Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Responding to a critique re "Staying Calm About CRT"

I’m grateful for Timon Cline’s critique (at the Cantankerous Calvinist) of my MoJ post about Critical Race Theory, as it’s the sort of substantive engagement that is sorely lacking when Christian leaders, as John Inazu puts it, use the CRT “label as a cudgel” against efforts to promote racial justice within the Church.  I welcome Timon’s contributions and have just a few comments:

First, defining CRT.  CRT can be a tough target to pin down, as is the case with many intellectual movements.  I think Timon deems portions of the Delgado/Stefancic primer on which I rely as misleadingly innocuous re CRT’s core beliefs.  I’m sure that depends on whom we consider to be authentically foundational to the movement.  What is the harm, though, of taking the Delgado/Stefancic understanding of intersectionality, for example, identifying the insights it can provide, then articulating precisely where more robust interpretations fall short of the Christian worldview?  I confess, I’m still not sure why intersectionality’s invocation as an expansive “sensibility," in the work of Kimberle Crenshaw, is necessarily a bad thing.  Again, it seems to me to depend on the particular application we’re talking about.

Second, discerning the nature of Christian leaders’ (categorical) objections.  I highly doubt that the SBC seminary presidents are condemning CRT only after closely reading John Finnis’s take-down of Roberto Unger.  I’m not a legal philosopher, and they’re not either.  They – and other Christian leaders – are engaging CRT in theological (and cultural?) terms.  More than the nature and extent of legal indeterminacy, my best guess is they’re concerned about another point Timon makes: “Racism, for CRT, is no longer personal animus on the basis of ethnicity or skin color, but complicity in the status quo of a white dominant society.” Yes, and the allegation of complicity requires sustained attention and unpacking by Christian leaders before they categorically dismiss its insights.     

Third, assessing the threat / influence.  In response to the comparison I drew between CRT (lots of condemnation) and Law & Economics (not much condemnation), Timon is correct that the former has more explicitly acknowledged influence today than the latter does, particularly on college campuses.  But the difficulty of tracing the influence precisely reflects the complexity of this conversation.  If we look at Law & Economics as one manifestation of a worldview premised on the desirability of maximizing individual preferences, it’s tough to argue that CRT has left a more powerful mark than that.

While I may not be ready to join Timon in his overall assessment of CRT, he and I wholeheartedly agree that this is an area in which Christians need more conversation, not less.


Vischer, Rob | Permalink