A Note about Critical Race Theory and Roots

A brief note about criticism of Critical Race Theory in Christian academia.

Critics of CRT invoke the historical connection of CRT theorists to the Frankfurt School with the primary mischief being the connection to Karl Marx. Tracing ideas back to Marx is like an intellectual scavenger hunt. The more connections you find, the better you feel about opposing CRT (or whatever you think CRT is, today).

The problem with this exercise is that anyone can play with any set of ideas. I am just sitting over here wondering when the focus comes back around to the devil’s major of psychology. You can trace psychology’s roots back to any number of unsavory characters. Regularly through my undergraduate and graduate schooling, I heard from Christians that I was wasting my time at best, and sinning at worst, by being in psychology. Freud and Skinner and Ellis and Rogers(!) were all atheists and pagans and had nothing to offer Christians.

Nouthetic and biblical counseling continue this theme in the present day although the heat isn’t as hot as that which is directed at CRT. Psychology will no longer bring down civilization; CRT surely will.

Let’s face it, much of what is taught in any academically sound Christian university requires comfort with a host of concepts that make CRT look tame. I don’t know how long we can hold on before the whole of Christian academia is routed by the worldview warriors. Before long, we will be engaged in a multifront war. When will the theistic evolutionists have to run for cover? Will Freudian psychoanalysis or Rogerian therapy once again be theories that dare not speak their names in Christian circles?

I remember when truth was truth and the mission of the Christian professor was to find it wherever she/he could. Mine for gold, spoil the Egyptians, all truth is God’s truth; those phrases meant something. Common grace allowed non-Christian image bearers to find and articulate truth even while beginning with faulty assumptions. Now, apparently, Christian profs are supposed to put on a hazmat suit if there is a whiff of the world on ideas and claims that are not manifestly Christian. Best just to keep socially and academically distant from that stuff.

What I am getting at is that CRT isn’t any more troubling than other things we teach in psychology and the other social sciences. If there is something wrong with evaluating CRT and using aspects of it when it is valuable, then there won’t be much of a social science curriculum left when CRT critics continue their work on the rest of our majors.

Psychology v. Christianity

For an illustration of a Christian ministry targeting psychology in the same manner as many Christians are targeting CRT, consider this teaching article from Andrew Wommack Ministries. Wommack and faux-historian and Christian nationalist David Barton are mutual supporters and work together on projects.

Wommack says, “Modern psychology was brought to the forefront by Sigmund Freud in the late nineteenth century. Freud certainly wasn’t a godly man. He was obsessed with sex and linked every problem of man to the sexual drive.” Referring to Matthew 7, Wommack says the fruit of psychology can’t be good because the roots (Freud) are bad.

Wommack then does with the entire discipline of psychology what many Christian writers do to CRT: creates a team of straw men to incinerate.

Here are four major tenants (sic) of psychology that I believe are incompatible with biblical Christianity:

1) We are products of our environment.

2) Therefore, we are not responsible or accountable for our actions.

3) This leads to placing blame for our actions on anything else but on us, making us victims.

4) Self-esteem is paramount.

I doubt Wommack means psychology has renters, so he actually claims there are four major tenets for the whole discipline. The first one might apply to a radical behaviorist but not to a behavior genetics proponent. An existential psychologist would vehemently disagree with point two. I don’t know of any approach that advocates victimhood. Self-esteem is important, but it is so 1960s-1970s to say it is paramount. Self-efficacy and self-regulation became a research preoccupation of social learning theorists during and after that era. The point is that Wommack does to psychology what Christian critics often do to CRT — shake out the nuances and make it into to something which can be easily demonized and dismissed. One might ask a certain Christopher Rufo about how to do that with CRT.

I recognize that no one currently is accusing psychology of being the biggest threat to the gospel and the church, but I wonder how long it will take for the culture war guns to tire of CRT and point in some other direction. We haven’t had our turn for awhile.