Leaving Ourselves Defenseless Against Critical Race Theory

May 7, 2021 by David Fowler

Leaving Ourselves Defenseless Against Critical Race Theory
The timing could not have coincided better if I had planned it. On Monday, the state House began a last-minute push to prevent public schools from teaching key components of Critical Race Theory (it passed Wednesday). On Tuesday, George W. Bush criticized “White Anglo-Saxon Protestantism” in politics. And on Wednesday, Ben Carson and Governor Kristi Noem published an editorial that advocates teaching “American values” to counter Critical Race Theory. Bush’s observation and the thrust of the editorial expose a blind spot in the thinking of some politically conservative Americans, particularly Christians, that will eventually give way to the push for Critical Race Theory.

What is Critical Race Theory?

To understand the blind spot, one needs to know what Critical Theory, in the broader sense, is. Dr. Neil Shenvi and Dr. Patrick Sawyer explained it this way:
Fundamentally, critical theory views the world through the singular lens of power. Critical theorists are interested in the power dynamics between different groups, as these relate to law, economics, social norms, and even truth claims. In analyzing these relationships, critical theorists work to expose the ways in which hegemonic power –that is, the power to shape cultural norms, expectations, and values- is deployed to justify and perpetuate the interests of dominant groups.
Critical Race Theory is Critical Theory run through the lens of race and how different groups and institutions maintain power for their race relative to another or to all other races. (Really the correct term is ethnicity, not “race,” but I’ll stick with the vernacular for now.)

What did former President Bush say?

Mr. Bush, in an interview on The Dispatch podcast, said: “If the Republican Party stands for exclusivity, you know, it used to be country clubs, now apparently it’s White Anglo-Saxon Protestantism, then it’s not going to win anything.”

Interpreting what Bush said

The problem with Mr. Bush’s statement is that he put the word “white” in front of the Protestantism further associated it with an ethnicity, Anglo-Saxon. But the reformational Protestantism that we would generally associate with the Anglo-Saxons was a development of theology that originate in Germany with Luther and largely came to hold to the belief that the breadth of glory of God could only begin to be revealed in the diversity of humanity. Herman Bavinck, a reformed theologian, put it this way:
Not the man alone, nor the man and woman together, but only the whole of humanity is the fully developed image of God, his children, his offspring. The image of God is much too rich for it to be fully realized in a single human being, however richly gifted that human being may be. It can only be somewhat unfurled in its depth an riches in a humanity counting billions of members.” It was in this diverse revelation that we were to seeing the glory of God and, in seeing it, we would love, desire, and worship Him as our Creator. (See Herman Bavinck, God and Creation, Chapter 12). 

Bush’s statement, though, seems to conflate the practical denial of that theology by the inconsistent living of many professing Protestants with the theology itself. If so, he threw out the theological baby with the dirty bathwater by calling, not just the malpractice of that theology, but the theology itself, “exclusive, which, in critical theory, means oppressive.”  
But, by appending the label “white” and “Anglo-Saxon” to Protestantism, I believe Mr. Bush handed many in our culture a reason (one they may have been looking for) to reject the fundamentals of Protestant theology because they associate “Protestantism” with Christianity. I also believe he gave to yet others a justification for condemning all structures of civil government associated with Protestantism and for keeping Christian viewpoints out of politics, law, and government.
Thanks, Mr. Bush.

What did the editorial say?

The blind spot in the editorialis contained in these two paragraphs that followed patriotic quotes from Presidents Reagan and Trump:
It’s bad enough to lose one’s faith, which at least holds forth the possibility of recovering it. 
But what if we give up and abandon altogether the teaching of our children the true and inspiring story of America? What will become of our youngest Americans who are starting off with a blank slate about what our country means and stands for? What exactly are we doing if we are not teaching them about their country’s values, history and heroes? 
Then, later, the authors bring up Critical Race Theory and say, “it rejects America’s most defining principle – that as individuals we are all created equal by God.”  
They then say, “Whether or not we can defeat this ascendant anti-Americanism is perhaps the most important cultural challenge of our lifetime, and fortunately a growing number of courageous parents, grandparents and teachers understand the stakes and have begun to speak out and push back.” 

So, what’s ‘wrong’ with that?

I would probably have said a hearty “Amen” to the editorial a few years ago, and that I would is why the organization I lead has put together the Restoring the Vision seminar to be held next Saturday, May 15th.
Here is the first and main issue. The most important cultural issue of our time is not “anti-Americanism,” but what Alexander Solzhenitsyn said of the Russian Revolution, “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” 
But it is not just a denial of God’s existence, which most Americans still affirm, at least propositionally; it is what we have forgotten about God that matters most. 
Faith relative to God comes before culture, came before America, and must speak to all forms of Critical Theory.
That highlights the whole problem with Bush bashing the reformational theology of our Anglo-Saxon forebears. The theology came first, and it was that very theology that informed the “American “values Carson and Noem want to defend! 
Asserting “American values” in defense of attacks on those values begs the very question Critical Race Theory poses, namely, are those values right, good, and just! We must show why those values are right, good, and just not just say, “They are right because they are ours!”

The Carson/Noem Blindspot.

Their blind spot is that culture is the dominate “religion” externalized and expressed. Faith in God is not a private affair; it is not something that can be lost by the majority of Americans and not have an effect on culture.  And the God of that faith must be particularized; pantheism does not produce the same culture as Anglo-Saxon Protestantism.
So, by saying faith in relation to God can be lost (particularly Anglo-Saxon Protestantism’s understanding of God) but let’s at least not lose our faith in American values, Carson and Noem have things backwards.  
Moreover, as will become apparent at Restoring the Vision, they espouse a view of God and the relation of God to all of His creation, including humans and their institutions, that is incongruous to what the Bible and the Gospel say about God. If you want to know why, come to the seminar.

You’re mean, Fowler! They taked about the ‘image of God’!

Carson and Noem eventually went back to God by saying, that “America’s most defining principle” is “that as individuals we are all created equal by God.”
However, in doing so, they proved my point as well as my point about Bush—what we believe about God and creation precedes everything, and that is true when it comes to America itself. It informed America’s defining principle! How can you lose “faith in God” and hope to keep the principle from which it was drawn? You can’t, not for long.
Before I go further, though, let me interject: I am not saying Bush, Carson, or Neom are not Christians or that they are going to Hell. 
I am saying that the Bible, the Gospel, and the whole way a Christian should view and understand life and its meaning begins with Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God.”  
And if you think the Gospel rises and falls only on what is declared in Genesis 3 about the sin of Adam and Eve and the promise of a “seed” to crush the “head of the Serpent,” then you might want to listen to the February 19th episode of God, Law & Liberty and come to Restoring the Vision.

Why the Bush-Carson-Neom approach will give way to Critical Race Theory

In short, according to the Bible, the correct “singular lens of power” to be used for making sense of the world and anything in it is God, the One from whom and through whom are all things and to whom all things are directed (Romans 11:36). 
If Christians and Americans in general embrace the views espoused by Bush, Carson, and Noem, then get ready for Critical Race Theory everywhere. You can’t get right what it means to be human or get right what kind of structures and institutions we should have if, at the beginning, you get God wrong. To learn more about this in relation to a God-centered worldview, check out the new three part podcast series that begins today.

David Fowler is an attorney and served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. 

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