My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Review: Untangling Critical Race Theory: What Christians Need to Know and Why It Matters

Untangling Critical Race Theory: What Christians Need to Know and Why It Matters Untangling Critical Race Theory: What Christians Need to Know and Why It Matters by Ed Uszynski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To start with … I am reasonable sure that I am not the target audience for this book as I am neither an Evangelical nor a fundamental christian conservative; however, I would consider myself somewhat adjacent to the social issues addressed by both CRT and the author's understanding of scripture … although it appears that he considers the foundations of catholic social teaching (which is my own tradition) to be largely heretical. While I am more or less aligned with his conclusions, I find that I frequently diverge with the interpretations used to get there and with the inconsistent expansion and/or restriction of foundational terminology (which speaks more to my desire for language precision than any deficiencies with the arguments) … but not so much as to undermine the ultimate conclusion supporting a christian conversation about race.

As professed by the author, you can’t truly claim scriptural authority without recognizing that some form of caritas to those most neglected and vulnerable within our society is required (and this includes the struggle of minorities against systemic oppression). And while the language was clear and concise, I am unsure as to its ability to convince others … it certainly didn’t change my mind about CRT, which remains divisive and problematic for me, not because of what it is or how it works, but because of they way it has been weaponized on both sides to the point of foreclosing any debate about race (which is desperately needed in America today). If am I wrong (and I would love to be so), all I can say is welcome to the conversation.

The chapters and sections in this work are …

Introduction: Why We Need Another Book on Race

1. A White Guy’s Journey into Racial Controversy
2. What Do We Need to Understand About Marxism?
3. Thinking Critically about Critical Theory
4. Can a Christian Gain Anything from Critical Theory?
5. What Is Critical Race Theory Really?
6. What Are Some Tenets of Critical Race Theory?
7. Why CRT Means Different Things to Different People
8. How Christians Get Race Wrong: What CRT Isn’t the Problem
9. Five Stumbling Blocks to Thinking Christianly About Race
10. Can CRT Be of Use?
11. Responding to Concerns About CRT Part 1
12. Responding to Concerns About CRT Part 2
13. Redeeming “Social Justice” from Injustice
14. Healing from the Persistence of White Supremacy
15. How Should We Then Live?

Epilogue: Seeing the World a Little Differently

Some of the other points that really got my attention (regardless of whether or not I agreed with them) are:

Instead, they exposed how the legal system had embedded enough racially significant policies and patterns that disproportionate outcomes were almost guaranteed without ever appearing racist on the surface. Their work showed how racism could be present without racists, and it shook legal scholarship at its core.

First, for my Christian friends concerned we’re losing the culture war, if progressive ideology “wins,” it won’t be because Christians failed at resisting it. Rather, it will be because God is using the spread of pagan ideology to discipline his church.

Traditional sociological theories focused on understanding or explaining what could be plainly observed, organized, and interpreted about society. But a Critical theory is suspicious. It assumes there’s something more going on than what we plainly see.

The invisible influence of power. Power is a dirty word and can’t be trusted unless you have it. On a micro level, CT is a study in individual, relational power dynamics. Power means advantage, the ability to coerce, to control, to bring change. The relative power scale gets tipped by gender, age, height, health, social class, perceived wealth, education, wisdom, family order, title, and race, but some form of power is always at work, whether consciously or not.

For those already anchored in another tradition, Critical Theories functioned like lenses in a frame you could wear at will. For others, Critical Theories shaped the ceiling of their universe, becoming stars whose light helped them understand their place in the world. The difference mattered.

Theory doesn’t prescribe solutions. Theory analyzes. People motivated by political ideology recommend solutions. Politics tries to fix what theory exposes, and different philosophies will fix what gets revealed in different ways. I learned that most people’s problem isn’t really with theories themselves but with the ways people try to solve the problems they reveal.

This is why we find Christians who say they can use CRT as an analytical tool and others who find that impossible. One is looking at CRT tenets as corrective declarations about the way race and power work together at various points in American history, while the other is looking at CRT tenets as extensions of a Marxist political agenda striving to destroy Western culture by blowing everything up.

In talking about justice, racism, and social responsibility, often using language and assumptions of CRT alongside Bible passages to reinforce their points, these speakers produced a swelling fear that “ideologies currently stylish in the left-leaning secular academy” were now taking over the church, presenting “a more ominous threat to evangelical unity and gospel clarity” than anything else in recent history.

Paranoia surrounding CRT becomes the latest excuse for ignoring biblical themes that don’t align with Republican or white evangelical politics or theology, another way for white Christians to avoid talking points that matter to POC.

I’m struck by the irony that the people claiming to be most concerned about the effect of CRT on the church might be the ones who most need the type of corrective that real CRT provides.

If your current reading of the Bible allows you to see how sin can become systematized and woven into social structures in an unrighteous and unjust way, then you don’t need CRT.

Most white folks I know never get past this point. They reject the idea that racism is a normal, endemic, regular part of social life. They assume it means they are racist and, of course, immediately reject that possibility.

But as a Christian, I am responsible for carrying that pain with him (Galatians 6:2). I am responsible for pursuing the clarity to see what he sees and feel what he feels (Romans 12:15). I am responsible for an ongoing recognition of how the sins of the past continue to have consequences in the present (1 Corinthians 12:25-26). And I am responsible for traces of racial prejudice still alive in me (1 John 1:8-10). As much as it depends on me, I am responsible for living in a racially redemptive way within my sphere of influence (Ephesians 2:14-16).

Human systems and structures driven by power and profit resist equal opportunity. They will always cater to one group at the expense of another. But human free will means people get to make choices, and choices matter in outcomes. Thus, inequality results from both unjust systems and unwise or immoral choices, and both need to be examined carefully.

So mishpat means giving people their due, whether that is punishment for a transgressor or giving those transgressed against what they are owed.

Beyond personal moral righteousness, tsedaqah refers to “day-to-day living in which a person conducts all relationships in family and society with fairness, generosity and equity.”8

Throughout the Bible, social justice isn’t portrayed as a secondary luxury or as outlier acts of benevolence. It’s fundamentally necessary as part of one’s worship before God.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#UntanglingCriticalRaceTheory #NetGalley.

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.