I believe Critical Race Theory has become for modern-day evangelicals what McCarthyism and communism were for American conservatives in the late 1940s and 1950s. You see, after World War II, once war-time euphoria dissipated, once Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperialist Japan laid in ruins at the hands of allied forces, America needed a new enemy to turn its industrialized military and national fervor on so as to not lose the battle for international armament superiority.
Key in communism.
You see, communism had become a scapegoat, of sorts for every American who viewed capitalism as a golden calf, literally, because communism threatened the American free market. The American way of life. The American dream.
America had rediscovered itself on a global scale post World War II as it amassed wealth and national pride from its great success in Europe and in the Pacific. But now this German-Slavic part-political part-economic structure swore to consume the world with its strange system of redistribution of wealth at the hands of government agencies and America saw itself as the last line of defense against it.
Because of this renewed sense of nationalist pride and economic idolatry, senators like Joseph McCarthy and his cronies instigated national witch hunts looking for Russian spies and communist sympathizers within American borders.
This, as many can imagine, spawned fear in the heart of American conservatives as they sought to do whatever was required of them to protect their American way of life thus allowing for extremes to become norms to accomplish their goals.
So innocent citizens were accused of aiding, abetting, and assisting communist nations with confidential information, and these allegations were later proven false. People were hauled into interrogation rooms where they were hard-pressed on all sides to give up other spies when in reality they were regular, every-day proud Americans. American citizens were subject to intimidation tactics, false allegations, trumped-up charges, charges of conspiracy to commit treason and murder, all in the name of communism, which was later proven to be fabrications to elicit fear and from there pandemonium in Western hearts.
Senator McCarthy was later deemed unfit for office, for having lied to the American people about the prominence and prevalence of communist spies in US cities and government and later faced an inquiry to answer for his nefarious and incendiary tactics.
He is the father of 21st-century witch hunts. In order to promote himself and his office, he sought to find a communist soldier and spy in every nook, cranny, and shadow of American life. So McCarthy is remembered for his extremist tactics and outright illogical methods of investigative work. His propagandizing in the 40s and 50s were so effective that its use is still evident in pop culture and opinionated news circles today.
McCarthy’s form of accusatory tactics has become standard journalistic practice today.
Clarification for the Uninitiated
One mustn’t think that I am in favor of communism or that I support its destructive ideology. German philosophers coined the notion and later Russian revolutionaries brought it to the steps of their government buildings and burned their nations down with it. Communist Russia, communist China, the Cambodian Khmer Rouge, and Cuba, to name a few, have killed more human beings in the 20th century than Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperialist Japan combined.
World War II casualties, which to date, few have dared to give an exact number for, estimate, to their best abilities, that around 60 million lives were lost as the result of expansionist axis sentiments from 1933 through 1945.
Communist regimes, however, have numbered well over 100 million deaths with most of those taking place in China and Russia through government-sponsored systematic starvation and “work camps” that were nothing more than delayed extermination camps for political opponents of the state.
Communism was supposed to be a system that restored wealth and stability to the less fortunate in hopes of forcing plutocracy into non-existence. It was to be a utopia of social welfare and care but it turned out to be one of the greatest, if not the central greatest philosophical, ideological, economic, and politically flawed structures of the 20th century.
We must not come to the same conclusion that Joseph McCarthy did in thinking communism was the devil incarnate, omnipresent, and virulent through society proper. In McCarthy’s eyes, every person that dared challenge capitalism or critique American plutocratic wealth inequalities must have been a lunatic or a communist, and in certain cases both. In fighting the idea of communism with every extreme avenue of power available to him he also fought against the good ideals and points of social welfare systems that assist the less fortunate.
Whereas communism was the extreme ideology, social welfare continues to be a good and prudent endeavor, McCarthy’s mindset jumbled both into one box making the bread, the butter, the poison, and the knife we use to spread it all together all evil. Without an inkling of courage to separate the goods of a socialized structure to assist the impoverished from the totalitarian ills of a regime, McCarthy and his many fear-mongering friends in the senate decided to view communism, socialism, and anything anti-conservative as enemies of the state.
This was problematic.
We should have learned from these tactics when reading up about the inquisition of the Catholic church in Spain, France, Germany, and abroad. We could have learned from this when reading about the Salem witch trials. We could have learned from this from McCarthy’s evident-less fear-mongering, from former president George W. Bush’s push for war in the middle east for fears of Saddam Hussein having and producing weapons of mass destruction. We could have learned from this with president Trump claiming anyone who disagrees with him is fake news.
