Critical Race Theory: Why Is It So Controversial
In the last two years Critical Race Theory has exploded on the American scene from its academia roots with no small uproar between people of different ideological beliefs. As a Christian, I want to get away from loud partisan noise, and as best as I can get more of an objective understanding.
So we begin with, just what is Critical Race Theory? According to Education Week, “Critical Race Theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.”
This article goes on to give us an example. “A good example is when, in the 1930s, government officials literally drew lines around areas deemed poor financial risks, often explicitly due to the racial composition of inhabitants. Banks subsequently refused to offer mortgages to Black people in those areas.”
So in simplistic terms, the belief of researchers on this subject is that racial inequity is baked into the American system, which as a consequence creates an imbalance of opportunity for people of color.
The negative reaction many people have is that Critical Race Theory pits one race against another and is actually itself racist. So, what is a thinking, Christian person suppose to believe?
Here is my take. Let’s begin with individuals vs. society. Many Christians argue that any theory that talks about people group sins rather than individual sins misses the point of the Gospel. There is truth to that argument because God has no grandchildren. This is clever theological speak which means every individual has to come to Christ personally. You can’t talk about I am a Christian because that is what my family is. No, we have to come as an individual before God, repent of our sin, and believe Jesus died for us on the cross in order to become a believer.
But is that the full story? Do we as believers only care about the individual and not about society and people groups that make up the society? So I went to the Scriptures to see what is taught about societal problems and injustices, and to no surprise the Bible has a lot to say on the subject.
I want to begin with issues within the church. In Acts 6:1, we find an issue of group prejudice where Greek speaking widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. The apostles called a meeting of all the believers and gave them criteria to solve the problem, that being select godly men who were full of the Spirit and wisdom to oversee the issue. Problem solved!
Another example is James 2:1-4, which talks about discrimination against poor people. The text says, “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim that you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people more than others? For instance, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in shabby clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, ‘You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor’ – well doesn’t this discrimination show that you are guided by wrong motives?”
When Gentiles (anyone who is not a Jew) were coming to faith in Christ, many Jewish believers felt they had to first become Jews before being accepted as Christians. This debate so was heated that it led to the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15), where it was determined Gentiles became believers by trusting Christ period.
On a more societal basis, Jesus talked with a Samaritan woman about her life. This was a taboo, because Jews didn’t having anything to do with Samaritans (see John 4:1-42). To further the point Jesus uses a hated Samaritan as a hero in one of his parables (see Luke 10:30-37). Paul often talked in his epistles about helping the poor, not just believers, but the society in general.
So we go back to Critical Race Theory. An objective look at truth shows that there have been societal disadvantages in our culture for minorities, the poor, etc. The mortgage prejudice mentioned earlier; the monetary discrepancies in poor school districts, which are primarily minority; the Jim Crow laws and segregation in the South that was legal until a few decades ago; and the targeting of minorities by some police, simply because of their color.
These issues should cause Christians concerned. We certainly yell loud and clear about the abortion holocaust, which by the way is a societal problem. Obviously we should be concerned about unborn babies being killed and should do all we can to stop this heinous cruelty. But also, shouldn’t we care about the societal injustices of minorities and the poor? Wouldn’t Jesus have us on the front lines of those problems as well?
The goal is to speak for the voiceless; this includes the unborn, the poor, the oppressed, and the minority among us. If Critical Race Theory helps explain truth, then we believers should listen. Otherwise if our prejudice guides us, then we will end up grieving God. How is that for irony?