i was introduced to Critical Theory in a graduate class on Literary Criticism through the writing of Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist intellectual whose main legacy was his departure from orthodox Marxism.
Traditional or Orthodox Marxism divides society into two economic groups: the bourgeoisie (the capitalist class who own most of society’s wealth and means of production) and the proletariat (workers or working-class people). This division is essentially between the haves and the have-nots. Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) deviated from orthodox Marxism by stating that the haves and have-nots are to be understood more broadly as the oppressors and the oppressed. The oppressors are privileged by institutional dominance and the oppressed are marginalized by this dominating structure.
Gramsci has became one of the major figures of Western Marxism which proposed that economic interests are not the whole story. According to Gramsci the dominance of one group is through hegemony (which means “dominance”) – that is, the ideological supremacy of values of the privileged which is established though institutions such as schools, churches, media, government, businesses, voluntary associations – and in cultural forms such as philosophy, art, literature, religious ceremony, and civic behavior. Cultural factors involving these elements are necessary to understanding dominance, oppression, and power. Thus, hegemony, in Gramsci’s account of it, is the exercise of power by one class or group over another as expressed through culture norms and societal practice. It is through this that the privileged (i.e., the oppressor) dominates (i.e., hegemony) the marginalized (i.e., the oppressed).
In short, Gramsci changes the oppression from an economic understanding to a cultural one.
This movement, beginning with Gramsci, was further developed by the Frankfurt School. The Frankfurt School began in 1930 in Germany, when Max Horkheimer took over and recruited other Marxist inspired scholars such as Erich Fromm, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Wilhelm Reich, and Herbert Marcuse. With the rise of Nazism, the school moved to New York in 1933 and joined Columbia University. It was there that Marxist Critical Theory gained acceptance in the academic community. The Frankfurt School intellectually developed Critical Theory, and is, at times, referred to as Cultural Marxism because oppressor and oppressed groups develop along cultural or social lines of race, class, gender, sexuality, and a host of other factors. Today, there are entire academic departments at universities dedicated to Critical Theory. The term Critical Theory is the academic term for this movement and is interchangeable with Cultural Marxism. In short, Critical Theory wants to dismantle and destroy culture because of the oppression that they find oppressive, while traditional theory wanted to understand culture and improve it.
Paul Kengor, political science professor at Grove City College, explains that “orthodox Marxism was too limiting,” restrictive, and narrow. The Frankfurt School did not see their version of Marxism as replacing orthodox Marxism, but it was the needed accelerator that traditional Marxism was missing. Cultural Marxists assert that communists will not get there by economics alone, but through a revolution in the culture.
What is Critical Theory?
Critical Theory views reality through the lens of power and oppression, dividing people into oppressed groups and oppressor groups along the lines of race, class, sex, gender, gender identity, sexuality orientation, physical ability, weight, age, and other identity markers. “A ‘critical’ theory may be distinguished from a ‘traditional’ theory according to a specific practical purpose: a theory is critical to the extent that it seeks human ’emancipation from slavery,’ acts as a ‘liberating…influence’ … (Horkheimer 1972, 246).” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Expanding and evolving dramatically, Critical Theory has resulted in an entire academic disciplines such as Critical Race Theory, Critical Pedagogy, Queer Theory, Cultural Studies, Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, etc. and is influential within the social justice movement.
Critical Theory is the foundation for all these different studies and expressions of the movement. Contemporary critical theory views reality through the lens of power, dividing people into oppressed groups and oppressor groups, whether it be race, class, gender, sexuality orientation, physical ability, or age (harkening back to Gramsci and the Frankfurt School).
Critical Theory is often associated with the more common or popular terms such as . . .
– social justice
– identity politics
– gender identity
Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a specific implementation of Gramsci’s ideas, the Frankfurt School, and Critical Theory. It just might be the biggest challenge Christianity has had to face since Naturalism and Relativism.
What is Critical Race Theory?
Critical Race Theory is described by Richard Delgado in his text as:
“The critical race theory (CRT) movement is a collection of activists and scholars engaged in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power. The movement considers many of the same issues that conventional civil rights and ethnic studies discourses take up but places them in a broader perspective that includes economics, history, setting, group and self-interest, and emotions and the unconscious. Unlike traditional civil rights discourse, which stresses incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.”
CRT, in associating with the civil rights movement in the 1960s, has laudable goals such as the ending of racism, but as Delgado and others explain, differs with the civil rights movement dramatically. Several of the differences include:
1. Whiteness and White Fragility
As CRT proponents DiAngelo and Sensoy state in their widely read book for educators, Is Everyone Really Equal? An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education:
Although many White people feel that being White has no meaning, this feeling is unique to White people and is a key part of what it means to be White: to see one’s race as having no meaning is a privilege only Whites are afforded. To claim to be “just human” and thus outside of race is one of the most powerful and pervasive manifestations of Whiteness.
A term invented by CRT is whiteness. Whiteness is a set of normative privileges granted to white-skinned individuals and groups which is “invisible” to those privileged by it. If that is the case, this leads to the inevitable position that all white-skinned individuals are inherently racist. So everyone should view white people as inherently racist. And if all white people are inherently racist, then one should always distrust white people. Critical Race Theory, like Critical Theory, divides people into the oppressors and the oppressed, but the oppressors are whites and the oppressed are people of color.
According to CRT, whites are inherently racists. No white individual is innocent. If you are white, you are a racist by default. Critical Race theorists affirm this attitude of original white racist guilt: “many critical race theorists and social scientists hold that racism is pervasive, systemic, and deeply ingrained. If we take this perspective, then no white member of society seems quite so innocent.” in Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic (p. 91, emphasis added).
Other examples of declaring all whites as inherently racists from the theorists of CRT:
“The relevant point for now is that all white people are racist or complicit by virtue of benefiting from privileges that are not something they can voluntarily renounce.” From Being White, Being Good: White Complicity, White Moral Responsibility, and Social Justice Pedagogy (Applebaum 16).
