Critical Race Theory and Christian Obligation

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Two years ago, few had ever heard of Critical Race Theory and now it is on the verge of becoming an ideological pandemic. Lines are drawn, passions are high, sides are forming, and the divide is widening.

For Christians, it gets complicated. Where should we fall on the issue?

Scholars generally agree that Critical Race Theory (CRT) seeks standards to determine how one’s race affects their social standing. It arose from the legal field in the late 1980s to challenge the idea that racial inequality had been solved; that racial inequality was no longer an issue in American society following Civil Rights and Affirmative Action laws. Other categories (known as Intersectionality) then arose – such as ability, gender, age, class, and religion – to assist in determining inequality and to identify equitable solutions through social and legal actions to remedy issues like social justice and human dignity.

Critical Race Theory is troubling for Christians because it is rooted in Marxist and postmodern ideology and is adrift in humanism and moral relativism. Therein lies the problems with CRT. When there are no absolute moral standards by which to define justice or human dignity, then how does a society determine when it has arrived at justice? And with varying opinions even among CRT advocates, who determines the standards that guide decisions? However, to non-Christians, CRT makes perfect sense as a system by which to level justice because they believe CRT offers the means to identify and rectify inequalities.  

The Bible counters that argument because it states moral absoluteness (and authority) is rooted in God’s unchanging character and nature, and that defines justice and human dignity, while rectifying inequality through the gospel. 

And to that statement a hearty “amen” rises from among conservative – mostly white – evangelicals who denounce CRT. Rightfully so. But here’s a question: Are we conservative, white evangelicals pursuing the advancement of God’s justice for all people in our own hearts and in our culture as vigorously as we denounce CRT? 

It’s a fair question. Too often Christians are known in our culture by what we oppose, but there is nothing attractional for what we believe about Jesus when all people ever hear from us is our clamoring about what is wrong in society. 

What if we directed the energy we spend fighting the CRT battle toward a gospel-centered, love-saturated, love-thy-neighbor pursuit of the justice, equity and dignity God demands? This is our Christian obligation. How differently would our culture look if millions of black, white, and other ethnic Christians mobilized together in unity bolstered by our mutual faith in Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit? 

God redeemed a people whose identity is found solely in Jesus. Surely racial unification among a color palette of Christians would boldly testify to a spiritually lost world that true justice and the value of all people is found through the divine authority of Jesus Christ, not in flawed, relativistic legal and social theories, like CRT, originated by sinful men. 

Are the issues CRT attempts to address important? Absolutely. Are the appropriate responses found in relativistic theories like CRT? Absolutely not. For the Christian, CRT is at best a human construct to compensate for a believer’s disobedience to love people as God does and to treat them with the dignity the cross demands. And as followers of Jesus Christ, we cannot expect to stem the tide of injustice in our culture and offer a superior alternative to CRT if we are unwilling to address injustice, inequity and ultimately gospel unity among ourselves. 

There is no ambiguity in what God requires of Christians: “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with [our] God” (Micah 6:8). For this advance of biblical justice to become a reality, it will require more rigorous gospel-centered conversations on race than are currently taking place between black and white brothers in Christ. We must, in humility, initiate these long overdue conversations with each other. These discussions must be eye-to-eye and across a table from one another over a cup of coffee or a plate of barbecue. And no, this shouldn’t be left to another conference on racial reconciliation or some forum panel of leading experts parsing the nuances of division. We know why we are divided. It’s time we each made a personal investment rather than hiding in the crowd. It’s time we see and engage individuals as individuals rather than piously bloviating as mass groups of faceless people about mass groups of faceless people.

We do not need more well-crafted resolutions denouncing the evils of Critical Race Theory. We need a determined obedience from racially blended followers of Christ to unconditionally love one another and to unconditionally share the singular message of the gospel that offers to a broken world a permanent solution to injustice, inequality and human dignity. 

The moment is ripe. The world is watching. 

How will we respond?

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