Critical Race Theory (CRT) are three words that many of those reading this article were likely not aware of until around 2020. Though this “theory” has undoubtedly gained widespread acclaim and attention since the death of George Floyd for a number of reasons, it is not new. Some of those reading this are, perhaps, unsure about it. Some, perhaps, see some good things in CRT. But, likely, no one agrees with everything that Critical Race Theory has to say. Still, for the Christian, perhaps the most important question to ask is this: Is CRT an ethical and biblical solution to the injustices in the world?
My goal with this article is to explain Critical Theory broadly and Critical Race Theory specifically in such a way that every reader will understand, show its unethical nature, and then explain a better alternative.
More Than Politics: The Plight of an Unethical Worldview
First, let me make a couple of things clear: Critical Race Theory is not really a political issue, but a worldview issue. It matters not if the reader is a Republican or Democrat because either can hold to the basic tenets of CRT. It is, after all, a worldview—a lens through which we view the world around us.
Those who view the world through the lens of Critical Theory, and Critical Race Theory in particular, will see the world only in terms of gender, sexual orientation, and skin color and, regrettably, will view others in ultimately racist ways.
This is highly problematic for the believer in Christ. Before we are anything else, we are identified as belonging to Christ. We are, fundamentally, Christians, and the Christian worldview is constructed through the lens of Scripture. Thus, we believe 2nd Corinthians 10:3-6 to be true: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” In light of our understand of this, we recognize that because CRT is antithetical to Scripture and the basic Christian worldview, and therefore it must be torn down and combatted with Scripture.
Now, it is at this point that some reading may begin to offer objections. They may say, “Scripture will do us no good here. The New Testament has had 2,000 years and the Old Testament even longer to put a dent into racial injustices. We need CRT working alongside Scripture because there are very racist ‘Christians’ whose aim is to suppress minority groups.” I would respond to such hypotheticals that it has only been Scripture that has ever helped to combat any injustices, and only those Christians who have been faithful to Scripture have been effective in this work. Of course, not everyone that calls themselves a Christian is really a Christian. Many just use the title. But there has never been a genuine Christian who was racist. Christ alone cures racism because Christ alone defeats sin.
Others, in an effort to build up and then destroy a strawman, might feel compelled to argue that Christians are simply afraid of critical thinking. Perhaps, as many have suggested, Christians are afraid of having to think about different ethnicities or cultures or religions because they are afraid of being converted to something other than Christianity. Perhaps their faith is weaker in Christ than they let on.
This is all a strawman attack. Christians are not afraid of any of these things, nor are they afraid of future generations being confronted with these things. In fact, Christians like myself have personally made it a point to study various religions and cults. We have read through works of various philosophers from all over the world, and have even read authors as varied as Nietzsche, Hitler, Marx, and Darwin. I, personally, actively encourage others to do the same. All Christians who are engaged in missions work in various parts of the world have been confronted with the need to learn about other cultures in order to effectively minister in other places.
These studies are all good things. I, personally, have no problem with them and encourage them. I even think people should read and learn about CRT.
Another objection may come in the form of chronological snobbery; in other words, the proponent of CRT will attack the Christians of the past and will praise modern secular man as standing on the right side of history. “If,” they may say, “You desire to stand on the right side of history, then adopt the tenets of Critical race theory.” However, anyone who cares at all for history will know that following the tenets of CRT will only end with the burning of the books, as in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. The 1619 Project is a prime example of this: rather than acknowledge the founding of America as 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed, certain proponents desire to reset America’s founding to 1619, when the first African slaves were brought to the New World. By doing so, they can insist that America, as a nation and institution, is institutionally racist and was founded on racist principles. The end goal is nothing less than the total upheaval of American history, Western history, and the destruction of all American laws, principles, and documents as they have long been known.
No Christian is opposed to genuine history being taught. History should and must be taught. Children need to learn about slavery in the US, segregation, and the Jim Crow laws that made racialized segregation legal. These things were wrong, and we must learn from our history. The problem is not with the teaching of history, but the teaching of history with an agenda to program how people think. Indeed, all of history must be taught without an agenda attempting to tell our children how to think; it must be taught as a resuscitation of factual events and people. It is the responsibility of the family, and not societal institutions, to teach morality. CRT attempts to rewrite history in its own image, but the Christian simply cannot allow this to happen.