“…a positive white identity is an impossible goal. White identity is inherently racist; white people do not exist outside the system of white supremacy.” From White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (DiAngelo 149).
Whites are not racist because of their individual action or personal responsibility, but merely because they belong to an oppressor class: white. They cannot escape being part of this class, thus there is no hope in escaping from being a racist. In fact, to claim that you are not a racist, is a sign of being racist. As Ibram X. Kendi’s best-selling book How to be an Antiracist makes clear: “The claim of ‘not racist’ neutrality is a mask for racism . . . The language of colorblindness – like the language of ‘not racist’ – is a mask to hide racism” (9-10). With Critical Race Theory there is no possibility of redemption, there is only condemnation.
The attitude of being white means to be racist is prevalent in CRT. College students and even high school students are being taught that to be white is be an inherently racist. A college director claimed that “Every white person in this country is racist.” The relevant part is in the first minute:
Ashleigh Shackleford demonstrates the practice of CRT in claiming all white people are racist in her presentations:
As CRT has progressed, as recently as the Atlanta massage parlor shootings, it has lead to further division between whites and non-whites. Over at the black-oriented commentary site called The Root, Damon Young calls for a very violent response to “whiteness.” I will quote him at length:
Whiteness is a public health crisis. It shortens life expectancies, it pollutes air, it constricts equilibrium, it devastates forests, it melts ice caps, it sparks (and funds) wars, it flattens dialects, it infests consciousnesses, and it kills people—white people and people who are not white, my mom included. There will be people who die, in 2050, because of white supremacy-induced decisions from 1850.
A line can and should be drawn from the actions of the white supremacist who walked into three Atlanta-area massage parlors yesterday, and allegedly killed eight people—six of whom were of Asian descent—to the relentless anti-Asian rhetoric pollinating national discourse over the past year. The former president, and the party of the former president, can and should be blamed for this and the sudden increase of racist violence against Asian Americans. The line doesn’t stop there, though. It extends back 400 years and has tentacles clawing everywhere white supremacy exists here, in America, which is everywhere.
There’s a line connecting this act of terror to the 11 people killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018, and the nine people killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015, of course. But also to gentrification, to red-lining, to racial profiling, to gerrymandering, to voter oppression, to mass incarceration, to the war on drugs, to the subprime mortgage crisis, to the vast disparities in both COVID deaths and who receives COVID vaccinations, to how the men and women who stormed the capitol just went home and had dinner with their families afterward. While we were still processing and recovering from what we witnessed, they were already back on their couches, watching Criminal Minds.
White supremacy is a virus that, like other viruses, will not die until there are no bodies left for it to infect. Which means the only way to stop it is to locate it, isolate it, extract it, and kill it. I guess a vaccine could work, too. But we’ve had 400 years to develop one, so I won’t hold my breath.
Never mind that the motivation of the shooter has nothing to do with race. The real problem stems from whiteness. Whiteness is a public health problem and until there are no more bodies left for whiteness to infect, it will always be a problem. The solution? Killing it.
2. White privilege is a hidden racism that is unconsciously practiced
Peggy McIntosh, who coined the phrase “white privilege,” states that “my schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture. I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will.” CRT denies that you can understand your identity apart from your dominant group. This is a fundamental change in how we see ourselves. One is not to be judged by their personal actions, but by their identity with a particular group. If you are apart of an oppressive group, then you are an oppressor, regardless of your personal actions. The world is divided between oppressor and oppressed. What makes you part of one group or the other, according to CRT, is not what you have done in your life, but the color of your skin (what group you are in), no matter if you are doing oppressive actions or being personally oppressed. Christians should be concerned about oppression, no doubt, but CRT has a different view of oppression that has nothing to do with one’s actions.
3. Lived experience is the overwhelmingly primary way in which knowledge can be obtained.
For Critical Race Theory (along with Intersectionality and a host of other subdivision of Critical Theory) “lived experience” is superior to objective truth. This is not first hand experience, but one’s life experience that only the ones who have been oppressed understand and that the oppressors do not have access to. Academically deemed “standpoint epistemology,” lived experience trumps reason and logic. By belonging to some identity group (such as being black, a woman, or gay, etc.) this gives special insight or knowledge unavailable to those outside the group and those outside the group cannot and should not critique, empathize, or question. The theme of division again is manifest with “lived experience.” Dr. Neil Shenvi and Dr. Pat Sawyer explain:
“Critical theory claims that members of oppressed groups have special access to truth because of their ‘lived experience’ of oppression. Such insight is unavailable to members of oppressor groups, who are blinded by their privilege. Consequently, any appeals to ‘objective evidence’ or ‘reason’ made by dominant groups are actually surreptitious bids for continued institutional power. This view is rooted in standpoint theory (organic to Marxism and repurposed by feminist theory), which argues that knowledge is conditioned and determined by social location.”
“This stance is particularly dangerous because it undermines the function of Scripture as the final arbiter of truth, accessible to all people regardless of their demographics (Ps. 119:130, 160; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; 1 Cor. 2:12–14; Heb. 8:10–12). If a person from an oppressor group appeals to Scripture, his concerns can be dismissed as a veiled attempt to protect his privilege.”
For an example of CRT being practiced consider a 2018 Twitter exchange between the singer Cher and entertainer Rosie O’Donnell concerning the possibility of a Biden-Beto presidential ticket in 2020. Cher posted a potential Biden-Beto ticket in which O’Donnell responded: “No more old white men.” Why does O’Donnell reject Joe Biden and Beto as candidates? It’s not because O’Donnell disagreed with any policies or positions of Biden, but because she disagrees with his identity group: white and male. There is no concern for what Biden did, but what group you can divide him into. Biden as an individual doesn’t matters and his actions don’t matter. It’s the identity group to which he belongs that matters.
