In light of recent tragedies, it is more important than ever to raise awareness regarding the brokenness of a social system that privileges some groups while oppressing others. Specifically, it seem as though White members of American society receive unearned advantages due to their racial group membership while members of other racial groups face systemic disadvantage. Implicit bias resulting from this system is as pervasive as the air we breathe. But will it ever change? Isn’t systemic privilege and oppression just a part of the natural order? Let’s consider that notion for a moment.
Secular philosophy endorses the survival of the fittest paradigm described by Darwin in his book, The Origin of Species. Specifically, natural selection occurs as the “fittest” members of a species adapt to the ever-changing environment, survive, procreate, and pass on their genetic code. Those who are not as “fit” do not survive and thus their genetic line ends. Darwin wrote, “Can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive) that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind?” (p.94).
In this way of thinking, there is always competition between human beings. Who has the advantage? Who is smarter? Who is more skilled? Who is faster? Who is stronger? Who has more value? According to natural selection, there will always be a hierarchy: those who are fit, those who are fitter, and those who are the fittest. Under this paradigm, it makes sense for society to subjectively determine what constitutes as the “fittest” and create a grading system. It could be skin color. It could be royal ancestry. It could be physical attractiveness. Survival of the fittest demands that humans compete, evaluate, and try to “out-advantage” one another. In the context of natural selection, racial privilege and oppression is to be expected. But is there another way?
When Jesus stepped onto the pages of history, He turned the paradigm of the survival of the fittest on its head.
Survival of the fittest says, “Be the best!” Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matt. 20:26).
Survival of the fittest says, “Earn as much as you can!” Jesus said, “Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Matt. 19:21).
Survival of the fittest says, “I must look out for me!” Jesus’ follower Paul said, “Value others above yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).
The teachings of Jesus dismantle the competitive hierarchy purported by the survival of the fittest mentality. Rather than trying to out-advantage one another to survive and pass on our genes, we are to out-serve one another and in this way experience “life to the full” (John 10:10). We are to “carry each other’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2), which includes the burden of racial oppression. Out of love for Jesus and love for those made in God’s image, we should be strong advocates against all paradigms that deem some as “less than” and others as “fittest”. We must actively seek to create a social system that values all of its members.
So is a society without privilege and oppression natural? No. Is it possible? Yes—but only by adopting the philosophy of Jesus who, rather than exalting Himself, chose to give up His very life. Survival of the fittest may seem more natural, but the supernatural philosophy of Jesus is life-giving and God-glorifying. Which will we choose?