Racial equality and reconciliation is important, but is the woke movement the way to get there? What does the Bible have to say about racial unity? Join us for a conversation about this important issue.
The Woke movement vs. biblical truths:
In the midst of an already tumultuous year, we were hit last Memorial Day with another blow as we watched the tragic murder of George Floyd – a startling evidence of the racial tension still present in our country.
In the aftermath, many of us have struggled to make sense of all of this. We know reconciliation is needed and that racism, unfortunately, still exists. But since the larger evangelical church hasn’t always said much about these issues, we have an anemic view of what the Bible has to say about it. We know we are all created in the image of God, we all descend from the same family, and that God loves and died for all. But beyond that, we’re not quite sure.
Thus, we’ve been left largely on our own trying to understand and navigate this. And so many are turning to secular sources, like White Fragility, and How to be an Anti-Racist to find answers.
But what we might not realize is there’s actually a worldview behind many of these books and a lot of what you hear from the “woke” movement. It’s called Critical Race Theory, and in many areas it’s quite different than – and often inconsistent with – Biblical truth.
Let’s explore this philosophy and compare and contrast it with a Biblical worldview. Our goal here is NOT to write off the importance of combating racism but instead to realize that, as Christians, how we engage with issues surrounding race and justice should look quite different than prevailing secular thought.
We must examine everything we are hearing, reading, and thinking in the light of the Bible and interpret everything through the lens of the Gospel.
As we do, we’ll discover that through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God offers a different – and much better – way to pursue racial unity.
To examine these questions, we spoke with Chantal Monique Duson from The Center for Biblical Unity and Taren Mangual, one of the Teach4theHeart team members. Listen to the conversation here, or scroll down for a summary of the key points.Subscribe to the Teach 4 the Heart Podcast.
two perspectives on race, justice & unity
If you’ve paid much attention to the Woke movement, you’re probably learning a lot! But much of this movement is underpinned by a philosophy called Critical Race Theory. Here’s how it compares to the Gospel in different areas:
an overview of both worldviews
Let’s start with a basic overview of Critical Race Theory and then look at the basic overview of the Gospel.
what is Critical race theory?
Critical race theory (CRT) is a critique of society that looks at who the oppressed are and who the oppressors are, based on things like race or other factors. In this school of thought, the oppressor classes would be: men oppress women, white people oppress black people and people of color, Christians oppress minority religions, and able bodied people oppress disabled people. (See this site for a secular explanation of intersectionality.)
Critical Race Theory interprets the world through this lens – that everyone is either in an oppressor group or an oppressed group. And looking at who is being oppresed and how.
what is the gospel?
The gospel is good news—the good news of what God has done in Jesus Christ.
The Bible depicts human beings, all human beings everywhere, as in revolt against God, and therefore under his judgment. But although God stands over us in judgment because of our sin, quite amazingly he stands over us in love, because he is that kind of God—and the gospel is the good news of what God, in love, has done in Jesus Christ, especially in Jesus’s cross and resurrection, to deal with our sin and to reconcile us to himself.
Christ bore our sin on the cross. He bore the penalty, turned aside God’s judgment, God’s wrath, from us, and cancelled sin. The brokenness of our lives he restores; the shattered relationships he rebuilds in the context of the church; the new life that we human beings find in Christ is granted out of the sheer grace of God. It is received by faith as we repent of our sins and turn to Jesus. We confess him as Lord, and bow to him joyfully.
One day he will make all things new. The good news culminates in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness, where neither sin nor any of its effects can survive, and where we enjoy the presence of God forever in the context of resurrection existence.
(Quoted from The Gospel Coalition)
These two view clearly look at the world from vastly different perspectives. As Christians, we must look through the lens of Gospel to determine how we should be handling things today. This is how we bring scripture to the culture rather than the culture to the scripture.
The practicalities of this, though, become extremely nuanced. Take, for example, the Black Lives Matter movement. As Christians we should certainly agree that black lives do matter and care about and pursue needed reforms. However, at the same time, we would reject significant portions of the platform of the official Black Lives Matter organization which is, in many cases, inconsistent with Biblical teaching.
The fundamental problem of racism
Let’s compare what each viewpoint considers to be the core problem in regards to racism.
critical race theory
The fundamental problem according to CRT is “whiteness,” the system that continues to oppress people of color.
In historical Christianity, the fundamental problem is our sin and the wickedness in our hearts that keeps us separate from our creator.
The gospel is not saying that oppression doesn’t exist. We can see oppressive systems and people that have been oppressed all throughout history, and even today, but the fundamental problem, according to the Bible, isn’t oppression. The core problem is sin and our rejection of God’s rule, and that results in oppression in certain cases.
Click image to view.
