War of Words: Christians Are Becoming Secularized Because of Shifting Definitions

“Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going” – Rita Mae Brown

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” – George Orwell

“Language is power, in ways more literal than most people think. When we speak, we exercise the power of language to transform reality. Why don’t more of us realize the connection between language and power?” – Julia Penelope

I don’t like to waste words, so let me get straight to the point: Christianity is becoming more and more unstable every day, and it is because the foundation that it sits on is rapidly eroding. That foundation is truth. Truth is under assault in our culture, and even within the walls of the Church. Truth, as should be made obvious, is expressed in ideas, which are then expressed in words. All good writers in history understood and appreciated that there is great power in words to define and shape reality. Consequently, words can be used to re-define and distort reality. Christianity has long been quite resistant to this kind of assault, because our faith rests upon the unchanging Word of God. God has spoken to us in words, which have been faithfully recorded and preserved for millennia. This is not insignificant. Indeed, it is one of the reasons Christianity has been able to endure all that is has throughout the centuries.

But times are changing. Our culture is currently undergoing one of the greatest re-shapings in history, and the battle has become a battle of words. I very briefly touched in my previous post that the Church as been absorbing secular philosophy through shared words with different meanings. More pointedly, I said “social justice as the world defines it is very different than helping the oppressed from a Scriptural perspective.” Here I want to outline some of what I’m talking about.

As an illustration, consider that Mirriam-Webster literally changed the definition of “sexual preference” the very day after Senator Mazie Hirono challenged then-supreme-court-candidate Amy Coney Barrett that her use of the phrase was inappropriate. (See one write up about it here.) Overnight, the term was deemed “offensive” by Mirriam-Webster despite no one really seeming to care. Anyone familiar with how tyranny quietly imposes power knows that changing the meaning of words is one way to control how people think. This kind of thing is truly alarming.

The very same thing has happened under the noses of Christians. Those who advocate for social justice movements use phrases and terms that are well-known to believers but infuse them with very different meanings. Consider a few examples.

The very term “social justice” is riddled with baggage. When many Christians hear the term, they immediately think of Scriptures like Micah 6:8, which says “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Most believers then simply think to themselves, “God requires us to pursue justice, therefore I am going to support social justice movements. It is what God would want me to do”. This sounds rational but is mistaken because Scripture and culture define justice differently. A simple google search for “define social justice” will draw the following:

Notice that the qualifier “social” in “social justice” changes the meaning of the phrase. Social justice speaks to systems in culture that result in disparities between people groups. These disparities are then corrected through “social justice”, or the redistribution of resources from those who have to those who have not. This, however, is not at all what the Bible speaks of when it refers to justice. Consider Leviticus 19:15, where the law of God says “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbour.” This definition of justice is actually the opposite of the secular one. In God’s economy, true justice is about equal treatment under the law: neither the rich nor the poor get preferential treatment. But in modern social justice terms, justice is intentional preferential treatment in order to create equal outcomes among people groups. Though both the secular culture and Scriptures speak of “justice”, they mean completely different things.

Consider also the definition of racism. In the secular world, racism has changed meanings over the last several decades. Racism used to mean being prejudiced against someone because of their ethnicity or skin colour. This is the simple, straightforward definition that has existed, as far as I can tell, from the first notion of the concept. Modern culture, however, is consistently moving towards using the term “systemic racism” as virtually synonymous with “racism”. While old-fashioned racism is on the individual level, systemic racism is societal. Yet in the minds of modern social justice proponents, the two are the same. Consider a few quotations to illustrate:

“…many critical race theorists and social scientists hold that racism is pervasive, systemic, and deeply ingrained. If we take this perspective, then no white member of society seems quite so innocent.” – Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

“Racism presupposes the ability to control a significant section of the population economically, politically, and socially by imposing law, covenant, and restriction on their lives. Black people ain’t have no capacity to do that. Can we be bigoted? Yes. Can we be prejudiced? Yes. Racist? No.” – Eric Dyson (video)

“White’s see their friendship with blacks as proof that they are on the non-racist side of the good-bad binary. Yet cross-racial friendships do not block out the dynamics of racism in the society at large, and these dynamics continue unabated. Racism invariably manifests itself within cross-racial friendships as well. Racism cannot be absent from your friendship. No cross-racial relationship is free from the dynamics of racism in the society.” – White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

“Racism is any prejudice against someone because of their race when those views are reinforced by systems of power.” – So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

“And if you are white in a white supremacist society, you are racist.” – So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

The point is clear. While racism used to mean prejudice, it now means prejudice plus power. In North America, since white people are seen as those with social advantage, and since white people are socially conditioned to affirm white culture as the norm, all white people are racist AND it is impossible for people of colour to be racist. I would simply want to ask, is this the definition of racism you hold to as a believer? Is it supported by Scripture? Or even common sense?

Consider also the word “equality”. The word seems straightforward enough, yet it can have many different uses. When people speak about equality, what do they really mean? Are they saying we are equal in value because we are made in the image of God? Do they mean that everyone should have equal opportunities? Or do they mean that everyone should have equal outcomes? All three of these uses have vastly different meanings and implications. Again, I see many Christians using the term without realizing that what it means to the secular world is very different from what they mean by it Scripturally.

This kind of word shape-shifting is happening all over the place. In fact, it is happening at such an alarming rate that it is impossible to keep up with for the average person not deeply entrenched in this ideology. The result is that many well-meaning Christians start to adopt and promote these ideas without fully knowing what they are getting in to. Still other self-proclaiming Christians knowingly adopt these views and try to integrate them into biblical theology with more nefarious intentions. Either way, the purity of Christian truth becomes corrupted by these worldly philosophies.

Let’s just call it what it is. This is Marxist-Communist thinking. Read again the definition of “social justice” and see that it parallels Neo-Marxist ideas perfectly. Neo-Marxism is defined by identifying social disparities as the result of systemic oppression that must be corrected by force if necessary. The vast majority of what flies under the banner of “social justice” fits this very description. Christians may or may not know it, but they are blending an anti-Christian worldview with their faith that will sooner or later devour them too.

Words matter. Definitions matter. Ideas matter. I wonder if Christians are being swept up into the social justice movements of our day under the faulty notion that it is somehow loving to do so. Are we not to love our neighbour? Of course we are. But we are not called to abandon truth in the pursuit of love. In fact, doing so is quite unloving. The Bible would not put such emphasis on the truth and the need to be discerning if it were going to be so simple. Having a robust Christian worldview that is shaped by the Scriptures is absolutely paramount to obeying the command to love your neighbour. Thus, I am not advocating for some kind of overly sophisticated and Pharisaical approach to living out our faith in the world. Rather, I am warning against the pull to be “taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

The Christian Church needs to better recognize what is happening before our very eyes. Though in some ways I think is kind of corruption is inevitable, those who protect the flock have a duty before God to lead with righteousness and truth, even though this will cause them to become targets for hate not only from the culture at large, but sometimes even those claiming the name of Christ. My desire is to see the Church honour God and love others as God would have us do, not according to worldly definitions. People need to care about this. People need to become sticklers when it comes to definitions and clarity of communication. Doing so will help the sheep steer clear of wolves who intend only to deceive and devour them.

Social Justice Is a Secular Religion

I have been hammering on this theme for a while now, and there is good reason for that. I remember listening to some sermons and podcasts over 10 years ago where some Christian leaders were trying to point out the problems with the social justice movements happening in North America, in particular how they affect and infect the Church. At the time, I remember thinking to myself, “there definitely is something off about all this, but I don’t really see what the big deal is”. There were then—and are now—other Christian leaders who fully embraced the social justice movement and, even more the point, argued that it was demanded of us as believers to do so. To be honest, it felt like a lot of this went right over my head and I ended up not really doing much about it.

All of that changed for me when George Floyd died. The subsequent Black Lives Matter movement absolutely forced me to no longer stay on the fringe of these issues, so I finally dived in full force. I read and listened to absolutely everything I could get my hands on from a variety of different perspectives. But, most importantly, I started investigating text books and primary source literature about social justice. This is when the light bulb finally went on for me. The reason I had trouble making sense of social justice movements was simply because I never took any sociology classes in college or university. These places are the training grounds for social justice activists, where they gain a certain understanding of the world and everything wrong with it. Once I was finally able to bring clarity to various terms and concepts, everything fell into place.

