The Black Bell Curve and Confirmation Bias on Race and Justice

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Darryl Williamson: If I’m looking for people to just back up my position, I’m not someplace where I should be as a Christian. It’s just, I can’t grow. I can approach the Bible that way, right? So if I’m reformed, I can only read those texts that confirm my soteriology.

Matt Kenyon: You’re listening to As In Heaven, a Christian conversation on race and justice. In today’s episode, we sat down with Daryl Williamson. Darryl introduced us to two very interesting ideas, among many others. The first was the Black bell curve, which is a representation of the wide spectrum of opinions that people have on the race issue. And that inevitably leads to the second thing, which is confirmation bias, meaning our tendency to try to find voices that agree with our preconceived notions on race. The antidote, he claims is a posture of empathetic listening, and he unpacks this with examples from his own life in a very pastoral and charitable way.

Matt Kenyon: Jim Davis and Skyler Flowers are your hosts. Mike Graham and myself, Matt Kenyon are the producers. And without further ado, please enjoy this episode of As In Heaven with Daryl Williamson.

Jim Davis: Well, welcome to As In Heaven, season two. My name is Jim Davis. I am normally joined by one of my co-hosts, either Justin Holcomb or Mike Aitchison, who are both out of town right now. So, that chair is very capably being filled by Skyler Flowers. Skyler is our very own director of student ministry. So thank you for joining us, Skyler.

Skyler Flowers: Yeah, I’m happy to be here. Thanks, Jim. Got big shoes to fill, look up to both Mike and Justin. So just glad to be here.

Jim Davis: Well, and we’re both privileged to be joined here today by Daryl Williamson. Darrell is the Pastor of Living Faith Bible Fellowship in Tampa, Florida. You have been since 2010. You were by vocational. You serve on the leadership council for the Gospel Coalition. You have contributed to multiple books. You are pursuing your M.Div. at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando. I admire that. It took me about 10 years to pursue my M.Div., having kids and jobs and other things. So brother, I’m going to pray for you in that.

Jim Davis: And most impressive to me on this, and it’s hard to beat being bi-vocational and pursuing a theological degree, but you have been married to your wife, Julie for over 30 years. Well done, man. Thank you for joining us here today.

Darryl Williamson: Hey man, I’m excited to be here and I should qualify that. I’m actually not currently bi-vocational. So I was bi-vocational up until I guess, August of 2018. Our church wanted to bring me on full-time, and so now I’m able to allocate myself more fully to the kingdom. But I certainly appreciate the challenge and the way to bi-vocationality and brothers. Man. I’ll tell you what, once you really pray about that approach, it stretches you. And so if a church can help their pastor be full time, I would say go for it.

Jim Davis: That’s a good word. And Skyler and I both enjoyed listening to some of the things you had to say in various places online about being by bi-vocational. So I’m thankful for you already. And we hadn’t even gotten into the meat of the show.

Skyler Flowers: Yeah, Darryl, I’m thankful to have you here on the podcast. As a student in RTS, I was able to hear you speak in chapel this past year. And during the season, as we have voices from all over the country, speaking in on this issue, I am thankful to have someone that’s right here from the central Florida area. So I’m looking forward to talking with you today.

Darryl Williamson: Excellent. Excited to be here.

Jim Davis: All right. So the thesis of the show today is how do we decide who to listen to? We have people, and I remember the season where I begin to be interested in the conversation, I want to be up to speed. And they’re leaders of ministries and churches who are starting to really want to journey into this. And you go online and you’re inundated with all these different opinions and views and voices. And some you agree with, but they’re not nice. And some you don’t agree with, but you really like the person.

Jim Davis: What we want to do on this show is help people process not who to listen to, because we’re not here to say listen to these people, but what is a wise approach at learning? How do we decide who we listen to and where we place that in the larger conversation. So I’m really looking forward to doing that. And I want to do this by way of asking you this to start off with. Often we hear the phrase, the Black experience in America. Can you unpack what that means?

Darryl Williamson: Yeah. First of all, I appreciate the question. I appreciate the fact that it’s something that we need to press into and understand. So, let me just say simply is I think the Black experience really kind of is represented by what most Black people, in terms of culture, history, expression, experiences can understand and appreciate without any explanation. So, no one needs to come along and kind of say, “Well, why did they do that? What was that about?”

