Growing up in Southern California, just thirty minutes from Mexico, life was full of cultural splashes. It was normal to see mixed marriages, people with different skin color, and to understand that we, as humans, are different but each unique. Even still, the first time I really remember being introduced to another culture was as a child.
His name is “Beto”. I remember listening to my dad speaking to him in broken Spanish, simply fascinated with a different language and the unique connection. My father spent time with Beto and his family, in Mexico, while studying abroad as a young man. Beto and my father had not seen each other for years! I recall them agreeing that we needed to get our families together for dinner, and we did!
Both Beto and my father were pastors. Eventually, Beto helped start a Spanish speaking church on the same campus my father was pastoring.
I felt alive every time we ran into Beto and his family, when I could hear “Spanish” and see the man that had a unique connection with my father. From that point, I was drawn to any period across the border, any mission trip to a Latin American country, I begged to eat and walk around “Old Town” (historical area for the Latino community in San Diego), and I loved that we were required to take a few years of Spanish in Jr. High and High School! I was completely fascinated with a culture different than my own, both good and bad.
When I thought back to the first time I remember making a real cross-cultural connection, the story started to remind me of another. One where the a Son’s relationship with the Father brought life and an extraordinary connection. You see, the beauty of my connection with Beto, was because of this connection with my father.
Beto and I spoke different languages and could not communicate but I LOVED when we ran into Beto! It was through my father that I knew Beto. Just as it is through Jesus Christ that I can know God the Father.
In my early years of Intercultural Studies, a reflection such as the above would have been an accepted and appreciated means of cross-cultural conversation. Fast forward a handful of years, me sharing this account and leading this discussion is out of place. Remember that humans are classified in groups according to Critical Social Justice. One can only speak for the group or groups they represent.
Do you notice others’ differences?
Many subsets of Critical Theory are complex in that they notice differences in others, although they only want this to be done according to the group narrative and only taught by that group, itself. Diversity trainings are often for the purpose of helping us notice the differences of others and our weakness, or if oppressed, gain equality through recognizing the ways I have been wronged. Liberation can come as oppressors recognize their wrongs, though it is a never ending process.
My account with Beto focuses on an individual connection and approach. The right approach, according to Critical Race Theory, to diversity and cross-cultural connections should be me recognizing my racism toward Beto, who is pre-determined to be “oppressed” due to his skin color. The follow up should be me recognizing my wrongs as the “oppressor” and trying to right those wrongs.
(Side note, it is important to recognize that this implication of “oppressed”/”victim” should be offensive to the oppressed. It automatically implies an “oppressed” person is weak, a victim and not considered to be at the same level as the oppressor. God did not pre-label us like this.)
These factors are all implications of CRT that can be found in “White Fragility, “In fact, racism invariably manifests itself within cross-racial friendships as well. Racism cannot be absent from your friendship.” (p. 80, White Fragility)
“A racism-free upbringing is not possible, because racism is a social system embedded in the culture and its institutions. We are born into this system and have no say in whether we will be affected by it.” (p. 83, White Fragility)
“Racism is a society-wide dynamic that occurs at the group level. When I say that only whites can be racist, I mean that in the United States, only whites have the collective social and institutional power and privilege over people of color. People of color do not have this power and privilege over white people.” (p.22, White Fragility)
“By definition, racism is a deeply embedded historical system of institutional power.” (p.24, White Fragility)
Can we pause for a moment and ask an honest question? Whether or not you believe racism is “systematic”, if you are a Christian, honestly answer the question below. Is it truly biblical to say that “only whites can be racist” (even if only in the US)?
This is yet another group label within Critical Race Theory that identifies a person differently than Christ taught.
JESUS & JOHN WAYNE
As noted above, it is understood that “whites are racist” if having read “White Fragility”, by Robin DiAngelo, a prominate voice in Critical Race Theory (a subset of Critical Theory). When one continues in studying these theories and DiAngelo’s work, you will find that there is no way around this racism and no cure.
So, as Christians, if we adopt a “diversity” stance developed from the secular notion that we are identified by CRT or CSJ, which divide by non-biblical groups, oppressed vs. oppressor that offer NO hope, how is it even possible to use this framework as a “analytical tool”?
Note that many Christian counter parts are buying into the secular voices that teach this, and then adding scripture to aid the principles they believe are true. It is not uncommon to hear of a Christian setting bringing in names that draw from Ibram Kendi, Robin DiAngelo, Kimberle Crenshaw, both current and past voices that frame this conversation. This is now common in churches, chapels, trainings, schools and work settings, even Christian.
For example, Kristin Kobes Du Mez who wrote, “Jesus and John Wayne” states her beliefs below, note these ideas comes from a CRT framework. Yet, ironically, I wonder if Kristin and other individuals really know the Theories influencing their beliefs.
“To many black Christian’s evangelicalism had become ‘a white religious brand’.” (p.6, Kobes Du Mez)
“Although foundational to white evangelical identity, race rarely acts as an independent variable.” (p.6, Kobes Du Mez)
“The differences may be rooted not just in experience but in the faith itself; in practice, the seemingly neutral ‘evangelical distinctives’ turn out to be culturally and racially specific.” (p.6, Kobes Du Mez)
“In the aftermath of 2016 election, the chorus of those calling out evangelicalism’s problem of whiteness became more difficult to ignore.” (p.6, Kobes Du Mez)
COMMON GROUND / LET US BE GRACIOUS
Kristin Kobes Du Mez has a specific viewpoint that conflicts with much of my personal stance. I have not read all of her work, as I am floating between a number of books. But these quotes are very clear. That and she speaks of being influenced by “Katharine Bushnell”, a feminist who rewrote the Gospel message. Before we continue, I do not know Kristin. And, many individuals I see buying into the “Christian” CRT/CSJ/Intersectionality viewpoint are Christians who genuinely want to understand how believers can be more socially active, repair relations and how Christians can live more like Jesus.