Therefore, I have a lot of sympathy for those who either reject my arguments or are suspicious of them. I was in their shoes not long ago. It took me a long time to make sense of it all, and it helped hearing it from a variety of different angles. That’s why I keep harping on this issue. I’m certain there are those out there who, like me, will take some time to be able to wrap their heads around this subject.

Here I am again shooting at the same target from a different angle. I’m arguing that social justice, as it is being lived out in real-time, functions exactly like a religion. It is not a fringe activity that can be tacked on to the life you are already living. It actually demands to be at the centre of your life, because embracing social justice demands embracing a certain view of the world, yourself, and those around you. I have created the following chart to help show the ways social justice parallels Christianity. The point is to demonstrate that the more you embrace social justice ideology, the more your Christian faith will be forced out of your life. Put simply: they are competing worldviews. To the degree that you accept one, you must reject the other.

This is not to say that Christians don’t care about justice or compassion. Don’t misunderstand me. Scripture calls us to love our neighbours and seek the well-being of others. Yet this is not the same as secular social justice. Social justice as the world defines it is very different than helping the oppressed from a Scriptural perspective. I will elaborate in a future post more about this difference, but just know that here I am arguing against social justice the way the world defines it, not the way well-meaning Christians use the term.

CHRISTIANTIYASPECT OF RELIGIONSOCIAL JUSTICE
Born into a sinful natureOriginal Sin: What is the main problem?Born into a dominant group
Individual made in God’s imageIdentity: Who am I?Member of a group
God’s WordTruth: What determines reality?Personal experience
The BibleScripture: What writing is authoritative?Critical Theory literature
10 CommandmentsEthics: What moral code should I follow?Political Correctness
The ChurchCommunity: Who are “my people”?Members of my group identity
RebukeDiscipline: How does the community respond to unacceptable behaviour?Cancelled
Confession to God and offended partyRepentance: How do I restore myself?Public apology and work on yourself
Born againConversion: How do I label my change?Woke
GraceSalvation: What overcomes my failures?Works
Baptism & CommunionSacraments: How do I acknowledge my beliefs publicly?Virtue signalling
Glorify GodLife Purpose: What is my mission in life?End oppression
With Christ in paradiseHeaven: What is the best possible outcome?Social equity
Apart from Christ foreverHell: What is the worst possible outcome?Social disparities
God / Final judgmentJudgment: Who/what assesses my life?The court of public opinion
Love God, love othersGreat Commandment: What is the highest good?“Do better”
Share gospel & make disciplesGreat Commission: How do I evangelize?Education & activism
ChristSaviour: Who do we put our hope in?Humanity

Since unfolding the details of this chart would take a book-length explanation, I’ll chip away at it over time. Drop your comments, questions, or critiques by leaving a comment below, and I’ll do my best to respond to them. Stay tuned for more info coming.

What Does It Mean to “Think Biblically”?

God cares about how we think. It is no mistake that we are created with cognitive faculties that allow us to learn, ponder, and assess things in ways that other creatures cannot. The Bible tells us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Along these lines, Christians often talk about “thinking biblically” about the issues of life and culture that we often face. What does this somewhat-ambiguous phrase really mean?

The first thing we need to understand is that everyone has a worldview. I define a worldview as “a system and beliefs and values that help us understand and interact with the world around us”. How we think about various issues is directly linked to our particular worldview. A robust worldview answers some of the most fundamental questions of life, such as:

  • Identity: Who am I?
  • Purpose: What am I here for?
  • Community: How do I relate to others?
  • Truth: What defines reality?
  • Origin: Where do I come from?
  • Destination: Where am I going?
  • Morality: What is right and wrong?
  • Transcendence: Am I a part of something bigger than me?

Christianity answers these questions in Scripture. The Bible is the place Christians look to shape our worldview. Thus, when we talk about “thinking Biblically” we are referring to a process of developing a worldview that is shaped by Scripture that then interprets the world around us. As I stated earlier, a worldview is a collection of “beliefs and values”. Since the world we live in offers us differing ideas of what beliefs and values we should hold, some of those are going to “pass the test” of aligning with what Scripture teaches while others do not.

This is what Romans 12:2 is getting at when it states “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”. Consider of a few points from this passage. Notice first that this world has a “pattern”, aka a worldview. The “world” (referred to here as collective mankind without acknowledgment of God) has beliefs and values that it holds to because of our sinful nature as human beings. These are predictable “patterns” that are contrary to God. Next, notice that humans can be “conformed” to this pattern. This means that people’s beliefs and values are moldable. They can change via influence. They are not fixed realities in ourselves, but can be adapted. Third, notice that the way we change is linked to our “mind”. How we think is what shapes who we are. Fourth, our mind has a pre-determined condition that requires “renewing”. This implies that our default pattern is worldly and requires a “breaking-the-mold” approach to free ourselves from our sinful selves. Fifth, our mind renewal comes from intentional focus on the will of God. In this way, Scripture teaches us that God’s will contrasts with the patterns of this world. What God believes and values is different from what we believe and value. Sixth, God’s beliefs and values are called good, acceptable, and perfect. They are better and superior to our worldly ways of thinking. Seventh, in order for us to be renewed we must “discern” the difference between worldly thinking and Godly thinking. When people talking about “thinking Biblically”, this is exactly the process they have in mind.

Therefore, thinking biblically means identifying the beliefs and values that are being promoted by the world and assessing wether or not they conform to God’s will as revealed in the Bible. If they do, we accept them. If they don’t, we reject them. This is a crucial part of growing as a disciple of Christ and maturing as a Christian believer.

It pains me to say, but I often see many Christians failing to “think biblically” about issues in their lives or the world around us. It seems that many have a compartmentalized relationship with God, where they accept the need for God’s forgiveness but don’t allow for a full renewing of their mind to change their future thoughts and behaviour. Put differently, they accept salvation but not sanctification. They call themselves a Christian but don’t engage in the hard work of change to be conformed to the image of Christ. If you don’t believe me, scroll through social media. That is exactly the thing that prompted me to write this post. I regularly see believers of Jesus saying things and promoting things that are contrary to a Christian worldview without even realizing it. They, for one reason or another, are failing to “discern” God’s will and have become conformed to worldly patterns of thought.

This is why reading Scripture regularly is so important. God’s Word confronts us about the sinful patterns of thought in our lives and contrasts it to the way God thinks about things. As a result, when we read our Bibles we should regularly find ourselves in prayer repenting of our worldliness and asking God for help to change. When this fails to become a regular activity in our lives we can be sure that the process of renewal has waned and we are slowly being conformed to the patterns of this world.

Scripture must play a central role in our lives. If we are to follow Christ, it will mean a daily renewal and confrontation with ourselves that slowly kills what is earthly in us and allows the Spirit of God to more fully dwell in our hearts. I am pleading with any Christian who is reading this to not take this lightly. Being renewed is a lifelong process and one of the true marks of a believer. Those who fail to endure in this just might one day find that the God they once loved has become an irrelevant relic of their past and the patterns of the world have taken root in their lives. In such a case, a person is exposed for what they are—a Christian by label only, and apart from God’s grace.

Renewal is hard. Thinking biblically is hard. There are a hundred valid reasons for not wanting to do it. We may find Scripture boring or confusing. We may fall out of the habit of reading it. We may stop attending church for one reason or another. We may find a part of the Christian worldview offensive. We may surround ourselves with worldly thinking people. We may even fall in love with one of them. These can all be real challenges but we cannot allow them to become stumbling blocks in our lives. The moment we make peace with patterns of the world is the moment we begin conforming to them. It is like a stream that is flowing away from God and we must actively swim against the current or be swept away by it. Coasting is easy. Swimming is hard. It may seem silly but Dory was right about this one. Just keep swimming.

Christians Should Reject Critical Theory

The short version of why Christians should reject Critical Theory (CT) is because the basic premises of CT are antithetical to a biblical worldview. I will defend this thesis while recognizing that an increasing number of Christians (and Christian leaders) are adopting CT as a helpful tool in social justice initiatives and living out their Christian faith in the culture at large. I see this as very concerning and damaging to the Body of Christ. As of yet, there is no universal rejection or acceptance of CT among the Church. It is still up for debate, and I hope to inject some helpful information and perspective into this conversation. For that reason, I will first throughly define CT using primary source literature before contrasting it with Scripture. My intent is to properly present the central ideas of CT before engaging with them so as to avoid being accused of straw-man arguments.

