Critical Race Theory, Marxism, and Intellectual Dishonesty

The Small Problem

Chris Matthew discusses in a worthy article Is Critical Race Theory Marxist? why Critical Race Theory isn’t particularly Marxist.

Does it have particular weaknesses and flaws? Undoubtedly. But it also has certain insights and strengths that are to be appreciated. Like so many things in life, it is something of a mixed bag that needs to be looked at carefully, and shifted for the gold and silver it has.

Yes, CRT is basically pagan/secularistic. But even pagans and secularists may well speak the truth at times… truths that Christians may overlook.

Some Christians might be averse even to the fact that critical race theory draws from certain ideas in the Marxist tradition as one of its sources. But this would be curiously inconsistent with our everyday practices. For example, Rasool Berry observes  that the mere fact that many of our ideas about narcissism was first articulated by Sigmund Freud in his psychoanalysis literature does not interdict us from freely using the concept. Similarly, Mason notes that Christians do not usually object to someone employing the Socratic method, saying: “Hold up. You know that method is from a pagan philosopher and is built on the assumption that humans can remember the pure forms from before their spirit was imprisoned in their bodies? I will have no more of your paganism.” Or better still, the plain fact that Islam is a false worldview did not impede the great philosopher-theologian and apologist of the 20th-century, Dr. Greg Bahnsen, from delivering a lecture with the title, “What Can We Learn From Muslims?”. What makes all this possible is that God’s common grace shines through pagans, disciplines largely occupied by pagans, and disciplines variously influenced by pagans. We know this already, so let’s be consistent with it. 

Is Critical Race Theory Marxist?
Chris Matthew

The Big Problem

The Mildly Marxist tinge within CRT is to me is a limited problem, one of many that we must face in this world, from a host of secular and pagan sources. If you subject what they say in the light of God’s Law-word, though, you won’t go too far wrong.

The big problem comes in the conclusion, the actual threat to the Christian Faith, Thought, and Action. Quoting wholesale from the article:

In this article, I have not sought to assess the merits of critical race theory as such. The title question, “Is critical race theory Marxist?”, was my pivotal focus. This is important inasmuch as we want to represent our interlocutors (even our opponents) fairly, charitably, and accurately. 

We have seen that critical race theory, although it has genealogical relationships with Marxism (as is the case with any academic social theory or sociological model), cannot be conceptualised as Marxism or as a branch of Marxism. Critical race scholarship borrows from the Marxist tradition in the same way that it borrows from the liberal tradition or the plethora of nationalist traditions, but it is not committed to any distinctively Marxist claims in a doctrinaire sense. Most critical race scholars, as a matter of fact, are neither Marxists nor neo-Marxists. Why, then, is this proposition so readily believed by conservatives and some centrists? 

Blame conservative talking heads. Christopher Rufo, who has written a plenitude of articles to “expose critical race theory as the destructive ideology that it is” (and there’s no sign of stopping soon), openly and shamelessly admits resorting to intellectually dishonest strategies to pursue his political ends and secure conservative victory in the ‘culture war’: 


 Make no mistake about it. Rufo has been remarkably successful in this project. He is the one who directly influenced Trump to pass an executive order banning the teaching of CRT to federal government staff and the one who currently meets with Republican legislators across the United States to agitate and propel this fear into legislation. The trope that CRT is “Marxist” is instrumental towards this end; associating anything with Marxism or socialism, no matter how tenuous the substantial link might be, is the sure-fire means to parodic conservative dismissal. Parents, teachers, and legislators who have never heard of the term before—and are in no position to know any better than what Rufo and other pundits are parroting—are now depositing their concerns (including genuine concerns about certain anti-racist ideas and practices) at the feet of CRT. By and large, secular and evangelical conservatives today are throttled by the fear that critical race theory will usher in a totalitarian Marxist state veiled under the guise of anti-racism. (Some of them, I’ve learnt, sincerely believe that social justice advocates will soon call for the genocide of whites!) 

Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Conservatives in the early 1950s chuntered that pastors who preached against racism were “Marxists.” In the 50s and 60s, conservatives decried that desegregation was “communism.”  

Evangelical segregationists protest the beginning of school integration in Nashville, Tennessee (1957).
Evangelical segregationists protest the beginning of school integration in Nashville, Tennessee (1957).

 In the past four years or so, fancy academic terms like “intersectionality” have begun to bleed into conservative political discourse, replacing “cultural Marxism” as the favoured term. It just so happens to be “critical race theory” today. It’ll be something else tomorrow, I wager. For the thoughtful Christian, the antidote to this louche history of bogeyman reasoning is a dose of intellectual humility and the ability to self-consciously form one’s cultural and political outlook not in blind reaction to the left, but on God’s law-word and the biblical world-and-life-view taught therein. 

If it turns out that some pagans, in their graced inconsistency with the unbelieving worldview, have arrived closer to the believing worldview than many Christians in some regards, so be it! We should reorient what is true and instructive on the surety of the Christian worldview. Meanwhile, let us not bear false witness. Dishonesty, far from helping us exercise godly dominion or reconstructing culture towards the glory of God, should be eschewed by every earnest kingdom-builder. 

Is Critical Race Theory Marxist?
Chris Matthew

The problem doesn’t kick in when we use a good Biblical measuring stick, to determine the comparative usefulness (or not!) of a pagan-sourced idea.

The problem kicks in when we pervert the measuring stick, twisting the Bible and its teachings to uphold something more important than God (!!), such as insuring the (re)election of Republicans.

Political victories and the social comfort of The Right Sort are no substitute for obedience to God and His Law-Word. Even if The Right Sort is defined as White Conservatives, rather than White Progressives.1

Gaining political victories on the basis of lies and half-truths is not a victory for God, but for Satan.2 By their very nature, such victories are built on sand, and are not to be trusted or relied on.

1U.S. politics is devolving into so much social posturing… so much howling about symbols, not substance. I wonder if it’s about to be just as irrelevant as the King’s Court of yesteryear, and for basically the same reasons.

2Lies do have a place when deceiving the agents of Satan, as when Rahab lied to the soldiers looking for the Israeli spies, or the Hebrew mothers lying to Pharaoh about the birth of Hebrew babies. Or, for that matter, when Nazi soldiers start asking for any Jewish refugees you might be hiding in the basement.

Lies don’t have a place when it’s time to spell out what the Law requires, or in defining public justice, or in clearly understanding what a man is saying, or in any court of law. You must have the truth to righteously judge a matter!

Don’t bear false witness. That’s a sin.

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