Not a day goes by that I don’t open up social media to find some kind of spurious rebuttal of concerns about CRT, labeling it as a boogeyman conjured up with hysteria by people who really don’t want to address racism in this country. And yet, stepping back from the battle over CRT, which in my opinion, has turned into a battle over words that obfuscate the real issues about the ideas in play, even the casual observer has to see that something has fundamentally changed about the way race is not only being addressed but also the way racism is being perceived. In the past 5-6 years, we have drastically shifted from a desire to mitigate racism through fair treatment of individuals to making everything about race that actually works against the desired goals of the long struggle for civil rights.
To quibble over words and technical definitions of CRT severely undermines what has been taking place with the social justice paradigm over the past few years. Whatever you want to call it, real people are being swept up in this ideology and regurgitating its doctrine that unfortunately is even impacting the church and relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ. On that note, please consider this post from guest contributor Kevin Briggins that he originally posted on his Facebook page. I think it really spells out why so many people are raising concerns and why I wanted to host it here. It’s a bit longer than my usual posts but definitely worth the read.
By Kevin Briggins, Guest Contributor
It has been brought to my attention that I haven’t been very clear on my engagements on race and culture. Some have said my engagements have been one sided, so I feel the need to clarify some things and to paint a broader picture of my engagements on race.
The 2016 presidential election was a major turning point in the life of our church in Augusta. This coincided with our church moving from a suburban setting to an inner-city setting in late 2015. This change in setting put us in closer proximity to poverty and with the reality of true historical racial division. The church we merged with was a dying church that had become the victim of “white flight” and unfortunately had not engaged the new community around it. This was something we desired to change as we didn’t want to be a church that drove into the inner-city for Sunday services and then drove back out with no community engagement, which is the practice of many predominantly black and white inner-city churches. We had several church members and pastors move into the community and we were also thinking of ways to engage the community. At the time our church was predominantly white and middle class with a mixture of black, Hispanic, and Asian families. We were also a Reformed (non-traditional) Southern Baptist church. I’m saying all of this to lay the context for what begin to happen in 2016.
Just as the nation was polarized by the 2016 election so was our church as we had members on both sides of the political aisle as well as both sides of whether or not Christians should support Trump given his brashness, mean and bullying tactics. If I had to characterize the majority of our church members I wouldn’t describe them as pro-Trump but anti-Hillary with the Supreme Court being the #1 political concern. However, some of the black families didn’t see the election that way. They saw Trump as an existential threat to their lives and wellbeing. The racial undertones and his law and order rhetoric triggered memories of a not so distant painful past.
This difference in viewpoints started to create major rifts in once healthy and loving friendships. Some black families could not fathom how the people they worshipped and did community with could vote for someone they felt was a literal danger to their lives. Whether or not this threat was real is not relevant. What’s relevant is that their fear was real. This led some black families to begin reading more things from the past regarding race and justice. They began reading modern day books on social justice and in doing so developed more of what would be described as a black consciousness. They began to see the world, themselves, and the people around them through the lens of race. We were no longer brothers and sisters in Christ. We were simply representatives of blackness and whiteness.
This new lens of seeing the world came with accusations and declarations. It came with demands of justice and cries against systemic racism (as defined by them). This new “wokeness” caused them to see their white brothers and sisters as racists. In their minds that was the only explanation for voting for Trump. On the other hand, the white and more conservative crowd in our church began to push back against the accusations and declarations. They also expressed concerns that this new “wokeness” would lead to theological liberalism. So these two camps began to clash heavily on social media.
In the meantime, I was voted in as the first black elder (pastor) at the church. This was a great time as I took my oath to help faithfully shepherd God’s flock. This placed me right in the thick of this internal fight within our church as I had friends on both sides. I, along with the other elders of the church, took a discipleship approach to these issues. As the nation was struggling with the concept of social justice in the midst of high profiled killings of black men at the hand of law enforcement, we wanted to help our congregation navigate these national issues in a way that showed empathy, understanding, and longsuffering with one another. Our goal was to help each side better understand where the other was coming from.
