Matt Kennedy’s thoughtful piece on critical race theory lays out many things very succinctly. My purpose here is to take a look at this from another point of view. The way Matt links current critical race theory with the class theory of Marxism connects many dots, dots which have driven many of my life decisions, especially regarding choice of church.
Let’s start with the Marxism. Marxism teaches class warfare, and that when the proletariat achieves their revolutionary destiny we will have their dictatorship, equality, and the end of the state. (My time in both Russia and China showed that the last is a mirage.) In the meanwhile the aristocrats and the bourgeoisie are the exploiters of the proletariat’s surplus value, and are thus evil and worthy of overthrow. (My time in especially Russia showed me that an economic system that doesn’t produce surplus value runs down, as theirs did.)
Before all of this informative travel, there was life in Palm Beach and the Episcopal Church. I looked around me and realized two things. The first is that the people around me were, in Marxist terms (and remember that the Marxists had nuclear weapons pointed at us) part of the problem. The second is that Our Lord’s solution to this problem was for the rich young ruler to sell all and follow him.
The Episcopal Church’s answer to all of this fell seriously flat. First, I was confronted with the “do-gooder approach” by my Episcopal prep school chaplain, which seemed inadequate. Second, the Episcopal Church was in the throes of 1960’s social justice, where the church and its parishioners were exhorted to get into political action to change things. Neither of these seemed much a response to either Marx or Jesus; the political action in particular was an attempt to get someone else (in this case the state) to do the work that Our Lord called us to do. The Episcopalians remained at the “top of the heap,” which meant that the Marxist challenge went unanswered. All of this was part but not all of the reason why I left.
Fast forward to the days of critical race theory. Critical race theory does for Marx what Marx did for Hegel; it turns the older concept on its head. Marx was all about economics. Critical race theory is first an American attempt to create an oppression dialectic without having to deal with the reality of economic and class differences. That’s because Americans have a serious blind spot to both and are too ashamed to admit that they’re on the wrong side of the divide (and it doesn’t matter which side you’re on.)
In any case, the Anglican/Episcopal world in North America is just about as unprepared to deal with critical race theory now as it was with social justice fifty years ago. That’s because the Episcopal Church (and the ACNA isn’t much better) are overwhelmingly white, in TEC’s case more so than the Southern Baptists. It’s really stupid to bring up “white privilege” in churches with the ethnic makeup that most Anglican/Episcopal churches in this country have. If you want to deal with your privilege, whether it be racial, social or economic, you need to first join up with people where your privilege doesn’t mean as much. That doesn’t happen very often.
All of this duplicity has convinced me that critical race theory is a shell game. Like past and present social justice, it gives its adherents an opportunity to virtue signal/feel better about themselves without significantly disturbing the reality they’re in, a reality about which they’re seriously guilty. Just because people virtue signal about something doesn’t mean they’re serious: just look at the college admissions scandal we just went through. That too was an attempt by what we used to call the “beautiful people” to perpetuate their own white privilege by getting their unqualified children into elite institutions.
We need to stop playing games with ourselves on this subject. The change we really need comes from God through Jesus Christ. Once that’s really happened we become a new race with a new blood line; our world and the way we see it and deal with it becomes different. Anything else is a shell game which either seeks to deflect attention away from ourselves and to assuage our guilt for what we are. We don’t need guilt reduction: we need redemption and forgiveness.