I’ve been getting phone calls.
My moderate-but-evangelical-bred Christian friends are picking up the phone to ask: what do you think of the escalating debate around critical race theory. Not quite knowing what to think themselves, they ask the most accessible (and moderate) pastoral presence that they know: ME.
Also, I can cut through the BS.
Inevitably, they throw out the proverbial unifying Bible verse that is supposed to cover all sins and unite us into one Body: Galatians 3: 27-29, which says:
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
Doesn’t Galatians 3 mean that race is not an issue? Doesn’t it mean that, in Christ, we are all one body, and we shouldn’t talk about our differences?? No-BS-pastor…. what do you think? (Sidebar: American Christians have been using this verse for 400 years to resist making societal changes. This is not new.)
So here is what I think:
Yes, Galatians prophesies a time when all of our differences will fall away and we will, under the vision of Christ, be one body beyond difference. But that is reign-of-God, Kin-dom-of-Heaven, future-thinking talk about what happens once everyone is free. But the freedom has to come first. For all of us, not just a chosen few.
And until we bring about the reign of God here on Earth, we can’t stake a claim on Galatians 3. We just aren’t there yet. And the way that we will get there is by doing that hard work of being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. And that means we need to bear witness to the suffering of others. That’s what it means to be Christ-like — to suffer with (and for) our neighbors just as Christ suffered with (and for) us. And critical race theory can help us look at just how our neighbors have suffered. So we need to look at it. Because as long as we continue to live in a broken world, we are called to bear witness to the brokenness (this no-BS-pastor might even say we are obligated to bear witness to the brokenness).
Critical race theory doesn’t teach division , it teaches history. It teaches us how we — those of use who call ourselves followers of Christ — have failed to live out our call to love our neighbors as ourselves. CRT in the context of the church is a vehicle for us to examine our sins and (hopefully) it is a call to forgiveness and reconciliation — it is chance to truly experience the freedom of Christ that Galatians calls us to, but that we have not yet achieved as we continue to live in a divided world. Denying that division exists under the guise of a Galatians 3 freedom is essentially saying “I have not sinned, and do not need reconciliation.” The Bible speaks to that in 1 John 1: 8 – 10.
The fact of the matter is, we still live in a broken world. The reign of God on earth has not yet come. And the way to bring the reign of God is to continue to bear witness to the suffering of our neighbors, with any means at our disposable. CRT can be one of those means. It can help us to understand our own sinfulness, so that we can break free from it, and live into the freedom of Christ that Galatians envisions. And I think that might be the rub — we don’t want to look at our own failings. We don’t want to admit that it is our own brokenness that is keeping the reign of God at bay. We don’t want to admit that bearing witness to the suffering of others is hard, and so we have turned away. We don’t want to admit that we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We don’t want to admit, we still live in a broken world.
We don’t want to admit that if we want to bring about a Galatians vision of God’s reign, we still got lots of work to do.
And that work starts with bearing the suffering of our neighbors as Christ would suffer with us.
If CRT helps us to understand the suffering of others, then let us study it with the eyes of Christ.
For another view of the political debate happening right now: READ THIS
For more on why Baptists have rejected Critical Race Theory: READ THIS