Critical Race Theory and Race Relations
Updated: Aug 12, 2021
SBC 2021 in Review: Part 4
Critical Race Theory and Race Relations
Race continues to plague the SBC just as it does the wider culture. One of the things the 2021 Convention made clear is that there is no consensus on the definition of Critical Race Theory (CRT) within the SBC—which, again, is reflected in the larger culture. CRT began as a legal idea called Critical Theory in the mid 20th century, and has since been applied to many things like race relations. Here are some of the varying definitions of CRT…
“Critical race theory is an academic framework centered on the idea that racism is systemic, and not just demonstrated by individual people with prejudices. The theory holds that racial inequality is woven into legal systems and negatively affects people of color in their schools, doctors’ offices, the criminal justice system and countless other parts of life.”
One of the major cultural proponents of CRT, Robin DiAngelo, writes this, applying CRT, “A positive white identity is an impossible goal. White identity is inherently racist; white people do not exist outside of the system of white supremacy...This does not mean I should stop identifying as white...it means [I should] strive to be less white.”
Some inside the SBC define CRT as follows, “CRT is a complex system of beliefs that emerged in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s to call attention to, and redress the subtler forms of, racism that replaced the overt racism made largely unacceptable by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.”
As you can see, there just isn’t much consensus. But the 2021 Convention did condemn Critical Race Theory generally in Resolution 2 entitled, “On The Sufficiency Of Scripture For Race And Racial Reconciliation.”
A portion of resolution 2 reads,
“Resolved, we reject any theory or worldview that finds the ultimate identity of human beings in ethnicity or in any other group dynamic. Be it further Resolved, we reject any theory or worldview that sees the primary problem of humanity as anything other than sin against God and the ultimate solution as anything other than redemption found only in Christ…”
This resolution obviously condemns Critical Race Theory, along with any other ideology that contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that is a good thing.
Having been in the room at the time when Resolution 2 was presented, the initial reception was not unified. While the language of the resolution does generally condemn CRT, it does not do so specifically. There is a group within the SBC that vehemently opposes CRT and advocates that the convention unequivocally stand against it. Founders Ministries is one such group.
To understand why Founders, and many others, are so resolutely against Critical Race Theory, we have to briefly go back to the 2019 SBC Meeting in Birmingham, Alabama. At that Convention meeting, the Resolutions committee presented Resolution 9 at the end of the Convention on Wednesday afternoon (many/most Messengers have left by this point).
Many of the Messengers to the SBC convention meetings trust that the Resolutions Committee will only bring trustworthy Resolutions to the floor, and tend to vote in approval with either a cursory reading of the text, or by not reading it at all. This seems to be what happened with Resolution 9. The average SBC Messenger does not have a firm grasp of Critical Race Theory, Critical Theory, intersectionality, where these philosophies come from, or how they are often employed.
Resolution 9 certainly condemns CRT as a stand alone philosophy, but the resolution does not condemn it outright, which it ought to have done. The resolution states, “while we denounce the misuse of critical race theory and intersectionality, we do not deny that ethnic, gender, and cultural distinctions exist and are a gift from God that will give Him absolute glory when all humanity gathers around His throne in worship because of the redemption accomplished by our resurrected Lord…” The key problematic word is “misuse.” There is no way in which Critical Theory, or Critical Race Theory can be helpfully employed. And so, misuse or not, it must be condemned outright from a Christian/Biblical viewpoint.
What this ultimately means is that the Southern Baptist Convention is on record (2019) affirming that Critical Theory, specifically, Critical Race Theory, can be used properly, or helpfully. And this is the problem.
In late 2020, all six SBC Seminary Presidents released a joint statement condemning Critical Race Theory, stating it has no place in the larger SBC, and specifically, no place in our seminaries. Al Mohler, the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary made this statement, “The issues of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality have arisen within the last two years as issues of controversy in the larger world, and this controversy has reached into the Southern Baptist Convention … We [the Presidents] stand together in stating that we believe that advocating Critical Race Theory or Intersectionality is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message…”
Back to the 2021 Convention...While Resolution 2 ultimately passed, many Messengers were adamant that a resolution with stronger language specifically condemning CRT should have been brought forward. In fact, Tom Ascol, a Messenger from Cape Coral, Florida, noted that he had personally submitted a resolution (within the SBC parameters) specifically condemning CRT, signed by some 1300 other messengers, that was not brought to the floor.
It was clear, from being in the room, that the issue is far from over. There is a sizable contingent within the Convention that desires to see the Convention go on record correcting the infamous 2019 Resolution 9.
And it seems there are some people on both extremes. There are some acting as if the majority of SBC pastors, Churches, and seminaries have adopted the godlessness of CRT as a way of seeing the world. And this is false.
But, there are also some treating the issue as if it is not important. In fact, the Chairman of the 2021 Resolutions Committee, Dr. James Merritt (former SBC President), chastised (from the stage) those standing against CRT implying they care more about CRT than the Great Commission...which was entirely unfair and disingenuous.
In the end, the 2021 Convention officially condemned all false worldviews and ideologies, which includes CRT. But, as the issue grows in the larger culture, it seems it is not going away anytime soon.
Up Next: Sexual Abuse in the SBC. Stay tuned...