First, let’s define CT. Oxford languages defines Critical Theory as “a philosophical approach to culture, and especially to literature, that seeks to confront the social, historical, and ideological forces and structures that produce and constrain it. The term is applied particularly to the work of the Frankfurt School.” This is a good, although somewhat ambiguous, definition. Brittanica.com defines Critical theory as a “Marxist-inspired movement in social and political philosophy originally associated with the work of the Frankfurt School. Drawing particularly on the thought of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, critical theorists maintain that a primary goal of philosophy is to understand and to help overcome the social structures through which people are dominated and oppressed.”

Put together, these two definitions give us a starting point in understanding Critical Theory. Put into my own words, it is an approach to understanding and alleviating social ills using an adapted Marxist approach that sees the world as identity groups competing for power. I will not delve very deep into the Marxist roots of Critical Theory in this essay, although it is an incredibly important connection to make. If you wish to read up more on that, a very good and brief historical detailing can be found here. As this link shows, Critical Theory is birthed directly out of Marxism in the 1930’s and has adapted over the years to the current form it takes today. This is where our focus will lie.

To help flesh out the modern form of CT more fully, I will draw on the book Is Everyone Really Equal? An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education by Robin DiAngelo and Ozlem Sensoy. Lest you think I am drawing on a fringe or outlier source, consider that Robin DiAngelo is possibly the most influential person in the world right now in terms of advancing Critical Theory ideas. Her book White Fragility is the go-to resource on racial issues, having only recently been bumped down to #2 on the New York Times Best Sellers list in the paperback non-fiction category. It has been on the Best Sellers list for 109 weeks in a row. White Fragility is explicitly a work crafted from Critical Theory, with a focus on racism. Her book Is Everyone Really Equal?, on the other hand, more explicitly explains CT as it may apply to any social problem, not just racism. Therefore, the more broad scope of this text will help us to understand the underlying ideas of Critical Theory.

At first glance, Critical Theory is a tough concept to wrap your head around. This is because it cannot properly be summed up in one sentence (hence the problem trying to define it). It is, rather, a collection of connected ideas that develop a particular view of the world. I will outline below five core tenets of CT which will help the reader to begin to see the picture of what CT is and how it operates as an ideology.

  1. Social Binaries

By “social binaries” I mean that people are categorized into opposing identity groups. To quote DiAngelo and Sensoy, “for every social group, there is an opposite group…the primary groups that we name here are: race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, religion, and nationality.” Elsewhere in the book they clarify, “although we are individuals, we are also—and perhaps fundamentally—members of social groups. These group memberships shape us as profoundly, if not more so, than any unique characteristic we may claim to possess.”

Thus, CT sees the identity of people not as primarily individuals, but as members of social groups. Your group membership is your fundamental identity. Based on this framework, my own fundamental identity is that I am a straight, white, Christian male. Very little else about me matters. Read the above quotes again. Notice that these social groupings create my identity more so than any unique characteristic I may possess.

This is incredibly important to understand. Coming from a CT framework, people are lumped into group membership and thus given the identity of those groups. That becomes who you are. Even though I may have my own unique experiences and opinions that greatly differ from other straight, white, Christian men, it matters very little. I am just like them because I am one of them.

2. Oppression Narrative

By “oppression narrative” I mean that one group identity asserts dominance over the other. According to CT, people are divided into opposing social groups, yet these groups are not on a level playing field. One group is dominant or oppressive, the other is subjugated or oppressed. Again, to quote DiAngelo and Sensoy, “Oppression involves institutional control, ideological domination, and the imposition of the dominant group’s culture on the minoritized group. No individual member of the dominant group has to do anything specific to oppress a member of the minoritized group.”

Not only does CT give you an identity based on social groupings, it also gives you moral qualities. What this means is that you are either an oppressor or an oppressed person depending on your own group identity. For example, if you are male, you are an oppressor. If you are a woman, you are oppressed. I can imagine some men raising their hand in objection and saying, “Wait a minute! I’m not oppressive towards women. I’ve never done or said anything to demean a woman in my life.” The canned response from a CT perspective would be “It doesn’t matter. You’re still an oppressor.” Once again, I encourage you to read the quote from the previous paragraph again. Note particularly the phrase “No individual member of the dominant group has to do anything specific to oppress a member of the minoritized group.” This means that, quite literally, you are given a moral label based not on anything you have ever personally done, but simply based on your group identity. In fact, in White Fragility, DiAngelo expands on this idea to argue that people who try to defend themselves from the accusation of being an oppressor based only on their group identity are actually demonstrating their oppression in real time. The only solution for an oppressor group member to escape their moral dilemma is to admit their own obvious or internalized oppressive ways and actively renounce them.

It is worth briefly noting here that CT is playing directly off of Marxism in these first two points. It was Marx, after all, who developed the theory that the world was broken because the rich oppressed the poor. This opressor-oppressed dichotomy has simply been expanded by Critical Theory to include other aspects of culture. Yet, the root theory remains the same. This ought to cause Christians at least some alarm considering the atheistic origins of Marxism and the horrific atrocities the ideology carried out in practice under Communism. Christianity has been enemy #1 for Communist regimes, yet its slightly prettier but just-as-evil step-sister Critical Theory is being embraced by the Church. Consider the origins and connections of CT and be warned.

Perhaps the most important thing you can learn from DiAngelo and Sensoy’s book can be seen in the following chart which succinctly and plainly summarizes Critical Theory in one image:

Recall that these same authors argue that no individual of a dominant group must actually do anything in order to still be considered guilty of oppression. If this chart neatly outlines who is the oppressors in society, I am perhaps one of the most oppressive people I know. Also note that to be a Christian is to be in a dominant group. Once again, I should hope this gives followers of Jesus a pause. Though Christ calls us the salt of the earth and light of the world, Critical Theory calls us oppressors. Which label of identity should we accept? How would accepting one over the other change your view of yourself and of others, and of your role in the world?

I observe that many Christians attempt to use CT as a tool to engage in social justice initiatives. Indeed, remember that the subtitle of DiAngelo and Sensoy’s book is “An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education”. Many believers see the secular world rising up against racism and think to themselves, “I am against racism too. This is a shared value. We can work with the world to fight this together”. This perspective is naive and fails in two regards. The first is to recognize that Christians and Critical Theory have different definitions of racism. The Christian believes racism to be partiality or bigotry based on skin colour. In that sense, anyone can be racist. CT on the other hand would define racism as prejudice plus power. This means that only people in the power group (whites) can be racist, and it is impossible for a member of the minority group (people of colour) to be racist. Lest you think I am overstating my case, DiAngelo says in White Fragility that “A positive white identity is an impossible goal. White identity is inherently racist; white people do not exist outside the system of white supremacy.” I see no way a Bible-believing Christian can adopt this line of thinking in aiming to help bring peace to racial issues, as it blatantly runs against basic Christian doctrine.

The second error Christians make when trying to wed themselves to social justice movements is to fail to recognize that Critical Theory defines their very faith as oppressive. You may think you are on the same team fighting against racism or poverty, but it is only a matter of time before the activists turn on you. You, as a Christian, are a member of an oppressor group. To support CT as a Christian is to feed the monster who will later devour you. Sooner or later you will have to tackle that confrontation, and only two results will come. Either you will compromise your faith and bow to cultural pressure, or you will stand firm and be persecuted as a result. Scripture is not silent on which of these outcomes are expected of believers.

3. Lived Experience = Reality

By this I mean that truth is determined by people’s life experiences, especially the experience of the oppressed. This concept is born out of postmodernism which essentially rejects objective truth. According to CT, the experiences and perspectives of the marginalized define how things really are. DiAngelo and Sensoy explain, “Dominant groups have the most narrow or limited view of society because they do not have to understand the experiences of the minoritized group in order to survive… Minoritized groups often have the widest view of society, in that they must understand both their own and the dominant group’s perspective — develop a double-consciousness — to succeed.”

