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Racialization, CRT, a Troubled Country, and the Only Hope We Have

Posted by Steve Benninger

Here’s my opinion: The country we live in is in trouble. 

A while back we were having dinner with several church member families.  The subject came up about all the turmoil and divisiveness in our country. Someone asked me what I thought about future prospects for the U.S. I offered a pretty bleak outlook. Some around the table agreed with me; others wanted to have a more optimistic view of things.

But I stand by my opinion. I think the United States is likely headed for some dark times.

Through the years I have mostly tried to steer clear of being a culture war commentator. For one, I’m not an expert on culture. For two, it’s a divisive issue, and if I’m going to alienate people I want it to be over absolute truth, not personal opinions. For three, I’m not convinced it’s the scriptural role of a pastor to do so. And fourth, I don’t believe that either preserving or overturning the culture is the end game of Christianity or Jesus’ Church. As it says in Hebrews, God is preparing “a better country” for His people to dwell in. “This world is passing away” the Bible contends.  And since eternity is a very long time I’ve been more focused on preparing people for THAT than fighting what seems to me to be an ultimately unwinnable battle for cultural supremacy in the here and now.

But then there’s this: It’s also true that I am scripturally called to raise up more disciples of Jesus (Matt.28:19-20) and equip God’s people for works of service for the building up of Christ’s Body, the Church (Eph.4:11-16).  And what I’m seeing these days is that God’s People are being bombarded by cultural influences from all quarters. In many ways Christians are being “discipled” by the world rather than by Christ. Instead of Christ’s Body being Built Up, it is too often being Torn Down, and this by some of the very people who form its membership.

So in the interest of equipping and discipling, I’m offering my not-yet-fully-formed opinions regarding a few of these cultural influences.  You may not agree with me; that’s OK. I could be wrong, and I hope I am when it comes to our future as a nation. I'm presenting my views in shorthand form, minus full-orbed development, mostly to just get you thinking about how these issues fit into a biblical, Christian, Gospel-centered worldview, which is what I hope you are working to form in your own heart and mind.  

Ready? Here we go…

1. The rampant “racializing” of just about everything in our culture will prove to be unhealthy and damaging. If this is the lens that ends up being adopted by the majority of citizens—seeing every incident FIRST through the lens of race—I think it will contribute to our downfall as a nation. That’s my opinion.

Here’s a headline you’re not likely to see these days—“Sadly, one American kills other Americans.” No, many news outlets habitually jump first to racial differences to explain things… an instinct that ironically ends up contributing to already-enflamed racial tensions. This is the air we all breathe now in our country.  And in my opinion, it is not only culturally corrupting but also out of alignment with Gospel Christianity. This brings me to a second opinion of mine…

2. The pervasive influence of “Critical Race Theory” is having a corrosive effect on people, relationships, culture… and the fight against racism. If you don’t know what CRT is you’d be wise to research it because it’s part of an ideology that has taken root in most of our major institutions and explains the “racialization" phenomenon I mentioned above.

In my understanding CRT contends that the best way to fight rampant racism is … with more racism, counter-racism.  As such I believe CRT absolutely flies in the face of MLK’s vision of a country where individuals are judged "not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  It seeks to portray all white people as inherently racist due to their whiteness. It seeks to define people FIRST AND FOREMOST by their race, and contends that it is impossible for individuals to separate themselves from their racial group identity. As it makes its way further into our educational systems it will teach children that they are defined mostly by their skin color and ethnicity, and relegates other significant identity markers to the background.

I think the reason these cultural trends bother me so much is that they go to the matter of CORE IDENTITY… in other words, what is my primary lens for how I view myself and my neighbors?

Am I primarily a white 62.5% German-American (cis-gendered, heterosexual, Christian male) member of the dominant oppressor group? Is that what my CORE IDENTITY is really grounded in? Or is there something much deeper than ethnicity, skin color, racial identity, or even lived experience that binds me together with ALL human beings and enables us to live together in peace? And is there an even deeper spiritual identity that binds me together with all of the redeemed people of God of all ages in a blessed family relationship that will never end?

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that biblical Christianity teaches all of its multi-hued adherents to appreciate ethnic and cultural differences. After all, those distinctions will evidently remain throughout eternity (Rev.7:9). But to me, it seems that in the current cultural milieu these differences are not being appreciated, but rather used as weapons in a fight for cultural supremacy. If it continues, I can only see it leading our nation downward.

I believe that the key to successfully combatting racism is true Gospel Christianity lived out by Jesus-loving believers who see all people FIRST as fellow image-bearers of their Creator, and second as fellow sinners who (like themselves) have broken God’s holy law and are in desperate need of a Savior… a Redeeming Rescuer Whom God has graciously provided for ALL of humanity regardless of race…JESUS! 

I believe that it is only through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus’ sacrifice that the human heart can be transformed, freed from its innate sense of superiority, and enabled to love ALL KINDS of people. Jesus calls His People to love everybody regardless of their race (of which there is actually only one), skin color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, net worth, or any other distinctive that can be thought of. This spiritual transformation will have the effect of bestowing a CORE IDENTITY that actually transcends race and skin color, relegating those factors to the background and foregrounding the more fundamental identity markers of Imago Dei and Gospel Identity.

Those are the factors that should define us at our core and serve as our primary lens for interacting with others.

So as you can see, I believe that the problems that plague our country are at their core spiritual issues, heart issues. Working for just laws as well as the equal application of those laws for all people is good and necessary, a work that God’s Church should be engaged in. But law has never melted a human heart. Only the Gospel of Jesus does that. That’s why I pray for a widespread spiritual revival in our land. Short of that, there is little hope for a bright future for our country …in my humble opinion.

Thanks for hearing me out!  Again, if you disagree with where I land, that’s fine. Christian people agree to disagree about a lot of things (except the core fundamentals of the faith). I’m mostly hoping to challenge you to think about these matters and test whether what I’m opining is true.  

My hope and prayer is that New Life will be a congregation of Jesus-loving believers who are forming a Gospel-grounded Identity as part of a truly Christian worldview that will impact how they think and live in this world, and how they love their neighbors of all ethnicities.

WE ARE THE SALT. WE ARE THE LIGHT. That’s what Jesus called His People to be. 

In that sense the Church is still the hope of the world!

May it be so.