Darryl Williamson: So I think there’s a kind of unspokeness that most Black people can kind of appreciate and plug into. So for example, I think a great example for me is the Black college experience. And so, most frequently we think of HBCUs, right? So you think about the Florida A&M’s of the world, Grambling, Tennessee State. My whole family, as it were seems, went to Tennessee State University in Nashville.

Darryl Williamson: And so, that is a common part of the Black experience in America. Now, we appreciate the fact that those schools were created as Black institutions, given the fact that we are in a marginalized situation in this country. There’s a White dominant culture, Blacks is a subdominant culture, but it’s also a marginalized culture, right? In so many ways, it’s a subjugated culture.

Darryl Williamson: And so these institutions have served a tremendous purpose. And inside these spaces are that really kind of speak to who we are, how we kind of express ourselves and create meaningful cultural standards. So if you think about like football in the context of an HBCU, maybe you’ve seen films that kind of showcase band battles, right? So if you think about the movie Drumline. And so you get this kind of like dynamic with these drumlines kind of going at each other. That’s just not something that black people know about. That’s something that Black people identify.

Darryl Williamson: So, I went to these HBCU football games, right. And I knew how to dress. You didn’t just put on a jersey and go to game, you got dressed up for these games. Folks would come in with suits and hats and all that kind of stuff. Well, that was the Black experience.

Darryl Williamson: And so I think also, I guess the most common one would be like, the Black church. And so, whether it’s Baptist or Methodist, which are probably the two dominant denominational channels inside the Black church in this country, there’s some common things. Right? Like how to preach, the whole kind of call and response, which I know you guys are familiar with. So if you go into a Black church, you’ve grown up in that context, when you hear call and response, you don’t turn your head and say, “Well, what’s going on?” I mean, that’s what you expect. It’s not strange. It’s the moment. And so if it’s quiet and there is no response, something’s wrong. Right?

Darryl Williamson: And so, all of this is kind of unspoken. It gives you that sense of home. So there’s this kind of nostalgia that you feel. And so these are some of the more cultural expressions. And of course there’s the Black community experience, all of those kinds of things. And so, I think that’s a narrow example, but I think it speaks to, I think, what the Black experience, it’s just a cultural, normative kind of experience that people get without having to say, “Well, why are you guys doing that?”

Jim Davis: You know, it’s funny, you mentioned Drumline. I went to Florida State right down the road from Florida A&M and I never knew any of that until I saw the movie. It was totally foreign to me. And yeah…

Darryl Williamson: Yeah. And so, if you were attending these HBCU games, often there would be a big band thing before the game, and then there’d be the halftime show. I’m telling you, at halftime, no one was going to the concessions stands. That’s when you sat in your seat. You’d go to the concession stand with like maybe five minutes left in the second quarter, you go get your stuff and then you come back and you watch the halftime battle.

Darryl Williamson: And so, if your football team lost and you won the band battle, you could walk out with your head held high. So, you know, [crosstalk 00:09:57]… a half time show. And so, what that meant that if you were a drum angel or a majorette, you had a kind of social stature. You weren’t just simply in the band. I mean, it was like, “Oh wow, that guy is a drum major.” So I think that also kind of speaks to the whole idea of social capital, is the Black experience that might be different from how other cultures kind of express themselves, like say in college for example.

Skyler Flowers: Darryl, that’s fascinating and completely foreign to my college experience at the University of Mississippi. Though Jackson State was right there and is something seen. The one thing I want to ask you about, just talking about the Black experience in America, and you had kind of gave us some examples there of cultural factors. I was wondering if you could give us some examples of the Black experience in America as it relates to societal institution. So you mentioned college, but also thinking through policing or through government, just various aspects like that.

Darryl Williamson: Well, I think just looking back on it historically, and understanding the intersection between those kind of societal issues in culture, I think is important, which is to say that those things are not typically compartmentalized. So if you think about Black life, historically, is that things that would be seen as social and political, weren’t really seen as social and political in a Black context. This was life.

Darryl Williamson: And so I think one of the ways that you see that, I think historically, is Black heroes. So for example, in my grandmother’s house, she had this picture of Jesus. Okay? But on her mantel, she had this like three part picture in this picture frame of a picture of Martin Luther King and a picture of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. Now, this was a part of our kind of celebration culture, is that these men, as it were, were doing meaningful things to advance the cause, the life prospects of Black people. And so it was common for Black people then, to celebrate them.

