White Awake by Daniel Hill, Free for CAPC Members
White Awake brings us back again and again, gently but inexorably, to the truths that we’re so unwilling to face, steadily prying our hands from our eyes.
What I love about memes, and advice animals in particular, is how democratic they are. You don’t need anything to make one except a stock photo and some basic image editing software, and you don’t need anything to distribute one except a basic Internet connection. And then, once they’re out there, they only take a moment to read. Pretty much anyone can use them to disseminate an idea without needing to seek permission from the media powers that be.
That’s no guarantee the ideas will be good, mind you, but the democratic nature of the Internet itself ensures that the ones that rise to prominence are at least interesting. And the fact that there are no gatekeepers to speak of ensures a diversity of viewpoints that you won’t be seeing on TV. Hence we are treated to both College Liberal and College Republican, which skewer the intellectual poverty of American political discourse from two much-needed angles. (This should be a reminder that, while we might have political preferences, no human philosophy is fully consistent — either with itself or with the Gospel.)
It also allows us to skewer the various stereotypes and unhealthy thought patterns foisted on us by culture-makers. Hence memes like Successful Black Man (which goes after the “gangsta” stereotype that hip hop never seems to tire of) and Dating Site Murderer (which stresses that people shouldn’t be judged by their appearance). They’re a safe space in which we can simultaneously express our disapproval of prejudice and our own fear of being prejudged.
To that particular list you can add Feminist Frank, the latest politically minded advice meme. A stock photograph of someone who looks very much like the “douchebag” stereotype (excuse the language, but is there another word for that sort of person?), Frank expresses “empowering” thoughts, often in a two-line “rug-pull” format (“Hey bro, check that… male privilege at the door — this is a safe space”).
And now here’s the uncomfortable part where I admit that I kind of like Feminist Frank.
I realize that those of us at the theologically conservative end of the Church are supposed to be suspicious of every new idea, including feminism, but while there can be value in a cautious approach, we ought to take the time to examine each idea we encounter and sort out the good from the bad. In the case of feminism, especially when it is being used to dismantle “douchebag” tendencies, those of us who follow Christ have much in common with the mindset. Certainly we, like Jesus in Matthew 5:28, are opposed to the objectification of women that Frank skewers; similarly, we ought to be opposed to the silencing of those who are traditionally unempowered culturally.
As evangelicals, we like to place an emphasis on individual, personal sins — and rightly so, I think — but we often lack the perspective and vocabulary to talk honestly about the cumulative effect of sins which are widespread and culturally sanctioned. Is it really in doubt, after all, that when sins pile up and are never spoken against they will coalesce into a system which is itself sinful, and in which certain people are systematically stripped of the dignity that being made in the image of God affords them?
Proverbs 29:2 observes, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” The Biblical prophets, for their part, spent most of their time calling out Israel for cultural evils rather than individual sins, and God Himself promises to punish “the children for the sins of the fathers.” That we’re all discrete individuals responsible only for our personal actions is, in some ways, a relatively new idea.
There’s another meme that’s been traveling around the Internet lately, the deceptively simple three-word phrase “Not all men.” It’s frequently put into the mouth of someone “butting into” a picture, such as the Kool-Aid Man breaking through a wall or It‘s Pennywise the Clown sticking his head through a sewer drain. It’s apparently become a catchphrase because women who complain about abuse or mistreatment by men are (apparently?) frequently interrupted by one or more particularly defensive men telling them “Not all men are like that” — a phrase that, while certainly true, is also so obvious as to be asinine. That we are not deliberately contributing to the evil in the world is hardly an accomplishment; perhaps we should ask ourselves what we can do to lessen it.
In the epistle of James, we read “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” Is this an admonition to join the feminist cause? Not necessarily. But at the very least, it ought to push us to consider whether we should.
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