In this episode, Kurt speaks with Neil Shenvi on critical theory as it pertains to race, social justice, and the implications for Christian belief.
Kurt: Well, a good day to you. And thanks for joining us here on another episode of veracity hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics and society. So nice to be with you here on this fine spring day. In Chicago. We have two seasons, summer and winter. And sometimes people say we have two seasons, winter and construction. So but great weather now here in Chicagoland. Christmas is the winter. Right, Chris? Yeah. We’ve got a fascinating episode coming up here we’re looking at some political issues and social issues and how it relates to faith issues. So we’re kind of touching upon all three arenas here on today’s episode. But before we jump to that, I’ve got just a couple things to say here. Do defenders media has begun a grassroots donor drive, and this week, I’ll be releasing some images and we’re seeking to increase our base of donors, those folks that can chip in 10 or $20 a month. And I feel a sneeze coming on here. This so this should be interesting. But if you have enjoyed our program, this is episode 150. If you’ve been enjoying our program now, I want to encourage you to become one of our supporters. You can go to veracity hill.com, click on that patron tab. Yeah, there it is. All right. Oh, well. And if you’ve enjoyed our episode, you’ve come to hear and listen to a number of different Christian thinkers and some sometimes non Christians come on the program to talk about different issues. If you want to go deeper though and explore the Christian faith. I want to encourage you to check out Ken samples recent book classic Christian thinkers. Many of us pick up Christian theology and history in a piecemeal way, making it difficult to understand how everything really fits together. But in his book, classic Christian thinkers, Ken samples offers a masterful summary of some of Christianity’s greatest defenders. And the history of these nine timeless truth seekers overflows from the pages of the Bible into history itself. Take a step toward a richer faith by visiting reasons.org/veracity and order your copy of classic Christian thinkers today. Well, if you are one of our followers, you know that we have a texting plan. And I notified the followers there of our program today, just text the word veracity to 555888. And you’ll get free updates about our program, you’re free to respond back with some questions. I’ve got our platform open here on my computer. We’d love to hear from you during the program, and I’m keeping tabs on Facebook comments as well. Well, without further ado, we’re going to be talking about critical theory, and then specifically getting into topics like race and white privilege, those sorts of things. And joining us on this is a rather smart fellow, his name is Neil Shenvi And he has a PhD in theoretical chemistry. And so get this from his his his work he’s done, man, some of these words I can’t even say. So his PhD dissertation was on quantum computation, including quantum random walks. I’m not sure what that means. Maybe like you split into two as you’re going for a stroll, cavity quantum electrodynamics, spin physics in the end represent stability problem. Well, let me formally welcome you. Thank you, Neil, for joining us on our show today.
Neil: Thank you, Kurt.
Kurt: All right, so some of these, man… (indiscernible)
Neil:That’s a hard one. Elisa Childers also had trouble with that when it’s non adiabatic dynamics.
Kurt:Yeah. Okay. electron transfer surface science….Man. That’s gotta be some hardcore science.
Neil: Yeah, it’s very, it’s very sciency.
Kurt: So all right. You are really a science nerd. But you also find yourself delving into theology and apologetics and you know, social issues as well. You’ve published some articles on this out there on the interwebs on gospel coalition and free thinking ministries. And so what what got you interested in exploring this topic?
Neil: It was really accidental. So I’ve been really passionate about apologetics for 10 years or so since I was doing a postdoc at Yale. And it wasn’t fun. debate an atheist on his blog. And so that’s when I first realized I should really be better equipped to defend the Christian faith. I mean, I work in academia, or I was working in academia. I read a lot, but I’ve never really studied apologetics carefully and consistently. And so began doing that. And I found I loved it. I was kind of a generalist, I just learned about the New Testament, or learned theology, I learned just just basic ways to show people that Christianity was true. But a few years ago, I began noticing a kind of drift in people’s theology, both people that I knew personally and in public figures, and began with an interest in social justice. And I assumed that was just wanting to apply the teachings of the Bible with regard to justice to our laws, which is a good thing. But then these people would often drift off in other directions that were harder and harder to reconcile to Orthodox Christian belief, and I couldn’t connect it like, what was going on? And that’s how I got into studying what’s what’s called a critical theory.
Kurt: All right, so before we delve into specifics, maybe give us a big picture. So what is critical theory?
Neil: Sure. So a critical theory, it’s a bit hard to define. It’s like a broad, multidisciplinary field, like post modernism or feminism, right? It’s hard to what’s the conceptual core? I think that people agree that it grew out of a group of German philosophers and sociologist, known as the Frankfurt School 1930s. But it’s really gone beyond that for the last 80 years. But but so it’s, it’s again, it’s a really broad discipline. But I would say that it’s concerned primarily with the elimination of oppression. So let me read a quote for you from Heather Davidson’s power and action and critical theory across disciplines. So she says, critical theory, since its inception has been primarily concerned with the elimination of oppression, the promotion of justice, liberation is the theme that runs through critical theory, liberation from Objective oppressors, which is colonizers and exploitive employers, and liberation from subjective forces such as mass culture, and ideology. So when you think about critical theory, think about seeing the world through the lens of oppressors and the oppressed, and then working to free or liberate those who are oppressed from this, this marginalization experience,
Kurt: I can see how a number of Christians might be attracted to that idea. You know, you’re dealing with victims, people who have been harmed, you know, liberation here. You know, you in the Bible, you have slavery, freeing, you know, the slaves, leaving the land of Egypt. You know, you have, you know, of course, the Scripture takes place in a Conte and a historical context where you have those concepts being played out, you might even say sort of colonialism with the Roman Empire occupying Jewish territory. So I can see how that would be attractive to a number of Christians. So So what what’s, what’s the problem with it, then?
