"Censorship" on The Network

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When The Network was started 10 years ago, it had a simple mandate: to connect people from across the Christian Reformed Church so that they could ask questions, compare notes, share stories, and find resources. It would be populated and moderated by the community itself, with user-submitted content, and guidelines to ensure that conversations remained respectful and honest. 

Recently though, you may have noticed a trend of more involvement by staff moderators. We’ve been more stringent about deleting comments and taking down posts. This has caused some frustration in our readers and I thought it warranted a bit of explanation. 

I am a communicator at heart and my desire is for free-flowing dialogue among Network participants. I want to be able to sit back and watch The Network community share ideas about church ministry and, when necessary, wrestle with challenging topics. I want to trust the community to moderate the content that is not appropriate, and to engage with each other respectfully. However, I’ve recently had my eyes opened to the fact that The Network “community” isn’t actually as representative of the broad CRCNA community as I thought it was. 

In some intentional conversations with people of color, I’ve come to recognize that The Network of the past has not been a very safe place for people of color to be. Few of our posts have been written by people of color or represent their experience. This means that when visitors of color came to our site, they weren’t seeing content that relates to their context and weren’t very compelled to stay. What’s more, several people mentioned that when people of color did post content, they felt personally attacked for what they shared. 

Recently, the topic of racism has received global attention. Police shootings of unarmed black men and women have sparked protests around the world calling for systemic change. These protests have sparked counter protests by those who disagree with the values of Black Lives Matter. Even in our churches, a debate has begun about “Critical Race Theory” and its place in Christian minds and conversation. 

As a white person, I didn’t see how debate on this topic was any different than debate about church worship styles or children participating in communion. As a result, I allowed some posts to be shared that questioned the idea of white privilege and criticized protestors. I didn’t think about how these posts made assumptions about people of color and discounted their lived experience in a way that other discussions about topics of debate didn’t. I allowed The Network to be a place that caused pain for some of our readers, and I apologize for this. 

And this type of situation isn’t limited to Black, Indigenous, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, Pacific Islander, Hispanic and other people of color. It can also happen to those with disabilities, survivors of abuse, and other marginalized people. The lived experience of those most impacted by an issue should not be up for debate. 

Today, we are taking steps to help ensure that our Network community can truly be a safe place for everyone -- a place that reflects who we are and who Christ is in us. This means that we will be intentionally seeking posts from marginalized voices that we haven’t traditionally heard from. We’ll be expecting posts and comments that demonstrate Christian humility and graciousness in tone, language and implication even when people strongly disagree. We’ll be moderating comments that make significant claims outside of the writer’s lived experience and expertise. And we’ll be deleting posts and comments that attempt to hijack conversations and turn other people’s experiences into controversies. 

In other words, we are moving toward creating  a community aligned with a biblical call to hospitality, especially for marginalized people most impacted by issues, and doing it in a way that builds up the whole church. We believe that this is how the church should be talking to and with each other. 

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Let's Discuss…

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This response is so insulting but it is telling about the thinking in the denomination building so thank you for being honest.  Critical Race Theory and support for BLM are not universally accepted among people of color so it seems kind of demeaning to think they need to be protected by you if they are challenged by another way of thinking.  If I could bring a handful of my conservative friends who are people of color down to talk to you it might help you see that those who were offended were of a political bent or certain worldview that ran counter to what was being said, it has nothing to do with skin color.  My conservative friends of color are brave and triumphant brothers and sisters in Christ standing with me, they are not what CRT or BLM tells them they are; victims.

Community Builder

Hi Marc. I'm sorry that my post came across as anti-conservative and also that it seemed to be only about critical race theory. That wasn't my intent.  I would love to have conservative people, who are also people of color, post about their experiences with race and how they'd like the church to respond.  The point of my post was more in the spirit of Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 107 - "God wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly toward them, to protect them from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies."  If online discussion forums are causing harm to some of our community members, and they have made me aware of that, then it is my duty to do what I can to protect them from that harm. If I can remind people to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful and friendly in their online comments, then I should do so. We want discussion and welcome debate, just not at the expense of marginalized people. 

Kristen, thanks for being transparent about something that has been going on behind the scenes for a couple years.

