A few months ago, Rev. Mark Johnson, a White fellow pastor, and I (a Black pastor), attended a luncheon that was sponsored by the Illinois Family Institute, and its stated objective was to create a plan that promoted Christ-centered learning for children. Neither of us remained for the entire meeting and the problem we had is the luncheon’s presentations had heavy political undertones, which made it seem more like a right-wing political rally than a Christ-centered forum. I was also stunned by the group’s overt opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement and Critical Race Theory (CRT).
A question that I ask is this: Why is Critical Race Theory, which was established almost 50 years ago to shed a light on America’s history of systemic injustice (both past and present), rejected by so many in mainstream society? My humble opinion is it is rejected because people do not understand it and are therefore driven away by vitriolic and fallacious right-wing rhetoric. Others reject it to disassociate themselves from America’s racist and oppressive past! Every First Saturday Austin Corinthian Baptist Church (ACBC), the church I pastor on the Westside of Chicago, hosts a School of the Prophets Fellowship gathering (an ecumenical collaboration of clergymen and laypersons who are multi-denominational, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural), and our topic for November was “Is Critical Race Theory a Channel for Combatting Systemic Injustice?” The established objectives for that gathering were threefold:
- To establish a foundation by introducing the Five Principles of CRT, since most people know very little about CRT despite the fact that it was established almost 50 years;
- To allay misinformation and harmful rhetoric surrounding CRT; and
- To present CRT as a framework for addressing systemic injustice in all of its forms which could benefit Native Americans, Immigrants, Women (since CRT supports the engaged fight of the Me Too Movement), and any other oppressed group
The meeting was attended by both supporters and detractors of CRT, and the allotted meeting time was insufficient to address every concern that was raised. Therefore, this post addresses some of the concerns (others may be addressed in a subsequent post). I take exception to the stated comment: “Critical Race Theory (CRT) is influenced by Marxism.” On the surface it may seem trivial, but when viewed substantively, it is a racist comment that serves two dastardly purposes: (1) It disparages the Black Experience in America (personally I have been told by White racists that racism is no longer a problem in America and that Blacks should “get over it,” by adopting the culture, mores, and values of Whites); and (2) It invalidates CRT as a framework for combatting oppression!
A comment I made at that gathering is that I see distinct parallels between CRT and The Funky Gospel, which was not developed in a vacuum. The Funky Gospel was developed by my late father, Rev. Clarence L. Hilliard in 1975. My father was almost 50 years old when he developed that message and it was based upon racism he experienced personally! He regularly received hate mail because he fought for fair housing in Buffalo, NY. His fight for justice also targeted him as one of the most dangerous men in Buffalo by the FBI; not because he was a criminal, but because of the holy war he waged fighting injustice!
Secondly, my dad’s message was developed after spending over 20 years in Gospel Ministry. Not only did he pastor several churches, but he also graduated from Bible College, attended seminary, and pastored within the White Evangelical community over 6 years; all of which played a prominent role in him developing a unique perspective for sharing The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Thirdly, he was a serious student of God’s Word, and not only did he study it, he lived it! Subsets of his Funky Gospel message were published in Christianity Today and The Other Side magazines (click on hyperlink to view the Christianity Today article). Additionally, he preached that message from coast-to-coast and discussed its content with Biblical scholars and university professors. He even begged them to find substantive flaws, but they found none! I said all of that to say this: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had absolutely no influence on the principles espoused in that message! In the same vein, Marx and Engels played no role in the development of CRT because experiential knowledge trumps theoretical knowledge!
The Funky Gospel makes the claim that there are two gospels at work within the Christian community: The Honky Gospel and the Funky Gospel. The objective of the Honky Gospel is to maintain the status quo while the Funky Gospel challenges us to participate in Christ’s missional call to serve the poor, the powerless, and the oppressed. Those who oppose CRT by claiming that it promotes hate are liars, and that sentiment is used as a smokescreen to maintain the status quo and is a clear example of the Honky Gospel applied! So why should we embrace CRT? The answer is because it supports Christ’s missional call as recorded in Luke 4:18. Jesus’ personal testimony is that he came to “… set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Now compare Jesus’ missional call to the end goal of CRT which is “to eliminate all oppression.” In other words, CRT supports Christ’s missional call which is to minister to the dispossessed! So who should get credit for influencing CRT (which is the Funky Gospel applied): Jesus or Marx?
Jesus did not preach His message of liberation in a vacuum either. He preached it among Jews who would not embrace this new reality because it challenged the status quo. The Jewish reaction in Jesus’ day is no different than the Evangelical community’s reaction today: “So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him [Jesus] out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff (Luke 4:28-29).” The takeaway from those who challenge CRT today is their reticence to embrace Christ’s missional call, identifies them, today, as partakers among those who participated in the planned execution of Jesus 2,000 years ago, and that event occurred before a hometown crowd (see Matthew 23:29-31)!
The final point I will make in this post is the January 6th insurrection was mistakenly called a peaceful protest at the School of the Prophets gathering! How was it peaceful when people died as a result of that riot (we need to call it what it was)? How was it peaceful when dozens were injured – some seriously and have never recovered from their injuries months later? How was is peaceful when the damage to the Capital Building is estimated to be $30 million. How was it peaceful when it caused legislators (Democratic and Republican) to run and hide for their very lives? So what was behind that riot? It was based upon lies and was a satanic effort to steal an election that was won fairly and squarely at the ballot box! A planned coup d’état that was unholy from the outset!
Let’s compare January 6th with a bona fide peaceful protest! Colin Kaepernick, a Black quarterback who played in the NFL, continued to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem during football games. By the way, Kaepernick had more advantages than most Black children because he was adopted by White middle-class parents. Nevertheless, he still experienced racism but his parents were ill-equipped to recognize or help him cope with the racism he endured during his formative years. So why did Kaepernick protest? His objective was, “to protest racial inequality and the oppression of Black people in America,” which is consistent with Jesus’ missional call! No one died as a result of his protest, no one was injured, no property was damaged, and no one feared for their lives.
Nevertheless, the public outcry against Kaepernick was ferocious, and the travesty is there is more support from the Evangelical community for the violent insurrectionists, than there is for the peaceful actions of Colin Kaepernick! Given the twisted mindset of many who claim to be God’s children, I can understand why Jesus wept over His people in Luke 13:34-35. Jesus testified that it was because they killed God’s prophets and stoned those whom God sent to warn them! Unfortunately, Jesus is crying those same tears for today’s Evangelical community because those whom God sent to warn His people in our present day, are still under attack for applying The Funky Gospel of Jesus Christ, among a people who refuse to see the error of their ways!