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Critical Race Theory

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A few years ago I would have said that CRT stood for Christian Reformed Theology or even Cathode Ray Tube, but now I know that it usually means Critical Race Theory.

At first, I was aware of CRT as an academic area of study. Later I started to notice some of its social and political manifestations such as the Black Lives Matter in the United States. Now it seems to have become so prominent in the USA that it is provoking a substantial backlash. Nine states have passed legislation banning CRT from being taught at their schools and a further 19 are in the process of doing the same. Five Southern Baptist seminaries have issued statements that CRT is incompatible with the Baptist Faith and Message, and more church groups are following this lead. More recently, CRT has surfaced openly in South Africa and is starting to gain traction.

So, what is Critical Race Theory, is it incompatible with the Christian worldview, and is it bad? I guess that in the latter part of this question I am flagging my initial stance on the issue, but I want to explore the subject with you.

This article is my attempt to learn about CRT and to form an opinion concerning it. Some of the questions I seek to find answers for, at least in part are:

  • Is CRT a valid lens through which to view history?
  • Is it a genuine attempt to analyse and find solutions to the problem of racism?
  • Or is it, in the main, an expression of Marxism aimed at revolution?
This article will definitely not be a thorough analysis of CRT in all its variations and manifestations, but rather a CRT101 Introduction. In essence, I am inviting you to share my learning experience as I explore this subject for the first time. 

What is CRT?

One of the obstacles to getting to grips with CRT is that it is defined and formulated differently by its various champions and critics.

One definition is: Policies and practices that exist throughout a whole society or organisation that result in and support a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others, based on race.

Another, simpler,  understanding of CRT is that it is a philosophy and practice that frames the human story in terms of oppressed versus oppressor, with all members of society falling into one of those two categories. However, it is in the main tenets of CRT that the fuller definition emerges. For instance:

  • CRT understands history as moving towards revolution and the destruction of oppressive power structures to the benefit of the disadvantaged.
  • Most CRT variations hold that white-skinned people are gene oppressors and black-skinned people are oppressed. However, some versions focus on white cisgender (their sex matches their gender), heterosexual (straight), able-bodied, Christian males as the oppressors.
  • CRT believes that although this oppressor group, as defined, is not in the majority in Western nations, it does control the dominant ideology of society executing its power through systemic control over the legal, cultural, and financial institutions.
  • Critical race theorists believe that the idea of objective truth is a construct used by the oppressors to advance their interests.
  • Because the oppressors benefit from the systems they have entrenched in society, they are blinded by their bias and prejudice. Therefore they cannot rely on their own understanding and should instead yield to the understanding of the oppressed.
  • CRT academics teach that race is socially constructed, not biologically neutral, as an artificial correlation between a set of physical characteristics such as skin colour, facial features, hair texture, and so on.
  • CRT holds that the racism that ensues is normal and not aberrational in that it is the ordinary experience of most ‘people of colour’. These people (blacks, Hispanics, etc.) are routinely discriminated against and treated unfairly in both public and private settings.

These are just some of the components of Critical Race Theories’ self-definition that have profound consequences for society in general. For instance:

  • Most CRT protagonists place black and white people in conflict with each other, with white people being the oppressors. They think in terms of racial group identity and not on an individual level, so they see all  black people as oppressed and disadvantaged and all white people as privileged oppressors. This, in itself, is a profoundly racist idea.
  • CRT does not accept objective truth but holds rather that societal truth is established subjectively by those who are oppressed. Only the oppressed can discern and formulate truth because it is their lived experience and they are not blinded by the motives and prejudices of the oppressors.
  • CRT holds that racism directed against them is the normal and constant experience of the oppressed.
  • Critical Race Theory sees reality through the lens of power and divides all people into the powerful and the powerless depending on their race, class, gender, or sexuality. These powerless groups are not normally subjugated through physical force but by the ability of their oppressors to exercise their power through imposed norms, values, and authority structures.

Race Theory versus Racism.

If CRT concerned itself only with the elimination of racism, then I wouldn’t have as many problems with it as I do.

One definition of racism is ‘prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism by an individual, community, or institution against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalised’. This is not good for society and violates biblical and moral values.

Another definition of racism is ‘the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another’, and I am opposed to this as well for the same reasons. However, CRT does not appear to simply be opposed to racism. From what I have learned so far is that it is a recent expression of Social Marxism similar to Radical Liberalism. It is also a worldview that stands in direct opposition to the Christian worldview.

Racism is abhorrent but it is an individual mindset rather than a group characteristic,  although racists may well group together for mutual support.

Racism, in biblical terms, has nothing to do with skin colour; Adam’s colour is unknown and irrelevant, and Jesus was probably typically Middle Eastern beige in colour . Racism is presented in the bible as a sin of partiality (James 2:1. 8-9), hatred (1 John 4:20), and injustice (Micah 6:8).

The CRT Worldview

Critical Race Theory presents a worldview very different from that of biblical Christianity because it sees life through the Marxist lens of oppressors versus the oppressed and revolution as the means of doing away with oppression.

