Last week, it was the almost humorous riff on beards as signs of God’s favor on manly men. This week, it’s a not-at-all funny critique of Critical Race Theory and intersectionality — by a white man who is the father of a multiracial set of children.
This is the world of Desiring God, the website created by John Piper and friends to disseminate a Reformed, complementarian view of the world and fight against the forces of progressive Christianity and liberal culture.
This time, it’s personal for me. Like Trent Hunter, the author of this week’s piece against intersectionality, I am the father of five children. And in the past, I was a member of the church Hunter now serves as pastor.
While I commend Hunter and his wife for their loving adoption of four children from diverse backgrounds, I fear his narrow theology endangers them and many other children who need to know that systemic racism is real.
And it’s not just me who was bothered by this. Kyle Howard, who is a conservative, Reformed inerrantist, said this on Twitter: “This is actually one of the worst & most horrifying articles to come out of Desiring God in a long time. Many of you won’t be able to understand why, but that doesn’t change the fact, this article is top tier horrific & devastating.”
The problem is a piece titled “Intersectionality and My Adoptive Family” where Hunter introduces us to his family and explains why he will not answer his 9-year-old daughter’s question about intersectionality — the teaching that systems of xenophobia and white normativity intersect and overlap in the contexts of gender, sexuality, race and class.
He opens his article by sharing the story of Corrie Ten Boom’s father refusing to answer her question, “What is sexism?” Hunter uses that story to justify his own unwillingness to define intersectionality for his daughter. But in the original quote from The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom never asked her father “What is sexism?” Instead, she asked him, “What is sexsin?” Or to put it clearly, “sex sin.” Hunter misread “sexsin” as “sexism” and then built his entire article from that misreading. (The quotation in the article later was edited to “sexsin” although the point of the author was not changed.)
And in keeping with the mantra of conservative evangelicalism today, he begins by making Critical Race Theory the boogeyman.
He says critical theory “views all human relationships through the lens of power dynamics.” But in reality, white supremacy structures all human relationships through power dynamics because it’s rooted in theologies and ethics of hierarchy. Critical theory simply recognizes how that functions in society.
He says it is a false worldview to point out the demographic details of oppression. But he’s being ignorant here because oppression can be shown in demographics.
For just one example, consider the demographics of spankings in schools that allow such punishment. Black boys are 1.8 times more likely to get spanked than white boys in public schools, while Black girls are 2.9 times more likely to get spanked in public schools than white girls. While Black students make up 16% of the student population, they account for 36% of spankings at public schools.
Trent Hunter can peddle his ignorance of those facts for Desiring God if he wants. But those facts are true, whether he labels them as a “false worldview” or not. And I could show a myriad of examples that would reveal how harmful Hunter’s ignorance of the basic demographic facts is.
Of course, Hunter adopted kids from Ethiopia, from Haitian descent, and who are part Cherokee. So he’s convinced he’s not a racist. He thinks saying, “We must not overlook the history of racism in America” means he’s addressing racism in America.
Regarding his daughter, Hunter asks, “Am I her colonizer? Is she my victim?”
That depends on whether Hunter affirms and equips her to be an embodied, self-aware, whole person in a world built by white supremacists to put her in her place on their hierarchy, or if he trains her to venture out into the world in denial of reality.
He asks, “Does my part-Cherokee daughter have a trump card over all of us? When my white son figures out that he holds no moral authority, should he search out and hold the atrocities of his siblings’ ancestors against them?”
These are the irrelevant questions of a white man who has no self-awareness of his own privilege and is completely ignorant to conversations that promoters of intersectionality and critical theory are actually having.
“He says it’s ‘cruel’ for white parents to talk to their Black kids about the systemic realities of racism in America.”
Instead of affirming and equipping his daughter, he says it’s “cruel” for white parents to talk to their Black kids about the systemic realities of racism in America and misidentifies the concerns of intersectionality as a myriad of straw-man cruelties that nobody is telling children. These issues aren’t merely “historic wrongs” of the past. They’re embodied traumas and systemic injustices that can be proved through hard data today.
He says his children are “at impressionable and tender ages.” Exactly. That’s why you shouldn’t be indoctrinating them with trauma-inducing theology of eternal conscious torment and then denying them the opportunity to discover the very real dangers they actually face. He says his kids are “the battlefield targets of this teaching.” No, they are the collateral damage of his own white supremacist sacralization of power and denial of reality.
He says, “By fixing our eyes on color, intersectionality reduces the resolution of our shared humanity.” No, self-awareness doesn’t reduce our humanity. Denying the measured experiences of Black children does.
He says, “Intersectionality dehumanizes my family when it prioritizes our skin color over our basic humanity.” No, recognizing the basic humanity of Black children makes it necessary to face such realities as the fact that they’re physically beaten in public schools two to three times more than white kids.
He says, “Intersectionality would make us foreigners first, family second.” No, his denial of the overwhelming consensus of Black Americans makes them feel like they aren’t a part of our national family or of our human family because he’s telling them their measured human pain is but a mere illusion.
The article is so full of ignorance that it’s impossible to detail in this post. The fearmongering he does for basic self-awareness is stunning. But what also bothers me is when he brings Jesus into it.
“I know the way they weave gospel gobbledygook into every conversation to make it sound deep and gloriously God-centered.”
I served in Hunter’s church, planted a church out of it, and then served for many years in another megachurch across town that’s very similar to it. I know the way they weave gospel gobbledygook into every conversation to make it sound deep and gloriously God-centered. He talks about the “Lamb on the throne in the middle” and the line of justice running “vertically between all of humanity and our God,” about “by the blood of this Lamb we are made just” and about how “Christ carries our burdens for us.”
But all the while, Black kids still get physically beaten two to three times more at public schools than white kids do.
As Joash Thomas said, “Lying to your non-white kids by shielding them from the reality of the sin of racial injustice and imposing uniformity in their thinking based on your majority culture lived experiences isn’t compassion; it’s colonialism.”
Or as another Reformed writer, Bradly Mason, said, “Honestly, what kind of BS is this guy reading??? It would be funny if it didn’t have such an obvious and profoundly negative impact on very real people. @desiringGod should be both embarrassed and ashamed.”
I agree that Revelation 7 shares a vision of unity amidst diversity that we should long for today. But reflecting Revelation’s gospel vision of “every nation, tribe, and tongue” isn’t accomplished by adopting Black kids into your white family and dismissing the consensus and measured experiences of the Black community.
Multi-racial adoption is good news only to the degree that it fosters within the children being adopted the wholeness of being at home in their bodies rather than the exile of denying the embodied experiences of their community.
If Desiring God wants to peddle their power games amidst all-white communities, then go ahead. Those who participate will receive the judgment of their sins by their sins. And their tall white tower will fall. But don’t adopt Black kids and indoctrinate them by telling them they have no reason to be concerned about the very real dangers they face. Don’t remove the self-awareness of Black kids in the midst of their vulnerabilities, especially when you peddle the patriarchal view that men are meant to protect them.
If you want to know why I’m no longer in your churches, and in your church in particular, it’s not because I want to be cool and do the sexy thing as Matt Chandler said. It’s because you white men harm Black children with your B.S. theology and denial of reality like this.
Rick Pidcock is a 2004 graduate of Bob Jones University, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Bible. He’s a freelance writer based in South Carolina and a former Clemons Fellow with BNG. He recently completed a Master of Arts degree in worship from Northern Seminary. He is a stay-at-home father of five children and produces music under the artist name Provoke Wonder. Follow his blog at www.rickpidcock.com.
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