It was about 4 years ago, when I began to learn about this view of the world called Critical Theory. Before that I had heard of Critical Race Theory or CRT but I really did not know what it was. Today I look around and see that Critical Theory is everywhere in various forms, and in many cases it is called CRT even when it has nothing to do with race. It is foundational for the concepts of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Equity is pretty much just CRT. So what is it and as Christians how do we respond to it? I will focus on CRT and not the other Critical Theory variants, but they are all interconnected. You will find that in most cases the only difference is the focus on race in the case of CRT. Unfortunately, CRT has been defined in many different ways, but I will try to give a good definition of it.
First, though CRT is incompatible with Christianity, it does highlight some truths that we as Christians can agree with. There are norms, social structures or institutions that perpetuate ideas that are opposed to the truth. Secularism can be one dominating structure and racism is another one that still lingers today. Racism is nothing more than a social construct. One could use hair color instead of skin color to divide people. What if the darker your hair was the better and more desirable the person you became. The point is these ideas are still being intentionally or unintentionally promoted and can be used to oppress, dominate, and divide.
Critical Theory seeks “to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them” (Max Horkheimer, 1982). Critical Theory and CRT sees the world and relationships in terms of power dynamics. The world can be divided between the oppressed and the oppressors. The goal is then to liberate people by dismantling the institutions and structures that subjugate and oppress. Racism is one such dominating structure that still exists today. If you listen to the stories of black people, you can not deny that racism exists today. We, whites, many times are always not aware of it, and may not be aware sometimes of our own racist actions. These are the remnants of slavery that colored our thinking. I believe that even blacks are colored by these remnants of slavery. According to CRT, the worst thing one can do is to continue in this state of oppression, and it is a virtue to pursue liberating people from this oppression.
Christians are also in favor of liberating human beings, however we recognize the reality that we are broken, sinful, self-centered people, who can not save ourselves. We look outside ourselves to our loving Creator, who is able to save us from ourselves. We are liberated from our sin, and because of God’s love for us we can love others and care for them. We see others and the world through the lens of God’s love, and not in terms of power dynamics.
We need to move to being color blind in regards to race and move towards reconciliation. Unfortunately, that is not what CRT is about. Racial color is important to define who the oppressors and the oppressed are. Though CRT wants to liberate the oppressed minorities from racial discrimination, I believe it ends up reinforcing the racial separation. Instead we all can work together to help blacks and other minorities overcome past mistreatment by helping them identify the unique gifts and talents God has given to each of them individually. Doing so can help them understand God’s guidance that will allow them to achieve their full potential.
In order to move towards reconciliation, white Christians need to listen to the racial minorities in our towns. We need to learn their stories and understand where they are coming from. CRT claims we can not understand them because we are not the oppressed. They say the oppressed have the truth because of their lived experience. There is a kernel of truth in that but the truth is not dependent on our lived experiences. To the best of our ability we can try to understand them as individuals. The truth is found in God’s Word, the Bible. We need to connect and reconcile with them whether they be hispanic, black, asian, native American, or some other racial brand.
We need to share God’s love with them, help them fight against oppression and victimhood, and show them there is hope for them. They have hope because they are loved by God and God will lift them up.