In this episode of As In Heaven, Crawford Loritts shares how love is a preamble for why we ought to care about the race and justice conversation. Love means we don’t just get to walk away from the conversation. Loritts also helps frame the conversation by providing working definitions for a number of challenging and technical terms. The hosts and Crawford Loritts discuss:
- Introductions and the basics (1:51)
- Why we do cultural exegesis (4:53)
- Comprehend, commend, and critique (7:36)
- Defining “race” (11:05)
- Biblical distinctions within definitions regarding race (13:14)
- Biological fiction, sociological reality (16:01)
- The problem with being “colorblind” (18:36)
- The sin of partiality (23:01)
- Breaking down partiality (26:35)
- Omission and commission (32:29)
- The subtleness and seductiveness of sin (36:14)
- Justice (40:04)
- White privilege (45:58)
- White fragility (51:18)
- Framing our cultural moment (54:44)
1. Why are each of the three components of good cultural exegesis necessary (comprehend, commend, critique)? Why is it important for Christians to do cultural exegesis? What happens when cultural exegesis involves only critique but little to no comprehension or commendation?
2. What does the Bible say about racism, and how did racism manifest itself in the early church?
3. What sin is at the heart of racism?
4. What practical ways do the Scriptures offer to kill racism at the heart level?
5. What is the biblical definition of justice, and how does it apply to our cultural moment?
6. Peter explains how we should deal with each other by writing, “Clothe yourself with humility.” How does this command apply to our conversations and relationships with people of different ethnicities?
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Crawford Loritts: Peter says in 1 Peter 5 this is the attitude that we all ought to have toward one another, which is the ultimate solution for racism or the sin of partiality is that we need to clothe ourselves with humility toward one another. I think the Greek word is the word that was used for the apron of a slave, a servant. We have to serve one another, interestingly enough, in order to get rid of the sin of partiality.
Matt Kenyon: You’re listening to As In Heaven, a podcast about applying the gospel to our everyday lives and being more effectively on mission in our cities and beyond. This season, we’re talking to Christian leaders about how believers should process issues of race and justice, specifically in the context of ministry.
We have the privilege of sitting down with Pastor Crawford Loritts, who helped give practical and biblical answers to the following questions. What does it mean for Christians to do cultural exegesis? When is it helpful and when it is unhelpful? What does the Bible say about racism, and how did racism manifest itself in the early church? What practical ways do the scriptures offer to kill racism at the heart level? What is the biblical definition of justice, and how does it apply to our cultural moment.
Doctor Loritts gave thoughtful answers to these questions plus many more. His wisdom is matched only by his gracious and pastoral tone. The way he handled these emotionally charged topics was both winsome and educational, and this conversation is pure gold.
Jim Davis and Mike Aitcheson are your hosts. Mike Graham and myself, Matt Kenyon, are the producers. Without further ado, please enjoy this episode of As In Heaven with Doctor Crawford Loritts.
Jim Davis: All right, well welcome to As In Heaven, season two. My name is Jim Davis. We’re joined by my cohost, Mike Aitcheson. We have the great privilege of being joined today by Crawford Loritts. Thank you so much for joining us on As In Heaven season two.
Crawford Loritts: Well, it’s my privilege and joy to be with you guys.
Jim Davis: Well, Crawford, you and I know each other from our Family Life circles. You serve on the board for Family Life. Mike Aitcheson, fun fast, is a new Family Life speaker, so we all three have that in common. But in case somebody has been living under a rock, I want to read just a snippet of your resume that will make all of us wonder what in the world have we been doing with our lives.
You are currently serving as senior pastor at Fellowship Bible Church, Roswell, Georgia. I have some good friends in that church who have been very blessed by your ministry there. In the past, you have been an evangelist, a church planter. You have given national direction to the ministry of CRU. You are also a visiting professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. You are a council member for the Gospel Coalition, a board member for both Campus Crusade for Christ and its subsidiary, Family Life. At one point, you served on the board of Chick-Fil-A. I’m sure there are about 100 other things that I can name, but I think this is really fun right here. You have been the speaker at three Super Bowls, and NCAA Final Four, Promise Keepers, and I would imagine more marriage conferences than you can count.
