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It is written:
Exodus 20:5-you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,
There is a theory which is very popular in our day and age known as critical race theory. Many people are adhering to this belief system, and it is vigorously defended. One opponent of the theory defines it for us thus:
“In essence, CRT is an ideology embraced by race activists that operates from the foundational assumption that racism is endemic in our country; that it is deeply ingrained in all of our institutions; that it is intertwined into the very fabric of our society; that concepts such as equality, neutral principles of law, and liberalism (i.e., individual rights, liberty, consent of the governed, etc.) are its natural enemies; and that this must be rectified, not through incrementalism, but through revolution. The belief is that racism is so pervasive that it has embedded itself into the normal, everyday operations of our lives to the point of invisibility. Racial disparities viewed through the lens of CRT are automatically attributed to racism even if no overtly racist acts are apparent. White people are said to benefit from a system of white supremacy whether they know it or not. Non-white people are likewise oppressed by this same system whether they know it or not. In this view, the fundamental operation of the system itself automatically perpetuates racism and disparate outcomes among racial groups. These are the basic tenets of Critical Race Theory.” (Leonydus Johnson, Raising Victims: The Pernicious Rise of Critical Race Theory, 2 (Kindle Edition); Washington, DC: Salem Books)
Let’s break this down and consider from a Bible perspective what we should make of this ideology.
First, the theory is based upon the very real and tragic existence of racism in our country. There are those who deny that racism still exists; yet it does. All we need to is ask a black person about his experiences and we will see.
While I was reading the above quoted book at a restaurant in West Virginia, I took some time and asked my waiter (a young black gentleman) about what he thinks regarding racism. He told me that racism is not as bad as it used to be, but it is still a very big issue. I asked him if he could give me an example. He told me about how he had been at a local department store and the police were called on him while he was shopping. He told me that there was no reason other than the police being called then that he was black. He also explained to me that his family constantly worries about him driving around the city area because of his ethnicity.
It is true that racism used to be much worse in our country in the past. I have no doubt that political forces in our country especially have attempted to stir up racial division in America for nefarious purposes.
However, just because racism was worse in the past does not men that it does not still exist today. Sadly, many are not aware of the racism that is still so prevalent. In fact, many do not realize how they support and promote racism without a single thought!
What do I mean?
Type in the words “Coco Chow” on your Google feed, and you will find several references from former President Donald Trump to the wife of senator Mitch McConnell, Elaine Chao. This is a racist slur of her Oriental background, and it is awful.
There is no other word for this but “racist.”
With that being said, take a look now at how many Americans (and sadly, how many Christians) have reshared those same posts.
The racism is so blatant that many are not even aware that they are participating in it.
Friends, no matter our political background or belief system, we should not support racism!
Perhaps I am more sensitive to this due to my Japanese American background. My grandfather was very young when he was put into an American Japanese internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He and I never talked about those experiences, but the racism behind these acts was an integral and shameful part of American history.