Put differently, people who are a part of oppressor groups are blind to their own privilege. They live in a society that is designed to benefit them, and thus they live in a protected bubble without even knowing it. People in oppressed groups, on the other hand, see life with a broader perspective since they can see both the protective bubble of the privileged and the harsh sufferings of the disadvantaged. Thus dual-perspective, according to CT, means their point of view is actually more authoritative.

This explains why the opinions of white, straight men are largely treated with contempt or dismissal. CT has taught society that this group of people have a comparatively limited perspective to that of, say, a black lesbian woman. As a result, CT tends to uplift the voice of marginalized groups to the exclusion of others. Reality is best defined by the experiences of the oppressed, and those people need their story heard.

In practice, however, CT doesn’t follow its own rules. Although marginalized peoples are to have their voices lifted up, that is really only true for people who speak in congruence with Critical Theory. For instance, women should be encouraged to speak out on women’s issues…unless that woman takes a more traditional view of gender roles, in which case they should not be paid attention. Likewise, black people are encouraged to speak up about the injustices they face…unless a black person rejects the idea that society is generally racist towards them, in which case we dismiss them and say they are a traitor to their own people. This kind of thing happens all the time. CT presents itself as promoting diversity while in reality it rejects true diversity—diversity of thought.

4. Intersectional Identity

By saying that people are fundamentally members of identity groups, CT creates a problem for itself: someone can be a member of an oppressed group and an oppressor group at the same time. Take a black man for example. According to CT, this person would be an oppressor as a male, but oppressed as a person of colour. What then?

Intersectionality attempts to sort through this dilemma. Returning to our text, DiAngelo and Sensoy state, “Intersectionality is the idea that identity cannot be fully understood via a single lens such as gender, race, or class alone — what legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989) called a ‘single axis framework’ (p. 139).” The following image (from a different source) illustrates well how intersectionality works in practice.

The thick, purple line across the middle represents oppression or domination. All of the group identities above the line are considered dominant, while those under the line are considered oppressed or marginalized. You can then trace the “spokes” of the wheel from one end to the other to see which group identities are considered paired together. Pin-pointing your own group identities on the diagram is meant to help an individual find their place in society. For most people, they will be advantaged in some areas of life and disadvantaged in others. Intersectionality is meant to help you find those advantages and disadvantages so that you can orient yourself properly in society. In areas where you are an oppressor, you should “check your privilege”. In areas where you are an oppressed person, you should speak up and seek greater equality. This brings us to our final point.

5. Transformative Action

By transformative action I simply mean “social justice”. The first four points of CT have laid out a comprehensive view of the world; the final objective is to do something about it. The list of possible social justice initiatives and tactics are virtually endless. They include both large-scale initiatives like mass education programs and corporate diversity training to more grassroots things like local protests and social media campaigns. The actual means are generally less important than the goal: the absence of social disparities. Again, recall what CT has taught us. In a nutshell, it says that society is composed of advantaged and disadvantaged groups. Individuals of those groups are no exception to the rule. This oppressor-oppressed dichotomy is verified by the lived experience of marginalized groups. These resulting disparities among groups are considered problematic and therefore social action needs to take place for corrective measures. The ultimate goal is perfect equity among all people groups where no one is advantaged over anyone else. It is worth noting that this outcome seems strangely similar to the definition of Communism.

A Worldview Issue

The careful reader should note that Critical Theory functions, as I stated at the beginning, as a worldview. Though some call it merely a “tool” to help us analyze culture, it is actually far more than that. The five points of CT tell us who we are (oppressors or oppressed), what community of people we belong to (our group identity), where ultimate truth comes from (the experience of the oppressed), what fundamental ills have befallen the world (social advantages for some but not for others), and a worthy life purpose to pursue (the alleviation of oppression). Make no mistake about it: these are the components of a comprehensive worldview.

The Southern Baptist Convention, which is the world’s largest Evangelical denomination, is a prime exampling of trying to merge Christianity with Critical Theory. In what has become known as Resolution 9, the SBC moved to adopt CT as a useful tool to address social ills. Their resolution states, in part, that “critical race theory and intersectionality should only be employed as analytical tools subordinate to Scripture—not as transcendent ideological frameworks.” The problem with this statement is that it is fundamentally impossible. Critical Theory is a transcendent ideological framework. I believe I have demonstrably shown that to be the case in this essay. Thus, the entire theory would come under the authority of Scripture and be rendered virtually useless, since it fails to pass the test on almost every point it contends to make. Allow me to summarize briefly.

Critical Theory is wrong about group identity superseding individual identity. To define someone by their group identity at the expense of their individuality is, by definition, prejudicial. On the Last Day, does Scripture declare that God will judge you based on what your group identity has done? Or does it declare that God will hold you accountable for your own thoughts, actions, words, and motives? So you can see that God judges us as individuals. Similarly, does not Abraham plead with God to spare the innocent in Sodom and Gomorrah? Does he not do so on the basis of God’s prefect justice, that it would be unrighteous of God to judge the innocent for the deeds of the wicked? So you can see from Scripture that God does not treat people fundamentally as members of social groups, but rather as individuals made in his image.

Critical Theory is wrong to characterize all members of oppressor groups with moral guilt. To say that all men, whites, straights, and the like, are oppressive without exception even in the absence of actual evidence is breaking the ninth commandment. It is bearing false witness against your neighbour. It is slandering them and accusing them of sin without justification. Certainly no Christian should accept or participate in a system of thinking that causes us to break God’s law and malign other people.

Likewise, Critical Theory is wrong to characterize all members of oppressed groups as victims. Surely people are actually taken advantage of by others in this world. No one denies this. But to say that all disparities are due to people being taken advantage of is flat-out wrong. Some people are disadvantaged in life for faults of their own. Scripturally, this can be attributed to God’s principle of sowing and reaping. God has built into creation mechanisms and consequences for actions that generally reward godliness and punish ungodliness. These should not be viewed as problematic but rather as part of God’s wisdom in action.

Critical Theory is wrong to ascribe asymmetrical ethics. By this I mean that those who are considered oppressors are governed by a different moral code than those who are considered oppressed. Oppressors, for example, are generally told to be quiet, check their privilege, and are much quicker to be castigated for stepping out of line with socially unacceptable behaviour. The oppressed, on the other hand, are told to speak up, assert themselves, and largely are given a pass for committing what would otherwise be considered socially unacceptable behaviour. Consider, as an illustration, when a black NBA player was seen during a game calling another caucasian player a “b**** a** white boy”. A few people in the media called him out for it, but the act was barely considered newsworthy. Now consider if the roles were reversed, and the white player had demeaned the black one with a similar racial epithet. Public outcry would have made headlines everywhere, and surely the consequences would have been severe. From a Critical Theory perspective, this moral asymmetry is perfectly just, since the white player is considered to have a social advantage over the black one. No one can fault the downtrodden for bending the rules against those who have the power. Yet Scripture does not support this. God’s law is applicable to all people equally, without partiality. Leviticus 19:15 states “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favouritism to the great, but judge your neighbour fairly.” This ethic is consistent in Scripture. God’s commands go “both ways”. Thus, the moral asymmetry of CT is exposed for what it really is: a double-standard that perverts true justice.

Critical Theory is wrong about the nature of truth. CT posits that truth is not objective, but rather subjective. It also asserts that truth is largely shaped by the experiences and opinions of the oppressed. Yet this is not true, at least not exhaustively. It is just as possible for a “person of power” to see the truth as it is for a marginalized person. Neither has a monopoly on truth. Certainly, they each can have their own perspective. Additionally, Christian values would rightly state that a person’s life experience and perspective should be respected. But that is not the same as saying it is necessarily true. There is a difference (at least sometimes) between how we perceive things to be and how things really are. The Bible’s message is that truth is a fixed standard to which we can align ourselves or deceive ourselves, but it does not change even if it doesn’t jive with our personal experiences. We don’t determine truth. We humbly discover it. The obvious implication is that sometimes—and this is true for everyone—we are flat out wrong. Scripture gives us no indication that only powerful people have bias while marginalized people see reality. Both the advantaged and the disadvantaged are equally able to access or deny truth because both are self-centred sinners by default. Our sinful nature is the great equalizer that gives no one the “upper hand” when it comes to access to the truth.