Racism has nothing to do with an individual’s actions, according to CRT, but what group you are divided into. If you are white, you are automatically disqualified. The only individual experience that matters is the oppressed. One’s “narrative”, lived experience, or story is enough to know the truth. In fact, truth is just narrative. There is no correspondence theory of truth. This lived experience is a special form of knowledge that the oppressed contain and the oppressors lack. The problem with basing knowledge on ‘”lived experience” according to philosopher Tim Hsiao is that “Lived experiences are often vividly used by progressive activists as evidence of widespread injustice, accompanied with a call for action and social change. Yet basing one’s entire case for widespread injustice and sweeping social change on lived experiences is, quite simply, bad statistical reasoning.”
In short, Critical Race Theory asserts that society is infected with systemic racism, whiteness is the problem, and that all unequal outcomes between different racial groups are proof of racism.
In order to remedy this, Critical Race Theory requires that whites denounce their whiteness, support of antiracist efforts, and equalize outcomes by penalizing privileged groups and favoring victimized groups.
As Kendi makes clear in the lauded How to be an Anti-racist: “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
Instead of ending discrimination, anti-racists are to discriminate against whites. Here is a video by Christopher F. Rufo that explores the intellectual history of critical race theory, how it’s devouring America’s public institutions, and and it ascendancy:
Critical Race Theory in Culture
Critical Race Theory has inspired various other sub-fields, such as LatCrit, AsianCrit, queer crit, Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, and Critical Whiteness Studies. It is behind much of what we see in culture today. From the Stanford protests in 1987 with the students shouting: “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go” to multiculturalism to the culture wars in general, Critical Theory, Cultural Marxism, and the Frankfurt School is behind much of the issues today.
CRT and Evergreen State University
An example of the the disruptive and potentially destructive nature of Critical Race Theory can be found at Evergreen State University. Student protests, which are becoming prolific on college campuses today, can be seen at Evergreen here:
The college equity counsel at Evergreen, which is a very liberally oriented school, practiced what was called a Day of Absence, in which whites and people of color meet separately for a day. In 2017, the Day of Absence was to be practiced differently: people of color where to stay on campus and white students, faculty, and staff where to remain off campus. They encouraged white people to leave. Professor Bret Weinstein questioned this practice and this sparked the above protests, sit-ins, and disruptions. The complete story at Evergreen State University can be seen with this documentary series.
Notice that the equity was driving a wedge between the races. It was not encouraging solidarity or unity, but division. And this is the crux of Critical Theory generally and of Critical Race Theory specifically: DIVISION. This is a theme that arises again and again with Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and Social Justice. Just like Gramsci and the Frankfurt School divided people, Critical Race Theory divides people.
Critical Race Theory does not promote unity or understanding, but division and animosity between races, in particular the whites against all other people of color.
CRT and the 1619 Project
Another examples of Critical Race Theory in culture is the recent The New York Times “1619 Project.” This project asks “us to consider that America’s real founding was not in 1776 but in 1619, when the first Africans were brought to these shores. Nikole Hannah-Jones teaches that the Revolutionary War was fought mainly not to escape British tyranny, but out of fear that British tyranny was about to threaten the institution of slavery.” Notice the theme again: 1619 is about division.
Rod Dreher, in explaining the purpose of the “1619 Project,” states that this is clearly a totalitarian threat to change the way people think:
“The New York Times, the world’s most influential newspaper, launched “The 1619 Project,” a massive attempt to “reframe” (the Times’s word) American history by displacing the 1776 Declaration of Independence as the traditional founding of the United States, replacing it with the year the first African slaves arrived in North America. Let’s be crystal-clear here: The most powerful media source in the world decided that Americans should stop believing that the Declaration of Independence represents the nation’s founding, and instead accept that the real birth of American happened in 1619, when the first African slave arrived in North America.”
“No serious person denies the importance of slavery in US history. But that’s not the point of The 1619 Project. Its goal – through newspaper stories and essays, and an elaborate educational project involving schools — is to clear away the foundations of America’s national identity by rewriting its history to emphasize the experiences of the African-American minority.”
James McPherson, Princeton historian and Pulitzer Prize winner, demolished the claims of the “1619 Project,” ironically enough, on a socialist website interview. Brown University historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the American Revolution Gordon Wood said that:
“I read the first essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones, which alleges that the Revolution occurred primarily because of the Americans’ desire to save their slaves. She claims the British were on the warpath against the slave trade and slavery and that rebellion was the only hope for American slavery. This made the American Revolution out to be like the Civil War, where the South seceded to save and protect slavery, and that the Americans 70 years earlier revolted to protect their institution of slavery. I just couldn’t believe this.”
“I was surprised, as many other people were, by the scope of this thing, especially since it’s going to become the basis for high school education and has the authority of the New York Times behind it, and yet it is so wrong in so many ways.”
The reaction to McPherson and Brown’s criticism of the project was revealing of the CRT behind the it. Nikole Hannah-Jones, the manager of the “1619 Project” dismissed them with a tweet. Instead of engaging with the content of their critique, she attacked them because they were white:
Interestingly, the 1619 Project is being challenged by 1776 United which is “an assembly of independent voices who uphold our country’s authentic founding virtues and values and challenge those who assert America is forever defined by its past failures, such as slavery. We seek to offer alternative perspectives that celebrate the progress America has made on delivering its promise of equality and opportunity, and highlight the resilience of its people. Our focus is on solving problems. We do this in the spirit of 1776, the date of America’s true founding.”
CRT and the Racism of Mathematics
Critical Race Theory is deeming mathematics as racist and oppressive. In Seattle the public schools are proposing that mathematics (or in particular “Western Math”) is oppressive and divisive:
” ‘Western Math’ is used as a tool of power and oppression, and that it disenfranchises people and communities of color. They [students] will be taught that ‘Western Math’ limits economic opportunities for people of color. They will be taught that mathematics knowledge has been withheld from people of color.”