Do you think it is condescending to lump all people of a certain skin tone into a category that must be "protected" by enlightened white people? I mean, if we are going to have open, honest conversations about this type of thing, let's do it. Censorship isn't helping anyone. It's also not helpful to assume that people with slightly darker skin tone than yours are so fragile that they can't handle someone questioning Black Lives Matter Inc or pointing out the Scriptural errors found in Critical Race Theory.

If Black Lives Matter Inc is such a great organization, you should be able to defend it without relying on heavy-handed censorship. Ditto for Critical Race Theory. Many people (including many BRILLIANT people of color such as Candace Owens and Thomas Sowell) would question the theories of white privilege and systemic racism. Are you admitting that those theories are so weak that they cannot withstand any level of questioning?

Community Builder

Hi Dan. Thanks for posting. I want to clarify that I don't think that I am more enlightened than anyone else, or that I'm specially gifted to speak on behalf of people of color. You and I have engaged in the past and I think we share a mutual respect. I hope that I have demonstrated that my preference is to allow a variety of posts and opinions and to spark dialogue. Your "Esther and the 2nd Amendment" post is a great example. It may seem controversial to some and certainly expresses a point that not everyone agrees with, but posting it allowed for some interesting dialogue and debate. The intent of my post above was to admit that this approach to Network content has flaws and that I've had blinders to how I have unwittingly allowed hurt to happen in my quest for open and free-flowing dialogue. I now want to correct that. I am not making unilateral decisions about what I think groups of people might be offended by, but I am listening to people and trying to understand their pain and how I can mitigate it. I should also say that there is a diverse group of people helping with decisions about moderation.

Lastly, this really isn't about defending Black Lives Matter. A post that recognized the pain of the black community in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, acknowledged the reality of racism in our societies, and stated that change is needed in our systems - including in our churches - could also criticize the organization of Black Lives Matter and some of their calls to action.  But when we start with that criticism, and when we say things like, "don't all lives matter?  we are all one in Christ," we skip over the important part of seeing our brothers and sisters and recognizing their very real experiences. That's where the hurt has happened. 

 

 

Good morning Kristen...

Thank you for articulating your proposed guidelines for moderating dialogue on the Network. I would like to briefly provide my observations on the following statements from the article above:

1. This means that we will be intentionally seeking posts from marginalized voices that we haven’t traditionally heard from. OBSERVATION: This raises a question of whether the Network will be deliberately entering into the Comment process, rather than leaving it up to to Readers to determine whether they will just read the article, or also comment. Some would argue that this is form of information management, i.e. censorship. I would respectfully suggest the the large of portion of users of the Network are readers rather than commenters, irrespective of mainstream or marginalized status.

2. We’ll be expecting posts and comments that demonstrate Christian humility and graciousness in tone, language and implication even when people strongly disagree. OBSERVATION: I am fully in agreement with this guideline.

3. We’ll be moderating comments that make significant claims outside of the writer’s lived experience and expertise. OBSERVATION: Again I would politely suggest that this statement is Orwellian in nature, and scripturally unsustainable. How is the Network staff even in a position to assess what is or is not outside a reader/writer's lived experience without engagement with the reader/writer or some form of state apparatus. If we to follow this dictum to its logical conclusion, only theologians would be able to comment on matters of faith. 

4. And we’ll be deleting posts and comments that attempt to hijack conversations and turn other people’s experiences into controversies. OBSERVATION: Though I can appreciate the intent of the guideline, it will be a delicate balancing act in discerning what constitutes dialogue and/or provocation. A good example is the example being raised by Marc Peterson where there is an honest difference of opinion which others may argue on hearing it it is a "hurtful" experience.

Community Builder

Thanks Lubbert.  In response to your points:

1. Sorry for the confusion.  I meant that we'll be reaching out to some specific folks and asking them to write blog posts to ensure that our content is more reflective of our broad CRCNA community. It wasn't about writing comments. I agree with you that most of the Network users are "silent" observers rather than frequent commenters. 

2.  Glad we agree. 

4. (Jumping ahead to #4 before #3) You are right. Moderating online conversations does require a lot of discernment. It is probably one of the hardest parts of my job. It is something I pray about, and something I often ask others to pray for me about. I welcome your prayers as well. I try to listen. I start with the premise that everyone has good intentions behind their posts. I also rely on others to help me make final decisions when things are difficult. In the end, I (and we) might still make mistakes, but we'll continue to try our best. 