Neil: Yeah, so exactly right. So Christians often get interested in and embrace critical theory, because it sounds like they’re doing something very biblical. They’re trying to liberate the oppressed, the Bible talks about that, how the Bible does say, It commands us to care for the vulnerable and to work for liberation for the oppressed. And you look at the paramagnetic event of salvation in the Old Testament was the Exodus, right, liberating the slaves from Egypt. So you like wow, this is very biblical. That so that’s how Christians are often drawn in. But what’s really important to recognize is that critical theory redefines terms very extensively. So when you hear terms used in critical theory, that sound familiar, you have to ask, what what do they mean? Precisely so for example, the term oppression in critical theory does not refer to what it means in the dictionary the dictionary says oppression refers to prolonged or cruel, unjust treatment or control so slavery would be oppression, creating captives and stealing things from them. The firm’s oppression for critical theory defines oppression and far more broadly, it would include things like physical violence, but primarily located oppression in terms of what’s called a hegemonic power. So hegemonic power is the idea that the ruling class whether it’s the rich, white men, heterosexuals, but whatever is normal in society, the ruling class tells a story to justify their dominance. So there’s a an ideology that explains what why do we deserve to have instance additional power. That’s called a hegemonic discourse. And that is inherently oppressive, even though everyone in society thinks it as common sense, but it actually is a way to subjugate those who are considered other the other groups, people, women, people of color, the LGBT community, these groups are all oppressed by hegemonic power. So let me just go quote here. This is from Jacob PK gross in his education and hegemony. He says in common usage today, hegemony might simply be used as a synonym for dominance and supremacy. Concepts of hegemony enable us to appreciate how dominant groups manipulate symbols and images to construct, quote, unquote, common sense, and thereby maintain their power. And these groups are defined not only in terms of class, but also in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation, and so forth. It’s all from Jacob gross. So when critical theorists talk about oppression, they’re talking not about, you know, unjust control, cruel treatment, they’re talking about one group, imposing their values, norms and expectations on culture, that’s oppression. And then social justice is defined as liberation from all forms of oppression, whether it’s based on race, class, gender, sexual identity, ableism, age, etc.
Kurt: So, popularly when we see on Twitter, people blaming rich, white straight men, …then what they’re doing here is participating in this attempt to create a narrative which divides the populace into groups of people, is that right?
Neil: Well, they would say so that critical theory would say you have a hegemonic narrative or hegemonic discourse, then you have counter hegemony, so you have an alternative way of viewing value. So, you know, straight white men tell you that being straight white and male is normal, and all other forms of being are aberrant. But then the oppressed groups rise up and say, No, we reject your hegemonic narrative we see through it. It’s a it’s a power play. And we’re gonna say no, actually, we are also valuable. Now, of course, as Christians, we’d say, well, of course, all of us are valuable equally, because we’re equally made in God’s image. But then again, they view any kind of norm as oppressive. So simply to say, for example, and this sounds crazy, but critical theorists will will list adult ism as a kind of oppression. What is the delta? The Delta ism is when adults impose their values on children?
Neil: Yeah, no, I, I couldn’t believe it. But it makes sense. Because when you’re the adult, you’d say there’s a question of the code here. But you treat your child as this cute, helpless person who lacks agency and you deny them freedom, and therefore, you’re oppressing them. And so a delta, this is a form of like sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia. These are all forms of oppression.
Kurt: Now, that’s fascinating, because I was just talking to a friend who has taught in the public schools. And my friend has noted that disciplinary policy has changed over the years in public schools. Where I mean, we can think back to like, classic school teaching where a teacher would slap a child on the wrist, right? I mean, we’ve come a far away from that. But my friend was saying now that it’s so much that the policy has changed so much that for children that are being disruptive in class, the teacher can’t do anything. Like Like nothing like the worst you could do is just send them down the hall or anything. You can’t. I mean, because to give them detention or something, you know, oh, you’re you’re causing, you know, trauma to them. And so I can see how this adult ism would be influencing.
Neil: It could be Yeah, because you’re imposing your power over them, right, you’re exercising and that’s oppressive. And so you should try to seek, you know, restorative, not discipline, not not retributive discipline, but restorative discipline. Right. It’s that’s the I guess that’s one of the idea is probably behind that changing policy.
Kurt: Interesting. Interesting. All right now, so as it pertains to race, you know, there are a few countries in the world where they have race issues, I can think of the two most popular ones that come to mind. I can think of South Africa, because of the history of apartheid there. And then I think of the United States. And you think of other countries, maybe in India, you’ve got race issues going on.
Neil: In other forms. I would just say that other countries it’s not as it’s not the black and white issue we have say in the US because of slavery, but there are always forms of true injustice and oppression due to ethnicity, culture, language and people We’ll find ways to hate each other.
Neil: Because we’re sinful. Right? So in India, I mean, take India right at my father, I’d have Indian, but the, you know, the caste system there has resulted in all kinds of poverty and exclusion and discrimination against the elites, the outcasts, and other. But but the but the bottom line is that it’s it’s, well, race might be a specifically important in the US South Africa but other places its ethnicity its language it’s something else a gender right.