The language of division with “disenfranchise” is seen behind this movement. Seattle wants to introduce a new “Math Ethnic Studies” component to the curriculum.One could say they are moving from “new math” to “woke math.”
While CRT is overwhelmingly present in American culture, it is also making significant inroads in Evangelical Christianity and its associated institutions.
CRT’s Inroads in Christianity
Critical Race Theory has entered Evangelical Christian churches, institutions, and ministries like a wolf clothed in sheep skin, unbeknownst to its ministers, much less its parishioners. Usually guised with the well meaning intent of racial reconciliation, which most, if not all, evangelical Christians desire, Critical Race Theory is dividing church members just as CRT practitioners describe. There are several examples of this infiltration.
“CRT and The SBC”
At the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham, the SBC (probably ignorantly and unknowingly) passed Resolution 9 which affirmed Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality as useful “analytical tools.”
“The Southern Baptist Convention and CRT: Resolution 9”
Matthew Garnett in a piece for The Federalist titled “In Last-Minute Move, Southern Baptist Convention Supports Anti-Christian Racial Identity Politics” explains how the SBC messengers were tricked in adopting CRT:
“The convention adopted; Resolution Nine—On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality’ during its annual meeting [in the summer of 2019]. The resolution instructs Southern Baptists that while these ‘tools of analysis’ can be employed, it must be done in subordination to the Bible. . . . The committee spent the first 45 minutes on resolutions one through eight. Then the meeting’s chair and SBC president, Pastor J.D. Greear, called for a motion to pass resolutions nine through 13 as a package. . . . Only resolutions 11 and 13 were left as a package; Nine was the first to be ferreted out for debate as a stand-alone resolution. By the time this was done, the time allotted for the Committee on Resolutions had expired. Greear then extended the debate time. . . . During debate, Pastor Tom Ascol offered a friendly amendment that stated that critical race theory and intersectionality are incompatible and indeed antithetical to Christianity. The amendment was rejected as ‘unfriendly’ by [Curtis] Woods [chaired of the Resolutions Committee and was a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he is now the associate executive director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention] and defeated soundly when put to a vote on the floor.”
“CRT and Seminaries and Christian Colleges”
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Al Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of theology training for the Southern Baptist Convention, has disavowed the teaching of Critical Race Theory at his seminary:
“No one is going to be teaching at Southern Seminary from ‘the other side,’ of post-modern, critical theory.”
Oddly, he employs professors who not only promotes Critical Race Theory but has granted doctoral degrees for a dissertation that “employ principles of critical race theory to guide the conversation” that the faculty of SBTS approved and passed. His seminary not only allows professors to teach critical theory, but the doctoral program actively affirmed Critical Race Theory.
Mohler’s provost, professor of practical theology, and New Testament professor at SBTS all endorse CRT:
Mohler declared that CRT and Intersectionality (both of which were affirmed by the above professors at SBTS) as antithetical to the the gospel:
“The main consequence of critical race theory and intersectionality is identity politics, and identity politics can only rightly be described, as antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have to see identity politics as disastrous for the culture and nothing less than devastating for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Critical Race Theory is not just manifesting itself at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but is dominating Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In Wake Forest, Southeastern Seminary is known as the “woke” seminary of the SBC. The director of their diversity program utilized CRT in his dissertation along with intersectionality along with endorsing James Cone, the father of Black Liberation Theology which has its roots in Marxism.
The Kingdom Diversity online journal, titled Kingdom Diversity at Southeastern, published a series of articles authored by English professor Matthew Mullins concluding “that the core beliefs of CRT can help Christians.” SEBTS also held read-ins for Malcolm-X, promotes black theology (i.e., James Cone and J. Deontis Roberts), and offers a degree in “Social and Justice Ethics.”
Black Liberation Theology, having its roots in Marxism, is another expression of the Cultural Marxism endorsed and advanced by Gramsci and the Frankfurt School.
Biola University’s trustees and SCORR conference this past February in 2021 endorsed and encouraged Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. Rev. Dr. Lena Crouso, a VP at Southern Nazarene University speaking at the conference disagrees with Jesus’ claim in John 8 that “if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed” instead adding that no one is free until everyone is free:
The trustee of Biola, Adam Edgerly, at the SCORR conference endorsed and encouraged a deep reading and use of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality (see the second video below):
Edgerly also stated the CRT can be used in our sanctification, instead of what Jesus said in John 17:17 that “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
This is rather awkward given the William Lane Craig declared that CRT is dangerous and Sean McDowell (both professors at Biola) called CRT racist:
Other Seminary’s and Critical Theory
Union Theological Seminary
Union Theological Seminary, a non-denominational seminary associated with Columbia University in New York, declares that social justice is the gospel. In July of 2019 the seminaries official Twitter account tweeted:
Union Theological Seminary had previously tweeted in 2018 that Critical Theory helps discern what messages are God’s:
Union employs a professor of Critical Theory who is the founding member of the Berlin “Institute for Critical Theory” and has taught classes such as “Marxism, Critical Theories, Postmodernism.” Union also employed James Cone, the father of black liberation theology which has its roots in Marxist ideology.
Phillips Theological Seminary
PTS offers a master degree in Social Justice in which the programs goals for the degree include:
– Attend to the continuing importance of events, texts and practices of church history and contemporary cross culture studies through the lenses of oppression, liberation, and reconciliation.
– Articulate perspectives on issues and topics in the area of public theology and ethics, informed by methods such as feminist/womanist, liberationist, process, and post-colonial models attentive to the theme of justice.
Trinity Evangelical Theological School
Iljin Cho, a divinity student at TEDS, shares about his experience at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and how it has shifted towards social justice, wokeness, and Critical Race Theory.
“Ministries and Churches“
As CRT is filtering through the seminaries, it is manifesting itself in the local church and ministries throughout America and abroad.