3. This is another hard one and you are right that we will still need to make some judgment calls.  At the same time, I think that we can often tell when someone is writing about their personal experience. Consider this (albeit facetious) example. 

The Network does not allow posts that explicitly support or denounce political candidates, but if it did, imagine that I - as a Canadian - wrote a post that said something like "Everyone who voted for Trump was clearly a racist. I mean, he clearly hates immigrants and wants to build a wall because of his xenophobia. What's more, his rallies are frequented by neo-nazis and far-right groups. I suspect that Trump supporters also hate women and didn't want to vote for Hillary because they didn't want a woman President." 

Some of these statement could be formed based on observation or what some news commentors have shared as "fact", but the overall post clearly makes assumptions about a group of people that I'm not a part of. It is divisive and not helpful to any sort of dialogue. 

On the flip side, if someone posted "As a Christian, I'm uncomfortable with some of the things Donald Trump has said about women and people with disabilities, but I voted for him in 2016 and plan to vote for him again and here's why.  He's been a strong advocate for the unborn. He supports religious freedom and was an advocate for keeping worship services open during COVID. He was even able to get disenfranchised people interested in politics again.....".  While people might still hold an opposing point of view, this post would help them hear where the other was coming from. Because it starts from someone's lived experience, it can lead to greater understanding. 

Of course, all of this is harder when we are talking about topics such as race, disability, abuse, etc. than politics, but that's a broad picture of what I'm hoping for.  I want us to hear each other and learn from each other. We can't do that if some people feel unseen and unsafe.

Community Builder

Kudos to you Kristen for having the courage to be "up front" about the perspectives of those in charge of Network content.  

Sadly, I think the perspectives that have so prevailed are destructive ones.  Robin DiAngelo (whose book, White Fragility, I have read) would be quite in agreement with everything you have said here.  Respectfully, that is not a compliment.  I have lived for about 66 years now.  No one could have convinced me 20 years ago that in 20 years, the North American culture would have moved this far to being genuinely racist (by the old definition of course, not the new definition -- again, see DiAngelo's book) and racially segregationist.  I suspect you may disagree with me, but I'm not at all alone in that perspective, including within the CRC.  

If you've never watched them, you should check out the many videos available on-line about the happenings of Evergreen College (near Olympia, WA) a number of years back.  The CRCNA, including the Network, has moved significantly in that direction (Critical Race Theory and other Critical Theory "thinking").

The CRC declared Kinism a heresy in 2019.  Critical Race Theory is no a heresy.  The difference is that CRC/CT will do more damage to the CRC than Kinism would have ever done.   

Community Builder

Thanks Doug.  I'll take a look at those videos you suggest.  I mentioned in an early comment that my post wasn't intended to be pro Critical Race Theory.  There is nothing sacred about CRT, nor has the CRCNA taken any sort of official stance on it.  You can read all of the official CRCNA positions on race relations here:  https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/position-statements/race-relations

My post was simply trying to say that when we talk about issues that have a deep, personal impact on some specific groups of people (e.g. racism), and when we - ourselves - are not part of those groups (e.g. white folks who haven't experienced the negative impacts of racism in our daily lives), we need to tread carefully. If we don't start with a posture of humility, and if we don't recognize the pain and experiences of those most impacted by the issue, we cause pain and end up creating greater division instead of dialogue.

That's why my post says that we will "moderate" comments and posts that make claims outside of someone's lived experience and expertise. It doesn't say that they would all be deleted, just that we will watch them carefully and expect more from them. 

Maybe this isn't a great example, but I've been trying to read up on Critical Race Theory since it first reached my attention a few months ago.  I thought that this writer did a good job.  Yes, she's white.  Yes, she says Black Lives Matter is Marxist in origins and that there are limits to Critical Race Theory, but she also acknowledges the need for system changes, and states that there are parts of her life where she experiences privileges that people of color do not. Those sorts of acknowledgements help to demonstrate that she sees and cares about the people impacted by this issue, and isn't just critiquing the theory.

That's what we'll be looking for. 

 

Community Builder

Kristen: Would this article be allowed on the Network?  https://reformedeveryday.com/featured-article/f/critical-race-theory-the...

I had considered posting it on the Network but didn't bother because I thought: (1) it would be removed, or (2) it would never make it to the main page (almost as good as being removed).

And if this article would or would not be allowed and make it to the main page, would you be so kind as to explain.  Many of us who find ourselves at odds with the minds of those in charge of the Network often (usually) can't figure out specifically why our posts or comments are removed (or don't make it to the main page).

