Christians should be afraid of critical race theory. That’s the message that a number of conservative Christian leaders have shared in recent months. Last fall, the presidents of the five Southern Baptist seminaries issued a statement saying that “affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and any version of Critical Theory” is incompatible with the Baptist Faith and Message, the denomination’s core beliefs. This anxiety made CRT a main focus at the denomination’s recent gathering.
In recent years, some evangelicals have identified critical race theory as an ascendent ideology in the church that is fundamentally at odds with Christian faith. This anxiety has been mirrored by many conservatives at large, and the debate over this ideology has moved from the previous president’s public disgust of the ideology to state legislature measures that would ban it in schools.
All of this comes months after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have once again spurred both conversations about how the church ought to respond to racial injustice and also how the church should discuss this reality. One recurring concern for some Christians: that their fellow believers have adopted the worldview and talking points of critical race theory and Marxism.
Over time, these charges have been lobbed by Christians at Christians, the latter of whom often feel like this language mischaracterizes the movement, miscasts their efforts, or unfairly shuts down conversations without a hard look at the issues actually at stake.
D. A. Horton directs the intercultural studies program at California Baptist University and serves as associate teaching pastor at The Grove Community Church in Riverside, California. His 2019 book, Intensional, presents a “kingdom” view of ethnic divisions and reconciliation. Horton has written a four-part series on Ed Stetzer’s blog, The Exchange, about CRT and Christian missions.
Horton joined global media manager Morgan Lee and senior news editor Kate Shellnutt to discuss what critical race theory is, why it unnerves some Christians, and what can be done to help Christians stop talking past each other when it comes to addressing the reality of racial injustice.
What is Quick to Listen? Read more
Rate Quick to Listen on Apple Podcasts
Follow the podcast on Twitter
Follow our guest on Twitter: D. A. Horton
Music by Sweeps
The transcript is edited by Bunmi Ishola
Highlights from Quick to Listen: Episode #271
Can you define what critical theory is before we get into critical race theory?
D. A. Horton: So critical theory was developed inside of a school in Germany, known as the Frankfurt School, specifically inside the Institute for Social Research. And it really got its start in the late 1920s and the early ’30s. And it was led by the scholar Max Horkheimer, who framed critical theory with three criteria.
First of all, it needs to be explanatory. This means the individual who’s engaging the theory must be able to explain what is wrong with the current social reality that they are analyzing. They also have to identify who are the powers that are maintaining what is wrong through the systems, through the rhythms of the society. Second, it needs to be normative. What norms in this wrong society should be criticized? What are the pieces of evidence of the wrongdoing? And then finally, it has to be practical. What are the achievable, practical ways society can be transformed?
Coming out of that, we have to understand what Horkheimer meant by the term “critical.” In his writings and his lectures, he framed it as a distinct meaning: a different approach to analyzing society than the traditional way of viewing society. And honestly, Horkheimer used “critical” as synonymous with Marxism. His tool of analysis was the lens of Marxism and he used critical theory to identify what values of capitalism were producing injustice in the society that he was in.
But it is good for us to understand that, from the beginning, that framework is not how it always stayed. It did not always stay within the conversation of Marxism. What we see is in the second generation of the Frankfurt School is that it produced intellectuals like Jürgen Habermas, who expanded the research and the analysis beyond Marxism. He said claims to truth must also be moral and political goodness, and they have to be justified. And so he began to pivot away from critical theory from Marxism.
In his later works, especially in the ’90s, he began to expose how secularism, or the humanistic perspective of pushing God out, kept religious thought out of the spaces of law and politics—to which Habermas was preventing us from having a better model of society. And so in his work Habermas actually says religious voices can impact society for good if they learn to communicate their ideas in understandable language for those who are not religious.
And he goes on to give an appeal of a biblical perspective. He says that the biblical social vision is made evident in Genesis 1:26–27, where every human is an image-bearer of the God who created them. And the way that you can translate that theological concept to people who are not religious is by identifying that there is invaluable dignity that every human being has been given.