For example, in 2019 at the Sparrow Women’s Conference in Dallas, the audience was informed that “whiteness is wicked.” This caused some controversy. Ekemini Uwan, who is self-described as a public theologian and received her MDiv at Westminster Theological Seminary, declared that whiteness is rooted in violence, theft, plunder, and privilege. (Starting at minute 17:27):
“Anti-Racism is Anti-thetical to the Gospel “
Anti-racism, one of the buzzwords of CRT and social justice, is anti-thetical to the Gospel. I am not claiming this (though I do believe it is true that anti-racism is contrary to the Gospel), this is what the anti-racist expert Ibram X. Kendi states:
CRT is not a movement only in secular culture, but is found within the walls of the church, the halls of theological institutions, and practices of ministers and theologians alike in Christianity.
Because of CRTs loose association with the civil rights movement of the 1960s, many people blindly accept it because they do not want to seem bias or racist if they reject it. CRT and civil rights are distinct and separate movements with dramatically different goals. Many who practice CRT and employ the tools of this worldview, do not intend to divide people, but hope to bring reconciliation. The problem is that good intentions does not justify the use of CRT. There are severe problems with CRT specifically and Critical Theory in general, which we turn to now.
“Devotional Prayer Book Contributor Asks God for Help to “Hate White People “
A professor of practical theology at Mercer University contributed to the book titled A Rhythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal (which is described as “compendium of original prayers and essays written by progressive faith leaders”) in which she prayes: “Dear God, Please help me to hate White people. Or at least to want to hate them.” Chanequa Walker-Barnes, who wrote the prayer, describes herself as a “clinical psychologist, public theologian, and ecumenical minister whose work focuses upon healing the legacies of racial and gender oppression. She goes on to pray: “Lord, if it be your will, harden my heart. Stop me from striving to see the best in people. Stop me from being hopeful that White people can do and be better, Let me imagine them instead as white-hooded robes standing in front of burning crosses.“
Here are some screenshots of the prayer:
The bizarreness of this prayer is in its contrast to what Christ (which you think this a professor of practical theology would know) commanded in Matthew 5:44: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” and the greatest commandments to love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself (Luke 10:27).
Critique of CRT
There have been several criticisms concerning Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality which are provided below.
1. Colson Center What Would You Say? – “Is Critical Theory Biblical?”
The Colson Center produced a video asking the question, “Is Critical Theory Biblical?” The introduce the clip: “Is Critical Theory Biblical? You’re in a conversation and someone says, “Since God cares about the oppressed, Christians should embrace critical theory, because its trying to eliminate oppression too.” What would you say? Critical theory is one way our culture attempts to explain and confront power structures. Some Christians have embraced it as well. But what is it?”
John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, released a Breakpoint feature on CT on April 30, 2020 titled “Is Critical Theory Compatible with Christianity?”
In their “What Would You Say?” series that produced the above video followed up with another video titled “Is Critical Theory Practical?”:
2. Tom J. Nettles on Resolution 9 of the SBC: CRT/I
Tom Nettles was a professor of historical theology and church history for over three decades at three different SBC seminaries and Trinity Evangelical Theological Seminary. He does a careful line-by-line analysis of the SBC 2019 Resolution #9 on Critical Race Theory/Intersectionality.
Nettles concludes this careful analysis by stating:
“CRT, in fact, exacerbates division, for the theory depends on absolutizing divisive categories; one is a dominant [and therefore oppressive] tribe; others are minority [and therefore oppressed] tribes. The differences are nurtured so as to bring shame (not a sense of fellowship and unity) to the dominant tribe and virtually endless observations of disadvantage for the minority tribe (absent from positions of power and prestige, oppressed by ‘whiteness,’ post traumatic slavery syndrome, micro-aggressions). If we really are to focus on ‘unity in Christ’ in the present, then the purveyors of CRT as a useful critical tool must do some serious re-evaluation.”
3. Ratio Christi on Critical Theory
Probably the most extensive criticism of CRT has been from Dr. Neil Shenvi who has written copiously about it on his website. Dr. Shenvi and Dr. Sawyer wrote a free downloadable short booklet (31 pages) for Ratio Christi about Critical Theory and the Social Justice Movement.
Engaging Critical Theory and the Social Justice Movement by Neil Shenvi and Pat Sawyer
The conclude the booklet by stating, “Contemporary critical theory is highly influential on college campuses and among progressives, and is also moving into the church. Identifying unbiblical ideologies like contemporary critical theory helps us not only to evangelize non-Christians, but to equip Christians to recognize and repudiate false ideas, so that we can remain rooted and grounded in Scripture.”
4. Michael O’Fallon, Dr. Boghossian, and Dr. Lindsay on CRT
Here is a video discussion by Michael O’Fallon interviewing Dr. Peter Boghossian and Dr. James Lindsay. Both Boghossian and Lindsay are atheists (O’Fallon is Southern Baptist) and where part of the Grievance Studies Affair which is essentially the Sokal Affair part two. Their actions in the Grievance Studies Affair highlighted the poor scholarship in several academic fields by submitting bogus academic papers to academic journals steeped in CT such as cultural, queer, race, gender, fat, and sexuality studies.
In this video they deem CRT as a Trojan horse. It is a long video (77 min) but worth the watch:
The most insightful comment came at around 1:08. Boghossian and Lindsay, both atheists, said if they were to design a plan to end Christianity and bring all of Christendom down: make it “woke” and the church would eat itself from the inside out. Then Boghossian, who is no friend to Christianity, states emphatically “I am telling you right now, we are giving you the trajectory of your own demise. This is what is going to happen.” Sobering words indeed.
5. Neil Shenvi on CRT
Here is an article by Neil Shenvi (PhD from UC-Berkeley in theoretical chemistry) and Pat Sawyer (PhD in education and cultural studies from UNC-Greensboro, an MA in communication studies from UNC-Greensboro, and a BA in psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill. He currently teaches at UNC-Greensboro) on “Critical Theory” at The Gospel Coalition titled “The Incompatibility of Critical Theory and Christianity.”
