Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Universalism is White Privilege

I am not generally prone to call things “white privilege”. That’s probably because I am white and would prefer not to draw attention to its reality, or perceived reality. I don’t deny it exists, of course. But I do deny that it surely doesn’t exist every time and in every place someone says it does. Whites on the left tend to cry it the most, perhaps to shield themselves against the possibility of engaging in it, or to virtue signal so they can’t ever be accused of a sin so great.

But it struck me recently that one of the chief claims of liberalism at large - and in particular theological liberalism - is truly guilty of white privilege. Universalism, or the belief that all people of any faith have heaven available to them, is a linchpin of liberal thought because it allows for the erasing of classical boundaries that are now thought of as “judgmental”. It is necessary that the end game of life is as free from judgement as our own politically correct and relativistic earth-bound life. Universalism, of course, is the only game in town that allows for such an end game.

While there are official Universalists, the truth is that many Christians - who should not be universalists - have embraced it to avoid confrontation or, again, to virtue signal their boldness in throwing off old categories. They have absorbed this de facto aspect of our culture and, in an effort not to come across as judgmental, they’ve incorporated it into their false Christianity. They think they are being kind by accepting the faiths of others and they see it as a no-lose scenario.

But what is universalism really if not a denigration of the beliefs of others? It claims to solve the problem of religious judgment. It pretends to be a lack of such judgment. It tries to be an affirmation that all faith claims are correct. But this, in fact, is a logical impossibility and it doesn’t take seriously the real diversity of other truth claims. Rather than being non-judgmental, it is really the height of arrogance. It is telling everyone that their religious claims - provided they are exclusive - are wrong.

Why? Because religious truth claims necessarily cancel each other out. They can’t all be true, so universalism cannot possibly be true. To put some meat on the bones, if you tell a Muslim that Christians will go to the same heaven that they will, it’s not hard to imagine that they would be offended. The same for Christians all over the world. Perhaps Hindus or Buddhists wouldn’t as their religious claims regarding the afterlife and a singular God’s judgement are significantly less clear.

What has this to do with white privilege? Well, it strikes me that universalism is a relatively modern and Western idea, and it rises in popularity just as traditional Christianity wanes. It is held more commonly by whites who have the luxury to pontificate on life’s mysteries from the comfort of a home library or perhaps even a hammock. Most people of color around the world continue to hold fast to their traditions and want nothing to do with universalism. They simply don’t have the luxury of such harmless daydreaming; they’re too busy fighting and dying for their faith.

So proclaiming that universalism is true is just as offensive as proclaiming that Christianity - and only Christianity - is true. You may have bought yourself some good will with your own psyche, but you’re really just refusing to listen to those who continue to be firmly Muslim, Roman Catholic, or Jewish, etc.

In short, universalism is a luxury that the non-committed opt to employ to prevent an expression of judgment from exiting their mouths. Ironically, it is itself a judgement, for it ignores the real religious claims of others. Of course, in a free society, its certainly fine to be a universalist and to defend it and proclaim it. But if you do so while believing that you are taking the high road, think again. It is absolutely as offensive a claim to, say, a Muslim as saying that God can become flesh.