The Run Down: On July 13th I received the following email from Dr. Mark Hijleh, re: the inclusion of this article “Brian Brenberg: No police = no opportunity. Without law enforcement you'll have this” in The King’s College official newsletter. I challenged its inclusion in a twitter thread and email. This is the explanation I recieved and my response.
Letter From Dr. Hijleh
With hopes and prayers that you, your family, and friends are well, I write today in response to your expressing concerns about the article by Prof. Brenberg on the relationship between economic opportunity and law enforcement we featured in the July issue of The King's Courier. Thank you for expressing them to us.
I am the primary curator of the content for the Courier, though the Marketing and Communications team also plays a substantial role in the enterprise. I draw from the public scholarship of our faculty available online, and, within that scholarship, we try to balance various perspectives, various areas of interest (including politics, economics, history, religion, arts, education, and others), and we also try to feature pieces that are especially relevant to the most contemporary issues while providing historical perspective as well. In that broad context, I stand by the choice of pieces for the July issue.
As we draw from faculty public scholarship in this context, the complex issue of academic freedom (and freedom of speech in general) is not insubstantial. There will inevitably be some pieces not to the liking of all readers across the political and cultural spectrums, and some pieces in which points of view are debatable, though we are deeply conscious of the importance of both scholarly and journalistic excellence and of civil discourse. Potential controversies cannot and should not always be avoided within such considerations. That is the nature of the educational enterprise and public engagement.
It is my understanding that Prof. Brenberg is willing to engage with you one on one concerning the substance of his article. That conversation would, in my view, be a healthy outcome that only reinforces the value of challenges inherent in civil and constructive debate.
Thank you for reading the King's Courier, Enoma.
Dear Dr. Hijleh,
I hope this letter finds you wherever you are on your personal journey towards a life in pursuit of all God has for you. I am disappointed, but not shocked, by your response to my legitimate concerns that the authority and influence of The King's College has been misused. I’d like for you to consider the following quote by Derek Prince:
“The supreme purpose of every true Christian Church, the chief duty of every Christian minister, the main responsibility of every Christian layman, is to present to all who may be reached in the clearest and most forceful way, the basic facts of the Gospel of Christ, and to urge all who hear to make the definite personal response to these facts which God requires.”
Derek Prince, Foundational Truths for Christian Living, 2006.
My advocacy prior to today has been that sharing the article was the wrong use of King's official platform. To further explain this, I contend that belief in The Gospel holds us accountable to a right use of platform, power, and influence in all instances, including public discourse on racism.
To be clear: I’m writing in order to state the truth of the Gospel and to make the case that faith in the gospel requires that we join Christ in the redemption of a world that has been entirely tainted by sin, which mandates the dismantling of systemic racism.
What is The Gospel?
The Gospel [gos·pel]
1. Christ gave himself to the punishment of death for the sins of humanity.
2. Christ was buried.
3. God raised Him to life on the third day.
4. We have been reconciled to God through faith in these facts.
5. Our reconciliation is a conduit of God’s restoration of all of creation.
I've modified Prince’s retelling of the gospel in Foundational Truths for Christian Living. Given that you have signed a profession of faith, as required by all faculty and staff at King’s, it’s fair to assume that you believe these things to be true. It’s this faith that demands a reversal of the position you take in your email. I’ll explain.
What is required of people of faith?
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
- James 2:14-17
James established quite early in the church tradition that we cannot be people of faith without also being people of action. It is dead faith for The King’s College to publish a statement of lament regarding only the recent, high profile, cases of racial injustice in America where the president promises “to lea[d] this College as a place where all are treated with love and dignity” and then turn around to promote callous oversimplifications and thinly veiled hateful stereotypes.
Brian Brenberg’s article had no place in official King’s communication. (For more details on the article, see this thread). It was neither peer-reviewed academic material nor was it a well researched and properly cited essay. Brian's article makes no meaningful contribution to the academy. It is published in the Opinion section of a Fox News website. It was far outside the academic disciplines and personal study of any of your colleagues. The King’s college employs two black faculty members. Two. None of the non-black faculty members are authorities in Black American History or civic planning and development as it intersects with black and brown communities or the history of US policing.
In a conversation with another King’s employee and friend I explained that with only two “black faculty and no black upper management [King’s] abused its platform by pushing an opinion piece by one of its white male profs that strawmans serious concerns of black peoples and talks down to them.” These circumstances alone make it inappropriate for institutional support and promotion.