But we haven’t.
These horrific incidents of dehumanizing and demonizing our political or philosophical opponents to drive them out of a voice in the public square are and have always been a precursor of worse things, namely, atrocities, genocides, and so on.
When we group everything we misunderstand about an idea, a philosophy, a nation, and more, and then find reasons to shut them out of the public square without redemptively understanding them or their ideas correctly we end up showing the world and ourselves just how uninformed, uninspired, uneducated and immoral we really are.
Of Pineapple and Ham Pizza
I’m guilty of this.
I believe pineapple and ham pizza should be thrown into the trash. It’s an unsavory choice and I relegate it as rubbish. I could, in all honesty, remove the bits of pineapple from my slice and consume the rest. But in past events, I have succumbed to frustration and refused to eat pineapple and ham pizza, as a whole, because I knew pineapple would be a topping. I’m a lover of cheese, tomato sauce, oregano, ham, and other delicate pizza toppings and could have simply consumed those, but in haste, and perhaps in a disgruntled fashion, I have opted for casting the cheese, tomato sauce, oregano, and ham out with the pineapple bits I did not want.
My laziness cost me my enjoyment of pizza, sustenance, a great time, and much more.
It was not just a matter of misunderstanding how pineapple and ham pizza works but more so a blatant disregard for the remaining nutritional value of said food choice even when I remove those parts I hate about it.
Also, my hatred of pineapple on pineapple and ham pizza does not make pineapple inherently evil. Pineapple has redemptive nutritional values in and of itself when added to drinks, salads, other food choices that add to their flavor and texture, and it is delicious when consumed on its own. Preferentially speaking, I disdain it on pizza but consider it wholesome and worthy of consumption in other ways.
In the same way, I believe communism, in theory, was possibly usable but knowing how depraved the human heart is it could not have worked once put into practice. The same goes for humanism, which, when presented without a superior ethic, a transcendent ethic, is a doomed utopian view of humanity but that does not mean I disparage all of the humanistic ideas presented by this faulty ideology for I am human as well, perhaps, more humanitarian than humanistic.
So there are some redeeming ideals of a socialized structure whereas I condemn the historical evidence of communist regimes. I still believe in government assistance within a free market if done so responsibly. (Capitalism is not without its faults. It is just the devil we decide to worship because it’s a system that makes us rich).
I say we must thoroughly study certain worldviews, ideologies, structures, and systems, that though they did not work as their founders intended certain parts and ideas from them are redeemable and usable still.
If you don’t agree, then that’s okay, but you must return every former nazi scientist and soldier the United States of America naturalized after the war to further its global hegemony.
Right. No can do. See? Some parts of broken systems are redeemable.
History: The Southern Baptist Convention and Seminary Problem
The Baptist Press covered a story about six Southern Baptist Seminary presidents (to be covered below) coming out of the woodworks to condemn Critical Race Theory.
Now, before giving the reader a basic explanation of CRT, which the Baptist Press did not give nor did any of the six presidents of said seminaries as they outright condemned it, I want to inform the reader that the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Baptist denomination in the world has a past steeped in the promotion of chattel slavery, slave ownership, segregation, racist sentiments, nationalist ideals and much more.
The SBC was founded in 1845 (a perfect time for Christians of a baptist origin to rise against slavery and racism) and sought every avenue possible to maintain cultural and clerical hegemony for white congregants alone.
In fact, it was not until 1995 that Albert Mohler (we’ll come back to A. Mohler a bit later), president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary issued a convention and seminary wide apology to African Americans for the denominations horrific past regarding its mistreatment of African Americans. Well over 150 years of silence blanketed this denomination before a formal apology for and condemnation of slavery and racism was given by its predominantly white leadership structure.
Whether this was too little too late is not the issue of today’s post.
Southern Baptist leaders’ denouncing of Critical Race Theory is.
Their hasty condemnation of Critical Race Theory, which has been around since the 60s and 70s, only to resurface with the spike in police brutality and police killings of unarmed black civilians caught on camera.
Critical Race Theory made headlines within the church no more than two years ago.
