A Moody Bible Institute professor has called on the school to abandon the term white privilege in discussions about diversity, calling it “inflammatory,” “repugnant,” and “unworthy of Christian discourse.”
“I suggest we should rip the term ‘white privilege’ out of our discourse at Moody,” wrote theology professor Bryan Litfin in a letter to the editor published April 15 in the student newspaper. “The underlying issues that need to be addressed should be described with more wholesome, less divisive terminology.”
Litfin proposes five reasons why the term isn’t biblical enough to be effective. “This language is taken straight from a radical and divisive secular agenda. As such, it should be subjected to the penetrating light of God’s Word,” he wrote. “[T]he term ‘white privilege’ is intended to address an important topic. The problem is, the term itself is inflammatory, so the real topic goes unheard because of the offense.”
The letter follows an apology he made in March for comments he had made on social media about a campus diversity event.
Flyers for the event, called “White Like Me,” said it would feature “thoughts on race from the perspective of a privileged person,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
A flyer for the event, hosted by a Moody student group called Embrace, was vandalized. A photo of the damaged flyer, with the word “privilege” crossed out, was posted online.
Amid discussion of the vandalism, Litfin criticized the idea of “white privilege” and the event itself.
“Using the term ‘white’ to categorize millions of people under one catch-all term, then pegging them as elite oppressors, is offensive on its face and unworthy of Christian discourse,” he wrote on Facebook.
He later apologized, telling the Tribune that his comments were not “worthy of what a professor should do.”
Following the controversy over the defaced flyer and Litfin’s first comments, Moody President Paul Nyquist had emphasized the school’s commitment to diversity in a letterto college community.
That commitment includes talking about white privilege, he said.
“People who are white, such as myself, because we are of the majority culture, often fail to understand the privileges we enjoy due to our skin color, for it is all we have ever known,” he wrote. “Therefore, the conversation hosted on our campus last week is part of an ongoing effort to bring greater campus-wide understanding to the issue and I applaud and affirm its purpose.”
The debate at Moody is part of a larger conversation about race and ethnicity at Christian colleges, driven in large part by the country’s changing demographics.
The term “white privilege” was first popularized in a 1989 essay by Peggy McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women.
In it, McIntosh described an “invisible knapsack” of advantages she experienced by being white in the United States. Those advantages including being able be rent or buy housing wherever she wanted, not being stopped by police because of her race, or seeing people that looked like her on television.
Her essay and the term white privilege are often used in discussions of diversity.
But the term is problematic for Christians, says Litfin, because he believes it implies that being white in America is sinful. That kind of collective sin doesn’t apply to Christians, his letter argued, as they are only responsible for their own actions.
SOURCE: Bob Smietana