Finally, one may argue that the only way every person will be truly free from minority statuses is if we all learn to adopt CRT into our worldview. After all, CRT adopts ideas from Intersectionality, which in turn allows it to pinpoint and elevate those who hold to minority statuses— for example, the transgender black “woman” is recognized as an extreme minority and elevates them far above all others, giving them more of a voice than others. But this is fundamentally racist to its core and, more than this, conflates and/or elevates sexuality with/to skin tone and ethnicity. CRT cannot free people from minority statuses. Only Christianity can recognize mankind as being created equal before God, and it is every Christian’s duty to fight for liberty.
With these objections dealt with, it is important to remember that famous speech of Martin Luther King Jr. (his own moral failures not withstanding), who said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”[i] All who fight for this same dream must reject CRT. King Jr. fought for a day when people would be judged for the content of their character rather than the color of their skin; CRT does not. CRT does the opposite. It desires to view everything through a racist lens, so that people are not judged based on the content of their character, but by the color of their skin. For that reason, we must reject and utilize a better alternative in the fight against racism and, ultimately, sin.
Defining the Worldview
So, with that said, what exactly is CRT? A helpful definition of Critical Race Theory comes from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs:
Critical Race Theory was developed out of legal scholarship. It provides a critical analysis of race and racism from a legal point of view. Since its inception within legal scholarship CRT has spread to many disciplines. CRT has basic tenets that guide its framework. These tenets are interdisciplinary and can be approached from different branches of learning. CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color. CRT also rejects the traditions of liberalism and meritocracy. Legal discourse says that the law is neutral and colorblind, however, CRT challenges this legal “truth” by examining liberalism and meritocracy as a vehicle for self-interest, power, and privilege. CRT also recognizes that liberalism and meritocracy are often stories heard from those with wealth, power, and privilege. These stories paint a false picture of meritocracy; everyone who works hard can attain wealth, power, and privilege while ignoring the systemic inequalities that institutional racism provides.[ii]
Let it be noted that CRT began as a law theory. It argued, firstly, that the laws of the United States of America were institutionally racist. That is to say, all founding fathers and all founding documents are racist: the Constitution of the United States is racist, laws are racist, Civil order is racist. And, because of this, the only result can be that all those who are leaders and law officials must also be racist. There is no escape from racism when a country is considered institutionally racist.
If an even clearer definition of CRT is desired, then one need only to read the entry on CRT from The Encyclopedia Britannica. It states, “Racial inequality emerges from the social, economic, and legal differences that white people create between “races” to maintain elite white interests in labour markets and politics, giving rise to poverty and criminality in many minority communities.”[iii]
This definition should raise some flags and ring some bells. If it sounds familiar to you, it’s because this is an old system that has been rebranded. The old system went by the name Marxism.
Marxism is the belief that there are two types of people in the world: the oppressed and the oppressors. Those of you who remember learning about it will recall that Karl Marx’s dream was a socialist utopia. The idea behind it was this: The working class (proletariat) is oppressed by the upper-class (bourgeoisie). The rich get richer because the poor get poorer. So, Marx’s utopian ideal was that the oppressors would themselves become oppressed by those they were oppressing. After this, wealth would be redistributed as needed, per family. All would work as he or she was able and would receive only as much as needed. Once everyone had only what they needed, with no ability to rise above their economic needs, and with no possibility of falling below, then the police could be defunded because Marx believed there’d be no reason for anyone to commit crime. Finally, all that would be left was the State’s redistribution wealth.
Marxism was originally an economic system, but it easily led to Communism and Socialism, and ultimately (utterly) failed. Look to countries like Russia (Venezuela, etc.) and you will find that Communism doesn’t work. Look to modern-day China and you will find that Marxist-Communistic-Capitalism may bring wealth to a nation, but the people will be crippled beneath a totalitarian regime.
Enter Cultural Marxism
What CRT has ultimately done is embrace Marxist principles and apply them to matters of race, sexual orientation, gender, and a number of other things. In CRT, the oppressors are the “whites” and the oppressed are the people of color. But it can go deeper: the oppressors are the “straight, white males” and the oppressed are all those who are not straight, white males. Just like in Marxism, CRT believes those white oppressors need to be overthrown.
This is an extended quote, but I think that this really paints the picture to understand CRT. Douglas Murray, who is a homosexual, writes about much of this in his book, The Madness of Crowds. He actually rejects Critical Theory and dismisses it as demonstrably wicked and destructive, despite not holding to a Christian worldview. How much more ought Christians to reject CRT. Murray writes:
“In 1911 a famous poster appeared, entitled ‘Industrial Workers of the World,’ depicting what it claimed to be the ‘Pyramid of the Capitalist System.’ At the bottom of the Pyramid where the brave men, women and children of the working class. With their proud, sturdy yet struggling shoulders they were holding up the entire edifice. ‘We work for all’ and ‘We feed all’ were the captions accompanying this lowest but most fundamental part of the system. A floor above them, wining and dining in black tie and evening dresses, were the well-off capitalist classes, supported by the workers and only able to enjoy themselves because of the labor of working men. ‘We eat for you’ said this tier. Above them were the military (‘We shoot at you’). Above them the clergy (‘We fool you). Above them the monarch (‘We rule you’). And finally, perched at the very top of the Pyramid, even above the monarch, was a great big bag of money with dollar signs on the outside. ‘Capitalism’ was the label for the highest tier of the state.