“On February 17, Roosevelt officially told Stimson and McCloy to draft an executive order authorizing evacuation—without informing Biddle. The matter, if not the manner, was settled. Roosevelt had made it as clear as he could: he did not want to hear any more of this. Stimson began working on an executive order that declared the evacuation “a matter of Military Necessity.” The final draft of the executive order did not mention the words “Japanese,” “Japanese American,” or “citizen.” Internal memos referred to American citizens of Japanese descent as “non-aliens.” That evening, Colonel Bendetsen and Assistant Attorney General Clark, who had flown into Washington the night before, went to Biddle’s home to meet with the attorney general, McCloy, and Gullion. After two of Biddle’s assistants, Ennis and Rowe, laid out the legal case against incarceration, Gullion pulled out the draft order approved by both War and Justice. Biddle’s assistants were stunned. Ennis was near tears. The attorney general himself said nothing, although he had sent a memo to the president that same day, saying: “A great many West Coast people distrust the Japanese, various special interests would welcome their removal from good farm land and the elimination of their competition.… My last advice from the War Department is that there is no evidence of imminent attack and from the FBI that there is no evidence of planned sabotage.” There was no answer from Roosevelt. The next day, Biddle said he and the Justice Department would have nothing to do with any evacuation. Gullion was beside himself, telling General Mark Clark that he had called Biddle and said, “‘ Well listen Mr. Biddle, do you mean to tell me that if the Army, the men on the ground, determine it is a military necessity to move citizens, Jap citizens, that you won’t help me?’ He didn’t give a direct answer, he said the Department of Justice would be through if we interfered with citizens and the right of habeas corpus, etc.” Biddle also received a call from California congressman Leland Ford, who had originally opposed evacuation and attacked Southern advocates of the idea as racists. Now, switching sides, Ford told his staff: I phoned the Attorney General’s office and told them to stop f****** around. I gave them twenty-four hours’ notice that unless they would issue a mass evacuation notice I would drag the whole matter out on the floor of the House and of the Senate and give the b******* everything we could with both barrels. I told them they had given us the runaround long enough … and that if they would not take immediate action, we would clean the g** d***** office out in one sweep. I cussed at the Attorney General and his staff … and he knew d*** well I meant business. So the military was going to have its way on evacuation. All Japanese, citizens and aliens, were going to be removed from the Pacific Coast.” (Richard Reeves, Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II, 65-67 (Kindle Edition, curse words edited, M.T.); New York, NY; Henry Holt and Co)
Biblically, racism is a foolish point of view, since the Bible reminds us that we are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). We all have the blood of Adam and Eve flowing through our veins (Acts 17:26-28). God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35), and Christians should not be either (Galatians 3:26-29)!
Second, the fact that racism is so prominent in American culture is concerning. I am not willing to say-as many are-that all American institutions are inherently racist. Are there racist individuals in all institutions of American society? Undoubtedly. Are there many who promote racism by their words, actions, and inactions? Of course!
Yet does that equate to “all” individuals in American institutions are inherently racist?
Not at all.
In fact, claims like this are very biased in and of themselves. Think about it: it is as wrong to prejudge persons of racism as it is to condone racism actively advocated!
Third, some proponents of critical race theory advocate some form of violent revolution to overthrow racism. Yet as followers of Christ, we know that violent reform is never the answer of God’s Word. The kingdom of Christ is not of this world:
John 18:36-Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
We do not fight against flesh and blood in our warfare:
Ephesians 6:12-For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
We use spiritual weapons, not the weapons of this world, in our warfare:
Ephesians 6:17-And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
2 Corinthians 10:3-4-For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,
The greatest weapon we have at our disposal is the Word of God, which has the power to tear down the greatest barriers-including racism! Indeed, I was thinking about this recently while reflecting on the phenomenon which swept through the world of the NFL during recent years: the many players who were “taking a knee” during the National Anthem before their games.
When I first saw this happening, I was incensed. I believed that the players who were doing this were being disrespectful towards the country which had fought for the freedom of African Americans; whose soldiers had bled and died for their freedom.
It never occurred to me at the time that those players were actually honoring the very soldiers and their sacrifices that I was so convinced they were dishonoring.
Think about it: these players were “taking a knee” to call attention to racism in America that STILL EXISTS, despite the noble efforts of Americans throughout history to overcome such.
Later, I saw people horrified when some were looting stores and turning to violence when they were outraged by the racism. And they should have been horrified: violence is never the answer!
So what could they have done instead?
Perhaps they should have done something as simple and profound as “taking a knee” when Americans would be watching and paying attention.
Do you see my point?
What at first seemed to be an overt sign of racism was actually a protest against racism. It simply seemed offensive to me because I did not consider the context that “taking a knee” was found in.
The Gospel of Jesus, spoken and lived powerfully and boldly in love, is the answer to racism.