Darryl Williamson: And I think it’s important that we think about the kinds of commonality that exists across all the various kinds of… This is called a social strata, right? And so whether you’re rich or poor or whatever, these are some of the themes that are dominant, that really make the experience distinctly Black.

Darryl Williamson: I had a conversation two weeks ago with some friends of mine, as we were kind of debating, just an interesting, little side debate. We were talking about if Barack Obama satisfied the psychic need of Black people to see a Black man in a White House. Was he really Black, was the question on the table. And we talked about two hours.

Darryl Williamson: … what was the question on the table? And we talked about two hours about that. And so and the question it was is that okay, great. Did he have the experiences? Granted he was discriminated against, but does that really define the black experience? And so many ways that if we think about the black experience strictly in terms of where black people are mistreated, you think about things like police misconduct and things like that, those are attributes but they don’t define it. That’s one reason why I think that even when there are questions about, well, what has the administration done for black people? And the example is given, criminal justice reform. And yeah, I think that’s relevant. I think it’s relevant. I have family members who’ve been in prison. I’m one of five siblings. My number two brother spent time in federal prison. He’s a wonderful guy. He loves the Lord. He’s a deacon in his church. But there was a time in his life where he was struggling.

Darryl Williamson: So I appreciate the importance of that, but I think that, and this is where and I’m looking forward to us pressing into our conversation, because I think the thing that is essential is to what degree does the whole spectrum validate or invalidate something that we could call black identity. Now that gets played out in a whole variety of different ways. But I think that the conversations where there are tensions inside the black community as we look across the spectrum of different convictions, it’s where they push back against some core aspect of black identity and not necessarily about any particular social box, which can be important too. So for example, does there need to be police reform? Absolutely. I think there needs to be.

Darryl Williamson: Is there systemic racism in policing? I think there absolutely is. But I think the real issue is not about systemic racism in policing. It’s really more about how institutions reflect the racialization that exists in our society. And I think that’s the conversation that black people, many black people don’t want to lose. They want to make sure hey, let’s talk about racialization and not make the conversation about policing, and which it certainly is also a part of it. So the black experience is not a monolithic experience. And so let’s just be clear about what we mean by that. It means the following. It means one, there’s little single black voice. And so there’s not one person can provide the black view. So there is no one way, answer, solution, analysis to a problem that is distinctly black.

Darryl Williamson: And so that clearly is something I think that we can, if we want to bring a black person, talk about a black issue, we think we’re going to get the black perspective. And so it’s definitely not as, it’s not as simple as that. So I think the first thing we mean by that is that there’s no single view. But I think the other thing is this, is that there’s no single experience within the black experience. And so the black experience is like this, man, it’s like this domain. So I’m a math guy. And so it’s this domain. It’s this set of stuff that black people tend to experience. Not everybody experiences all of that stuff, but inside that range is [inaudible 00:16:43] authentically black America, it’s what black American people tend to run into.

Darryl Williamson: Now within that, I would say that there’s a whole variety then of different expressions. And so that comes from different kinds of experiences. You’ve got urban, you’ve got rural. And so you’ve got some guy living out in rural Mississippi in a largely black area. That’s the black experience. So when you think about a Fannie Lou Hamer. And so her experience, her leadership in the civil rights movement. Very different from say Martin King coming out of Atlanta. And so there still you got that city rural thing going on. You got north south. And so you’ve got say Malcolm X and those guys what they were dealing with in New York in Harlem. So you have that whole expression. You got guys dealing with Bull Connor and those dudes down in the South. And so there are all these different kinds of vantage points inside the black experience.

Darryl Williamson: I think one of the best ones is class. We often try to equate the race issue with class. Well, inside the black experience in this country, you’ve got poverty, which can be rural poverty or urban. You’ve got a vibrant black middle class. So if you read E. Franklin Frazier’s book, the Black Bourgeoisie, which is a tremendous sociological study on the practices and in some ways the mindset of the black middle class in the mid 20th century. And so you’ve got all these different perspectives. You got a black elite class. So there’s a long history of black elites in Martha’s Vineyard. And so I think the question on the table for us, and I don’t want to make a little speech here, but I’ll just try to say this very concisely.