Crawford Loritts: Yeah. Well, that last one’s probably true, yeah. All of it’s true, but especially counting the marriage conferences.
Jim Davis: Well, it’s an honor to have you with us today. Thank you.
Crawford Loritts: Well, thank you, Jim. It’s again just a joy to be with you guys.
Michael Aitcheson: We’re so grateful that you’re here with us today, Crawford. I just want to remind our guests what we’re going to be engaging today. We’re going to consider our hope and explanation of cultural exegesis and analysis. By way of reminder, we want to model Christian discussion this season amidst what could be confusing and even tense discussions. Now, we’ve invited our guests not only because they are national experts in these matters, but also because they have a pastoral heart and pastoral tone, and we really desire to make this a safe place to engage these very critical discussions. With that, I’m going to turn it over to my friend Jim to get us started.
Jim Davis: All right, so you used the word exegesis, Mike. Exegesis is a term fairly well known in the church. It’s a term we primarily use in our circles for the Bible. It’s our effort to bring out the main point of something. Really, you could say it’s a fancy word for analysis. We use the biblical exegesis, but there are other kinds of exegesis. I want to ask you, Crawford, would you help us to understand the term cultural exegesis and really how does it inform the way that we assess or analyze all that’s transpiring around us today?
Crawford Loritts: Yeah, Jim. Before I do that, let me take a little bit of liberty and just back up a couple of steps. Sometimes when we dive into the deep end of the pool with terms like cultural exegesis and transactional analysis and all of these words that have amazing sociological implications and this kind of thing, we can separate them and segment them from the why of these things.
Why are we doing cultural exegesis? Well, it’s because of the heart and passion of our Savior, because that he loves the lost. That we need to have an understanding of our context and moment in history, not so much because we want to impress people with how erudite we are, and how insightful we are, and how right we are. We need to understand our moment in history because we need to give a word of hope that’s anchored in the gospel, that hearts and lives would be touched and changed, and so that things will move toward that glorious goal of being what God wants them to be. Really, it is the law of love and the context of love that drives us to want to analyze culture. If that’s not the primary reason, then pride, and arrogance, and one-upmanship, and insight, all of this kind of stuff begins to cannibalize what we’re trying to do.
When you talk about cultural exegesis, really all we’re really talking about is understanding where the culture is and what has contributed to either the positive stuff, the negative stuff, or the combination of it all. It really is an others orientation. It’s understanding your context, what’s around you. What’s different about our moment in history in terms of the way the culture in general reacts and responds than say my dad or my granddad’s moment in history? Where are we in society? What are the forces that are contributing to either positive or negative directions or both of those things?
It’s understanding the economic dynamics. It’s understanding the political, social influences on society. Ultimately, it’s understanding the manifestation of sin that demonstrates itself through these power avenues. That’s what we mean by exegeting the culture, understanding trends, understanding the difference between a trend and a fad, understanding what is permanent, largely because we want to know why people do what they do.
Michael Aitcheson: Crawford, that was very helpful. One of the frameworks that we’re familiar with around here is comprehend, commend, and critique. Could you give us some thoughts on the commending and the critiquing aspect? We really appreciate you helping us understand what it means to comprehend the culture around us.
Crawford Loritts: Well, the commending is, I would imagine, I would imagine what it implied by that is what are the positive things and common ground things that we can commend, that we can agree upon, and not all of it is wrong. Parenthesis here. One of the dastardly tendencies of Christians is to think in binary polar opposite ways. Either something is totally wrong or something is totally right. Well, that’s not true. I mean I believe in the total depravity of man, but total depravity does not mean that there’s not any goodness whatsoever. It means that the goodness that we have doesn’t measure up to God’s total righteousness.