Kurt: Yeah. So I’m a bit interested in how, you know, and different approaches to race relations and how critical theory applies to that. So, you know, you think white white privilege, you know that because I’m a white male I’ve, while I may not be guilty of any wrongdoing, I’ve benefited from a system.
Neil: Yeah, right. This is an area where you gotta be really careful to define terms. So there are ways to define white privilege that are actually I think they’re just empirically valid. So actually, Dr. George Yancey is a Christian sociologist, who’s written about race, and he defends the term white privilege. But he’s very careful. So I really like his work. His book Beyond racial gridlock is a great book for people interested in Christian approach to racial reconciliation. But he defines white privilege to mean the sort of the unearned advantages that whites have over people of color. And that is actually empirically measurable. I mean, there are examples of really careful experiments that were done by sociologists showing that a white person and a black person applying for a job who are identically qualified, would have disproportionate different rates of hiring so white, for example, once it took applications that were identical, they just changed the name from say, Emily or Greg, the white names to Kishore Jamal, but the applications were identical. He sent them out in the white names had a response rate that was about 35%, higher than the black names. So that’s an honor. I mean, they didn’t deserve that, that extra boost in their in their employability, it just did advantage of being having a white name, because, you know, for whatever reason, and that is, I think, unfair. And that’s when so I think we can look at that and say, well, that is white privilege. The problem is what you said earlier, the if you go back to Peggy McIntosh, who popularized the phrase white privilege, and in 1988 paper. Number one, she included a huge broad list of phenomenon under the umbrella heading of white privilege, some of which are actually immoral, like, say, discrimination, for some are treating someone badly because of their race, and others of which were simply amoral. So for example, one of her famous cases of white privilege is that a white person can find a band aid that matches their skin tone. And you say, well, that, I guess, is something that white people can do. But of course, actually the band doesn’t match my skin tone, or I mean, there’s one shade a band aid and most of mine, it’s not yours. And so is that really on the level of say, I get harassed by store owners for my race? Well, that’s different. One is sin. And one is just the fact that we’re living in a culture where most people are not dark skinned. So she puts it all together in the same category as white privilege. And so that’s that what’s weird, you’re mixing categories of immoral and totally non moral issues. And then she goes further in that paper and sees it as that white privilege taints the person with privilege. So she says that she writes, my schooling gave me no training and seeing myself as an oppressor. Now, he brought her She’s not saying that she was actually being cruel to people. She’s saying that because she was part of a group that was experiencing privilege. She’s now an oppressor. And then she says, I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will. Now she’s questioning that she’s denying that she’s saying our moral state does not just depend on our moral will, it depends on being in a culture that I had, I benefited from my white privilege. So now untainted morally, so that there you see that’s why it’s so important to define terms and to know where they’re coming from. So when you say this is white privilege, how are you defining it and then are you saying that people are tainted by their membership in some demographic group? Because she was saying that that you might not be?
Kurt: Yeah, so. So there are some examples where we can recognize like you said, and while there may be an academic study that that illustrates it or proves it. Even we might think of ways in which you know that there can be white privilege. Yeah. And those are worth calling out on. But it seems like what you’re saying is that’s taken too far that, you know, Band Aid want a single band aid? Yeah. You talked about, oh, it doesn’t fit the dark skinned people. How about the really light skinned people in the room? … I mean,
Neil: The problem with you’ll see this a lot in critical theory is that they, they take words that are common words that we that we have defined in the dictionary that are used in a certain way. And they redefine them in these incredibly broad sweeping ways that will often sneak moral connotations into the term when they shouldn’t be there, or vice versa is actually James Lindsay, who’s an atheist, who’s spoken a lot about critical theory and its problems with it. But he calls them Trojan horse terms, where you redefine the term in a way that you can smuggle in these hidden assumptions into an everyday term. So a good example would be racism. We look in the dictionary says racism is our prejudice based on race, right? If you’re treating someone hit, you know, thinking you’re superior to someone because of their race, that’s racism. So it’s a symmetric definition. I mean, people, white people can be racist, Asian people can be races, half Indians, like myself can be racist. But critical theorists in and it was so anti racist. We’ll talk about what that means later. But critical theorists will define racism to be asymmetric. So they’ll find it as prejudice plus institutional power. And because people of color don’t have institutional power, at least, their group doesn’t well, then a person can or can’t be racist by definite by definition. Wow, that’s fascinating. And I can read the dozens of quotes about that. And it’s very, if you look at blitter, look up, look up. And I mean, I have a whole dictionary entry, I created a glossary of these terms, just showing people that they’re used differently.
Neil: And so you have to be aware of that, because you’ll have a conversation. And you’re assuming the words, you’re sharing a definition, but you probably don’t, you may not get the check.
Kurt: Right. So because from what I’ve understood as the term racism, it’s that you’re pre judging someone based upon their skin color.
Kurt: And that’s sort of a broad view of racism.
Neil: Yeah, they would call that prejudice.