CRT places all members of society into one of these two groups based on race, religion, gender, and status rather than on individual responsibility in actual acts of oppression. CRT seeks to provide answers to questions such as who are we, what is our fundamental problem and its solution, and what is our primary moral duty? However, it answers these questions from a Marxist perspective.

Critical Race Theories’ metanarrative runs from oppression to liberation. All of us are either members of a dominant group or a marginalised group. Therefore if we are part of the oppressor group then we need to divest ourselves of our power and transfer it to the marginalised. If we are part of the oppressed group then we need to acquire power by dismantling all structures that embody the power of the oppressors. The greatest sin is oppression and the greatest virtue is liberation.

The bible presents us with a very different worldview that sees life through the lens of the Lord Jesus Christ. All of humanity is either ‘in Christ’ (born again, saved) or not in Christ, of the Kingdom of God or of the kingdom of this world. However, transfer from one to the other is through individual repentance, acceptance of who Jesus is and his salvation and lordship, and receipt of spiritual regeneration by the Holy Spirit. While CRT believes that the world will culminate in a form of communistic utopia, the bible teaches an ultimate restoration of the rule of God in a new HeavenEarth.

Christianity provides an overarching metanarrative from creation to redemption from our individualised sin of rebellion and into eternal relationship with God and each other.

The CRC worldview regards all people in terms of their group status of oppressor or oppressed while the Christian worldview regards all people in terms of their individual status of saved or unsaved. CRT views our identity as defined by our power group classification while Christianity views our identity primarily as our relationship with God. CRT holds that truth is subjective and determined only by the oppressed while Christianity holds that truth is objective and defined by the Word of God.

CRT in South Africa

Critical Race Theory in South Africa, my land of birth and citizenship, is similar to its USA father, but different in some significant ways:

  • The vast majority of people living in South Africa are black Africans (over 80%) while our white South African population is less than 8% and declining rapidly. However white South Africans controlled government, industry, and commerce for a long time before the African National Congress came to power about three decades ago. The previous government’s policies of segregation and discrimination resulted in many, but not all, white people being in privileged positions. That government entrenched racism in its laws and structures to the disadvantage of black people and this is indeed part of the legacy of apartheid that still has some lingering effects on the population.
  • In 1994 the country adopted a new constitution which was elevated above parliament as the highest source of authority. Nonracialism was a founding value in this new inclusive democracy.
  • In the most recent polls, only 3% of black respondents identified racism as a key unresolved issue yet it has been placed at the very centre of current national discourse by politicians, CRT academics, and much of the media. In terms of a 2018 Institute of Race Relations survey, the black respondents identified the top government priority as Creating more jobs (27%), Fighting corruption (14%), Improving education (11%), and fighting crime (10%)
  • In a very recent article by Dr Anthea Jeffry of the Institute of Race Relations, ‘CRT’s real goals have little to do with helping disadvantaged black people. Instead, one of its overarching aims is to bring about the collapse of liberal democracy’. Later in the same article, she wrote that. ‘CRT’s second and most important overarching aim is to end capitalism …

Stripped to its essence, CRT is simply Marxist dogma dressed up in the language of race instead of class, with the oppressor group framed as the white population with its overweening “Supremacy” and “systemic power”, which must be overthrown’.

  • The Radical Economic Transformation faction of the ANC party and some minority parties aggressively push the Marxist agenda and CRT fits in snugly with their worldview and policies.

The Role of The Church

Whether or not the nation’s constitution enshrines nonracialism, Christian churches certainly should. If the local church is to be the model of godly society and a light to society, as it is intended to be, then membership, leadership, and ministry participation cannot be restricted to only certain racial categories of people. The church services should reflect this key value and the leadership should teach, model, and embody it.

Individual Christians can nullify CRT influence and societal prejudice by treating all people with dignity and equity irrespective of their race, gender, sexual orientation etc. All needy people should be subject to the grace and largess of caring Christians irrespective of their skin colour.  As individual disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and as members of his church we can embody the truth by speaking it and living it out in our nation.

Conclusion

These are some of the things I have learned about Critical Race Theory and I have attempted to pass on the key points in an understandable way. In doing so, I have expressed my personal view and stance on these matters. However, the purpose of this article has been to inform those who have probably heard the term CRT but not really understood what it is. Now, hopefully, you know enough to decide for yourself or to seek further information.

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Christopher Peppler

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4 thoughts on “Critical Race Theory”

  1. Dear Christopher,
    You conveniently just focused on the demographical statistics in would been also important to discuss the economic power that is in the hands of the minority white population. Secondly when white churches when they put black people in leadership positions they recruit foreigners not South African Black to comply! Lastly Jesus did critize the empire and it was not only about saving of souls, as your focused is on. As a white Christian, please start repenting, then to start with the position of your political white predecessors. It is a shame that you do not focus a lot on the pain and suffering white christians did cause to black people. I hope God will forgive you

    1. Christopher Peppler

      Thank you for your comments. The article is an introduction to CRT, not an analysis or critique of the history of race relations in South Africa. One of the main points of difference between the CRT worldview and the Christian worldview is that CRT categorises people in groups by race, gender, sexual orientation etc while a Jesus-centred worldview deals with people individually irrespective of race, skin colour etc. I think that you may have misunderstood the purpose of the article.

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.