Theological Gaslighting as Spiritual Abuse
Gaslighting can be at times the strong expressions of theological disagreements, and Kelly Edmiston is one who has recognized that some of the recent SBC denunciations of CRT are just that. To call out CRT as something against the Bible and the gospel is to deny the legitimate use of a tool that unmasks systemic racism. Such calling out then gets close – or is – complicity in a racism and feeds a cover up. It attempts to confuse the user of CRT and thus becomes gaslighting. Read this passionate piece by our friend Kelly Edmiston. A tov culture welcomes the truth, no matter how it enters the room.
Gaslighting as Spiritual Abuse in the SBC, by Kelly Edmiston
I have heard a lot of talk about "gaslighting" lately. According to Psychology Today, "Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality."
Oftentimes we talk about it in terms of interpersonal relationships. A man who is emotionally abusing a woman will call her crazy or paranoid or too sensitive when she confronts him or tries to tell someone about the abuse. A Gaslighter will deny the existence of abuse or mistreatment in light of actual evidence.
But as the definition above suggests, gaslighting may not be just something that happens between two individuals. Gaslighting can also happen between organization or entities or systems and those denounced.
This is exactly what the SBC is guilty of in their most recent statement debunking the validity of Critical Race Theory. You can read the SBC statement summary here.
This SBC stances comes conveniently on the tail of President Trump’s public disdain for the theory while explaining his reason for defunding anti-racist efforts. https://time.com/5891138/critical-race-theory-explained/
I am not sure that any of the white men of the SBC who wrote this ‘policy,’ (or President Trump for that matter), could define Critical Race Theory (or “intersectionality,” another reality they refuse to validate). Because they don’t define it, I will define it here.
Critical Race Theory is the acknowledgment that race is a social construct and not a biological one. CRT says that racism, the assigning of value to one people group over another based on skin color (in this case), is systemic and not just individual. In other words, racism is baked within the legal and social and political systems of our world.
Priscilla Ocen, professor at the Loyola Law School defines it this way:
Critical race theory offers a way of seeing the world that helps people recognize the effects of historical racism in modern American life. The intellectual movement behind the idea was started by legal scholars as a way to examine how laws and systems uphold and perpetuate inequality for traditionally marginalized groups.
But the SBC’s issue against the “Marxist secular” CRT runs deeper than just a denial of its validity as a way of seeing the world. The SBC takes it further to say that this way of viewing the world is not holding to “biblical truth” and it is not in alignment with “the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
While we lament the painful legacy that racism and discrimination have left in our country and remain committed to fighting it in every form, we also declare that ideological frameworks like Critical Race Theory are incompatible with the BFM (Baptist Faith and Message). The Gospel gives a better answer. (Greear said.)
And herein lies the Gaslighting behavior: to deny the validity of CRT is one thing, but to say that it is incongruent with the gospel (which they don’t define) is spiritual abuse.
If they can convince us (people of color and allies) that systemic racism and every experience of it is not real, it’s made-up, it’s progressive ideology, it’s Marxism, then they can maintain their place of power. No further evaluation, navel gazing or assessment is needed, much less repentance!...
If they can convince us from the Bible (their weapon of choice for oppressing and silencing people) that racism is about individual hearts and therefore the only solution needed is for people to receive salvation and turn from sin then they never have to question their place at the top of a hierarchy. The hierarchy doesn’t exist!...
If systemic racism does not exist and any acknowledgment of it puts me out of line with the gospel …
then I have no political or social responsibility toward equality or justice in this world. The only thing needed to address racism is evangelism and biblical truth (which they also do not define).
Gaslighting as spiritual abuse is a serious offense.
It is time for the SBC to repent.
It is time to adopt the desperate prayer of so many people throughout the scriptures, “I am blind Lord, help me to see!”
It is time to stop using the bible as a weapon to silence and oppress entire people groups.
It is time to be done with the white Christian’s silent complicity against systemic evil in the world.
It is passed time to listen to men and women of color who are telling us about the reality of systemic racism and their experiences with it.
It is time to let the bible speak into the world that we are living in today.
The bible is not a relic that has no meaning for our world but instead it is the living (breathing!) and active word of God that can bring transformation to it.
But here are two questions about the SBC: Why would they acknowledge CRT as an acceptable paradigm with which to have the racial justice conversation in America? Why would a person in the highest place of privilege and power name that systemic reality as such and begin working to share that power and privilege with others?
Interesting. That kind of sounds like something Jesus would do.
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