Fourth, there are those in this ideology who proclaim that the present generation of certain ethnic backgrounds (I.e., white people) should be responsible for the racist transgressions of their forefathers. Sometimes, people even refer to the Bible for justification for this viewpoint!
After all, doesn’t God promise to visit punishment on the future generations of His enemies?
Actually, there is more to the story than this!
In Exodus 20, God promises to visit punishment on the descendants of His enemies who also continue in rebellion against Him! The passage is talking about children who follow in the footsteps of our fathers in refusing to repent and return to the Lord.
Listen to how Jeremiah the Prophet interprets this passage:
Jeremiah 32:18-19-You show lovingkindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them—the Great, the Mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts. 19 You are great in counsel and mighty in work, for your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings.
This passage in Exodus is God promising that He will not show favoritism towards the children of His people if they turn against Him.
“All of which leads me to the last layer, where we hit bedrock. I would argue, it’s the main idea: because Yahweh is just, he will continue to punish sin in each and every generation until it’s completely gone. Put another way, don’t think that because God punished your daddy for idolatry, you’re off the hook for your own idolatry. God will punish you, the same way he punished your father. The same way he punished your grandfather. The same way he punished your great-grandfather. Because his end goal is a world free from evil, and he won’t stop until the eradication of sin in your family line is complete. If this is unnerving for you, keep reading. The last phrase is my favorite part: “to the third and fourth generation.” The ending is a twist, a surprise. And it’s incredibly cool. The word generation isn’t there in Hebrew. It was added for English readers to make sense of an awkward Hebrew idiom. Scholars point out that Exodus 34v6–7 has a poetic rhythm to it, 11 and whatever word comes after “thousands” may also come after “to the third and fourth.” So it could read: “maintaining love to thousands of generations . . . and he punishes the children to the third and fourth generation.” But more literally, we could translate it: “maintaining love to thousands . . . and he punishes the children to the third and fourth.” You see the picture? Imagine a scale in your mind’s eye. Not the one in your bathroom that makes you feel guilty for the pizza you ate last night. The one in Washington, D.C., of Lady Justice, with a fulcrum point in the middle and a weight on either side. Now imagine it uneven. On one side is Yahweh’s mercy. On the other is God’s justice. But they are way out of balance. The imagery here is of a scale that’s weighted to the side of mercy. He punishes to the third and fourth, yes, but he’s “maintaining love to thousands.” As one New Testament writer later put it, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” 12 Yahweh is just. And that’s good news. That’s why we can look forward to a better tomorrow. But he’s also forgiving. He can’t help but show mercy; it’s who he is. And when his justice and mercy bump up against each other—when they conflict and bang heads and square off—mercy wins every time.” (John Mark Comer, God Has a Name, 231-232 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan)
The Bible does not teach that we are responsible for the sins of our forefathers: we are responsible for our own sins (Isaiah 59:1-2). This is why we each need salvation through God’s Son Jesus, Who died for us, was buried, and arose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). When believers in Jesus repent of theirs sins and are baptized into Christ, they are forgiven and a life of new relationships is born: with God the Father, the Son, and The Spirit; with our brothers and sisters in Christ; and with all mankind (Acts 2:37-47; Isaiah 2:1-4).
If critical race theory is adopted and we make the present generation responsible for past generations of racist ideology, how far do we take it? How far back would the proponents of critical race theory like us to go? Each of us no doubt somewhere has some family ancestor who was the crime of some racial injustice at some point, somewhere, throughout the history of the world. At what point do we say enough is enough?
The answer is not further recrimination of past misdeeds by our ancestors; it is repentance of present sin and redemption based on grace.
In conclusion, while there are some elements of critical race theory are true (i.e., the existence of racism, the influence of racism on some of America’s institutions, racism often practiced unwittingly by some who are enslaved to political ideologies), there are manny elements of it which are false (I.e., the widespread indictment of all people as being racist, the belief that racism must be overthrown through at times violent reformation, the claim that all generations must claim responsibility for the racism of prior generations, etc.).