There are some good things in our culture, even if they’re manifested by people who don’t have a relationship with Christ. What are those common ground good things? Treating your neighbor right, doing right by your family. What are those trends that we need to build on? That’s what we mean by commending, I would imagine.
There’s a question we’re going to get into later on, but while I’m on this, I think Christians need to stop being afraid of the world. Now, we should not love the world, we should not emulate the word, but we are in the world. Christians need not to be afraid to be human and need not to be afraid to acknowledge that we have an awful lot in common with unredeemed people. We have a lot in common with them. We don’t have ultimately that which is common, but we have a lot of stuff in common with them. We can partner with unredeemed people on certain causes and emphasis that may not violate our biblical integrity. We do it all the time, because there is a common cause and there’s something commendable about it.
Jim Davis: I guess some examples of that, we partner with non-Christian entities maybe to help feed the homeless. We appreciate art in Hollywood without always endorsing everything that they’re doing. We’re going to be talking with Trevin Wax about doing exactly this as it pertains to Black Lives Matter.
But with that in mind, before we do that, before we go to a lot of the rest of the season, we think it’s really important that we talk about just defining terms, because a word or a term, even the most unemotional terms like trunk, what does trunk mean? Are you talking about trunk of a car, trunk of a tree, trunk that you pack clothes in, trunk of an elephant? But then you put this into an actually emotionally changed situation. I know we at our church are practicing, actively practicing defining terms as we use them and recognizing the terms that we need to define before we use them, especially before we use them in an emotionally charged setting.
That’s what we want to really spend the next … As we understand why we want to analyze our culture, again through a biblical framework, we want to talk about a few terms and ask you to help us define these, because all of them are coming up right now. The first term that I’d like to ask you to define is one so common that we might not even think that it needs to be defined, but it’s race. The word race carries with it different nuances over the course of our history. Would you mind taking a stab at defining race as it pertains to this conversation?
Crawford Loritts: Well, yeah. Race from an anthropological perspective, historical perspective is a fairly recent term. In the Bible, there’s only one human race. There’s only one race. Historically here in this country, race came about with the advent and introduction of chattel slavery. There had to be a means by and through which people of Western European descent could distinguish themselves, and I might say this and I don’t mean this as a flash point but just as a fact of history, justify dominance over the darker skinned people that they had gotten as slaves. That is the origin of race in the Western world, and that’s where it comes from.
That’s the reason why parenthetically there is a lot of subtle guilt associated with the term race, because it conjures up that history of we’re different. The way it was developed, not only are we different, we’re better than. It is a juxtaposition of superiority, inferiority, this kind of thing.
Now, ethnic is the term. There’s been various ethnicities since the very beginning of time virtually. The Greek term ethne or ethnos simply means peoples. It simply means peoples. It’s representative of the various peoples of the world and what they have in common in that ethnic category. Germans, although they’re Western European, Germans are different than the Irish. The Irish are different than the Englishmen. The Englishmen are different than the Italians.
Ethnicity by the way, by the way, that should be the dominant thing that we talk more about rather than race. That’s the difference between race and ethnicity.
Michael Aitcheson: Thank you for that historical perspective, Crawford. As we think about race, I have two follow-ups to that. Are there ways that we see race connected to a caste system maybe in modern time here in our country? Then could you give us some more thoughts on other distinctions that the Bible might present to us other than ethnicity?
Crawford Loritts: Yeah, Michael. Sometimes the way you frame a question is the answer to the question, and I think you just did that. I think the use of the term caste, race, the emphasis on race has given rise to thinking in terms of a hierarchy of people. This is a place where a lot of African-Americans don’t like to go to, but even among African-Americans, the lighter skinned you were, the more favorable you were and you got more opportunity because of that whole mindset that was fostered on us that to be light is preferable. It gave rise to a caste system. We still have residual effects of that caste system. The dominant caste system is white versus black and how that has informed our thinking.
