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Is It Time to Move Past Unhelpful Ways of Discussing Racism?

Letting Go of CRT as a "Helpful Tool"

Editor's note: This post is written by our friend, Lisa Spencer. It was originally published last summer on her blog, TheoThoughts, under the title, “At a Loss.” It is republished here with Lisa’s permission.

When it comes to the CRT wars and broader discussions on social justice, I’ve reached a point where I’m at a loss….for many things.

Particularly for those who profess Christ as Lord and proclaim authority of Scripture as the ultimate lens, I’m confused how there is acknowledgement that CRT has some compatibility issues with Scripture, but then there is strident defense of why we need to keep this paradigm.

As Bruce Ashford points out here, treating people according to identity group and hanging or dismissing sins according to those groupings is no way to view the world.

My friend, Dr. Pat Sawyer, works with this material in his profession and demonstrates a significant fluency in CRT, as can be seen in his 3 part series here, here and here. And yet, he concludes where this paradigm conflicts with Scripture.

Even Danny Slavich’s very thoughtful analysis and more favorable treatment here for CRT as a “tool” also cautions against the contradictions.

These are not shrill voices that refuse to understand the complexities involved with what CRT is trying to address, but those who have carefully engaged with the material with a desire for reconciliation on better race relations. And yet, there is a consensus of concern and contradictions that, in my opinion, do not warrant hanging on to this paradigm even as a tool.

I chimed in recently here to see what happens when ideas are put into practice, particularly in the church. And when I think of the unity we are to have in Christ as Scripture commends, I’m at a loss how racializing everything brings about this unity and ultimate healing.

I’m at a loss how racializing everything brings about this unity and ultimate healing.

And yet, there are Christians who will refute you at every turn suggesting somehow to reject this paradigm is to not be Christian enough because it somehow shows a lack of concern for the black experience in America (as if all black experience today is the same). Even worse when those who express concerns about the contradictions are mocked and ridiculed as if filtering this paradigm through the lens of Scripture is somehow deficient. What fruit does this bear? I’m honestly baffled.

I’m at a loss how we are riding the coattails of the broader culture and making race the ultimate thing, as if being made in the image of God rests solely on how we are viewed and treated according to race. Keep in mind that the notion of race was a social construct specifically designed to create a hierarchy of people groups.

So I’m at a loss as to why we persist in dividing people according to these false categories as a solution to reconciling them. If the construction of a “black” and “white” race created injustice and hostility, then why would we think perpetuating this grouping will bring about change?

Yes, we should be honest about history, the good, the bad and the ugly. And when it comes to US history, we have quite a bit of ugliness in it that affected whole groups of people for a long time. We need to be honest about that. But I’m at a loss as to why we just can’t teach that amid a robust doctrine of sin and keep it there. I’m also at a loss as to why this should be weaponized to produce guilt in others. To be fair, I’m also at a loss for those who get indignant about this history as if we shouldn’t look it in the eye and see it for what it is. We should.

But I’m at a loss to why we persist in conflating the heinous nature of chattel slavery and Jim Crow with events of today as if there has been no progression in the past 50 years. Does racism still exist? Sure it does. But I’m confused as to why we can’t distinguish between institutional and cultural norms that pervaded society, subjugating black and brown people as a way of life vs. the pockets of events that arise amid a changed society that has legally, and in many ways, culturally expunged the societal barriers. Surely, the Lord in his great wisdom has bestowed us with the ability to make judicious evaluations and not readily impose the weight of history onto the present as if nothing has changed.

I’m at a loss to why we persist in conflating the heinous nature of chattel slavery and Jim Crow with events of today as if there has been no progression in the past 50 years.

That doesn’t mean there haven't been residual effects of systemic racism. Structural injustices occurred through the legal withholding of opportunities for black and brown people. Urban renewal projects decimated many a minority community, turning once thriving minority communities into cities’ most economically depressed areas. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope and action for change or that there hasn’t been the moral fiber and tenacity to overcome these barriers. I’m at a loss how there can be more energy for shouting down our white brothers and sisters over these issues than actively engaged in doing something concretely where we see these disparities.

And speaking of hope, I’m at a loss as to why the hope of God’s redemptive acts in history, culminating the work and person of Jesus Christ is not enough to overcome the pessimism associated with burying oneself in historical racism. How can we profess Jesus’ lordship as the ultimate, yet focus more on the events of 1619 than on A.D. 33?

And if your retort to everything I’ve written is “Well I’m at a loss for why you can’t see the destructive nature of white supremacy and your internalized oppression,” that is exactly my point.

Continue the conversation by checking out CFBU’s new podcast, Off Code. Monique is partnering with our friend, Kevin Briggins, to discuss issues in the Black community.

This discussion with our friend, Dr. Joe Miller, also connects to themes in this post.


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