Neil: So they would define, that’s prejudice, but racism, they would define as prejudice. And you’re not just you have power, because obviously, people of color can be very powerful. And white people can be very poor and uneducated and powerless. But they would define it as prejudice plus institutional power. So if your group has power, and you happen to be part of that group, and you’re prejudiced, then that’s racism. And then they’ll even go further. And then they’ll talk about systemic racism, which would not require prejudice. So you could have systemic racism, even when no one is actually actively prejudiced at all. It’s actually Bonilla Silva has a book called racism without racists where he talks about how institutions can enact what he would say are racist policies, even though the people themselves are not racist. So it’s it gets scalped. And I know I’m not even saying that that’s necessarily a totally crazy idea. I think it’s plausible, but you have to be aware of how these terms are being used.
Kurt: Wow, that’s fascinating. I didn’t even know that that the. I mean, again, from my vantage point, I want to be careful here because I don’t want to be oppressive. From my vantage point, that I haven’t understood racism to include the necessity of being in a position of power. It seems like racism is a two way street.
Neil: misquote, I’m not making this up. Here’s Beverly Tatum a very well known. Black I think is a sociologist. So she writes since he quotes David Wellman and David Wellman defines racism as a system of privilege based on race is the system of privilege. So it’s not about actual personal animosity. Yeah. So and then she says, if someone is usually quick to point out, this is not the definition you’ll find in most dictionaries. I reply, who wrote the dictionary? I’m not being facetious with this response, whose interests are served by a prejudice, only definition of racism. So she’s admitting yes, we’re redefining it. But because dictionaries
Kurt: are written by old white guys.
Neil: Yeah. I mean, that’s that’s right. And then she says, so she says people of color can and do have racial prejudices. However, if one defines racism as a system of advantage based on race, then people of color are not racist because they do not systematically benefit from racism. This is from her book. Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the cafeteria, so it’s just a common if you look up, it’s called anti racism. It’s a Again, that doesn’t mean. So an anti racist does not mean somebody who’s opposed to racism, I think hopefully every Christian in the entire world is opposed racism. But anti racism, that does not mean oppose racism, it means that you accept the systemic view of racism as a system, which must enter and are actively working to dismantle that system. So it so I argue basically, that you to be an anti racist, you have to adopt this systemic view of racism, it’s really rooted in critical theory.
Kurt: So it’s very important to clarify terms, so there’s clear communication. So if we’re talking about an injustice, then depending on who we’re speaking with, we, you know, I might use the term race, but to them, I’m talking about prejudice. So at least I could still communicate clearly. And instead of use the term race may be talking about well, that’s prejudice. Right? Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. So I was gonna ask you about the term white privilege. Yeah, because I’ve spoken with a number of people on this topic, one fellow who’s extremely progressive, and he, you know, thinks that white white people are guilty, unless you’re woke, then then you are forgiven of that, if you agree with them, then like you’re forgiven of the privilege you’ve experienced somehow.
Neil: They’d agree necessarily.
Kurt: So it seems like that term white. You know, if people were to come up with a social category and say, brown egg, brown privilege, or brown, you know, this could be viewed as extremely racist, yellow privilege to say, because, you know, Asian people are extremely smart or something like that.
Neil: Yeah. The stereotype is they have this theory,…
Kurt: that’s right. Positive, that would be seen as such a racist term in the public square. So how is it that white privilege is not being seen as racist?
Neil: Right, well, okay. For one, this is the problem, because it’s oftentimes these terms are used without being defined. So white privilege, and it’s all it’s all part of a system, this will probably talk about this with regard to how it relates to Christianity and a little bit, but it’s a whole system of thought. And so in their mind, well, why is white privilege not racist? Well, they would say because it can’t be because it’s, it’s opposing this system of privilege, right? It’s a word. It’s coined by at least it’s used by people of color, and therefore, by definition can’t be racist, because racism means part of a system of racism, which white privilege and you’re calling out white privilege, you’re not, you’re opposing that system. So again, I said, it’s open to other definitions. So I would say you could use the term white privilege to refer to unearned advantages, which is one of the ways that Macintosh uses it. And I think that’s not it’s true. It is this I mean, for example, I why vocal white culture may be a sort of stand, I mean, just yet what we see as the normal human do an Evan Jellicle. Church today, right? What do you hear being played during worship time? What do you how people dress? And it’s kind of this some maybe suburban, you can, I mean, you could argue about this. But there are a lot of cultural things that people of color would look at and say, well, that’s kind of white culture. And I’m saying what’s that’s reasonable. And so if I, now you have a half Indian, so I don’t know where the half Indian of angelical churches are. But if I walk into a church, and the culture of the church is very different from the culture that I’m familiar with, well, that’s a form of I’d say, have some kind of privilege if a white person walks into a church and feels comfortable, and a black person or Hispanic person walks in and feels kind of a little out of place. Okay, that’s a privilege. I think as Christians, we should say, how can we mitigate that we don’t we don’t want to be a place where people walk and say, Oh, this is a white place, we want to be a place where people say this is a place where God is worshipped. So we can do things like I’m in my church, we begin playing just non quote unquote, white pro worship music part of the service, we still kind of play the, you know, hymns and quote unquote, white music during service. But at least when you’re in the lobby beforehand, you’re hearing like, gospel music, Christian hip hop, just to show people that we want to not make this an obstacle. So I’m just saying that you can use these ideas productively. But what I worry about is when people aren’t thinking carefully and critically about the ideology underneath these, like you’re saying, So, for example, I would say the problem with defining racism to be prejudice plus power, is I would ask the question, is racism a sin? If racism is primarily a sin, it can be committed by people of end He’s skin color. And then we shouldn’t redefine the term so that it can’t be committed by certain people. So for example, I was example, I say, imagine I redefined adultery to be marital unfaithfulness for men. But I did. But I reserved the word cheating for women, you committed adultery? If I use two different terms, the question is, do you think that they’re different in God’s sight? Or not? They’re both sin are both equally isn’t. Now one might be more harmful. One might be more culturally acceptable, one might be more. But in God’s sight, they’re equal sins, because human beings, men and women are equal. And I’m saying because God doesn’t look at the power, we have to determine whether an action is really sinful or a little sinful. God just says, what are their intentions? What are their individual motivations? Have they transgressed in My Holy standard? If so, it’s sin. And therefore, I would say we should be really careful to define words that undermine a Christian anthropology, which would say that all people are equally valuable. And also all people are equally moral agents. We don’t excuse Oh, well, you can have been adultery because you’re a woman completely undermines a Christian worldview.
