A Note about Critical Race Theory and Roots

A brief note about criticism of Critical Race Theory in Christian academia.

Critics of CRT invoke the historical connection of CRT theorists to the Frankfurt School with the primary mischief being the connection to Karl Marx. Tracing ideas back to Marx is like an intellectual scavenger hunt. The more connections you find, the better you feel about opposing CRT (or whatever you think CRT is, today).

The problem with this exercise is that anyone can play with any set of ideas. I am just sitting over here wondering when the focus comes back around to the devil’s major of psychology. You can trace psychology’s roots back to any number of unsavory characters. Regularly through my undergraduate and graduate schooling, I heard from Christians that I was wasting my time at best, and sinning at worst, by being in psychology. Freud and Skinner and Ellis and Rogers(!) were all atheists and pagans and had nothing to offer Christians.

Nouthetic and biblical counseling continue this theme in the present day although the heat isn’t as hot as that which is directed at CRT. Psychology will no longer bring down civilization; CRT surely will.

Let’s face it, much of what is taught in any academically sound Christian university requires comfort with a host of concepts that make CRT look tame. I don’t know how long we can hold on before the whole of Christian academia is routed by the worldview warriors. Before long, we will be engaged in a multifront war. When will the theistic evolutionists have to run for cover? Will Freudian psychoanalysis or Rogerian therapy once again be theories that dare not speak their names in Christian circles?

I remember when truth was truth and the mission of the Christian professor was to find it wherever she/he could. Mine for gold, spoil the Egyptians, all truth is God’s truth; those phrases meant something to Christians operating in academia. Common grace allowed non-Christian image bearers to find and articulate truth even while beginning with assumptions incompatible with Christian theology. Now, apparently, Christian profs are supposed to put on a hazmat suit if there is a whiff of the world on ideas and claims that are not manifestly Christian. Best to keep socially and academically distant from that stuff.

What I am getting at is that CRT isn’t any more troubling than other things we teach in psychology and the other social sciences. If there is something wrong with evaluating CRT and using aspects of it when it is valuable, then there won’t be much of a social science curriculum left when CRT critics continue their work on the rest of our majors.

Psychology v. Christianity

For an illustration of a Christian ministry targeting psychology in the same manner as many Christians are targeting CRT, consider this teaching article from Andrew Wommack Ministries. Wommack and faux-historian and Christian nationalist David Barton are mutual supporters and work together on projects.

Wommack says, “Modern psychology was brought to the forefront by Sigmund Freud in the late nineteenth century. Freud certainly wasn’t a godly man. He was obsessed with sex and linked every problem of man to the sexual drive.” Referring to Matthew 7, Wommack says the fruit of psychology can’t be good because the roots (Freud) are bad.

Wommack then does with the entire discipline of psychology what many Christian writers do to CRT: creates a team of straw men to incinerate.

Here are four major tenants (sic) of psychology that I believe are incompatible with biblical Christianity:

1) We are products of our environment.

2) Therefore, we are not responsible or accountable for our actions.

3) This leads to placing blame for our actions on anything else but on us, making us victims.

4) Self-esteem is paramount.

I doubt Wommack means psychology has renters, so he actually claims there are four major tenets for the whole discipline. The first one might apply to a radical behaviorist but not to a behavioral genetics proponent. An existential psychologist would vehemently disagree with point two. I don’t know of any approach that advocates victimhood. Self-esteem is important, but it is so 1960s-1970s to say it is paramount. Self-efficacy and self-regulation became a research preoccupation of social learning theorists during and after that era. The point is that Wommack does to psychology what Christian critics often do to CRT — shake out the nuances and make it into to something which can be easily demonized and dismissed. One might ask a certain Christopher Rufo about how to do that with CRT.

I recognize that no one currently is accusing psychology of being the biggest threat to the gospel and the church, but I wonder how long it will take for the culture war guns to tire of CRT and point in some other direction. We better get ready; we haven’t had our turn for awhile.


41 thoughts on “A Note about Critical Race Theory and Roots”

  1. Jimmy Swaggart’s ministry regularly claims psychology is one of the biggest threats to Christianity. They claim their “message of the cross” approach is the only valid way, and is on the same level in a theological historical sense as the Reformation.