So critical theory, when it was initially founded as a framework of analysis, the objective measurement tool was Marxism. But then the second generation broadens that reach and even made appeals for the inclusivity of religious dialogue with a very specific biblical appeal.
And as a missiologist, I take that as an invitation to engage with a biblical perspective that analyzes the society but also has a different finish line than what those who are not coming from a Christian theistic worldview may present as their conclusion.
Are we waiting for our Habermas with critical race theory? Do we need someone who can take some of the ideas proposed in the framework of critical race theory and add that theological dimension to make the bridge happen for people who still see it in conflict?
D. A. Horton: Well, there have been many, many Christians who are living out their vocations as given to them by God, in the different spaces and arenas in society. In the behavior sciences, social work, the field of education, and legal studies, you have believers who engage the terms, the language, and the concepts, but at the same time, they’re also looking for the way that they can communicate a biblical perspective. Understanding that society is not going to be perfectly transformed, that our finish line is not a utopia of this side of eternity, but rather it is residents in the city of God that we read about in Revelation chapters 21 and 22.
I believe that there have been people doing that; it’s just that critical race theory and its scholarship has not been mainstream until recent years. And so that’s where I think it gets a little murky. But there have been Christians who have engaged this perspective and they’ve been engaging at it for quite some time.
Is there a way to define critical race theory for people outside of academia? And how would you define it in contrast to the perspective of race that existed prior to CRT?
D. A. Horton: The first thing that I think everyone should understand is that critical race theory is a direct growing out of something known as critical legal studies. And this is particularly focused and centered in the United States of America, so it’s not a global perspective. The only way it becomes global is if somebody adapts the principles and the tools that critical race theory leverages as a methodology of social analysis, and then they apply it to their society outside of America.
But basically, critical legal studies focused on the relationship between the legal scholarship and the struggle to see a more humane, egalitarian, and democratic society. And so critical legal studies contain insights from the Supreme Court rulings on Scott v. Sanford in 1857 and Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 because that provides the context for the legal debates surrounding the flawed “separate but equal,” as well as the colorblindness, or the neutrality, of American law.
So after these rulings, it was a normative belief in America that the law was colorblind, that although people were separate but equal in the Jim Crow era, everyone still had the same type of access to freedom and liberty and everything that our founding documents promise to residents of America.
However, that’s where critical race theory comes in. One of the architects, Richard Delgado, communicated that they began to realize that the momentum of the civil rights movement in the ’60s had stalled when it became evident that a lot of the implementation and legislative changes were not being made by academics.
The cornerstone founder of critical race theory is Derrick Bell. His documents are what people consider the foundation of CRT. And alongside the scholarship of Delgado, Kimberly Crenshaw, Alan Freeman, Cheryl Harris, Charles Lawrence III, Mari Matsuda, and Patricia Williams, they are often framed as the primary voices of critical race theory. To define critical race theory, you really must look at the themes that these primary voices begin to bring to the forefront.
I do think it’s important also to qualify that Derrick Bell was interviewed before he passed away, and Bell distanced his perspective as it relates to what would become later known as critical race theory from the views of Marxism. And the reason that he did that is that he didn’t want people to think that he had to turn to European “white” men to understand the racial interactions that he as a Black man has had his entire life in the United States of America. And so one of the misnomers that we have is that CRT automatically, unequivocally, always equals Marxism. And that’s just not true because the founder, Derrick Bell, distanced himself from that.
Based on the primary voices I listed, the five themes that I typically identify critical race as is, one, race is something that is manmade, and it has created privilege for something that is known as whiteness—a created American identity which immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe could assimilate. They would become white in exchange for their ethnic heritage, and that would secure them citizenship, employment, housing, and even religious freedoms and liberty.
In addition to that, racism is something that is seen as permanent in the United States of America. And a lot of that is because of the implicit racist language in our founding documents, like the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.
The third thing is that counter-stories from marginalized people are necessary. In Christian language, we call a counter-story a testimony. It’s somebody sharing their testimony of how they have interacted with racism in America.
The fourth is that being colorblind is not being truthful.
And then the fifth element that I would say is a common theme is that racial progress seems to only be made when “white people” are the ones who benefit from it.