Darryl Williamson: How then do these experiences play into the range of ideas about how to progress black people? So that’s really, if you will, the issue on the table. And so if you think about this spectrum, you’ve got the integrationist wing. You’ve got the nationalistic wing of this spectrum. And they’re coming at each other. It goes back to Frederick Douglas and you got Martin Delany. So Martin Delany, probably the first black nationalist. He fought in the Civil War. He was a free man. What’s interesting about him is that he was born free in Virginia. He was nationalist. And then you got Douglas who was a slave, who had been a slave and he’s integrationist. You’d almost think it would be the reverse. But I think that so there’s this spectrum and they disagree with each other.

Darryl Williamson: If you look at Du Bois, Du Bois’ debates with Booker T. Washington. And so both of them somewhat integrationist. Du Bois is like, “We need to do civil rights, man. That’s the answer.” Booker T. is like, “No, it’s about economics.” But they both agreed that there was a need. They agreed that there was a problem. Their goals were the same. They wanted to improve the lot of black people. I think what’s different today, as you think about the so-called spectrum or bell curve or whatever you want to call it, is that there’s disagreement on the core issues. So if you listen to a Shelby Steele and compare Shelby Steele to someone like… Who’s someone that… I don’t want to go to somebody obvious like Al Sharpton. But like Cornel West. And so you get Cornel West against Shelby Steele. Shelby Steele almost denies that, it’s like there is no race problem. There’s no race problem. And so if you go back to the 20th century, cats were like, “No, there is a race problem. The question is how do we solve the race problem?

Darryl Williamson: I think what’s different today is that with some of the folks on say the right end of this range, is that there’s denial that there’s even a problem. So if you listen to someone like Thomas Sowell. Thomas Sowell would press into that’s not really an issue. Or someone like Glenn Loury. That kind of racism doesn’t really exist anymore. And so I think that’s the challenge today is that you’re almost having you can’t even agree as to what we’re actually debating, because folks are debating whether there should be a debate. And so we shouldn’t be talking about this. We should just press into being an American. And other folks are like, “No, no, the American experiment is broken and we need to fix it.” And so yeah, so I went off on several different ways there.

Skyler Flowers: No. This is exactly what we’re talking about, because we want to begin with why are there so many voices. I know if [Mike Aitchison 00:09:02] were here right now, I guarantee you he would talk about the part of his family that came from Alabama and the part of his family that came from Jamaica. And they processed things very differently. You used the term bell curve. And I think so you’ve already explained everything better than I probably have ever heard it explained really, but just define that term real quick as it pertains to this conversation.

Darryl Williamson: I think the way you guys mean it today for our conversation is that this bell curve represents the spectrum of black opinion about issues that are relevant to the black situation, whether it be things like justice, whether it be things like affirmative action. There’s this range. Most black people will fall in the middle of that rage. So you got the extreme folks who want to separate and go back to Africa and then you got the folks on the other side who are like, “You know what, man? There’s no difference between us and anyone else. There’s no race problem anymore. I don’t see race.” And so you’ve got these various extremes. And so I think the question for us is do we lose or gain validity as we move across that spectrum?

Darryl Williamson: And I for one, don’t think placement on the spectrum isn’t the issue at all. The issue is why you’re sitting there. Why are you sitting where you are? So what makes something extreme has to do with convention. So something that’s extreme today could be very, very middle of the road tomorrow. And so this really gets down to our expectations. It gets down to what’s conventional. Anything that’s novel and new will feel extreme. And so if you asked white folks in Alabama in the ’50s and ’60s, integration was extreme. And so this really depends on where you sit. And so but I think that it really just gets down to this broad spectrum. I think within our context as those who are gospel-centered, it gets down for example to things like to what degree should the church be concerned about racial issues, injustice, racial reconciliation? To what degree should it not? And so I would say that those are probably the two poles that we most often think about.

Skyler Flowers: Yeah. Darryl, you’re speaking my language as you mentioned Fannie Lou Hamer out of Ruleville, Mississippi. And also just this morning, I saw that you had mentioned that one of your heroes is W. E. B. Du Bois. So I opened up and I was flipping through The Souls of Black Folk. And as we talk about this conversation, I think you talk about the black experience in America. You have to start almost with his essays in the late 1890s on double consciousness. And also I was thinking while you were speaking of the example of Booker T. Washington and him, their disagreement there. But in our modern… And what fascinates me about those essays is that they were written in the 1890s, published in 1904 as a single collection, and then today in 2020 have just as much application.

