The Age of Zealots

I have begun reading a short primer on Crtical Race Theory (“CRT”), written by those who believe it. I won’t provide substantive comment on the merits of the ideology here. But, I do wish to take a step back and make an observation - CRT is a religion.

People are very, very religious. Don’t let secularism fool you. It’s a religion, too. Everybody has a religion. You may have seen statistics that say there is a rise in people who claim no religious affiliation. Those statistics are misleading. Religion is alive and well. It’s just a different kind of religion that’s thriving. The religious economy has changed, but it’s still kicking.

Why do I say CRT is a religion? Why do I say there are lots of religions floating around in the petri dish that is the secular West?

Well, it begins by explaining what religion is. For that, I offer you the words of two sociologists and a well-respected theologian:

  1. Kerry Ferris and Jill Stein (The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology, 6th ed. [New York: W.W. Norton, 2018], 313) explain that religion is “any institutionalized system of shared beliefs and rituals that identify a relationship between the sacred and the profane.”
  2. Rodney Stark (Sociology, 10th ed. [Belmont: Wadsworth, 2007], 388-389) defines religion as “any socially organized pattern of beliefs and practices concerning ultimate meaning that assumes the existence of the supernatural.”

Millard Erickson, a Christian theologian, offers some complementary thoughts. Religion, he explains, is:

belief or doctrine, feeling or attitudes, and a way of life or manner of behaving. Christianity fits all these criteria of religion. It is a way of life, a kind of behavior, a style of living. And it is this not in the sense of merely isolated individual experience, but in giving birth to social groups. Christianity also involves certain feelings, such as dependence, love, and fulfillment. And Christianity most certainly involves a set of teachings, a way of viewing reality and oneself, and a perspective from which all of experience makes sense.

Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013), 6. Emphasis added.

These are all very helpful; particularly Erickson’s insistence on religion as a prism to understand reality. Here’s what we learn from these definitions about religion:

  1. An organized system
  2. with beliefs, rituals and practices
  3. that explains the relationship between the sacred and the ordinary,
  4. provides the basis for ultimate meaning and purpose,
  5. acts as a prism to interpret and explain reality,
  6. and identifies a particular deity or ideology as a Sacred object of worship.

You’ll notice I adapted Stark’s insistence on the supernatural (which, for him, is key to religion [Sociology, 389]; contra. Ferris and Stein) in criteria #6. I think this is a very good definition that anybody can understand.

Now, perhaps you can see why many flavors of religion are alive and well. CRT is one such religion, but that’s the sterile name for it. The populist version of this CRT religion is anti-racism which, ironically, is racist to its core. It’s particularly alive in the streets of our cities, in our universities, amongst our politicians and in our local, state and Federal governments.

Writing for National Review (06 July 2020), Kyle Smith penned an article titled “The White-Guilt Cult” that accurately summarizes the religious nature of the worst elements of this new McCarthyism that has captured the West. Here’s some teasers:

Anti-racism is the most critical element of a broader new Woke Orthodoxy whose other elements include environmental apocalypticism, feminism, and a severing of sexual identity from genetic indicators. Settling on a term for the new religion will take some time. Wesley Yang’s suggestion (seconded by Ross Douthat) of “the Successor Ideology” is clunky, anodyne, and a bit euphemistic given the righteous, roiling fervor and unnerving credulousness that define the cult. As Dmitri Solzhenitsyn writes in National Review Online, a YouTube prankster named “Smooth Sanchez” who walks the streets of New York demanding that white people kneel before him and declare their privilege receives surprising compliance, even as he signals his charlatanry by referring to George Floyd as “George Foreman.” 

Ben Shapiro notes astutely that the new woke religion rushes in to fill a “God-shaped hole” in secular hearts. Devotees immerse themselves in the sacred texts of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Ibram X. Kendi (né Ibram Henry Rogers of Queens), books designed to make white wokesters writhe with a kind of ecstatic anguish. Indoctrination in early childhood is taken up as a parental duty (Kendi’s new board book for toddlers, Antiracist Baby, is a hot seller), parishioners engage in ritualistic incantation of sacred phrases (“Hands up, don’t shoot,” “I can’t breathe”), and there are mass displays of penitential self-abasement. All over the country, guilty white crowds have gathered to reenact the circumstances of George Floyd’s horrifying death. Scores, even hundreds, of parishioners in the new faith prostrate themselves on the ground, hands behind their back, repeating “Mama” and “I can’t breathe.” Sometimes police officers joined these displays, kneeling or prostrating themselves for the sanctified period of time: eight minutes, 46 seconds. Floyd’s death is a kind of new Crucifixion, his final words the new “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Any objective observer of the woke madness of 2020 must concede the quasi-religious overtones of this movement, whatever one thinks of its merits. The National Museum of African American History and Culture somehow managed to summarize the ideological content, the divine revelation, of this new anti-racism religion in its unfortunate article entitled “Whiteness.” This racist screed culminated in a truly horrifying PDF chart which purports to showcase systemic white racism baked into our culture:

This is an ideology; a religion. It’s a racist and warped prism that interprets reality. It’s been popularized most recently and explicitly in corporate boardrooms and in government human resources offices by Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. This is CRT.