So these are the five themes that I have identified from the primary voices themselves.
The question about critical race being a worldview—which, when I hear “worldview,” I'm thinking through the lens of the arena of theology. A worldview is how one answers the questions such as, Who is God?; Who am I?; What’s my purpose for living?; What is real?; Who determines right from wrong?; and What happens after I die?
To me, a worldview would include deism, existentialism, monotheism, naturalism, new consciousness, nihilism, and pantheism. And each of those has varying beliefs as it relates to the concept of race. So, in my opinion, critical race theory is not a worldview—it’s comprised of legal scholars who are not dedicating their work to the cosmology of humanity or the universe, let alone the eternal condition of humanity. The focus of critical race theory scholars is the inequality of the law in the United States of America.
And I think that’s one of the misnomers: that people have forced it to become something known as a worldview. And I just don’t see that in the primary voices. Their focus is the United States of America; it’s not global-centric. It throws me off when people compare critical race theory to a worldview, because as a theologian, it doesn’t give answers to some of these worldview questions.
When critical race theory moved from academia into something that some Christian leaders begin to identify as posing a danger to our faith, what were some of the stories or connections that set off alarm bells?
D. A. Horton: This is my personal opinion; I’m limited by my own experiences and experiences of others that I’m in dialogue with. But, what began to happen is that some of the language that critical race theory has developed began to become more normal in a lot of “Christians of color.”
Critical race theory does provide language for concepts that believers, specifically of color, have wrestled within their minds, and now they have terms to use to help these abstract ideas explain in concrete ways.
One example is the term microaggression. The definition of microaggression is an action or an incident that is an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against somebody who is part of a marginalized group. As an example from my own life, I was really stressed going into my PhD entrance exam at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and for that whole process, I was just really nervous and I doubted myself. And I remember being driven to the airport by a brother in Christ and he was asking me what was on my mind because he could tell I was stressed. I explained to him how I felt overwhelmed by the process and demands of the exam.
And he looked at me and confidently said, “You should not stress out. You’re going to pass no matter what. Southeastern needs you. You’re a minority. They need more Hispanics”—which is a term I don’t use, but he used it—“They need more Hispanics so that they can show themselves to be diversified. They need more guys like you, so you’re going to get in no matter what.”
It was saying that I don’t have the educational capacity or the academic rigor and wherewithal to pass, but I’m going to get a pass simply because they need me for visibility. That’s a microaggression because he connected my ethnicity with the fact that I was going to pass.
If I share that statement in a Christian space, people ask, how can you know his motives? How can you know his intentions? And I think at that point, we want to begin to theologize what somebody said so that we don’t have to accept the claim that what was said showed discrimination.
So there was a list of terms that seem to be the no-no terms, and whenever you heard these certain words used, it was like, “Oh my gosh, there are Marxists, communists, socialist people in the church!”
Do you think part of it is that there is a suspicion that comes from hearing the non-Christianese language used by Christians? Especially when it’s being used to critique us?
D. A. Horton: I think that is part of it. But if we just even assess the language that we use as Christians—I mean, the term gospel was not a Christian term; it comes from a Greek word that was literally connected to the imperial cult, it was used for the “good news” that was proclaimed when a new Caesar was crowned or when the Caesar was going to have a child.
Our writers of Scripture—under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who safeguarded them from writing anything in error—used that concept, which was connected to pagan worship. And we have seen that used to translate into the gospel because we do proclaim the Good News of Christ being the only source of redemption that God has in his plan of redemption.
And so I think that’s where it takes more education for Christians to understand that everything in our speech is not purely Christian. The clothes that we wear are not always stitched by Christians. This is exactly what Habermas asked. He gave an invitation for religious people to communicate their beliefs and how society can flourish, but they have to be able to do it using terms and concepts that the nonbeliever can understand. There has to be some shared language.
Another term is intersectionality. When people hear “intersectionality” in the church, I often think they’re fearful of a slippery slope and that it is going to somehow give affirmation and acquiesce to the LGBTQ+ community. And my pushback to that is we see the concept in Scripture. And some would say I’m isolating and reading intersectionality into the Scriptures. But what I’m doing is identifying a modern word that describes something that we already see in the Bible.
