In late July, I wrote here about an anti-critical race theory conference slated for September 24 in my hometown of Grove City, PA. After the CRT controversy at my college (Grove City College), this announcement wasn’t good news. What made it worse was the scheduled participation of Lost Cause advocate Jon Harris. As it turns out, Harris will not be able to speak at the conference due to a memorial service for a family member scheduled on the same weekend.
Another change in the good news category is that the conference is now homeless. Last Friday, I was informed by Andy Frey, pastor of First Baptist Church, Grove City, that their church will not host the conference. Early last week, I reached out to Pastor Frey and informed him of the issues raised in the July post as well as some new ones which have come up. He was unaware of that information and took the matter to his deacons. At their regular deacons meeting last Thursday evening, they voted unanimously to pull out of participation.
As of today, the conference organizers have not removed First Baptist from the conference website. Also, oddly, the organizers added Jon Harris’ pic back to the website with a caption explaining why he is not presenting.
Above, I mentioned new issues relating to Harris. Not only does Harris think highly of the Confederate South, he also has high regard for another white supremacist regime — Ian Smith’s white rule in Rhodesia. In a Gab posting, Harris waxed nostalgic about whites sticking up for their past against “the barbarian hordes.”In any case, the CRT conference is homeless for now. Lord willing, it will stay that way.
UPDATE (7/28) – Jon Harris announced today on his podcast that he will not be able to speak at the CRT conference due to a memorial service for a family member scheduled on the same weekend. I continue to hope that the organizers will reconsider having this conference.
UPDATE (8/12) – I was informed by Andy Frey, pastor of First Baptist Church, Grove City, that their church will not host the CRT conference described in this post. I reached to pastor Frey and informed him of the issues raise in this post as well as some new ones which have come up. He was unaware of what I raised and took the matter to his deacons. At their regular deacons meeting, the vote unanimous to pull out of participation.
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In September of this year, Rocky Springs Presbyterian Church (Harrisville, PA) plans to host a conference on critical race theory at the First Baptist Church in Grove City, PA. Given the speaker lineup, I don’t expect a fair treatment of CRT. I once attended First Baptist and hate to see it used as a site for a politicized show like this.
In any event, the main reason I write about the conference isn’t that more anti-CRT is coming to my town. I have yet to write about the fiasco that happened at my college over CRT. I do hope to visit aspects of that issue sometime soon.
The biggest problem I see is the platforming of Lost Cause advocate Jon Harris. Harris and his apparent alter identity “Joseph Jay” are full throated supporters of the Confederacy. According to Harris, the South had the moral high ground in the Civil War (or War Between the States as he calls it). Lost Cause history and theology view the South as the virtuous side which fought for traditional Christian values. The horrors of slavery are minimized and abolitionists are dismissed as liberals and atheists.
Blogger Bradly Mason did a thorough run down of Harris’ support for the Confederacy and the Lost Cause version of history in this Twitter thread. I will pick out a few items here, but if interested, you can get the full effect by consulting Mason’s thread and following the links he provides. A curious aspect to Harris’ support for the Confederacy is an apparent double life as a “Professor Joseph Jay.” Mason documents the details in the thread, but here is a summary.
In 2011, Harris wrote a paper for The Master’s Seminary titled: “Sacred Conviction: Biblical Authority and the Road to War in Antebellum America.” This paper is a thorough defense of the South as defender of Christianity and a rejection of what Harris casts as the ungodly North. The title of the first chapter is: “All [Northern] Ground is Sinking Sand.” On the first page, Harris lets Presbyterian minister and staunch defender of slavery James Henry Thornwell speak for him with this quote about the North and South in the Civil War:
In one word, the world is the battle-ground – Christianity and Atheism the combatants; and the progress of humanity the stake.
Harris initially denied it, but according to Mason, he later admitted that he wrote the paper. The Master’s Seminary professor Nathan Busenitz acknowledged that Harris attended the seminary briefly at the time the paper was written. Busenitz added that he was prohibited from disclosing Harris’ grade due to privacy laws. This same paper was then later published by Lost Cause publisher Shotwell Publishing in 2018 under the name of Joseph Jay. When the two documents are compared, they are indeed the same paper. Chapter headings are the same and the content is the same, word for word.