Skyler Flowers: And yeah, they’ve stayed prophetic even over the course of these hundreds of years. And so I’m thinking about in our modern age, as we have social media at the end of our fingertips and so these conversations aren’t always playing out in person or with very much nuance. And so I want to drill down a little bit on this bell curve or spectrum of ideas. And I wanted to ask you, how does that apply to the way we interact on social media, to the voices we interact with on social media, and how do we process those voices?

Darryl Williamson: I think that’s a great question, Skyler. I think it’s important that we interact with those voices very respectfully and that we have a posture of listening to-

Darryl Williamson: … and that we have a posture of listening to each other. And that we hear those concerns and we hear those counter arguments and we take them very, very seriously. I think where it gets to be a challenge for people is in especially the social media interactions is when we’re simply parroting. Wherever we are on that spectrum we’re just parroting a narrative and that’s not very conversational. So I can’t really learn from you if I’m merely giving you these warmed-over thinking that somebody else has given me.

Darryl Williamson: And so I think that folks should really simply share their feelings and concerns simply without first trying to rely on something somebody else said. A podcast. I’m going to send you something that [Voddie 00:27:05] said. I’m going to send you something that [Dabidi 00:27:07] said.” As opposed to doing all of that, “Hey, let’s just talk. Let’s just talk about how you feel and why you feel.”

Darryl Williamson: If you have a conversation with someone like Voddie and he talks about crime in Chicago or the implications of absentee fathers, I don’t have to deny that or I can acknowledge that concern. Like is, “You know what? I think you’re right. I think those are real issues and we can talk about those and do you want to focus in on what those issues are? I mean, if that’s what you think that’s where the conversation needs to go.”

Darryl Williamson: I want to listen. I want to assume that I have something to learn. What I don’t want to do, and this is tricky in the social media age, is to simply defend. I think folks are defending their positions, and they’re looking for vulnerability and they pounce on any kind of gap or space in your defense then they attack that, especially with Christian conversation. As opposed to sharing. As opposed to listening. Just by way of an example and that just will be very, very, very quick, I had a conversation with a brother. I won’t mention his name. He is a pastor. He’s a good brother. If I said his name you guys would know who he is. He’s not like some big, well-known person. I think you guys would know who he is.

Darryl Williamson: He and I had a conversation once about slavery and whether Johnathan Edwards should be rejected or not because he was a slave holder. I said, “I’m sorry. I love Edward’s work and I think there’s some virtue in how he was a slave owner.” And I realize the tension in that statement but as I survey the New Testament in particular, it’s didactic instruction to slave owners as to how to treat their slaves. Everything I can see said he aligned with that. He’s not a Robert [Adadmi 00:29:27] arguing for someone’s lesser humanity.

Darryl Williamson: And so I think I can embrace that. I’m not defending him but that conversation was very hard to have, because even though he knows me very well, he thought I was trying to give some kind of theological covering, a cover to slaveholders. Like, “No. We’re just talking here. I’m just saying, ‘I think Edwards is in a different place than Adadmi.’ And let’s just have that conversation.” And sometimes if it’s going against my narrative, I can push back against it and we’re not talking at all anymore. I’m just attacking that straw man. I’m not really listening to what you’re saying. I’m attacking that straw man and then we don’t get very far.

Jim Davis: I love how you said that it to you, it doesn’t matter as much where you are on the spectrum but that you understand why you’re where you are. And what you also said is, “Understand why that other person is there. If we had Voddie I would want to hear about his experience growing up Compton. I might want to hear a lot about that and understand.”

Jim Davis: And what I found as I interact with people on both ends of the spectrum, I do believe everybody means good. Nobody’s purposely trying to break things down. Everybody wants a good outcome and that changes the game for me. My goal is in my little context is understanding.

Jim Davis: I’ll take George Floyd as one example. I would like the people on the farthest right of my church to be able to appreciate the symbolism that that event provided to people, to the black experience in America. And I’d want the people on the far left to acknowledge most of our policemen are good people trying to do good, and there’s a justice system and we pray that it works out well, and there’s just understanding to bridge that gap.

Jim Davis: So here’s my question and I’m telling you, you’re speaking to me here because I have both sides of the spectrum in many areas of my life. What is the most loving way that I can interact with the whole spectrum?

