The debate in the Southern Baptist world about Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality (CRT/I) continues. As new questions and possible actions about Resolution 9 emerge, many are asking the question: Is CRT/I a useful analytical tool or a dangerous ideology?
I submit that it is both. Previously, Albert Mohler has spoken forthrightly about the issue and Owen Strachan has recently written a series of posts on the issue and they are helpful in demonstrating the origins of CRT/I and the dangers of adopting its worldview. Others react even more strongly and see the issue generally, and Resolution 9 particularly, as such a grave concern that they are vowing to take the debate to our Orlando meeting. I am writing this piece to see if I can provide some amount of clarity and support for Resolution 9 AND at the same time acknowledge and be sympathetic to those who have concerns.
First, let me acknowledge the danger: CRT/I developed out of and often serves an unbiblical worldview (or “godless ideology”). The root of the debate then is between two basic views. The first view are those who believe that the “bad root” of CRT/I means that we cannot ultimately learn from it without it doing real damage to biblical Christianity. The other view are those who, like myself, believe that the analytical tools of CRT provide us with valuable insights and ways to gain helpful knowledge that can be separated from the worldview of CRT/I and the unbiblical solutions it offers. Resolution 9 surely sides with the latter group and, though more clarification may be helpful, is not at all in need of rejecting. In fact, rescinding Resolution 9 would not only be the wrong thing to do, it would be catastrophic in its effect on racial unity in the SBC. In fact, the very need for Resolution 9 lies in the fact that so many of our recent conversations on race and racism and justice have been rejected out of hand and without serious consideration by those who fear us sliding into liberalism and/or the influence of leftist ideologies.
I wholeheartedly acknowledge that it is right to warn against the dangers of CRT and Intersectionality as a worldview or, more precisely, the worldview from which CRT/I was formed and primarily serves. Mohler and Strachan are helpful here. Whatever can or cannot be learned from CRT/I, Southern Baptists are rightly warned about its dangers, and how both its analysis of culture and many of its prescriptions for social action are in various ways antithetical to the Christian worldview.
At the same time, that is not to say that there is nothing to be learned from CRT/I or that some of its observations are not correct. Furthermore, using CRT/I as “tools” (when subordinate to Scripture and analyzed through the Christian worldview) should not be rejected out of hand merely because of the problems of their source or even their potential for harm.
Why was Resolution 9 necessary?
For me, all of this tension has come to a head in the SBC as we have engaged over the past two decades in efforts to be unified across racial and ethnic lines. From a “white” perspective, we have made very much progress and we are almost there. From the perspective of our brothers and sisters of color, things aren’t as rosy as we think them to be. These two very different perspectives are held by people who share the same theology, the same commitment to God’s word, the same desire to please and follow Jesus, and presumably even the same desire for unity.
Enter some of the concepts of CRT/I which many believe could help bring us to a fuller understanding of one another and bring us closer to achieving the “One People of God” unity that the Bible describes and for which we should strive. Indeed, one of the situations that made Resolution 9 necessary has been the conversations in our Convention concerning reconciliation issues among Baptists of different cultural/racial backgrounds. The reason I believe there was a need to clarify how we view CRT/I was the fact that so many of our discussions about race and reconciliation have employed these ideas. As CRT/I language and ideas have entered our denominational conversation (and the larger Evangelical/Reformed community) they have met with some resistance by those with very real concerns.
Specifically, in the past several years, many people (including myself) have presented arguments about the need for ethnic representation on our boards and at the executive level, the importance of hearing the perspective of people of color when doing reconciliation work, and the need to address racialized systems that do not honor the diversity of the body of Christ. In doing so, we have employed language and arguments that originated from or were similar to those used by CRT/I advocates.
In rejecting these arguments, one of the pushbacks has been that my side (for lack of a better descriptor) is employing Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality or, when using more pejorative language, that we were “Cultural Marxists.” Now, from my perspective we all, on both sides, are believers trying to be faithful to both Scripture and the realities of our culture by addressing important issues faithfully from a biblical worldview. Yet, while we neither embrace nor align with the worldview and solutions of CRT/I, the fact that we are employing language in common with CRT/I or doing analysis of the type that CRT/I has pioneered causes red flags to go up in the minds of those who know and are concerned about its dangers. In truth, we do need others to point out these dangers lest we become the very thing they are warning against. Resolution 9 was an attempt to both acknowledge the dangers of and affirm some value in the use of CRT/I.
Can there be a balance here?
I do understand and sympathize with those who are raising concerns. First of all, language can be an indicator of a deeper worldview at play and often reveals that though a person may claim one worldview, they are really embracing another. That is a legitimate concern and a real danger. An even more subtle danger is that we would come under the influence of anti-Christian thinking even as we are trying to approach issues Christianly. (Hear me fellow supporters of Resolution 9, we do need to listen to these warnings!) Added to that, the tools in question have been created out of a particular worldview, and the conclusions drawn about data and the solutions promoted by those CRT/I advocates is often unbiblical and even anti-biblical.
