Critical Race Theory

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is something Christians are now starting to hear about (read: getting it stuffed down their throats at Mach 5). CRT is generally understood as the foundation for people’s understanding of “systemic racism.” To put it simply, CRT believes that “the system” is rigged in favor of white people. As Roy Brooks puts it (“Critical Race Theory: A Proposed Structure and Application to Federal Pleading”. Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal 11 (1994): 85ff.): “The question always lurking in the background of CRT is this: What would the legal landscape look like today if people of color were the decision-makers?” CRT is therefore primarily about power, as it is perceived to be unequally distributed. There is a lot more to CRT than that, but this is enough to be getting on with.

I read Bill Smith’s very interesting article on the subject this morning. Though I would have significant theological differences with Bill Smith in other areas of theology, I am in complete agreement with him on his analysis of CRT, and I want to highlight a couple of things he brings out. Firstly, it seems to me that CRT denies the possibility of change on the part of either blacks or whites. Not even God can change racism in a white person, according to CRT. No amount of apology or grovelling will suffice to make a white person woke enough to escape the racism that is endemic to his whiteness. Not even the gospel can bring forgiveness for this offence. This makes the inherent racism of white people worse than original sin, since original sin can be forgiven in the blood of Christ’s atonement. In fact, it makes racism an unforgivable sin period. I could be wrong, but I thought there was only one unforgivable sin, and that it had something to do with blaspheming the Holy Spirit, and not racism.

Secondly, the ethnic uniformity of whites, and of blacks, is emphasized in CRT to the exclusion of all individuality whatsoever. All blacks are oppressed. All whites are oppressors. This makes both groups incapable of moral agency, as Smith points out. Smith goes on to note that if moral agency is thus denied to blacks and whites, then so is the image of God denied to them. CRT thus dehumanizes both whites and blacks, contrary to the narrative of Scripture.

Lastly, and building on what I said above about power, it becomes obvious why statues of Ulysses Grant (a thorough abolitionist and friend to black people) are being torn down. All white power structures must go, even those which are historically kind to black people. According to CRT, justice will not be achieved until blacks have all the power, all the current systems are thrown down, and completely new ones put in their place by blacks in power. Only then will systemic justice be achieved (though see below). But this is to put one’s faith in princes. Justice is no longer in the hands of God at this point. It is in the change of power from whites to blacks. It can be questioned whether a simple power transfer would even be enough. I ask this question: will the payback (read revenge) be eternal? Blacks will, I think, find themselves in the position of Edmond Dantes, finding out, at the end, that revenge always goes too far.

A Further Thought on Racism

I have been told to my face that I am a racist because I am white. Let’s break down that claim a bit. The usual baggage that goes along with this claim is that whiteness is part and parcel of “systemic racism.” Therefore I am racist because I have benefited from a white-favorable system. I don’t agree with this idea. The point I want to get at goes deeper, though, and that is the fact that I cannot choose my whiteness. I have the skin I was born with. So the claim that I am racist because I am white is really a claim that I am racist by default. It is programmed into me, as it were. My DNA is racist. I can’t help but be racist. I couldn’t be anything other than racist.

Here is the problem. These people who claim that I am racist because I am white will turn around and say in the next breath that homosexuality and transgenderism are also things that are in the DNA, and that a person is one of those things, not by choice, but by a predetermined DNA. So, we are supposed to accept and not blame a predetermined outcome in the case of LGBTQ folks, but we can blame people who are predetermined to be white and therefore racist. So why is it that the LGBTQ community can excuse their behavior on the basis of inevitability, but alleged racists, who are also supposedly inevitable in their behavior, are blamed and hated?

