One of those philosophies driving the current debate is Critical Theory and Intersectionality. It is often hard to get Christians to consider such ideas – they seem so far-fetched, and yet, these notions are framing educational propositions and even workplace ideas. And they are now, thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement, in our face.
By Critical Theory, we mean a theoretical and critical examination of all things, but particularly history, social and political movements, government structures and strictures, and how groups of people fare under various systems – particularly economically and in terms of their access to power and privilege. Power is the keyword.
Critical Theory claims that all cultures are divided into those who have power and those who don’t, the oppressors and the oppressed. It believes, unyieldingly, that those who have power oppress. Always. Of course, while it wants power, it does not believe it, as a movement, as a people, would oppress. In other words, the movement idealizes itself. For Christians, virtue is found in God, in Christ, in Biblical morality – and we are sinners. In this movement, sin or fault is seen in the other person.
The oppressed are a group, identified as such. Thus, we are now well into the territory of Marxism, and it’s class warfare. In fact, this is the heart of Marxism, with new language and a new application. The buzz words have been around us for years – inclusiveness, equality, equity, diversity, privilege. Identities that are oppressed are typified by their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, income, immigration status, faith, and even where one lives or works, or the profession that may have (sex workers [prostitutes], for example; or entrepreneurial pharmaceutical agents [drug dealers] – this gets very creative).
The Intersection of Power – Those With and Without
Intersectionality is the degree to which one, with any of these identities, is oppressed. For example, a black man may experience a certain level of oppression because he is black, a minority in a dominantly white society – that’s one degree. However, a black woman is doubly oppressed, first as a black, and then as a woman – that’s two degrees. The black man, oppressed at one intersection with the culture, for being black, may, in fact, be the oppressor in his relationship with his black wife. She is doubly oppressed. He is both oppressed and an oppressor. Unless, of course, he is a black Muslim. Then he, too, is doubly oppressed by his race and faith, and yet, still, at the intersection with his wife, he is an oppressor.
Moral authority, in my youth, meant the ability to speak with, and out of integrity. A godly person had moral authority. Morality is no longer, in this culture, associated with Biblical godliness – with honesty, sexual fidelity, trustworthiness, righteousness. It is now associated with life experience, specifically, with the pain of oppression. The more power you have, the less authority you have, since you are an oppressor, a person of privilege. The more you are oppressed, that is, the more degrees of oppression from which you suffer, the more moral authority you have. Your experience of powerlessness gives you the right, the authority then to speak. All others must be silent.
This is why George Floyd, who had just attempted to pass a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill and had a checkered history, to say the least, and Michael Brown, who had strong-armed a store owner and wrestled with a police officer, before being tragically shot, can emerge as icons. With the former model of morality, these men, and others, could not be celebrated, at least, without mentioning the moral lapse – but passing a counterfeit bill or snacking something from a convenience store is a triviality. The moral outrage is not over the crossing of such minimalistic lines – the rules have changed. Such behaviors are to be understood in the shadows of powerlessness and the poverty it causes. This is a brand new moral turf on which the nation is now playing its new game.
A black Wiccan, female, divorced and abandoned by a man who left her with a child, on welfare, fresh out of prison, and now a lesbian and trans-gendered person, without a college education, living below the poverty line– what moral authority she now has in the new system! She is a victim of men, of the system, in an oppressive Christian culture, of income inequity, of sexual-identity discrimination, of systemic racism – all based on her identity, and the class struggle in which she must live. A white male pastor, living with the same wife all his adult life, with a livable wage, raising children, who have never been arrested or imprisoned, who is straight and has never had an affair, and who believes in an old-fashioned idea called sin, who graduated from college and seminary – has no moral authority! None!
The definition of morality has changed. Theft is a mere triality. As is violence against the oppressive class. As is prostitution, the use of drugs and alcohol, and more. We are living in the midst of a coup! The moral lines have been moved – this is a completely different game.
Here is the other side of the coin.
Not only does the black Wiccan, as an example, have more moral authority than the Christian pastor, she also has less responsibility for her behavior – since all her life has been lived from the position of powerlessness, abuse, and social-cultural betrayal and exploitation. She is a victim. How can she be blamed for anything, for living in a culture over which she had no say?
If you feel like you are in an ideological maze – you are in for a shock when you realize, the victims are those in Critical Theory and the only ones who can lead us out. Only when whites surrender to blacks, men to women, the rich to the poor, landowners to the homeless, the educated to the uneducated, Christians to Muslims and Atheists – and on and on – only then are we “woke” to the sin of our privilege.