One of the classic examples I give is John 4. Jesus spoke to the woman at the well. She was identified by her ethnicity as being a Samaritan. She was a woman. You can even argue that the reason that she was drawing water from that well at that time of the day was that she was socially ostracized, so she was marginalized. Those are three identifying realities for her. Another example is in Galatians 3:28; in addition to identifying ethnicity, he [Paul] also identifies gender, and he identifies the reality in social class. All three of those concepts are right there in Scripture.
And this is where evangelicals struggle, because when it comes to gender, we see constant material being produced to advocate biblical roles in marriage, in the home, biblical masculinity and biblical femininity. So, we don’t deny gender. We’re not gender-neutral. At the same time, we see the economic realities and we talk about financial stewardship, giving, employment ethics, good work ethic. We talk about those things. So, we acknowledge the reality of employment and financial stewardship. But now we want to say, “I don’t see ethnicity”? That’s not true. You do inasmuch as you see gender and the reality of the need for financial stewardship and employment and employee ethics. And if you’re talking about ethnicity, gender, and class, that is intersectionality.
So by saying the concept of intersectionality is in Scripture, does that mean I am forsaking Christ as the only means of salvation? Absolutely not. What I’m saying is that there are multiple facets to the reality that we embody in a fallen world.
I am a man. I am also married. I am also Latino. I’m also Choctaw Nation. I have various European descents inside of me. I’m married to a woman. I have daughters, I have a son. I fit in a social class. I grew up in a different social class. These are realities. Acknowledging these realities does not mean I’m doubting the gospel. It doesn’t mean I’m denying the sufficiency of Scripture. Claims of such things are just erroneous and they’re hyperbole.
And I think if we approached it that way, without the name-calling, we would see greater progress in the body of Christ. You can engage the language, but you don’t have to lay down to the agenda of the world by engaging the language. Because my purpose and intention for engaging the language is to help the nonbeliever understand the perspective that God offers as a solution, in Christ alone, for the realities of the broken and this one.
As a missiologist, instructor, and a pastor using the language developed through CRT, what are the ways that it’s helpful, or are there places where there are limits or concerns? Are there boundaries you draw for how it can be employed as a tool within a faith structure?
D.A. Horton: My personal approach is to be honest. What I can do is look at the claims that critical race theory makes, and if it’s true then I can acknowledge that truth.
If all truth is God’s truth, then with common grace, God has given every human being who bears his image rationale, the ability to process information, to think about it, and to communicate. And so I would be remiss if I think that non-Christians cannot tell the truth. And when it comes to social analysis and assessment, if they depart from truthful claims, that’s where, as a follower of Christ, I can say that I have a different guardrail that I’m using to measure the truth claims. Mine is the Word of God.
For example, when I look at the claim that race is a social construct, that it is manmade, that is very true because, in all the times of antiquity, we do not see the racial structures or caste system that we have seen throughout the colonization of the indigenous Americas. Spain and Portugal created the caste system first in the Caribbean and Mexico and South America, and then Protestants did the same thing in the United States. None of that is endorsed in Scripture; however, it is a reality, and it is something that shows in the documents of the United States.
However, what has God given? He’s given ethnicity. And we see this in Acts 17:26 and Genesis 3:20. Ethnicity is a gift from God. And when I look at Revelation chapters 21 and 22, I see that ethnicity is present in the eternal state. So, Christians do not need to be ashamed or feel guilty for their ethnicity.
One of the things that I have been trying to do is to get rid of the color-coded language of the racial caste system and begin to challenge people to affirm their ethnic heritage that was elected for them to have and that will be present in the eternal state. And in doing that, I’m departing away from critical race theory because I’m going back to the cosmological creation of humanity and I’m going to the eternal state. Critical race theory doesn’t go there.
Another example: Often people say that critical race theory says that whiteness was created and it provides privileges for only people who are in that category. And there is some truth in that, but it’s not fully true. And one of the things that I want to communicate is that privilege is not a bad thing.