The desire is God honoring, and there is nothing wrong with that desire, itself.
This is where I started to struggle with the idea of the “Social Justice” movement seeming biblical, with good intent. Many verses can be paired with it.
Let me be clear. I am not the judge of who is or is not saved. And I believe Christians are trying to see how we can better live for Christ in the social square, but many are veering down a scary tangent.
As I have shared in other pieces, I had a dark period for a few years where I could not worship and fell into deep depression. Though not the cause of the anxiety, the depression was spurred on and drove deep as I began to question, “If God is not the answer, then what is?” I realized, though I believe in God, I was no longer seeing Him as the Savior or solution.
Once you start to understand the history and contexts of CRT/CSJ/Intersectionality and how they are anti-biblical, it becomes more clear that this cannot be the answer. When paired with the Gospel, it is a broken solution of hope.
Robin DiAngelo says, “I have found it much more useful to think of myself as on a continuum. Racism is so deeply woven into the fabric of our society that I do not see myself escaping from that continuum in my life. But I can continually seek to move further along it. I am not in a fixed position on the continuum; my position is dictated by what I am actually doing at a given time.” (p.87, White Fragility)
And, Ibram Kendi states that “Liberation Theology” is the ultimate goal for “anti-racism”. He distinguishes himself from the Gospel and “Savior Theology”. If there is no Savior in the equation, so then liberation must come through human means.
Other CSJ sources refer to Christianity as an oppressor, as it does not align with LGBTQ+ identity or this framework.
How can believers desire to use this as either an “analytical tool” or framework for understanding “social justice”? Even if we add Scripture to this, it is still anti-biblical.
EXCUSES FROM BOTH SIDES
Arguably, Christians and evangelicals are not perfect. But why are we further pushing people from church and labeling all “white evangelicals” as the problem?
Both Democrats and Republicans are sinners and human. They are imperfect. ALL humans are SINNERS. God states sin is the problem.
This is not an excuse to not love one’s neighbor or overlook sin. This is not meant to make a political statement, though one will quickly see how these Theories intertwine with politics. The focus should be to stay centered on the Savior and start from Scripture to understand life, not to simply add verses to our desired message. We are making problems worse by buying into these “group” identities and adding to labels.
CHRISTIAN EVANGELICALISM & WHITE RELIGION
The importance of this brief note has to do with understanding that CRT says “whites are racist”, as quoted above by DiAngelo. Recognizing “whiteness” is further referred to and implied in Kobes Du Mez’s quotes above, while also mentioning the idea of “Christian Evangelicalism” being seen as a white man’s religion.
I recommend the book, “The African American Guide to the Bible, 2nd Edition” to address this discussion. Dr. H.C. Felder states, “This book is a response to the notion that the bible is a book about white people for white people.” (p. 8, The African American Guide to the Bible, 2nd Edition) “We will provide ample evidence that Christianity has never been the white man’s religion. Blacks have been Christians from the very beginning of the Christian faith…” (p.10, The African American Guide to the Bible, 2nd Edition)
White people and evangelicals, again, are human and imperfect, as are all people, but that does not make God’s Word unreliable or lacking in Truth!
The thing to remember as believers, for both blacks and whites, is “exegesis NOT eisegesis”. What did God intend for this specific Bible passage to say, not how does this best fit my agenda?
SO, WHAT ABOUT BETO?
As you probably noticed, the conversation revolves around “blacks and whites” in America these days. There is obviously a great deal to still be worked out.
Unfortunately, the answers to helping in the social square for society, and now Christians, has come from the framework within Critical Theories. We have moved from a conversation to activism, this is called “scholarship” in academic terms. Activism started in the legal field and has taken off like wild fire in the public square.
Again, the desire for all people to be treated well is noble and biblical.
But, what about Beto?
In the conversation today, we have moved to “categories” and more specifically, most often, “black and white”. SO many are forgotten. Diversity is much greater. But when I would bring this up with Christians, I was offensive and not taking the platform to address the needed issues of the moment.
God came for the sick. We can and should love and help all people. But we need to be consistent in loving others, including Beto, who was neither black or white. And we need to remember that it is our connection to the Father, through Jesus Christ, that gives us life. Just as Beto’s connection to my Father added a new beauty and meaning to my life.
I believe we can reframe the “social justice” conversation within a biblical context. While my story of Beto, above, will receive criticism, I believe we need to talk about our unique life stories without focusing on labels. I believe the Bible wants us to see beauty in all people and cultures.
I believe what I stated in the last blog that God values ALL lives. Today, I say we start by reflecting on our first experience we remember of another culture, whether good or bad. We need to be honest that not all experiences will be positive. So take the time to think back on your first real cross-culture experience.
And while you reflect, love your neighbor, whomever enters your path today!
-What is the first cross-cultural experience you remember? Who is your Beto?
-Was it a good or bad experience?
-Do you follow that “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) and “Critical Social Justice” (CSJ) are both just a few of the “Critical Theory” subsets?
-When you study the Bible, is your initial intent “exegesis”, what is God’s initial and intended message?
-Do you see some aspects in which any of the “Critical Theories” are incompatible with Christianity? If so, what?
(Note, you should not feel guilty for sharing your cross-cultural experiences. Don’t let labels and culture hold you back from recognizing the unique ways in which God made us!)