    1. “The psychological way and the way of the Cross are diametrically opposed to each other,” he said. “They are so diametrically different and originate from such totally different sources that there is no way the two can be wed. As for preachers who claim that the two can be melded, it shows either a terrible ignorance of the Cross of Christ, or else, gross unbelief.”


    2. JS is not just a has-been. His ministry claims to need and raise just under $5million per month just for broadcast time. They have an extensive TV and radio network. Attacks on psychology are almost a daily ritual in each of their programs.

  2. I believe that the choice of which academic disciplines to demonize is purely tactical–what will whip up the base, bring in votes, bring in donations, offend liberals? It doesn’t actually correlate with ideology.

    I learned this in the 1980’s when there was Dungeons and Dragons, which is really a fairly tame roleplaying game, and there were also In Nomine and Vampire: the Masquerade, which were substantially less tame. But the anti-gaming movement (MADD and its allies) never, ever mentioned anything but Dungeons and Dragons. Why? Because people had heard of it, so that got them attention, money, and support.

    An Evangelical friend in the early 1990’s told me the following story. The 700 Club ran a highly inflammatory and biased segment on D&D, and being a player himself, he wrote to them and said so. He got back a letter which said, “We’re glad to hear you’re among the millions of Americans concerned about D&D. Would you consider making a donation to our important work on this cause?”

    Money. Power. Pretty interesting obsessions for people who are purportedly the children of the Kingdom of God.

    1. if it weren’t for the fundamentalists urging a boycott of “Harry Potter” for “promoting witchcraft” I would have never read the books/watched the movies 🙂

  3. One of the founders of CRT hysteria was Christopher Rufo. Rufo is worth quoting as to what this is all about.

    “We have successfully frozen their brand.”critical race theory”,
    into the public conversation and are steadily driving up
    negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as
    we put all of the various cultural insanities under that
    brand category.”

    “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the
    newspaper and immediately think“critical race theory.” We
    have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex
    the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular
    with Americans.”

    — Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) March 15, 2021

    Just another far right, GOP dirty trick is all.

  4. I would add the discipline of history and medicine to the possible target list – of our so-called christian cultural warriors…That’s two off the top of my head; I assume there will be more… maybe anything that involves some level of studied expertise?

    1. This reminds me of an old quote by Mark Twain:

      “There was a time when religion ruled the world. It was know as the Dark Ages

  5. I think the issue is that CRT is being used to justify bad things. But the same could be said about psychology and even Christianity. I mean that there have been a lot of evil done in their names. Acknowledging that doesn’t make anybody anti-Christian or that we totally reject psychology. The same is applied to CRT.

    1. I only really see people being afraid of CRT being used to justify bad things, not that it actually **is** being used to justify bad things. I suppose it could also depend on your definition of “bad things” though…

    2. I only really see people being afraid of CRT being used to justify bad things, not that it actually **is** being used to justify bad things. I suppose it could also depend on your definition of “bad things” though…

    3. I only really see people being afraid of CRT being used to justify bad things, not that it actually **is** being used to justify bad things. I suppose it could also depend on your definition of “bad things” though…

      1. Like when when somebody justifies the riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin and labeling Kyle Rittenhouse a white supremacist. It’s the people who misuse CRT, intentionally, they are the problem, not CRT itself.

  6. I remember about 10 years back I had a “robust discussion” with Frank Turk at Pyromaniacs about the whole “Occupy Wall Street” movement.

    Turk kept insisting that the OWS people were promoting a false gospel. I replied by asking Frank what exactly in the teaching of OWS offered eternal life. He was stumped.

    OWS 10 years ago, CRT today. What will be the next evangelical boogyman?

  7. The supposed opposition between Christianity and communism is hilarious. The Bible is absolutely clear that the earliest Christian church was communist. Acts 2:44 gives practically the dictionary definition. It does not follow that we should therefore all be communists. The next few chapters of Acts are about how that didn’t work out for the earliest church, and it is not as if we are better people than were they. But the claim that communism and Christianity are in opposition is flatly counter to scripture. Not, of course, one of the parts of scripture that the people making this claim read. It is in part of the vast swaths of scripture that these people discreetly pass over unmentioned.

