Ibram X. Kendi’s false teaching

Jan 26th

Since being introduced to his work a few years ago by a former student of mine, one of the things that I will admit has consistently perplexed me about the teaching and writing of Ibram X. Kendi is how poorly reasoned and defended it all seems to be. I don't consider myself some profound thinker, yet I always come away from Kendi's speeches or Q&A sessions amazed at how shallow and redundant they are – and at times, it seems as though he is simply stringing buzzwords together, feigning that it is somehow coherent to sophisticated minds.

The degree to which academia wants to play that game is of little concern to me, given their slavish devotion to the spirit of the age. I'm hardly surprised nor shocked to see academics and "experts" chasing their own tails pretending they're engaged in scholarship.

Where I become concerned is when Kendi's claptrap enters the realm of Christian theology. Like when he sits in front of an engraving of the Great Commission and bastardizes that very command of Christ:

This is why discernment is so important for Christians. Parse these words, understand them, and recognize that they have absolutely nothing to do with the faith taught by Jesus of Nazareth.

Liberation theology. In other words, Jesus was a revolutionary. And the job of the Christian is to revolutionize society. That the job of the Christian is to liberate society from the powers on earth that are oppressing humanity. Everybody understand that? So that's liberation theology in a nutshell.

We can start with a point of agreement – Jesus was a revolutionary.

But Kendi fundamentally misunderstands that what made Him a revolutionary was that He turned mankind's entire understanding of power and authority on its head. He preached a kingdom where the last shall be first, where the meek inherit the earth, where the peacemakers would be the children of God, and where those who hunger and thirst for righteousness would be filled.

So then, the "job of the Christian," as Kendi clumsily put it, is to baptize people of all nations, making them disciples of this same kind of thinking that prioritizes the eternal kingdom above all earthly ones.

Kendi's theology is markedly different, erasing and replacing the Great Commission (an irony given that he delivered this interview while sitting in front of a giant inscription of the Great Commission). He doesn't desire any doctrine that upends our understanding of earthly power; he desires a doctrine that worships that same power but wants to revolutionize who gets to wield it. He envisions an earthly kingdom where the last have risen up to oppress their own oppressors, where the meek seize power and exact revenge, and where the real children of God will commandeer the use of public policy to fill themselves from the table of those who have had it so good for so long.

Savior theology is a different type of theology. The job of the Christian is to go out and save these individuals who are behaviorally deficient. In other words, we're to bring them into the church, these individuals, who are doing all these evil, sinful things, and heal them. And save them. And then once we've saved them, we've done our jobs.

In Christianity, the Church can't heal others. Only God can. Those who are doing evil can find redemption and forgiveness for their sins in Christ alone, not the Church. And once they've found salvation in Christ, the "job" isn't over. Discipleship, fellowship, benevolence, and community are all spiritual disciplines of Christian living.

And to me, anti-racists, fundamentally reject Savior theology. That goes right in line with racist ideas, and racist theology, in which they say, "You know what, black people, other racial groups, the reason that they're struggling on earth is because of what they're behaviorally doing wrong. And it is my job as the pastor to sort of save these wayward black people. Or wayward poor people. Or wayward queer people." That type of theology breeds bigotry.

What's bizarrely self-contradictory about Kendi's man-made religion is that "anti-racism," as he defines it, actually embraces this very type of theology but reverses the power players. He pinpoints the sin – white supremacist racism – as what white people are "behaviorally doing wrong." And it is his job, and the job of his fellow prophets of his religion, to "liberate black people from these wayward white people" by stripping the latter of power and handing it to former. That is, ironically enough, his very definition of bigotry.

Kendi would not object to this characterization, by the way. He has written and said before: "The only solution to past discrimination [white on black] is current discrimination [black on white]. The only solution to current discrimination [white on black] is future discrimination [black on white]."

And so to me, the type of theology, of liberation theology, breeds a common humanity, a common humanity against the structures of power that oppress us all.

Kendi's attempt to rhetorically sneak one past the goalie won't work for someone willing to take the time to think critically – and theologically – about what he is saying here. "A common humanity" would mean recognizing, to use a cliché, we're all in the same boat. While that is precisely what Scripture teaches, that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," that "we all like sheep have gone astray," that "all of us have become like one who is unclean," it is not at all what Kendi's "liberation theology" espouses.

Look again at his last sentence:

Liberation theology breeds a common humanity, a common humanity against the structures of power that oppress us all.

Note that those manning the "structures of power," his "oppressors," are not sharing in Kendi's common humanity. They are the ones Christians are to be working against in order to achieve liberation for the deserving oppressed. And, as Kendi has noted repeatedly, discrimination, bigotry, reverse racism, are all legitimate, fair, and appropriate tools to use in such an endeavor. You can call that whatever you want to call it, but it isn't Christianity.

Herein lies the fundamental incompatibility between liberation theology and Christian orthodoxy. While liberation proponents like Kendi teach that Christ came for the oppressed, Christianity teaches that Christ came for the oppressed and the oppressor, beckoning us all as sinners to accept His once-for-all substitutionary atonement for sins.

The most unifying experience for humanity is in recognizing that we are all great sinners, and Christ an even greater Savior. That Ibram X. Kendi rejects such eternal truth is all the reason any believer needs to utterly reject his counsel, while also praying diligently for his soul.


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