After publishing an essay on Critical Race Theory (CRT), I debated Neil Shenvi, a Christian apologist prominent among Christians who are very concerned about CRT on the Unbelievable? podcast. The vigorous exchange prompted many to scrutinize my faith and positions on race, racism, and its remedies. But, one thing has become clear; the focus of this controversy in the church really reflects the dangers of Uncritical Race Theory.

One evidence that the current controversy isn’t really about CRT is that the definition and semantic range of the term CRT is flexible and contested, even among theorists.¹ Most Christians experience being labeled as Critical Race Theorists (often without knowing what it is) than embrace the moniker. Typically the most extreme version of the concept is used to label anyone who critiques race and advocates for social justice. Some of the definitions used by some critical race theorists are incompatible with a Christian worldview. For example, the definition of CRT that includes the rejection of historically orthodox Christian concepts that gender and sexuality are “oppressive narratives” would be out of step with the faith and should be rejected. But contrary to what CRT critics maintain, such views are not essential to the overall tenets nor methodology of CRT (see footnote¹ below). So why, during a time of great social upheaval over racial injustice, has a particular theory about racism become the cause celebre among evangelicals over racism itself? A further exploration of the history of the mainstream white American church reveals a consistent pattern of skepticism toward any societal-wide concern for racial justice.

Instead of confronting the demonic lie that the “narrative of racial difference”², which lies at the bedrock of the Christian imagination about race, the church has historically diverted its attention to criticizing critiques of racism. A cursory glance at white American Christian responses during two previous periods of American unrest over the “race problem” quickly reveal similarities with the current pattern. Of course, this was not the entire story. Some faithful white American Christians were so committed to the cause of racial justice that they gave everything for it: their wealth, their ministry platforms, and even their lives. But unfortunately the stories of the Quakers, Henry Beecher Stowe, or William Lloyd Garrison were the exceptions to the rule. The American church tended to defend the ideology and structure of the American racial caste system and attack those Christians who refused to remain in line as “Biblically unfaithful.” The hard truth is that racism was only possible because of the church’s support of it.

Whether it was the tumultuous period leading up to the Civil War or the Civil Rights Movement, the reactions were the same. Mainstream white Christian movements advocated for the status quo and attacked fellow believers’ motives, logic and their faith.

Similarly to how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was branded a Communist in spite of his staunch rejection of Marxist ideology and insistence on the spiritual nature of his calling, the current rebuttal to Christians who say “Black Lives Matter!” or who work toward racial justice is that they too have been taken captive by anti-Christian ideologies. Instead of lamenting what Dr. Soong-Chan Rah calls “the dead bodies in the room” there has been an insidious attempt to rebuke, chastise and even excommunicate Christians who maintain that racial injustice is a biblical issue.³

As a result, we’ve seen greater church alienation from a generation that prioritizes social justice and who increasingly conclude the church is part of the problem and not the solution. Much has been said about what Christian advocates of racial justice mean when we use terms used in secular circles, but little attention has been put forward about why confronting CRT in particular became the concentrated focus in white evangelical Christian spaces instead of the racial injustice which the majority of Americans see as a problem.⁴ Even less attention has gone to understand why racism is statistically more present among white Evangelical Christians than in the white American population in general.⁵ The response to this current wave of the Civil Rights Movement reveals a pattern that can be seen in the two other major periods of racial unrest. To understand how we got here, it’s instructive to look at where the church in America has been.

Examining White Christian Response To Slavery & Racial Caste Leading Up To the Civil War

Argument #1: Christian Abolitionists Were Following The Culture, Not Biblical Theory. In his landmark work, Civil War As A Theological Crisis, Mark Noll captures how Christians, on both sides of the American conflict, explained what they believed was a Christian perspective on American slavery and the racial caste system it instituted.

