Critical Race Theory: Three Final Problems with CRT (Part 4)

Critical Race Theory: Three Final Problems with CRT (Part 4) January 28, 2020

My comments in this post build off of parts one, two, and three. We dive back into our interaction with CRT in order to understand three final problems with this system. 

Fifth, CRT destabilizes truth, making it narratival rather than absolute. We see the postmodern dimension of CRT here. While CRT advocates embrace standpoint epistemology and thus honor absolute truth conceptually, CRT emphasizes that our access to social location will shape our handling of truth (I’m citing conversation with Neil Shenvi here). This can lead easily to the promotion of “my truth,” which when possessed by an unprivileged person becomes a weaponized tool of cultural change. CRT, like postmodernity, we recognize, is not “soft” truth, though; it is actually “hard” truth, very hard indeed. Yet there is no deeper ontological grounding for postmodern truth, and for CRT; rather, CRT simply asserts its commitments without foundation beyond the personal.

It is difficult to underplay how significant this point is. If in practice we make truth narratival and relative rather than theistic and absolute, we lose truth. If we lose truth—true truth, normative and norming truth—then we lose the super-structure of the gospel and the Christian faith. Christianity depends upon truthfulness; truthfulness is grounded in the character and identity of God. To personalize and relativize truth according to social location is to take truth out of God and ground it in us. Doing so means that truth claims are merely the opinions of one group; CRT oddly makes the claims of a single person representative of their entire ethnic or racial group, eliding the fact that people of different ethnicities differ wildly in their viewpoints.

This general viewpoint means that reading theology, for example, can become little more than a matter of identifying a given author’s background and ethnicity. Theology and biblical interpretation thus morphs into sociology. This is deeply damaging to the pursuit and adjudication of truth. Can we bring our biases and background into our work to its detriment? We surely can. Is it healthy to read a wide range of voices? It definitely is. Does this possibility of bias, however, undermine the very nature of our theological work, rendering our sermons and writings and claims merely the words of one representative of an ethnic group? It does not. A statement or claim or proposition or story is not true because of our background and cultural standing and lack of privilege; our teaching is true because it accords with truth, with the Word of God above all.

CRT epistemology begins by saying something realistic—that everybody has their own perspective. But it loses sight of the fact that God’s truth is true for everyone, regardless of their background or past experience. God’s truth is true at all times and in all places. We do not want a system of truth that molds to us; if we are in Christ, we want a system of truth that molds us. In biblical epistemology, praise God, we have such a system, one that makes sense of us and of our world. Indeed, only in Christian epistemology anchored in God himself do the one and the many cohere, and only in this divine system do we have unity in diversity. CRT, however, gives us only diversity, for its dependence upon standpoint epistemology ends up collapsing the world into multi-perspectivalism and the resulting contest for power. Instead of unity in diversity, we are consigned to estrangement, eternal subjects of hostility.

Sixth, CRT is uncritically associated with (or susceptible to) various movements that are not consonant with Christianity. CRT is an intersectional ideology. It makes common cause with “underprivileged” groups, including “sexual minorities” who find their place in the LGBT movement (as one example). This term shows how CRT and related systems recast movements in terms of power dynamics, not categories of truth. Scripture knows nothing of the language of “sexual minorities,” and Christians should steer clear of such speech to the full. Scripture knows of godly sexuality which God loves, and ungodly sexuality which God despises and will judge.

CRT effectively makes virtuous most any movement that is in a minority position in society irrespective of its views. This is a key part of how “transgenderism” has become, effectively, a civil right, when in truth it is no such thing; it is sin, not worthy of approbation, and should in no way be classed as a disability or a righteous cause. We are already seeing how pedophilia is traveling the same path; the logic behind its rise is inevitable given the dynamics behind CRT and intersectionality. Nor can we fail to note that our culture’s predominantly therapeutic worldview speeds this ascent. Since there is no such thing as sin in the traditional sense, and since everyone needs affirmation as they are, there is no depravity, no perversity, that a godless order will fail to elevate as a noble cause. (See the recent TEDx talk presenting pedophilia as a neutral orientation worthy of recognition and affirmation.)

Rising support for pedophilia aside, CRT takes complex issues and makes them deceptively simple. Many advocates of CRT approach immigrants as a minority group, positing immigration as a natural, inalienable right. Any who raise concerns about the pragmatics of immigration are therefore presented as harming minorities. While it is unquestionably wrong to see immigrants as inherently evil, we must be much more careful regarding immigration than CRT urges us to be. Immigration is for many people a matter not of principle but of pragmatics; in other words, it is not whether we should welcome immigrants—for this is widely believed—but how many people our country can welcome, and into what conditions and situation they come, that draw real and justifiable concern. Where CRT tells us to have a blanket policy here, we do much better to have a thoughtful, balanced, and societally-sound policy. The life of a nation is a complex thing, and we must handle with care in order to preserve the strength of our country, whether in an economic or sociopolitical sense.