As an aside but related, I (and others) can't figure out how "honest conversations about race" could possibly happen in the CRC, at least using the Network, with the moderating that is applied.

Community Builder

I had seen this piece on Reformed Everyday earlier.  You are right, I'd have trouble with it on the Network and here is why:  I do think the article is well written and I think you raise good points that are worth discussing. However, the critique is all academic without an acknowledgement of the real hurt being felt by people.  In fact, in the section where you talk about the spread of critical theories, it almost comes across as if you are saying that each of these groups is making up the hurdles and challenges they face.  I don't think that's your intent, but that's how this can read. 

Without acknowledging that racism, sexism, ableism, etc are real things that cause real pain, your critique of the theory comes across as a critique of the people who are asking for change and a disregard of their lived experience.

Participant

Would you mind explaining why this piece, which I originally tried to post to the Network, was not permitted to be posted? 

https://reformedeveryday.com/featured-article/f/jesus-the-sinner

I both strongly denounce racism, allow for racism in "systems" and only critique a single yet crucial aspect of CRT. 

The only explanation Staci gave me was to point to this article. I fail to see how this would be oppressive to people of color. It's a central tenet of all Christian Theology.

Community Builder

Thanks for the honest answer Kristen.  You confirm my impressions as to where things have gotten for the Network (highly censured when articles and comments touch on selected themes in a way that does not align with the perspective of any one of multiple people having the power to censor), and in the CRCNA generally.

I've been a CRC member (baptized, then confessing at age 16) for 66 years.  I've gotten to the point of feeling quite like an outsider.  My perspectives on matters important to me (and usually that I have expertise in), are rejected as not fit to be expressed, despite their being consistent with CRC adopted creeds and confessions.

I doubt I will die a member of the CRC.

Hi Kristin...

I'm wondering whether you aren't yourself contravening the Network Community Guidelines, i.e. "it almost comes across as if you are saying that each of these groups is making up the hurdles and challenges they face.  I don't think that's your intent, but that's how this can read. ...Without acknowledging that racism, sexism, ableism, etc are real things that cause real pain, your critique of the theory comes across as a critique of the people who are asking for change and a disregard of their lived experience." Though the article, as you acknowledge, is well written - the decision not to publish it is based on an opinion you attribute to the author which is not present in the article. 

The focus of the article in "lay language" is about the roots of critical theory as articulated by certain 20th century French philosophers whose world and life view the author argues is anti-ethical to Christian faith. There is a fundamental difference between those who articulate critical theory, and those who experience oppression. Scripture also addresses the issue of oppression and it's alleviation, but not in the same terms as critical theory. 

The decision not to publish appears to be arbitrary, rather than balanced as required under the Network Community Guidelines and comes across as a form of censorship.

 

I just read Mr. Mouw's article. It is well written and spot on. Thanks for putting the link in your comments.

Hi Kristen & Doug...

First, thank you Kristen for your responses to my observations on #'s 1, 2 & 4 and may the Lord bless you in your task of moderating the Network.

Regarding guideline #3. "We’ll be moderating comments that make significant claims [outside of the writer’s lived experience and expertise]," my understanding of the use of the phrase is somewhat different than the examples you have provided. An example of a more strict understanding of the phrase in today's "post-modern identity politics" is that a non-Asian author has no authority to write about the Punjabi experience in India, except for a Punjabi person. I hope this observation is helpful.

Secondly, thank you Doug for your example of Evergreen College. I reviewed some the material available on the internet. The phenomenon of identity politics, tribal nationalism, Orwellian / Marxist re-education camps, etc. is not unique to the USA, but is also present in some departments at certain Canadian universities leading to the destruction of various academic careers and reputations. These phenomenon open the potential for attempts at the erasure of faith itself as a proper expression of life oriented towards our Saviour.

At age 72, I find these phenomenon troubling after a life working in the public sector with a background in labour relations, and service in the local church in various capacities. 

Community Builder

Thanks Lubbert.  I appreciate the caution. As I said to Doug above, my comment was not that we would not allow anyone to speak on any topic outside of their lived experience.  Instead, I said that we'd be moderating them.  I simply mean that we'll be watching carefully and holding folks to a higher standard when they write about something that doesn't impact them directly. We want to ensure that we are always starting from a place of love, and that we recognize each other's humanity, experiences, pain and trauma. If that is done well and we still want to gently push back on some ideas, that is fine. When we jump to critique without taking the time to hear and see those most impacted, on the other hand, it is hurtful instead of helpful.