Noll’s well-researched work is too vast to capture here in detail, but a few observations relevant to the current “CRT controversy” are worth noting. Noll traces the epistemological assumptions white Christians made about approaching the Bible and their origins and concludes: “they were children of the Enlightenment as well as children of God.”⁶

Many American Christians subscribed to the post-Enlightenment concept: “Scottish Common Sense Realism.” Scottish Common Sense Realism argued that understanding the world, and everything in our Bibles were simple matters easily accomplished by regular folk without any need to appeal to sociological complexity, wrestle with the vast gap between modern, and Ancient Near Eastern culture and without much attention to how our social location tends to shape our hermeneutics.⁷ This assumption left a major impact on the way white Americans viewed slavery and those who argued for a more nuanced approach to systemic theological frameworks in the Bible. James Henley Thornwell, who is considered the antebellum South’s most eminent Presbyterian theologian⁸ made the case forcefully:

The Church knows nothing of the intuitions of reason or the deductions of philosophy, except those reproduced in the Sacred Canon. She has a positive Constitution in the Holy Scriptures, and has no right to utter a single syllable upon any subject, except as the Lord puts words in her mouth.⁹

Thornwell, like many pro-slavery preachers argued that abolitionists who rejected slavery and fought for racial justice did so because they were committed to extrabiblical disciplines (in this case, “philosophy”) rather than the Bible. Pro-slavery arguments, based on the assumptions of “Common Sense” and self-described “biblical” arguments denounced their “social justice warrior” opposition as unbiblical, less Great Commission oriented, and less committed to Jesus. It also led them to ignore the testimony of the Black Church which, as Noll notes was clear on the issue of slavery and the Bible.

Noll observed:

Abolitionist efforts left the impression in many minds that to employ Scripture for opposing slavery had to undercut the authority of Scripture itself. In particular, arguments that contrasted the principles or the “spirit” of the Bible with the clear message of individual texts (its “letter”) were gravely suspect in a culture of democratic common sense that urged people to read and decide for themselves.”¹⁰

The tendency to see “self-evident” support for American slavery in the Bible led to attacks on abolitionists as being less committed to the text and susceptible to worldly ideologies. It’s the same attacks leveled by those who critique our brothers and sisters fighting for racial justice as “woke Christians” (often used pejoratively).¹¹

Argument #2: American Slavery Was Based On A Biblical Doctrine of Race. Another factor in white Christian support for slavery was an uncritical theory of race and racism. Noll notes that many Christian observers at the time recognized that despite the attempts to appeal to “common sense” or reason, the support of American slavery was ultimately based on the narrative of racial hierarchy: “In the United States the problem of slavery had become intertwined with the problem of race.”¹²

The theological debate claimed to center on the Bible’s alleged message about slavery in antiquity. But as one commentator noticed, the racial bias of the proslavery side was evidenced by their assumption that slavery meant whites owning blacks, and could never mean blacks or indigenous people owning whites. The fact that slavery in America was based on race — a foreign concept to the Bible — was never challenged. Regardless of the supposed commitment to dependence on sola scriptura (the doctrine that the Bible is the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice), American Christian support of racial superiority was based on secular, uncritical notions about racial hierarchy and their inaccurate, simple reading of the Bible.

The perspective that the Bible’s teachings on slavery were simple also led to the canonization of prevailing racial bias. Noll referenced that towering theologians, like Philip Schaff, a significant Reformed scholar, recognized that racial hierarchy and American slavery were inseparable. In an essay in which he defended African slavery as a consequence of the Curse of Ham, he put the issue quite plainly: “The negro question lies far deeper than the slavery question.”¹³

The bondage of Black bodies was made possible by the narrative of racial hierarchy, a narrative that was considered by the majority of white American Christians as obvious, natural, and God-ordained. Noll concluded, antebellum understanding of racial inferiority “overwhelmed biblical testimony about race, even though most Protestant Americans claimed that Scripture was in fact their supreme authority in adjudicating such matters.

The narrative of racial hierarchy convinced most white American Christians that the atrocities of American slavery were sanctioned by Scripture. Any Christians who challenged this narrative were accused of biblical infidelity and being unduly influenced by anti-Christian theories. Proslavery Christians accused abolitionists of being seduced by an “unbiblical Critical Slave Theory.” Some argue today that reflections on predominant Christian views of Blacks in antebellum America are irrelevant. But that’s only because they mistakenly view slavery apart from the narrative of racial hierarchy which propped it up. That narrative remained intact in the North and the South for well over a century, and continues to shape policy, and outcomes. As Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson has noted, “The North won the Civil War, but the South won the narrative war.