Darryl Williamson: Yeah. I think it’s one, I think it’s that listening posture. I think it’s affirming the truth that you hear what they’re saying. Most people are not most. We’re not completely irrational in what they’re saying, and so I think it’s important to affirm it. You know what, I agree with that. And I think my honoring your, and giving you the benefit of the doubt about your integrity in this conversation, I think is, especially for believers, a very loving posture to have. If I’m simply jousting with you, it’s hard for that person not to feel like you’re completely rejecting them.

Darryl Williamson: And we shouldn’t think that anyone’s position is devoid of all merit. I think there is a merit to be found across that spectrum, especially if those arguments or explanations again and respectfully, I’m not calling you names or anything like that. I’m not saying things like, “You don’t get it.” I’m explaining as best I can and listening as best I can. And I think if we do that, if we are affirming the truth that we hear, I think that causes people one, to feel like you’re not warring with them and two, I think they’ll open up.

Darryl Williamson: And maybe they will learn something in that moment, not because you could not. Not because you blocked their argument and they didn’t have a retort, right? I mean, that’s not the issue because I want to grow in the conversation and I want this other person to grow in the conversation. I think if we can do that, especially amongst believers, it can feel collegial and it can feel like you know what, we’re part of the same family and so, but yet we see things differently.

Darryl Williamson: Now, let me say one other thing here. Within gospel community, clearly there’s space for disagreement, right? I mean, clearly. Some of the things though that we’re disagreeing on, we should assume, you know what, maybe there is some place on a spectrum that does align well with God’s ethical and righteous heart.

Darryl Williamson: And I think if our conversations were more in alignment with how do we recognize where God’s heart fits in this conversation? Let’s just call it out. Why is this God’s heart and why? We might be able to differentiate between our own counter-cultural and ideological issues and where God is and see that gap, and maybe move more toward where he is.

Darryl Williamson: We might become convicted and say, “You know what, you’re right. I haven’t been loving in this conversation and love has not been a priority for me in thinking about policy.” Or, “You know what, I’ve been enabling people. I have not been holding them accountable for their behavior and there has to be a sense of personal responsibility.” I think if we can call that out and say, “Where’s God and why?” Don’t just say, “It’s biblical. It’s just biblical.” Where is God and why is he there?

Jim Davis: Well, it is in a moment I’m going to circle back to listening. That’s where I want to land the plane because I think you’ve nailed really, one, if not the most important aspect of this whole conversation. But before we go there, let’s say someone has filtered through this, they’re understanding the bell curve and they find that they’re on one of the extremes, whichever one doesn’t matter. What cautions or word of advice would you have for someone that finds themselves there?

Darryl Williamson: So I would say to them that the first thing they want to do wherever they are on that spectrum but especially if they’re on one extreme or the other, is to make sure you’re hearing voices that are on the opposite side of that curve. Now it’s got to be meaningful voices and it gets back to the comment I made earlier about why are you sitting where you are?

Darryl Williamson: Look for good analysis. There are really good Conservatives and really good Liberals. There are folks who think so for example, and these aren’t black examples but George Will is a very thoughtful Conservative and I don’t care where you are politically. I mean, you’ve got to listen to what this guy’s saying because it’s very well thought through. He’s not a reactionary. I think it’s also true of Paul Krugman. I think he even won a Nobel Prize in Economics just because he rolled a dice.

Darryl Williamson: And so I think that these are voices that we can learn from. And so I want to make sure that every person I’m taking that’s influencing my thinking, that it’s thoughtful, that it’s substantive. That is not preloaded with all their decisions loaded up front and they’re trying to build a case around it.

Darryl Williamson: And so, especially if I’m sitting over here on the right or the left, I should be meeting alternative voices that are not counter-arguments but that are explanations that are just good, helpful analyses and prescription and I’ll say one quick thing to that. Analysis and prescription are not the same thing. You may have a fantastic analysis but your prescription, it doesn’t make sense to me. That doesn’t mean that your analysis is not something I need to take account. I need to give account for. I need to acknowledge there’s real truth in that. And so sometimes we just throw the baby out with the bath water and we just say, “Oh, it was this person. Oh, they believe that.”

