“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”– Bennie Benjamin
Last night I was sitting in mass minding my own business (my personal favorite phrase) when our pastor announced that there would be an informational meeting about critical race theory this week. It wasn’t going to be a debate, but Catholics should go because they need to be “informed” if they have school age children.
Of course, he couldn’t help get in the dig that the school attached to the church was never going to teach critical race theory, but the public schools can obviously do what they want. Obviously, I’m not optimistic about the level of information that is going to be offered at this meeting.
I’ve written about matters of faith here before and even though this involves the church this isn’t really about that. The church has stances on discrimination and racism and for the most part they are on point. However, those stances come from a purely faith perspective and that is an area where one either believes or doesn’t believe.
Far be it from me to dispute learned theologians and Biblical scholars on the fine points of faith. They have far more training than they do. All I have is my near perfect score in my Bible course in college and a few decades of private study that goes along with my time as a catechist. That can’t compare to nearly a decade of intense study and then a lifetime of working within the faith.
However, the church has long inserted themselves into opinions on science as it combines with faith. While they clearly understand the faith implications of any number of issues, they clearly are not up to date on the science. They have done with stem cell research as well as other things that pertain to health and science. Critical race theory is an academic theory that is not being taught in public high schools or junior highs. There is certainly no reason why it would be taught in elementary schools.
So, what the church is likely to present has little to do with critical race theory. They are likely to present a perversion because that is what has been bandied about elsewhere on Fox News and other conservative outlets. A narrow and focused concept has been somehow bastardized into a catch all debate about whether we should tell our kids that they are racists.
Obviously, the approach varies depending on how nuanced the presenter is. The most common sophisticated approach is to point out that racism and discrimination used to exist (it’s impossible to deny Jim Crow) but that it no longer exists because we are better now. So, there is no need to burden our children with the sins of our parents. After all, it might make them feel bad.
Where CRT comes into play is that many of these discriminatory practices were codified into law. These laws have long-lasting effects even if the intention wasn’t there. We can erase those laws. We can change those laws. We can speak out against those laws, but those laws have a lasting effect. Those effects can last generations.
We have somehow taken these simple truths and somehow perverted it into an overly simplistic “white man evil” message. That is the conception that has somehow been attached to CRT. It’s purely an academic theory that was perhaps only somewhat related to other social commentary. Something primarily taught in undergraduate programs and law school programs has suddenly become the bogeyman that the church now appears it needs to address for some reason.
We have the usual caveats about keeping politics out of religion and religion out of politics but this is somehow worse than that. This involves taking something we don’t understand, hastily throwing something together, and then rendering an opinion that has the weight of the church behind it. I’m not attending this informational meeting. I already know what’s coming and I need to keep my blood pressure down.