Redemption of the Institutions
I am grateful that I teach at a seminary that seeks to value ethnicity and race, and to celebrate the contributions of non white people and cultures. Hence, I don't think critical race theory is so much as a debate at our seminary, but it is more an unpracticed tool and method that we are seeking to appropriate in different ways, at different levels, in different classes. I make no claim to have mastered the art, nor does our seminary make that claim. But I believe we want to learn. I believe we have much to learn.
The tool is now laid out in Robert Chao Romero (Asian-Latino) and Jeff Liou’s new book Christianity and Critical Race Theory: A Faithful and Constructive Conversation.
They chose to organize their book in four major categories: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. These are four major categories used in the Christian doctrines of salvation in time. One could call this new book a salvation historical probing of critical race theory value for the Christian Church.
In their chapter on redemption, while the chapter does not have extensive discussion of the soteriology connected to Kingdom of God, to cross, to resurrection, to ascension, and to the power of the Spirit, the chapter explores the problem of Christian higher education institutions inability to perceive systemic racism that corrupts the institution, but also systemically perpetuates racism while seeking to adhere to the gospel that embraces all.
At the heart of this book is an affirmation of the Book of Revelation’s celebration of cultures, ethnicities, races, and languages that will all be celebrated and embraced in New Jerusalem.
The church is behind society. In the United States of America ethnic diversity is growing in leaps and bounds, while traditional white culture is on the decline. Between 2010 and 2020, that is, in one decade, “the multiracial population of the United States grew 276 percent to 33.8 million people.” Notice this: “The Census Bureau projects that the multiracial population will triple by 2060.” “One in three American evangelicals is now a person of color.”
The question we have to ask ourselves is whether or not our local church reflects the diversity of the United States, or is it protecting a culture that is fading? (And it is fading.)
Here is the crunch of this chapter. Church education systems, from local churches to seminaries, are 50 years behind, they are educating for a dominant white culture that is fading, and failing to educate for a growing diverse culture.
“Although the Holy Spirit is birthing these dramatic changes in the US church and Christian colleges, seminaries, and universities, the senior leadership, faculty, staff, and curricula of these institutions largely reflect the church of 50 years ago.”
“If, in accordance with sacred scripture, the cultural makeup of nations is in fact an act of the sovereignty of God, and the church is intended to be God's primary interim vehicle moving humanity toward the beloved community of people of every tribe, language, nation, and tongue, in this chapter we will ask, how should Christian institutions such as churches, denominations, nonprofit organizations, seminaries, and Christian colleges and universities respond to what God is doing in our midst?”
Romero’s work emphasizes Latino/Latina developments, and he observes how many churches and programs are forming toward celebrating the contributions of his communities and traditions. They are forming discipleship and educational programs at all levels.
He speaks in this chapter, then, of a “voice of color thesis”: “According to the voice of color thesis, we people of color are in the best position to understand our own racialized experiences in the United States and to craft solutions.” And the acceptance of diverse voices at the table is entirely consistent, and reflective of, the New Testament vision of the body of Christ. In fact, without that diversity, it cannot reflect the New Testament vision.
At issue is the issue of “color blindness” which tends to Pretend at inclusiveness and diversity, when it often fails to be inclusive and in fact systematizes ethnic and racial divisions. Romero Explains how this works itself out in the hiring process, that he experienced at a very intense level, at a Christian university. He does not name the university, but he certainly piqued my interest. Too often people of color are hired who have themselves assimilated and accommodated themselves to the already existing white dominant culture. Instead of challenging that culture, they perpetuate that culture instead of challenging it.
He experienced such factors as Racial passivity and a lack of sincere commitment to diversity, a lack of transparency, hostile campus climates for students of color, a racially monolithic senior cabinet and board, and a disregard for democratic processes and voices of color. About 84% of faculties in the Christian colleges and seminaries is white.
This whole idea of color blindness has been flipped in modern understandings. Two generations ago, color blindness was seen as a virtue for people who were doing their best not to be racist. Color blindness, today, has become far too often an excuse for ignoring the distinctive contribution or the celebration of diversity and multiculturalism.
I love that he appeals to the Book of Acts, chapter six, where we see the Hebrew and Hellenistic believers working out a solution in which those with power, the Hebrew believers, surrendered the power to the less powerful, the Hellenistic believers, because they recognized the voice of color thesis for the 1st century. That is, they saw that it was the Hellenistic believers who knew the proper solution to their bias.
There is deep truth here. The reality is from politics to Christian leadership it is led primarily by old white guys (I’m quickly approaching this in my own life and age!). We need fresh blood at leadership levels. Until their is - we’re talking the talk and not walking the walk. Sad really.
I think you mean "piqued my interest." But more importantly, I wonder if the 50 years behind includes Christian publishing companies as well as church and educational institutions.