Sometimes patient listening and genuine dialogue can really pay off. Over the past several months I have been interacting with some conservative, evangelical, and charismatic Christians who are very concerned about and even opposed to Critical Race Theory (CRT). I am writing in CRT in my academic work and I am Christian minister who employs CRT so I have been more than perplexed by the outrage and defensiveness of my fellow Christians who are just not open to dealing with issues of race in any meaningful way.
I have asked lots of questions and some patterns have emerged that have helped me figure out what that problem seems to be. It turns out that it is a two-headed monster.
First, they are not actually reading Critical Race. They are reading critiques of critical race from non-practitioners such as famous pastors or authors in other fields.
Second, they are not reading Christian authors who deal with race. They are reading only DiAngelo’s ‘White Fragility’ (or summaries of it) and Kendi’s ‘How to be Anti-Racist’ (or critiques of it).
This makes so much sense why they are so upset! They are not actually reading or listening to Critical Race or Christians who write on race. I see that now. I have said before, I am totally fine if people don’t want to read academic works in CRT … but they are not even reading accessible popular level stuff like Randy Woodley, Lisa Sharon Harper, Soong Chan-Rah, Christena Cleveland, Michael Eric Dyson, Drew Hart, Willie Jennings.
This is the problem of not reading on race but only listening to criticisms of it.
There are actually several types of this:
- Those who do not read Critical Race but listen to critiques of by famous pastors or authors in other fields.
- Those who only know DiAngelo and Kendi and don’t read Christian authors on race.
- Those who actually read CRT but as critics and not as practitioners.
- Those we actually engage Critical Race research in order to employ it in their ministry and work.
It all makes so much sense now! I had been baffled by the reactionary, simplistic, and erroneous accusations and scare-tactics. It has been fascinating to see some really predictable patterns emerge:
- CRT is a competing worldview (or salvation) and so it is anti-Christ and not only should we not listen to it but it will lead astray from the truth.
- CRT is Marxist – though no one has shown me a single practitioner who employs Marx.
- CRT bears bad fruit like family tensions, conflict in congregations, and social strife.
- The Bible (and usually Galatians 3:28) is quoted as saying we should not be focused on Race because Jesus ____ . Not realizing that the ancient (pre-modern) conception of race is entirely different from our contemporary concern or that those passages don’t mean that there is no such thing as race but that the power of the gospel ruptures our categorization and man-made ways of grouping people. I actually use Galatians 3:28 in my critical race scholarship!
- CRT pits people and groups in adversarial tension with one group oppressing the other group. And yes – that is the ‘theory’ of history in critical race theory. It would be called a negative dialect by those who use such language.
It is clear to me who the objections by fellow Christians to Critical Race research is so predictable and so sophomoric: they are not actually reading Critical Race and the few who do are reading it as outsiders trying to poke holes in it! This also explains why my first video about all of this ‘Why Evangelicals Can Not Do Critical Race’ hit so close to home and why the evangelicals have no one to put forward who employs critical race in their work!
So I have a 3-fold proposal:
- Put down the DiAngelo and Kendi and read your fellow Christians talk about race.
- Don’t read non-practitioner’s critiques before you read some actual CRT.
- Tell us who you are reading when make a claim (like Marxism) – name the actual practitioner who is doing this.
If you have time to read about Critical Race than you have time to read some actual work of Critical Race. If you don’t want to do that (and I totally understand that) then you at least need to be reading Christian authors dealing with race.
 I will add Austin Channing Brown because I hear so many powerful things about her writing and work.
October 29, 2020 at 2:18 am
Hi Bo, why do you suggest not reading D’Angelo and Kendi?
October 29, 2020 at 3:54 am
Oh right! What a great clarifying question.
Well for 2 reasons: 1) they both have a dogmatic definition of racism that is very binary and offends this anti-CRT crew. 2) people are SO obsessed with these 2 books that they don’t talk about anything else. Honestly it is bizarre. I have figured out that MOST of the critique of CRT is really just about these 2 books 😦
It would almost be better if NO one read them and then we could talk about something else. Anything else. There is so much good work being done out there but 96% of the outrage is directed at these two. It just gets old.
What do you think?