The majority of Brad’s last post was devoted to an examination of how the language of “oppression” can be found in many sources, including the Bible. However, a crucial issue in this discussion is how oppression should be understood.
Contemporary critical theorists insist that oppression occurs when dominant groups impose their values on subordinate groups. In addition to the numerous quotes I provided from DiAngelo and Sensoy (beautifully distilled in Fig. 5.1), here are examples from Adams:
And Lorde: “Racism…, Sexism,…Ageism. Heterosexism. Elitism. Classism. It is a lifetime pursuit for each one of us to extract these distortions from our living” – Race, Class, and Gender, p. 496
When I asked whether these ideas represent a specific ideology, Brad replied “not so much.” Yet I struggle to comprehend how else we can understand the statements above (or others I could provide). Did all these scholars just happen to independently advance the same ideas? Did the idea that LGBTQ individuals are oppressed originate with W.E.B. DuBois or John Locke?
Note that the categories above are not a priori assumptions nor are they reflections on historical conditions, but are statements about how critical theorists understand modern America (and Western/postcolonial contexts more broadly). They are claiming that we should understand contemporary U.S. society in terms of the categories they have described across all the axes listed. Brad, do you think that this claim is true? Are people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, the disabled, children, and non-Christians all oppressed in 2019 America? That’s an important question that I hope Brad answers.
This alternative understanding of oppression is key to determining whether critical theory is a threat to evangelicalism. In Part 1, I listed four ideas which Brad agrees are “common to and included in critical theory” and asked: “Are they compatible with Christianity?”
While Brad did mention these four ideas in his last post, he didn’t say whether he believed they were true and biblical. Instead, he offered a “clarification” of each idea. This approach is puzzling. If Brad recognizes that these ideas are false as I originally stated them and as they are promulgated by contemporary critical theorists, then he should say so. Brad, are these ideas -as stated- true or false?
Of course, Brad can personally modify and qualify these ideas. For example, he might modify Tenet #1 to say that “contemporary whites are an oppressor group but heterosexuals are not.” Or he could argue that Tenet #3 should be modified to say that “we should dismantle structures which are incompatible with Scripture.” But before making these qualifications, he should first concede that the original ideas (which are actually believed and taught by contemporary critical theorists, as Brad himself affirmed) are indeed false. This caveat is especially important because contemporary critical theorists do not add Brad’s qualifications, and that’s precisely the point I’ve been making since Part 1.
Next, Brad again declined to answer the question of whether he thinks statements like “All whites are racist” or “Christ is our Black Mother” or “Tim Keller has no authority to teach on justice” or “LGBTQ abuse comes from a desire to protect white male dominance” are true. He insists that this issue is irrelevant to our discussion. I disagree for two reasons.
First, if Brad thinks these statements are true, then it’s not surprising that he doesn’t see contemporary critical theory as a threat to evangelicalism. Certainly, the topic of our discussion isn’t “What does Brad think about these statements?” but if we’re trying to understand why we disagree, these questions are important. Perhaps we both agree that these statements are logical implications of contemporary critical theory, but disagree over whether these statements are actually heterodox!
Second, Brad thinks it’s hard to discern whether statements like “all whites are racist” can really be attributed to critical theory. He suggests that they may ultimately originate with some other source. Yet I’ve chosen examples from authors who explicitly cite critical theorists like Robin DiAngelo or who use phrases that were only invented in the last few decades by critical theorists. It seems strange to attribute remarks about ‘intersectionality’ to -say- the surreptitious influence of Ludwig Von Mises. Besides, propositions are true or false independent of their origin. So are the statements I quoted true or false?
Finally, Brad suggests that we need survey data to know whether critical theory is a threat to evangelicalism. That’s incorrect. If the four ideas I mentioned are false and deeply unbiblical, then they are a threat to evangelicalism in principle, even if no evangelical believes them. Yet I’ve also shown that prominent Christians and self-identified evangelicals, who have spoken at national CRU conferences and have written for Christianity Today, are making false claims based on these ideas. Consequently, these ideas constitute a real-world threat to evangelicalism, even if Brad doesn’t think it’s the greatest real-world threat to evangelicalism.
So I’d again ask Brad to answer the many questions I’ve asked. Perhaps we can determine the source of our disagreement.
See my initial post here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Bradly Mason, Part 1
And Brad’s first response here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Neil Shenvi, Part 2
See my second post here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Bradly Mason, Part 3
And Brad’s second response here:
Is Critical Theory a Thread to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Neil Shenvi, Part 4
See my third post here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Bradly Mason, Part 5
And Brad’s third response here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Neil Shenvi Part 6
See my fourth post here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Bradly Mason, Part 7
And Brad’s fourth response here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Neil Shenvi, Part 8
See my fifth post here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Bradly Mason, Part 9
And Brad’s final response here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Neil Shenvi, Part 10
See my final post here:
Is Critical Theory a Threat to Evangelicalism? – A Dialogue with Bradly Mason, Part 11