When engaging with the white conservative crowd it was more about history lessons to help them understand why black people interpreted Trumps words the way they did and why an incident far away to a random black person is felt as an attack on the entire black community as a whole. When engaging with the woke black crowd it was more about helping them understand the perspectives of their conservative brothers and sisters and their concerns of what a Hillary presidency meant for the Supreme Court and why they typically viewed those high profiled shootings as isolated incidents and not as evidence of black oppression. The goal of our engagements were to affirm where both sides had valid concerns but to also pushback where we needed to.
This approach wasn’t good enough for either side as neither felt their concerns were fully being addressed. The woke crowd accused us of protecting “white supremacy” and the conservatives were concerned we were heading down a slippery slope of liberalism. Both sides wanted us to fully reject and discipline the other. [Side Note: The majority of the church was somewhere in the middle.] As the social media engagements became worse, the conservative crowd was more responsive to the elders’ chastisement of their engagements and behavior as not being Christ-like and to cut it out. However, the woke crowd interpreted those same calls to cut it out as “silencing their voice.” In their minds we were no longer their friends and pastors. If you were white you were simply protecting your power and interests and as for me I was simply a token. We lost all influence with them and they eventually left the church. This was a time of grief as these were friends we were close to and loved. We shed many tears and frustrations with the way things had gone.
A New Worldview
As all of this was happening we noticed a shift in worldview with the woke crowd and not only that; they were using language in a way that we weren’t familiar with. The terms whiteness, blackness, white supremacy, oppressed, privilege, fragility, and hegemonic power filled their vocabulary. And it wasn’t just the words. It was how they were used. Even words we were familiar with clearly had new definitions. One of my biggest regrets was at the time I didn’t realize what they were reading or what this new worldview was called. All I knew is everything had become about race and they all of a sudden were deeming themselves as being oppressed. It wasn’t until after I began researching and hearing others dealing with the same things that I was able to put a name to the root ideology at heart. It was critical race theory or at least the tenants of it. Here are a few listed by the American Bar Association.
– Acknowledgement that racism is a normal feature of society and is embedded within systems and institutions, like the legal system, that replicate racial inequality. This dismisses the idea that racist incidents are aberrations but instead are manifestations of structural and systemic racism.
– Rejection of popular understandings about racism, such as arguments that confine racism to a few “bad apples.” CRT recognizes that racism is codified in law, embedded in structures, and woven into public policy. CRT rejects claims of meritocracy or “colorblindness.” CRT recognizes that it is the systemic nature of racism that bears primary responsibility for reproducing racial inequality.
– Recognition of the relevance of people’s everyday lives to scholarship. This includes embracing the lived experiences of people of color, including those preserved through storytelling, and rejecting deficit-informed research that excludes the epistemologies of people of color.
So, in this ideology racism is the default norm and things like a police shooting is just a manifestation of the systemic racism. Racism also explains all inequities between blacks and whites. I intentionally say blacks and whites because if you add other races (ethnicities) to the equation or if you apply it to areas like the NBA the theory itself breaks down. So we must keep it to a black/white paradigm to understand their perspective. So this is why we see calls for “equity”. Equity is about getting rid of disparities within outcomes amongst blacks and whites. Do not confuse it with equality or equal opportunity. If the outcomes are not equal then the reason must be racism and oppression within the system or law. To overcome this we must tear down the system of whiteness and whites must give up their privilege and power to people of color.
Now take that worldview and dynamic and apply it to the Church. They wanted the elders to hand over “power” to them. They believed their voices needed to be lifted as a matter of social justice and that they should’ve been given the authority to make certain changes they believed were necessary. Remember, one of the tenets is to listen to and embrace the lived experiences of blacks. How they felt or perceived things was to be taken as truth. No matter what. Well, we know truth is not relative to experience and that the church isn’t run by a quota of ethnic groups. We as the pastors have a responsibility to shepherd and pastor the church because at the end we must stand before God and give an account. Needless to say, we did not give in to their demands and therefore they could no longer fellowship under the “oppression” of “white supremacy”.