At one level, it sounds like we are being called to heightened sensitivity – like empathy, like weeping with those who weep. After all, do we not have a God, in Christ, who came to declare liberty to the oppressed, the healing of broken hearts, the freeing of the captives? This then sounds like Christianity. And, when the layers are not discerned, one can be too easily confused. This is not Christianity.
Christianity centers in Christ – not in us, or our identity, or our race, or our social status or sexuality. It does not begin with human identity and its categories. It is not anthropocentric; it is Christocentric, Theocentric. It begins with God. And it values all humans, whatever their race or gender or social status on the same terms.
In the Biblical view, all of us bear the image of God, though we are marred by sin. Race and class are not to divide us – and from heaven’s perspective, they don’t. All of us are sinners – and sin is not graded, as with identity politics and classism. All must repent. All must be born again. All are equally guilty of the great sin – the death of Christ. We are not victims, we are the perpetrators, the sinners. The great offense is not my wound, or, our wound as a class of people, as a result of what others have done to us. The great wound is the woundedness of Christ – and what my sin did to him!
Christianity defines sin as our offense before a holy God. Such sin does damage to us and to others. But the first movement in healing is the recognition of our need to change, to humble ourselves, to renounce attitudes and actions, as defined by God, as destructive. Then, horizontal healing will follow. The focus, however, is not on the wrong others have done and how their actions have affected me. Nor yet, how the wrong I have done may have had a deadly impact on me, and a severing impact on my relationship with God. For such actions under the old model of morality, I am responsible, as are you. For such actions, when I confess my culpability, my guilt, God has promised to grant grace and forgiveness.
Critical Theory admits none of this. There is no personal remorse, no humility, no repentance, no personal change that is necessary, no correction before a sovereign God – only the blame of the other. For example, sin is redefined, not on the classic moral, right/wrong continuum, but on a continuum of power. Sin is your wrong, oppressive treatment of me; or of another disempowered person. This is a form of narcissism written in Marxist, class language. The call to repent then is God’s wrongful interpretation of my history. I am not the one, as the victim, who must repent. I have not done wrong; I have been wronged. Whatever I have done – on the old moral right/wrong continuum, is immaterial, since I am oppressed. Further, the call to repent may be a violation of my own unique personality (as, for example, a transgender person), or a violation of sexual orientation. Discipleship or correction, Biblical reproofs are then only more oppressive displays of power. Such a God is not to be admired or worshipped.
The behaviors of others and their attitudes are primary. Any reaction against oppression is justified. As rioting is dismissed. For example, “I have a right to be jealous – look what you have that I don’t have… I have a right to be angry because of what your people have done to my people… I will not forgive you … I hate you – and my hatred is justified, because of your oppressive power… I deserve what you have, and demand that you give it to me…” Without any desire to offend, this is the kind of language we might expect from Lucifer, uttered at God.”
Sin cannot be dismissed. God’s sovereignty cannot be set aside as hierarchical and over-bearing. Sin has consequences. And God has a right and a duty to judge sin. At some point in history, Romans declares, “[T]he wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” The challenge of post-modernism is that even God does not have the right to judge – quite stunning in its defiance, isn’t it? God does not have the authority to declare what is right and what is wrong. Hyper-individualism follows. God, it is asserted, has no right to set the rules for me. In essence, I am my own god. This is idolatry. Idols were only projections of self, and bridges to the spirit world, whether one realized or not they were inviting guests into their lives and hearts.
How did we get to this place of cultural anti-Christianity, of idolatry, to blatant paganism, and spiritism? We became a generation will to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” What was known, we denied. We shut the door on God and prayer, and the Christian faith, as a culture. We withheld worship and gratitude, stifling and silencing prayer, even the simple public prayer of thanksgiving. “They did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts…” It is not difficult, giving the convoluted thinking of Critical Theology and Post-Modernism, to see that thinking became futile, as reason died, “foolish hearts were darkened.” 22 This is a new form of wisdom, which is not wisdom at all. It is being taught from Elementary classrooms to Universities. This is what our tax dollars support. Fools and high-sounding philosophy, is to the common man, what it appears to be – foolishness. But no one believes the simple people.
So, God is in the process of giving us up – to uncleanness, to our own desires, to the lie we choose to believe, to creature worship, rather than Creator worship.
The national train wreck is hard to watch. Only an intervention of God can save us now