A forgotten aspect of American history is that the meaning of the Civil War was hotly contested even after it ended. Immediately following the Civil War, in Lincoln’s last speech, he announced his support for Blacks to be given the right to vote. Lincoln said:

It is unsatisfactory to some that the elective franchise is not given to the colored man. I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.

This prompted one listener to remark: “That means nigger citizenship! Now, by God, I’ll put him through. That is the last speech he will ever make.”¹⁴

That comment was made by John Wilkes Booth who would follow through on his threat, and assassinate President Lincoln four days later. Lincoln’s assassination was the direct result of him challenging the narrative of racial hierarchy after slavery had ended.

Examining White American Christian Response To Civil Rights In the 1960’s

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech during the March On Washington in 1963. King noted that exactly 100 years earlier, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation:

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. … And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.¹⁵

Why, ten decades after the end of American slavery, were African Americans “still not free?” What could make sense of the persistence of racial animus and discrimination? Could Stevenson’s claim that the “narrative of racial hierarchy” provided the pillars of support for the ongoing policies and prejudices that still created racial disparities 100 years later? If so, wouldn’t that mean that narratives, and not simply policies are behind systemic racism?

Argument #1: Christian Civil Rights Activists Were Following The Culture & Not Biblical Doctrine. Tragically, many white American Christians continued to resist racial justice in the century following the Civil War. Two prominent evangelical Christian leaders, Dr. G.T. Gillespie and Bob Jones Sr., the founder of Bob Jones University, wrote extensive responses to the “woke Christians” in the Civil Rights Movement. Their resistance to racial equality recalls similar arguments from the previous century and our present context.

Bob Jones’ treatise on segregation was an immediate response to a prominent evangelical minister advocating for “social justice.” Upon his return from Africa, Billy Graham (who had his own complicated history with racial justice) wrote a statement on April 7, 1960 that read:

The white race cannot possibly claim to be the chosen race nor can the white race take for themselves promises that were applied to ancient Israel. Jim Crow must go. It is absolutely ridiculous to refuse food or a night’s lodging to a man on the basis of skin color.¹⁶

Two days later, on Easter Sunday, Bob Jones Sr. fired back at Graham and other Christians who were calling for racial justice.

These religious liberals are the worst infidels in many ways in the country; and some of them are filling pulpits down South. They do not believe the Bible any longer; so it does not do any good to quote it to them. They have gone over to modernism, and they are leading the white people astray at the same time; and they are leading colored Christians astray. But every good, substantial, Bible-believing, intelligent, orthodox Christian can read the Word of God and know that what is happening in the South [ending segregation] now is not of God.¹⁸

Gillespie and Jones also warned against their version of “cultural Marxism” and Critical Race Theory.

Gillespie wrote: The problem has also been complicated by the worldwide spread of Karl Marx’s doctrine of Internationalism and the Classless society, combined with the vigorous propaganda of Soviet Communism to bring about a world revolution and the breakdown of all national and racial distinctions and to effect the complete amalgamation of all races.

Sound familiar? Current critics of racial justice work are pulling from a tradition of accusations that argue the ideas are “anti-Christian” and are “Marxist” sentiments. There truly is nothing new under the sun. But that’s not the only historical thread.

In addition to accusations of Marxism, the post-Enlightenment epistemological assumption of “common sense realism” embraced by pro-slavery Christians, also figured prominently in the writings of segregationists Jones and Gillespie.