One thing I’ve noticed about this ideology is there is no way to disagree with it. It is accept it or else. For example, if you’re white and push back against it or question it you are either fragile or you are using it as a tactic to maintain the status quo or in other terms maintain your power. If you are a person of color and you disagree with it you have either internalized your oppression or you are simply seeking the approval of whites for either acceptance or money. There is no room for criticism or debate. This makes the ideology very revolutionary. This is why Ibram X Kendi says there is no such thing as non-racist. You’re either anti-racist or you’re racist. Either you buy into the framework and ideology they present or you’re a racist. Raise your hand if you want to be called a racist. Of course, no one does so people began to feel bullied into going along with the movement. People are afraid to speak up and to speak against it for fear of being labeled or cancelled. As I noticed this, I began to speak up against it because I have seen how destructive it can be. I don’t believe it brings us any closer to justice or unity.
While the overall goal of this movement is to reshape America as a whole and all its institutions my primary concern is for the Church. My concern is for the unity of Christians from every nation, tribe, and tongue. Why? Because Jesus told us the unity and love we have for one another is key to the witness of who he is. In John chapter 17 Jesus prays these words,
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (Jn. 17:20-21)
And in Ephesians chapter 4 the Apostle Paul says,
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4:1-6)
The unity of God’s people is important to Him and He has given us instructions on how to live and walk with one another. The word of God tells us how to love our neighbors not secular sociology. The idea of racism didn’t exist during the time the bible was written but the elements of ethnic partiality are not new. Scripture gives us clear guidance that we are not to show partiality to anyone regardless of their social or economic status. We are to treat everyone equally and fairly.
Ethnic strife was a major issue during this time as Roman gentiles occupied Jerusalem. But at the same time within the Jewish synagogue, Gentile believers were only allowed in the outer courts and were separated from the Jews by walls. But in Christ these walls of division have been broken down. Paul tells us,
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Eph. 2:14)
So as Christians we are to no longer judge each other according to the flesh because we are all one family in Christ. For there is neither Jew nor Greek. There is neither black nor white. This does not deny the reality of different ethnicities or cultures but that those things are secondary when we come together. This is why true white supremacy in the church is deplorable and why the history is so shameful. But thanks be to God that he has given us His word and His Spirit that we can overcome these things. Not by turning to social theories and judging one another by skin color but by living in community with one another while sharing and carrying one another’s burdens and griefs. This has been my message and why I felt the need to speak out against the ideology of CRT and anti-racism that has become so prevalent in our society and even in our churches.
I regret that I haven’t been totally clear on where I was coming from and in the process I hurt people I really care about. I never meant to dismiss anyone’s encounter with true racism as we all know racism does exist. I’ve posted about my own experiences with it but I believe it is important how we allow those experiences to shape how we view ourselves, others, and how we approach conversations on race. I pray that going forward I will do a better job explaining exactly what I’m challenging and why I’m doing it. I also pray those who truly know me will give me the benefit of the doubt to know that I have good reasons for bringing attention to certain things.
Along with this very poignant post that Kevin shared on Facebook, he also posted part 1 of a documentary about how this ideology played out at Evergreen State College back in 2017. The 3 part documentary–here, here and here–is definitely worth a look to know that when people raise concerns, they are valid. What happened at Evergreen is happening in many places throughout the country.
Great article! Well-written and balanced from a Christian leadership perspective. I applaud the author.
The sister is on point. The CRT banter on social media has become an echo chamber and real discussion about the issues of racism has been lost.
Note the guest post is from Kevin Briggins, a male.
Please pass a thank you and a well done to Pastor Briggins. Blessings to him, and to you.
A good article from Pastor Kevin Briggins. Thanks for sharing his perspective. I commend his honest and noble approach.
