to discuss: Is the victimhood narrative about raising victims up, or about assigning blame and guilt? Can any forgiveness be found in a victimhood culture? The victimhood narrative is sometimes used to justify shameful behavior – the current rioting is supposed to be understandable because of systemic racism. But do two wrongs make a right? How is blame being assigned? Is it based on actual sins committed, or is it on the basis of skin color? What does the Bible say about that? Are the charges leveled about specific instances of wrong or are they often generalized accusations of systemic racism? Can we address unspecified wrongs? How about specific wrongs? How does the hope offered in this film – that if you work hard you can get ahead – deliver, and how does it fall short? Uncle Tom offers a conservative perspective that, even as it doesn't always line up with the Christian perspective, still offers genuine insight into much of what's going wrong in race relations. I'd recommend this for ages 13 or up, based primarily on language concerns. But it is a film that demands discussion afterwards – it has to be unpacked and cross-examined to be of any use. You can watch the trailer below, and rent the film for $8 US here. And if you enjoyed it, you can get a closer look at two of these black leaders in their own documentaries: Walter Williams: Suffer No Fools and Thomas Sowell: Common Sense in a Senseless World. ...

Culture Clashes

Black Lives Matter – the slogan

Since Christians must oppose the abortion-supporting, LGBT-agenda pushing Black Lives Matter organization should we still be embracing the Black Lives Matter slogan? **** This article is also available in an audio version on YouTube, and on the Focal Point podcast site. The death of George Floyd in May was met with chants across the US, and in other countries too, that: “Black lives matter!”This cry, being undeniably true, resonated with Christians, leading many to march, and others to “black out” their social media pages in solidarity. But as clear as it is that Christians must not be racist and must fight against this sin, what I am presenting in this article is why both the organization Black Lives Matter, and even the slogan itself, shouldn’t be embraced by Christians. Why? Accusations need to be specific to be actionable To begin, the entirety of the movement is based on the blanket assertion that by simply being Black, a person is oppressed. The claim is made that there aren’t just individual cases of discrimination, but there is “systemic racism” – it is a feature of, and built right into the whole fabric of our culture and institutions, public and private. It is important to understand that there could well be evidence of systemic racism or other individual racism, but the first step to addressing problems is identifying them…specifically. Where there are specific examples given of racial injustice, we can then work to find specific solutions. If police are targeting Black drivers in expensive cars, or for driving through a rich neighborhood, that would be racial profiling and would be wrong. This specific problem would require specific solutions such as restricting police officer’s ability to pull over vehicles without evidence of just cause or probability. If Black people are being killed in “no-knock” police raids – operations where the police break down the door without first identifying themselves – this specific problem could also be addressed with a specific approach that might involve completely re-examining this practice. To be sure, widespread systemic racism has existed, with laws in the US that restricted where Blacks could sit, or eat, or even what water fountains they could use. And examples could persist in certain institutions today. But those laws are now gone. And for many years there has been an effort towards affirmative action, both codified (by law) or de facto (local hiring policies), opening greater opportunities for historical minorities to have a better chance for post-secondary education or certain jobs. We could explore the pros and cons of affirmative action in a future article, but the point here is only to note it was certainly an effort to address systemic racism and to provide increased opportunities for those whose opportunities may have been lacking. Unspecified claims of systemic racism suggest that it is intentional and state-sponsored; that the cultural power elites have set up a system where they can continue to suppress any opportunity that Black people, or members of other racial minorities, could have of empowerment. How they account for the many successful and middle-income members within the Black community is not very clear. They don’t fit the victim narrative and their success seems to be either ignored, or they themselves are attacked as sellouts (as Larry Elder highlights in his new documentary Uncle Tom). The idea of systemic racism does not allow much room for individual success for Black people, and any example of such success isn't allowed to counter the narrative of oppression. The point I’m trying to make is that we can address specific problems with specific solutions. In contrast, it is impossible to fix nebulous unspecified problems, especially with riots and looting. The BLM organization is specifically anti-Christian Why we should not support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization becomes clear when we take a closer look at what that organization supports. This is from their website: We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence. It is not a societal “privilege” when your sexuality and gender match – it is healthy, natural, and normal. The Creator God made it so. It is possible that this division between gender and sexuality becomes normal language even among Christians, and we must resist this, entirely. We have to understand that we are up against a Great Deceiver, who is prowling around like a lion seeking to devour. There is a battle going on for us and our children and we need to equip ourselves and our young people with clear unambiguous language about the created order. Where there is evidence of gender dysphoria, then empathy, compassion, and help should be readily available; but by seeking to “dismantle cisgender privilege,” and “uplift Black trans folk” the BLM organization is attacking what is good, and celebrating