It’s May 25th of 2020. John picks up his phone to see the social media app still active from his last usage. As he scrolls, he begins to notice a trending, viral video of a black man (eventually killed while) being detained by police. The presentation of the snippet leaves him with a guttural reaction. He doesn’t know what’s happened or why but it feels wrong. This is just one in a line of controversial occurrences. But somehow this rings different and demands a response.
John’s internal dialogue starts, “Unlike some other issues in American culture in which the Church holds conflicting views, God clearly demands justice for the oppressed, the weak and the vulnerable. This is something we can address and from a firm, united, Biblical backing. We’ve taken our lumps on many of the more divisive talking points but we can truly show who we are in this moment.”
This was the experience for many in the American, Christian church on the day George Floyd died.
However, quickly, there was a bewilderment and confusion around just how to respond. There seemed to be an invisible fine line that, if not carefully tread, would result in blowback and frustration. The timeless antidotes to racism were challenged with new remedies that seemed to be limited to “listening” and “learning”. It became more evident something else was at play.
A built-in wrongness and an innate inability to empathize or comprehend the experiences of disparate classes existed where it didn’t previously. Common humanity was no longer enough. An uncrossable gap had been created and it seemed nothing was able to span the void.
For many, in an effort to understand and attempt to remedy their apparent wrongdoings, it required a willingness to do whatever was demanded. After all, isn’t humility a hallmark of the believer? Aren’t we asked to place others’ interests above our own? But justice had a new definition and the key to understanding it was under lock and key; kept and only able to be used by select segments of the population.
The first clue to the nature of the challenge should have been when the tools of the Kingdom were rendered useless. Christianity serves the eternal, never-changing God. He is without time and His solutions don’t expire. And when the death of His “one and only Son” (John 3:16) is no longer sufficient to set “Jews and Gentiles” (Galatians 3:28) on equal ground, there should be cause for alarm.
It is important to note that a large portion of believers aren’t aware of the connection between the symptoms referred to above and the worldview driving this line of thought. They, out of genuine love and compassion, want to widen their arms and show Christ’s love any way they can and racism is an obvious target. The bewilderment mentioned earlier has caused some to dig deeper and what they find is an incompatibility between the Gospel and what they now know as Critical Race Theory (CRT).
Christ deals with the individual at a heart-level. In CRT, everything is rooted in systems and classes of people. Therefore, problems can only be addressed at those levels. And unlike Christianity, there is no possibility for repentance and redemption. The only remedy that exists is eternal penance for the oppressor and/or revolution of the existing system. But with the upheaval of the system, the oppressed often becomes the oppressor and it starts all over again resulting in no hope and perpetual turmoil.
Also, whereas Christianity promotes all people as having been made in the image of God and equal at the foot of the cross, CRT and Intersectionality prioritize value to those deemed most oppressed. It may lead one to ask, “Where is the incentive to pursue freedom?”.
The really difficult thing about this emergent way of thinking (specifically about race) is that it crosses over into an area where hope exists that Christians can potentially be united with the culture. And right or wrong, many in the leadership of the Church are frantic to find common ground. It’s understandable. In a time where ideas (and consequently, people) are at war, many are looking for a window of reprieve.
For a long period of time in the United States, the Church’s values have been (largely) in sync with the majority of culture. So, the friction felt between believers and culture was minimal. Christianity was popular and even lucrative. As culture started sliding away from those values, the Church (the body of Christ) was able to slide with them relatively unnoticed and once again, able to blend in and maintain minimal friction. However, we have reached a point of critical mass and provided “Delilah” (Judges 16) the secret to our strength. Instead of being a lighthouse for the lost, we’ve tried to soften the appearance of the jagged rocks by dimming our light.
The upside is that we have an incredible opportunity to make a tremendous difference. The Church has always made the greatest impact when it’s is most at odds with its surroundings. But in those instances, its light was burning with a fierce intensity. Someone once said when a person (having never heard the Gospel) receives Christ, they always adopt the most orthodox views of the Bible. They never seem to reach for a watered-down (or modified) version.
Unity can still be a reality. But only within a framework where Christ is the great equalizer – the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Under Christ, we understand our common value and the Holy Spirit starts the transformative, restorative work in the hearts of individuals for the benefit of believers and non-believers alike. Artificial, temporary change happens when outside pressure is applied from the top. Real, lasting change happens when Jesus, “taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7) starts with the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40) and heals them from the inside knowing the results will radiate outward, in all directions.