Now, the problem with a podcast like this or any conversation about these matters is that of necessity we have to speak in generalities. Not everybody who’s white thinks this way. Not everybody who’s black thinks this way. You’re absolutely right that our history tells us, okay, there’s the subtle background way back in our minds of dominance versus inferiority. Dominance versus inferiority. This is the reason why my friend Tim Keller famously says that one of the challenges that white people have is that white people don’t think they have a culture. They don’t think that way because of the assumption that, well, this is normative. We’ve always been in control, or we’ve always had this going for us. I say that not in a pejorative sense or a bad sense. That’s just the way it is. Your term is an excellent term. Race has fertilized and given rise to this whole idea of a caste system.
Jim Davis: As a white person, I mean that resonates with me growing up. I don’t know who to attribute this to, but there’s the old phrase that a big fish and a small fish were swimming together and the strong current came through and the big fish said to the small fish, “Wow, did you feel that water?” The little fish says, “What’s water?” It’s just it’s all it had ever known.
Crawford Loritts: Exactly.
Jim Davis: I think that speaks kind of to if you’re a part of the majority space, there’s not a lot pushing against you. That resonates with me. It’s funny you brought up ethne, because that is my second term, but before we jump … I have one more question about ethne, but before we get there, increasingly we’re hearing these days some iteration of the phrase that race is a biological fiction and a sociological reality. If this is someone’s first time hearing that phrase, would you help us to understand how you process that?
Crawford Loritts: Yeah. I know what I said before. This is going to sound a little bit like a contradiction or gobbly gook here. The problem with these terms is we have the privilege of sitting in climate controlled context and surgically separating the expressions and giving a nice little bowl that race came about as a result of slavery and ethnos. We can say that.
Well, in reality was has taken place is those terms have been used interchangeably and they’ve been woven together in such a way, so it’s not that surgically distinct in reality. Even I use the term, and I would say you guys use the term too when you think about it. Even we use it interchangeably because we know what we mean according to the context, right? We say race when we mean ethnic, and we say ethnic when we mean race.
I think understanding the history of it is very important in that it gives us insight into why it triggers so much guilt or why in the world it causes us to pull back from one another and the barriers that are there. I do think that we need to talk more about that, because our commonality. I hope we get into this later on, because the goal of God is not diversity for diversity’s sake. That’s not his goal. His goal is unity. His goal is unity. It’s not in the eradication of the distinctions.
That’s the reason why I know people mean this well when they say they’re colorblind and all of this stuff. They mean well. They really mean well by that, but actually that’s heresy. I mean that is in a crazy kind of way, that is a denial of the manifestation of the image of God through various ethnic groups that he’s created. We don’t want to go there.
Portrait is unity. I know I’m getting away from what you asked me about race and ethne and how all of that fits, but I think at a certain point, yeah, understand the terms, but the terms and understanding the term, that cannot become the default destination of the discussion. The destination of the discussion is a glorious transformed unity.
Michael Aitcheson: Thank you. Actually, you went in the direction intuitively that we hoped for. You mentioned “colorblind-ism”, and I really appreciate you highlighting the importance of seeing people as they are. For example, the Bible even gives us categories that people looked different. We think of the church in Antioch. Simeon of Cyrene, he was also called Niger. Could you speak to why it’s so glorious for us not to throw the baby out with the bathwater and the fact that I don’t see color, or judging a person by the content of their character doesn’t mean you have to ignore the external appearance created by God?
Crawford Loritts: Yeah. I’m going to say something that sounds very strong, but I mean it with a heart of love here. When you say that I am colorblind, sometimes that takes accountability away from dealing with issues that I may not want to face. I may not want to face. I can just say, “Well, that does not exist.” It can be. I’m not saying it is. It can be a path to denial about some of the painful things that have to happen.