Some interesting quotes and summary from the article:
Summary of Article
1. Not everything that critical theory affirms is false.
2. The notion of hegemonic power is also legitimate.
3. Critical theory functions as a worldview.
4. Because critical theory understands all relationships in terms of power dynamics, it can’t be confined to a single issue such as class, or race, or gender.
5. Critical theory claims that members of oppressed groups have special access to truth because of their “lived experience” of oppression.
[Opening Paragraph of article]: “Over the last few years, new terms like ‘cisgender,’ ‘ intersectionality,’ ‘ heteronormativity,’ ‘centering,” and ‘white fragility’ have suddenly entered our cultural lexicon—seemingly out of nowhere. In reality, these words and concepts have been working their way through academia for decades, perpetuated by disciplines such as Post-Colonial Studies, Queer Theory, Critical Pedagogy, Whiteness Studies, and Critical Race Theory, among others. These fields can be placed within the larger discipline of ‘critical theory,’ an ideology more popularly known as ‘cultural Marxism.’”
“The points of tension are numerous. Invariably, we will be forced to choose between critical theory and Christianity in terms of our values, ethics, and priorities.” [emphasis added]
“This stance [point 5 above] is particularly dangerous because it undermines the function of Scripture as the final arbiter of truth, accessible to all people regardless of their demographics (Ps. 119:130, 160; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; 1 Cor. 2:12–14; Heb. 8:10–12). If a person from an oppressor group appeals to Scripture, his concerns can be dismissed as a veiled attempt to protect his privilege.”
“Christians should be hesitant to throw around words like “intersectionality” or “white privilege” without taking the time to understand the ideology in which these concepts are embedded. On the other hand, the bare fact that someone talks about “oppression” or “social justice” isn’t remotely sufficient to conclude that they’ve embraced critical theory.”
For an extensive online article by Neil Shenvi here is a four part article on Christianity and Critical Theory showing both the strengths and weaknesses of Critical Theory
Video by Neil Shenvi – “Critical Theory, Social Justice, and Christianity: Are They Compatible?” at Defend Conference 2019 at New Orleans Baptist Theological Conference:
6. Voddie Baucham on CRT
Baucham’s book on social justice, wokeness, and CRT came out in April of 2021 titled Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe with Salem Press. It’s description: In this powerful book, Voddie Baucham, a preacher, professor, and cultural apologist, explains the sinister worldview behind the social justice movement and Critical Race Theory—revealing how it already has infiltrated some seminaries, leading to internal denominational conflict, canceled careers, and lost livelihoods. Like a fault line, it threatens American culture in general—and the evangelical church in particular.
7. “By What Standard?” on CRT
A must watch documentary is “By What Standard? God’s World . . . God’s Rules” by Founders Ministries. Here is the link to the Vimeo documentary. Below is the trailer:
The first thirty minutes are not related to CRT but on the complementarian issue. The relevant minutes start at 31:41.
8. Owen Strachan on CRT
Owen Strachan, an associate Professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written a series of articles at Patheos asking the question: should Christians embrace critical race theory (CRT)? Here is a screenshot of his facebook post about his blog. Notice in answering the question, Should Christians embrace critical race theory? he answers: No.
He concludes by stating that “It is not a system that we can or should marry to biblical Christianity. We should instead reject it and pray for those who have fallen captive to it in some form.” Here are the blog posts: Part 1 (first principles), Part 2 (overview), Part 3 (critique), Part 4 (critique).
He has done a series of sermons on “Christianity and Wokeness.” The first:
Dr. Strachan will be coming out with a book titled Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement is Hijacking the Gospel – and the Way to Stop It in July of 2021 concerning these issues.
9. William Lane Craig on CT
“The Dangers of Critical Theory” by William Lane Craig Reasonable Faith Podcast
A taste of what Dr. Craig says about Critical Theory:
“Sometimes Critical Theory is called neo-Marxist because of this, but it would not be classical Marxism because it’s not an economic division between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, but rather it will be between, say, heterosexuals and homosexuals, or males and females, or white persons and non-white persons. But the relationships are viewed in terms of these power dynamics of oppressors and the oppressed.”
“You see a difference with Critical Theory which assigns unequal value in dignity to people based on their class, whereas the Christian view is that all persons are equal in value and dignity in virtual of being in the image of God.”
10. Gerald McDermott on CRT
Gerald McDermott holds the Anglican Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School, and is Distinguished Senior Fellow, Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion; and Fellow, Institute for Theological Inquiry, Jerusalem, Israel. An Anglican priest, he has written, co-authored, or edited nineteen books. Dr. McDermott has recently posted at Patheos at the “Northampton Seminar” on Critical Race Theory:
McDermott concludes by stating:
“It [CRT] is a violation of Jesus’ Golden Rule, ‘Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets’ (Matt 7.12). No one wants to be judged by the color of their skin. Jesus forbids us to do that to others. Because CRT teaches a new racism in the name of a fight against racism, it instructs its devotees to do what the New Testament condemns—’do[ing] evil that good may come’ (Rom 2.8). In effect, CRT endorses the principle that the end justifies the means. Let me be clear. Slavery and Jim Crow were evil and systemic. Racism is sin. But Christians must not allow their hatred for the sin of racism to so cloud their vision that they put their faith in a philosophy that has become a new religion for its devotees—a religion that in significant ways conflicts with historic Christian faith. The danger is the same that has tempted Jews and Christians for millennia–idolatry that seduces men and women away from the living God.”
