By Levi Secord
In October, a group of concerned pastors and I met with our denomination’s leadership, the North American Baptist Conference (NAB). We brought our concerns about how the leadership, and its new Racial Righteousness ministry, were promoting the tenets of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and leading one-sided discussions rooted in unbiblical thinking. Following this path, we believed, would result in divisions within our denomination. At the meeting, the Vice President of Racial Righteousness asked me to write an article for his ministry on why Christians should reject CRT, and I was eager to help balance our denomination’s witness. Below is a version of the article I submitted, which the NAB has since decided not to publish. It is my conviction the NAB’s leadership is playing a dangerous game as they imbibe CRT and attempt to baptize it into Christianity. This reality is magnified as the leadership removes any spot at the NAB table for those who may disagree with their CRT tendencies, no matter how principled, and biblical our objections are.
Scripture warns Christians to avoid the seduction of worldly teachings. In Ephesians 4:14-15, Paul writes:
So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.
With the dominance of digital communication, the 24-hour news cycle, and social media, it seems Christians get caught up in every novel worldly teaching. Whatever society claims to be true, the church quickly adopts. We are being tossed to and fro by these worldly ideas. Instead, it is time for us to anchor ourselves in God’s word.
The most pressing threat in the church is known as critical race theory (CRT). Few people know what CRT is, and fewer still openly identify with it, but this doesn’t negate its pervasive impact. CRT is the very air we breathe today; its concepts and definitions permeate just about every race discussion. CRT comes out of a combination of the new Marxism and the latest evolution of postmodernism. It is thoroughly wicked, and unless Christians are actively pushing back against it, we will likely be taken captive. Christians cannot avoid addressing racial issues, but we must do so as Christians. Here are four unbiblical doctrines of CRT, which are tossing the church to and fro.
CRT Teaches Identity is Primarily Racial
Martin Luther King Jr. famously declared, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” King was not calling for everyone to pretend that cultural and ethnic differences don’t exist. Instead, he desired for people to stop judging and categorizing people primarily by their race. This is a sentiment every Christian should endorse as it closely echoes the New Testament, which emphasizes what unites us (Gal. 3:28-29). Sadly, CRT asserts that any claim to color-blindness, perhaps even one as nuanced as King’s, is a form of racism. For example, in How to be an Antiracist, Ibram Kendi asserts, “The most threatening racist movement is not the alt right’s unlikely drive for a White ethnostate but the regular American’s drive for a ‘race-neutral’ one” (23). He writes again, “The claim of ‘not racist’ neutrality is a mask for racism… The language of colorblindness –like the langue of ‘not racist’ — is a mask to hide racism” (9-10).
Instead of magnifying our unity as humans, CRT magnifies race. It makes race primary to our identity. Intersectionality, the sister doctrine of CRT, compounds this issue by trumpeting an individual’s intersecting identities as central to their person, over and against a common humanity. Kimberlé Crenshaw makes this idea plain: “‘I am Black’ takes the socially imposed identity and empowers it as an anchor of subjectivity… [it] becomes not simply a statement of resistance but also a positive discourse of self-identification” (Mapping the Margins, 1297.) By magnifying racial differences, CRT sows seeds of disunity, chaos, and strife. We see its fruit in our streets, churches, and nation as tension and disunity boil over. In deconstructing CRT, Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay warn, “Critical race Theory [sic] and intersectionality are centrally concerned with ending racism, through the unlikely means of making everyone more aware of race at all times and places” (Cynical Theories, 132). No matter how pure the motivation, such a tactic is doomed to failure. Dividing everyone into different identity groups and then pitting them against one another will never bring healing, forgiveness, or unity.
Christians cannot make race central to our identity. No matter our perceived differences, Christians are twice united. First, all humans are one in the common ancestry of our first parents, Adam and Eve. All individuals equally bear God’s image. Second, Christians are also objectively united in the work of Christ. We are one in the Son. While Christians cannot wholly ignore cultural and ethnic differences, we must not make them primary. Race is not primary; Christ’s work is. Not only is CRT doomed to failure, but it stands opposed to Christ.
CRT Assumes Racism is Always Present
In essence, CRT treats racism as the original sin. It is all-pervasive and assumed in every situation. CRT is a subset of a larger discipline, critical theory, which views life through the Marxist paradigm of oppressed versus oppressor. Based on various identities, each individual fits into one of these categories regardless of anything he has personally done. When critical theory is applied to race, we get CRT’s redefinition of racism, which does not center on overt racist actions, thoughts, or feelings but on the idea of systemic and underlying racism. For example, Robin DiAngelo and Ozlem Sensoy in Is Everybody Really Equal? write, “Antiracist education recognizes racism as embedded in all aspects of society and the socialization process (162).”