Either Joseph Jay plagiarized Harris’ work, or Harris published the paper under the pseudonym Joseph Jay. The latter seems likely since Harris recommends the book on his website. It gets more bizarre. On a Lost Cause radio show hosted by Confederate sympathizer Ed DeVries, Harris was interviewed as Professor Joseph Jay. So a lame pseudonym wasn’t enough, he had to impersonate a professor and move on to academic fraud.
The paper is revisionist history of slavery and the Civil War. According to Harris, a few quotes from Lost Cause historians telling us that the war wasn’t about slavery is supposed to prove his point. Harris fails to mention the statements of the slave states about why they seceded. He also fails to mention the Cornerstone speech of Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States of America.
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics.
Harris/Jay also tells us that slavery wasn’t so bad. He/They side with Southern Presbyterian and slavery defender Robert Lewis Dabney (Note below that the paper and the book are almost identical).
Throughout the paper and book, Harris tells us the Confederacy was the noble cause and slavery was not that bad. Perhaps, he advises, it was even beneficial if you consider the spread of Christianity among the slaves.
At heart, the Lost Cause position is a denial of history and appears to be a denial of racism. This is a powerful deception for many White people. In my opinion, CRT hysteria among White evangelicals is a current symptom of this problem. In the face of the horror that is America’s racial history, I suppose it is natural to want to raise up psychological defenses. However, we cannot live in denial and walk in the light.
I certainly hope the two churches will consider canceling the workshop. If ever there was a town where CRT is not being taught in the schools, it would be Grove City. All a workshop like this will do is spread misinformation and create suspicion and division in the community. And certainly, we do not need any Lost Cause nonsense here or anywhere.
In Getting Jefferson Right, Michael Coulter and I include a chapter on Jefferson and slavery. Although Jefferson wasn’t the worst master, he allowed his task masters to treat slaves cruelly. He paid slave catchers to pursue runaway slaves, and he refused to provide freedom for his slaves when Virginia slave laws allowed it.
UPDATE (7/26): Despite being defended in an email by the conference organizer, Harris is now missing from the trio of speakers on the conference website.
I still hope the whole conference is scratched. Grove City is a small, mostly White town. My impression, based mostly on the reports of my children over the years, is that there is notable racism in the schools among students. Bringing in people who associate any efforts at racial equality with CRT and Marxism will only heighten negative stereotypes and prejudices. If anything, Rocky Springs and First Baptist should offer an anti-racism conference.
What a difference it would make if the PCA and Baptist churches would team up to repent of racism in the history of both denominations. Specifically, the PCA exists due to slavery and segregation. Tobin Grant lays it out in a 2016 article:
The PCA was primarily made up of churches who had opposed integration and civil rights. Its leaders openly stated that they were continuing the legacy of confederate churches. As in 1861, the PCA was going to keep the faith pure and free from liberalism.
Most of the PCA was in the deep south. A majority of Mississippi’s churches joined the PCA, giving it the greatest share of PCA’s congregations.
The narrative most commonly heard in PCA churches is that it formed to protect and keep the faith and avoid the slide into liberalism. But this is akin to the belief that the south seceded because of states rights: the southern states claimed they had a right to make their own laws, but they made this claim only because they were on the verge of losing slavery Likewise, the PCA formed to avoid liberalism, but this liberalism was defined as support for integration and racial equality.
Rather than host a conference criticizing anti-racism efforts, I think a PCA church might want to spend more time learning than teaching, repenting than condemning.
Sometimes a Twitter thread comes along that possesses a level of nuttiness that requires it be preserved. In addition, these threads capture the spirit of the times in such a way that few other expressions do. Here is such a thread.
The author is Josh Daws, host of the Great Awokening Podcast.
The entire thread can be read below by clicking the tweet. I will pull out a few of the 23 tweets for illustration. In short, Daws says teachers are using Critical Race Theory to make white kids feel guilty, then using Queer Theory to make them want to identify as gay or trans. Thus, teachers are really out to create revolutionaries and take kids away from parents; not to abuse them, but to make them into liberals, or something.
