At a loss

I’m going to get real honest in this post. Sorry. 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 Pat Sawyer works with this material in his profession and demonstrates a significant fluency in it 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.

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 the 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 lost as to why this should be weaponized to produce guilt in others. To be fair, I’m also at a loss of 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.

That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been residual affects 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 pessism 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.

4 thoughts on “At a loss

  1. Marissa June 12, 2021 / 11:55 am

    “How can we profess Jesus’ lordship as the ultimate, yet focus more on the events of 1619 than on A.D. 33?” What a mic drop.

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now and it’s been so refreshing to hear your perspective. Your balanced approach in tackling cultural issues has helped me to be more balanced and gracious in interacting with people whom I disagree with yet still hold to biblical fidelity without compromise. May God protect us all from falling into tribes thinking.

    • Lisa Spencer June 12, 2021 / 5:37 pm

      Marissa, thank you so much for those kind and supportive words. I really appreciate that you left this comment.

  2. Evan Spencer June 12, 2021 / 7:23 pm

    Hear, hear!

    In response, you provided more than ample examples for the reader to refer to, and it seems clear that what is being done is not calculating how CRT jives or does not jive with the Christian convictions that establish me as a follower of Christ. Out in the culture, post-modern means that we can chose to ignore truth publically, while somehow making it consequential in Christ settings.

    I believe somewhere down the line there was the crossing of a river. That river might just be a cognate of the idea of being “woke” where everything is first filtered through the lens of racial awareness and secondarily through the lens of colorblind ethical and moral awareness. We could add theological or spiritual “new creature” awareness (II Corinthians 5:17). Its as if by striving to carve out a place free of racism, we’ve lost hope in the biblical model as a best way forward, and the best corrective lens for ourselves, let alone those we see around us. Its like we don’t see the ultimate worth of our surrendering to Christ. That salvation on earth has to do with being selective in our view of the Lordship of Christ due to race. Have we forgotten that we have race sin too?
    Are we immune from not judging a person by the color of his skin, and not the content of his character? Do we not need to guard against our own blind spots by remaining vulnerable to the Lordship of Christ in our own lives?

    Evidently for some, lordship means submission of my wlll to the self as a logical response to the possibility of being mistreated because of my race. But upon closer analysis, don’t we mistreat ourselves when we don’t regard the inside “self” or person, the image of God in us as more important and expressive of our true identity than the need to protect our outer self? Or what is the worth of the outer self as compared to the inner self? I suppose sometimes it can just boil down to group think, and these allegiances have not been well thought out. For it’s the inside self that relates us to God, and identifies our true value. It is our inside that relates all humanity to God,
    not the outside! Figuring that way is dangerous and harmful. Our value must be related to where
    we stand in terms of our individual character, and not our solidarity with a group, for that in actuality supplants God from having first place in our lives. How can others see Christ IN us when in actuality we are concerned more with how people respond to who you we on the outside?
    What we really need respect for is the person on the inside. That is the person, made in God’s image, responding to right and wrong, not black and white that is worth defending. Skin color ought not be treated as the locus of our identity, for if it is, what of the soul? (No pun intended!)

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