I have been writing on the need for 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 emphasize God’s heart that is characterized by justice and our rightful role in participating in God’s purposes. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, but God calls us to do justice. (Micah 6:8) If we want to be involved in following Jesus as he followed the Father, we need 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 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.
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 explains that she didn’t come to realize the historical Gospel isn’t white until after college when she was challenged to dig into it.
As she learned that Jesus wasn’t white and the culture in which the Gospel first spread wasn’t white, Monique came to realize, “The Gospel we have perceived isn’t white protetestantism.” 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 the Christian principals and replaces them with new principals that CRT adherents hold to.
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 a person is not repenting and continuing to repent of whiteness, you are not fully woke, and you still have work to do. Duson says that CRT is a “works-based” system.
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 (if you are white).
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 power) and seeks to wrest that power, authority and control from them. It also 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 stems only 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 are not racist by definition because they lack the power to he 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 (which includes all current systems).
Whiteness is a system that allows white people to get away unscathed, while black people suffer the consequences. White supremacy is not limited to groups like the KKK; every system that privileges the white person is part of white supremacy, and anyone who participates to their benefit from such systems are white supremacists.
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.
Any statement in opposition to CRT is just an example of white fragility his/her 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.
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, 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 are 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.
Even as I write this, I see some stark contrasts, but the conditions and oppression to which CRT speaks is 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 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. Before moving on, though, I highly encourage you to watch the whole discussion of CRT which I have embedded below. I have only captures bits and pieces of what Monique Duson said; you can get the entire presentation below.