what is broken. They boldly state: BLM foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise). The “Black Lives Matter” slogan has many people thinking this is about racism. To be sure, the organization addresses racism in its statement of faith, but the organization’s focus is fixated on sexuality and gender identity too. By using charged language of “freeing ourselves from the tight grip of…”, they are affirming that all those who are not part of the cultural elite (white, male, able-bodied, cis-gendered, etc.) are oppressed. They hate the idea that heterosexuality is normative, but as Christians, we confess its normative status from creation. We acknowledge, in humility, that there are Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction and the church needs to develop greater empathy for such brothers and sisters, but that does not take away from the norms that God has established in creation. As we look through their website their radical anti-Christian intent becomes more and more clear. We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable. The very foundational structure of civilization, all civilizations, is the family unit. It is the Christian worldview that highlights the importance of fathers and mothers, both. God created both male and female in his image; God demands that children honor both father and mother; the Triune relationship includes that of Father and Son, etc. While Christians express the importance of belonging to the communion of saints or the “extended family” and “village” that “collectively cares for one another,” we stress the biblical truth that the primary responsibility for children are parents, both fathers and mothers. It is the task of both parents to train up their children in the fear of the Lord. You’ll also notice that BLM mentions mothers and parents in this statement, but not fathers specifically. They are focused on ensuring they don’t make any allusions to anything that could be remotely close to patriarchy. They would object to orthodox churches refusing to allow women to serve in the office of elders and deacons. They would object to asking a wife if they would “honor, love, and obey” her husband. Any language that suggests that a husband is the head of his household would be forbidden. The BLM slogan is 100% true and still shouldn’t be embraced The brand “Black Lives Matter” was strategically chosen. Who can disagree with it? Black lives do matter, and all people, especially Christians, must fight injustices including racism. But we may not support in any way, shape, or manner the BLM movement which ties the slogan and organization so tightly together. We need to see that the driving force behind the Black Lives Matter movement is an organization that is entirely ungodly, unchristian, unbiblical, and wrong. It is a deceptive movement, seeking to deceive whole nations of people in an effort to portray all the things God teaches us are right and good, as being wrong and unjust. And their influence is seen everywhere, especially, these days, on the professional sports playing field. Might it be time for us to stop watching NBA basketball or NFL football, since these organizations have embraced the Black Lives Matter movement uncritically, and ideologically? Maybe it is time we stop cheering and spending money on BLM ideologues and their paraphernalia whether that is pro-sports or any other organization. Going forward, we will have to choose our words carefully. When we want to express how unjust racism is, we will have to find another way than to echo a slogan that is tightly linked to so much more than the words it says. Perhaps we can find a way to say that all people of all races are “image-bearers of God”? We can no longer use “black lives matter” because it implies that we agree with the organization and what it stands for, but we don’t, and we can’t. I want to conclude this article by suggesting that BLM is not the root of a new tree, but it is a fruit of a tree planted many years ago. The founders of BLM are synthesizing instruction from those who have gone on before them including Karl Marx and Saul Alinsky – one of the co-founders has even described herself and her colleagues as “trained Marxists.” In future articles, I hope to explore some of these foundational developments that have provided the fertile soil for BLM and other such causes. May the Lord help us to remain diligent in keeping his Word, using it as a light to our path, shining the light of His Word on the darkness around us. We are the salt and light in this world; let’s be sure we know what needs preserving and how to preserve it. ***** What could we say instead? If we can’t join in the chants of “Black Lives Matter!” what can we say instead? Imagine this: what if Christians who were upset with the seemingly cavalier death of George Floyd would have responded with “George Floyd was an image-bearer of God too”? That would have underscored the importance of treating him and everyone as persons with dignity and respect. It also would have been specifically targeted to George Floyd’s death. To address the larger challenge of racism, some have suggested “Black lives matter too!” The benefit of adding “too” makes it clear that the sentence itself is not racist. It highlights that racism against Black people is a problem while also recognizing that all races matter. Would a phrase like “Erase racism” capture the same point? Perhaps “Christians against racism” could be a phrase we “meme-ify.” It demonstrates Christians’ opposition to racism, while also confessing we are followers of Christ. Finally, a more wordy suggestion, but that would include the reason for why we oppose racism: “The New Jerusalem will be filled with a mosaic of peoples. Stop Racism Now.” Our anticipation of the perfection that is to come should motivate towards working towards the standards of perfection. As R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries remind us regularly, “Right Now Counts Forever.” So, right now, let’s do our best to hold up every human being, from conception to natural death, as the image-bearers of God that they are, and demonstrate our desire to help those who may be victims of racism. Chris deBoer is the Executive Director of the Reformed Perspective Foundation and the host of the Focal Point podcast. Picture credit: Shutterstock.com/Footage Force. ...