But your email skirts past these infractions and instead talks about “the importance of both scholarly and journalistic excellence and of civil discourse.” The issue here is not how controvercial the topic may be, it is whether the media a Christian institution, or individual, promotes ought to degrade a conversation that ought to be filled with white accountability, and informed problem-solving. You neglected fact for the sake of promoting opinion. You contribute to the erasure of the systemic oppression of black people when you promote writing that ignores it. You further contribute to the erasure of black scholarship by refusing to acknowledge and promote black scholarship. Your email makes light of my concerns, and functions as an act of gaslighting.
You Have Been Commanded to Reconcile
We’ve been tasked with the work of reconciliation (see 2 Cor 5:18). But there is no reconciliation without reparation. Christ models this in his taking on our punishment of death. The cross was not God saying “Aww, it’s all okay. No harm, no foul.” The cross was God saying to humanity “you did everything wrong and I will make it right. I will pay the reparations, so that we can be reconciled.”
reparation [ rep-uh-rey-shuhn ]
the making of amends for wrong or injury done:
1. reparation for an injustice.
2. Usually reparations. compensation in money, material, labor, etc.,
payable by a defeated country to another country or to an individual for
loss suffered during or as a result of war.
3. restoration to good condition.
What then, does it mean to minister reconciliation? Reconciliation is total and complete, not just in one convenient area of our lives. The Bible explicitly gives examples of the salvation we receive from God changing how we engage with power dynamics such as money and political influence.
Reconciliation radically transforms how we engage in areas where we have power and influence
So whether you are a mid-tier servant with the opportunity to forgive debts, or you are a Samaritan like me, a second-class citizen in your own country (while still having financial security and opportunity) we are all tasked to go about joining Christ in the redemption of all things. We are all tasked with the work of reparations. And it is through repairing that which is wrong in the world that we go about redeeming the world and bringing it into reconciliation in Christ the same way we have been commanded to.
In your case, you are the Provost. It is your responsibility to do the work of reparation within your jurisdiction of authority at the King’s college.
By contending that it is engaging neutrally in academic discourse, King's embodies the white moderate of which the Reverend Dr. King lamented:
I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice [...]
King’s however, is not just a neutral moderate. It's worse.
"Scholarship" from some of King's friends contrasts a God who heals, rescues, and restores. There have been many moments when affiliates of King's contributions to public discourse have been damaging, harmful, and destructive to marginalized people groups. That's not in keeping with our biblical mandate. How can we believe in Christ's gruesome death at the hands of the state, accept grace, and yet carry on the perpetrators of oppression?
It is institutionalized racism for you to hide behind the lack of diversity in your faculty as a reason for why King’s contributions to this “conversation” are one-sided and poorly informed. Dr. Hijleh, you are directly responsible for the homogeneity of the faculty of The King's College.
Rather than recruiting and promoting the knowledgeable opinions of scholars of color, during your time in Academic Affairs, the college has continued to select, retain, and promote faculty members who directly or indirectly support the diminishment of black human life.
You are wrong in promoting articles that are damaging to black people and contribute to centuries of racial oppression while refusing to utilize your station and influence to bring about justice. The dismissal of racism and of Black concerns are the very sustenance of systems of oppression, enabling them to continue generation after generation. Given the mission of King’s the repercussions are dire.
People are dying.
Today, police are rioting:
— Dae the Lawless (@daeshikjr) July 26, 2020
Secret police are collecting citizens in unmarked vans. Black people are disproportionately killed, arrested, prosecuted, and over-sentenced in the American (in)justice system. I must inform you that whenever you support a corrupt system you oppose a just God.
When you support a corrupt system you oppose a just God.
Make no mistake, there is definitive moral judgement regarding passivity in the midst of suffering. The right thing to do is to join in the work of Christ. King’s, in order to pursue its mission must join with Christ in his work of redemption, especially in matters of race and injustice, or be deemed a tree that bears no fruit in the kingdom. There needs to be a great unlearning of the current ways of thinking and doing and a complete renewal of the mind.
When those in power attempt to dissemble in order to protect an institution they are no longer accomplishing damage control. They are causing damage-damage to God’s precious people and damage to the name of our God.”
-Diane Langberg, PhD