This is the second episode in our five-part miniseries on Christianity and Critical Race Theory or CRT for short. If you missed our opening episode, go back to episode 115 to begin the series before returning to this one.
In today’s episode, our team gathered around the mics to talk about Dr. Kelly Harmen’s article she wrote for Christianity Today in July of 2020 entitled “Social Justice, Critical Race Theory, Marxism, and Biblical Ethics” discussing the first argument she posits which reads as follows: Quote: “Argument #2: Like all sin, racism originates in the human heart. Therefore, the solution to racism is for people’s hears to change. ‘Systemic Racism.’ on the other hand, is a Marxist idea.” End quote. In typical Antioch Podcast fashion, we had a lot to say about this, and some of it may come as a surprise, or … perhaps not. I’ll let you decide for yourself.
Social Justice, Critical Race Theory, Marxism, and Biblical Ethics
Looking at Marxism and Critical Race Theory in light of the problem of racism in America.
If Grace Is So Amazing, Why Don’t We Like It? 2009, Donald McCullough
Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded?: Helping (Not Hurting) Those with Emotional Difficulties, 1994, Dwight L. Carlson.
SMALL GROUP QUESTIONS from Episode 117
(Approximate minute markers noted in parenthesis)
(12) In the episode, the Antioch team puts forth the idea that parts of Marxism are antithetical to the Gospel and other parts are useful. Rather than categorizing ideas as either “completely good” or “completely bad”, this kind of discernment uses the strategy of thinking of ideas as “more useful” or “less useful.” What might be gained from using this kind of discernment strategy? What may be difficult about using this more nuanced strategy?
(13) What does the term “common grace” mean? How could you imagine this theological idea informing the process of discernment?
(14) Kelly Harmon says about Marxism “As a Christian scholar, I will not agree with all of its tenets… [but] Marx was not wrong about absolutely everything. Very few thinkers are…”. What two ideas does she agree with Marx on?
(18) Reforming sinful systems can be rewarding and difficult. Share a story from your life of a time you tried to correct or improve upon a routine way of doing something. What was challenging for you? What helped you move forward? If it ended badly, what might you do to improve your attempt at reform next time?
(20) Eric remarked that the church re-invents itself every 500 years. Have you heard this idea before? What three major events in church history occurred at 500-year intervals since the birth of the church (If you don’t know, look them up!)? How does the notion of being in a period of theological reform affect you emotionally? Explain your emotional response, if possible.
(21) Have you ever observed times when power was used to oppress others unjustly? Describe these times. When has the church used its power to oppress others unjustly in church history? Have you ever observed the church using its power to oppress others in your lifetime? For example, what groups of people may be treated without dignity or respect (by churches in the USA? How might the church use its power to oppress people, beyond the use of “strong language”?
(23) God cares about Justice. Jesus cared about injustice. What injustices does God care about that fall outside of your political bias or the political bias of your church? This can be hard to think about or talk about if partisan political affiliation is a strong part of your identity. For example, in your opinion, what injustices might Republican Christians overlook that Democratic Christians get right? In other instances, what injustices may Democratic Christians ignore that Republican Christians see more clearly? Lastly, what injustices (there are many) do you imagine that Christians of both political parties fail to address, or remain complicit in? Reflect on these questions for a few minutes privately before answering, since as American Christians we tend not to take time to consider another person or party’s point of view.
(25) Biblical justice. What are your favorite passages in scripture that address this major Biblical Theme? Eric did not know many of these passages, and needed to re-read scripture to notice how plentiful these passages were in scripture. Why do you think he needed to re-read scripture to see this? Do you know many passages that talk about this? Does your faith tradition talk about these passages? What do you think the reasons are for the way your faith tradition handles this Biblical theme in the way that it does? (NOTE: This may make for some interesting reading to find out why your church does or does not have a strong tradition of seeking Biblical justice. Most church traditions have strong historical reasons why they do or do not talk about this theme much.)
(27) What social programs are you aware of in the book of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, as well as the book of Acts that are mentioned in this episode? Are you aware of others? What might these regulatory measures have taught the people about the values and personhood of God? (NOTE: If you are unfamiliar with these parts of the Bible, do some reading to better educate yourself. Consider using the book Acts: A Theological Commentary on the Bible (Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible) 2017 https://www.amazon.com/Acts-Theological-Commentary-Bible-Belief/dp/0664234003 to get started.)
(33) Pastor Reggie said, “The rest of the world reads scripture together.” Consider the area of “personal devotions.” How might we be formed by scripture differently if we had our daily devotions in community? Consider how experiencing scripture like a support group could be different from other ways we read scripture when we are alone – as if scripture was somewhat like a novel, an instruction manual or a book of inspirational quotes.
(34) What are the overall demographic characteristics of those at the center of power at your church? Often the center of power in a church are the pastors, elders and deacons, church staff and the wealthiest people who give large sums of money to the church. How would your church respond if someone prominently voiced a Biblical critique of the ethics of one or more of those people at the church’s center of power? Have you ever seen this happen? If so, describe what that was like. Have you ever seen this happen in another church?
(40) What things may Christians say to explain why they don’t do more to help the poor? If we are honest with ourselves, why is it often difficult for each of us as Americans to follow Jesus’ commands on giving to the poor? What might happen if we as Christians believed that all money is God’s money?
(44) What are ways that “fairness” is different from Biblical justice? Describe an example that shows these differences. What examples do the podcast team mention in this episode?
(46) Is grace fair? How might our ethics change if we understood God’s grace more? If we better understood how to be “like Christ” in our desires and our actions, how might an outside observer notice a difference in how we each individually embodied God’s grace compared to the world around us? How might the same outside observer notice how our church advocated for grace-filled public policies? Give an example of what you imagine a grace-filled policy or change in the law could look like.
(50) If we understood grace deeply, how would we care for the poor differently as a society than we do now? How might Christians care for the poor differently than we do now? Compare this to the parable of the workers in the field (Matthew 20:1-16). Reflect on where we see ourselves in the story.
(54) How does the Antioch Podcast’s practice of “reading together” differ from an individualistic practice of reading in private? What do you notice are distinctive characteristics of their conversations? What do you think they may do to foster these kinds of vulnerable cross-racial conversations?