So Southern Baptist leadership was quicker to denounce Critical Race Theory, in fact, they warp sped their leadership toward the condemnation of CRT 147 years quicker than their condemnation of chattel slavery, slave ownership, segregation, and racism.
But before I pass on to you what these six seminary presidents said in their public denunciation of this theory I want to somewhat define CRT to you if you haven’t found an explanation for this modern-day boogie-man yet.
Note, what McCarthy then with communism, what Bush did to our perception of the middle east and Muslims as a whole in the early 2000s, what Trump did in 2016 with the news and media is what evangelicals are doing with Critical Race Theory.
Let us (and by ‘us’ I mean experts) define Critical Race Theory.
Critical Race Theory Explained
Tommy Curry, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophy at Texas A&M explains CRT:
“Critical race theory (CRT), the view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race itself, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of colour. According to critical race theory (CRT), racial inequality emerges from the social, economic, and legal differences that white people create between “races” to maintain elite white interests in labour markets and politics, giving rise to poverty and criminality in many minority communities. The CRT movement officially organized itself in 1989, at the first annual Workshop on Critical Race Theory, though its intellectual origins go back much further, to the 1960s and ’70s.
The launch of the CRT movement marked its separation from critical legal studies (CLS), an offshoot of critical theory that examined how the law and legal institutions function to perpetuate oppression and exploitation. However, instead of drawing theories of social organization and individual behaviour from continental European thinkers such as G.W.F. Hegel, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud, as CLS and feminist jurisprudence had done, CRT was inspired by figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and Frantz Fanon. Critical race theory advanced theoretical understandings of the law, politics, and American sociology that focused on the efforts of white people (Euro-Americans) to maintain their historical advantages over people of colour.”
Aja Martinez, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the University of North Texas:
“Critical Race Theory (CRT) originated in US law schools, bringing together issues of power, race, and racism to address the liberal notion of color blindness, and argues that ignoring racial difference maintains and perpetuates the status quo with its deeply institutionalized injustices to racial minorities.”
Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL):
“Critical Race Theory, or CRT, is a theoretical and interpretive mode that examines the appearance of race and racism across dominant cultural modes of expression. In adopting this approach, CRT scholars attempt to understand how victims of systemic racism are affected by cultural perceptions of race and how they are able to represent themselves to counter prejudice.
Closely connected to such fields as philosophy, history, sociology, and law, CRT scholarship traces racism in America through the nation’s legacy of slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and recent events. In doing so, it draws from work by writers like Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Jr., and others studying law, feminism, and post-structuralism. CRT developed into its current form during the mid-1970s with scholars like Derrick Bell, Alan Freeman, and Richard Delgado, who responded to what they identified as dangerously slow progress following Civil Rights in the 1960s.”
Critical race theory is a “collection of activists and scholars interested in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power.”
Kimberle Crenshaw, Professor of Law at Columbia Law School:
Critical race theory is “an approach to grappling with a history of white supremacy that rejects the belief that what’s in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it.”
Derrick Bell, former Professor of Law at Harvard Law School:
“The answers to what is critical race theory are fairly uniform and quite extensive. As to what critical race theory ought to be, the answers are far from uniform and, not coincidentally, tend to be leveled in the form of outsider criticism rather than insider inquiry. As to the what is, critical race theory is a body of legal scholarship, now about a decade old, a majority of whose members16 are both existentially people of color and ideologically committed to the struggle against racism, particularly as institutionalized in and by law. Those critical race theorists who are white are usually cognizant of and committed to the overthrow of their own racial privilege.”
Southern Baptist Seminary Presidents Speak Out:
Danny Akin, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary:
“Our goal is to serve the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission. We take that task seriously as we serve all Southern Baptists, and we ground our doctrinal fidelity in Scripture as expressed through the Baptist Faith and Message. While we must continue to speak with clear conviction against any aspects of racism, the sure and certain cure to any evil of this age is the gospel of Jesus Christ. No unbiblical ideology can solve the social issues that confront us. Every faculty member of Southeastern Seminary is fully committed to teaching biblical truth in service to King Jesus, and to standing steadfast in an increasingly secular culture.”
Jason K. Allen, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:
“At any given moment, there are a host of challenges confronting the church and to which Christians should speak. Yet, these days there’s a particular relevance to Critical Race Theory, and what it portends to mean for Gospel ministry and for the church. Clearly, Critical Race Theory is at the forefront of our cultural and denominational moment. Confusion abounds on Critical Race Theory, but one thing is clear: the closer you look into the history, advocates, and aims of Critical Race Theory the more troubling it becomes.
