By Rhett Burns
Donald Trump is an exclamation point, a bolded font, an underscore, an orange highlighter, drawing attention to the fecklessness of conservative leaders.
This man—serial adulterer, womanizer, uncouth, proud, foul-mouthed, and greedy—is the man ending wars, speaking at the March for Life, de-regulating businesses, and standing up to the Left.
Is there anything more embarrassing for established conservatives than the fact that Donald Trump of all people is the one doing what they have for so long only promised to do?
It happened again recently when President Trump directed federal agencies to identify and cancel any training rooted in critical race theory.
This man—twice divorced, says outlandish things on Twitter, loyal utmost to himself—sees critical race theory more clearly than our evangelicals leaders. He can see the difference between “divisive propaganda” and an analytical tool. And he will do what so many in my denomination, the SBC, refuse to do: say No to training our people in the language and concepts of CRT.
It really is embarrassing when Christians accept immorality not even tolerated among the pagans (1 Cor 5:1). And yet here we are, letting Donald J. Trump, pagan of pagans, fight our battles.
Where are the men of God?
They are over there in the corner, sniping that those of us concerned about the adoption and application of CRT concepts and language in Christian institutions don’t know what we’re talking about if we haven’t read the complete works of Kimberly Crenshaw.
Yes, you are critical of critical theory, but have you read extensively in the literature? Are you peer-reviewed? Are you familiar with Foucault’s footnotes? Can you kindly provide precise technical definitions prior to speaking, please?
Siding With Fat Tony
In Antifragile Nassim Nicholas Taleb contrasted definitional knowledge, expressed in precise, technical language and developed through reason, with opaque knowledge, gained by experience and difficult to express in words. He imagines a dialogue between Socrates and Fat Tony:
Socrates: “How can you use a word like ‘piety’ without knowing what it means, while pretending to know what it means?
Fat Tony: “Do I actually have to be able to tell you in plain barbarian non-Greek English, or in pure Greek, what it means to prove that I know and understand what it means? I don’t know it in words but I know what it is.”
Fat Tony: “Tell me, old man. Does a child need to define mother’s milk to understand the need to drink it?”
Socrates: “No, he does not need to.”
I’m going to pull up a chair beside Fat Tony and ask our evangelical elites how much DiAngelo, Delgado, and Derrick Bell do I need to memorize before I can point out that a lot of Twitter feeds, seminary videos, and articles at Christianity Today look like this:
Forgive me if I don’t think one needs a philosophy degree to say this is bad. Some things aren’t studied so much as they are noticed.
Three Clarifications and the Point of All This
First, we must point out that just because some people are just now catching on to the dangers of CRT does not mean that everyone speaking out against it is jumping aboard the latest outrage train. For example, we warned against critical race theory in the SBC in this space back in 2017. Woke Christianity has been a slow motion train wreck to observe.
Second, I do not think most of those using CRT concepts and language are actual Marxists, theological liberals, or even believers in critical theories. They are marketers willing to surf the zeitgeist for money and power (at worst) or in a mistaken attempt at evangelism (at best). Whatever the motivations, they have unmanned the gates so that actual Marxists, theological liberals, and critical theorists can march in.
Third, just because I want to chum it up with Fat Tony does not mean I’m against definitional knowledge, reason, and precise language, all of which are necessary for proper debate and formal analysis. Others have ably critiqued CRT in such a way, and three cheers for them.
But the point here is the rotten fruit of CRT is so glaringly obvious that to insist upon a certain number of primary source pages read before making any judgement at all is to run interference for those who are sowing racial division in the church. It is to use technical language to obfuscate the truth at a level Bill Clinton would appreciate—“it depends what the meaning of is is.”
Can regular Christians not state what they plainly see in front of their faces? Must we suffer the snobbish condescension of elite evangelical discourse?
No, we must not.
Rhett Burns (@rhett_burns) is an associate pastor and small business owner living in Greenville, SC with his wife and four kids.