On the Use and Abuse of Critical Race Theory in American Christianity

Three months ago I published a Sunday newsletter in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing called “American Racism: We’ve Got So Very Far to Go.” As best I can tell, it went more viral than anything else I’ve ever written, and it spawned a flood of follow-up questions. Among the most common? “David, as a Christian, what do you think of critical race theory and intersectionality?” 

My answer is complicated, but the bottom line is relatively clear—it’s more useful and interesting than many of its critics contend, but it ultimately fails as both a totalizing theory of American life and as a philosophy truly compatible with the Christian gospel.

I was first exposed to critical race theory (CRT) almost 30 years ago, during my first year at Harvard Law School. During my entire 1-L year, only one of my professors wasn’t a so-called “crit,” an advocate for CRT. In fact, more than half of all my law school classes were taught from a critical legal theory perspective, and I’ve encountered (and debated) crit-informed legal arguments virtually my entire career. 

What is critical race theory? As with any complex theory, it’s not terribly easy to define, and there are many branching streams. Rather than summarize it from my conservative perspective, let me quote one definition from advocates at the UCLA School of Public Affairs:

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