“Given our national and denominational history, causes and cures of racism are often emotionally charged, yet we need the moral and theological clarity to guard against racism and ethno-centrism, while also defending our most cherished beliefs: the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, and the full body of truth contained in The Baptist Faith and Message.
“Unfortunately, the problem of racism still exists, but Critical Race Theory is not a biblical solution. We must be a people who stubbornly fight against both racism and Critical Race Theory, while fighting for racial reconciliation and the truth of Scripture.”
Jamie Dew, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary:
“In keeping with the clear teachings of Scripture, countless resolutions passed by Southern Baptists, and the plain language put forth in the BF&M 2000, we fully condemn racism in every form. Our condemnation of racism arises from the teachings of Christianity itself, not from any modern secular ideology. CRT is not endorsed by any of our faculty members or administrators.”
Adam W. Greenway, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:
“In these days of rampant confusion about biblical truth, Great Commission Baptists can take confidence that their seminaries are offering clarity and conviction when it comes to racism and other worldviews antithetical to the Bible and the only Gospel that can save, such as Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. I enthusiastically endorse this statement, which reflects Southwestern Seminary’s confessional commitments and our unfaltering cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention of churches.”
Jeff Iorg, Gateway Theological Seminary:
“While refuting distracting ideologies is necessary, our focus must be on promoting the Gospel rather than having prolonged debates about new ideas that gain cultural traction. Proclaiming the Gospel and inviting people to place faith in Jesus must be our priority. Anything that detracts from that eternal message is counterproductive to our mission of sharing the Gospel with the nations.”
R. Albert Mohler, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:
“In this statement, the six seminary presidents stand together to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the revised Baptist Faith & Message and to thank God for this great statement of biblical truth that unifies Southern Baptists as a denomination of unquestioned theological conviction. This anniversary offers an opportunity, two decades after this action, to celebrate and to rededicate ourselves and our schools to this commitment.
“The issues of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality have arisen within the last two years as issues of controversy in the larger world, and this controversy has reached into the Southern Baptist Convention. We stand together in stating that we believe that advocating Critical Race Theory or Intersectionality is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message, and that such advocacy has no rightful place within an SBC seminary. I think it speaks loudly to Southern Baptists that we take this stand together.
“We also honor and affirm the Southern Baptist Convention’s very clear and historic condemnations of racism in any form and the Convention’s acknowledgement of our own history and the moral responsibility we bear. Instructed by the Bible and motivated by the Gospel, we are called to stand together in opposing the sin of racism. We must make clear that racism has no rightful place within the SBC, our churches, or our entities. Clearly, much work remains, if we are to be the denomination of churches we pray to be. We are thankful for our African-American brothers and sisters in the SBC whose voices are so needed and must be honored. We are not to be guided by secular ideologies, but by the Word of God alone and in the love of Christ. I believe that Southern Baptists are up to this task.
“We address this statement to the entire Southern Baptist Convention and we have great confidence in the Southern Baptist Convention, as a movement of churches, to work together as we seek to be ever more faithful to Christ with every passing year.”
The Dangers of Evangelical Individualism and the Cowardice of Gospel-Onlyism Directives
The American Evangelical scene has been plagued by an anti-biblical sentiment that faith is a hyper-individualistic pursuit where one must confess their sins to God, accept Jesus into their heart, and then pursue God in daily prayer and daily study of scriptures.
Granted, this is true, to an extent. It leaves out the fruits of one’s salvation, should that individual truly be saved.
Christianity teaches, and this in accordance to the words of Jesus, that when we come to Him we must die, meaning we must relinquish the helm of our lives and let Christ steer our destiny as He sees fit. It means our desire to fill our empty hearts with drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, idolatry, and other nefarious man-centered pursuits ought to be thrown away for the better and eternally more fulfilling love of God.
This, as the Bible explains, requires a miraculous rebirth within the individual by the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit who transforms our desires from addictions to deadly sins to freedom and life in Christ.
Until now, we’re all in agreement, but what American Evangelicalism has done for centuries and continues to do now is omit the second half of a transformed life.