On the issue of language, however, I would submit that Christians have an obligation to dig deeper than mere trigger words. Words don’t have meanings, they have uses, and Christians have historically infused new meaning into cultural words as they are filtered through a Christian worldview. We should allow for clarification, nuance, and complex thought and not merely reject an argument simply for using a word or phrase like “social justice” or “systemic racism.” An important question for fellow believers is “What do you mean when you use that word/phrase?” For each of these men who have been under attack for using CRT/I language, they have done so from within a biblical worldview, with numerous caveats, and in ways different from the advocates of leftist ideologies.
On the issue of analytical tools, I would submit that just because a system of analysis was created out of and in service to an unbiblical worldview, does not mean that tool or method of analysis is without value. To reject an idea merely because of its source is to commit the genetic fallacy. Something is not more or less true because of where the idea originated. Further, we allow for common grace in other sciences and social sciences even as those sciences arise out of and often serve a naturalistic and humanistic worldview.
So, for example, the roots of intersectionality and the way some use its analytical data in service of non-Christian ideals does not mean there is no value in looking at how our various identities intersect or to ask some of the analytical questions that arise from recognizing that our identities are complex. Likewise, the fact that Marxism speaks of “marginalization” in a way that would subvert existing social structures and replace them with a communist utopia does not mean that marginalization does not exist or that it should be of no concern for Christians as we interpret Bible passages about justice. Still, Mohler is correct that ideas have consequences and so, like the other sciences, we must be very careful always to keep the Bible and biblical worldview primary lest we drift away from truth.
Is there a time to speak less and listen more?
When we are trying to address the ongoing frustrations of brothers and sisters of color in the SBC and how we can move forward in Christian unity, it is wholly biblical and appropriate to call for “listening” to the experiences of African American, Hispanic, Asian, First Nation, and other leaders of color. In fact, such a call to listen to our brethren before providing solutions echoes the biblical admonition against answering a matter before we hear it (Prov 18:13-17) and seeking counsel when making decisions (Prov 11:14; 15:22). One unfortunate pushback, however, comes whenever there is a call to listen and learn to brothers and sisters of color. In multiple platforms (e.g. T4G, SBC Annual Meeting, MLK50) where there was given a call to listen, such a call was dismissed by some as the product of CRT. Yes, CRT does call for majority people to listen to the voices of minorities, but these calls of believers to listen to fellow believers were not given in the same way.
Of course, this call to listen has been influenced by the cultural rise of CRT, but does that make the call to listen unbiblical? Is not listening to minority voices and experiences a helpful analytical tool for helping us evaluate why we are not experiencing unity in the SBC and Evangelicalism across racial/ethnic lines? Are we to reject the idea that it’s “time to listen” as a dangerous influx of leftism? Some would suggest so. The original Founders trailer included clips of calls to “listen more than we talk” when it comes to understanding the impacts of racism or to “be humble” enough to allow black leaders to teach us about how they have struggled with our attempts at bridging the racial divide. These were given as examples of leaders embracing CRT and rejecting the Bible as our sufficient standard. I myself have been warned of my embrace of CRT for the mere act of desiring to hear the counsel and experience of my non-White brothers and sisters.
So Can CRT/I be seen as analytical tools (and what do you mean by that?)
Of course, while calling for us to “listen” has served as an opportunity for rebuke of CRT/I influences, that is not what I believe the resolutions committee meant by “analytical tools” separate from the CRT/I worldview. Of course, Resolution 9 does not clarify what “tools” it means for Southern Baptists to use or what benefits there might be in employing them and that may be part of the reason we have such opposing viewpoints. While there are many things we could explore here, let me name a couple of the “tools” that I was thinking of when I voted for the resolution.
First, is the ability to recognize systemic racism or systemic injustice. Again, I grant that many CRT advocates offer solutions (mandates) for correcting injustice that are anti-biblical and far from the Christian worldview – that’s why we needed the entire resolution and not just the line about analytical tools. But CRT/I does indeed help us describe racism beyond individual, personal racial animosity or even blatantly racist laws to examine how certain aspects of our culture and our laws have a disproportionate and negative effect on people of color.
Whether or not a law is intended to be racist or not, injustice (racism) occurs by nature of our system. Further, systems can be racialized (influenced by race) without being overtly racist (intentionally harming people of other races). Is it unbiblical merely to do the analysis of our systems? Are we to reject the idea that our system, or any system, can be racialized, racist, or unjust simply because that idea and method of analysis stems from CRT/I? To some, merely using the term “systemic racism” is akin to being influenced by leftist ideologies.  Cannot it be helpful as we seek to be faithful to Scripture and its call to unity that we analyze how our systems of government, society, culture, and even denomination have been racialized and undermine the unity for which we strive?
