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CRT In Light of Ephesians 6:12

CRT In Light of Ephesians 6:12 June 26, 2021

I’m no expert on Critical Race Theory (CRT) and I doubt the reader is either. I haven’t read any books on the subject, nor spoken with anyone very knowledgeable of the theory. I’ve read more about the controversy the theory seems to inspire, than the theory itself. That’s probably true for most of us.

However, I have looked into it a bit. Reading this essay, I came across this:

“Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that racism is a social construct, and that it is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.”

My first thought after reading that description was it would appear CRT aligns very closely to what we are told in Ephesians 6:12:

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Yes, sin is an individual thing, but none of us are naïve or ignorant enough to think that if one individual racist changes their mind, then racism is over and done with. Whenever we think about crime, racism, sexism, poverty, health issues, the environment, or any social and cultural problem, we should always focus on both the individual and the root or greater structural (and historical) causes.

Many evangelical/fundamentalists seem to think if we teach or give credence to CRT, we are somehow taking away the focus of the gospel regarding salvation and the idea of our individual fallenness. I think each fear is based on a misunderstanding of Scripture and Christian theology.

First, the good news of salvation (the gospel) is not simply about the individual salvation of people or souls; it’s about the salvation and redemption of the entire cosmos. The entire cosmos died with Jesus upon the cross and he brought the entire cosmos out of the grave in his resurrection.

Second, while we need to keep in mind individual choices and decisions, we also need to remember that those never happen in a vacuum. It is impossible to understand the root causes of many crimes without considering poverty, child abuse, and other factors. We can hold people accountable individually for their decisions, while at the same time addressing the larger forces at work that contributed to the choices available to them and their decision making.

So, in my view, CRT isn’t new. St. Paul wrote of social constructs as a conveyance for embedded fallenness in Ephesians 6:12. We simply used to call these “principalities and powers.” In that passage, Paul is acknowledging that the problem (struggle) isn’t against individual people or “flesh and blood.” The problem is more about what can be built-in (so to speak) to society/culture through the political, economic, media, educational, and other vehicles of influence and power.

Theologians like Walter Wink and Marva J. Dawn have addressed these areas deeply. In speaking of the principalities and powers, Marva Dawn quotes John H. Yoder:

“Now what these ‘cosmic authorities’ were in Paul’s mind is not easy to say in modern terms. They are not human persons. Yet they influence human events and structures. What we call the state, the economy, the media, ideology—these are their instruments.” (Pg. 11-12)

And please, let’s have none of this nonsense that we need only the Bible alone to address societal problems, racial or otherwise. For any Christian, all truth is God’s truth, but there is no Bible verse that explicitly/literally states such; it’s an insight from philosophy/theology and logic. We have gained truths/insights from science, history, other religions, and every area of knowledge and expertise available to us.

To not take advantage of any such insights, such truths, is to denigrate creation and to mock God—the very (for the Christian) embodiment of Truth.

Further, it is this idea of scriptural sufficiency that is partly responsible for the very need for something like CRT to begin with. Given it was the misuse and misunderstanding of scripture that was a key factor (the Bible was used to justify both slavery and white supremacy) behind the rise of racist cultural structures historically, the “Bible alone,” attitude is hardly helpful here.

The more I learn about CRT, the more I like it. In my mind, it sounds a lot like Ephesians 6:12. And the more I learn about why, especially white evangelicals, and others don’t like it, I’m only reminded further of the reason the theory exists in the first place.

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