Religious zealots are still with us. Their religion is just a bit different, that’s all. And, like all zealots, they sully the moderates who have legitimate points to make.

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There are 18 Comments

Mark_Smith's picture

is exactly what CRT purveyors peddle as truth. Earlier this summer the student body president at the university I work at (and graduated from more than 2 decades ago) sent an email to the faculty with links to documents about white supremacy culture. It stated everything on the list you have.

I am flabbergasted by the belief that having personal standards for yourself is racist. If you rely on yourself, you're racist. If you operate according to a schedule, you're a racist. If you believe in the scientific method, you're a racist!

Another one: if you didn't complete your task then you didn't work hard enough. That belief is racist. How can you run a university if that is the belief system you hold?

That list, and the wide belief of the race-baiting crowd that is true, illustrates the culture war we are in.

T Howard's picture

I'd be interested in understanding what they consider the aspects and assumptions of "coloredness" and non-white culture in the United States.

 

BTW, I noticed this on the website:

NMAAHC wrote:
Since yesterday, certain content in the “Talking About Race” portal has been the subject of questions that we have taken seriously. We have listened to public sentiment and have removed a chart that does not contribute to the productive discussion we had intended.

I imagine the chart caused some individuals to realize that it was labeling certain widely-accepted virtues like hard work as white. If hard work is "whiteness," what work ethic would be considered "coloredness"?

Bert Perry's picture

If the items they mention are distinctive of white culture, then aren't they implicitly saying that the opposite, or at least a lesser degree, is characteristic of other cultures?  One would infer that their poster is the functionally the equivalent of literature from the KKK or Aryan Nations. 

So if anyone from the NMAAHC is reading here; "Friend, this is not how you show that black lives matter.  Just a hint."  

I'm also reminded of how one official BLM organization argues against the nuclear family, as if a path to black prosperity requires this, and as if.... the horrific state of many poor black neighborhoods, especially in the inner city, doesn't have a lot to do with the fact that the nuclear family is on life support in those places.  One wants to say "we've been running this experiment since about 1950, and around half a million black people have been killed as a result....maybe we've tested the hypothesis enough, and we need to come up with a better one?"

Or, if I were black, I'd approach some of these guys with "please get off my side; with friends like you, I don't need any enemies."  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

....for understanding CRT, though, is Wiki here.  One remarkable statement is that the "individual racist need not exist" for a bias to pervade society.  In other words, racism as defined by CRT is not guys wearing their sheets and promising to put group A "in their place", but rather the unspoken rules society works by that tend to work for Group B and against Group A.   

And it strikes me that there's probably something to that.  Joel Schaeffer notes, for example, that he's been in attendance when friends of his were pulled over for DWB, driving while black.  There are probably other genuine things where CRT could add to the conversation.

On the flip side, the poster attached illustrates how at least portions of the movement are just stereotyping white people in a way that we'd never tolerate if it were directed at racial or ethnic minorities.  And some of it is just amusing, like the "bland is best" argument for food, as if we didn't have tens of thousands of Mexican/Thai/Tex-Mex/etc.. restaurants in the country supported significantly by white customers, or the "blonde and skinny" argument for beauty, which would be something of a surprise to people like Sophia Loren, Jane Russell, Maureen O'Hara, or Mrs. Kanye West.  

Let's just say that at least at the fringes, their anthropology needs a little work.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

Joel Schaeffer notes, for example, that he's been in attendance when friends of his were pulled over for DWB, driving while black.  There are probably other genuine things where CRT could add to the conversation.

Unless all the reasons that might cause people to get pulled over for "DWB" are studied, the conclusion that it must be caused by some form of systemic racism is invalid.  Just as one example, how many black women get pulled over for "DWB" compared to black men?  Does the difference compare with the difference between white men and women?  There may be many factors that cause the police to pull someone over, and only one of those might be the race of the person behind the wheel.  The same goes for anything else that might have some "disparity in outcome."  If you always focus on racism as the supposed cause of the disparity, then you always will come up with the answer that racism must be to blame.  That's enough for the BLM activists, but it's certainly not enough for any sort of conclusion that is actually valid for a real solution to the issue.