Kurt: Yeah, it’s, and it’s unequal. Which is fascinating, because it’s a you know, especially social justice is the strive for equality.
Neil: Yeah, so there’s a whole …
Kurt: Neil, let’s hold that thought. Because we we’re gonna take a break here, just a two minute break. But when we come back, we’ll start talking about social justice, and you’ll help us understand these terms. Okay. All right. So stick with us through this short break from our sponsor.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. If you want to learn how you can become a sponsor, you can go to our website veracity hill.com, click on that patron tab. And there’s some options there to become a sponsor on our program. We’d love to get your support, help you promote a book or your organization and to tell more people about the great work that you’re doing. On today’s program. We’re talking about critical theory with Neil Shen v. And he is an accomplished author, a really a smart fellow, having got a PhD in theoretical chemistry, and a bunch of he said a whole bunch of things that I have know nothing about. Neil, tell me what was that thing? Something about a walk going on a walk?
Neil: A quantum random walk? Yeah. Okay, so it’s a theoretical model for how quantum mechanics quantum particles can move alongside a lattice. If you don’t want to know. It’s great. That’s pretty technical. Okay,
Kurt: so was it a couple of weeks ago, we did a very spoiler heavy show on Avengers end game. So boiler warning if you haven’t seen endgame spoilers, even though the spoiler ban has been lifted now. Okay, so have you seen the movie? Yeah. So I have Yeah. Okay. Since you’ve obviously studied quantum things. Let me ask you about the time travel and the quantum realm.
Neil: They did that though. That’s No. Did it actually have a little bit of jargon? That was actual jargon. Like they talked about, like, entanglement. They talked about some kind of multiverse paradox, but they use like, they said, shores paradox isn’t something that was actual sort of real quantum mechanical term. But yeah, the time travel a bit, you know, it’s whatever, suspend your disbelief.
Kurt: Yeah, right. Right. Right. Exactly. Yeah. And then we talked about how they, they used two different types. They can, you know, continually bashed the Back to the Future model. Right. Yeah. But then at the end with cap, that was basically the Back to the Future model. Right. Yeah. Yeah. All right. Anything right. Before we jump back into our discussion, Neil, this is we do a segment on the program called Rapid questions for first time guests. And so basically, it’s 60 seconds. I’m going to ask you a bunch of short, silly questions so we can learn more about you. Okay. Please tell the audience did I tell you about this beforehand? No. Yes, exactly. So we’re gonna catch you off guard here, which is great. So let me get the game clock going here. So are you ready? Yes. Okay, here we go. What’s your clothing store of choice?
Kurt: Taco Bell or KFC?
Kurt: What’s your favorite sport?
Kurt: Oh, nice. Do you drink Dr. Pepper?
Kurt: What celebrity are you most like?
Neil: I don’t know any celebrities.
Kurt: Let’s see. What’s on the walls of the room you are in?
Kurt: Do you have a garden?
Kurt: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Neil: Ooh, marine biologist and a doctor in a senator.
Kurt: Do you carry a donor card?
Neil: I don’t think so.
Kurt: How many keys are on your key ring?
Kurt: Pick a fictional character that you’d like to meet?
Neil: Oh, (indiscernible)
Kurt: Oh, nice. And last question. What’s the last thing you watched on TV?
Neil:I on the on the screen. We don’t have television in our house. Probably sports center like eight years ago.
Kurt: I mean, we have to watch TV. I mean, like Okay, so
Neil: … so I don’t know.
Kurt: Okay, so I guess we could say like, you know, do you do you watch Netflix or something? I mean, that’s, you know, ..
Neil: I think I probably watched Ant Man and the Wasp,
Kurt: Okay. Nice. Yeah, you had to fill in a little bit of the gaps there from right.Nice. Good. Well, hey, that was great. Okay, so you occasionally drink Dr. Pepper. That’s good. Basketball is your favorite sport. It happens.
Neil:Now I can’t play anymore, but I used to love it.
Kurt: Nice. It’s my favorite sport to play. Although I’ve become a bit I used to be a Bulls fan. I gave up on the bulls. Because John Paxson and Gar Forman have no idea what they’re doing. So I formally given up I’m in search of an NBA team to support are you much of a fan? Do you watch much or is playing the how you…
Neil: I used to like to play I would watch just at the gym, and I’d watch highlights on SportsCenter, but I only like playing.
