Critical Race Theory from a Christian Perspective



I have been writing to encourage the evangelical church, in particular, to speak up and get involved in doing justice as God would have us do it. (Here and here.) We have been champions of proclaiming the Gospel, but we haven’t exactly been champions of doing justice.

My goal isn’t to shame anyone into jumping onto a cultural bandwagon, but to focus on God’s heart that is characterized by justice and our role in participating in God’s purposes. If we want to be involved in following Jesus as he followed the Father, I think we need to do justice.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, but God calls us to do justice.

At the same time, we need to be mindful, always, of truth. Biblical justice has a vertical element and a horizontal element: man to God and man to man. We need to be aligned in both directions with God and His character.

Critical race theory has become a viable contender in the modern cultural arena for defining injustice and prescribing how to fight it. Critical race theory, by its very nature, attempts to control the discussion. As Christians, though, we need to keep our focus on the Gospel as we wade into the fray.

In this article, I summarize a conversation between Alisa Childers and Monique Duson on Race, Injustice, and the Gospel of Critical Race Theory. (The full interview is embedded at the end of this article.) I have been meaning to write on the subject of the difference between Gospel justice and social justice (which often devolves into justice without the Gospel), for well over a year. This, I think, is a helpful introduction to the subject.

I will address critical race theory (CRT) here, and I will follow with some thoughts on need for the evangelical church to be actively involved in doing true (biblical) justice.

Background.

Monique Duson grew up with critical race theory in south LA. The ideas that drive critical race theory (CRT) were her frame of reference before she even had a label for them. She was nurtured and educated by it. Her world was defined by an us-against-them orientation: whites against blacks.

She didn’t really know the philosophy or the foundations that under-girded that framework until she attended college at Biola University, a Christian institution. Even there, she recalls, she really didn’t question it or put it into a Gospel perspective.

In fact, she had always assumed “the Gospel” in the United States of America was a white concept that was part of the oppression of white power structures. She didn’t realize this construct comes from CRT, and she didn’t realize the historical Gospel isn’t “white” until after college when she was challenged to research it.

As she learned that Jesus wasn’t white and the culture in which the Gospel first introduced wasn’t white, Monique came to realize, “The Gospel we have perceived isn’t white Protestantism.” The Gospel predated the European influences that eventually spread the Gospel to the New World.

Because of Monique’s background and personal experience with critical race theory, she is uniquely able to identify where CRT and biblical notions of justice and the cure for injustice diverge. The rest of this article focuses on CRT as another gospel that is different than the true Gospel that Jesus preached.

The Gospel of Critical Race Theory.

Monique has come to view CRT as a secular equivalent to the Gospel. People hold to CRT with religious fervor. It has its own dogma that parallels Christian principals and replaces them with new dogma by which CRT adherents attempt to frame issues of racial injustice.

To begin with, CRT teaches that man’s original problem is not sin, but whiteness – racial power. The idea of sin is a concept perpetrated by a white gospel that is oppressive to people of color. Racism is the primary sin that runs rampant in society, and white people (by virtue of their whiteness) participate in racist systems that keep people of color down.

The equivalent of salvation comes from being “woke”. Being woke means recognizing white privilege, repenting from whiteness, and doing “the work” necessary to eliminate whiteness. If you are not repenting and continuing to repent of whiteness, you are not fully woke, and you still have work to do.

In this way, CRT is a “works-based” system, says Duson. A person is measured only by what they do or don’t do.

Critical race theory says that white people are racist regardless of the actual feelings they might have because they participate in and benefit from oppressive systems merely by virtue of being white. You might not realize or know you are racist, but you are racist if you are white. End of story.

The sin of whiteness stems from the fact that whites have privilege and power. CRT identifies those in power as oppressors (by virtue of their privilege/power) and seeks to wrest that power, influence and control from them. It seeks to silence the voice of the powerful (whites) and to exult the voice of the oppressed (people of color).

In the moral economy of CRT, people of color are not and cannot be racist, because racism only comes from a position of power. White people are racist simply because of who they are – white – even if they don’t feel or act with racial animus. People of color are not racist by definition because they lack the power to be racist.

Salvation for white people is comprised of getting educated about people of color, publicly repenting of whiteness, speaking out against whiteness and working to dismantle those systems that benefit whiteness to the detriment of people of color. This includes all current systems.

Whiteness is a system that allows white people to get away unscathed, while black people suffer consequences. White supremacy is not just limited to groups like the KKK; every system that privileges the white person is white supremacist, and anyone who participates to their benefit in such systems are white supremacists. Whites are supremacists unless the denounce their whiteness.

Fighting against systemic racism is the hallmark of critical race theory. The individual doesn’t matter in CRT, only groups and systems, and your membership or involvement in those groups and systems. Thus, white individuals never escape their whiteness; they must always be repenting and must always be working to achieve their “salvation”.

CRT isn’t based on objective truth. Objective truth is considered a tool of the oppressors when it suggests something contrary to the position of the critical race theorist. Further, only the oppressed have the truth, which is comprised primarily of their experiences of oppression.

Experience and feelings beat objective facts and reason in CRT. Fact-based reasoning, in fact, is just a tool white people use to oppress people of color.

Any statement in opposition to CRT is an example of white fragility. Criticizing CRT is an expression of white privilege. Anyone with a different opinion is a white supremacist.

CRT flips the racial narrative. The aim of some, says Monique, is for white people to feel what black people feel – to feel the oppression of racial tension the way black people feel it. Thus, what whites might call racial discrimination perpetrated against whites by people of color is not racial discrimination at all; it’s just turning the tables on the oppressors.

You have to choose a side. If you are not with CRT, you are against it. CRT doesn’t allow opinions that go against their narrative.

Monique summarizes that CRT is a divisive framework. The goal is to divide and conquer, and, Monique says, “It is doing its job.” There is no room for people to speak differently. Either you are with them or not, and if not, they will “cancel” your voice.

Monique says CRT even has its own canon – books that are accepted and recommended. These books have been embraced by progressive Christianity and are even making their way into more orthodox Christian communities.

A Call for Christians to Engage in the Discussion and Doing Justice.

Stark contrasts exist between CRT and the Gospel. We do need to call them out. Our efforts to do justice, as God calls us to do justice, should be motivated by the love of God and the truth and power of the Gospel – not by a Marxist ideology that is inherently devoid of respect for God.

At the same time, I think we need to be honest that the conditions and oppression to which CRT speaks are real. We cannot and should not ignore the injustice people of color have experienced in our society for hundreds of years and the impact of that injustice on our brothers and sisters who live with those consequences and influences today.

If Christians don’t get involved in calling out injustice and seeking to redress it, we abdicate that influence to other forces that are hostile to true justice and God’s offer of real salvation and redemption to the world. Further, if we don’t accurately display God’s character that defines true justice, we offer only a warped and failed representation of God to the world.

Thus, we, the church, do need to recognize and repent of ways in which we have contributed and continue to contribute to or facilitate racial injustice. Remaining silent and inactive in the face of racial injustice (and injustice, generally) is, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: to be complicit with it.

In the next blog article (The Need for for the Church to Address Racial Injustice), I will dig a little bit deeper into the need for the church to be involved in doing justice. I have only captured bits and pieces of what Monique Duson said in this article, so, before moving on, I highly encourage you to watch the whole discussion of CRT which I have embedded below.

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