Gillespie, like contemporary critics of racial justice, criticized the emerging social justice movement (their Black Lives Matter Movement) and social sciences (their CRT). He writes:

Laying aside therefore the shallow sophistries, concerning so-called “Civil Rights,” “The Psychological and Sociological Effects of Segregation,” “The Principles of Human Brotherhood,” and the purely academic questions concerning racial superiority or inferiority, let us be realistic in our approach to this problem.¹⁹

Like the white Christians a century before him, the witness of the Black church meant nothing to Gillespie. He rejected Rev. King’s “principles of human brotherhood” explicitly in his address. Gillespie also rejected the activists of his day. He alludes in this quote to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case which ruled that segregation of public facilities was illegal. A key argument in the case was that segregation was inherently harmful and instilled racial inferiority in Black children. Dr. & Mrs. Kenneth and Mamie Clarke designed the famous “doll experiment” that demonstrated the damaging psychological and sociological impact of segregation in the way it reinforced the narrative of racial difference. To Gillespie, their work was nonsense. Gillespie rejected the argument of “narratives” in the same way Dr. Neil Shenvi rejects the concept of racial narratives as oppressive today.

Argument #2: There was no systemic racism to confront. We find another strategy to counter Christians who advocate for racial justice in the antebellum period, the Civil Rights era, and in our current moment. They make the case, there is no oppression to protest.

Gillespie maintained that Blacks had it so good in the South, they shouldn’t complain:

… the Southern negro has somehow managed to acquire a greater number of homes, farms, banks and other properties, has achieved a higher standard of living, and today enjoys larger educational and economic opportunities, is happier and better adjusted, than can be said of any comparable number of his race at any time in their history or in any part of the world today.

According to Southern white Christian leaders like Gillespie and Jones writing in 1954, and 1960 respectively, Black people were “happier” and “better off” under Jim Crow segregation in the South. They ignored the fact that millions of Black people fled the South as refugees during the Great Migration in the largest voluntary movement of people the world has ever seen. Yet they claimed racism is not a major issue and oppression isn’t a problem most Black people face. Sound familiar?

After our debate, Neil Shenvi and I had an exchange on Twitter in which he echoed many of these same themes. Shenvi rejects a definition of racism as “normal, permanent, pervasive, and hidden.” Instead of this analysis he opts for an “individual lens” which will reveal “few individuals are oppressed.”

Shenvi conclusions flow from a hyper-individualistic analysis. I offered the example of freed Blacks in antebellum America, like Richard Allen, who founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

As a result of being dragged off his knees in a white church, Allen founded the first Black denomination in 1793 and went on to plant many churches. In 1830, he was an educated, middle class Philadelphian who was free. When asked would Shenvi consider Allen one who was oppressed, he replied “I don’t know enough about Allen to know if he was oppressed or not.” We only know of who Richard Allen is because after the oppression he experienced in his home church (St. George’s Methodist) he founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church. For context, in 1830 Black people could not be citizens because of their race. They could not vote. They had no rights in court. They could be kidnapped and enslaved and had no legal recourse. They were bombarded with racial narratives that assumed they were less human (as a matter of law, theology, and practice). There is no scenario in which a Black person, living in America in 1830 would not qualify as being oppressed. Tragically, critics like Shenvi point to Christians sounding the alarm on racial injustice as the real problem, but fail to substantially address and resolve the racial injustices their targets are trying to end. Why do Christians often fail to see racism as a profound source of America’s most persistent problems?

In his monumental work, The Color of Compromise, Jemar Tisby, details the white American church’s complicity with systemic racism throughout American history. To illustrate how racism morphed from explicit hate-speech, to more subtle approaches, Tisby quoted Lee Atwater, President Richard Nixon’s former campaign strategist, to reveal how the same racial narrative required shifting new strategies to make the same old arguments. Notably, many conservative Christians hitched their wagon to Nixon’s campaign. His former campaign manager stated:

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract.” He said all of this in an interview recorded in 1981. “Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites,” he continued.”²⁰

Tisby notes that things have changed since the 1950’s and 1960’s both materially and in what is considered acceptable public narrative on race. But it would be naive or overly simplistic to conclude racism doesn’t exist: “Since the 1970s, Christian complicity in racism has become more difficult to discern. It is hidden, but that does not mean it no longer exists. … we see that Christian complicity with racism remains, even as it has taken on subtler forms. Again, we must remember: racism never goes away; it adapts.”²¹

Examining Christians Response To Racial Justice In The Present

Pray March Act Brooklyn Protest June 2020

Similarly to the two previous eras of significant social challenges to the racial caste system, in this current moment, evangelical Christian have largely responded to the message and the movement with hostility. Strikingly, the same types of attacks leveled at Christian abolitionists and Civil Rights activists, are being leveraged toward Christian racial injustice advocates. Once again, the Black and Brown church is being ignored by these critics and activism is being denounced. These similarities need not indicate the same underlying motives, but they do reveal the similar dangers.

