by Steve Golden —
Earlier this year, Founders Ministries released a documentary titled By What Standard? that started out as a follow-up to an older documentary about the rise of feminism within the Southern Baptist Convention. But during the filming at the SBC’s annual meeting, the filmmakers witnessed the adoption of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality (CRT/I) by the SBC as “analytical tools [that] can aid in evaluating a variety of human experiences.” Initially submitted as a resolution against CRT/I, the resolution that came out of the committee claims that CRT/I is a neutral tool and that Christians can utilize it redemptively. Indeed, viewers see interviews with professors at Southern Seminary (the SBC’s flagship seminary) and other major SBC seminaries, many of them espousing views derived from CRT/I, Black Liberation Theology, and secular definitions of “social justice.”
Surprised? It’s likely many Christians have no idea one of the major evangelical denominations in the US has adopted the same critical theory that gave rise to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization and that is driving the violent revolution occurring across the country. CRT/I is not a neutral tool; it’s a worldview. Moreover, Black Lives Matter preaches an ideology that is completely at odds with Christianity. BLM is pro-abortion and against biblical sexuality, demands that white people feel continual guilt and pay reparations for the failings of past generations, teaches that government and law enforcement need to be abolished and replaced, and—most importantly—finds that “salvation” is deliverance from Whiteness and white privilege. (As I noted in Part 2 of this series, it’s impossible in CRT/I to atone for one’s transgressions—any misstep leads to loss of career and reputation.)
Does this mean that Christians and Christian organizations who express support for BLM are CRT/I activists? Absolutely not. But it does call into question their discernment. The Church should be present in the discussion, but believers need to reject the premise that CRT/I puts forward (systemic racism and white guilt) and inject solid doctrine.
Devaluing Some to Lift Up Others
As believers interact with issues of race, they must be cautious about the Oppressor/Oppressed framework created by CRT/I. It’s easy to take cherry-picked incidents that might portray overt racism or police brutality against a black person and lob hate at the white person—the Oppressor. But we must remember two things:
- Assuming an act is racially motivated without clear evidence means attributing motives where we cannot know them; this is unbiblical and outside our purview as Christians, as Scripture is clear that the Lord weighs motives (Proverbs 16:2) and that when Christ returns, the Holy Spirit will “bring to light” hidden motives of the heart (First Corinthians 4:5).
- CRT/I considers the entire group to be Oppressors, which means when we accuse an institution (e.g., the police force) or the nation as a whole of being “systemically racist,” we’re accusing the white brothers and sisters in Christ who sit next to us at church on Sunday of the same thing. Do we really believe our entire church, from our white pastor to our white Sunday school teachers to our white greeters, are subconsciously and irredeemably racist? What about the black Christian man married to the white Christian woman—is she also implicitly racist, or is she one of those rare “race traitors” that CRT/I talks about?
When we talk about CRT/I in the context of the Church, it’s clear that CRT/I’s claims are antithetical to loving our neighbors (Mark 12:31) and living peaceably as we’re able (Romans 12:18). CRT/I demands that groups labeled Oppressors be devalued and demolished to make way for the Oppressed. A prime example comes from the treatment of Jews and Palestinians by CRT/I adherents. Cynthia Ozick writes in the Wall Street Journal that Intersectionality’s support for Palestine as the Oppressed has led to rampant anti-Semitism in academia:
On the lowest rung of this hierarchy of ethnic worthiness, Jews are designated as white oppressors of marginal peoples. They are accused of complicity in a colonialist plot against Palestinians and as accomplices in the training of police brutality. If they profess to be liberals, or radicals of the left, they are shunted aside as persecutors of the weak. Even as they are scorned as unfairly privileged, they are treated as campus pariahs.Cynthia Ozick, “Anti-Semitism and the Intellectuals,” Wall Street Journal, June 14, 2020.
Does that sound like the Jesus who ate with sinners (Mark 2:13–17)? Is that how the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37) is to be understood—as a call to care for the Oppressed while simultaneously vilifying and shaming the Oppressor? Undoubtedly, Jesus reached out to the marginalized and calls us to do the same, but He modeled the biblical definition of social justice: to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with the Lord (Micah 6:8).
Christ calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves—and everyone is our neighbor, regardless of skin color or ethnic origin. Christ ate with sinners, a word that includes everyone who ever lived, save Christ Himself. His offer of the Gospel was not extended exclusively to marginalized groups, but to all who would believe (John 3:16), and His calls for repentance were aimed at all sin—not just the sins of the white majority.
Where’s Your Identity?
One of the most significant struggles for many believers is understanding their new identity in Christ. Indeed, many Christians continue to see themselves as defined by their past sins, past achievements, their spouses and children, and myriad other sources of perceived worth. But Paul writes that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV).* As believers, we’re to find our identity in Christ alone, and to share the good news with unbelievers that true worth and meaning is available in Christ.
Yet CRT/I teaches that identity and meaning is found in marginalization. Identity is shaped by whatever characteristic is being oppressed. For the black person, their identity is their race. For the trans person, it’s their choice of gender. For the black trans person, it’s both. Any number of these superficial characteristics can be where CRT/I tells a person to find their identity, because a marginalized identity gives access to truth—truth that the majority white group cannot understand or critique—and by way of truth, a sort of woke salvation. And while the marginalized enjoy enlightenment, the majority must work to atone for their wrongs—some historic and legitimate, such as slavery in America, and others concocted by academics, such as white privilege—if they want any chance at salvation.
Does this sound like the Gospel to you? Salvation found either by works or by way of “otherness,” by clinging to one’s minority identity and condemning the majority? Galatians calls any gospel that doesn’t teach salvation by Christ alone, through faith alone, a false gospel.
The apostle Paul clearly states that there are no superficial distinctions in Christ, that no one gender or race or ethnicity or social position makes one person superior to another: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, ESV). Our engagement with issues of racial inequality has to start from this perspective of unity and not from the false assertion that all white people should feel guilt over a subconscious racism they can never redress. Christ offers forgiveness and freedom from undue guilt and shame, and He does not call believers to take on guilt for the sins of others. We can be clear that we are all “one blood” (Acts 17:26) and that all forms of racism are morally wrong without buying in to the claims of CRT/I.
There’s nothing redemptive about Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. When believers engage in this ideology, they’re effectively saying that the Gospel is not sufficient, that Christ’s work on the Cross is not enough. They’re adopting a worldview that says so-called white guilt must be atoned for endlessly, and that only a select few can ever have access to truth. They’re advocating a works-based salvation that leads, ironically, only to slavery.
But our future is an earthly kingdom ruled by Jesus Christ from Jerusalem, with believers “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages,” standing in worship at His throne—not because Christ is filling a diversity quota, but because part of God’s glory in creation is the diversity He imprinted in humankind’s genetics and part of Christ’s glory on the Cross is the free offer of the Gospel to all who believe, regardless of superficial distinctions. So let’s stand against racism, against the works-based “gospel” of CRT/I, and declare together the truth of Galatians 5:1 (ESV):
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
*All Scripture citations taken from BibleGateway.com.