Normally, and this being the work of God, an individual comes to faith, is regenerated by God’s spirit, forgiven of their sins, justified, and sealed with the Spirit of God, and then their actions and pursuits slowly align with the heart of God.
After such a transformation the believer is called to be the Salt of the Earth or Light of the World, people going forth from Christ delivering this marvelous message of the gospel, the good news that God sent His Son into the world to forgive sins, grant believers eternal life and the power to operate miracles and wonders that would, in turn, lead more people to saving faith.
This post salvation life entails a plethora of things, and this does not mean Sunday-to-Sunday church attendance only, it requires of the believer continual community assistance, feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, speaking for the voiceless, caring for the poor, protecting the widow and the orphan, and also the sojourner. It involves fighting for the sanctity of life wherever possible.
Believers were called to transform the broken Roman Empire, its mistreatment of the weak and meek, of women, of children, of babies, and the elderly to honor each and every single one of these. Bondservants were to be seen as brothers and sisters, not as chattel to be used and discarded as unwanted property. Women were more than just reproduction tubes, they were made in the image of the Eternal Living God. Unwanted pregnancies became a focus of the church as local faith families opted to care for and raise these unfortunate souls. The hungry could find respite and sustenance local church gatherings. There were ministries set up by Holy Spirit-filled men whose only purpose in the church was to sit and wait on widows. Holy Spirit-filled waiters.
Ethnic barriers were torn asunder by believers as before, in such a fractured and hate-filled society, which consisted of Jews, gentiles, Romans, Scythians, barbarians, Ethiopians, Greeks, and more but under the Rulership of Christ and the efficacious and continual work of the church, there was only one group of people, Christians.
So national classes, though acknowledged, became irrelavenr, because Christ united all people.
So you see, historical Christianity is about personal salvation but salvation that leads the believer to go out into the world to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and shine His light on earth through spiritual and physical help.
And for some reason, American Evangelicalism decided that the second part or perhaps, I’m saying second because American Evangelicals have created this second part when in reality, historically speaking, there is only one part of one’s salvation, these same individuals have negated the second part after creating it.
“My salvation. My faith. My God. My Christ. My King. My Bible. My renewed life. My church. My family. My whatever and damn the world!”
American Evangelicalism took a hideous turn towards the self in hopes of preserving its cultural hegemony unaware that this very reluctance to deal with cultural and social problems was a requirement of their faith.
This spawned a double-speak terminology where preachers, teachers, and seminarians were tasked with informing their church bodies and faith institutions to preach the gospel and nothing else.
Nothing else being social work or pursuit of justice for one’s neighbor.
Absconding from their responsibility to the world outside the four walls of their church they found comfort and false hope in preaching the gospel inside a temple while their black brothers and sisters lived under constant bondage under slavery and later in bondage to demonizing Jim Crow laws and policies post Civil War era.
So “Preach the Gospel and Nothing Else” is code for “Disregard Whatever The Hell Is Going On Outside The Church Because We’re Comfortable With The Power We Have From Ignoring The Cries of Our Hopeless Brothers and Sisters Outside Our Churches!”
History Repeats Itself for the Southern Baptist Denomination
This individualistic faith approach and its heartless gospel-only preaching mechanism worked very well for Southern Baptists at the inception of their convention as they filled church buildings with believers for God-glorifying services only to later leave said churches to rape, beat, mutilate, and murder their black slaves. And when faced with the possibility of losing said right to such heinous practices they sided with confederate terrorists to war against North Americans (Union soldiers) to preserve their right to own, sell, and kill black men, women, and children as a God-given right.
There was either outright support for chattel slavery or resolute silence on the topic to avoid being too political about extra-gospel issues from Southern Baptists.
This same sentiment festered within the denomination after the war as the baptist clergy ministered on Sunday morning and chased black Americans under the guise of white hoods later that night.
They took to public office as followers of Jesus Christ in service of their great American nation only to write, mandate, legislate and enforce laws and policies that hurt and condemned recently emancipated black Americans during the reconstruction era.
And they feverishly fought in favor of segregation laws, in hopes of keeping black American believers as far as legally possible from their churches, their communities, their workspaces, their academic institutions, from their families, their daughters, and their sons, all while affirming a one Christ, one body, one church sermon etiquette whilst shrouding an entire race with indignity.