Kurt: Yeah, yeah. I might get into college basketball. You know, it’s more competitive. It’s not as showy as the NBA has become. It’s huge
Neil: It’s huge down here. Duke UNC everyone’s got it.
Kurt: Oh yeah, I’m sure it’s big there. Yep, yep. Good. All right. Well, let’s get back to the topic of today’s show. We’re talking about critical theory and race and the implications for Christian belief, which we’ll get to, perhaps shortly here. We left off. I asked you about social justice. And apparently I opened a can of worms.
Neil: So you asked about well, it’s weird that they would be so adamant about an n equal treatment of whites and people of color, given that they’re all about seeking equality. And I said yes, as well. That’s actually a huge sticking point. So they would, I think, with some reason, say that colorblind approaches are actually not going to solve our problems. So I’m actually reading a book right now called a critical race theory. Compiled edited by Kimberly Crenshaw, and it’s interesting because they’re they’re mainly legal scholars, but they talk about how in the wake of the civil rights movement right after in the aftermath, they had to figure out now that we’ve, we’ve have laws on the books now that are that are colorblind, which was a major accomplishment. They agree it was. But now how do you root out the more subtle and insidious forms of discrimination, and I think they have some point there. For example, I was reading about a court case Supreme Court case called Griggs versus Duke and Duke Energy, I think, where the company in the right after the Civil Rights Act had passed, the company suddenly changed. They’re there they before they used to discriminate against blacks, explicitly, they say, you can’t work in this department, if you’re black. After the Civil Rights Act being that illegal, they suddenly changed their policies so that now you could work in the department if you wanted to. But you had to suddenly have a high school diploma, and past two aptitude tests. And lo and behold, blacks couldn’t pass those tests. And so there were no blacks and department, Supreme Court, they’re taken to court and the Supreme Court said, Look, this is still discrimination. You can’t pretend this is not even though on the books in the law, the policy is colorblind, but it’s still discriminatory. That’s fair. And but here’s the thing. So one of the major claims of critical theorist and anti racist is that the theme you’ll hear is, racism never disappears, it merely evolves or adapts and becomes a more subtle, more insidious, harder to see, but it’s still there. Is there some truth to that? Yes. But is it that that would they wouldn’t say, well, because of that, though, we are justified in enacting policies that are explicitly not colorblind, to counteract this insidious, hard to see racism. That’s where it gets tricky. Because on the one hand, I’ll say okay, it’s fair to say that I would say, look, as a Christian, the human heart is the problem. And even if we get rid of the laws on the books that are racist, which I say Yes, amen. Do that. But because racism is in the human heart, there is still gonna be racism in our actions, whether or not it’s on the books, right, that said, Is it should we then go the other direction and say, we’re going to just be okay with having racially explicit policies to counteract this very hard to see discrimination in perpetuity? That’s, I mean, that’s a matter I think Christians can disagree. But you’re you’re asking, Well, why is it okay in their mind to be race conscious? When Shouldn’t we be striving for race race blindness, and they would actually talk about if you google this Google, colorblind racism, that’s a term that’s used a lot. So they will say that actually being quote, unquote, colorblind, is actually can be a form of racism, and that they would even say it is a form of racism, because it allows racism that already exists to remain on, discovered and, and hidden. That’s anyway, so it lost it, it’s hard to digression. But this is where it’s so important for Christians to understand these movements. Because otherwise you’re like, what on? How, how do you say this kind of stuff? Yeah, right. If you have to, it really comes from entire ideology.
Kurt: Alright, so one attempt to have a social corrective is almost widespread common commonplace now is affirmative action policies. Yeah. And basically, where companies have to, I don’t want to use like a business term where they have to fill a quota of hiring X amount of minorities. One of the difficulties I, you know, I, that made headlines was a firefighter test. I think it was in the state of New York, where, you know, you had to pass an exam to become a firefighter. And there are a number of minorities who scored very low on the test, and others, white guys that scored high in the test, and the, you know, the fire departments selected, the minorities that had scored low because they had to fill that quota. And so the white guys kind of came together and filed a lawsuit, because they were they perceived they were being treated unfairly. Right. It seems like there are for some people, these unintended consequences of these policies, maybe maybe they are intended, I don’t, you know, so, how is it that we can work on creating a system that recognizes these shortcomings of the human heart, while at the same time not causing injustices to others?