Argument #1: Christian Justice Advocates Are Just Following The Culture and not Biblical Doctrine. Summarizing the work of Divided By Faith by Christian Smith and Michael Emerson, Tisby articulates “The particular religio-cultural tools that white evangelicals use to understand race actually tend to perpetuate the very racial problems they say they want to ameliorate.” Smith and Emerson explain why:

Accountable individualism means that “individuals exist independent of structures and institutions, have freewill, and are individually accountable for their own actions.” This belief promotes skepticism toward the idea that social systems and structures profoundly shape the actions of individuals. The white evangelical understanding of individualism has this effect, and it tends to reduce the importance of communities and institutions in shaping the ways people think and behave. Another belief in the cultural toolkit is relationalism, “a strong emphasis on interpersonal relationships.” According to relationalism, social problems are fundamentally due to broken personal relationships: “Thus, if race problems — poor relationships — result from sin, then race problems must largely be individually based.” And anti-structuralism refers to the belief that “invoking social structures shifts guilt away from its root source — the accountable individual.” In other words, systems, structures, and policies are not to blame for the problems in America; instead, the problems come from the harmful choices of individuals. “Absent from their accounts is the idea that poor relationships might be shaped by social structures, such as laws, the ways institutions operate, or forms of segregation. . . . They often find structural explanations irrelevant or even wrongheaded”.²²

These assumptions of individualism, and social science skepticism rob many evangelical Christians (of all ethnicities and races) of the ability to properly analyze the problem of race in a comprehensive way. The tendency to attack those who disagree as “unbiblical” and “ influenced by secular academia rather than by the Christian faith” only lessens their ability to see what they currently don’t. All of this leads Tisby to conclude that:

Though it was necessary to enact civil rights legislation, you cannot erase four hundred years of race-based oppression by passing a few laws.²³

Argument #2: There Is No Systemic Racism To Confront. For many opponents of racial justice activism and scholarship, a primary critique is that systemic racism no longer exists. This is a variation of the themes we observed earlier. In the antebellum period, it was argued Africans were better off because of their exposure to whiteness and western civilization. During the Civil Rights Movement, Gillespie and Jones argued that Blacks in the South were living better than anywhere in the world so the fuss was much ado about nothing. Now, we’re told, there is no systemic racism. There are two important questions anyone who holds this view must first ask themselves:

  1. Did systemic racism ever exist in America?
  2. If so, when did it end? (If not, what about slavery, segregation & disenfranchisement?)

Time doesn’t permit us to explore the many ways that unjust policies and practices in education, criminal justice, healthcare, and even in employment cause the racial disparities present in our society. There are still many sectors of society where policies and outcomes have been built on decades-old approaches to disenfranchise and disadvantage people of color. They are not hard to find. A quick internet search can discover them. But critics like Shenvi reject this reality out of hand. In his article, Does Systemic Racism Exist? He raises issues with defining systemic racism around outcomes.

He argues that dominant definitions of “systemic racism” are inadequate and inaccurate since they often focus on racial disparities without differentiating the intent of a given policy. To illustrate his point, he notes that even policies created to address racial disparities, but which unintentionally worsens them, would qualify as “systemic racism.” He references a Brookings Institute article on “ban the box” initiatives. Ban The Box was a policy put in place to reduce racial discrimination in employment by making it illegal to ask on job applications if the applicant had a criminal record. By banning the box, activists expected these formerly incarcerated job searchers (many of whom were Black and Hispanic) to experience less employment discrimination. But the opposite happened. After banning the box, the formerly incarcerated were less likely to get jobs.

