By Nick Judd
“The revolution won’t happen with guns, rather it will happen incrementally, year by year, generation by generation. We will gradually infiltrate their educational institutions and their political offices, transforming them slowly into Marxist entities as we move towards universal egalitarianism.” – Max Horkheimer, 1982
Most of us have heard the term “critical theory”, “critical race theory” or “CRT”. If you’ve ever googled it and came away with a headache after only a few sentences, you’re not alone. The nuances of this school of thought are immeasurable. And, to make things worse, there are surface level points in CT (critical theory) that can be quite appealing. It’s packaged as a means to achieve equality, to take down long standing structures of oppression, to make us challenge our existing beliefs and see where we may be contributing to systemic and societal ills. But…that’s the bait that hides the hook, unfortunately. In this article I will try and give you a very broad overview of where this has come from. It’s not my aim to make you an expert on the subject; I’m certainly not qualified to do so. It is my aim to give you a historical context to put this into so that when you think about this subject from a Christian worldview you’ll be able to see it a little more clearly. And, believe me you will have to think about this. It is, just as the quote said, infiltrating everything.
Marxism Made Simple
To understand CT, you have to have an idea of what Marxism is. In a very oversimplified form, Marxism is basically a philosophical idea that has these basic tenants:
- There is no God, as a result there are no inalienable rights or objective authorities.
- Society is not made up of individuals. Society is the sum of individuals’ relations to one another. (No “rights”)
- All of humanity can be broken down into two classes, the “haves” and the “have nots”, which leads to the “oppressor and oppressed” language that you’re probably familiar with.
- An ideal society is one in which all are equal and all things are communal, no one “owns” anything.
- For this ideal society to be realized, the “have nots” must overthrow the “haves” and redistribute everything to the society as a whole. (Again, no ownership)
In this idealized society, equality is not what is really desired. Instead their aim is equity. All forms of Marxism, including CT, push for equality of outcome, not opportunity. This is why capitalism is the biggest enemy. The idea that two people could be given the same resources and opportunities and one come out as a “have” while the other comes out as a “have not” is seen as unacceptable. Because the individual doesn’t matter, merit and effort have no value in this system.
Marx saw this as the natural course that human history was “progressing” toward. The closest picture of Marxism is the Soviet Union. The end result was a people with no rights, no freedom, no property and no faith. Once the individual person was removed from all areas of life, the state became the source of all. The state became god. Marxists believed that this philosophy could only work if it were embraced globally. Even if they achieved their equal utopia in one place, there would still be “haves” and “have nots” from nation to nation. However, it failed. As a result many Marxists began to tweak certain aspects of the philosophy. Once they realized that it was not going to happen on its own, they began to form ways to bring the “revolution” about. This gave rise to Critical Theory.
Critical theory is Marxism applied to everything, not just economics. Where Marxism focused on “have” and “have nots” in the form of wealth and goods, CT focuses on “oppressors” and “oppressed” in the form of power. Marx grouped people into social classes based on economic status. CT groups people into identity classes based on power status. This is where the ideas of systemic racism, white privilege, and intersectionality come from. The flaw with these ideas is not that racism and inequality don’t exist. Rather, the flaw is that they attribute racism and privilege to all individuals within groups regardless of a person’s beliefs or behaviors. As CT labels some to be oppressors, even unconsciously, based on race, gender, sexuality, etc. it twists the concept of “original sin” to fit its cultural needs. CT requires those in “oppressor” groups to seek a form of absolution by first acknowledging the groups’ contributions to perceived inequity. This is where we get the term “woke”. Being “woke” is being awakened to your place in this system.
In this philosophy, oppressors and oppressed are the only two classes. Since society can be boiled down to that, it follows that all that society does is a product or tool of oppression. CT goes so far as to apply this to language and history. The history example is easier to understand than the language example. It goes like this:
- History is written by the winners.
- The winners have power and are therefore oppressors.
- The oppressors have to oppress to keep power.
- Therefore, history is a tool of oppression.
You could replace the first statement with just about anything and come to the same conclusion. The argument looks like it might work, but it only works if you assume their presupposition that all people can be broken down into two classes not by who they are as a person or what they’ve done, but based on their group identity. For example, I am a white, straight, married, Christian, American father. Even if I were destitute and homeless, I would still be an oppressor based on my group identity. And until I accept that, I’m not woke. Marx saw the remedy to society’s ills as being the revolution and redistribution of goods and production. CT sees its remedy in the removal of all power (authority structures) in society. The family is oppressive because the parents, and particularly fathers, have power. Race is oppressive because one race has power over another. Religion is oppressive because God has power over people. And on it goes.
This brings us to CT’s role in modern history. The sexual revolution, the feminist movement, the LGBTQ Agenda, BLM and many more causes are all rooted in Critical Theory. The aim is to overthrow all power structures and liberate society from all restrictions. However, as long as there are humans in this universe, there will be authorities and restrictions. What happens in this philosophy is the same as what happened in the Soviet Union, the authority in this godless society all ends up in the hands of the state. All that was supposed to be held equally and communally by the people, ends up being held by the state. The state becomes god. CT is not concerned with equal rights, again, CT does not believe in individual rights. CT uses the fight for “rights” as a means to an end – to overthrow all authority and replace that authority with itself.