Critical Theory is wrong about our intersectional identity. There are multiple issues here. One is that the categories are wrong. While CT emphasizes our gender, race, and sexual orientation as primary identity markers, Scripture uses different categories. I would contend that Scripture uses three foundational identity markers before getting to the ones that CT emphasizes. Our first identity is that we are human beings made in the image of our Creator. This is our first and fundamental identity. The second is that we are sinners. This is the next-most important identity marker with which God sees us. The third is as the redeemed or the unredeemed. Unlike the first two categories, which are universally applicable to all people, this third category brings distinction. God sees the redeemed differently than he sees the unredeemed. I would argue without hesitation that these three layers of identity (image bearers of God, fallen sinners, redeemed/unredeemed) are the most foundational markers of our personal identities. Only after these categories should we add our more unique characteristics like gender, nationality, and so forth. Doing this fundamentally changes the way we understand ourselves and each other and orients us towards a biblical approach to human relationships.

A second problem with intersectional identity is one of application. Who is to say which identity markers are important and which are not? Why should we not add other categories to the list? Right handed or left handed? Curly or straight hair? Freckles or not? Athletic or musical? High or low IQ? Raised by single parent or both? First born or youngest in the family? Sexually abused or never taken advantage of? Raised in the city or countryside? The point here is that there are an infinite number of ways to categorize people, and an infinite number of potentially life-altering circumstances that people face. Therefore, if we aim to take intersectionality to its logical conclusion, what eventually happens are enough categories of distinction can be applied so that everyone is reduced to being a unique individual. No other person on the planet lands in the exact same categories as you. Thus, intersectionality renders itself useless because we are left with the very thing intersectionality intends to destroy: the uniqueness of every person. Rather than treating me the way you assume a straight, white man should be treated, you should see me as a unique individual who has a completely non-replicated life experience. No one sees, feels, thinks, and experiences things exactly as I do. The same goes for you. This concept means that every person on the planet is a fascinating individual who reflects the creative diversity of God and should be interacted with as such. CT, on the other hand, develops canned responses to certain people groups that rob individual people of their uniqueness and overlooks the beauty of God’s design in humanity.

Critical Theory is wrong about social justice. Or, put more accurately, it develops a faulty foundation for social justice. There is no question that God calls on believers to express their faith in concrete ways. We are to love our neighbour through good deeds. Most Christians conflate this call with secular social justice; yet I think this is a mistake. The secular call to social justice is to alleviate oppression as defined by Critical Theory. Therein lies the problem. As I have shown, CT does not reliably define justice and actually perverts true justice in many instances. My belief is that Christians engage with social justice because of (1) common language and (2) a misunderstanding of definitions. Social justice uses some biblical language, calling people to care for the helpless, aid the marginalized, alleviate the oppressed, speak up for the voiceless, and help the downtrodden. This sounds a lot like what we read in our Bibles. Yet the devil is in the details. By understanding how CT defines these terms, we can see that social justice operates by principles that are contrary to God’s Word.

Critical Theory is wrong about gratitude. More pointedly, CT actually lacks gratitude at all. The CT perspective is that the advantaged should feel bad about their privilege and the marginalized should be angry about their disadvantage. There is no category of gratitude for either group. Yet we know that Scripture calls people to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Biblically, both those that CT defines as oppressors and oppressed are to give thanks to God. Yet this runs completely contrary to all that CT outlines. Perhaps this alone ought to show us that CT need be rejected as useful in the life of a believer.

Critical Theory is wrong about God. Technically, CT completely ignores God altogether. It should then not surprise us that most of the conclusions CT draws are fundamentally wrong. Proverbs 9:10 tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. Since CT does not incorporate God at all, it does not begin with a foundation of wisdom. Perhaps the most significant problem with Critical Theory is that it runs contrary to the sovereignty of God. The Bible teaches that God is in control of all things, that he appoints people their lot in life, and does so for his own good designs and purposes. CT comes along and essentially accuses God of making mistakes that need correction. CT attempts to straighten out God’s sovereign plans and direct them towards different aims. Is it not God’s design to sometimes bring people down low? To strip away their wealth? To take away their health? To make them unseemly in the eyes of the world yet precious is his sight? To raise up kings and take them down? None of God’s sovereign plan omits the Christian call to alleviate suffering in this world. We are to bear one another’s burdens. Yet even in the midst of it, God is at work in ways we cannot understand. He is orienting the circumstances of life in order to bring about his sovereign plan. This core Christian value makes the premises on which CT stands virtually untenable.

What then are we to make of all this? Colossians 2:8 tells us: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Put simply, we are to reject the philosophies of this world and stand firm on the truth of God’s Word. Critical Theory makes truth claims that are contrary to Scripture. As I have shown, these truth claims are not “fringe” points in CT, but the very fundamentals of it. Instead of relying on CT to instruct us in good works, we must follow the source which God has provided. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” In theological terms, this verse speaks to the sufficiency of Scripture. The Bible is sufficient to “equip us for every good work”. It alone can provide us with the framework we need to do God’s will and fulfill the command to love our neighbour. This means that CT is a dispensable tool. Not only does it fail to be grounded in Scriptural principles, but it cannot prepare us for Christian service the way God’s Word can. If you wish to be a faithful believer in the world shining the light of Christ, do not bother yourself with Critical Theory. Instead, rely on God’s Word to guide you and the Spirit to empower you as go about showering the world with the love of God it so desperately needs.

*Special thanks to Neil Shenvi for his research on this subject. See his website at shenviapologetics.com

Burn Down or Build Up?

We are living in tense times. The rate at which our culture is polarizing and the extremes at which they are ending up is concerning. Quickly vanishing are middle-ground approaches, meaningful dialogue, and a genuine desire to understand someone else’s point of view. Civility is being replaced by anarchy and the volatility of seemingly every single public event just keeps amping up the rage. It breaks my heart to see these things unfold, and I really only have one thing to say.

If you are a believer in Jesus, resist the urge to burn down. Instead, do the hard work of building up. About the only thing we can all agree on is that things are not right the way they are. Our world needs change, hope, and a plan for the future. No one denies this. Yet what are we to do with this problem? There are really only two approaches: burning or building.

It seems that more and more people are taking the easy route of burning down. I mean this both literally and metaphorically. One can burn down a building, a neighbourhood, or a cop car with some gasoline and fire. Others can burn down ideas, friendships, families, morals, or public figures through metaphysical means of burning. Censorship, intimidation, public smearing, unforgiveness, and the like are all tools of those who seek to destroy. But let’s be honest for a moment. How hard is it to burn something down? A toddler can do it by accident. A strike of the match is all you need and the rest takes care of itself. There’s nothing impressive about that. Even Jesus said that Satan came to “seek, kill, and destroy“.

Again protesters carrying signs face off with Oakland Police Officers on the other end of 7th and Broadway. May 29, 2020. Photo: Pete Rosos

But believers are not to partake in this way. We are supposed to be different. The Bible calls us not to be those who burn down but those who build up. Scripture reminds us that “love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Unlike burning, which takes very little effort, building is a demanding enterprise. To build a nation, a city, a neighbourhood, a business, a family, or a church takes hard work. It takes commitment. It is a slow and painful process that many are afraid to bother with. Yet I contend that God does not give his followers an option in this regard. We are called to be builders. Christ called us to engage in the lives of others around us and love them without restraint. He calls us to be those who lift others up and not tear them down.

My only goal in this short essay it to remind my fellow Christians to focus on building, not burning. Do not allow your frustration to lead you to partner with Satan in his work of destruction. Rather, partner with God in his work of restoration. Yes, it will be much more difficult. Yes, it will be slow to yield results. But if we truly are going to love God and this world he has entrusted to us, there simply is no other way forward.

Education Isn’t the Answer

Our world has many serious problems. It does not matter what background you come from, what experiences you have had, or what worldview you ascribe to, everyone recognizes that things are broken. Life on earth is not as it could be, maybe even as it should be. I believe this is a universal acknowledgement. Therefore, one of mankind’s greatest tasks is to seek solutions to these problems. What avenues can we explore that might make things better than they are? There is no shortage of answers to this question. From my vantage point, the most common refrain in our modern, Western world is that EDUCATION is best option available.

