I keep hearing folks asking to give benefits of CRT/I that you couldn’t get from the Bible. I’m not sure if this will satisfy as an answer, but I want to share a couple of stories and explain why I think we are where we are in this whole conversation. First, the story..
I was in a room with about 8 other pastors sifting through hundreds of sermons, attempting to decide who would be good to speak at an upcoming conference. One of the men that I suggested as a potential speaker was a minority pastor from an inner city. This particular sermon that we were analyzing was a powerful exposition of a minor prophet. When he moved to application, I’ll admit, the specifics didn’t totally resonate with this white-guy from SWMO. He was talking about inequality in our justice system and how it impacted their specific community. But his application flowed from the text and I guarantee it was applicable and moving in his context. Also, this is application I NEED to hear. I would never make these points of application, nor even see them, because of my own experience. So, I wanted him to be a speaker. I thought we needed to hear his voice.
One of the other men in the room—someone who’d be considered a ‘higher-up’ within our circles—said that he “had a real check in his spirit” with this guy. He voted that we not have him speak at the conference. It marked him as someone who he felt would be dangerous. I dug in and thankfully our team decided to have him speak.
A few moments later we heard from a white pastor in the Northeast. His sermon was a faithful exposition of one of the gospels. When he moved to application it felt “at home”. He was talking about encroaching liberalism and the injustice of how Christian voices were being unfairly marginalized. His application was pretty consistent with the exposition of the text. You could see how he got from point A to point B. I wasn’t overly blown away by the guy but if the team had voted to have him speak I wouldn’t have thrown a stink.
But I noticed something in this moment. The “check in my spirit’ guy didn’t have a single check in his spirit about this guy making a justice application. Why is this? If you were to ask the guy if he was a racist he would deny it. And given the typical SBC definition of racism (the hatred of another race) he’d probably be correct to deny this moniker. But what is it? What words do we give to this? And what impact does this widespread mentality have upon the SBC?
I would argue that this is part of why the SBC had six vacancies and not a single minority was hired. I believe this very thing is why Paige Patterson said would he did about Fred Luter. Or more recently why Mike Stone, when talking about putting non-Anglos in positions of leadership, instinctively made the “not at the expense of doctrinal position” disclaimer.” I’m not sure what you call this. Is it racism? Not by the standard definition of “hating another race”. And if you call it racism then the conversation gets all muddied and people get defensive because we think that “racism” only means hatred of another race. We miss the complexities. Meanwhile, minorities are experiencing real pain and not feeling heard.
At the “in the pew” level what it’s doing is giving words to this experience. Why if the SBC is beyond racism are we still seeing a system who is churning out the same leaders? Why do we have many similar conversations like I did with that group of pastors deciding who to platform? Why could we say, “we should have more leaders from Montana”, and not have that instinctual “but not at the expense of doctrinal position”? Perhaps, this is what we mean when we say that “racism has systemic legacies and creates systemic problems’ (That’s a David French summary statement from here: https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/on-the-use-and-abuse-of-critical).
CRT/I (again, mostly on the in the pew level) seems to be giving voice to this very real experience of our minority brothers/sisters within the SBC. When resolution 9 came out and spoke of using CRT/I as an analytic tool subordinate to Christ, I believe many where hearing it as, “this can be used to kind of help explain my experience.” It has a way of explaining the disparities that are felt and experienced every day. This is what is meant by being able to use some of the insights from this ideology.
But then we started talking about godless ideologies, Marxist frameworks, etc. and the conversation moved away from this to essentially saying that CRT is all bad and nothing good can come from it. But our minority bros/sisters just heard you say that the thing which felt like it was explaining their lived experience is ALL BAD. This is why I believe there was such a swift reaction to the statement from the seminary presidents. It addressed this on the level of academia without concern for giving voice to these very real disparities. Sure, it spoke of being against racism. But remember for most people being a racist means that you hate all people of a different color. It doesn’t address the systemic issues or have language to explain the reality of one justice application being “dangerous” and another not even causing a stir. So what that statement did is put a full-stop on something which might be helpful in explaining some of these experiences.
This is why I’m willing to defend Resolution 9 and say that it CAN be used as an analytical tool. I think we’d not be having this convo had we done a really good job of listening and enacting change and actually dealing with some of the rancid fruit from having been founded upon wanting to keep our slaves. I don’t think folks are fighting for CRT/I as much as they are fighting for having SOMETHING to explain the persistent disparities among us. And they are looking for SOMETHING to motivate us to action and open our eyes to some of the very real injustices happening.
I’m inclined to agree that CRT/I isn’t necessary for bringing justice and equity. But I’m also inclined to say “prove it”.