CRT instills in these students a negative self-identity as they're taught to believe they're recipients of enormous privilege that was stolen from others and that they are complicit in historic and ongoing injustice. In child terms, they're taught to believe they're bad. 5/23
And it goes on from there. Read the rest if you want to know what the Frightened Right is sharing with each other these days. It really is sad. I can’t imagine being that distrustful and scared of my fellow citizens who are trying to follow their calling as teachers.
Well, actually, I can imagine it. I never had the vivid imagination of Mr. Daws, but once upon a time in my 20s and 30s, I believed the public school was a temple to secular humanism. However, through a variety of circumstances, I faced facts. In our case, anyway, the public school was the moral and quality alternative to the local Christian school. I found teachers who were incredibly dedicated to helping my children achieve their potential.
Of course, there are a few bad actors. However, the current reformers who are scaring Christians into a frenzy want us to believe there is a conspiracy among public educators to steal our children and grandchildren. This is insanity.
For the most part, teachers are our family, neighbors and friends. They need the support of citizens in a good faith partnership for the good of children.
I am here to sound a warning about James Lindsay and anti-wokeness.
Dr. Lindsay is a mathematician and atheist who has been platformed by numerous evangelical leaders, including Al Mohler, leaders of the Founders Ministry, and Michael O’Fallon because Lindsay shares their opposition to awareness of minority oppression (wokeness). Even though Lindsay has been promoted by these evangelical leaders, his views are antithetical to theism and have the potential to lead many evangelicals astray.
Below, I will share some representative citations from Lindsay’s 2015 book, Everybody Is Wrong About God and then speak plainly to fellow believers.
Lindsay’s goal for society is to become “post-God and post-faith.”
Lindsay declares theism to be “intellectually bankrupt.”Lindsay considers theism to be absurd. All of those Christians platforming Lindsay should know that he publicly believes your views are fallacious and absurd.
Believers platforming Lindsay may think he has respect for your views because he supports anti-wokeness. Believers might want to consider that Lindsay’s rejection of wokeness might stem from his atheism. Anti-wokeness teaches that white people are not sinners and that they have nothing from which to repent. This low view of sin is very consistent with an atheist’s view of human nature.
One formerly evangelical theologian who has been drawn away by this teaching is Owen Strachan. Recently, Strachan told Religion News Network that the gospel is warped by teaching that majority whites are “in the wrong.”
When you embrace a system like critical race theory or intersectionality that teaches you that people who are in the majority basically are in the wrong — so, for example, that white people by virtue of being part of the white power bloc have privilege, have responsibility, honestly, when we’re not speaking politely, have complicity in oppression — that warps the gospel,”
Gospel teaching is that all have sinned — including the majority — and come short of God’s glory. Strachan goes so far as to recommend that those who are aware of racial oppression be excommunicated as heretics, thus adding something to the gospel. Of course, the simple gospel is belief in the substitution of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and includes nothing more.
Who has bewitched people like Strachan? Could it be someone like James Lindsay who considers theism and especially evangelicalism to be absurd and a myth? Strachan makes use of Lindsay’s work in his book on wokeness. Remember, Lindsay’s goal is for society to become post-God and post-faith.
Believers who platform people like Lindsay may soon find they are preaching another gospel.
(If you have gotten this far with me, you might recognize that this post is intended as satire, particularly of this post by Neil Shenvi. Hopefully, this will provoke thinking about how a focus on issues peripheral to the gospel may lead, not only to perversions of the gospel, but other consequences. Rejection of awareness of the true situation of minorities in the U.S. has caused a significant division between white Christianity and just about everybody else in the church, on average. If you don’t believe me, watch the following presentation by Michael Emerson.)
To remember Dr. King, I want to focus on his visit to the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in 1967. He was invited to speak to a division of APA – Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues – by Kenneth Clark, the first Black president of the APA.