No. I mean you go through the New Testament. By the way, by the way, when Paul said in Romans 1: 16 that, “I’m not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first and also to the Greek,” what he was saying there was that the gospel is the power of God to change totally who we are and place us together. I just want to remind our listeners here that there’s not a church in the New Testament that is not multiethnic. There’s not one. It can be argued that the racism and the partiality was even more aggressively obnoxious back during Paul’s day than it is today.
Whenever Paul went to a city, he went to the synagogue first and these Jews gave their hearts to Jesus, and then he went out to the agora, the marketplace where the Gentiles hung out. They gave their hearts to Christ. Now, check this out. What’s the longest he ever stayed in one place? What, Ephesus, two years maybe. But as soon as they trusted Christ as Savior and Lord, as soon as they did, they didn’t exchange choirs, they didn’t say, “Well, you come preach for me this week, and we’ll have a study group in terms of how to communicate in light of where the Gentiles have been and what we’ve done wrong, and this kind of thing. We’ll do that for six months, and then we’ll have some discussions and Q&A and what have you.” No, he put them together immediately. Immediately.
The reason for that … Now, hear me. The reason for that is that Paul believed in the comprehensive power, the real power of the gospel and he did not want to accommodate. When he says in Ephesians 2, he’s not just talking about the universal Church, that the wall of partition has been broken down and that we have equal access. That was not theoretical to him. That wasn’t theory. That was real. That was real.
The goal, don’t get me wrong. I do believe that we need to identify with where people are coming from. I have no problem with cultural and ethnic specific strategies of evangelism, but notice I said strategy. But you’ve got to understand that the goal is reconciliation. The goal is reconciliation. The goal is not just to reach an ethnic group. The goal is for that group to tell
We’ve got to be careful. I call younger leaders all the time. Our church is diverse, and it’s predominately white. But I tell younger leaders all the time, if you’re going to get into this space of ethnic diversity, your passion cannot be ethnic diversity. Your passion has to be unity, and you’ve got to pay the price for unity. It’s not good enough to say, “We’ve got white folks, black folks, Hispanic folks all coming together. Look at us.” That doesn’t say anything. How are you doing life together and has the transforming power of the gospel caused you to love each other, to pray for one another, to be patient with each other, to listen to each other, to weep with those who weep, to mourn with those who mourn. That’s the goal of the gospel, and Paul was relentless about that.
Jim Davis: Well said.
Crawford Loritts: Thank you.
Jim Davis: Let me brag on my brother Mike Aitcheson over there, because that is what they are doing in downtown Orlando at Christ United Fellowship, and it’s a really neat thing to see happen. You’re really doing a great job at foreshadowing the next term, because you mentioned partiality. A third term that we want to talk about and ask you to define is what we call the sin of partiality.
Crawford Loritts: Yeah. Actually, I read this in prep for this. I’m so glad that you guys included that. Sometimes as Christians, when we get into this space of race, and dealing with racism, and the social dynamics and power stuff going on there, if we’re not careful, we will allow other people to give us the terms. Then with them giving us the terms, we absorb some of their definitions.
For example, I think racism from in the scriptures is nothing more, and I don’t say that to minimize it, but it’s nothing more than a sin of partiality with pigmentation. That’s what it is, and James speaks to that. By the way, by the way, the hope for dealing with racism is to make sure you always keep it into the category of sin and not just a socioeconomic manifestation of history. It has got to be kept in the sin category. Now, that sounds negative, but it really isn’t, because Jesus died for our sin. The Spirit of God empowers us to overcome sin. The Word of God helps us to slay sin. There’s a holy impatience that we ought to have with any sin, including the sin of racism.
But it is a sin of partiality. It is preferential treatment. Now, what informs that preferential treatment is various things. As it comes to ethnicity and race in our history, its informed by dominance, it’s informed by control, it’s informed by greed, and racism would not exist apart from the sin of greed. All sin is a manifestation of pride obviously, but greed, greed is the fuel, is the fuel that drove racism. Greed was the dominant driving force that justified slavery in our country, and it just got ahold of us and we didn’t want to get rid of that, so that fed that sin of partiality.