Today a version of this old image has made its way to the center of the social justice ideology. Just one of the things that suggests the Marxist foundations of this new structure is the fact that capitalism is still at the top of the Pyramid of oppression and exploitation. But the other top tiers of this hierarchy Pyramid are inhabited by different types of people. At the top of the hierarchy are people who are white, male and heterosexual. They do not need to be rich, but matters are made worse if they are. Beneath these tyrannical male overlords are the minorities, most noticeably the gays, anyone who isn’t white, people who are women and also people who are trans. These individuals are kept down, oppressed, sidelined and otherwise made insignificant by the white patriarchal, heterosexual, cis system. Just as Marxism was meant to free the laborer and share the wealth around, so in this new version of an old claim, the power of the patriarchal, white males must be taken away and shared around more fairly with the relevant minority groups.
At its outset this new ideology was not taken especially seriously by its opponents. Some of its claims seemed so laughable, and it’s inherent contradictions so clear, that coherent criticism was almost absent. This was a mistake. It is an ideology with very clear ideological precursors, but still an ideology that – whatever else may be said for it – provides a lens for understanding the world and a purpose for an individual’s actions and life within the world.”[iv]
We must not make the same mistakes any longer. We must take CRT seriously. Its aim is more than the overthrow of the American infrastructure, capitalism, and Western history. It aims at nothing less than the total eradication of the West. So, since knowledge is one of our great tools, let us now ask the following: how does CRT go about distinguishing between the oppressor and oppressed groups today?
Intersectionality is best thought of as a graph where a person has defining characteristics that overlap with one another. So, a black person would follow a line until they overlapped with something else. Let’s assume they’re an atheist. So, now, the fact that they are black and an atheist has caused an intersection. But let’s say they’re also transgender. The intersection is that they are a black, atheistic, and transgender.
The one who made intersectionality so popular was a woman named Kimberle Crenshaw, who was working in Critical Law Theory. Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay (who are a liberal, feminist scholar and atheist, respectively), write in their book Cynical Theories:
“Intersectionality began as a heuristic – a tool that lets someone discover something for themselves – but has long been treated as a Theory and is now described by Crenshaw as a practice. Crenshaw first introduced the idea of intersectionality in a polemical 1989 scholarly law paper called “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Anti-Discrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Anti-Racist Policies.” There, she examines three legal discrimination cases and uses the metaphor of a roadway intersection to examine the ways in which different forms of prejudice can “hit” an individual with two or more marginalized identities. She argues that – just as someone standing in the intersection of two streets could get hit by a car coming from any direction or even more by more than one at a time – so a marginalized person could be unable to tell which of their identities is being discriminated against in any given instance. Crenshaw argues persuasively that legislation to prevent discrimination on the grounds of race or gender is insufficient to deal with this problem or with the fact that a black woman, for instance, might experience unique forms of discrimination that neither white women nor black men face…
Intersectionality was more fully articulated two years later, in Crenshaw’s highly influential 1991 essay, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color”, and she defines intersectionality as a ‘provisional concept linking contemporary politics with postmodern theory.’”[v]
Notice how this language is imbued with the idea of narrative and experience. This is because Critical Race Theory rejects objective, concrete truth in favor of subjective experiences. But it needs to ground the meaning of life in something, right? Therefore, it does this through propagating the idea of the expressive individual—individuals must express themselves fully according to intersectionality, and this is where identity politics come into the picture.
Carl Trueman, in his book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, wrote about this very thing:
“The world in which we live is increasingly dominated by psychological categories. Indeed, the big political questions of our time are those of identity, and modern identities have a distinctly psychological aspect… Philip Reiff described the dominant understanding of the self of this present age as that of the psychological man, the successor to the political man, religious man, and economic man of previous eras. Charles Taylor, too, sees the expressive individual as the now normative type of self in our society and as the basic presupposition of much of what happens in our world, from attitudes toward the sexual revolution to judgment in law courts and protests on campuses. Yet psychological man and expressive individualism did not emerge in the 20th century from a vacuum, nor were they self-caused. Like all historical phenomena, they have a genealogy, a story that stretches back in time and makes their emergence and their cultural dominance comprehensible.”[vi]
Expressive individualism makes intersectionality possible. Only the Christian can combat this, for it is only the Christian whose identity is now fully in Christ, and who lives to see Christ’s will accomplished.