Critical Theory (whether it’s race, gender, queer, etc.) as originally developed by men like Marcuse and Gramsci (Frankfurt School) is an evil hybrid of Marxism and Postmodern Relativism. The goal is to divide and conquer – nothing short of revolution. Many Christians have fell as easy prey to ideologies like CRT because they have not been trained to “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 1 Cor. 10:5
Very excellent post. I think Pastor Kevin implicitly makes an excellent point that he views the members who chose to leave are still Christians and should be considered aa such. We all are prone to accept or adopt ideas and vain secular philosophies that have adverse theological implications. BUT, you can identify Christ’s own for their love for one another and when people feel compelled to separate, it should be a time of mourning.
Sadly, I have recent experience in this. Recently, I was granted removal from membership of my church and demonination over the objections of my wife. It’s in a mainline denomination. The formal cause had to deal with theological heresies being openly promoted without criticism related to aspects of essential doctrine surrounding the nature and person of Christ at the national level, and the leadership at the geogrhical and national level shrugged its shoulders as if no issue existed. But, the two major secondary causes had to deal with the hyperpartisanship of the national leadership on political matters, and the wholesale embrace of CRT and the absolute refusal to see the racist aspects, and the dismissiveness, the lying (let’s call gaslighting and related stuff what it is) on any issue such as its embrace that CRT is not bring taught (even though the concepts are), the bearing false witness against the motives and concerns of dissenters, and the blatantly obvious insincere affirmation of diversity of thought and other polity by these same leaders. The removal from membership was also necessary for my own physical health due to the constant agitated state I was in. While I know there are still biblically faithful congregations and leaders within the denomination that try to navigate the current era with genuine Christian love, tolerance, and understanding, I frankly doubt tgat much of the current leadership are genuinely Christian no matter how pleasant a demeanor they put forward. I keep coming back to J. Gresham Machen’s comment on theological liberalism that it is an entirely different religion with the trappings of the terminology of the church. I honestly think how a church approaches CRT says a lot. There are things its proponents point out regarding real racism that we can acknowledge, but there is a lot that does run contrary to Scripture.
In a way I’m glad that things have continued to come to a head like this because minority Christians have been able to skirt issues which have appeared to allow us a pass where it is possible to in a racial subculture, hold to the commands and teachings of Christ, hiding behind the need for political identity centered around the politics of race. Because of past racial hurts creating a racial solidarity based on sustained racial bias in the society at large. But with primary aspects of CRT noted to go directly against Christ, today you run straight down the Main Street of the tenets of Christian belief forcing hopefully a more poignant decision of allegiances. Christ or culture?
At the same time majority Christians who have claimed to repent of past racial partiality cannot go forward expecting Christian solidarity without realizing that a status quo around issues of race have in the past hung minority Christian communities out to dry in a Galatians 1-2 sort of way with no ownership of the damage done to the name of Christ in minority communities such that racially centered hybrids of Christianity are not only acceptable, but have formed the status quo for centuries and have been touted in response, ethnic flavors of the faith as legitimate responses for years. For while Christ is first within minority communities for some, for others efforts to maintain solidarity with those who because of racial injustice do not regard Christ or his kingdom are workable due to common lived experiences that are real. They are not necessarily meant to be an affront on the body of Christ per se, but defend the solidarity of racial suffering before that of Christian unity. Very sad indeed.
But thanks to the culture wars, they have forced many to grow up in Christ and to recognize that past attitudes have fostered cancers in the church which may be what we are reeling from in lived experiences of minority Christians whose status quo is not to trust, or to place oneself in a position to get burned again by race. Nevertheless, a response in kind is not correct either, suggesting a competing unity with the surrounding black secular world as authoritative in our lives, failing to allow our faith to distinguish us from those we want to win to faith in Christ. So an ingrained defensiveness is there that equally ignores the person and work of Christ to enter into racial matters also pointing away from his lordship in matters of race despite past hurts.
For the church to regain a witness for Christ in our current context we have to look at our identity more from the perspective of scripture. To win others we must not play games based on past racial partiality experienced with regard to race. We need to yield or defer to the cutting edge of those who recognize that the lived witness of the Church in today’s society is what must be our witness, so that we might see God’s glory as more central to our lived experiences today as followers of Christ. We must remember that we cannot defer to those who do not claim to know Christ for how we as Christians ought respond to issues such as CRT which challenge our basic identity as believers. How can we win others to Christ otherwise? My prayer is that the discussion and elucidation of CRT will prick the hearts of Christians everywhere so that we experience as the body of Christ the essential Unity that Christ has called us to.