Anyone listening to this podcast, anyone that has running water, anyone that has shoes on their feet, has food in their pantry—that’s privilege because not everybody in the world has access to those amenities. Privilege is not bad. It’s not sinful. It only becomes sinful when it is not leveraged to help other humans in need. I don’t apologize for my privilege because I can leverage my privilege in specific moments.
In the four blogs with Christianity Today, I explore all of this. What are the claims that critical race theory makes? Where are they true and where are they not true? And then how does Scripture speak to the truthfulness of their claim? But also, how does it correct the errors in their claim as well?
Do you think the reason that some Christians are turning to the language of critical race theory is that they haven’t found sufficiently comprehensive language within Christian contexts to talk about racial injustice?
D. A. Horton: I think in some situations, people have grown weary and tired and they’re just exhausted. They’re just tired of trying to make evangelicals believe that this is a reality for some people. At the same time, I think some people are disgruntled because they don’t feel that they have a safe space that is safe to communicate these things without being charged and accused of various terms. It’s a smorgasbord of realities for people in their experiences.
We, as believers, have to understand that this is also a discipleship issue. Jesus has given the Great Commission and included is language which means “to every ethnicity.” So we are to be making disciples of every ethnicity in America. We are blessed because God has allowed the neighborhoods to be inhabited by the nations, so we’re without excuse. And that’s where I think the work of being diligent to diversify our dinner tables, to diversify our inner circles of friendships and discipleship rhythms is important. It should reflect the reality of the community that God has chosen for us to live in.
I think our local churches should not see the reality of Great Commission fulfillment as affirmative action or a secular perspective. No, this is the reality of what Christ is commissioned every Christian to do. We all have the same job description as the Great Commission.
And in the eternal state, what we recognize is that the ethnicities are present, we are worshiping God. We even see that products of cultural grace are going to be brought in by leaders of the various ethnicities into the city of God. So, we can appreciate the cultural expressions that we have, and we can even see them redeemed for the glory of God.
In my family, one way we’ve done that is with the quinceañera. The quinceañera began as an aspect of pagan ritual, but then it was synchronized with Roman Catholic practice and dogma. And what we did for our daughter when she was 15 is that we made Christ the center focus. We removed the paganism, but we kept the cultural celebrations. And a lot of the language and the customs could be leveraged for the glory of God. Every one of our daughter’s padrinos and madrinas (godparents) gave a gift that was connected back to Scripture and affirmed her walk in Christ.
These are beautiful things of our culture. There are certain dances, there are certain songs, there are certain testimonies and oral traditions in various cultures that in the United States of America have often been deemed as unholy. And if we have divorced ethnicity, if we have divorced the reality of race, because we’ve chosen colorblindness or other methodologies to not even acknowledge those things and framing ethnicity is something carnal and holy and sinful, that’s a discipleship issue.
I don’t think we can talk about people’s fear of critical race theory without discussing cancel culture. How do you define cancel culture? What concerns might you sympathize with for those who are very concerned about this, and where might you push back on people regarding those fears?
D. A. Horton: Cancel culture was derivative of the African American community. As it would be expressed on Black Twitter, it was stepping away from public support, and even the shunning, and the dropping of endorsements of entities or people that did not fall in step with the progression of whoever was doing the canceling.
One of the aspects of cancel culture that has now become a little bit more normative in mainstream society, which then provided a tributary into evangelicalism in America, is this contra-biblical way of interpersonal relationships. We have to understand that cancel culture and the way that it’s been done by the nonbelievers is not endorsed in Scripture.
It basically opens the door for the Evil One to allow suspicions to be brewing in the hearts of people. That we can be content with being warriors of the faith, defenders of the truth of scripture and Christianity by labeling our brothers and sisters enemies of the church enemies.
Even the term woke—a lot of people don’t have the historic understanding of the term. It was something that, again, was first used in the African American community to mean to be aware of the reality and the nuances of practical racism that had been expressed pre–Jim Crow, during Jim Crow, and post–Jim Crow.
