Faith and family. Is there anything more sacred or valuable than these two? If there is any innocence in the world, it would be found in children. If there is anything holy, it is the God who made us. The idea that our children’s innocence or our faith is being exploited or corrupted seems to be at the heart of the raging debates around critical race theory (CRT) in Missouri’s K-12 school curriculums and churches. Despite the fact that there are elements of truth in the critiques the left and right make of each other, I don’t think the right is “afraid” of CRT because they are racist or that the left is pushing CRT to “indoctrinate” our kids for their authoritarian purposes. To understand this conflict, we must first understand CRT.
What is CRT? I’m sure you’ve heard 1 million explainers by now, but I hope my thoughts can provide us a deeper understanding of it. Technically speaking, CRT is an academic field in legal scholarship. It is grounded in what is called “critical theory,” which is an approach to analyzing the world through the lens of power and thinking about what groups have power and how this shapes our societies. CRT then is a field of study that analyzes how U.S. law and systems/institutions of power (justice system, policing, education, etc.) create and perpetuate racism and racial disparities. This isn’t an exhaustive view of CRT, but I think it gets at some of the most important features. Let’s look at CRT in schools first.
The right and the left say they care about how racism is taught in schools because both sides want to prevent children’s innocence from being exploited, resulting in kids being taught (either explicitly or implicitly) to be racist. The right claims that CRT is being taught in schools and is teaching kids to judge people and the world based on race and that white people are inherently racist. The left denies that CRT is in schools or that they are even advocating for CRT to be taught in schools but says that our education system needs to teach a more accurate history of race and racism in our country and how it shapes us today.
So I ask, is CRT being taught in K-12 schools? Technically speaking the left is correct; CRT is not being taught in K-12 schools. I think both the left and right know this though. What I believe has happened is that a vastly simplified understanding of CRT has been disseminated in our culture and is influencing what people think about race relations in America. The left is focusing on the technicality of what CRT is to deny that it is in our schools but avoids the reality that some of the more radical and objectionable implications of CRT are influencing school curriculum. The right uses CRT as a catchall for the more radical and objectionable ideas about racism from the left and avoids the serious and credible critiques CRT has about how deep racism is in our nation and that there is a good reason to adjust how we talk about race and racism in our schools.
Schools aren’t the only place where CRT is hotly debated; it is happening in churches as well. As a biracial (Black and white) youth and children minister, I think the church needs to engage with race relations and racism in America. Acts 10:34 tells us that there is no favoritism in God. At its core, racism is a defilement of this and is the sin of partiality. Since racism is a sin, Christians should be committed to eradicating racism in all forms, wherever it is in our world. If racism is a feature of individual people dehumanizing other people, then we need to fight that. If racism is a feature in a system that makes it disadvantageous to non-white people because of skin color, then we need to fight that.
I believe all truth is God’s truth — so anything that is true ultimately comes from God and points us back to God. Matthew 18:6 is a strong warning that what we teach children is important, and we are not to cause children to stumble. So, to the extent CRT contains truth and can lead us to truth, it should be absorbed in the church to edify the body of Christ. CRT is only a tool, which can be used for good or evil. If there are features of CRT that perpetuate racism, then we need to fight that. If there are features of CRT that help us fight racism, then we need to adopt those.
Kyrell Newell moved to Jefferson City with his wife in 2019. He received a Masters of Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and is the NextGen Director at Jefferson City First United Methodist Church. You can follow his blog at kyrellnewell.com.
Originally Appeared Here