Shenvi points out that the literal interpretation of “systemic racism” would then mean that this policy was systemically racist though it was created to help people of color. What Shenvi doesn’t acknowledge is that the narrative of racial hierarchy he claims has no explanatory power, was explicitly to blame in this case. The Brookings article made it clear that, in the absence of being able to discriminate against former felons, the potential employers chose to discriminate by race instead! So the policy to ban the box backfired because racism was entrenched in the minds of the employers — not because it didn’t exist!

The authors wrote: “Employers will guess that black and Hispanic men are more likely to have been in prison, and therefore less likely to be job-ready.”²⁴

To remedy what he sees as internal inconsistency by defining systemic racism through outcomes, Shenvi presents helpful criteria: “So rather than talking about “systemic racism,” talk specifically about “policies which unintentionally harm POC” or “the effects of redlining” or “harmful racial stereotypes.”” Oddly, he fails to see the example he gave about Ban the Box demonstrates systemic racism and its relationship with “harmful racial stereotypes.” The “Ban The Box” initiative didn’t work because the “harmful racial stereotypes” Shenvi referenced caused employers to systematically deny Black and Hispanic men employment. His overly simplistic analysis reveals much of the legacy of what can be referred to as “uncritical race theory.”

Will We Reject Uncritical Race Theory? Most of us grow up with an uncritical theory of race. We just see it as a categorization of humanity, as neutral as age or sex. We perceive “racism” as the ignorant prejudices of a few bigoted people, and not the legacy of history, or what Dr. William Jennings calls, “the theological imagination.” According to this narrow and insufficient view on race:

Once upon a time in America there was slavery, and that was bad (but talked about too much nowadays). Then President Abraham Lincoln arrived and “freed the slaves.” At that point, we as society were in a good place until some hateful bigots in the South began to discriminate against people. But, Dr. Martin Luther King gave a speech, we passed some laws, and now we are a meritocracy again.

This view sees racism as essentially the behavior of a few “lone wolves” who reject societal wide norms. This view is uncritical of race. Race was never a neutral concept, but was created to marginalize people of color and justify institutions in society that do the same. Uncritical race theory is too naive and narrow to wrestle with how Christian theologians and denominations with “sound doctrine” could have advocated for a clearly diabolical heresy such as racism. Uncritical race theory doesn’t take seriously the power of racialized narratives nor the danger of dismissing racism — though it’s apparent in the church’s recent past and present.

Instead, uncritical race theory has been weaponized to attack those who challenge the narrative of racial hierarchy. Uncritical race theory is dominant in evangelical spaces that reject the significance and insidiousness of race. And as we have shown, we can see the genealogy of this view in the 1850’s with proslavery arguments and in the 1950’s Christian segregationists. The present uncritical race theorists would not support the blatant racist views of those of the past. But it is noteworthy that the same arguments that were used then by uncritical race theorists are used today. These arguments question the orthodoxy of opponents, reject social science insights, and deny the severity of racial disparities that exist.

Theologian and racial trauma Counselor, Kyle Howard has seen the deficiencies of uncritical race theorists and the impact of how it further traumatizes those people of color who — in spite of their life experiences — are routinely dismissed. He added an insightful comment on Shenvi’s work on CRT that reverberates in the far corners of the apologetics community which has alienated some of its most gifted and black Christian allies through their tone, posture and position on racism.

As Howard writes, “racial pain of your brothers and sisters is not a “thing to simply be analyzed, but a reality to be lamented.”” Uncritical race theory has been around as long as race has. That’s why this current controversy was never simply about “Critical Race Theory.” It’s about asking fundamental questions:

  • Are those who have an uncritical theory of race willing to consider there are racial realities they may be missing?
  • Will they admit that racism is a bigger issue than they previously realized, and their theory of dealing with it is insufficient?
  • Will they reject the “common sense realism” that assumes there is nothing to learn from the unique insights of Black and Brown people?
  • Will they break from the tradition of questioning the faith or doctrine of those who advocate for racial justice?