And that terminology has now been hijacked in a similar way that the term evangelical has been hijacked. And I think one of the things that we have to do better at in evangelicalism is explaining and defining our terms. And I ground my definitions from themes all throughout Scripture—not social sciences, not critical race theorists, not the Frankfurt school, but from Scripture.
And the reason I want to define those terms is that often in these conversations, in the church we’re not defining our terms. We are allowing the interpreter to read their understanding into the terminology we’re using. That means we have to do the diligent work of explaining to our listeners what we mean by these terms. And then we can give them a better understanding of where we are coming from.
Having terms with no clear tangible definitions just leads people to move forward in their own assumptions, or move forward with the trusted voices that they listen to, and that’s a problem because sometimes the voices that you trust—whether they are grossly misinformed or whether they are intentionally participating in this sin of slander—are not always being consistent and truthful with their assessments and their terminology and even their claims.
To what extent do you say there are a significant number of Christians who are being bad actors, and when is it okay for us as Christians to call people out for acting in bad faith, and are people always aware that they’re acting that way?
D. A. Horton: I think one thing that I have learned in my journey of walking with Jesus, over the last 25 years in America, is that there is a way to theologize yourself out of being guilty of sins like slander and gossip.
We use codified language like “I’m seeking counsel” or “I’m trying to get wisdom,” and we’ll throw a Bible passage on that. And I’m not saying that it’s wrong to seek wisdom and counsel and guidance; however, when it starts getting into the realm of suspicion leading to reading things into what they’re saying …
We live in a fallen world, and sometimes when people want to see something, they’ll see it when it’s not even there. And they’ll convince themselves that they see it and they will be very convincing to others. And when I look at that framework in Scripture, the reality of systemic deception in the world and society at large is in Ephesians 2:1–3. We see that there is a worldly system that is in opposition to righteousness, justice, and all things that are derivative from God’s design for humanity.
So, is there systemic sin in society? Absolutely. Now can it also be in the church? That’s exactly what Paul was arguing in Ephesians 4. The language that he is using points to the systematic lies that are present in the churches, that were brought into the church. And the way that we refute that is through discipleship, rooting ourselves in the Word of God while living on the mission of God.
We, as followers of Christ, don’t have to be aloof when it comes to the systemic deception that unfortunately can make its way into local churches. And what’s being framed now is this new religion called woke-ism, this new perspective of critical race theory being charged as an enemy. We are headed to an unnecessary civil war. And to have a civil war, you have to have an enemy. And this enemy is manufactured because I’ve yet to see anyone who is purposefully seeking to bring the nuances of critical race theory into the Southern Baptist Convention with a desire to take it over.
Now, is that possible? Sure. We live in a fallen world, people may have vindictive motives, but the reality of what I see and who I engage with that are the “faces of this new religion” this new “liberal takeover,” I'm like, y’all are trippin’. They are not what you're calling them.
For those opposed to CRT, what do you think is the “worst-case scenario” in their mind?
D. A. Horton: You know, the only interaction that I’ve had in length with the side that is framing CRT as a religion and woke-ism and the social justice movements as entering into the church, is Fault Lines by Voddie Baucham.
And from the very beginning, the conversation is framed that you’re standing on one of two sides of a fault line, and literally the fault line—no pun intended—of the book is framing the side that Voddie is on and then the side that’s the nonbiblical social justice perspective, which starts with the world and then these Christians now are speaking the world's philosophies and perspectives into the church. And, at the end of the day, he concludes with a call to war against the opposing side.
And in that perspective, he’s framed it as a binary where the reader has to pick a side. And in my mind, that’s a false dichotomy. I don’t have to pick a side. Is there really even a fault line? And as I began to assess some of the claims made, some of the references that were there were cited, it didn’t work for me.
It’s not choosing a side. I don’t have to. I’m being faithful to the work of Christ, and I know where the truth claims are, and I know where they derive away from the truthfulness of God’s Word. And as a competent follower of Christ, I can engage in those conversations and I can give empirical data within the space of the academy.