According to Thomas Pettigrew, president of SPSSI at the time, the majority of the APA board did not want King to speak, saying his invitation was “too political” and warning that psychologists would not be interested in what he had to say. However, over 5,000 people showed up forcing the organizers to secure the largest meeting room in the venue.
For social scientists, the opportunity to serve in a life‐giving purpose is a humanist challenge of rare distinction. Negroes too are eager for a rendezvous with truth and discovery. We are aware that social scientists, unlike some of their colleagues in the physical sciences, have been spared the grim feelings of guilt that attended the invention of nuclear weapons of destruction. Social scientists, in the main, are fortunate to be able to extirpate evil, not to invent it.
If the Negro needs social science for direction and for self‐understanding, the White society is in even more urgent need. White America needs to understand that it is poisoned to its soul by racism and the understanding needs to be carefully documented and consequently more difficult to reject. The present crisis arises because, although it is historically imperative that our society take the next step to equality, we find ourselves psychologically and socially imprisoned. All too many White Americans are horrified not with conditions of Negro life but with the product of these conditions—the Negro himself.
White America is seeking to keep the walls of segregation substantially intact while the evolution of society and the Negro’s desperation is causing them to crumble. The White majority, unprepared and unwilling to accept radical structural change, is resisting and producing chaos while complaining that if there were no chaos orderly change would come.
Negroes want the social scientist to address the White community and “tell it like it is.” White America has an appalling lack of knowledge concerning the reality of Negro life. One reason some advances were made in the South during the past decade was the discovery by northern Whites of the brutal facts of southern segregated life. It was the Negro who educated the nation by dramatizing the evils through nonviolent protest. The social scientist played little or no role in disclosing truth. The Negro action movement with raw courage did it virtually alone. When the majority of the country could not live with the extremes of brutality they witnessed, political remedies were enacted and customs were altered.
In 2018, the Journal of Social Issues revisited the speech with a special issue titled, “Tell It Like It Is”: Commemorating the 5oth Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Call to Behavioral Scientists.” Former SPSSI president, Thomas Pettigrew contributed a piece summarizing his assessment of how social psychologists have answered Dr. King’s call to “tell it like it is.” He wrote, “Summing up all the papers, we can only give a mixed answer to the key question as to whether we have answered Dr. King’s 1967 call. ”
In general, SPSSI and social psychology have done reasonably well in researching much of what Dr. King called for a half century ago. But the hard truth is that we have failed to communicate our findings sufficiently to the public; thus, the full meaning of this large body of work has been effectively resisted by many white Americans…
National surveys provide a glimpse of the extent of our failure to communicate our findings to the American public. Recent Pew Research Center surveys show only 36% of White Americans think racial discrimination is involved in Blacks having “…a harder time getting ahead than Whites,” only 22% believe that Blacks “are treated less fairly in the workplace,” while 38% believe that the United States “…has made the changes needed to give [B]lacks equal rights with [W]hites.”
Generally, the development of critical race theory is dated after the assassination of King. However, one can see in his 1967 remarks the seeds of some of CRT’s points. King very specifically referred to “radical structural change” (systemic change) that was needed for Black Americans to achieve equity. King said white Americans were “poisoned” by racism and called on social scientists to document this. Now, social scientists are condemned by critics of CRT when they document and call out the poison and say exactly what King said in 1967. The bitter and discouraging irony is that many of these critics invoke decontextualized King quotes they like in order to criticize CRT and tell us King would also reject CRT. The APA address calls that project into question.
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.
Over the past month, I have been reading critical race theory analyses in search of how they might threaten religion in some manner. Thus far, I haven’t encountered any mention of the Bible, the gospel, or religious criticism. There is frequent mention of white privilege, colorblindness, and systemic racism. However, nothing in the analyses I have read asks anyone to change their religion or modify their beliefs in God. The only change at issue is social change in the direction of justice. Critical race theory analysts hope to highlight the insidious nature of racism in various institutions where white people are often blind to it.
As far as I can see so far, critical race analyses don’t make claims about the deity of Christ or whether He rose from the dead. There are no theological claims involved that I can find. I didn’t feel that my faith was challenged at all. There was no way of salvation offered.