Neil: Right. I think one thing is I think quota systems are actually illegal still. So actual quotas are illegal. I could I could be wrong about that I’m an expert in the law or affirmative action. So what they would they are allowed to do, though, is to give under the Supreme Court rulings, I think it was about 20 years ago, they were allowed to give preferences to, to disadvantaged minorities of various kinds, not just unjust blacks, but any kind of disadvantaged minority. They can give preferences to them, they can weight that in their favor, if they need something called strict scrutiny, I believe anyway, I don’t know the details of the law. What I would say is that there, there are a number of justifications that have been offered for affirmative action. What I would say I tend to be very careful not to take a political position when I talk about these issues, because I’m constantly getting pushed back that you’re opposing political theory, because you want me to vote a certain way. And I keep trying to say, I’m not here to tell you how to vote I my concern, it comes entirely I sincerely mean this. I mean, I’ll be honest, I’m a conservative, I will admit that. But I am not coming into this issue, as a conservative trying to convince you to be a conservative, I’m coming to this issue worrying about these deep theological implications. So pick first of action, I am not going to pronounce upon whether it’s right or wrong, good or bad. I think there actually is a case that can be made for affirmative action. I, I think it’s like you said there, there can be injustice is involved. And we have to be I think people even better for affirmative action to be mindful of that. There’s a case actually, it might be going to Supreme Court now. from Harvard, where Asian students sue to Harvard on because they’re saying, Look, we are getting discriminated against by these policies, because we’re considered to be, you know, over represented. And so we’re taking, you know, we’re taking a hit, because we’re not what I mean, we’re minorities, with a history of discrimination in the US also. And so why is it okay for us to be, you know, hurt by these policies anyway. The point is just that I think this scenario where I’d say, to prefer not to give my own opinions, especially because I’m not an expert here, and stick to the ideas underneath these questions. So for example, I would say, let’s think about what justice even means. Because I oftentimes I find that when you say, pick a policy and say, Well, why do you favor this policy? And why do you not? You may find that you disagree on basic questions like, What is justice? Right? What are even like that? What is it what is racism? We’re all going to agree racism is bad. But you might find out if you really ask questions that we have totally different definitions for what racism is. So that’s my, my Dodge here. I, I guess that it’s pragmatic, because I really do want to convince people that my concerns are theological and ideological, not political.
Kurt: All right. So that’s a good segue to looking at the implications that critical theory critical race theory has for Christian belief. It seems that progressives would very likely be and demonstrably are embracing this sort of philosophy. But now even the past few years, it seems that conservative evangelicals are beginning to adopt or have these viewpoints, infiltrate their thinking, influenced their thinking, maybe influence or infiltrate depends on your perspective. So what’s been your perception on that? And is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Neil: So the so critical theory as an ideology, although it has some good parts of it, like I think I could go, I mentioned my talks, but there are aspects of things like thinking about the vulnerable and thinking about how power can be misused, those are all good things, thinking about discrimination in how in our society and how these are all good things. But there are a lot of fundamentally bad things about critical theory. And there’s, for example, there’s, they are, it’s fundamentally different worldviews. So, for example, Critical Theory views hegemonic power as an oppressive force. Why is that a problem? Well, the Bible is just one long hegemonic discourse, right? The Bible is just one big set of reasons why God is justified to have all power and all authority.
Neil: And so if you’re like, Well, you know, hegemonic discourses are oppressive. Well, then Christianity is by definition oppressive. Or you might say, well, well, okay, God’s different though. So I’m gonna be a Christian. And I think God’s different so God can have his hegemonic narrative as the you know, the story that the ruling class uses to justify his authority. He can have that that’s fine. But when it comes to human power hierarchies, those are progressive. Okay, well think about that. What does that do to your beliefs about, say, the gender roles, right? Or who, you know, the gender was affected? Who, whether the men should lead the family, whether men should leave the church, or at least in terms of being elders and pastors? How does it affect your view of things like sexuality, right is heteronormativity oppressive? Should we work to undermine institutions like traditional marriage, which promote heteronormativity as the standard way of textual sexuality? That would be on critical theorists are unanimous. Heteronormativity is like racism, it’s the same as an oppressive force that must be dismantled. You can’t so and this is why, by the way, so I can give you some quotes here. But you notice the people I noticed personally, people that I knew who would embrace a critical theory as a way of thinking about race, would begin to embrace it as a way of thinking about everything, because it’s a worldview. So they begin to apply it, they can’t just apply it to only race you, they apply it to race and class, and gender and sexuality. And you can find people that are either professing evangelicals or war because they haven’t dealt those who have now applied this lens to everything. So here’s an example. Here’s um, this is from a website, the author actually had, I won’t say any names here, but this author has written for the erlc website, this person’s SES are still on his Southern Baptist website, very conservative, and the author, but then this, this is a well known writer, but on the author’s website today, it says this, not on the RLC This is on her own her own website. It says, for white people or people with any other privilege granted by societal systems of oppression, supremacy now what are those? Were, those oppression is premacy. What are they what kind of privileges they promote? Well, she lists them male privilege, able to privilege sis hetero privilege, citizens status, privilege, and so on. This is on a Southern Baptist site. No, no. So she’s been cleared. Her writing is on the erlc. website. But since then, because she’s embraced critical theory is seemingly, she’s now lumping all of these things together. So on her site, she has a list of books for children, ages like this is for ages three to eight. And those books includes books about civil rights, movement, and slavery. And books like a is for activists, which is a book for children, ages three through eight. And in that book, there are statements like this LGBTQ love, who you choose, T is for trans trust in the true that he she, they that is you. And so she so you see that connection there. She’s fear, why is racism and civil rights movement on the same level as the LGBTQ movement, because they’re all movements to dismantle systems of oppression, supremacy. So and this is not, this is not isolated, there are so many people that I see embracing this language and these and then without even knowing, necessarily the ideology behind it, and then applying it to not just race and gender, but to everything and to the point where how can you keep saying that, that people shouldn’t be Christians exclusively, because you’re marginalizing Muslims. That’s Zama phobia, right? How can you have a society built around Judeo Christian norms? Because that’s in training your moral norms over? Our norms are right, yeah, well, well, they would have met No, Gods norms are right. And so we yeah, we do want God’s norms to be reflected in the way that we live our lives and actually even structure society to some extent. But if you embrace critical theory, you have to work to dismantle those norms too.