But see, the sin of partiality is ingrained in all of us. It’s the manifestation of pride, right? We all have to prove that we’re better than. We’ve got to find somebody, somebody who’s lower than we are, and we’ve got to compare ourselves with folks in a negative way so that we can get just a foot ahead. Whether it manifests itself with racism, which is all over the world, and class struggles, which is all over the world, or any other way, so it’s a sin of partiality.
James actually, as you read James, he just comes down hard on that. He said, “No, man. You can’t do that. You absolutely can’t do that.” By the way, Peter says in 1 Peter 5 this is the attitude that we all ought to have toward one another, which is the ultimate solution for racism or the sin of partiality is that we need to clothe ourselves with humility toward one another. I think the Greek word is egkomboomai. Actually, it’s a word that was used for the apron of a slave, a servant. We have to serve one another, interestingly enough, in order to get rid of the sin of partiality.
Jim Davis: Can you speak to how partiality actually can break down into different categories? The categories that we use over here, you can start with implicit bias, and then you can move into prejudice, and then there’s even when you get into the category, the area of racism, you have covert racism, or some people have said subconscious racism or unconscious racism, and then you have overt racism. Partiality breaks down in and of itself, and so how does that affect this whole conversation?
Crawford Loritts: I think we need to go back to why. Why are we susceptible to partiality? Why? Yeah, I’m not a psychologist, neither the son of one; however, it’s like pride and partiality, they exist for … The reason why they exist is not for what we think. Pride and partiality are both manifestation of horrendous insecurity. You have got to be confident in order to be others oriented. You have to have supreme confidence in the fact that God loves you, and that you’re created in his image, and that what God has for you no mortal being can take from you, so you are free to give and you’re free to serve.
People who are constantly judging other people, constantly predisposed to making choices about other people, they’re really telling more about their insecurity and their own personal sense of inadequacy than they are about their security and their dominance. They’re saying just the opposite of what they want to see take place. Folks who are constantly judging people, they’re small people. They’re trying to control their world. They’re frightened that somebody might get more play than they get, more posture than they have, and all of these kinds of things.
The cure for partiality is surrender to Jesus. It’s surrender to Jesus. When Paul made the statement in Galatians 2:20, we quote this all the time, he says, “I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the lot that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith in the Son of God who loved me, gave himself for me,” what he was saying in the historical context of the book of Galatians with all the legalism that was going on there, and all the little religious spitting contest that was taking place, and people trying to carve out their identity and their prominence based upon their insight into theology and what have you, Paul is saying, “Look, I don’t have anything to prove. I have nothing to prove. My identity is not my resume. My identity is Jesus. It’s Jesus.”
Racism, the sin of partiality, all these things will never, ever be done away with until Christ becomes the ultimate identity in all of our lives. When you talk about the sin of partiality, what you’re saying is that I’m screaming to make a statement. I’m leading with my designer labels. I’m leading with what kind of metal I drive down the road with. I’m leading whether with my insights or this kind of … I’ve got to somehow prove that I’ve got a corner on you. I’m better than you. It’s disgusting to be honest with you. It’s really rather nauseating.
That’s the reason why we’re in the mess that we are right now in this country, because people, our leaders are not even confident enough to be humble. They can’t get out of their own way. Everything has to be measured by them, and it’s the same with all of us. Whenever I have to be the thesis of every conversation, whenever I have to suck the air out of the room, if I get in a fetal position because people are not paying me enough attention, then the problem’s not them. The problem with me.
You get into how this sin of partiality manifests itself in racism, whether you want to call it …. some call it benign racism, passive racism, intentional racism. However you want to do it, it all gets back to nobody willing to make the sacrifice to do what’s right on behalf of the other person.
