Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality in the Southern Baptist Convention: Definitions (Part 2 of 4)

Todd Benkert’s recent piece on Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality (CRT|I) at SBCVoices.com is helpfully clarifying in at least three ways. First, Benkert straightforwardly admits that both he and others within the Southern Baptist Convention are using Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. Benkert indicates they are not merely using the language of CRT|I, but its concepts, and intentionally so. Second, Benkert admits that these individuals are using CRT|I despite the fact that CRT|I is “dangerous.” Third, Benkert mounts a defense of CRT|I and the infamous Resolution 9, which he believes speaks of CRT|I in positive fashion. He would not change anything about Resolution 9, and does not believe it should be rescinded. Indeed, he believes doing so will actually set the SBC back in terms of “reconciliation work.”

Although Benkert attempts to take a middle way in his post, positing CRT|I as both an analytical tool and a dangerous ideology, his examples of using CRT|I as an analytical tool exemplify why CRT|I is such a dangerous ideology. This observation is not meant to impugn Benkert’s motives. Nevertheless, some (not saying this is true of Benkert) seem unaware of how far down the ideological rabbit hole they have gone. This series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) will attempt to highlight some of the difficulties with doubling down on CRT|I in response to recent posts and podcasts pointing out its problems. This second of four posts will address the first clarifying point noted above. Namely, Benkert straightforwardly admits that both he and others within the Southern Baptist Convention are using Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. Benkert indicates they are not merely using the language of CRT|I, but its concepts, and intentionally so.

Benkert complains about the accusation, “that my side (for lack of a better descriptor) is employing Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality or, when using more pejorative language, that we were ‘Cultural Marxists.’” One can understand Benkert’s concern here up to a point, and the concerns of others who are serious about issues of biblical justice and loving our neighbors. Cultural voices opposed to Christian thought in general, racists, and divisive brethren have inserted themselves into this discussion in such a way that it is difficult to tell who is, and who is not, arguing in good faith. This state of affairs has led to no lack of misunderstanding, hasty generalization, and overall opposition to the anti-racist sentiment entailed by Christian virtue. The pursuit of biblical justice, academic inquiry, and opposition to partiality are usually not particularly worrisome features of Christian thought, but some have wrongly slandered those engaging in such interests and incorrectly accused them of promoting some form of CRT|I when they are not. Perhaps equally unhelpful is the conflation of various schools of extremely nuanced thought which, though they may share common themes, are not all the same. So, one can empathize with those who complain that they are wrongly charged with promoting CRT|I every time they speak to the topic of racism.

For example, Benkert believes in having, “ethnic representation on our boards and at the executive level,” “the importance of hearing the perspective of people of color when doing reconciliation work,” and “the need to address racialized systems that do not honor the diversity of the body of Christ.” In principle, Christians need not be opposed to any of these practices, depending on what they are understood to mean. Human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, and those who have faith in Jesus Christ are justified without distinction. Thus God clearly opposes the sin of partiality, and commands us to value others above ourselves. One understands, then, Benkert’s frustration with people assigning the label of CRT|I to him in order to merely to dismiss his concern for reconciliation work.

However, frustration also results from a lack of commitment to the CRT|I label among those who would otherwise rely upon the tools of CRT|I in some form or fashion. Evangelicals sometimes deny the CRT|I label and consider it slanderous while simultaneously offering lengthy defenses of CRT|I. This is why Benkert’s frank acceptance and defense of CRT|I in his post is so helpful in moving the conversation forward. While it is wrong to charge people with using CRT|I just because they are engaging in some of the issues outlined above, it is not wrong when people explicitly state that they are using CRT|I!

Since Benkert admits to his use of CRT|I, it may sound somewhat strange to hear him complain about the “pushback” from people who say he is using this philosophy when he actually admits to using it. But Benkert is complaining about the accusation in instances where CRT|I is not involved. The account offered above best explains what is going on. Benkert means to say something to the effect that the labels of CRT|I and Cultural Marxism should not be attached haphazardly to whatever difficult topic someone does not want to hear about. Nevertheless, none of this should distract from the fact that Benkert not only accepts that he is using CRT|I, but proceeds to offer a defense of his position. And although the “Cultural Marxist” designator has been used dismissively and as a pejorative in these types of discussions, recent scholarship has shown that its association with CRT|I is not technically incorrect.

Benkert provides an overwhelmingly positive portrayal of CRT|I in his post. According to him, we can learn from CRT|I and its observations. He admits, “so many of our discussions about race and reconciliation have employed these ideas. As CRT/I language and ideas have entered our denominational conversation (and the larger Evangelical/Reformed community) they have met with some resistance by those with very real concerns.” Readers will note that Benkert doesn’t describe merely linguistic overlap between racial reconciliation concerns and CRT|I here, but an appropriation of ideology. Benkert admits that in working toward otherwise worthy goals, “we have employed language and arguments that originated from or were similar to those used by CRT/I advocates.”

Thus, according to Benkert’s reckoning, critics who have claimed some corners of the SBC are relying on CRT|I have been correct all along. Benkert not only believes the language, ideas, and arguments of CRT|I have entered the SBC through reconciliation work, he seems to indicate CRT|I is necessary to that work, although he never says why. And so, the next post in this series will examine Benkert’s important qualification as to the dangers of CRT|I.

Published by Chris Bolt

Wretched sinner saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Husband, father, pastor, seminary professor, and author.

4 thoughts on “Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality in the Southern Baptist Convention: Definitions (Part 2 of 4)

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