Dave Barnhart

Joel Shaffer's picture

I don’t disagree with you Tyler on a general level.  CT/CRT is its own religion and flawed at so many levels, especially at the foundational worldview level.  However, I may be a little bit more nuanced than you as I see their critique of “White Culture” as a blend of truth, error, and gross exaggerations.  Over the 5 years, I’ve noticed a trend among anti-racist intellectuals/elites to explain and diagnose “Whiteness” as a culture.  So much of their attacks are directed towards the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture that was formed through the Melting Pot Assimilation that occurred throughout our cultural history of America.  I am currently reading Michael Novak’s classic from 1971, the Unmeltable Ethnics: Politics and Culture in American Life.  https://www.amazon.com/Unmeltable-Ethnics-Politics-Culture-American-ebook/dp/B07CPX8GNT/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+unmeltable+ethnics+Novak&qid=1595381961&sr=8-1 When Novak wrote the book, as a political/cultural intellectual, he was beginning to shift his political/cultural thinking from a progressive far-left standpoint to a more moderate-right worldview that embraced free-market capitalism. Yet I am reading his 2nd edition wherein 1996, he also adds 6 chapters of essays that also critique some of the post-modern thought such as “multi-culturalism,”  identifying many of the cultural Marxist tendencies that he saw were driving academia.  

Novak is Roman Catholic and Slovakian and explains that immigrants from Central and Southern Europe (Polish, Italian, Greeks, and Slovic or the acronym PIGS) weren’t even considered “White” until about 50 years ago and do not adhere to some of the WASP assimilated culture within American society.  He talks about the Family/Extended Family and neighborhood as a defining aspect of PIGS cultures and how the WASP Melting pot endorsed rugged Individualism, the importance of Status, or its obsession with competition (which he referenced as Social Darwinism), and how WASP Americans communicate (not showing emotion, avoiding conflict, not discussing anything personal) was completely in opposition to the Slovakian family values that he grew up with. These are some of the “white” cultural characteristics that Novak realized back in 1971 that are on this current Whiteness chart.  Even as a 2nd generation Slovakian, Novak felt he was still an outsider looking in.  He also explains what it costs for immigrants to feel like they are “insiders,” which is turning their backs on much of their cultural heritage.  He says this as a white ethnic and acknowledges that it is even worse for black Americans.  We do need to recognize that a white dominant culture does exist in America.  At the same time, those from the CRT camp need to realize that “white culture” has more than one strand, as evidenced by Novak’s book.  The danger of not recognizing the nuances within the culture(s) of white folks leads to a revision of history and stereotypes of white folks, which is ironic because that is one of the things that blacks get frustrated at whites over...when whites revise history and stereotype black folks.   

Where I disagree with your analysis is the purpose of the chart.  You assumed that it was developed to showcase systemic white racism baked into our culture.  Unless you have some info that I haven’t seen, all it is showing is the different characteristics of White Culture (although they overgeneralized with several points).  I think we need to be careful not to read into the chart (which was developed in 1990) as an example of the madness of CRT as if they are rejecting everything about “White Culture” including hard work or the Family or even Christianity.  Having immersed myself in Black culture for the last 30 years, hard work, a strong family (including extended family) and Christianity are all common characteristics of black culture as well.  I’ve been to family reunions of black folks and they value the nuclear family just as much as white folks. However, usually both parents are breadwinners (which is now the norm in white households) and in households where both parents are present, the husband is the leader.   And right now, the percentage of Blacks who are Christians and believe the Bible is the word of God is higher than the percentage of any other race/ethnicity in America.  In fact, I just saw a study where 78% of blacks in America believe that God’s law provides the basis for right and wrong.  While CRT scholars do not regularly critique the Black Church and their history of fighting for racial justice, they have marginalized the African-American Christian tradition and have not built from their foundations that were laid in the 1950s and 1960s when it comes to racial and social justice. https://repository.law.umich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1037&contex...

When this strand of post-modernism collapses on itself in the next 20 or so years, historians look back and point out this as one of the fatal flaws of CRT.    