At this point we can make a related observation: CRT, like leftism more broadly, is inherently activist. It is not orientationally conservative. In surveying the world, it diagnoses immediate problems and calls for sweeping and unimpeded changes. This is not a conservative approach to our public order; it is a liberal instinct. It looks at very complex situations and reduces them to action items. In CRT, everyone who is not a person of color is effectively a racist, and so needs to repent; society is fundamentally misaligned, and needs massive redress; our solutions cannot be gradual, but must be instantaneous. Some situations do call for immediate action, it is true, but many do not. CRT’s activist nature tempts us as a cure-all, but we should urge caution regarding not only its actual principles, but its default activist mode.

To read more along these lines in conservative terms, see this by Thomas Sowell, this by Roger Scruton, this by Noah Rothman, and this by Shelby Steele, for starters. We need to steer well clear of Marxism and socialism in any form, and young people in particular need help here. (Send them to PragerU as well for some helpful short videos—see this and this and this and this for starters.)

Seventh, CRT thus represents a different system of thought than Christianity, one we should carefully study but ultimately reject. As we have seen, CRT is not Christianity; CRT is distinct from Christianity. It overlaps with Christianity in that it expresses concern for those who have been wronged for racial and ethnic reasons. But even the way it construes this problem is decidedly different from the biblical vision, and the solution offered by CRT to the problem it frames is radically different from gospel redemption. CRT is a system we do well to study, think about, analyze, and critique; it is not a system we should endorse, adopt, or embrace.

One additional matter deserves comment. As a different system of thought than Christianity, we should not be surprised to see CRT handle history differently than a Christian approach to the same. In a CRT framework, history is effectively divided up between two groups: those who are evil and should be cast off, and those who are virtuous. This line of assessment should trouble us as believers, for while there is real sin in the Christian past, we are those who know that any of our predecessors can only be imperfect and flawed. It is right to identify and decry sin in the Christian past, but it is not right to marginalize and silence born-again believers from the past who erred along racial and ethnic lines. CRT encourages us to take such a stance; it summons us to apply a doctrine of sin to our past leaders that is distinct from the biblical one (see above).

With all the foregoing in mind, CRT is one of many systems of thought in our world that we must not let take us captive (Colossians 2:8). Instead, we should “demolish strongholds” by subjecting unbiblical systems to biblical, theological, and ethical critique, emulating Paul as we do so (2 Corinthians 10:4). We do not embrace part of Marxism, or part of Epicureanism, or part of existentialism, or part of homosexuality, or part of transgenderism, or part of pedophilia, or part of postmodernity as believers. We learn about these causes and worldviews, we compassionately engage those enmeshed in them and thus headed for eternal destruction, and we refute them. This is what we call cultural deconstruction and gospel reconstruction.

Conclusion

Our discussion of CRT and related matters must end where Christian faith begins: the cross of Christ. The cross, as Luther said, is truly our theology. The cross is stronger than any system, however enticing. For this and the other reasons we have sketched out in this piece, we are left with the following conclusion: we should not marry CRT to Christianity. We should instead pray for the release and liberation of those who have fallen prey to it. About these things we must be clear.

Some people will respond—okay, maybe you’re right, but what is in CRT’s place? In the place of CRT is biblical Christianity. Biblical Christianity is the great need of our age. Biblical Christianity is local church oriented. It urges us, as noted at the beginning of this series, to enflesh our Christ-secured union in local congregations. Biblical Christianity is resolutely ethical and anti-racist and anti-ethnocentrist. Wherever there are genuine forms of either of these sins, true believers oppose them. But we also oppose a vision of humanity, and especially regenerate humanity, that sees us as implacably and innately divided.

Our major work, therefore, is theological and spiritual. We preach and teach the whole counsel of God. We believe in the “one new man” created by Christ through his atoning death (Eph. 2:15). Our major cultural and social program is this: to preach the gospel, and to live according to the realities of redemption, and to oppose evil anywhere we find it. Such enfleshed Christianity is activist primarily in terms of ecclesiology, but also in terms of the public square. It is not, however, activist in the way that leftism is. Fundamentally, Christians seek to conserve that which is true, good, and beautiful. This does not mean only preserving virtue, of course, but promoting it. Nonetheless Christians must steer clear of a fundamentally progressive and liberal mindset in which sociology trumps theology and activism replaces ecclesiology.

There is much more we could say about CRT. At this point, however, we must conclude. We close by noting this in sum: a failure to stand up and tell the truth about this philosophy or any other is a failure of theology, and because of this, a failure of love. This is a matter of grave urgency. Let us remember the early church in our particular moment, and let us recall how they simultaneously told the truth about every unbiblical worldview, preaching Christ as the hope of every sinner of every kind. 

So must we.


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