At the spawn of the Civil Rights Era, Christian leaders who sought to eradicate such disparities and inequalities, namely Martin Luther King Jr., were advised by fellow faith leaders that his tactics for desegregation and racial equality were too much too soon.
Billy Graham was threatened by fundamentalist baptists with public disassociation because of his ecumenical approach to desegregated church services and evangelistic outreach ministries that invited platformed black church leaders such as King.
And only, only in the mid-1990s did the Southern Baptist Convention admit and apologize for their willful mistreatment of their fellow black brothers and sisters in Christ.
But now, here we are again, at the helm of another conflicting topic, namely, Critical Race Theory, and instead of approaching it immediately, discovering its benefits and casting out its ills; instead of taking a Christ-focused philosophical dive into this historically beneficial critique of white hegemony, the Southern Baptist Convention and Southern Baptist Seminaries have, as they did before with chattel slavery, the confederacy, the Klansmen terrorist attacks on black communities, reconstruction era woes, Jim Crow segregation, and continued festering of systematic and systemic racism, turned a blind eye to it all in hopes that it will go away on its own.
This is cowardice. It’s intellectual laziness to turn away from this theory, as many anti-intellectuals also turned away from critiquing social Darwinism through higher thought at its nascent stage so they demanded unchallenged agreement on the subject from their congregants, publicly denounced the theory without providing an intellectually and scientifically sound response for it, boasted of their ignorance, and ultimately lost their seat in the public square.
They distanced themselves from higher critique then as Southern Baptists distance themselves from CRT today, as if it were an airborne pathogen not even worth being proximal to so as to avoid contamination.
What the Southern Baptist Convention and Seminaries fail to see or perhaps fail to admit is that whenever Christianity shrinks from a challenge, an idea, from a philosophy, when it fails to outright do better than that which is given to the world via humanism and postmodernism, the world takes up where the church left off and leads the conversation on said ideas.
The Black Lives Matter movement is here today because the church continually failed to take a stand against police brutality and the unwarranted killings of black Americans at the hands of trigger happy police officers.
And to no one’s surprise, the majority of Southern Baptist churches condemned Black Lives Matter outright when that condemnation ought to have been for their cowardice in failing to confront these major issues in the first place.
So here we are, again, given the graceful God-given opportunity to show the world our Salt and our Light through knowledge, grace, and Christ but we rescind our invitation to not only discuss this topic but to believe that certain onlyisms will merit us cultural and social repute.
The world will continue to hate Christ because Christ came to shine a light on mankind’s sins but the culture hates Christians because we claim to have God living in us, the moral code by which to govern society, the cultural ethic by which to advise the world but we sit back and zip our mouths shut because revisiting the damage and chaos white secular and white Christian hegemony has wrought within American society is too ugly a truth to confront.
This is ludicrous.
We must, as followers of Jesus Christ, not only affirm total depravity in a fallen world but also the total depravity of a society birthed in racism.
I give the SBC credit for condemning racism in the past and vaguely acknowledging its individual prevalence in dark recesses of society today but hundreds of years of supremacy by an ethnic group does not evaporate, ever so easily, in less than a century.
Racism is alive and well today. It’s in the church too. It’s in the church, still.
Critical Race Theory as a Diagnostic Tool
David Fitch, author, pastor, and current Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary Chicago, IL., responds to CRT as a tool to be used by the believer to critically observe, critique, define, and diagnose wrongful and sinful systems present in our world.
“Instead I view post-structuralism, critical theory, and critical race theory as tools of diagnosis. They can be extremely helpful in clarifying the issues of power, antagonism, cultural frameworks and subjectivity at work in various issues in race, sexuality, gender, inequality, economics, politics. At their best, these cultural theorists teach us how to ask good questions, make astute observations, locate voices. It can open space for the work of God in Christ to reconcile, heal, make bodies whole, put into place various attractions, reactions, and other formations.
Good psychotherapy can unwind an individual’s story, unwind the dynamics he/she is reacting to, the abuses, the things that have formed us, understand how I might be reacting to something, which then makes space for God to work, seek forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, confession, etc. I view Critical Theory/poststructuralism/Critical Race Theory as good cultural psychotherapy. It can unwind what’s going on in our social constructs of gender, sexuality, race, economics that can then open space for God to work in these social spaces. I don’t believe psychotherapy can somehow lead me to a more primordial experience of God and neither do I believe post-structuralism can lead us to what true justice is. But it can clear space so we can hear God anew from Scripture, exposes abuses and other sins, seek repentance, mutuality, and be led to His work in these spaces in new and powerful ways.”