11. Carol M. Swain on Critical Race Theory and Its Impact on America
Dr. Swain is a former professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University and author and editor of several books. Her scholarly work has been cited by two associate justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Here is a taste of Swain’s take on CRT:
“Critical race theory is an analytical framework to analyze institutions and culture. Its purpose is to divide the world into white oppressors and non-white victims. Instead of traditional forms of knowledge, it uses personal narratives of marginalized minority “victim” groups (blacks, Hispanics, Asians) as irrefutable “evidence” of the dishonesty of their mostly white heterosexual oppressors. The ultimate goal of this theory’s proponents is to remake society so that the victim class eventually displaces the oppressors and becomes the new ruling class.”
12. Dr. Craig Mitchell on CRT: “Marxist Concepts Have a Foothold at SEBTS and SBTS”
Dr. Craig Mitchell, president of the Ethics and Political Economy Center, an evangelical think tank based in Dallas, Texas, expressed worries that these Marxist ideologies have gained footholds among the faculty of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
Speaking to Louisiana College students as part of a “Christ, Church, and Culture” series about current cultural issues from a biblical perspective, Dr. Craig Mitchell, “described Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality as emerging from Marxist thought, which as its primary tenet declares that there is no God. He added that these two concepts also developed within the framework of different branches of thought that inform the Social Justice movement. But, ultimately, both of these concepts present a perspective that there is conflict between ‘an oppressor’ and ‘an oppressed’ and that the oppressor cannot know right or morality.” The rest of the article can be read here.
Craig Mitchell, former professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (2002-2014) and at Criswell College (2014-2017), also served as a research fellow for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention from 2005-2014, is now president of the Ethics and Political Economy Center.
Probably Dr. Mitchell’s most enlightening comment was concerning the “analytical tools” of critical race theory and intersectionality that the SBC passed under Resolution #9 this past year in 2019 at the convention: “It [CRT] is not a useful tool to get people saved – I can tell you that.”
13. Free Thinking Ministries
Free Thinking Ministries led by Tim Stratton has published a series of articles critiquing Critical Race Theory:
“Biblical Christianity VS Critical (Race) Theory” by Phillip Mast (of Theist Thug Life) | Free Thinking Ministries June 19, 2020
“Critical Theory vs Critical Thinking” by Tim Stratton (The FreeThinking Theist) | Free Thinking Ministries June 29, 2020
“The Appeal & the Problems of Critical Theory” By John White | Free Thinking Ministries June 30, 2020
“White Fragility: A Study in Irrelevance” By Phil Bair | Free Thinking MinistriesJuly 1, 2020
14. Monique Duson, a former promoter of CRT
A longer video of Monique on CRT can be found with the Alisa Childers Podcast. The opening salvo my Monique in the video affirms my point of division that CRT brings: “The Spiritual Goal of Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory is to divide.” Check out the video here:
15. Dr. Randy Trahan: Former Critical Theorist Scholar
Professor Randy Trahan, a former adherent to Critical Theory, tells his journey as academic practitioner of CRT in this series of videos. The first video (in total series of six videos) Dr. Trahan gives his backstory.
Episode 2 Dr Trahan explains what Critical Race Theory is:
Episode 3 covers 9 problems with CRT:
16. Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation on What Would You Say?
Bomberger, the founder of the Radiance Foundation, deals with the situation if you’re in a conversation – or maybe a diversity training session at work – and the topic turns to systemic racism and someone asks, “Are we all racist?”
17. Dr. James Lindsey on PragerU Video:
Criticism of Critical Race Theory
First, racism is wrong wherever it is found. It should be called out, shamed, and abolished. The problem is that CRT finds racism in guilt by association: one’s skin color. If you are not a person of color, you are a racist. Second, oppression is wrong, it is a sin. All Christians are called to liberate the oppressed (Is. 1:17, Zech. 7:8-10, etc.). But the Bible doesn’t associate oppression by some hegemony of cultural norms, but oppression is associated with physical violence, theft, cruelty, etc. Power can corrupt, but it isn’t power or privilege that prevents one from seeing reality, it is sin. And sin is present in both those who have power and those who don’t, sin is manifest in the oppressors and the oppressed.
With CRT emphasis upon division, disunity, and separation, Christianity and Critical Race Theory (and all its associates) are not compatible. Christianity affirms unity. Paul tells us to “be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Christians are to be one in spirit, not divided by race or gender: “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Our unity in Christ glorifies God as Paul instructs the Romans: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:5–7).
Again Paul exhorts that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) We are not to divide or separate by gender, race, or even economic station as Christians. The church is to be one in Christ.
In short, the emphasis of unity in Christianity deems the use of Critical Theory (and its associates) as a worldview, tool, or methodology as problematic. Critical Race Theory breeds disunity and division, not unity of spirit, voice, and faith.
A list of problems of Critical Race Theory (CRT) highlights its shortcomings:
– CRT violates the Golden Rule.
– CRT make truth relative to a person’s lived experience.
– CRT bases one’s identity in their oppression, while a Christian bases their identity in Christ.
– People are morally tainted by their membership in oppressor groups, but in Christianity each person is guilty only for sins they have personally committed.
– CRT redefines our identity in an non-biblical fashion
– CRT imputes motives to another person on the basis of that person’s skin color.
– CRT redefines the gospel, positing cultural change as our end, not the salvation of sinners through Christ.
– CRT is uncritically associated with (or susceptible to) various movements that are not consonant with Christianity.
– CRT is not a useful tool to get people saved and cannot provide salvation.
– CRT makes racism permanent and unredeemable.
– CRT assigns unequal value in dignity to people based on their class, whereas the Christian view is that all persons are equal in value and dignity in virtual of being in the image of God.
– CRT is not necessary and is contrary to providing justice for people.
– CRT shuts down debate and discussion.
– CRT inhibits the recognition of true racism and prevents reconciliation.
As theologian Owen Strachan concludes in his posts, “CRT thus represents a different system of thought than Christianity, one we should carefully study but ultimately reject.”
