There is so much confusion about Critical Theory and Critical Race Theory, it is often hard to cut through the smoke and get to substance. The proponents of CT/CRT often deny the implications of their theory, even changing the vocabulary they use to dodge responsibility. The applications of the theory appear so fast, they are hard to keep up with.[i] The theory is profoundly influential, however, so it is important to try and keep up with at least the big ideas and the implications proposed by the theory’s major players.
Ibram Kendi is one of those major proponents, author of the bestselling, How to be an Antiracist, and occasional guest in churches. A recent speech of his in 2019 to a church in Manhattan (I believe) has made news lately for his take on Christian theology and the inherent racism in it.
Denying several basic tenants of traditional Christianity, Kendi recasts it as a revolutionary faith.
“Jesus was a revolutionary, and the job of the Christian is to revolutionize society,” Kendi replies. “The job of the Christian is to liberate society from the powers on Earth that are oppressing humanity.”
The only way to believe this is true about Jesus is to avoid the Gospels and base your theory on the Marxist, Liberation Theology vision of Jesus. Marx taught that the economic struggle between the classes would result in an ownership-free society and one without economic inequality. His disciples, including Liberation theologians, replaced economics with culture and then imposed that form of Marxist ideology – cultural Marxism – on Jesus. The technical theological term for that is blasphemy. Another way of describing it is – it is a lie.
Nothing in Scripture supports the idea that Jesus intended to overthrow earthly powers with other earthly powers. In fact, Jesus rejected earthly power every time it was offered to him. It is one of the multitude of ironies in CT that not that long ago, many of its defenders were bothered to no end by the specter of theocracy. Now they seem happy with the idea (as long as it is their theocracy.)
The oppression that Jesus talked about was spiritual and is the kind of oppression Kendi supports. The solution to the kind of oppression Jesus talked about is the spread of the gospel – evangelism. Kendi has an opinion on that, however.
But how does Kendi assess an evangelical faith that emphasizes evangelism?
“That goes right in line with racist ideas and racist theology,” Kendi asserts, because it requires personal responsibility. It teaches that the reason many people “are struggling on earth is because of what they’re doing behaviorally wrong.”
This is one of the most obvious areas of departure between Critical Theory and Christianity – Christ considers every individual as responsible before him for their sin. Kendi considers people guilty as a result of their part in the group, specifically the whiteness of their skin. Individuals are guilty by association without hope of absolution. The truth of the matter, however is that before Jesus, the Creator of the Universe, I am guilty before him as an individual. My sin is forgiven by the act of Christ on the cross regardless of my skin color, gender, or place on the economic ladder. The gospel is good news. Kendi’s message for the world is bad news.
The gospel is good news. Kendi’s message for the world is bad news.Tweet
In the end, Kendi’s vision – and CT’s vision – of what is wrong and how to fix it is hopeless. No change in political power has ever brought about a utopian vision of justice. Regardless, the ever-oppressive vision of the political utopian is, “if only the right people were in power, we could solve all of this.” It is always wrong. It is always bloodshed. It is always bad for the poor and marginalized. It is always a new form of oppression and injustice, but these kinds of pundits never learn.
And “group guilt” ideologies are always an excuse for legalized hatred and envy. If having a particular skin color, or gender, or religious belief is *by its very fact* an act of oppression, then all kinds of legalized retribution become plausible. Group guilt is always ad hoc, relative to the group defining it. It is a never-ending spiral of grievance. It is an ever-changing target. In the end, no group is safe.
[i] The latest application of Critical Theory, both among “Christians” and non-Christians is that when white men marry black women it is an act of white supremacy (not love), and when black men marry white women, they are allowing themselves to be “token” blacks for white supremacy (not because they love their wives). In other words, CT proponents are now arguing for racially pure marriages. Like the KKK.