David affirms the validity of this philosophical tool to speak in local terms, one can say, to help the unbeliever see and witness systems that further prove human depravity not only in an individual scale, like racist sentiments from one individual to another but also racist laws, policies, and systems that destroy whole ethnic groups as a result of collective sin in a fallen world.
When we make racism an individual action of hostility by one member of society to another then that is the only definition we will afford ourselves to see but Jim Crow and the post-Civil Rights Era have demonstrated that there are systems in place, some still unvisited, (mass incarceration and the war on drugs to name two) that still have their origins rooted in racially motivated sentiments that disadvantage black people.
Because the SBC and Southern Baptist Seminaries fail to use these earthly tools God has given us to further diagnose not just personal but systemic, systematic, cultural, societal, and national sins we will continue to experience systemic injustices all in the name of gospel-centrism that is neither gospel nor centered on anything remotely biblical.
We mustn’t forget that apostle Paul used worldly thinkers, their words, and their philosophy to bring unbelieving persons to a saving knowledge of God on the prominent Greek hill of Ares. Please find the Areopagus evangelistic approach found in in Acts 17.
“So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’; [Epimenides of Crete]
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ [Poem by Aratus, “Phainomena”]
Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, ‘We will hear you again about this.’ So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.”
How advantageous it would have been for these six seminary presidents to use CRT as a tool to shine a light on the depravity of man-made systems, using the means and scopes unbelievers are accustomed to in order to shine the light of hope for redemption found only in Christ.
For CRT is just that, a tool, invented and perfected by sinful men and women to observe the world, whereas what we have in our hearts first, a lens through which we determine maladies in the human heart through divine writ and second, a salvific message that redeems mankind from its fallen state.
I have been somewhat harsh with the SBC leadership in this post and rightfully so. It is cowardice to easily reproach and denounce a tool because its originator was a Marxist. With that line of thinking, anything and all things produced, created, fabricated, and industrialized by unbelievers, heathens, pagans, cultic scientists and more will have to be abolished and forsaken for the sake of a skewed Gospel-onlyism approach to life.
Danny Akin’s comment, “No unbiblical ideology can solve the social issues that confront us.”
Is true but as believers, we must be at the forefront of social issues in the name of Christ, not distant and detracting from them.
Jason K. Allen’s comment, “Confusion abounds on Critical Race Theory, but one thing is clear: the closer you look into the history, advocates, and aims of Critical Race Theory the more troubling it becomes.”
This is only true if he approaches the topic viewing only that which secular thinkers and activists have done but we mustn’t have such a flawed view of life or CRT. He omits the efforts of W.E.B. du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X, to name a few. They focus too much and too often on the works and life of Hegel, Marx, and Freud as CRT consisted of only their interpretation of this ideology. Imagein if we used the same approach concerning Christ and Christianity, thinkinging that Christianity consisted only of Branch Davidians, Jim Jones, and Kenneth Copeland. Come on.
Jamie Dew’s comment, “Our condemnation of racism arises from the teachings of Christianity itself, not from any modern secular ideology. CRT is not endorsed by any of our faculty members or administrators.”
It is true so far as people understand that Christianity Proper condemns racism and uses all means, scripture, theology, humanities, sciences, sociology, history, and more to expound on the depravity and prevalence of racism in the act and in structure. Nationalistic Christianity and tribalistic Christianity fails to confront or even venture to explore the complexities of racism in our society and the ramifications of hundreds of years of systemic abuse in the name of God, country, race, and power.
Adam W. Greenway’s comment, “In these days of rampant confusion about biblical truth, Great Commission Baptists can take confidence that their seminaries are offering clarity and conviction when it comes to racism and other worldviews antithetical to the Bible and the only Gospel that can save, such as Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality.”
I applaud Adam Greenway’s endeavor to confront racism and other worldviews antithetical to the Bible but what he fails to understand is that CRT isn’t a worldview, it’s a research technique used by intellectuals to discern and explain the world around them. There is a limitation to how much CRT can determine but that’s where biblical truth weighs in on this matter in tantamount fashion. Instead of using this very tool to bring unbelievers closer to the realization of depravity and the need for redemption, systemically, Adam suggests we avoid it altogether and misconstrue it as a worldview instead of a tool.