Critical Race Theory in Action
Perhaps the greatest danger of CRT is seen by looking at Black Lives Matter. Founded by Alicia Garza, who proudly calls herself a “trained Marxist”, one of the original goals on the Black Lives Matter website was:
“We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence…We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise)…We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”[vii]
The fact that fathers are missing in this statement is a purposeful attack against men and the patriarchy.
Clearly, CRT is about more than just racism—it is about the society, the culture, and the nation itself. Is not only about race, but anything that may identify an individual and its ultimate aim is to destroy any and all traditional values. Those who do not get on board are threatened with being “cancelled”, fired from their jobs, losing out on promotions, losing out on scholarships, losing out on opportunities, or by other means humiliated. In short, CRT makes everything racist and there is no forgiveness to be found. Therefore, all that’s left is for the white, straight, Christian male to start making reparations eternally. Critical Race Theory has effectively made racism the new original sin, but it has left behind a “savior”.
Winning the Worldview War
Fighting the worldview war may not be easy, but it is worth it. The Christian must reject Critical Race Theory as the unethical, antichrist nonsense it is. Rod Dreher, in Live Not By Lies, explains:
“What is harder for contemporary people to appreciate is how we are repeating the Marxist habit of falsifying language, hollowing out familiar words and replacing them with a new, highly ideological meaning. Propaganda not only changes the way we think about politics and contemporary life but it also conditions what a culture judges worth remembering.
I mentioned the way liberals today deploy neutral sounding, or even positive, words like dialogue and tolerance to disarm and ultimately defeat unaware conservatives. And they imbue other words and phrases—hierarchy, for example, or traditional family—with negative connotations.”[viii]
We must live our beliefs. Anything less than this, and the result will be what we have already noted. Not only do the words we use matter, but the way we live matters. We must proclaim truth, live by truth, and recognize that all truth must be grounded in God’s Word. Reject lies and refuse to live by them.
Living by the truth necessitates a total rejection of all that CRT teaches. There can be no wiggle room or compromise. Voddie Baucham, in his book, Fault Lines, states: “We are right to pursue Justice, peace, and unity (Micah 6:8; Romans 12:18; John 17:20-21). That is not the fault line. The fault lies in believing that such a vision can be attained by affiliating with, using the terminology of, or doing anything other than opposing in the most forceful terms the ideology that lies at the root of the social Justice movement.”[ix] It is our duty to reject all language that is not biblical and wise.
Fighting Unethical Tools with the Ethics of Truth
Allow me to expressly say this: I believe racism exists. I believe that we, especially Christians, must fight against racism. I do not believe that CRT offers a valid way of doing so; I believe that CRT is destructive. I also believe that the primary problem we face is not racism, but a sin nature. And the only thing that can cure our sin problem is the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider the truth of Ephesians 2:11-22:
“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
CRT creates racial hostility and sin. Christ cures racial hostility. Cultural Marxism denies Christian Laws, but Christianity upholds God’s Laws. It is only through Christ that racism is cured. It is only though Christ that the unethical nature of CRT is defeated.
[i] Martin Luther King JR, “I Have a Dream,” Delivered August 28, 1963. https://www.npr.org/2010/01/18/122701268/i-have-a-dream-speech-in-its-entirety
[ii] UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, “What is Critical Race Theory?,” https://spacrs.wordpress.com/what-is-critical-race-theory/
[iv] Douglas Murray, The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race, and Identity (London, UK: Bloomsbury Continuum, 2019), 51-52.
[v] Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity – and Why This Harms Everybody (Durham, North Carolina: Pitchstone Books, 2020), 123.
[vi] Carl R. Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2020), 105-06.
[viii] Rod Dreher, Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents (New York City, New York: Sentinel, 2020), 119.
[ix] Voddie Baucham, Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe (Washington, D.C.: Salem Publishing, 2021), 132.
Jacob Tanner is a husband, father, and pastor, living in Pennsylvania. Holding to the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, Jacob is focused on both evangelism and reformation. He is the founder of the Sound of Truth Ministries, where they have regular podcasts and preaches whenever the opportunity arises. His passion and motto are, “To know Christ and make Him known because He has made us His own.” He can be found spending time with his family or with a book in his hands in his free time.