You need to read this by Matthew Franck. He argues that “systemic racism” is a conspiracy theory akin to QAnon, with the difference being QAnon is rejected by the elite while systemic racism is taken very seriously.
In civic thought, I agree with Franck and you’ll need to read below to understand why I put it that way. Just as QAnon inspired some nuts to try to take out a pizza place in Washington, DC, the systemic racism people are getting cops shot across the country.
Both are deeply harmful but, again, the pundits, politicians, and press treat systemic racism as real. As Franck writes,
This unique feature of systemic-racism theory is indicated by its very name. As Bryan Garner observes in Garner’s Modern English Usage, there is a substantial difference between the words “systematic” and “systemic.” Something systematic has been “carried out according to an organized plan,” or represents a “habitual, deliberate” pattern of behavior. American chattel slavery was systematic racism. So was Jim Crow. So, in a softer and less obvious way, say its critics, is affirmative action.
But a thing is systemic if it affects or is a feature (Garner again) “of an entire system; systemwide.” Notice that no personal agency is required, or indeed is any part, of a systemic phenomenon. And there’s the beauty of systemic-racism theory: “who’s to blame” is never answered with any particularity that will fix responsibility on known persons, for the answer is “why, everyone!” What could be more impervious to contrary evidence than a wholly impersonal conspiracy theory about human behavior?
You will note please that Newsweek agreed to publish this, then the Editor-in-Chief of Newsweek yanked it. The elite will not tolerate questioning their preferred conspiracy any more than Q will tolerate questioning it.
Let’s go back to my use of “civic thought.”
It cannot be said that, at this time in the United States, after our first black president, multiple black Supreme Court members, etc. that in the 21st century the United States is systemically racist. It simply is not true. If you think it is true, go out into the streets or on Twitter and yell racial epithets or announce yourself a member of the KKK and see what happens to you at your office.
There is racism in the United States that must be dealt with, but the United States is not systemically racist. Honestly, the greatest tell that the United States is not systemically racist is how the New York Times and advocates of the 1619 Project have had to selectively edit American history to make their case. Leaving out key details of American history and selectively reimagining others is an admission against interest. Its own project author now admits the project was not history or even a historic retelling.
All of this is to say that at the civic, constitutional level the United States is not systemically racist. But systemic racism, at a theological level, is a real thing.
Nations, like people, can be guilty of corporate sin. The Bible says so. So at a civic, constitutional level, no I do not think the United States is systemically racist. But theologically, racism can be systemic and exist within communities, people, and organizations.
Why? Because people are sinners.
The problem with churches engaging civicly on the theological front on this is simple — the United States demands a separation of church and state. The answer to systemic racism is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The United States will not accept that answer. Therefore, churches are left to do what exactly?
Work with those on the left who reject Christianity to enact public policy solutions that are devoid of Jesus, implemented by sinners who do not recognize systemic racism as a sin, and fueled by a moment that sees everything as an allocation of power?
Good luck with that.
This is not to say churches should abandon the cause. I think churches just have to go about it differently. Churches need to be involved in their actual communities. They need to hire black pastors who are orthodox believers who do not serve in token positions on cultural outreach initiatives and “institutes.”
Here’s the painful bottom line — a great many churches, pastors, teaching elders, etc. are just in search of a new idol to worship. They’re done with the gospel. They’ll dabble in critical theory and convince themselves that they can co-opt Marx and pick and choose what works. It actually is amazing how many of the advocates of using critical theory in churches claim just that — it may be Marxist, but we can pick and choose the pieces of it that fit our needs.
Racism is a sin that is real. The church can work to stamp it out. But it has to be done with the gospel, not dabbling with Marxist originated ideas. It is not a conservative or liberal binary. It is the Christian thing to do. But some are going down a dark road into worldliness with the approach of accommodating secularists to try to empathize with them.
A gospel that sees neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, is a gospel that cannot embrace power redistribution along intersectional parameters. Critical theory, definitionally, requires a praxis, i.e. it is a theory that demands real world implementation and that implementation is incompatible with a color blind society, which is the society scripture tells us to have.
Frankly, a great many pastors in evangelicalism have embraced Trumpism to their eternal shame and what’s happening now is not a rejection of Trumpism from those who don’t like the man, but a wholesale embrace of whatever they perceive is contrary to Trumpism. That involves empathizing, sympathizing, and shouldering the burdens of secular racial reconciliation at the expense of the gospel and Christian racial reconciliation.
Just as some pastors want to be known as with Trump, some want to be known as not with Trump, and to do that they stand with the loudest voices against him, all of which are right now denouncing racism and marching in the streets. So that is where these pastors are too.
As an aside, it is really remarkable that some of the churches within conservative Protestant denominations like the SBC and PCA most likely to assert themselves boldly on the issue of Black Lives Matter are also the ones least likely to engage on biblical sexual orthodoxy. Hmmmmmmm…
At some point, you’ve got to stand up for truth. Embracing Karl Marx while telling everyone they don’t understand what you’re doing isn’t the way to do it. Claiming you can use Sauron’s power to improve Middle Earth never works out well.