Many Christians who consider themselves social justice warriors may not even know about Critical Race Theory. They simply see injustices happening and agree it’s wrong and something needs to be done. They want to fight back against racism and inequality.
However, looking at the Gospel, we see that changing hearts is what changes systems, and there can be no true lasting reform without heart change.
Many people have a heart for injustice and want to fight it, but that can lead to joining a movement without considering all aspects of it. If we don’t have clarity on these matters and the true fundamental problem, we run the risk of bringing something toxic into the church and sabotaging our hope for unity. If it’s not God’s way, it might make a little bit of change, but it won’t ultimately solve the problems and produce the lasting harmony we all desire.
the solution to racism
Let’s see where each viewpoint looks for the solution:
critical race theory
CRT says the answer is to become woke, to understand oppression, divest yourself of whiteness, become anti-racist, and do the work of actively dismantle racism and racist structures.
The answer according to Scripture is Jesus – understanding my own sin, repenting of my sin, getting into a relationship with Jesus, following the laws of Christianity, and allowing the Holy Spirit to change my heart.
The starting point has to be Jesus. Culture does not have the answer to bring us to unity, but the Gospel does. Solving the problem of racism isn’t completed when we accept Jesus, but it starts when we accept Jesus. The Holy Spirit then changes our hearts, shows us how we need to change personally and where we should be involved in broader social change.
Without Jesus we aren’t able to produce the change that the world desperately needs. Secular humanism says we must try harder, choose to be good. But that will never be enough. Our human efforts will never accomplish for us the heart change that only the blood of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit can produce.
the ultimate goal
What is each viewpoint trying to accomplish? What is their ultimate goal for society?
critical race theory
The ultimate goal is Utopia, where everything is equal among all races, where everyone has the same results.
The ultimate goal in Christianity is to come into fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The dream of Utopia is in all of our hearts because God has placed it here, and we will one day experience it when King Jesus reigns. But it’s tragically ironic that while our society desperately wants that Utopia, they reject God’s rule, which is the only way to ever accomplish it.
That’s why the church can and should be a shining picture of the unity we can have when God is on the throne.
Once we fully accept Jesus and have the fruit of the Spirit, He leads us to want to love and help. If we think about the Good Samaritan story in the Bible that Jesus told, we are given an example of how we should live our lives, looking out for the interest of others, despite their race, ethnicity, or nationality. We should love equally, just as God loves us equally.
what about justice and oppressive systems?
Scripture affirms the importance of justice and denounces partiality. In this, the belief that people should be treated with love and respect, CRT and the Scripture overlap. But how we pursue that is very different. We must always lead with & be guided by God’s Word before we lead with passion, even when it’s a good passion.
Part of this is remembering that true, lasting change must take place on a heart level.
When we look at systemic practices, like red lining and certain education practices, laws have changed and racist practices have been erased “on paper.” But the law cannot govern a man’s heart. For example, take a bank manager who knows that certain clients only want to work with white bankers. He may develop an unofficial system to make sure this happens, but it’s not on paper, so it’s hard to eliminate it. However, when a person’s heart is changed by God, individuals such as the bank manager, begin to stand up to say, “No, this isn’t right. We are willing to lose clients in order to be equal and fair.”
Looking at systems, we also need to ask, “How is everyone being impacted?” There are not only systems that impact black people, but also ones that impact white people. CRT divides us into categories: black v. white, oppressed v. oppressor. It discourages people of color from looking at how systems impact whites (both official and unofficial systems). On the other hand, as Christians, we are one race. We should look at how all people are impacted by inequality.
In all things, the truth of Scripture should reign over how we engage with people and advocate for change. We have to examine everything we’re doing and think, “Are we absorbing what we learn from culture or taking it back to Scripture?”
We should always obey the commands of Scripture over culture. For example, right now we see culture demanding things, such as, “White silence is violence.” However, James 1 cautions, “Be slow to speak.”
After looking at Scripture, we must help where we can. Look at the spheres of influence God has given you and, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, stand up and be salt and light to those around you, impacting systems, too, as you are able.
How does each perspective define people and their identity?
critical race theory
CRT defines people as either oppressed and oppressors based on the color of their skin.
Christianity says that, for those of us who are in Christ, we are brothers and sisters in Him. In John, Jesus prayed for our unity. There’s no hierarchy because we stand on equal ground at the foot of the cross.
Furthermore, Scripture teachers we are God’s creation, created in His image and so loved that He gave his Son to die for us. In so doing, He has conferred on each of us inherent worth and value.
It’s hard to be unified when we are looking at people as different groups, or when we’re viewing each other as our oppressors. The path to unity starts when we remember we are all made in the image of God. And it’s fulfilled when we unite our hearts in Jesus and pursue Him and His truth as our common goal.