Hi Kristen, while I appreciate your attempt to explain the new censorship policy, I don't think I'm alone when I say the explanations have muddied the waters even more.

It sounds like certain things will be absolutely prohibited. And most other things will be very subjective and arbitrary. Would you be able to add some clarification to the comment guidelines?

For example, you have indicated that no white commenters or authors on The Network will be allowed to question the theory of "white privilege" or the existence of widespread "systemic racism." Am I understanding that correctly? And is it only white people who are prohibited from doing this? Or would people of color also be prohibited from expressing those ideas?

You said that a diverse group will be moderating/censoring people's posts & comments on The Network. Were these moderators/censors chosen by Synod? Or by the Council of Delegates? Or by Colin & Mark? Who is on this group?

Community Builder

Hi Dan.  I think you misheard what I said.  I didn't say that white people would be prevented from talking about white privilege or systemic racism.  I simply said that when people talk about an issue (e.g. race) and they aren't part of the group that experiences the negative outcomes of that race, that they will be moderated.  By that, I mean that I'll be holding them to a higher standard and making sure that they don't overlook or discount the lived experiences of others in their critique. 

Maybe a good rule of thumb would be to imagine a friend of yours who has been personally impacted by the issue that you want to write about (be it racism, ableism, sexism, etc). Write your post as if you were talking to them specifically. Show care, compassion, and empathy before getting into a debate about specific theories and organizational leaders.

As for the diverse group, it consists of CRCNA staff both on the Network and in the Office of Race Relations (if the issue has to do with race), Disability Concerns (if the issue has to do with ableism), Safe Church (if the issue has to do with abuse), etc. I recognize that we are all human and fallible, so I want to seek advice from those who know the topic best.

Again, I appreciate your attempts to explain this new policy. It's like the proverbial nail and Jell-O.

So, white people are allowed to talk about "white privilege" and "systemic racism," but only in a way that affirms the lived experiences (i.e. the thoughts and opinions) of a person of color?

Or asked more directly...the next time a brother or sister of mine in the CRC posts something on The Network supporting the theory of white privilege and lamenting the existence of systemic racism, I (as a white American of Polish decent) would NOT be allowed to express my viewpoint that both of those ideas (white privilege & systemic racism) are not compatible with Scripture and CRC teachings?

Community Builder

As I've already stated, you don't have to express support for the concepts of white privilege or systemic racism.  What I was suggesting is that you acknowledge the pain of racism and racist acts in our world before you get into critiquing the terminology or theory. I suppose that if someone believed that we were living in a society that didn't have any racism at all anymore, then that would be hard for them to do. In those cases, I would encourage the poster to look at our official denominational statements that task us to "to witness publicly against racism in defense of all people as imagebearers of God," and to “continued repentance of personal and institutional racism and other forms of discrimination.”

Thanks, Kristen. And thank you for wading in & taking on all the questions we conservatives have posed. I gather you were not the sole decision-maker in the new policy for The Network, nor even the loudest cheerleader for it. But you have been taking the figurative arrows on behalf of others who wanted it to happen. It shows the strength of your character and commitment to your job. Thanks again!

Hi Kristen,

 

Your post notes the following: "We’ll be moderating comments that make significant claims outside of the writer’s lived experience and expertise."  That is quite a broad statement.  Will this standard be applied without preference?  For instance, can I expect that women will have their comments moderated if they make any significant claims about men or vice versa?  Clearly women don’t have the lived experience of being a man, so their comments about the thoughts, actions, attitudes, and experiences of men should be off-limits under this standard, correct?  

 

Hitting closer to home for denominational employees, will you moderate the comments and posts of non-Caucasian CRC employees who post on The Network and make significant claims about Caucasians, thus clearly making claims outside of their lived experience?  What about CRC employees who live and work in the Grand Rapids area commenting about the dynamics of life of the church in disperse locations with completely different dynamics?  Are these comments not well outside of the lived experience of those employees?  Is there any reason why this standard should not be applied robustly to employees of the denomination, you know, so they can demonstrate leading by example?  How do you plan to justly (without preference, i.e. Leviticus 19:15: "Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.") apply such a broad and subjective standard? 