News

Saturday Selections - September 5, 2020

Well-intentioned racism is racism still (5 minutes) Uncle Tom is a new documentary about how American black conservatives are ridiculed as being traitors to their race. Why? Because they don't think as the Left say they should think. Telling blacks how they should think is, of course, racist, but the irony is lost on the Left. What this deleted scene shows is that racism can come in all sorts of flavors, including a compassionate patronization. In biblical justice, there is a distinction between equality and equity "1 Kings 3:16-27 provides an excellent example of the biblical distinction between equality and equity. One woman wanted equality whereas the other woman wanted equity. King Solomon judged with equity, not equality, which meant that one of the women went home without a baby. Biblical justice is a matter of equity, not equality. Yes, there is a difference—and it’s not an insignificant one." Slavery was everywhere in the world. A white Christian man abolished it. "Every society on Earth in all of history had slavery. Every single one. The Europeans/ Americans had slavery. The Arabs had slavery, massive slavery. The word for black person in Arabic is “abeed” which means slave. That’s how common slavery was. Slavery in Asia, obviously. Slavery in Black Africa. Black Africans had Black Africans as slaves. Indigenous Native Americans had slaves. Every society in history had slavery. So the only question that is honest is not 'who had slavery?' It’s 'who abolished slavery?'" Was Jesus a socialist? The former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared "Jesus was the first socialist, the first to seek a better life for mankind." And many a Christian seems to agree... "Transitioning" doesn't seem to improve mental health after all The study, as it was first reported, showed that transgender folk who get surgeries feel better about themselves. And this got a lot of media coverage. Now a closer look at the data shows no such mental health benefit. And that is not getting the same coverage. Darwin's impact on society in under 3 minutes Sometimes apologetics is simply about clarifying the difference between what God tells us is true, and what the world says is true. Here we see how, in contrast to God's grace and sacrificial love, Darwin offers only meaningless. ...

