In its 2019 Resolution on Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) defined Critical Race Theory (CRT) as “a set of analytical tools that explain how race has and continues to function in society.” The resolution also recognized that “Evangelical scholars who affirm the authority and sufficiency of Scripture have employed selective insights from critical race theory and intersectionality to understand multifaceted social dynamics.”
In its 2021 Resolution on the Sufficiency of Scripture for Race and Racial Reconciliation, SBC completely rejected CRT without naming it: “We, therefore, reject any theory or worldview that denies that racism, oppression, or discrimination is rooted, ultimately, in anything other than sin.” Concurrently, in the political arena, the Republican party was increasingly using CRT as a bogeyman to mobilize its base, claiming that CRT teaches schoolchildren to hate whiteness, even though it is typically taught at the graduate school level.
CRT attempts to combat racism by examining its lingering presence in legal and political institutions and affirms that systemic racism is a reality. The 2021 Resolution, by focusing on sin, implies that sin is an individual problem, and that any notion of systemic racism is unbiblical. But does the Bible really reject the idea of group sin?
The prophet Ezekiel explicitly mentions the consequences to be expected when a country sins against God (Ezekiel 14:13-14). He even compares the sins of Sodom, Israel (Samaria) and Judah ((Ezekiel 16:49-52). In the New Testament, the idea of the kingdom of God inherently refers to a community under God’s rule, where individuals interact in love to seek the common good. The biblical narrative suggests that God is displeased with “the world” and wants his kingdom to be established on earth as it is in heaven.
However, the emphasis on individuals rather than groups seems to be the foundation of the theological arguments put forth by conservative Christian authors such as Marilynn L. Dodson whose book, Critical Race Theory Versus God’s Divine Law, portrays CRT as a dangerous attack against Scripture.
Dodson’s attack on CRT relies heavily on the connection she makes between CRT and Marxism. She expects her readers to take it for granted that Marxism is evil and capitalism is the only choice for Christians. However, the notion that capitalism is the right choice for Christians is biblically questionable. Indeed, in the Old Testament, the Law of Moses made provisions for a magnificent safety net to keep the poor from being permanently trapped in their condition. The safety net included not only encouragement to be generous to the poor, but also the cancellation of debts every seven years, and even a year of Jubilee every fifty years, during which those who lost their lands would automatically recover them.
In the New Testament, the first Christian community described in Acts 4:32-35 reflects Jesus’ concern for the poor and his view of material wealth as a distraction from the pursuit of the kingdom of God. According to Dodson, the Marxist hope that “class warfare between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie would result in a ‘from each according to his capacity, to each according to his needs’ utopia had proven false.” Is she, accordingly, willing to dismiss as mere utopia the statement “No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had,” seen in Acts 4:32? In fact, on the topics of slavery and racism, there is no doubt that the blame falls on capitalism and its international manifestations, colonialism and imperialism.
Dodson’s link between CRT and Marxism is based on her claim that leaders of the CRT movement were deeply influenced by postmodernism, and that postmodernists are Marxists. Therefore, she explains, CRT thinkers inherited postmodernist views on the meaning of words. They assume, in her view, that words and language are subjective and can be reinterpreted as needed. They believe that so-called biblical truths were created by people in power for manipulative purposes, that metanarratives such as the Bible do not capture divine truth, and that other narratives can be substituted for them. Accordingly, she says, CRT thinkers propose a Marxist narrative that explains life entirely as a class struggle for economic advantage between an oppressing bourgeoisie and an oppressed working class. From Dodson’s perspective, CRT favors the oppressed and is determined to annihilate the oppressors who happen to be white people in the racial debate.
By assuming that postmodernists are to blame for departures from biblical truths, Dodson implies that Christendom had all the right answers before the postmodernists interfered. But specifically on the issue of racism, are postmodernists to be blamed for erroneous biblical interpretations that led to the justification of slavery? And considering the great emphasis in the Old and New Testaments on social (and economic) justice, why should CRT be condemned for examining sources of economic disparities?
Dodson joins Ayn Rand in praising individualism and quotes Genesis 1:27, emphasizing that man and woman were individually created in God’s image. But she fails to mention that the man and the woman were meant to be united in a tight partnership (Genesis 2:24). Similarly, in her effort to show that God cares about individuals, she provides examples of people, including Moses, David and Paul, who were chosen and used by God for exceptional accomplishments. But she fails to mention that God chose them to lead groups he cared about, such as the Israelites and the early Christians.
Dodson directly links all grievances associated with Black people to CRT. She accuses CRT of wanting, through Black Lives Matter (BLM), to destroy the nuclear family. While BLM denounces violence against Blacks, she describes BLM as a group whose identity is defined, in violation of biblical statements against vengeance, by a need for evening up some sort of score against others. Moreover, in her discussion of hate, she does not address white supremacy, but places all the blame on BLM and Antifa who, she says, are Marxists driven by “hatred of all white individuals who dare to assert that each life matters and hatred of any social system that CRT advocates believe supports such individuals.” Her remedy is Christian love, but strangely, it is only prescribed for Black people.
Dodson denounces CRT for its goal of achieving equity rather than equality, for demanding a field of equal players rather than an equal playing field. She argues for color-blindness, even though CRT researchers have documented their observation that such an approach can only address blatant discrimination, but not the more subtle forms of discrimination built into the system.
In her discussion on equality, she shows that she is on the side of the rich when she blames poverty on laziness and urges the poor and the oppressed not to violate the Tenth Commandment by being envious and covetous. Quoting Luke 12:48 (“To whom much is given, much is required”), she emphasizes God’s discretion in giving more to some and less to others and urges all to make good use of what they are given. But she fails to address the second part of the saying, “much is required,” leaving it entirely up to the rich to define what a “cheerful giver” is. In contrast Paul, in 2 Corinthians 8:13-15, builds on Exodus 16 and presents a goal of equality according to which nobody has too much, and nobody has too little.
There is therefore a pattern in Dodson’s logic: The oppressed are expected to respond in love to their oppressors and accept their condition, but the oppressors bear no blame. The poor are urged not to be envious, but the rich owe their wealth and power to God and have no reason to change their behavior. She suggests that the Uncle Tom character in Harriett Beecher Stowe’s novel should be a model of humility for oppressed minorities. But she never urges whites in power to behave in a similar manner: Blacks should be Christ-like and expect their reward in heaven, but whites deserve their privileges on earth. According to this logic, the Ancient Israelites should have remained in Egypt as slaves, and one wonders why Jesus wanted the kingdom of God to come to earth. Ironically, Dodson claims to hold Martin Luther King in high regard, but her logic implies that King should have never joined the civil rights movement. We know that these inconsistencies cannot coexist at once, so perhaps, in this moment, God is calling us to think more critically about the role of the church and its relationship to the least of these.