 

Closing questions:

 

1.  If I comment, how do you propose to judge what is outside of my lived experience?  Is not the question of my lived experience by definition outside of your lived experience, and thus something that you are precluded from judging, by the standard you have set?

 

2.  Relatedly, but not fully the same, how do you propose to judge in what matters I have expertise?

 

3.  If my feelings are hurt by any number of posts and comments on the Network, are my feelings important enough to trigger a post or comment moderation?  If not, is there a reason why my feelings are unimportant?

 

4.  Perhaps most importantly, can you provide rationale from Scripture that supports the idea that brothers and sisters in the church cannot speak publicly on matters outside of their “lived experience”?  Can you see the danger of truth being determined by lived experience and love being judged by how someone feels about what is said?

Community Builder

HI Eric.  I feel that these questions were already addressed in some of the other comments on this thread.  Thanks.

Kristen, my questions were unique and not previously addressed.  If you refuse to engage with them, just say so.  Also, is there a reason why my other comment was removed?

 

Community Builder

In answer to your questions:

1. see my response to Lubbert and to Doug.  The verb I used is "moderating" not "deleting", and I acknowledge that it will be difficult to understand what someone's lived experience is. I covet prayers for discernment. At the same time, you can usually tell when someone is sharing personal experiences.

2.  See same responses to Lubbert and Doug.  When people share their personal stories and how issues have impacted them, it helps us hear and learn from each other. This is the starting place for dialogue. When we neglect to see people's experiences as part of an issue, it leads to division and hurt.

3.  Please see community-guidelines. We want everyone to be polite, respectful in tone and language, etc. If you feel that a post or comment does not meet these standards, please flag it for review. 

4. See response to Marc. The thinking behind this practice is in the spirit of Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 107. Some scripture passages related to this are: Matthew 7:12, 22:39; Romans 12:10;  Matthew 5:3-12;  Luke 6:36; Romans 12:10, 18; Galatians 6:1-2; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 3:8; Exodus 23:4-5; Matthew 5:44-45; Romans 12:20-21; Proverbs 25:21-22

 

Your other comment was flagged for review because it did not meet the community guidelines. Singling out specific people by name as a way to make an argument seems neither polite nor respectful, and seems to be straying from the original intent of the post. 

 

Thank you for taking these steps and recognizing that the Network has not always been a safe place for all members.  I look forward to hearing from those marginalized voices that we haven't traditionally heard from.   I really liked this line "The lived experience of those most impacted by an issue should not be up for debate."     Sometimes we just need to listen.  

Guide

There's a lot of talk in this conversation and among many Christians across the internet which imply that if something "sounds" like something a critical race theorist would say, then it must be rejected. In that regard, I deeply appreciate these comments about CRT from Tim Keller:

It is often asked—is it possible for a Christian to reject Critical Race Theory as a world view but still use it as a tool? Esau McCaulley explains the frustration that Black and Latino Christians feel when they say things about racism and injustice that the Black church has been saying for more than a century which now is dismissed as “Critical Race Theory.” It may be the case that a young white person who is newly alert to systemic injustice has gotten his or her insights from some contemporary academic source steeped in CRT. But if the Black church came to an insight about justice from the Bible long before any rise of Marxism, then it can’t be the result of Critical Theory.

McCaulley says there are four problems with telling Christian leaders of color that they have bought into CRT:

“1. Much of the dialogue fails to take the Black Christian tradition seriously; 2. It creates a climate in which Christians of color are presumed guilty until proven innocent; 3. It is a word out of season in the communities most concerned with its impact; 4.Those accused of CRT are often those actually contending for the viability of Black/White/multi-ethnic Christian cooperation. Thus, the consistent accusation of CRT hinders the mission and cooperation of the church.” 

Participant

Whoa whoa.

Both Mark and Tim Keller are white, and thus ineligible to speak on this topic by the new standards implied in the original article here!

Please AT LEAST show consistency by deleting Mark's comment here.

(Or even better, Kristen, admit your obvious mistake and allow the posts and voices of all CRCNA people to be heard...)

Community Builder

Hi Trevor.  I've tried to explain a few times in earlier comments that just because you do not have the lived experience (in this case, not being a person of color who has experienced the negative impacts of racism), does not mean that you CAN'T comment. It just means that we will hold you to a higher standard.  We want to make sure that in those cases, the writer without the lived experience acknowledges the experience of those impacted before you post. In this case, Mark and Tim are doing that. They are respecting the voices of those most impacted by the issue, so the comment can stand.