When we have differences of beliefs with someone who is not a believer, we can honor their dignity, value and worth, while also holding to the truths of Scripture. Both are vital.
truth and morality
Who gets to decide what is true? How do we know what is right or wrong?
critical race theory
CRT champions the idea of the truth of the oppressed person. That is, the truth (or perspective) of the person who perceives themself as a victim of racism should not be questioned. And if a minority says that a statement or action is racist or wrong, then that assertion is to be accepted without question.
For example, when it comes to micro aggressions, the victim is automatically telling the truth and the alleged perpetrator’s perspective doesn’t need to be heard. The motive of the perpetrator is assumed to be racist and if they say that they are not being racist that simply shows their white fragility.
In Christianity, the ultimate truth is found in the Word of God. God and God alone gets to decide what is right and wrong, and He reveals that to us in His Word. Every belief, assertion, or truth claim must be examined in the light of Scripture and brought under submission to its ultimate truth.
When it comes to disputes between individuals, Scripture teaches us to seek out two or three witness to establish the truth of the matter. We must also realize that we cannot know what is in a person’s heart, so we should be careful to assume and judge someone’s motives.
We need to be quick to listen and slow to speak. We need to hear people’s stories and care to truly understand them. But everything we hear and everything that is told to us must be examined in the light of Scripture.
what is racism? who can be racist?
Defining terms is vital, as often two people can be using the same term to mean two different things. Let’s look at how each viewpoint defines racism.
critical race theory
CRT defines racism as racial prejudice plus institutional power. Therefore, people of color cannot, by definition, be racist because, as a group, they lack institutional power.
Scripture calls out the sin of partiality, which is often manifested as racial prejudice. Because partiality (racism) is a sin, it can arise in any of our hearts, and its sinfulness does not depend on the racial characteristics of the person who commits it. (Quoted, in part, from this helpful explanation of the term racism.)
It is helpful to recognize the magnified affects, and thus magnified responsibilities, that arise from positions of power. That is, if an individual or group has more power, any racism within them will have more harmful effects on others.
However, although the partiality/racism that arises out of the heart of a white person may produce more harm than the partiality/racism that arises out of the heart of a person of color, neither is more inherently sinful. Sin is sin, and we must all examine our own hearts and yield to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in us.
the path to unity
Critical Race Theory, with its focus on dividing people into groups, offers no real path to unity. The Gospel, on the other hand, is all about uniting us with God and, in the process, with each other. (John 17:20-21) The Gospel and its outworking have the power to accomplish true racial reconciliation. But what does this look like?
It starts in our own hearts. It begins with each of us examining our own thoughts and motives. And then it works out from there.
Here’s a few places to start:
- Ask yourself, “How do I honor others – their dignity, value, and worth?
- Consider how you view your own identiy and how that impacts the way you see others.
- Get into the conversation with the Lord about your own bias. “Lord, what is the log in my eye that is preventing me from potentially pursuing unity, Biblically?”
- Define your terms. Study what the Bible says about justice. Allow that to inform the practicalities.
When we are clear on who we are in Christ, we get clear on what we should be doing. Jesus compels us to participate. If our neighbor is experiencing partiality, regardless of the color of their skin, we will use our voice. As we’re given opportunity, we will speak truth. We will listen to and care for others and seek ways to meet both their physical and spiritual needs.
And as we live out the Gospel each day in our lives, we see just a bit more of God’s Kingdom and anticipate the day when we will experience it in its fullness and all partiality will be extinguished forever.
If you’re looking for more actionable ideas on being intentional about racial unity in your classroom and school community, check out the article How to Cross the Street on Race and take a Restorative Approach to Discipline.
I also highly recommend Neil Shenvi’s Antiracism Glossary, which quite helpfull explains and examines various terms we didn’t have time to get into here such as antiracism, colorblind, whiteness, white privilege, and more.
And be sure to follow Monique at The Center for Biblical Unity.
About chantal Monique DUSON
Monique has a background in social service, children’s ministry, and missionary work. She has a BA in sociology and is working on an MA in theology. Monique spent over 2 decades advocating for CRT, but is now convinced that is is not the best way to achieve racial unity and promotes a vision for racial healing based on the historic Christian worldview. Find out more about Monique’s work here.
About Taren Mangual
Taren is a Christian educator with a passion for studying humanity and its ability to create. She has a BFA from Marymount Manhattan College and a MA in Educational Theatre from NYU. Taren worked for over five years as a K-12 teaching artist and three years as a certified classroom teacher, where she used theater techniques as a tool for students to engage with literacy, writing and Social Studies. Now, she is happy to support other teachers as a member of the Teach 4 the Heart Team.
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