Darryl Williamson: And so I want to give one very dangerous example. Okay. And so what I think that example is all of the talk about cultural Marxism. Now I’m not making any judgments on it either way. Okay. Those folks who think is the biggest threat to the church. Those folks who don’t think about it at all. But I’ve read Gramsci and Gramsci’s got some interesting insights on some things. I don’t agree with him or where he wants to take the society, but you know what, there’s some interesting things here that we need to understand.

Darryl Williamson: And just because I don’t want to see a Marxist solution, does not mean that [Hegenity 00:38:21] is untrue. And so my question is, is how does the gospel, how does gospel community redeem these issues? How does gospel community deal with class in the church? How does it deal with the class as a model for society to see? It’s relational. It’s this whole idea of koinonia. So all of these things are meaningful and we should run from the analysis just because the solution is whack.

Darryl Williamson: And that’s one of the things that I would love for is I hate the fact I’m a capitalist, right? I mean I’ve been in business, all that kind of stuff but I hate the fact-

Darryl Williamson: I’ve been in business, all that kind of stuff. But I hate the fact that Marxism is an expletive amongst Christians. I think it’s unfortunate. Because I would love to think that folks are taking very seriously this kind of analysis that these people aren’t fools. They’re made in the image of God. They’ve got faculties. And so, yo, let’s learn from this and see if there’s a response that the church needs to offer.

Darryl Williamson: I’ll say one other quick thing. I feel like I’ve given little sermonettes. But one of the guys that’s impacted me tremendously in my thinking is… He was an Algerian freedom fighter from Martinique, educated in France. His name was Frantz Fanon. Now, Frantz Fanon died in 1861. He wrote several books too, which are very, very pivotal. This dude gave an argument for violence.

Darryl Williamson: I mean, his prescription was get the guns. But his analysis is scorchingly brilliant. And I’ve wondered for years, I was like, “Man, how does the New Testament, how does the gospel respond to Fanon’s problem analysis?” I think we’re the only answer. But I want that answer to be, to the problem that he poses, I want to say, “No, not quite. I think this is the answer.” And I would love the church to interact with the world that way, as opposed to saying, “Oh, it’s the world. It’s the world. It’s the worldly view.” Let’s hear what these human beings have to say. And let’s say, “Hey, listen. Here’s what we think the Lord has to say. Based on what we see in his Word, we think this is the answer.” And so I’m just all for listening, brothers, and I want to hear. I’m not running from you because you’re throwing something at me that I disagree with. I can learn from you. But you’re not going to move me off of the center of the gospel as God’s ultimate redemptive solution for the world.

Skyler Flowers: Absolutely. Look, we’re not going to stop you from giving these sermonettes for sure because we are being blessed and enjoying them. This idea that you’re getting to here and how we interact with the spectrum or bell curve of ideas is actually something we’ve talked about previously in the podcast in Trevin Wax’s episode of multi-directional leadership. And so if you’re listening to this, you haven’t listened to that episode, go back, listen to that episode. Very beneficial in being able to see the benefits of a side, being able to see the places where a view is not quite lining up with scripture, but being able to look at them with nuance and with clarity.

Skyler Flowers: But one of these ideas that you’ve kind of mentioned here and you’ve kind of moved around is confirmation bias. So Esau McCaulley has a tweet where he said, “How many hundreds of black voices did you have to scroll past to get to the two or three that already agree with you?” And so one of the things that can keep us as a church from helpfully entering into these conversations, helpfully interacting with the spectrum, is this idea of confirmation bias. And so I was wondering if you could unpack that term for us a little bit, how you see that playing out.

Darryl Williamson: Yeah, absolutely. Of course. I think you’ve already adequately alluded to it, in that confirmation bias speaks to our attempt to try to find instances or evidence or support for our assumptions or our biases. So they kind of confirm them. I’ll find this black voice that reinforces my belief in radical thinking, or that race is no problem, for example. And confirmation bias is a fundamental approach for any Christian to engage in dialogue. Because it speaks to a motive problem. If I’m looking for argument fodder, so I’m trying to find that guy, that gal who’s going to support my position, we should feel how inauthentic that is, how disingenuous that is. That is unloving. It’s not Christ-like. I mean, we could use the term that it’s sinful.

