In 1962, the Supreme Court ruled that school-led prayer violates the First Amendment. While many believe this effectively expelled religion from the classroom, that’s not entirely true. For in its place another worldview is being taught which in many ways mimics religion.
It just does a lousy job.
Critical theory has its roots in something called the Frankfurt School, and it uses Marxist analysis but substitutes identity in place of class. Critical race theory was developed by academics like Kimberlé Crenshaw and Derrick Bell, who argued that the power dynamics in society exist to protect whites at the expense of minorities. Critical gender and queer theory both follow a similar rubric.
Critical theory parallels religion in that it seeks to address questions of meaning and morality. It replicates other features as well–or it at least it tries.
For example, traditional faith can sometimes involve accepting claims that contradict empirical evidence. This is why Christians affirm the resurrection of Christ and his virgin birth, events which would normally be regarded as biologically impossible. They resolve this conflict by noting that if God created the universe, then it only stands to reason he would also be capable of bending the rules by which it is governed. Even if skeptics reject the premise, they must at least concede that the conclusion is consistent.
Critical theory also requires that one accept a variety of claims despite contradictory evidence, but unlike Christianity, it offers no supernatural explanation.
This can be seen in how critical gender theorists point to most corporate CEOs being male as proof society is structured to favor men over women. That the homeless are also disproportionately male goes unmentioned, and it’s easy to see why. After all, arguing for systemic male privilege gets more difficult if you acknowledge that men are over-represented in society’s lowest strata.
Similarly, critical race theorists support their claim that law enforcement is systemically racist by noting how African Americans make up roughly a quarter of those killed by the police despite just 13 percent of the population being black.
They don’t react well when you cite FBI data showing that about 37 percent of cop killers are black, which would suggest the main reason why African American suspects are disproportionately killed by the police is that they disproportionately try to kill the police. Things don’t get any better when you point out how Asians are less likely to be killed by the police than white people are and then ask if this is evidence of anti-white bias or simply reflective of the fact that whites typically commit more crime.
Sometimes they’ll even make the mistake of noticing these contradictions themselves. Critical race guru Ibram X. Kendi recently found himself in an awkward spot after he tweeted about a report from The Hill on the growing number of white students who falsely claim minority status in order to increase their chances of being accepted into college. In contrast, few minority students are falsely claiming to be white, which isn’t what you would expect if society were designed to convey privilege on white people. Kendi’s tweet has since been deleted.
But the similarities between religion and critical theory hardly stop there. Whereas Christians primarily attribute society’s problems to sin, critical theorists attribute them to racism, sexism, heteronormativity, etc. Occasionally the replacement of sin with some sort of “ism” is done explicitly. Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness is directed at children aged 4 and up, and on page 59 it features a scene in which white people are portrayed as having made a deal with the devil to secure wealth and power at the expense of minorities.
Further, critical theorists have their own version of saints. These are people they venerate for having been martyred by the dominant power structure, with prominent examples including Michael Brown, Travon Martin, and Jacob Blake. It’s considered blasphemous to admit that the choices they made played any role in their fate.
For some critical theory advocates, George Floyd has become a figure comparable to Jesus. That’s evident from a painting displayed at Catholic University of America’s ministry office along with its law school. Called “Mama,” the image was created by artist Kelly Latimore following Floyd’s death, and it depicts him as a Christ-like figure. That this messiah had a record of armed robbery is left unsaid.
Yet although critical theory often borrows from Christianity, there are some important differences. Whereas the latter offers the chance for redemption, the former isn’t nearly so merciful. Someone’s status as an oppressor is usually defined by immutable characteristics, and their flaws can at best be mitigated.
For example, while the prospect is held out that some white individuals may find a measure of acceptance by publicly rejecting “whiteness” and pledging to “do the work,” they will remain forever tainted by the privilege that their skin color allegedly brings. No amount of diversity training or self-criticism will change that, which means redemption always remains out of reach.
They will also be seen as being in some way culpable for the actions of other white people, including ones they’ve never met. That’s why best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in his autobiography of watching the 9/11 attacks and feeling nothing for the police officers who died.
“They were not human to me,” Coates recalled, adding that he considered them to be “menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could — with no justification — shatter my body.” The fact that these particular cops had just given their lives while trying to rescue people was irrelevant: they were part of an oppressive class and deserved to be treated accordingly.
This sense of collective responsibility is also why he declared that “‘White America’ is a syndicate arrayed to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control our bodies.” For Coats and others like him, the beliefs and actions of individual whites mean little since they are members of “White America” and therefore share in its guilt.
Here we see regression from the Christian idea of individual responsibility to an older, tribal notion of group blame. And from blame it is a short step to action, which is why Rutgers University professor Brittney Cooper announced her belief that “we got to take these motherf—kers out.” Naturally, the “motherf–kers” in question were white people.
In November of this year, Twitter was criticized for allowing users to call for “white genocide” and putting white people into gas chambers:
As this ideology has gained more prominence, many in the mainstream media have been quick to assure parents that it isn’t found in classrooms. They’re lying.
As Fox News reported, Not My Idea is being used in schools across the country. The network also revealed in September that a Virginia teacher posted a video in which he listed “following directions” and “sitting quietly” as examples of white supremacy. This isn’t surprising given how Virginia’s Department of Education promotes books by Ibram X. Kendi and Abolitionist Teaching Network co-founder Bettina Love.
Meanwhile, the superintendent for Detroit’s public schools told attendees at a recent board meeting, “Our curriculum is deeply using critical race theory, especially in social studies, but you’ll find it in English language arts and the other disciplines. We were very intentional about … embedding critical race theory within our curriculum.”
All of this helps to illustrate why far from being paranoid, parents who seek to ban educators from proselytizing are more than justified. Because if the Lord’s Prayer isn’t allowed in school then there’s no reason we should permit critical theory to replace it.
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