It is espoused that education can turn things around. If people are educated, they have hope to escape poverty. If people are educated, they are less likely to be bigots. If people are educated, they are more likely to make good life choices, more likely to avoid substance abuse, more likely to escape mental health problems, more likely to progress society into an enlightened state, and so forth. There are those who embrace this perspective, and those who don’t are told to “educate yourself”. It seems that we have settled on education as the means to fix the world.

I want to challenge this idea. It’s not because education is bad. Obviously it isn’t. I can’t imagine that less information is somehow better than more information, unless one wants to argue that naivety is bliss. That may be true to an extent, especially for young children, but with age comes a realization of life’s problems that can’t be avoided. Thus, I am not arguing that education isn’t part of the answer. I believe it is. But education alone isn’t sufficient, and it has its own inherent weaknesses that can’t be overlooked. Consider at least three of them.

People can be educated beyond their intelligence. In everyday terms, we call this “indoctrination”. This happens when someone is consistently told what to think, but not how to think. They may well receive a robust “education”, but their own ability to reason hasn’t necessarily grown stronger. You can see this in practice when someone is willing to parrot ideas that they have been told but can’t sustain any kind of intellectual dialogue with a dissenter. I would contend that much of modern education fits this form. Robust debate is resisted. Safe spaces are embraced. Yet what could possibly be more destructive to the advancement of good ideas than what Haidt called the coddling of the mind? Good ideas are resilient. If they contain truth, they will stand even in the face of great opposition. Good education happens when space is created for ideas to battle it out. When this doesn’t happen, and only certain ideas are allowed to be explored to the exclusion of others, the result is education that exceeds actual intelligence.

People can be educated beyond common sense. Hans Christian Andersen explored this concept well in The Emperor’s New Clothes. With the right social pressure, people can adopt beliefs that are contrary to what they see with their own eyes. Take, for example, the rise of Communist-Socialist thinking in higher education. Students increasingly despise Capitalism (which, to be fair, has its flaws) while enjoying the benefits of it. They instead embrace the concept of extreme wealth distribution while assuming that people’s desire to be productive will remain intact. This, of course, is nonsense. When results are unlinked from effort, laziness abounds. We know this to be true because we understand human nature. The very students who embrace this idea would prove its own foolishness if their professor told them everyone in the class would receive the same grade even if they didn’t show up or hand in any assignments. The vast majority of them, if not all, would never show up again. Yet somehow we think that things would be different in the actual marketplace. In that sense, education can provide only surface level answers to deep and complex problems that we embrace at the expense of our own common human experience.

People can be educated beyond their morality. The idea that education can turn an immoral person into a moral one is absurd. It is assumed that if you embrace ideas that are deemed unethical, you can be educated out of them. Perhaps there is a seed of truth here, since seeing things from another perspective may draw out sympathy from an individual. However, the problem is that education deals primarily at the intellectual level while morality operates at the heart level. We assume that the high school dropout embraced a life of crime because they lacked education. Yet what then do we make of the crooked businessmen and highly-educated societal elites who display their immorality in more sophisticated ways? The corruption is the same. The only difference is that one has avenues to execute their immorality with more devious methods. Many Nazi’s were educated. They were also immoral. Education alone can’t remodel the human affections so that they are oriented to love and service to others.

This is why Christians must embrace a fully-orbed view of discipleship. Education, to be sure, is an important component—essential, actually. But recall that the great commandment is to love the Lord with one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. A good education can help to embolden love of the mind, but the other components of humanity may remain untouched. The heart, the will, the emotion, even the very soul, require a kind of change that education alone is insufficient to give. Supernatural intervention is required. The Bible calls it regeneration or new birth. What this refers to is a work of God on the inner part of a person that results in real change. This kind of change is what can free someone from enslavement to their own humanity. It alone can provide people with the resources they need—namely, love—that can help change the world.

What You Should Know About #blacklivesmatter

The #blacklivesmatter movement might be the single largest social justice movement in the world today. This is certainly true in the United States, but increasingly so elsewhere as well. As such, Christians need to know about it, and know it well.

I am attempting to summarize the movement as succinctly as possible. I think it is helpful to break it down into three parts, as shown in this Venn diagram:

Photographic Venn Diagram

Let’s look at each of these categories, beginning with the two extremes.

Black Lives Matter as a Statement

The first way Black Lives Matter exists is merely as a statement of truth. As a standalone claim, “black lives matter” is undoubtedly true. In fact, you could even say that the statement is too weak from a biblical perspective. Black lives more than matter—they are sacred. All humans are made in the image of God and “matter”. Human lives are worthy of dignity and respect as image-bearers of God. This of course includes black people.

For some, the statement “black lives matter” essentially means “Racism is bad. I’m not for racism and I think black people should be treated with respect”. It amounts to a general statement against racism.

Black Lives Matter as an Organization

Some people are not aware of this, but there is a legal, non-profit organization named blacklivesmatter. It was founded in 2013 and has chapters in various parts of the world, including here in Canada. You can read for yourself their statements of belief, some of which sound great and others of which are quite alarming. In particular, their unabashed support for LGBTQ lifestyles and their anti-male dogma. Notice as well the following:

“We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”

Any Bible-believing Christian ought to have concerns over this agenda. Not only is it historically inaccurate to say nuclear families are an invention of the West (it pre-dates Western societies), but Scripture contends that the nuclear family is God’s idea. Genesis 1 and 2 reveals that God created man and woman to be together in marriage, and within this context to procreate the fill the earth. Any Christian should pause before supporting an organization that explicitly is on the attack against God’s good design. Former NFL player Marcellus Wiley pointed out some of the flaws in this thinking in a great video you should take time to watch.

Blacklivesmatter the organization is also admittedly Marxist. As I have written about before, Marxism is a godless worldview that has no founding in Scripture, is based on greed and contempt for others, and led to the murder of about 100 million people during the 20th Century.

In short, the organization blacklivesmatter is an extreme leftist, Marxist, anti-Christian creation that believers should have no part in supporting.

Black Lives Matter as a Movement

Somewhere in the middle, these two categories collide to form what can be described as the blacklivesmatter movement. The diagram shows overlapping circles because the movement is made up both of well-meaning but somewhat naive people who want to show support against racism and those who fully understand the ideological worldview of the organization and are driving towards those goals. Thus, when you see #blacklivesmatter on your social media, it could be a person saying “racism is bad” or it could be a person saying “I’m here to impose white guilt, destroy family structures, affirm LGBTQ lifestyles, and will oppose anyone who gets in my way”. There is also, of course, some spectrum in between these two groups, but nevertheless the point stands.

What Now?

I write this article because I want people to know what they are getting themselves into by saying “black lives matter”. The statement is true and docile. The ideology is vicious and anti-Christian. Personally, even though I vehemently reject racism, I refuse to use the phrase “black lives matter” as a show of support because of the baggage that statement comes with. I want to distance myself from the organization and the belief structure behind it.

Those of you who are believers should consider how you want to approach this issue, but I think it’s important to make informed decisions. Don’t assume you know what someone means by the phrase “black lives matter”, and recognize that some people use it innocently while for others it represents a definite agenda. This is going to be more important as time goes on because the #blacklivesmatter movement isn’t going away anytime soon.

On Equity, Marxism, and Critical Theory

In order to assess the secular movements against racism, we must first understand the foundations of them. I finished my last post stating that the secular battle against racism springs from a desire for equity among people groups. Here I explain what that means.

The term “equity” as it pertains to social conditions is essentially equivalent to the phrase “equality of outcome”. This would be in contrast to the concept of “equality of opportunity”, a different approach to addressing social ills.

Equity, or equality of outcome, seeks to even out the life experience of people groups. For instance, it would be against a capitalist economy where the super-successful are a tiny percentage who control the vast majority of wealth. In search of equity (a more equal distribution of wealth), you would need to put structures in place that prevent the rich from getting richer and the poor from getting poorer, such as higher tax penalties for rich people. Conversely, equality of opportunity aims to make a successful life at least theoretically possible for anyone who is willing to work for it, not giving any advantages or disadvantages to anyone. This image illustrates the idea well:

equality

In a world of “equality of opportunity”, the ideal is that everyone has the same starting place and must go from there. In a world of “equity” or “equality of outcome”, people are given more or less depending upon their perceived ability to reach success.