Also, this last week, I was finally able to read “White Fragility” and one of my frustrations in the book was Deangelo’s admitted “over-generalization.”  Deangelo’s book was filled with logical fallacies such as hasty-generalizations of white people,  judging the motives of white people, and strawmen arguments about white people, yet if I, as a white person, would point this out, she would use this as an example of my white fragility. And while there are some key insights found in this book, particularly exposing racial blind spots, biases, and the defense mechanisms that many whites employ in their responses to racial issues, its assumptions and over-generalizations (which are informed by Critical Theory) will do more to shut down racial conversations than engage in productive new ones, creating more polarization than unity.   There is more I could say about the book, but these are just my initial thoughts in response to your article.  

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'll take another look at the original context in which the chart appeared (I knew it dated to 1990), and edit the article if necessary. I didn't make any substantive comments about the merits of CRT here. I'm waiting until I write my review chapter by chapter. I did say the ideology is racist, but I felt comfortable saying that much! My instincts are that you're right about the whole thing being a mixture of "truth, error, and gross exaggerations." My 1000 yard analysis is that even a broken clock is wrong twice a day, and that even Marx said a thing or two that is kinda true in The Communist Manifesto. The issue is that even the correct insights are all wrapped up into and interpreted through a false prism; hence my beginning with a definition of religion.

My only point here was to define "religion," and suggest CRT fits. I hope to continue the series in a few weeks!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Joel Shaffer's picture

I've checked the website up and down and the original "assumptions and aspects of White Culture" is merely a description, not a prescription of alleged aspects of white culture that should be avoided. I found out that Ben Shapiro attempts to make that same argument in this video, which ends up creating a strawman argument because it's not what the museum is saying. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wec76FPj7Q8&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR1-c...

However, there is a chart from the museum that is more nuanced which does connect white culture and white supremacy.  Here is what one should be interacting with and critiquing when it comes to race, white supremacy and white culture with the African-American museum.  https://collectiveliberation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/White_Suprem...

TylerR's picture

Editor

Again, the article explains what a "religion" is, and suggests that CRT fits the criteria. That is the article's only goal. I don't attempt to critique or analyze the contents of that religion. I simply linked to an article and attached a graphic that epitomizes the worldview, the prism, through which such a religion interprets and understands the world. I will turn to critique of the primer in the next article, which I may or may not publish here.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

What in the world does "worship of the written word" and "urgency" and "perfectionism" etc. have to do with "whiteness"? There is no way to justly make the claim that things like the list Tyler referred to or the supposedly more nuanced one you did is rational. It is pure absurdity. I refuse to believe, by the way, that any rational black man thinks standards, showing up on time, having a proper way of doing things, and making personal effort is "racist." It is absurd. A-B-S-U-R-D.

If this is what Black Lives Matter, and anti-racism is about, then count me out.

G. N. Barkman's picture

That living a disciplined life is being White, whereas living an undisciplined life is being Black?  I don't believe it for a minute.  Not either side of this statement.  (All three black men who are members of our congregation are hard working, well disciplined men.)

G. N. Barkman

Joel Shaffer's picture

What in the world does "worship of the written word" and "urgency" and "perfectionism" etc. have to do with "whiteness"? There is no way to justly make the claim that things like the list Tyler referred to or the supposedly more nuanced one you did is rational. It is pure absurdity. I refuse to believe, by way, that any rational black man thinks standards, showing up on time, having a proper way of doing things, and making personal effort is "racist." It is absurd. A-B-S-U-R-D.

If this is what Black Lives Matter, and anti-racism is about, then count me out.

Mark, I don't think you understood what I meant.  The first list that Tyler linked to was descriptive.  It did not state that these assumptions or aspects of white culture were somehow connected to white supremacy. They are not saying that hard work, delayed gratification, and etc...are somehow forms of white supremacy.  Ben Shapiro, Tyler, You, Bert, and etc... assumed that this list that the AA museum linked to somehow insinuated these characteristics of white culture demonstrated forms of white supremacy/racism, and etc.... It wasn't.  All it was doing was trying to explain "white culture."

However, the 2nd list that came from the AA museum did, in fact, make the link between white culture and white supremacy. For the most part, I am not in agreement with the list.  Too many errors and overgeneralizations.  I think I can call it a nuanced list because they are making more subtle connections (such their description of "worship of the written word") which they see as an example of how the culture of "whiteness" feeds white supremacy.  Maybe I didn't make myself clear in my response to Tyler.  Hopefully, this comment does.   

Mark_Smith's picture

I have seen the list Tyler posted and you posted several times before. I have seen anti-racist speakers on our campus refer to it. Like I said in another post, the current student body president at the school I work at mentioned it.