As a missiologist, I don’t see a dichotomy between faith and scholarship. I don’t see a dichotomy between faith and career vocation. Because God is the one who has his fingerprints on the lives of his children, and the gifts, the talents, and the opportunities he’s given them, which provides them with an opportunity to give him representation in the spaces that they entered.
So, as I enter into the academic space, I am not aloof or naive. I know that I’m walking into social injustice because my God, the only true living God, has been systematically parsed out from representation in data. And I found a way to introduce the reality of who he is, what he has done, in a way that can be communicated inside of a humanistic-centric space.
But the way I communicate about that data in that space is way different than in the church. With the church I’m making the appeals for ethnic conciliation, grounding my definitions in Scripture, helping us see a pathway forward. But the pushback I’m getting is, “Well, you should read Fault Lines.”
Well, I did, and when I express my difference in opinion from where Voddie is coming from, somehow people don’t think that that’s Christian-like. And I think we, as followers of Christ, have to understand that it’s okay to disagree on things. It doesn’t mean that people are kicked out of the kingdom of God. I mean, if that’s the case, then that's a non-biblical view of salvation in the first place.
But when people are trying to create these false dichotomies and call us to war, I’m like, hold on, time out. We are wasting friendly fire. We should be advocating against the principalities and structures that the Evil One has put into place, but we should not be assuming that brothers in Christ are the ones being used as sons of disobedience. Especially if they’re still pointing to Christ as the only means of salvation.
So why are we allowing cancel culture in our evangelical spaces to now be practiced in interpersonal relationships, church relationships, and relationships with staff members? We, as the people of Christ in America, have to be able to recapture the art of dialogue. We have lost that.
In that spirit, can you see the genuine or sincere motives that people have for raising questions about critical race theory? Do you see a good reason or the gospel as a motivation for people who are still suspicious, skeptical, or trying to learn?
D. A. Horton: Yes, absolutely. I do feel that there is a desire now for followers of Christ in America to at least understand critical race theory, and how a Christian is supposed to interact with it.
The first thing that I express to people is a Christian doesn’t need to use critical race theory. You don’t have to. Nobody’s forcing you in the Word of God to communicate that you have to engage critical race theory. Salvation is a gift given by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, confirmed in Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone. So only embracing Christ, the Savior, is necessary to be a part of the kingdom of God, to be a part of Jesus’ church.
Jesus’ work is not dependent on anything or anyone other than him. And I recognize that as a follower of Christ. But as a missiologist, who is evangelistically active and discipleship driven, I engage critical race theory because it’s relevant to my mission field in North America.
So, when people enter into the conversation wanting to understand, then that’s what I want to do. I want to help give them the themes that I’ve identified from the primary voices and point them in the direction of Scripture. I want to show them where some claims are truthful and you’re not compromising Christianity or reducing the finished work of Christ if you acknowledge that there are claims that are true in this methodology. And then, at the same time, as a follower of Christ, because CRT was not developed in a theological sphere or arena, it’s not going to lead to the same kingdom conclusions that we see as those living on mission for Christ. The conclusions and the solutions should lead to gospel conversations with people.
And I think the fear is that people are saying that CRT is being forced on them by Christians who have platforms. CRT is saying that the gospel is not enough, and we need this to help us. And I think that’s where we just read our presuppositions and what people are saying.
I’m not admitting that the gospel is not enough. I still proclaim the gospel. So when people are saying you got to pick critical race theory or the gospel, I’m like, that’s a false dichotomy. I don’t have to play your game. Helping people understand that through dialoguing and answering honest questions with us honest research will help us. And it doesn’t mean that just answering questions is going to suffice and everything goes back to being good. No, these are ongoing conversations again. That’s why I say it’s a discipleship issue.
People are cherry-picking some of their quotes, not giving diligence to the context of the quote, and people are only seeing the sound bite. And the people who don’t want to do the diligent work of researching or cross-referencing or searching for context, they're going to believe these little sound bite options. And that’s where the motives of people then have to be measured.
These are things that I think can only be parsed out through ongoing, honest, transparent, and safe spaces created for these real conversations, and they’re best done in discipleship relationships.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more