Darryl Williamson: It’s not honest. I’m not trying to have a conversation with you. I’m just trying to counter you. And so we should never do that. What we should look for, again, is a range of voices that are reasoned, that are analytical, that are not merely polemical. Now, which is not to say that making an argument is not a good way to see the truth, because it is. And so I need somebody to make an argument. I don’t want to just look at the raw evidence and try to figure out what this means. But I do think it’s vital that if I’m looking for people to just back up my position, I’m not someplace where I should be as a Christian. It’s just, I can’t grow. I can approach the Bible that way. So if I’m reformed, I can only read those texts that confirm my soteriology. The Wesleyans have good reasons to believe what they believe.

Darryl Williamson: I think they’re wrong. And I would love to talk with them. But they read their Bibles, and so there are good reasons to do that. If I want to really understand God’s heart, let me look at these scripture that channels my reformed soteriology. Let me look at these passages of scripture that push against limited atonement, these passages of scripture that might even push against what some polls call eternal security. Let me look at them. Let me understand. Let me be clear about what the Lord is actually saying. I think it’s the same way we should approach these kind of intersections of social with spade. Confirmation bias I think is a fundamental problem of how we have conversations as believers, or really with anyone, but certainly as believers.

Skyler Flowers: Before I ask you about listening, I want to do a little more listening. If you don’t mind me asking, how does that make you feel, as a black Christian, when someone does that? They jump to voices that are just affirming where they already are. How does that make you feel?

Darryl Williamson: So, it depends on who it is. If it’s someone that’s inside our community, if it’s somebody that I’m shepherding, then I’m not upset with them. I’m not angry with them. I’m trying to guide them, to show them. Even when it seems like it’s futile, I will continue to walk with them. So, there’s a couple in our church that are big deniers around the coronavirus, and our church is taking it very seriously. And so I’ve had multiple conversations with them. It’s patient. I don’t feel frustrated, things like that. If it’s outside of our community, if I sense that you are merely going back and forth with me and you’re just trying… You’re not inquiring. Maybe you’re arguing.

Darryl Williamson: But all you’re doing is just trying to find those examples to just your case, I’ll probably just withdraw and just say, “Brother…” And I won’t say, “We have to agree to disagree,” because I don’t think that’s necessarily the right place to be when it comes to ethical conversation. But I say, “You know what? I hear you and it’s all good.” And I’ll probably kind of pivot out of the conversation. Now, I’m past big emotional reactions in this whole dialogue. I don’t feel tired of the dialogue. I’m not frustrated. But if it looks like it’s not going anywhere, then I’ll probably just pivot away.

Skyler Flowers: Well, the goal of this whole podcast, as we’ve talked about, is that it would be a good resource to help the church navigate some choppy waters. And if I’m taking one thing from our time with you, it’s that listening, really listening, and probably exuding Christian empathy and understanding is the big deal. It’s bigger than where we fall down on the spectrum. So, what does gospel listening look like? If you have a bunch of people, we’re here, we want to learn, we want to do this. We want to do Christian listening, so let’s call it gospel listening.

Darryl Williamson: Yeah. And I think that it includes the things we’ve talked about, listening, affirming. I think if we wanted to call it gospel listening amongst believers, and even those who are not believers, I think there are two things that we want. One, amongst believers, we want a kind of community formation. I want relationship to be established and to be developed because of this conversation. The fact that we’ve had this exchange, I’m showing respect, I’m receiving respect where there’s disagreement. But we begin to see that there is a deeper connection other than just what we’re saying about what we feel and think. So I think that gospel kind of conversation should build community.

Darryl Williamson: For unbelievers though, it should attract. And so unbelievers should be drawn into our ability to listen to them, our willingness to admit what we don’t know, not to make up a response to something that they said to us. If we’re talking to them about LGBTQ+ blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and we can listen, explain, acknowledge where the church has been perhaps less sensitive to people and their kind of emotional pains in the past, while gently explaining God’s view of sexuality, I think those conversations can be redemptive. They can be gospel conversations based on our posture. And where there is affection that develops and kind of an attraction to us for those who aren’t believers, I think we’ve achieved that.

Skyler Flowers: Well, Darryl, I just can’t thank you enough for your time. Skyler, thankful that you could join us today. We appreciate your voice. We are going to be praying for you and your church as you walk through this. I just really appreciate you, what you’re doing, what God’s doing through you and look forward to talking again someday.

Darryl Williamson: Yeah. God bless you, brothers. It’s been a lot of fun.

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