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What is the critical race theory?

podcast critical race theory

Critical race theory is a modern approach to social change, developed from the broader critical theory, which developed out of Marxism. Critical race theory (CRT) approaches issues such as justice, racism, and inequality, with a specific intent of reforming or reshaping society. In practice, this is applied almost exclusively to the United States. Critical race theory is grounded in several key assumptions. Among these are the following:

• American government, law, culture, and society are inherently and inescapably racist.
• Everyone, even those without racist views, perpetuates racism by supporting those structures.
• The personal perception of the oppressed—their “narrative”—outweighs the actions or intents of others.
• Oppressed groups will never overcome disadvantages until the racist structures are replaced.
• Oppressor race or class groups never change out of altruism; they only change for self-benefit.
• Application of laws and fundamental rights should be different based on the race or class group of the individual(s) involved.

In short, critical race theory presupposes that everything about American society is thoroughly racist, and minority groups will never be equal until American society is entirely reformed. This position is extremely controversial, even in secular circles. Critical race theory is often posed as a solution to white supremacy or white nationalism. Yet, in practice, it essentially does nothing other than inverting the oppressed and oppressor groups.

From a political standpoint, critical race theory closely aligns with concepts such as communism, Marxism, nationalism, progressivism, intersectionality, and the modern version of social justice. Strictly speaking, the Bible neither commands nor forbids Christians regarding specific political parties or philosophies. However, believers are obligated to reject any aspect of a philosophy that conflicts with biblical ideals. Critical race theory is deeply rooted in worldviews that are entirely incompatible with the Bible.

Spiritually, some have attempted to apply critical race theory principles to Christianity. This even includes suggestions that the Christian church must adopt the critical race theory approach to society, or else it is not really preaching the gospel. In applying critical race theory to faith, some have gone even further, suggesting that “whiteness,” defined in a unique sense, is a type of sin and incompatible with salvation. In other words, critical race theory implies that those in certain ethnic/social economic groups must “repent” of such status, above and beyond other sins, in order to be truly Christian. Less inflammatory uses of critical race theory echo older claims that biblical faith is often presented as a “white man’s religion,” or that Christianity ought to follow a progressive theology, especially with respect to gender and sexuality.

While not necessarily embracing critical race theory, some Christian groups have embraced the modern approach to social justice. This raises the concern that non-biblical preferences will crowd out legitimate commands from Scripture. While critical race theory is not identical to social justice, the two philosophies are closely linked in modern American culture. Christian organizations that speak about social justice should be cautious about the terms and assumptions those discussions entail.

So far as it applies to faith, Christianity, or spirituality, there is no truth whatsoever to critical race theory. This is not to say that self-labeled Christians have never perpetrated racism. Nor does it mean every Christian in America is innocent of overlooking suffering people. It certainly does not mean that believers in the United States have no need to self-examine or seek change.

Critical race theory entirely violates a biblical worldview, however, by suggesting that people are essentially defined by their race or class, rather than by their individual acts and attitudes (Jeremiah 31:31–34; Revelation 20:11–13). Critical race theory incorrectly emphasizes intersectional categories such as gender, race, sexual preference, and economic status above and beyond a person’s own choices and responsibilities (Galatians 3:28). Critical race theory also conflicts with a biblical approach to objective, absolute truth. In no small part, this includes suggesting that an “oppressed” person’s feelings matter more than what the “oppressor” has actually done or intended (1 Corinthians 4:4; 10:29).

As applied to spiritual matters, critical race theory effectively replaces an individual, personal relationship with God with a tribalistic, ethnocentric, collectivistic system. It also greatly overemphasizes material and social concepts to the detriment—or even the exclusion—of the true gospel. When and where prejudices are found in the church, they should be addressed according to sound doctrine, not according to an inherently unbiblical approach such as critical race theory.

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022