The following thoughts and observations come from and are inspired by a conversation between Preston Sprinkle and Dr. Ed Uszynski. (See Episode 877: Race, CRT, and Evangelicalism of Theology in the Raw.)
Sprinkle and Urszynski are in agreement that Christians generally are doing a poor job of grappling with the issue of race in the United States. Most Christians are vocal in their criticism of secular solutions, but few Christians are really engaging with the underlying issues.
Critical Theory, CRT and Marxist ideology and terminology are fueling the discussion in the secular culture. Identity politics, systemic racism, police brutality is the language commonly used in the secular world to frame the discussion. Whether Christians are condemning these concepts or aligning with them, Christians are not offering much in return.
In the podcast, one the two men (I can’t remember which) said that we should have different language inside the Church. We should have Gospel language that addresses injustice.
“We should have a theological understanding of the concept of justice…. We should be immersed in care and concern for vulnerable populations, regardless of color, regardless of gender, regardless of background. We should be robustly able to think about what it means to care for the least of these, to watch out for people who are being taken advantage of…. That’s a biblical idea that we should be deeply immersed in theologically and biblically.”
That, however, isn’t happening in most Christian circles. People who are engaging in the conversation are engaging in it with the secular terminology and don’t recognize that we need to separate ourselves from that secular perspective. We are defining ourselves in relation to secular concepts, rather than driving the conversation from a biblical perspective with biblical concepts and biblical terminology.
Christian are either adopting CRT in church, which is the primary, secular approach, or Christians are rejecting CRT without offering a Gospel orientated alterative. People address CRT (by opposing it), but they are largely not addressing or effectively engaging the race conversation on a theological level.
“We have done a horrible job, generally, in embracing, and believing and obeying the rich theological theme of what the Kingdom of God is designed to look like and how it is designed to function in terms of its multiethnic backbone.”
We only need look to the end of the story to get a glimpse of God’s great purpose. John was given a snapshot of heaven that looks like this::
“I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:9)
Though Paul said there is neither Greek nor Jew, male nor, rather we are al one in Christ, yet God will preserve our multiethnic characteristics in heaven. How do we harmonize these things?
I believe we must not allow our ethnic and racial differences divide us, to begin with. Yet, we can still celebrate our ethnic and racial diversity at the same time because those differences will ultimately be preserved as we stand together, united around the throne of God.
Paul calls Peter out in Gal. 2 because Peter had stopped eating with the Gentiles out of ethnic concern. Paul called him out for not obeying the Gospel by putting ethnic concerns above the Gospel. The message seems clear that ethnic/racial differences should not keep us from fellowshipping with each other, yet we struggle today with similar issues.
“As a largely white, evangelical church, we have not recognized how we have fallen short of embodying this beautiful kingdom, multi-ethnic community.”
In the same letter to the Galatians, Paul instructed us: We are also instructed to bear one another’s burdens.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2)
Racial tension, racial disparity, racial pain still exists flowing from a history of unjust relationships. We can’t bear each others’ burden well without recognizing this.
If we are honest about our history, racial injustice has occurred in the American church and has been allowed to exist by apathy in the American church. CRT has arisen because of the racial injustice in this country. We can’t just critique CRT in the body of Christ and not address our failure to embrace the multi-ethnic dynamic of the Gospel.
The gentlemen in the podcast suggest that we should be more concerned with the circumstances that have given rise to CRT than CRT, itself. We should be concerned about the Church not doing the theological work to address racial issues.
What we tend to do, instead of approach racial issues theologically is to fall off into politically partisan debates. We have adopted secular rhetoric, whether we are for or against, on the issue of race. To that extent, we need to “separate from Babylon”.
That doesn’t mean that we should separate from the concern for justice. While, political parties are seeking control of the secular territory, we need to realize that the answer to the injustice for the body of Christ must come from a kingdom perspective.
If we fall into a politically partisan conversation, the Gospel takes a back to secular politics. As Christians, we should be “completely countercultural” at any given time in history, because the kingdom of God is not of this world. We are aliens and strangers in every cultural moment in this world.
When all our energy goes into addressing the secular solutions to the racial problem, and we continue to persist in not having ‘’a critical enough theory of race”, we are failing as ambassadors of Christ.
Ethnic tensions are age old. CRT didn’t create the race problem. Christians, though, have a Gospel ideal of unity despite our differences in Christ.
Christians are not fighting the battles secular thinkers are fighting. We have a different mission. What fires up people in outside the Body of Christ every morning should not be what fires up a Christian every morning. We should not be pledging allegiance to secular voices, even if we agree with them.
We need to find the “transcendent middle”. Partisan politics tries to force us into binary options that are two sides to an anti-Jesus secularism. We need to do the work to maintain separation that is informed by Scriptures and God’s character.
The Church is dividing over Babylonian power grabs. Increasingly we don’t just disagree with each other; we label each other morally reprehensible on the basis of secular politics. We know though, that no one is righteous. We are all sinners, and we are all saved by the same grace.
There is no “us against them” in the body of Christ. We are called to love each other, which is the way the world is to know us. (“[E]veryone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)) Thus, we need to learn to love each other as a multi-ethnic community.
We are also to love our enemies. (Matt. 5:44) Thus, we can’t even align “us against them” in relation to the world outside the body of Christ. Every human being is made in the image of God. Everyone is our neighbor.
I think these are good and necessary thoughts for us to keep at the forefront of our minds as we contemplate racial issues and the conversations about race in America. We need to spend time and energy framing these issues and engaging in these conversations theologically. We need to put aide the political rhetoric and do the hard theological work of charting a biblical (Gospel) course through the racial problems.
Then, perhaps, the voice of the Church will stand above the political and cultural fray. Then we will be a city set on a hill, a light stand for the world to see and take notice. When the world sees our love for each other, then we will be true representatives of God’s kingdom in this world.