  8. The approach taken by these “culture warriors” is twofold: Not only do they insist that every discipline that has non-Christian roots is to be viewed with suspicion, the point they naively assume is that their supposedly “Christian” worldview is simply that–Christian. Yet this second point makes them blind to their own cultural locations and biases, conflating US middle class suburban “Christianity” with what real Christianity is, and exporting their narrow brand of “Christianity” worldwide, thinking mistakenly that they have the Truth.

    1. These “culture warriors” are equally fearful of biblical scholarship, hermeneutics, and the actual study of Christianity. They have nothing to offer the world but self-serving, navel gazing, self worship and fear.

  9. Does CRT or psychology understand the nature of man? No it does not. Do they align with the gospel? No they do not. Do they seek to give unbiblical answers to man’s problems? Yes they do. This is why Paul wrote “See to it that there is no one who takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception in accordance with human tradition, in accordance with the elementary principles of the world, rather than in accordance with Christ.”

    1. If Sigmund, Carl or a CRT analyst try to tell me how to get eternal life, I will keep your advice in mind.

        1. Oooo, sounds interesting … Do you think they’d fall for it? Could do with a bit of cash!

          1. The big thing now is Black Oxygen Organic. Magic dirt. Really! Only $100 for a four and a half ounce bag. Google for it. You ain’t rich cause you don’t have the imagination or the gall to do something like this.

          2. It costs rather less if you buy something with “Fulvic Acid” on the container!
            (End of public service announcement. And, yes, public service is not a way to get rich quick!)

      1. That’s a very poor argument. Psychology and CRT doesn’t want to tell you how to get eternal life they just want to tell you how to think and live.

        1. Paul warns Christian about other gospels. Good to know. When psychology and CRT purport to be a means of forgiving sin and taking me to heaven, I will see the relevance of hysteria about them. In the mean time, I will treat them as claims about the world we live in (what is and not what ought to be) and proceed accordingly.

        2. Do they tell you how to think and live? Psychological theories can give an insight into how one is thinking (but do not instruct one on how or what one should think), and, if anything, CRT tends to provide a theoretical basis for how we might correct things that we, as individuals and a society, should NOT be doing. (Whether CRT is successful in its aims is another discussion, of course – but I think its intended aims are clear and I for one understand why they are what they are.)

          I’m afraid, Big K, that, if there an archvillain when it comes to telling you “how to think and live”, it is authoritarian religion. I think Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned us against this when, in his 1943 letter “After Ten Years”, he wrote: “Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or of a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity.”

        3. And only the Bible (and those who correctly interpret it) is allowed to do that? How then are we to think and live out all the nigh-infinte things the Bible doesn’t directly address?

    2. I mean….yes, but…this is the kind of thinking that can lead one down all manner of dark ages ignorance, like, eschewing printed books because the Bible doesn’t describe a printing press.

      Warren was well said when writing: “Mine for gold, spoil the Egyptians, all truth is God’s truth; those phrases meant something. Common grace allowed non-Christian image bearers to find and articulate truth even while beginning with faulty assumptions.” – those phrases *do* mean something. Might be worth looking into it 🙂

    3. Do you even know what Paul meant by “philosophy” and “elementary principles”, or do you just assume that they mean what you assume they mean in today’s context?

      1. St Paul might well have been warning against being captivated by the kind of ‘worldly’ thinking (and behaviour) so colourfully demonstrated by a certain D Trump! 😉

      2. St Paul might well have been warning against being captivated by the kind of ‘worldly’ thinking (and behaviour) so colourfully demonstrated by a certain D Trump! 😉

      3. I think it means the opposite of a blind man looking into a dark room for a black cat that isn’t there. That is the hunt of CRT with the goal being socialism.

    4. There are many psychological theories that give very useful insights into how human beings function, and CRT surely has a role to play in the diagnosis of important social problems. And the fact that some of those ‘diagnoses’ might be disagreeable to some people does not necessarily invalidate them …

      Decent academics and practitioners to do not claim that their perspectives provide all the answers to the problems of ‘life’; I think you may be making the mistake of presuming that they (academics and practitioners) do – and maybe making them ‘(wo)men of straw’. Similarly, one particular interpretation (mine or yours or anyone else’s) of Scripture does not provide all the answers to ‘life’; perhaps, again, you are making the mistake of presuming that it does.

      Just because we might not find this or that idea congenial, we should not retreat into a ‘cultural bunker’, (apparently) ‘Christian’ or otherwise.

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