Most of the CRT folks using the argument about racism discussed above won’t bring in original sin as part of the discussion. However, in a Reformed context, we cannot avoid it. Theoretically, a Reformed version of CRT could argue that both LGBTQ behavior and the automatic racism of white people comes from original sin, which is something God can save us from. However, this won’t completely work, either, at least not in the case of the alleged racists. Why are only white people afflicted with this aspect of original sin? This gets at another important point debated in the literature: whether black people are capable of racism or not. I have talked to black people on both side of that question. It depends, of course, on how one defines racism. If it is a disparagement of someone from another ethnic background because of their ethnic difference, then there is no reason to suppose that black people are incapable of racism. This is not a politically correct opinion, however, on the definition of racism. The CRT folk define racism in such a way that black people are incapable of it. So, if we go back to the original sin discussion for a second, we will quickly realize that it makes no sense at all to claim that a segment of the world’s population (the white segment) has a version of original sin that no one else has, because of their ethnic background! It sounds an awful lot like the first definition of racism to suppose that white people have a different version of original sin than anyone else does.

Of course, this is all so much logic-chopping to the vast majority of today’s CRT folks. Logic shouldn’t enter the equation, they say. Rather, it is sensitivity to other people’s feelings. I would respond by saying that sensitivity to other people’s feelings is a good thing, but it doesn’t have to be set over against logic. We can still try to be consistent. But logic is inescapable, too. They are, in effect, saying that it isn’t logical to use logic, and that we should logically use sensitivity, because it makes more sense to do so. Logic does seem to emerge, doesn’t it?

Covington High School Situation, a Few Thoughts

The most ridiculous news story I have seen in a while took place over last weekend. It was ridiculous because it really shouldn’t have even been a story. No one got hurt, only words were exchanged. That didn’t stop the main-stream media (hereinafter MSM) from blowing the story so out of proportion that Salvator Dali would have to bow in defeat.

I have some thoughts. Firstly, MSM is completely and utterly incapable of telling unbiased news. Conservatives have known this for a long time. MSM allowed prejudice to blind them to the fundamental fact of interpretation: context is king. Context makes things more complex than first glances can fathom. MSM reporters are obviously either not being trained in elementary interpretation, or they are forgetting what they were taught. It doesn’t matter at this point whether the boys were perfect in their behavior. They almost certainly were not. Why, however, are the MSM and all those spewing out hate speech against these boys forgetting that these are teenage boys? Considering the fact that a hate group was spewing out filth against them, I thought they behaved with rather admirable restraint. When I was a teenager I had all the emotional empathy of a wooden block. While these boys may not have done the most admirable thing (but what would that have been, do pray tell?), they certainly did nothing worthy of the hate speech that has been spewed against them by intolerant, prejudiced MSM and others. If we were in the position of the boys, what would we have done? The boys couldn’t flee, since they were waiting for a bus. They didn’t want to hear the hate speech, so they started chanting their school song. They made no moves of physical aggression against anyone. All in all, pretty good discipline for teenage boys! Maybe one or two of them committed a micro-aggression. Why is that worse than what some of the people in the video were doing to them?

The MSM have forgotten (for a long time now) that there is always more than one side to a story. Since conservatives are no longer human, no longer to be given the benefit of human treatment, the conservative side of any story is ignored in the MSM. I don’t care about the MSM. I haven’t watched it in years. But I do care about the boys at Covington. And I do care about civil discourse in the nation. And the MSM still have the power to ruin people’s lives because they simply don’t care. More than that, they are guilty of far more hatred than Covington High School boys are.

I pity the MSM, actually. As the saying goes, there is no one so blind but the blind person who thinks he sees. And if there is any group of people who thinks it sees today, that group is MSM. If there is any group that simply does not see how much it is contributing to the hate in America, it is the MSM.

A Guest Post on Racism

It is fascinating to me to hear the vastly different perspectives even of non-racist people, which ranges from outrage at the passing of Overture 43 as amended (the outrage is thoroughly non-racist), to folks who think we probably haven’t gone far enough. Here is a voice definitely in between these relatively extreme positions.