For CRT, the question is not if racism has happened, but how it is manifested in a given situation. Racism is the ever-present sin; to doubt this fact is to be guilty of it. Such thinking leads to absurd conclusions, such as the notion that using hymns or worship songs that speak of being “white as snow” in Christ is somehow wrong, offensive, or even racist. Similarly, we see it when every negative incident involving a police officer and an African American is assumed to be driven by racism. In response to these supposedly racist instances, CRT seeks to mitigate this systemic racism by redistributing power and privilege.
If Christians have a shred of honesty, then we must admit this form of argumentation has profoundly impacted our response to current events. CRT cripples the church’s ability to think critically about the biblical prescriptions for justice. Many have abandoned clear biblical teachings in the name of advancing an unbiblical agenda. This is the very definition of being tossed to and fro by the doctrines of men.
While racism is a sin, it is not the primary sin haunting humanity. Instead, it is our failure to love God and love neighbor that poisons everything. God hates all violations of these two commandments, from racism to rushing to judgment on social media inspired by CRT thinking.
Critical Race Theory Assigns Guilt Based on Race
One of the perplexing tendencies of the current social justice movement, and its marriage to CRT, is that it assigns guilt to all white people merely for being white. Terms like whiteness, white privilege, white guilt, and white fragility show a shocking trend in the antiracism movement—fighting racism with racism. Since CRT views racism as primarily systemic, anyone connected to that system by their (white) race is intrinsically guilty. Personal beliefs and actions don’t matter. Biblical justice calls such judging evil and vile. Basing a person’s worth, righteousness, or guilt on incidentals like race is an abomination before God.
Racism is sinful, at least in part, because it is a form of partiality. Partiality is judging someone based on who they are—class, sex, or race. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God condemns such judging. For example, in Leviticus 19:15 we read, “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” The impartiality of justice is a direct reflection of God’s character and is thus an eternal standard for Christians (Acts 10:34-35, Rom. 2:11, Jas. 21-13). To reject God’s impartiality and exchange it for the prejudicial judging of CRT is to deny the character and nature of God himself.
A genuinely prophetic witness would denounce both white supremacy and the perversions of CRT. Anything less proves we are beholden to some standard besides God and his Word. It demonstrates we are more concerned with advancing worldly agendas than we are about Christ’s kingdom. It shows how human doctrines are throwing us about like a ragdoll.
Critical Race Theory Asserts Justice is About Equal Outcomes
Central to the social justice movement is the assumption justice is equity—that is equal outcomes. Consequently, any inequality of outcome is proof of injustice, especially across racial lines. In Stamped from the Beginning, Kendi writes, “Racial discrimination is the sole cause of racial disparities in this country and in the world at large” (10). For CRT, all the proof necessary to establish the existence of racism is that there are unequal outcomes between the races. Disparity of outcomes (wealth, education, incarceration, etc.) only come from racism. While it is true that disparities can be the result of oppression, it is overly simplistic, reductionistic, and silly to claim all differences in outcome flow from discrimination.
CRT and social justice aim to remedy unequal outcomes by pursuing equity, that is, equal outcomes. To achieve this goal, individuals must be treated differently. Depending on who you are, different rules, standards, stratification, and rights are assigned. Those in the majority must be discriminated against to reallocate power, privilege, and wealth to minorities. This is just the old Jim Crow dressed up in new clothing. Gone is any universal standard, and in its place, we find a self-righteous preferentialism.
If unequal outcomes result only through injustice, then Christianity, and God, are unjust. God saves some and not others. There are two eternal destinations, Heaven and Hell, and every individual will end up in one of the two places. God’s grace and justice lead to eternal inequities of outcome. Is God unjust? No, not even close. But if we adopt the premises of CRT, then we must say that he is.
The church must regain her prophetic voice, and this means rejecting the doctrines of men. To speak prophetically, the church must call all sinners to repentance by offering complete forgiveness through Christ. The gospel flattens all identity groups out before a holy God as sinners in need of salvation. It also unifies humanity as all types of people are saved by one Savior. If we desire reconciliation in our divided society, then Christians must call both the white supremacist and the Antifa/Black Lives Matter rioter to repentance. Anything less shows we care more about worldly agendas than God’s standards. He hates all sins, but he loves forgiving all types of sinners. One day, we will see a diversity of sins and sinners forgiven before the throne of God.
The Christian witness the world needs is one that makes Christ and his work primary, not race. We don’t need the church following the human cunning that is CRT, but rather we must tear it down because it is raised in opposition to the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:3). Until the American church recognizes this, we will be tossed to and fro by the storms of our day. Such a result is bad news for the church and worse for those perishing as they are left without a faithful witness.
Levi J. Secord serves as a pastor at Riverview Baptist Church in West St. Paul, Minnesota. He earned a Master of Divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree. Levi, his wife, and their three boys live in St. Paul, Minnesota, where they spend their time slaying dragons.
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