Part 5 – Why does it matter?
Despite its faults, critical theory offers some important insights. Power is corrupting. The powerful do abuse their power to oppress the weak. We should be aware of how we are blinded by our own power. Moreover, Christians have been (and are) complicit in oppression, as we are complicit in many of the other sins of our culture. The church is often slow to take up the cause of the oppressed and to seek justice.
I suspect that many Christians are unwilling to criticize critical theory for these reasons. They may see it as -by far- the lesser of two evils. In their desire to fight injustice, they might tolerate it or even embrace it. I understand the appeal of this stance, but I want to explain why it is incorrect.
First, most people don’t appreciate that critical theory is a worldview. It is a comprehensive way to see all of reality. Consequently, it is difficult to compartmentalize. It will naturally creep into other areas of life. For this reason, I’ve gone great lengths to show how aspects of critical theory are fundamentally opposed to a Christian worldview. Once we step onto the boat and push off from the shore, there’s no telling how far we might drift. We might begin by embracing critical theory as a remedy for racism, but how long before we begin to apply it to our understanding of gender and sexuality? Or our understanding of the church? Or our understanding of sin?
Second, if my concerns were merely speculative and theoretical, I would probably keep them to myself. But I have seen examples, both personally and publicly, of people following exactly the trajectory I’ve described. It is dangerous to think that we can take By-Path Meadow as a shortcut to justice. There is absolutely a place for listening carefully and humbly to critical theory. But we should do so from an explicitly Christian perspective, refusing to let go of our fundamentally Christian presuppositions.
Finally, this entire series has underscored for me the necessity of a vibrant and distinctively Christian approach to justice. Many people are embracing critical theory (consciously or unconsciously) because they are convinced that the church does not care about racism, sexism, or poverty. Let us show with our lives that we follow a Savior who died for people of all races and genders, who came to ‘set the oppressed free and break every yoke’ and who calls us to surrender our lives to bring hope and healing to a broken world.
See all content on critical theory here.