Thoughts on Racism – 7
The Apostle Paul presents us with the Christian ideal: “we regard no one according to the flesh” (2 Cor 5:16) “Flesh” here indicates all manner of worldly criteria: class, ethnicity, wealth, race, education, or physical appearance. Having once misjudged Jesus Christ according to fleshly criteria (wrong family, wrong schools, wrong hometown, wrong profession, wrong agenda), we are determined, says the Apostle, not to make that mistake again. He contrasts the Christian ideal with that of his opponents: “those who boast about outward appearance” (2 Cor 5:12). We don’t judge, assess, evaluate people on the basis of immutable physical characteristics or superficial social circumstances.
Our reasons for not doing so run deep. They take us all the way back to Genesis 1:26,27:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)
All human beings are made in the image of God. All human beings may be traced to a common parentage. All human beings belong to a single race, the human race. Christians have not always lived in a way consistent with these primary truths. Yet as ideals, they have prevailed, twice abolishing slavery (in the Middle Ages and again in the 19th century), and more generally inspiring concepts of equality and essential rights and liberties in the West. Matthew Henry, writing in the late 17th and early 18th centuries underscores the importance of the first chapter of Genesis in explaining,
God made but one male and one female, that all the nations of men might know themselves to be made of one blood, descendants from one common stock, and might thereby be induced to love one another.1
There it is. The implication of our common ancestry is that we might “be induced to love one another.”
Redemption as well as creation requires that we not judge, prejudicially assess, harmfully discriminate against others on the basis of worldly criteria. Christ has created a new humanity, which is also a restoration of the undivided old humanity. Citing the hostile division between Jew and Gentile as the example, the Apostle Paul argues that Christ has “broken down… the dividing wall of hostility… that he might create in himself one new man” (Eph 2:14-15). What was true of the sharpest division, Jew from Gentile, is true of all lesser divisions. We are one new humanity in Christ. In Christ,
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)
A strict equality of dignity, of worth must prevail in the Christian church. Those who worship an impartial God are not permitted to show partiality or favoritism based on race, class, ethnicity, or national origin (Jas 2:1-13).
Consequently we cannot but be alarmed by the re-introduction of racialism that has emerged in recent times. Critical race theory (CRT), now widely utilized both in government agencies and in the private sector, essentially is Marxist class analyses applied to race. Marxist theory divided all of humanity into two groups: the oppressors (the aristocracy, business owners, and managerial class) and the oppressed (workers). Group identity was crucial. Group identity determined guilt and innocence. Wherever Soviet Marxism went it divided the population into these two groups. Those who were not workers (or in Asia, not peasants) were presumed guilty and shot, starved, or sent to the Gulags to die. Personal attitudes and actions were deemed irrelevant because the evils of the capitalist system were understood to be structural and systemic. Everyone in the upper classes benefited from the system and so everyone in those groups had to be eliminated either by extermination or incarceration.
CRT applies this blunt class analysis to race. The oppressors? Whites, especially white males. The oppressed? All non-whites and to a lesser degree, all females, and the alphabet of persons represented by LGBTQ+. A hierarchy of oppression was developed, known by the name of “intersectionality.” The more oppressed groups to which one belongs (eg. black, female, lesbian puts one at the top), the more one is seen to have been oppressed, the more one understands oppression (because one has experienced it) and the more value is placed on one’s narrative. “Narrative” is the operative word because there is no objective truth, particularly touching race, racism, structural racism, bigotry, oppression, inequality, equity, and social justice. Claims of truth and facts, the so-called ideals of equality and rights, even the language of liberty and freedom, they claim (without any sense of irony), are nothing more than tools by which the majority oppresses minorities. Power is the real issue, not so-called truth. White females may speak in a limited way because while they are victims of the white patriarchy they are also the beneficiaries of white privilege. Minority-males may speak more loudly than white males and females, minority females louder still, and minority female homosexuals loudest of all. All this is based solely on group identity. White heterosexual males are silenced because they are the chief beneficiary of “white privilege.” Their “narrative” is worthless because they have participated in and profited by racism and know nothing of oppression or injustice. Any objection that a white male raises is written off as “white fragility,” an excuse-making exercise prompted by fragile white egos that can’t bear to hear the truth about themselves. Worse, any denial that one is racist is taken as proof that one is blind to one’s own racism, a chief characteristic of racism. Note: any accusation of racism is unfalsifiable. Admission and denial are both taken as confirmation.
We repeat again: individual examples of bigotry, prejudice, and racial hatred are not hard to find. They can be found in every ethnic and racial group. Those who have been the victims of this form of evil, overwhelmingly white against black, for most of our 400-year history, deserve our careful listening and understanding. Yet little of today’s discussion has anything to do with one’s own personal attitudes and actions, or with any factual evidence of structural, institutional, or societal racism. Instead it is a toxic brew of neo-Marxism and neo-racism masquerading as anti-racism. Christians need to ask themselves, is this where we want to see the nation go? Is this where we want to see the church go?
Henry, Commentary, I:10.