Kurt: And it seems like because it’s a worldview, it plays out, not just for social policy, but individual policy as well. Were becoming the victim or being a victim, you become the hero of a story.
Neil: Yeah, one thing we didn’t talk about, it also is a pistol Knology as this analogy, you know how you know the truth. Critical theorists would say that because dominant groups impose their these false narratives on society and they embrace them. They’re blind, right? They’ve bought into this deep this deep lie about the way reality works, that puts them at the top. However, subordinate groups have the possibility of saying, wait a minute, that’s an exit that’s a lie. So what happens is you have this asymmetry between access to truth subordinate groups, have the possibility of having what’s called a liberatory consciousness, they can become conscious of the reality And therefore, should be given deference in matters of truth. So we know people that are in dominant groups are blind by their privilege, and therefore should never challenge the claims made by subordinate groups because they have awareness lived experience of oppression, and they can then enlighten and impart these truths to those of us who are blinded by our privilege. But again, what does that lead you? Well, what if someone says my lived experience is that this religion in Mormonism is true, right? There even are the Hinduism, Islam, right? There are a minoritized group, their marginalized group and our Judeo Christian culture, how dare I challenge their lived experience? Or, again, sexuality, I’m my lived experience is that this is my sexuality, how are you going to vote invalidate my existence by saying that I’m wrong? So again, you say that I don’t want to go there. Well, that’s right. You don’t want to go there. But you have to if you follow the inexorable logic of critical theory, that’s where you have to go.
Kurt: Yeah. And then and then it gets even worse. You get these fake hate crimes.
Neil: Yeah, well, yeah. Yeah. That’s a Yeah, that’s another issue. Right.
Kurt: It seems connected, though, like that. It’s an outworking of the the narrative ploy. You know, sharing your story and all of that. So people are manufacturing, the narrative of what’s happening in their life. So,…
Neil: yeah, it’s funny, because now to be fair, I mean, obviously, there are real hate crimes.
Kurt: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah,
Neil: It does, you know, so you don’t want to say, well, it’s probably a fake hate crime. Well, you can’t know that. But I do think that, remember, because this is a worldview. And the worldview does prioritize liberation. And it prioritizes being striving against oppression, and it tries to platform people that are oppressed. Right, right. Well, but then there is value in being and being able to claim that I am an oppressed person. Does a funny exam is a funny example of this. People say, Well, is that really true? Believe it or not, is actually a critical Keirsey points out that, um, that when the US Census, when the US decided to, to try to make amends for the treatment of Native Americans, and then the 60s or 70s, they were trying if there’s some law that in some way, gave you special, I think, was forbid, call for jobs, college admissions, they gave preferences to Native Americans, because of the legitimately terrible treatment that this country inflicted on Native Americans. So they made that protected class. Well, between when that happened is like 1964, or something, I remember when, but if you look at the census, between 1960 and 1970, the number of people claiming to be Native American, like doubled. Now why well, it’s clear, that’s not like they just suddenly had a lot more kids, it’s that people saw value now in claiming to be this Native American status when they probably weren’t negative. I’m just That’s an example of, if we if you give, if you prioritize, if you incentivize, incentivize, right? If you incentivize some behavior, some claim, then you’re gonna get more of it. Now, I’m not saying therefore we should ignore hate crimes, I’m just saying that it is indicative of how people have do see victimhood as a way to ironically to gain power, right? Because it will allow, for example, I’m people will, because they want to Platt from your voice, for example, for me, I know that people will not listen to what I have to say about critical theory. Sometimes, if, if they think I’m white, I had to say, well, actually, I’m not white. They’re like, Oh, now you can speak to us what my boy, what I’m saying is true or false, but they’re focused on Well, if you are white, which I’m not, but if I were, they wouldn’t, they would say, well, we don’t want to hear the opinion of a white male. And I think that’s actually the for Christians, I understand we ought to want to give a voice to the voiceless, we can all but we also have to remember that truth does not depend on race class, your gender and your access to truth is independent of thing. So you can’t just assume that because someone is part of a, an oppressed, quote, unquote, oppressed group, they have access to the truth that doesn’t follow them.
Kurt: Yeah, I can think of some popular examples of what you’re talking about, about the incentivizing. You know, you talked about 1960s or 70s, Native Americans, you know, getting jobs, and I can’t help but think, oh, Elizabeth Warren, applying to become a professor and yeah, yeah, and that’s a clear example. And then obviously, in January and February, you had the Jesse Smollett case here in Chicago, that became really nationwide news over the the manufacturing because of that, incentivization so like I said the victim becomes the hero of the narrative. Yeah, and to me that’s problematic. Neal, we’ve run out of time. This has really been a pleasure. I’ve, I’ve learned quite a bit myself. So I’m glad I invited you on the program today. And we’ll have to bring you on another time to talk about whatever you want. Because you’re the type of guy that when you when you want to go and look at something, you spend time researching it, yeah, and writing on it. And, you know, when someone writes and teaches on something, that’s when they really learn the material. So, please stay in touch and we’ll bring you on the program again.
Neil: Great. Thank you so much.
Kurt: Thanks, Neil. God bless you. Bye. All right. Well, that does it for our program. Today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors with the updated image Chris, and they are defenders media, consult Kevin, the sky floor, rethinking hell, the Illinois Family Institute, Fox restoration, and reasons to believe I want to thank our technical producer Chris for all the fine work that he does for our guests Neil Shenvi. And last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.