A Guest Post from Rev. Billy Boyce

Considerations Regarding Racial Reconciliation

As the PCA takes up the discussion about racial reconciliation this week at General Assembly, the ultimate path to finding accord and compromise is sure to come through personal interaction rather than Internet publication. Nonetheless, I wanted to offer a few brief considerations in response to some more recent posts and comments on the subject. I’m grateful to Lane for sharing his space with me and for the opportunity to contribute to this important discussion within our denomination.
Given limited time and space, I offer here three considerations for those voting this week at GA:

Consideration #1: The Insufficiency of Institutional Documents

It has been frequently observed that the PCA expressly desired to include all races and ethnicities in worship, as indicated by the founders of the denomination, something we should all applaud. Also, a number of further institutional documents address racial reconciliation and repentance for past sins. According to the institutional record, the PCA looks pretty good regarding racial reconciliation. However, these institutional documents alone are insufficient for judging the record of our denomination. It is true that our institution has expressed the desire to grow in racial and ethnic pluriformity. At the same time, our institution has not lived up to that desire, but has had barriers to the welcoming of others. The documents themselves are insufficient for weighing the existence and effect of these barriers; personal testimony is needed to flesh out the record. Channeling Martin Luther King, Jr., we need to “be true to what [we] said on paper.”

Consideration #2: The Weight of Personal Testimony and Community Witness
If institutional documents are not enough to assess institutional health, we need to listen to personal testimony. Yet, these testimonies are sometimes disregarded as being merely anecdotal. It is important to state here that there are two types of personal testimony. There is the type of testimony that only represents the individual witness; these testimonies are not enough to develop precedent. However, a second type of testimony exists whereby the witness’s testimony expresses both the individual’s experiences and gives a glimpse into the experiences of a community. These testimonies represent a community of witness and bear much more gravity than mere personal stories. It behooves listeners to discern which type of testimony is offered, and in the case of the PCA’s history of racial reconciliation, the multiple voices coming from across generations and ethnicities are enough to indicate a community of witness. This community of witnesses tells us that we have not lived up to our aspirations—what we have said on paper—and we ought not ignore it. This community testimony offers the PCA two points of witness: 1) the need for the PCA to confess and repent, and 2) the desire to confess and repent! Numerous PCA minorities are willing to participate in the corporate confession and repentance called for in some of the overtures. They offer a profound embodiment of the ideal of corporate repentance by participating in the repentance for sins that directly impacted their forefathers. Those who assert that it is impossible to repent of something that they personally did not do ought to pause and reflect on the willingness of our minority brothers and sisters to confess and repent. After pausing and considering, individuals may disagree. But in the spirit of Christian charity, it behooves everyone to ask, “might I be wrong on this?”

Consideration #3: The Primacy of Theological Faithfulness
In considering the community of witness testifying to the need for corporate repentance and modeling the desire to participate in corporate repentance, presbyters must allow the conversation to remain focused on theological faithfulness. Too often, I have heard presbyters invoke the specter of “political correctness” as the aim of these overtures. This is a harmful temptation, because these overtures aim at a much loftier goal: biblical, theological, ecclesial, Christ-honoring faithfulness. They seek to aid the pursuit of, quoting TE Lance Lewis, “redemptive ethnic unity.” To replace theological categories with mere political posturing is to rip the teeth out of this conversation and reduce it to another partisan squabble. This reduction guts the conversation of its eschatological vision: the ideal of redemptive ethnic unity, which is driven by the commands of Christ and the vision of the New Jerusalem.

These three considerations could be summed up as the encouragement to listen deeply and discerningly, which is itself simply a call to exercise wisdom. Wisdom hears and listens; wisdom is teachable; wisdom craves purity; wisdom longs for the beauty of peace and unity. Listen to those calling for corporate repentance. Listen to those opposing these overtures. Then listen again. May God grant us wisdom as we weigh all of the considerations before us this GA, and may he give us peace.