There is at face value, with a long history of the church as something ordered by race, no expectation of Christian solidarity across racial lines. But past divisions have already created an experience of Christianity being something other than a priority that builds bridges across racial lines. So that the social aspect, although it should not figure into how people experience Christianity, sometimes it does. Once a less than adequate model is lived, expectations of what we could be as the body of Christ are more real for some than for others. So with no lived experience of unity across racial lines there is no urgency because of folks not really counting in the past. We divide easier with little wins as a united Christian community under our belts.
For the church to regain a witness for Christ in our current context we would have to have some new impetus for doing so. Hopefully the blatant disregard of seeing the image of God in all races should be a uniting point. Both CRT and the 1619 project are absent a biblical worldview. A universal Christian cause is just not expected and allegiance to community and sub-cultures are all that’s left unless we unify to defeat these agendas.
We need to defer to those who recognize that the lived witness of the Church in today’s society is what must be our standard. Together to see God’s glory as more central to our lived experiences across racial lines today as followers of Christ. At the same time, the reason people just walk away once a part of a Christian fellowship is still hard to understand.
Great message. Would love to connect with you. I’m at eraseraces.com
Reblogged this on Calm in the Chaos and commented:
I wanted to share this guest blog from a fellow bloggers site as CRT is in the news and on the minds of the people, and especially, those of us in education.
Very good writing by Pastor Kevin. This has been weighing on my heart so much as our previous church went all in with CRT and our new one is trying/struggling to stay neutral it seems. I really don’t want to go to a MAGA church (I won’t) but also don’t want to invest time into a church that will allow this stuff to take hold as I know where it will likely lead.
What has been so mystifying to me is how many great pastors entertain the CRT stuff without realizing how at odds it is with the rest of their sermons.
I have no trouble telling my fellow white friends pushing this stuff why they are wrong. But I have yet to have a black friend advocate for it. I can imagine it would be hard (near impossible for some) to tell them they are incorrect considering all the pain they experience especially in a church family setting. It is such a tricky situation and one we all need to be praying about especially for our Pastors.
There is another account that fills out the details which demonstrates why the church ended up compromised with CRT.
Kevin and the other elders were warned months to a year before CRT had completely inculcated the individuals who were affected and ultimately radicalized them and others. There were a few that had multiple meetings with at least four of the elders, gravely warning of the encroaching dangers of this movement, including the framing of the narrative in unbiblical terms and redefinition of established terminology. (These were also not part of the “Trump voter” category.)
When repeated conversations were dismissed as overreacting or a misdiagnosing of the obvious symptoms, the problem grew. (One wonders if this was due to the outside influencers—Mohler, Dever, Duncan, Platt, etc—that were directly quoted as discerning the movement as short lived. We have seen now, six years in, how their discernment was lacking).
This was fostered by the elders holding secret “black congregant” meetings, to see how they could better tailor the church to personal sensitivities. The church also paid to send one of the adherents of CRT (Monet Robinson) to a conference held by Eric Mason, a notable proponent of these extra biblical philosophies. It didn’t help that the main instigators of this CRT, intersectionality movement were being platformed on stage—preaching (Dante Stewart) and singing (Monet Robinson) as well as in print (Dante Stewart)—sharing written articles from the official church page. (All of this occurred while meeting with those that were warning in person, writing and in sending podcasts and blogs contradicting the CRT narrative). This tacit approve by the elders and the church gave these individuals even more influence to the point that many followed them out the door, or were also radicalized in the process.
Unfortunately, this has not changed, as the elders never repented, to my knowledge, of dismissing the early voices nor platforming those causing division. They have not repented of allowing wolves among the sheep, nor apologized to the sheep that were maimed or devoured. The approach has been one of “hoping the problem goes away,” as one of elder put it, rather than confronting it head on.