News

"Black lives matter" isn't always about black lives

On May 25 a Minneapolis black man, George Floyd, died in handcuffs while three police officers kneeled on him, including one, Derek Chauvin, who was kneeling on his neck. In the weeks that followed protests erupted in cities across the US and the world, and protesters also made their feelings known on social media, many using the #blacklivesmatter hashtag. Christians nodded their agreement, but some wondered at the emphasis on blacks. After all, we know that all of us are just one race, and wouldn’t furthering that understanding be the best way to counter racism? So many well-meaning Christian noted that “all lives matter” because, of course, they do. But what this overlooked is the specific charge being made: protesters are saying that many black lives are not being treated like they matter. One clarifying analogy shared around social media about the “all lives matter” slogan told of a husband speaking at his wife’s funeral about how much she mattered to him only to have someone take the mike and share that “all wives matter.” This is a true statement, but at this time and place would be understood as entirely missing the point. So let’s be done with “all lives matter.” Does that mean we should embrace the “black lives matter” (BLM) slogan? The problem with doing so is that there is more to BLM than just the slogan; there is also a Black Lives Matter movement. While the movement is loosely knit, some of its key leaders are as interested in promoting homosexuality and transgenderism as they are in fighting racism. In a 2015 interview with MSNBC, one of the founders, Patrisse Cullors, noted that the hashtag #blacklivesmatter: “...was created by two black queer women, myself and Alicia, and one Nigerian-American woman, Opal Tometi…” It doesn’t take much digging to find abortion-promoting work as well. So the slogan speaks to one matter, but the organization is taking on many more, much of it in direct opposition to God’s will. There have been a couple of suggestions on how Christians might modify the BLM slogan to, on the one hand, acknowledge the grievance being made, and, on the other, distance us from the BLM organization. “All black lives matter” is a pro-life suggestion, meant to highlight how blacks are disproportionately victims of abortion. But, unfortunately, the BLM organization is already using this slogan, with the “all,” in their case, referring to transgender, gay, and lesbian blacks. Another possibility: “Black lives matter too.” This acknowledges the grievance, but in a way that is more unifying, and less an us vs. them statement. And it also takes us a step away from what the BLM organization is doing. Whatever slogan we use, what’s most significantly missing here is God’s perspective. The biggest contribution God’s people can make to this discussion might be to add just a few select biblical words. We can note that George Floyd, an image-bearer of God (Gen. 1:27), was killed. When we put his death in that context then it becomes clear what needs to be done and what should not be done. By making it about God, and His standards, then we understand Floyd’s life was precious for the very same reason that our lives are. We’ll know that justice needs to be done. It will also be clear that our calls for justice can’t be accompanied by evil. How can we demand God’s justice for one image-bearer, even as we throw bricks or insults at other such image-bearers? #ImagebearerOfGod might not make for an effective hashtag, but it is the beginning of an explicitly Christian, God-acknowledging message, which is what our world most needs to hear....