Understanding this concept is fundamental to critiquing our current battle against racism. This is because one line of thinking would essentially say “the American dream is available to anyone who wants to go out and chase it”, while the other would say “certain people need extra help, while some need extra hinderances, in order to maintain equality among people’s quality of life”.

Even though this blog post is about racism, I begin with economics because one needs to know Karl Marx before they understand Critical Theory and how it is currently playing out in the world. Marx was an economist whose ideas were fundamental to the birth of Communism. Marx essentially looked at the disparity between the rich and the poor and argued that the cause of it was oppression. He posited that the rich got rich by trampling on the poor and making sure they are kept down. He therefore proposed an economic structure that took power away from the rich and gave it to the poor, hoping to achieve greater balance. Essentially, he sought economic equity (equality of outcome).

It is fair to say that history has proven his theory to be a colossal bust. Everywhere that Communism has taken hold, crushing poverty and government tyranny has resulted. This is one of the major things we can learn from the last 150 years of human history.

Instead of dismissing his ideas, many sociologists doubled down on them and actually expanded them. This gave birth to what we now know as Critical Theory, sometimes called Cultural Marxism (some would disagree, but I see both terms as almost synonymous). Critical Theory takes the idea from Marxism that disparity among people is due primarily to oppression. They expand this, however, beyond the realm of economics and into other categorizations of life. For example, not only do the rich oppress the poor, but whites oppress blacks, men oppress women, police oppress citizens, skinny people oppress fat people, and so on.

This is the lens through which Critical Theory sees the world. It identifies a place where there is a difference of outcome, automatically assumes it is a result of oppression, and then seeks to attack the oppressors while empowering the oppressed. If you are someone who pays attention to the news at all, this ought to be something you can see clearly being played out before our very eyes.

This is why, for instance, ideas like high taxation for the rich, white privilege, feminism, and defunding the police are all so popular. These are attempts by the proponents of Critical Theory to level the playing field. It springs from the notion that oppressors need to be attacked and the oppressed need to be empowered.

This is the dominant approach of culture towards the issue of racism. It is cultural Marxism playing out in the real world. Those who adopt this view (aka Woke), believe that white people are fundamentally part of the oppressive system that keeps minorities down, especially blacks. Thus, the whole system needs to be toppled since it is built on a foundation of white supremacy. This is where the concept of systemic racism is born. Racism is built right into the structures of society so that, even if a white person doesn’t think themselves to be racist, they can’t help but be. They partake of a system that lifts them up and keeps others down.

Once again, I think there is strong reason to push back on this line of thinking. The first is that it is built on a foundation of massive, unprovable assumptions. Critical Theory demands the belief that the best way to see the world is through the lens of oppression. Yet I believe there is strong reason to question this. The Communist experiment proved that this concept was flawed as it pertained to economics. Why should we assume it is more accurate in other spheres of life? It also clearly does not take into account the major factor of personal responsibility. Critical Theory assumes that all people want to work hard and make the most of their opportunities. Yet even a cursory glance at life around us proves this assumption false. Some people are able to achieve much with very little, while others with much squander it away. The fact that this reality is completely absent from Critical Theory makes the starting point inherently flawed.

Critical Theory also operates from a point of envy. Though it sounds nice on the surface (“I just want everyone to be equal”), the motives can be much more nefarious (“They have what I don’t, and I want it”). It can be a very convenient way to hide behind covetousness. I would again point to the results of Communism as proof. Communism arguably killed 100 million people in the 20th century. Scripture explains why. James 4:2 says “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” Hostility and murder spring from a coveting heart. Though I would not charge all who adhere to Critical Theory as examples of this, many certainly are. If we know anything about human nature, it is that we are far more evil than we dare believe, and that our own intentions can be incredibly deceitful.

If you want more recent examples, see the looting of stores (including killings) and creation of autonomous zones as examples of peoples thirst for material possessions and power that comes under the guise of fighting against oppression.

Critical Theory also implies that successful people are automatically oppressors. Obviously, we know that many rich people are oppressive and can get away with doing so because of their financial resources. The same book of the Bible I quoted above speaks of rich people oppressing the poor (James 2:6). But this is still a wrong assumption to make, since other rich people are benevolent with their money. I would argue that the Bible presents roughly four categories of people in this regard:

  • Godly rich
  • Ungodly rich
  • Godly poor
  • Ungodly poor

However, this model doesn’t fit into the framework of Critical Theory. In fact, I would challenge anyone to prove from Scripture that Critical Theory is a way of thinking that springs from the Bible. Unfortunately, Christians who adopt this view are simply flinging around the term “justice” to defend their views. I would argue that to defend Critical Theory under the guise of biblical “justice” is an abuse of Scripture and nothing more than slapping biblical language on top of completely secular thinking.

The Bible nowhere argues for equity, or equality of outcome. Was it not God who richly blessed Abraham? Was it not God who chose Israel to be his people? The Biblical picture is that our life circumstances are made up of a combination of God’s providence, the choices of others around us, and our own choices as well. God determines when and where we are born (Acts 17:26). Our parents and our communities make choices that affect our lives. And lastly, we make our own decisions in life which operate on the principle of reaping what we sow. The Bible doesn’t outline how God’s people are to be revolutionaries against the system, but what it does do is teach us how to live out a Kingdom ethic in the midst of a corrupt and broken world. These are not the same thing.

We need to know these things because seeking godly solutions requires properly defining the problems. The foundation of Critical Theory is flawed and unscriptural; therefore we ought to reject its solutions. Racial tensions are not properly and fully explained by stating that white people oppress black people and thus the answer is to reverse the paradigm of power. Rather, racial tensions spring from sin in the human heart that requires the healing balm of God’s love. It completely baffles me that believers are attempting to fight the battle against racism while leaving the most potent weapon at home: the gospel. Do we not know that only Christ can change the human heart? That only Christ can unite people? If we feel that we can fight the battle against racism without consulting Scripture, without recognizing the need for concepts like sin, forgiveness, sanctification, and the imago Dei, then we are fooling ourselves.

The Church needs to recognize that we have a unique voice in this discussion. We operate from a worldview founded on Scripture, not on Marx. I fear that we are knowingly, and unknowingly, adopting worldly patterns of thought. Until that changes, we fail to be the light that this world so desperately needs.

On White Privilege

“White privilege is an absence of the consequences of racism. An absence of structural discrimination, an absence of your race being viewed as a problem first and foremost.” – Reni Eddo-Lodge

Let’s talk about white privilege. White privilege is, much like systemic racism, a bit of a nebulous term and one that is thrown about quite a bit these days. The basic idea is that being born a white person in Western society immediately grants you certain privileges just by virtue of being white. Put another way, your life at least isn’t made any harder because of your skin colour.

Like other things I have said about racism, the idea of white privilege is nuanced. I reject the oversimplification of white privilege but recognize that it still exists as a reality. Let me explain.

White privilege is undoubtedly real to a certain degree. For instance, the city I live in is predominantly white. To my recollection, I’ve never had a racist act committed against me in my life. This, however, is not true for some of my friends who are black or asian. Thus, I think it is fair to say that my skin colour affords me some degree of privilege. Of this I readily acknowledge.

However, that’s about all I’m willing to concede about white privilege. Much of the additional baggage that comes with the term I reject, and on good moral and logical grounds I might add.

For instance:

I reject the idea that I should apologize for being white. The trend of white people bowing down before blacks and making atonement for the sins of their ancestors is insanity. Not that being humble and willing to admit our faults is anything bad—in fact, it is necessary in a Christian worldview. The problem however is that there is no need to repent for the sins of others. It is fundamental to a Christian worldview that people are accountable for themselves, and that God will judge each person according to their works. I honestly don’t know if anyone in my own family lineage has a link to slavery. Well, actually, I’m willing to bet that if we go back far enough, all of us have a heritage connected with slavery and other horrible atrocities that we want nothing to do with.

It seems like white privilege is the new “original sin” in this secular religion of wokeness. From a Christian point of view, you are born with an inherent guilt (sin) that you need cleansing from through faith in Christ. In the secular view, you are born with inherent guilt (whiteness) for which you need to be cleansed through wokeness. This is a false gospel and antithetical to the Christian worldview.