Jeff Iorg’s comment, “While refuting distracting ideologies is necessary, our focus must be on promoting the Gospel rather than having prolonged debates about new ideas that gain cultural traction.”
Again we find the evangelical mind distancing itself from social and cultural issues in the name of self-preservation but that goes against the very fiber of the Great Commission issued to the church by Christ. Shrinking from cultural challenges and one that possibly challenges and forces us to face our historical failures is cowardly behavior, especially when we do this by hiding behind gospel-preaching-only defense lines. It’s the preaching to the poor but not giving him bread, water, clothes, or housing because his worldly needs pale in the face of his eternal needs. They do, but we are mandated to service both body and soul.
Albert Mohler’s comment, “The issues of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality have arisen within the last two years as issues of controversy in the larger world, and this controversy has reached into the Southern Baptist Convention. […] “We also honor and affirm the Southern Baptist Convention’s very clear and historic condemnations of racism in any form and the Convention’s acknowledgement of our own history and the moral responsibility we bear. Instructed by the Bible and motivated by the Gospel, we are called to stand together in opposing the sin of racism. We must make clear that racism has no rightful place within the SBC, our churches, or our entities. Clearly, much work remains, if we are to be the denomination of churches we pray to be.”
I respect Dr. Mohler’s many works, books, and sermons, his gallant opposition of the 2016 presidential candidate DJT only to recant his critiques of the new conservative demigod and praise his many efforts. This duplicity and aboutface tactic by such a genius minister was weird, to say the least. But, that’s for another post.
Mohler outright reverts to the SBC’s nearly two hundred years late apology for its deeply racist inception and the odd swiftness with which they have sought to condemn and denounce CRT, which challenges the very systems of power the SBC condemned in 1995 when speaking against its slave-owning and segregation promoting origins.
I’m proud of the fact that they continue to condemn racism (individualistic racist sentiments) where they find it, but the problem is where will they find it, and with what metric or technique will they use to shine a light on such a villainous sin?
You see, the Bible is clear on many sins but racism, as we understand it today, was not evident then, thousands of years ago. Ethnocentrism and nationalism were, as with Jonah’s sentiments against the Ninevites and later the Jewish nationalistic hatred of Samaritans clearly demonstrated in the four new testament gospels.
But hatred of someone and the establishment of rules and policies against that person or group of people based solely on one’s race is rather new, only hundreds of years new.
So to address and condemn racism as it exists today we must use the Holy Bible and also whatever tools are available to us today to better define this evolved sin that has adapted and restructured through time to survive and harm the black community for hundreds of years.
Denouncing and distancing themselves from Critical Theory or Critical Race Theory will cut the conversation at the knees before it is ever brought to the forefront and addressed properly in our modern time.
Anyone, from now on, who bears the banner of Southern Baptist and who dares confront the issues of racism in whole will be denounced as an anti-Christ, Bible denying, faith disparaging, white people hating Marxist.
To think that a believer, a follower of Christ, a person trained in proper hermeneutics, exegesis, exposition, and one who is in tune with their cultural and social struggles and dares confront the totally depraved systems a sinful status quo created to maintain hegemony is then deemed unbiblical is such an obtuse approach to an all-encompassing Gospel and faith.
It’s uncouth, really.
Like the apostle Paul approached the Athenian collective of his day with the tools they felt comfortable with; we, too, must approach our culture with the tools they use to understand the world around us to bring forth the greater light of truth, redemption, and hope in Christ Jesus.
In failing to effectively wield this device, this diagnostic tool, Critical Race Theory, we allow the world to use it for its own devices and schemes, and as we have seen with the fight for racial equality. Whenever the world takes over something the church is responsible for, only terror, fires, bombs, shootings, and death is expected.
And that is to our shame.
Critical Race Theory isn’t the new communism and SBC pastors and Southern Baptist seminary presidents should not devolve to McCarthy-like tactics for the sake of preserving Christianity.
Christ is the One who preserves the integrity of His church.
CRT is not the new boogie-man, it’s a tool (and one of many) we can use, under the guidance of scripture, God’s Holy Spirit, and prudential judgment, to our advantage, for the Great Commission, the salvation of the lost, and the Utmost Glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.