I have had students use this list against me. One time I mentioned to the class that how their education turned out, including how well they did in my class, was up to them. No one else was going to do it for them. I thought I was giving old-time wisdom. Later that day I got a call from the Dean of Student Life to talk to him because a student had accused me of sexism and racism, citing what I said, and referring to this kind of list of "white supremacy culture."

The "white supremacy culture" crowd loves this list and clings to it.

Many love to claim that deadlines, right/wrong answers, requiring students do work individually, etc. is white supremacy culture.

Dan Miller's picture

Success is related to hard work? Wait, some doubt that? More and more, I think the point is socialism or communism. And BLM, etc. are groups that use genuine and worked-up angst in the black community to accomplish that political goal. To them, black people are just pawns. 

Joel Shaffer's picture

I have seen the list Tyler posted and you posted several times before. I have seen anti-racist speakers on our campus refer to it. Like I said in another post, the current student body president at the school I work at mentioned it.

I have had students use this list against me. One time I mentioned to the class that how their education turned out, including how well they did in my class, was up to them. No one else was going to do it for them. I thought I was giving old-time wisdom. Later that day I got a call from the Dean of Student Life to talk to him because a student had accused me of sexism and racism, citing what I said, and referring to this kind of list of "white supremacy culture."

The "white supremacy culture" crowd loves this list and clings to it.

Many love to claim that deadlines, right/wrong answers, requiring students do work individually, etc. is white supremacy culture.

Mark, you are right to oppose the list when it is used as a weapon to bully others (including educators like yourself) into submission and as well as a tool of a different type of racism which George W. Bush called, 'the soft bigotry of low expectations."   You are in a tough spot, especially as a Christian educator with morals. On a side note, check out Dr. George Yancey's writings and comments on "Christianophobia."  As a sociologist, he has been studying and tracking prejudice on secular college campuses. As both a Black man and an evangelical Christian, although he has experienced both racial prejudice and religious bigotry because of his Christian beliefs within higher education, he has experienced far more religious bigotry in his circles.  https://www.impact360institute.org/podcasts/christianophobia-is-alive-an...

But the white culture list is not used that way in every context.  I was actually first exposed to that same whiteness cultural list in the 1990s in a cultural anthropology class that I took.  It was not presented as a weapon to expose white supremacy, nor was it presented as facts about white culture either. If educators, non-profits, activists, and etc... influenced by CRT come out and specifically make the connection between "white culture" and "white supremacy" then we should call them out on it. The AA museum folks haven't (yet) with this list.  We need to take the high ground and not assume authorial intent.   

That doesn't mean that I am approving of the African-American Museum website. There is plenty of articles, videos, and etc.. to critique that does not correspond with a Biblical worldview.  Their constant use of Robin DiAngelo is troubling, to say the least.  The more journal articles I read that she's written or co-written, the more I can't believe she actually has the large platform within the anti-racist movement.   But the more of a platform that people like her have been given, the more I see the post-modern CRT narrative collapsing on itself in the next decade or so because so much of it is based on the foundations of a revolutionary cultural Marxism, which wants to deconstruct and dismantle everything and start over in the name of ending oppression and creating equality.  Yet, I'm beginning to see more and more pushback from liberal and even CRT scholars that are accusing DiAngelo's approach as a form of "white supremacy." 

As Christians, we have a far better solution.  This morning I read a blurb from Dr. Carl Henry in his book, Evangelicals at the Brink of Crisis. He wrote this in 1967, in response to the Marxist revolutionaries of the 1960s.  

"the Bible demand for regeneration strikes deeper than rival demands for social revolution. It indicts the social sphere not only as an area of rampant injustice & unrighteousness but also as fallen from God's holy intentions by creation and therefore under his condemnation. Whatever the proponents of revolution may achieve in the social realm, these too are defective from the standpoint of the Bible, which aims not simply at the overthrow of existing unjust structures but at the regeneration of fallen men & at the reestablishment of the divine orders of creation through observance of the scripturally revealed principles of social ethics."

 

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

Henry was such a bad writer. Man, that's an awkward sentence. No joke.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Joel Shaffer's picture

I agree. For me, his book on personal ethics and his God, Revelation, and Authority were especially hard ones to plod through.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I tried to read his early book on fundamentalism and social problems, but have never managed to get through it. The writing is too ponderous. I've tried to read portions of his God, Revelation and Authority and find it boring beyond belief. The man just could not write. I suspect almost nobody has actually read Henry, yet they often heap praises on him based on his deserved reputation and because of what other people say. Whether those other people have themselves actually read Henry is unclear ...

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

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