I would add one more thing here. If a person feels uncomfortable with the actions that someone else has committed, the biblical response is not to confess guilt yourself, but rather to pray for them. We call this intercessory prayer. An example of this in Scripture is Job, who prayed for his children and offered sacrifices to God on their behalf for their partying lifestyle (Job 1). It’s not that Job felt responsible, but he pleaded with God on their behalf out of love.

I reject the idea that white privilege (or lack thereof) is the best way to understand people’s situations. Like I mentioned already, white privilege is real. Yet it is only one component to the complexity that makes up a person’s life circumstances. Many, many, many other factors will lend a person towards privilege or not, such as:

  • Country of birth
  • Talents
  • Family wealth
  • Educational opportunities
  • Attractiveness
  • Health
  • Character of their parents
  • Intelligence
  • Personal connections
  • What they were exposed to as a child

The list goes on. All of these factor into the equation of a person’s access to privilege. I would argue that perhaps some of these factors are actually far more important to the outcome of life for an individual than the colour of their skin.

In other words, white privilege is real, but it is not nearly sufficient to explain the world around us.

Who has more privilege? Me, as a white man? Or Tiger Woods? LeBron James? Barack Obama? Oprah Winfrey? They have access to resources that far outweigh anything I might be able to accrue because of my whiteness. And you know what? Good for them! That’s fine with me, because I’m not a victim. I’ve been dealt the hand God gave me, and I will not covet the one he gave someone else. Every person has a unique set of circumstances they are born into, some of which are advantageous, and others disadvantageous. It has always been, in my mind, a healthy perspective for someone to not allow themselves to be controlled by their circumstances, but resolve to work with what they have to live a worthy life for God and others.

Lastly, I reject the idea that my privilege, whatever level it may be, is inherently bad. Terms matter, and what the world calls privilege the Bible calls blessings. This absolutely, positively, does not mean that being white is a blessing. That’s a disgusting way to think. But what it means is that in whatever way God has granted me a smooth path in life, for it I am grateful.

I can for certain say that by far the most meaningful way God has blessed me is with incredible, hard working parents who taught me about God. This is a privilege that not all others have had, and I wish it were different. Yet I will give thanks for the blessings God has given me, and the challenges, while aiming to use the resources God has given me to make something of my life. This is what privilege is all about. If you have something to be thankful for, give thanks. If you have plentiful resources, give back. If you have challenges to overcome, persevere. But using white privilege as the dominant way to understand the world is a line of thinking that is based on coveting, ingratitude, and just plain ignorance of the facts. Reality is always much more complex than any broad-brush can cover.

Let me circle back to the quote at the beginning. It said “White privilege is an absence of the consequences of racism. An absence of structural discrimination, an absence of your race being viewed as a problem first and foremost.” It appears we are just turning the tables around. White people are now structurally discriminated against, because we are seen as inherently racist whether we recognize it or not. On top of that, our whiteness is seen as a problem first and foremost. There is a term for it when people are categorized wholesale simply because of their skin colour: it’s called racism. The inevitable outcome of the white privilege narrative is just racism in a new form. We are simply replacing one racist ideology with another.

I propose that we submit ourselves to Scripture. God’s Word cuts through all the clutter and makes things clear. We are to do unto others as we would want them to do to us. It’s really that simple. We get into problems when we start to create new categories and put people into boxes. All of this springs from the concept of equity, the idea that all people deserve equal outcomes, a line of thinking born in Marxism and adopted by popular thought. That will be the topic of my next post.

On Listening to Black People

I will reiterate once again, right off the bat, that I am a pastor and not a politician. Some might assume that because I am speaking on political issues, I am wrongly diving into the world of politics when I should be staying in my lane of Christian ministry. I would counter back that what is often labelled a political issue is one that is actually a moral, spiritual, or worldview issue. Such is the case here.

It is increasingly being espoused that white people need to shut up and listen to people of colour when it comes to the issue of systemic racism. Lest you think I am being too poignant in criticism, consider exhibit A:

shutup

The line of thinking here is that since white people are the beneficiaries of privilege in our Western system, they don’t get to have a voice at the table. They built the table and own it, after all. If white people want to truly understand how the system is biased in their favour, they’ll need to listen to the stories of people of colour who are on the losing end of the stick.

On paper, this theory sounds good. We should listen. Scripture tells us to be good listeners. We are often far too quick to share our own thoughts without taking the time to hear where other people are coming from. This is a principle I can get behind.

  • My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19)
  • If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)
  • A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:2)

However, there are two major problems with the line of thinking that white people are morally responsible to shut up and listen.

The first is that it fails to take into account that truth is truth no matter who is espousing it. Ideas stand or fall on their own merit. Truth is not determined based on who is making a specific truth claim. Something is true or not even if it is shared by someone who may be generally untrustworthy. As they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

On these grounds, white people do have a voice to contribute. Frankly, we all do. And our voices matter not because of the colour of our skin but because our ideas deserve to be presented for scrutiny by others. This is true for everyone. No particular person or people group are uniquely owners of the truth or above criticism. I would therefore conclude that to tell white people to shut up and listen wrongly assumes that only people of colour correctly understand reality and that only white people are skewed by personal bias.

I would say that better advice than “white people need to shut up and listen” would be that “wise people will listen to other people who have different opinions and experiences than they do”. This is true for all people, regardless of race. We should be those who care about the truth, not identity politics.

A second flaw in this thinking is that it assumes that all black people speak with one voice. This is demonstrably not true. One would think from watching the news or scrolling through social media that all people of colour think exactly the same and have the same story to tell. There is a word for it when people make wholesale assumptions about someone based only on the colour of their skin—it’s called racism. Thus, I would dare say that those who promote the specific silencing of white people are perpetrating the very racism they claim to denounce.

When someone says we should listen to people of colour, I want to come back with, “which ones?”

How about Larry Elder?

Or Voddie Baucham?

Or Samuel Sey?

Or Thomas Sowell?

Or Monique Duson?

Or David Webb?

Or Darrell Harrison and Virgil Walker?

Or Lil Wayne?

All of these people, and countless others, have a differing perspective than the mainstream media does on issues related to race. One would suspect that this would be perfectly fine, since people are entitled to their opinions. One would also suspect that this would be completely expected, since not everyone thinks alike. Yet it is still surprising to many, and abhorrent to some, that not all people of colour are on the same page.

If you haven’t watched any of the videos I’ve posted, take 30 seconds to watch this one:

What this clip demonstrates is that discrimination exists not only across races, but across ideologies. Ayanna Pressley, the speaker in this video, is categorically excluding people because they do not see things as she does. Or, more accurately, they do not see things as she demands they do. Her premise is essentially that marginalized people groups should all think and desire the same things. This is insulting and prejudicial to those who disagree with her line of thinking.

Why is it that when someone challenges the mainstream narrative, they are rebuked? If you are white (as I am), you must be racist. If you are a person of colour, you are a betrayer to your own people. (There are other words used but I won’t repeat them here.) Or, maybe, you are just an independent thinking person and not a pre-programmed robot based on your particular convergence of race, gender, sexuality, and the like.

Let me circle back to the beginning. What does all of this have to do with Christianity? I would argue three things.

First, we are people who care about the truth. From a biblical perspective, truth matters. More poignantly, the truth will set you free. We should not adopt a cultural worldview based on lies and half-truths that are twisted to fit a particular agenda. It is the devil himself who uses deceit to manipulate people and bring destruction. We desire for people to live godly, fulfilling lives. In order to do that, truth must prevail.

Second, we should love people. When you call someone insulting names because they do not see things as you do, you slander them. Slander is also a tactic of the devil. When the poisonous tongues of some lash others into silence or obedience to the cultural demands of the day, they are living out a demonic strategy rather than one from God. If we are to love people properly, it means treating them with dignity and respect. It means we should listen to them an engage them as an individual made in God’s image who has unique experiences and perspectives.

Third, we should not endorse an anti-Christian agenda. I shall likely write on this more in the future, but the current cultural conversation around race issues is laced with Marxist ideas that pit people groups against one another and foster division, hatred, and violence. As Christians, we should not look to the world to understand racial reconciliation. We have the Word of God. The Bible ought to instruct our thinking about these issues more than anything else, yet the world rejects God’s wisdom. Why should we turn to the world for answers to problems of sin? That’s insanity. We must cling to the worldview laid out in Scripture and believe in the power of the gospel to bring peace to our world one soul at a time.