What is challenged is the status quo. In one analysis, I read this passage about a private school’s decision to hire a diversity coordinator.
A CRT analysis would explore the ways in which the multicultural courses and programming challenged and changed racist practices and policies. A limitation of the liberal commitment to diversity was manifested in Well’s hiring one person, an African American, to attend to the school’s diversity initiative. Making her responsible for teaching all the multicultural courses and providing all the programming and professional development in the areas of cultural sensitivity and awareness demonstrates the school’s lack of commitment to diversity. This token commitment to diversity, which rested solely with one person, and encompassed a wide range of responsibilities, essentially ensured that change at Wells would not be sweeping or immediate. Thus, with the limited human resources Wells employed to “diversify” the school and the curriculum to create a more diverse and inclusive schooling environment, it guaranteed that changing the racist remnants of the “Old South” would not likely happen quickly, but incrementally and superficially instead, if at all. An abiding limitation of liberalism is its reliance on incremental change. Interestingly, those most satisfied with incremental change are those less likely to be directly affected by oppressive and marginalizing conditions.
On the surface, it appears that the school is working to make change, but an hard look at the situation from the minority perspective doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. When examined in this manner, it becomes clear that the school isn’t serious about diversity, but that their efforts may be to assuage guilt or to hold off public criticism. The analysis can’t get to the motive and doesn’t appear to try. However, the point is that the response isn’t sufficient to address justice and equity for minorities.
I haven’t agreed with every analysis I have read. Some use so much jargon I am not clear what they mean. However, I have not encountered any articles which ask me to convert to another religion. I have not been asked to give up mine. Seeing racism which is embedded in institutions and social practices is eye opening and sobering. Often, it makes me angry. I feel resolved to do what I can to help the situation. But what I don’t feel is an urge to convert to another gospel.
Josh McDowell is most famous for his apologetics book, Evidence Which Demands a Verdict. He made a business out of that book and subsequent books defending Christianity. Yesterday and today, he is famous for words he wants to take back.
Last night McDowell spoke at the American Association of Christian Counselors conference in Orlando, FL. He gave a speech titled “Six Epidemics in the Church.” McDowell said the first “epidemic” was critical race theory, followed by social justice. A friend of professor Aaron New who was at the conference and in McDowell’s plenary session related a stunning, offensive quote which Dr. New posted on Twitter. I got a recording of the talk and posted the clip. The whole thing set off a fire storm which led to a McDowell apology today. See the tweets below to follow the issue. In part one, I want to set the background for more comments in part two about why this episode illustrates the need for CRT or something like it.
I’m sitting here kinda stunned. I have a friend at the @theaacc World Conference.
After Aaron posted this, a scramble ensued to find audio of the talk. A conference goer sent it along and I clipped out the quote which demonstrated that it was in essence what Aaron and his conference friend reported.
Everybody says blacks, whites everybody has equal opportunity to make it in America. No they don’t, folks. I do not believe Blacks, African-Americans or other minorities have equal opportunities. Why? Most of them grew up in families where there is not a great emphasis on education, security. You can do anything you want; you can change the world. If you work hard, you will make it. So many African-Americans don’t have those privileges like I did. My folks weren’t very rich, in fact, they were a poor farming family. But the way I was raised, I had advantages in life ingrained into me. You can do it! Get your education! Get a job! Change the world! And that makes different opportunities.
After being thoroughly criticized for hours on Twitter, McDowell today issued this statement:
To me, this rings a little hollow since McDowell didn’t address his bombastic criticism of structural racism. In his statements, he completely ignored the actual reasons for lack of equity in opportunity. He told us in his apology what he didn’t mean, but he didn’t tell us what he did mean. He spent the first 10 minutes of his AACC speech blasting the concept of structural impediments to equity. So Mr. McDowell, what is the reason for lack of equal opportunity?
I hope this incident will be a teachable moment for white evangelicals who have mindlessly accepted the word of their talking heads about CRT. Brother Josh sees through a glass darkly, but he isn’t all the way to a clear view yet. I hope his awakening will be more than from a PR nightmare.