News

Racism is wrong…

Racism is wrong. The Minneapolis police officer, holding his knee on George Floyd’s neck for a lengthy period of time, may have been motivated racially, or by pride, or by hatred, etc. I do not know. If the police officers involved behave as racists or as “judge, jury, and executioner,” they deserve to be punished.  We can empathize with protests demanding justice in this way; some may even participate. Christians in Minnesota should be writing to their newspapers, political leaders, and law enforcement personnel, encouraging everyone to fight for justice, but to do so in a godly way. Action can be taken throughout our various countries, but our action needs to be in step with who we are as Christians and it must respect the dignity of all others. Racism is wrong. And the root cause of racism is sin. …because we are all made in God’s image Racism is wrong. Anyone holding to a solid biblical worldview cannot help but arrive at that conclusion. We know that all people are created in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27). Originally, being created in God’s image, man: “was adorned in his mind with true and wholesome knowledge of his Creator and of all spiritual things; his will was upright, all his affections pure, and therefore man was completely holy.” – Canons of Dort, Chapter 3/4, Art. 1 However, man fell from this glorious state of being as we rebelled against God in paradise. Nevertheless, we confess that man’s fall did not make him like the animals, but that a light of nature remains in mankind after the fall: “whereby he retains some notions about God, about natural things, and about the difference between what is honourable and shameful, and show some regard for virtue and outward order. But so far is he from arriving at the saving knowledge of God and true conversion through this light of nature that he does not even use it properly in natural and civil matters… man wholly pollutes it in various ways and suppresses it by his wickedness.” – Canons of Dort, Chapter 3/4, Art. 4 All of mankind share in this new fallen state of being. There is no alternative until the Holy Spirit changes our hearts and minds, making us alive again in Christ, and the image of God is being renewed in us. …because diversity was always God's intention Racism is wrong. We are reminded of the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. This story tells us of one united nation that did not want to fulfill the cultural mandate of Genesis 1 in filling the earth. Man’s rebellion against God increases exponentially when there is a united purpose against him and his revealed plan for mankind. At the Tower of Babel God decides to create new cultures through confusing the languages of the people there. This confusion drives the people apart and the earth begins to be filled. Physical, racial, and cultural diversity develops. This mosaic of diversity is a result of sin, but is not sin in itself – God wanted mankind to develop culturally and spread throughout the earth and He will not let his plans be manipulated. …because the Gospel is for all Racism is wrong. When Abram was addressed by God to leave his home country he was encouraged by the promise that God would make of him a great nation and that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). God develops a nation through Abraham, a special distinct nation in all the earth, as he works out his plan of salvation for his people from all tribes, languages, and nations. Racism is wrong. When our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross he fulfilled the promises of the Old Testament, also the promises to Abraham. Christ gives his disciples the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). Much of the New Testament scriptures are about taking the gospel of Jesus Christ and spreading that message indiscriminately among the nations! There is no room for racism in Christianity. Where racism is evident, together with any and all examples of injustice, Christians should be engaged in various Godly activities to provide a witness to the truth and to fight the injustices as they are able. …because it is what’s inside that counts Racism is wrong. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Racism looks at the color of one’s skin and makes a judgement ignorant of the content of that person’s character. Racists look at the outside of a person, make an unjust judgement, and so reveal the depravity of their own heart and mind. Those who love and defend the just cause of their neighbour because God has loved them reveal a heart that is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, while those who hate their neighbour, who judge them falsely or on the basis of skin colour, still live in darkness and delusion. …but not all disagreement is racism Racism is wrong. But not all that is called racism is racism. In this context we can think of disagreements between the worldview of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity. Christians who argue that the Islamic religion is false and dangerous, are not behaving in a racist fashion. Although most Muslims are from the Middle East, this does not mean that Christians are racist against Middle Eastern citizens when we express the implications of the cultural battles that exist between these two significantly different worldviews. When Christians tell Judaists and Muslims that the promise given to father Abraham is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, we are not making a racist comment but the very opposite – we are inviting them to accept Christ as Saviour and so be our brothers and sisters in Christ! Godly mission work directed towards individuals of other faiths or those who profess no faith is not driven by a cultural or racist superiority rooted in idolatry, but in a love for our neighbours, fellow image bearers who also need the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to be saved from meaninglessness in this life and eternal punishment in the life to come. …but riots are not the answer Racism is wrong. Christians need to fight against this form of injustice wherever it rears its ugly head. But Christians do not riot. The evil evident in the riots over the past weeks demonstrate an unchristian worldview bearing fruit. Evil begets evil. These riots are not being indiscriminately condemned: a number of actors are contributing to a "protester bail fund," including Steve Carrell, Janelle Monae, Seth Rogen, Ben Schwartz, and Halsey. Justin Timberlake is also encouraging people to donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund which is raising funds to bail out protesters. But which protesters? In the larger cities, many among the protesters are not fighting against injustice; they are perpetrating it! Stores and much property of black citizens, and others, are being destroyed by "protesters." The violence and damage will do nothing to address injustice or racism. It is an unchristian and an inhumane response. Love is not the overriding principle, idolatry is. Unbelievers are developing (or have created) a worldview that has no foundation and the idol of self is at the centre. Justice for George Floyd is not the goal of those rioting – it is the excuse for open “acceptable” rebellion. …and the Gospel is the answer Racism is wrong. The solution, despite opinion to the contrary, is the gospel rightly understood and applied. May the Lord, the king over all the earth, so work by his word and spirit so that justice is restored in this world. In the meantime, we are busy fighting for justice in a godly way. We are also praying that the Lord will usher in his kingdom in all its glory so that his people from all tribes, tongues, races, and languages can be gathered together in one united kingdom to praise our King! ...