When the answer is “no” to these questions, any theory that is critical of race (and there are many) will to them sound like CRT. Because they believe there is no problem, the “solutions” must stem from ideological convictions rather than facts. They will hastily conclude that people must be duped by a Leftist agenda instead of lamenting the real racist realities they are missing. But when the answer is “yes” we can find ourselves in a position to live out the true meaning of unity rejecting the uncritical theory of race with one that realizes the value of valuing others’ insights. The Apostle Paul notably described the conditions of our spiritual maturity:

… so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Eph. 4:15–16

Notably, Paul anchors his vision of maturity not simply on the accumulation of knowledge, but on the unity of the saints which can only be achieved when we value the experiences of distinct parts of the Body, and learn to see from one another that which we can’t see ourselves. Interestingly, only when we see the “systemic nature” of the Body of Christ; our interdependence and need to learn from each other, can we possibly see the insidious and often invisible “systemic racism.”

Rasool is a teaching pastor at the Bridge Church in Brooklyn, and the host of the Where Ya From? Podcast where he spotlights the stories of Christians who are doing amazing work at the intersection of faith & culture. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook and visit his website for more insight on culture and faith.

SOURCES

[1] In the seminal work on the topic of CRT, this is written under the section Basic Tenets of CRT: “What do critical race theorists believe? Probably not every member would subscribe to every tenet set out in this book, but many would agree on the following propositions. 1) First, that racism is ordinary. 2) white-over-color ascendancy serves important purposes, both psychic and material. 3) race and races are products of social thought and relations 4) the ways the dominant society racializes different minority groups at different times 5) the notion of intersectionality and anti-essentialism. No person has a single, easily stated, unitary identity. 6) the voice-of-color thesis holds that because of their different histories and experiences with oppression, black, Indian, Asian, and Latino/a writers and thinkers may be able to communicate to their white counterparts matters that the whites are unlikely to know. Introduction To Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado & Jean Stefancic. 2001

[2] A phrase popularized by legal activist Bryan Stevenson to refer to the story of race that justifies racist beliefs, ideas and policies. Cited from: https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/06/24/bryan-stevenson-on-charleston-and-our-real-problem-with-race

[3] Cited from: https://www.christianpost.com/news/sbc-prof-wants-discipline-for-churches-that-promote-wokeness.html

[4] Cited: https://www.npr.org/2020/06/21/881477657/poll-majority-of-americans-say-racial-discrimination-is-a-big-problem

[5] Cited from: https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/racism-among-white-christians-higher-among-nonreligious-s-no-coincidence-ncna1235045

[6] Noll, Mark A.. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (The Steven and Janice Brose Lectures in the Civil War Era) (p. 75). The University of North Carolina Press.

[7] Cited from: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scottish-19th/

[8] Cited from: https://www.thearda.com/timeline/persons/person_98.asp

[9] Noll, Mark A.. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (The Steven and Janice Brose Lectures in the Civil War Era) (p. 62). The University of North Carolina Press.

[10] Ibid., (p. 72).

[11] Cited from: https://stream.org/the-woke-church/

[12] Noll, Mark A.. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (The Steven and Janice Brose Lectures in the Civil War Era) (pp. 55–56). The University of North Carolina Press.

[13] Ibid., (p. 51).

[14] Cited from: https://www.history.com/news/what-lincoln-said-in-his-finalspeech#:~:text=One%20member%20of%20the%20crowd,speech%20he%20will%20ever%20make.%E2%80%9D

[15] Cited from: https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm

[16] Cited from: https://thewitnessbcc.com/moving-beyond-grahams-legacy-raising-the-bar-on-evangelical-participation-in-civil-rights/

[17] Cited from: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/evangelical-history/is-segregation-scriptural-a-radio-address-from-bob-jones-on-easter-of-1960/

[18] Cited from: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/evangelical-history/is-segregation-scriptural-a-radio-address-from-bob-jones-on-easter-of-1960/

[19] Cited from https://egrove.olemiss.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=citizens_pamph

[20] Tisby, Jemar. The Color of Compromise (pp. 152–153). Zondervan.

[21] Ibid., (p. 155)

[22] Ibid., (p.175)

[23] Ibid., (p. 155)

[24] Cited from the article Neil Shenvi linked to in his article: https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/ban-the-box-does-more-harm-than-good/

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