Participant

Kristen, please respond how my post differed from Mark's comment.

Would you mind explaining why this piece, which I originally tried to post to the Network, was not permitted to be posted? 

 

https://reformedeveryday.com/featured-article/f/jesus-the-sinner

 

I both strongly denounce racism, allow for racism in "systems" and only critique a single yet crucial aspect of CRT. 

 

The only explanation Staci gave me was to point to this article. I fail to see how this would be oppressive to people of color. It's a central tenet of all Christian Theology.

Mark, thank you for the article by Tim Keller.

Kristen, thank you for posting this and shedding light on this topic. I am sure it was not easy as I anticipate more push back from some within this community, which is what many within the minority group have felt over a long period of time. 

I am very glad that Mark Stephenson has joined this conversation, as it is very important to have the initiators of this new policy on board to explain it. Thank you, Mark!

Mark, could you please address 2 crucial aspects of this new policy:

(1) The "fear" factor.

(2) The "other" person of color factor.

I will explain them both in a little detail. The "fear" factor is this...Kristen, Colin Watson, and you (Mark) have all cited "fear" among people of color as justifying censorship of certain viewpoints. Specific example: I have had 2 articles on The Network censored because they supposedly caused "fear" in certain readers. But what was never addressed was WHO and WHAT the fearful readers were afraid of. Fear is not always a bad thing. Scripture tells us that the fear of Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). So the mere existence of "fear" should not be enough to silence & censor your brother in Christ. Who are the readers fearful of? Are they fearful of me? Are they fearful of a different point of view on Critical Theory? What are they afraid is going to happen? Are they afraid that I will try to silence them? Just the opposite! We need to be careful that "fear" is not being used as an excuse to lord it over our brothers & sisters in Christ. Or attempt to bind each other's conscience.

So if you could address the specifics of this "fear" that is being used, I believe it would help us gain a better understanding of the situation.

The 2nd crucial aspect of this dialogue is the viewpoint of the "other" person of color. By that I mean people like Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King, Clarence Thomas, Walter E. Williams, Star Parker, Kevin & Keith Hodge, Larry Elder, Candace Owens, Jesse Lee Peterson, etc. These people of color are saying the same things that are being written by CRCers of a more conservative mindset (like me and others who have commented here). This new policy that you have enacted for The Network implies that ALL people of color agree with Critical Theory, "white privilege," systemic racism, and the narrative that police killings of unarmed black people is a widespread and overwhelming occurance. Clearly all people of color do not agree with you.

Could you please address this 2nd issue as well? Your new policy seems to be saying that anyone who wishes to join in any discussions must first acknowledge and agree with certain aspects of Critical Theory, as a sort of admission fee to the conversation. Would you also censor the viewpoints of people of color who refuse to make those initial acknowledgements?

Realizing that your answers to these questions will require sufficient space, I would suggest that you write a standalone response and post it to The Network. I believe that would keep things better-organized.

Thanks.

Guide

Dan, years ago, an African American friend, and fellow CRC member, told me that most Black, Indigenous, and People of Color do not post to the Network because of the "negative spirit" on the Network. If you wish to call that "fear" that's your call, but I would call it wisdom of not going where you know you are not wanted nor welcome. Posts to the Network that deny that whites have privileges in our society that people of color do not enjoy, denying that whites sit atop a racial hierarchy that our society has established, denying that people of color face challenges and outright danger that we whites do even have to think about is not disagreeing with Critical Theory, it is denying reality. Choosing to deny that reality that millions of fellow Christians experience causes pain. 

Participant

"Posts to the Network that deny that whites have privileges in our society that people of color do not enjoy, denying that whites sit atop a racial hierarchy that our society has established, denying that people of color face challenges and outright danger that we whites do even have to think about"

Who is doing this? Sure not any of the men commenting to this original post. All here recognize the evils of racism!

I don't deny white privilege in certain areas. And I don't deny other types of privilege that have nothing to do with skin color. But it's all context-specific, and not inherently sinful, though at times through willful action it can absolutely lead to sin in individual people. To say it is inherently sinful has massive theological implications. Read my article linked above that was banned from being posted here on the Network (which Kristen will explain why hopefully at some point in these comments...) "Jesus the Sinner".