How about the very concept of being “white”? I agree with Owen Strachan in his recent series on CRT/I when he rejects the idea that we should repent of our whiteness or that we are morally culpable of racism merely for being white. At the same time, I think it is valuable for Christians to think through whether the category of whiteness is helpful or even biblical and whether or not it should be preserved as a self-identifying category. CRT rightly points out the concept of being “white” was historically created in the context of white supremacy. Without debating historical minutiae, I don’t think it’s wrong for Christians to take this claim from CRT and evaluate and even apply it. No, there is no biblical grounds for us to repent for being white. But is it wrong for us to consider whether Christians should use “white” as an identity marker? Is it not appropriate, in light of our current cultural climate and everything the Bible says about unity, to consider “divesting myself” of my white identity? It seems to me that it is worth biblical examination and consideration, despite the fact that the question has arisen out of CRT/I.
Intersectionality is a way of examining identity which, yes, is often linked to an unbiblical worldview. Yet, there is nothing inherently unbiblical about examining the effects of one’s race, gender, or other identities and how those identities intersect and interact with one another. The analytical tool here involves seeing that our personal identities are complex and that experiences change as different parts of our identity intersect. In one article, for example, Tom Ascol takes issue with Jarvis Williams for his unapologetic description of how intersectionality applies to himself as both a man and as an African American. Yet, there is nothing untrue or unbiblical in Williams’ self-description. It is indeed true that Williams is African American and that he is a man and that those two identities intersect in a way that make his experience different from both a white man and a black woman. What is unbiblical about such an observation? Does merely speaking positively about how Intersectionality helped him think through these categories point to biblical infidelity or a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture? I think not.
How does the use of intersectionality in this way not help one understand the human condition, think more deeply about our own experiences, or about the nature of how we often treat other people? As long as we respond to information and process that information from a biblical worldview, I fail to see why we should deem Williams or anyone else who employs this tool as a dangerous teacher. Nowhere does Williams follow the CRT worldview in engaging in identity politics or suggesting a hierarchy of minority voices with a right to engage. He, like others, calls for unity in Christ based in a biblical worldview. He points out what is helpful in employing intersectionality and suggests that we first listen to others and then “should partner with them to take the biblical steps forward to work together in pursuit of reconciliation.”
So where do we go from here?
While much more could be said here, I think these few examples illustrate the point. From my perspective, what CRT/I tools and language can do is to help us to gain a fuller picture of the experiences of our brothers and sisters of color. They can help us to see how our systems and culture often marginalizes people and gives us insight into how racism extends beyond our personal actions and values to how we function as a society. CRT/I can also be used in a way that gives voice to those whose voice has not traditionally been heard and give us opportunity to hear the perspective of those with whom we say we want to be reconciled as to why true reconciliation is not occurring. Such a posture is neither a denial of Scripture nor of its sufficiency. Rather, it’s an acknowledgement that our understanding of Scripture and its proper application, particularly on issues of unity, reconciliation, and justice, may be incomplete when we only hear from one segment of the church.
Perhaps Mohler is right that Resolution 9 did not say enough. Maybe the Convention should have accepted Ascol’s amendment. Yet, I believe there is a better path than going to war over Resolution 9. Repealing the resolution would be a disaster for racial unity in the SBC. Contending for the faith should not come at the expense of vilifying faithful brothers. Provide more clarity, offer an additional resolution to clarify, but let’s not move backward in our effort to be unified around the gospel.
Those on the other side of this issue have well described the dangers of CRT/I and we are wise to heed them. There are real risks when employing such tools and we should be well aware of the slippery slope. If there is any value to CRT/I, it still does not provide adequate solutions to the problems it seeks to address. Christians will remain on solid footing as we seek biblical solutions to these complex issues and neither adopt the ideologies or uncritically embrace political solutions of either the right or the left. Let us put the gospel above all as we interact and engage with these issues, acknowledge what common grace reveals is true, listen to and learn from one another, apply biblical truth and biblical answers, and engage our world with the good news of Jesus Christ.
For further reading on the meaning and rationale of Resolution 9, read Trevin Wax’s explanation here.
Update 2/5/20: In response to recent discussion on this issue, Baptist Press released the following story: Q&A with the 2019 Resolutions Committee about Resolution 9
 For a biblical example, consider the New Testament’s use and adaptations of the words logos and agape. (See also Mark Terry’s analogy about “contextualization” in the comment section below.)
 Yes, I agree the wording at this point of the resolution could have been more precise. I believe had an amendment been offered that simply corrected this wording, it would have been received as a friendly amendment.
 For example, the seemingly inevitable outcome that our 5 seminary vacancies would be and were filled by 5 white men may not have been overtly racist, but were indeed the result of a racialized system. The fact that these 5 men were the “best men for the job” is irrelevant to the fact that we have created and continue to maintain a system that has not invested in and cultivated sufficient numbers of leaders of color so that when a vacancy occurs that we have the real opportunity to find that the best man for the job is indeed a person of color. We can disagree about what to do about it, but are we wrong in questioning whether or not our system has any racialized component to it? Without embracing the worldview of CRT/I or its solutions, without even making ethnic diversity in our leadership a matter of justice but a matter of shared leadership, can we not do systemic analysis to see why in our system “the best man for the job” is only and always white?
 I might note that the 1995 Resolution on Racial Reconciliation included an apology to African Americans for “condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime” and a call to “commit ourselves to eradicate racism in all its forms” (Emphasis mine).