Hopefully you notice the overwhelming motif of CT and CRT in this article: division. Any tool or worldview that divides such as Critical Race Theory is incompatible with the church. Any movement that is based on division and not unity is antithetical to the gospel. As the apostle Paul clearly tells the church: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10, ESV)
The Way Forward
Monique Duson came out of Critical Theory herself and is now working toward unity (instead of division) from a biblical perspective with The Center for Biblical Unity.
The CFBU about pages describes their approach:
“In a culture polarized by race, black and white, where conversations of race often lead to division, strife, and blame, The Center For Biblical Unity exists to lead respectful and Bible-centered conversations on race and unity.”
“Issues of race impact us all. We believe that the solution to these issues must start with scripture. We begin with defining terms according to scripture, not culture. Terms like ‘woke,’ ‘white fragility,’ or ‘whiteness’ have no place within the Body of Christ and only cause hurt and disunity among believers.”
“But, what are the words scripture uses to define humanity, race, racism and justice? These, along with other terms and questions, are what we answer as we teach practical tools for clergy and lay people to walk out the difficult conversation of race and unity.”
Monique describes herself as spending two “decades advocating for Critical Race Theory (CRT), but through a series of events began to see the contradictions of CRT with the historic Christian worldview. She is now convinced that Critical Race Theory is not the best way to achieve racial unity and speaks out against Critical Race Theory within the church and promotes a third way to walk out true racial healing and biblical unity.”
“In Resolution 9 they said that Critical Race Theory is a ‘useful analytical tool. It is not a useful tool to get people saved – I can tell you that.” – Dr. Craig Mitchell, president of the Ethics and Political Economy Center
“Critical race theory assumes that racism is permanent and affects every aspect of our society, including political, economic, social and religious institutions. The theory further advances the belief that being born with white skin, in itself, gives unearned privileges. Therefore, any expectation of societal attainment of colorblindness, in which race or ethnicity does not hinder opportunities, is impossible to be achieved. Neutrality in law and decision-making is a pipe dream that can never be attained. Therefore, this mistaken reasoning goes, the oppressive system must be dismantled and destroyed.” – Dr. Carol M Swain, former professor political science and law at Princeton and Vanderbilt
“Because CRT teaches a new racism in the name of a fight against racism, it instructs its devotees to do what the New Testament condemns—“do[ing] evil that good may come” (Rom 2.8). In effect, CRT endorses the principle that the end justifies the means.” – Gerald McDermott, holds the Anglican Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School, and is Distinguished Senior Fellow, Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion; and Fellow, Institute for Theological Inquiry, Jerusalem, Israel
“Already you see a difference with Critical Theory which assigns unequal value in dignity to people based on their class, whereas the Christian view is that all persons are equal in value and dignity in virtual of being in the image of God.” – William Lane Craig, PhD, DTheo, Professor at Biola University and Houston Baptist University
“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.” Owen Strachan, Professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Baptist Seminary and Director of the Center for Public Theology
“If this were at the height of the New Atheist movement; if I were to design a plan to bring all of Christendom down, how would [I] do it? Make them woke. It will eat itself from the inside. If I were the old-school angry atheist—’let’s just throw rocks at the cathedral until it comes down’—I would start making woke pastors and sending them in. They are going to tear everything apart because they are going to make everything about identity, and that’s all they talk about.” James Lindsay, PhD and Peter Boghossian, PhD, atheist commentators on the churches embrace of CRT, masterminds behind Grievance Studies Affair
Resources on CRT: Books/Articles/Videos
“5 Reasons Why Woke Is Broke” by Costi Hinn | For The Gospel. July 1, 2021
“Critical Race Theory: Civil Rights Upside Down” by Greg Koukl | Stand to Reason. July 1, 2021
Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement is Hijacking the Gospel – and the Way to Stop It by Owen Strachan (Salem Books, July 2021)
Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe by Voddie Baucham (Salem Books, April 2021)
“Critical Race Theory: A Two-page Overview” by James Lindsay | New Discourses. April 29, 2021.
“The Dangerous World of Kendi’s Antiracism” by George Yancey | Shattering Paradigms. April 19, 2021
“Critical Race Theory: What Is It and How to Fight It” by Christopher Rufo | Imprimis. March 2021 Vol 50 No 3.
Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity – And Why This Harms Everybody by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsey (Pitchstone, 2020)
“The Incompatibility of Critical Theory and Christianity” by Neil Shenvi and Pat Sawyer | The Gospel Coalition. May 15, 2019.
The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West by Michael Walsh (Encounter Books, 2015)
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism by Paul Kengor (Regnery, 2017) – specifically chapter 12 “Cultural Marxism and the New Left”
“Cultural Marxism and Its Conspirators” by Paul Kengor | The American Spectator. April 3, 2019. Kengor, professor of politics at Grove City College, answers the charge the “cultural marxism” is a far-right anti-semitic conspiracy theory.
Critical Race Theory: An Introduction 3rd edition by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic (New York University Press, 2017)
“The Most Dangerous Socialist in History” by Samuel Gregg | The Stream. July 25, 2016 – Gregg is referring to Antonio Gramsci in this article.
“Social Justice Encyclopedia,” New Discourses – Provided a plain-language encyclopedia of social justice terminology
“Eight Big Reasons Critical Race Theory is Terrible for Dealing with Racism” by James Lindsay | New Discourses. June 12, 2020
“Do the ‘Work’: Why Christianity Offers a Better Hope for Racial Reconciliation Than Critical Race Theory” by Monique Duson | The Center for Biblical Unity. Jan 6, 2020.
“Race, Injustice, and The Gospel of Critical Theory, With Monique Duson” podcast | The Alisa Childers Podcast. June 9, 2020.
“Deconstructing Critical Theory” podcast | The Theology Pugcast. Nov 4, 2019.
“Racism, White Privilege and Christianity: What Do We Do With Critical Theory?” by John Stonestreet and G. S. Morris | The Stream. June 27, 2020