You're unnecessarily censoring conservative comments because of fictional boogeymen that you imagine. No one is denying that black people have painful felt-experiences! We should mourn with those who mourn.

But we do not ignore or suppress Biblical truth, no matter what. Mark, Kristen, Staci, and any others... please stop suppressing Biblical truth. 

Christian Arabs don't feel pain when we declare that Islam leads to damnation.
Christian people of color won't complain when we isolate and condemn any part of Critical Theory that is counter to Biblical truth!

Participant

Also, Mark, you did not reply to Dan's specific question:
"Your new policy seems to be saying that anyone who wishes to join in any discussions must first acknowledge and agree with certain aspects of Critical Theory, as a sort of admission fee to the conversation. Would you also censor the viewpoints of people of color who refuse to make those initial acknowledgements?"

Mark Stephenson: I do not wish to discount that ethnic minorities may experience feelings of exclusion with respect to the Network, however, without empirical research one might come to the same conclusion about the 95% of those who read but to do not response to submitted articles.

Secondly, based on 30+ years in the labour relations field working both for the union and management, without empirical investigation feelings may be true for the storyteller - but nonetheless not factual. Not doing the research only leads to further injustice.

Lastly, the concept of "white privilege" not only disparages the lived experience of the working poor, etc. whose lived experience is similar to many ethnic minorities. I would respectfully suggest that the use of the phrase is non-scriptural.

Mark, thanks for your response. If I were talking to your friend, I would encourage them to post anyway. Certainly I and many other members of the CRC have not just "felt" a negative spirit from The Network...we have actually received it! But we can't let that stop us from engaging in dialogue and conversation with our brothers and sisters.

For example, you did not address either of my questions. I could interpret that as a negative spirit and be discouraged. OR, I could maintain an attitude of positive persistence, which is in line with Scripture, and ask again.

1) Fear. I was not the one who first referenced "fear" as a reason for censorship. Colin, Kristen, and you did so. You stated that you were compelled to censor my viewpoints becuase "some readers felt fear." When they expressed this fear to you, did they clarify who they were afraid of, and what they were afraid was going to happen?

2) "Other" people of color. Would the new policy on The Network exclude the viewpoints of people of color who question the narratives of white privilege, systemic racism, and police brutality?

Community Builder

Mark Stephenson: You say of your friends' reluctance to comment or post on the Network, "... I would call it wisdom of not going where you know you are not wanted nor welcome."

Wow.  Those in power over the Network encourage your friends -- but yet they remain disinclined to post or comment -- but you discourage others who do contribute by deleting and censoring articles and comments -- but they engage with you and continue (although much less in my case) to post articles and comments.

Say and claim what you like, it seems pretty clear that those few who control the Network simply don't like views that too much depart from their own.  

After all, exactly who is it in this scenario that has quite explicitly been told "... you are not wanted nor welcome"?

Good day Kristen and company.

       I read through your article and the subsequent comments. It appears to me that three things are going on:

a. You want to facilitate voices that would otherwise not be heard.

b. You want to set a tone for the Network and protect some people from offense.

c. You want to prevent some things from being published.

All of these are laudable on their own, but when combined behind a certain philosophical stance, they can form something of a monster. It seems that this is being objected to.

      For example, I submitted an article for father's day. I think everything was OK with the censorship committee, until I made reference to a delicate subject, namely the prevalence of fatherlessness in a certain community. Then, very likely,  the article was tossed.

Kristen and Mark, you evidently need the wisdom of Solomon to moderate, yet I would ask the following questions:

a. Might it be patronizing to think that a certain group of people on this planet are so delicate that they cannot withstand a challenge?

b. In the theories of intersectionality, the more intersections of victimization that one has, the more right they have to speak.  Is it possible that some of your own statements would indicate that you have espoused the victimhood business that goes with intersectionality? That is to say, this becomes the grid through which articles are posted or not posted.

c. As much as I applaud "a" and "b" and "c" in proper perspective with proper controls, even extending to the presuppositions of the moderators, is it possible that something draconian is being advocated under the rubric of setting a nice tone?  Who gives the moderators these powers? I see you say that "I will...." a number of times. Could it be that some of the comments reflect a sentiment that Moses faced when asked, "who made you judge...?"

   Thanks for engaging

John Span