By the way, and again I’m sounding preachy here, but I actually believe we have a cheap understanding of love. We have too much of a transactional understanding of love, even in the church. There’s too much quid pro quo involved. But biblical love, love described in 1 Corinthians 13, the love that Jesus said that his followers should be characterized by in John 13, the love that Paul outlines, “Love one another with brotherly affection,” love in the Bible is anchored in sacrifice. Love in the Bible means that I disadvantage myself for the comfort of another. That’s biblical love. If there’s no sacrifice, if there’s no self-denial, then it is not love. It is something else.
We talk about the sin of partiality. The sin of partiality, and again to quote Tim Keller, the sin of partiality is nothing more than idolatry. It is self idolatry. We’ve got to get over ourselves in order for God to help us to get over our racism.
Jim Davis: My producer, Mike Graham, and I before this were talking about Bruce Waltke’s definition of righteousness, and he said, “Righteousness is the,” if I can remember correctly, “The willingness to disadvantage yourself to advantage others, and wickedness is being willing to disadvantage others to advantage yourself.”
Crawford Loritts: Yeah, so that’s the reason why Bruce Waltke is one of the greatest theologians of the … Yeah, I got you.
Jim Davis: Well, you were saying the same thing. You were saying the same thing. All right, let’s talk about a different type of sin. This is term number four, the sins of omission and commission. What are they and how do they apply to this discussion?
Crawford Loritts: I don’t know how to even describe it. Sin is so much more massive than we even think. It has contaminated everything about us, everything about us. That’s the reason why every Christian, their theme song all day long is, “I need thee. Oh, I need thee. Every hour, I need thee,” man. I mean God has got to keep us on a short leash. Because sins of omission, they’re things that, I don’t want to use the term passive sin, because sin is not passive, but they’re things that we know that we should do that we just neglect to do. It’s there.
An illustration of this happens to be systemic racism. I think systemic racism exists not because people intend to create a system, or a culture, or an environment that is overtly racist. It exists because I fail to critique my motivations for doing what I do. That sin of omission institutionalizes the very thing that I didn’t mean to do that. I didn’t intend to do that. This is the way I’ve always functioned, and I didn’t realize that these policies were hurtful to others, and I didn’t realize this. But I turn around and go, “Oh, my goodness.” To me, that’s an illustration of sins of omission, omitting to do what you should do, what you should do.
Which means, see, we need to be vigilant in two ways. I’m going back to Waltke’s masterful insight there. We need to be vigilant with regard to the things that I shouldn’t do. We got that. I mean we got that clearly. But we also need to be vigilant about the stuff that I don’t question but that I should. I need to be vigilant about, okay, how does this behavior affect other people? Have I thought about this? We need to be vigilant about the gaps in our walk, and the gaps in our thinking, and the gaps in our lives. See, that love.
Part of the problem, and you didn’t ask me this, but part of the problem is, particularly in evangelical circles, our Christianity has been far too hyper-individualistic. It’s always me and Jesus. We have a distorted view of our rights and our privileges. Somehow or another, we have taught ourselves that we are the centerpiece of what God is doing in the world. Well, I hate to say this, but we’re not the centerpiece of what God is doing in the world. God is the centerpiece of what he’s doing in the world, and that we are connected to one another.
I’m doing a series right now at our church on the one anothers in scripture. Well, the reason why I’m doing that is that the one anothers form not just a composite picture of how we should be healthfully related internally and feeling good about our walk and relationship with God. No, but the one anothers in this corporate sense of testimony before a watching world portrays to those who are looking at the community, the kingdom and saying that this is the way life should be. We’re related to one another.
As you think about your Christianity, you cannot ala carte just what you want. We live in community. This gets back to the sins of omission and sins of commission as well. I have to think about how my behavior impacts someone else, and the things that I fail to do, how it may alienate them and how it may hurt them. That’s on us. We need to think in both of those directions.
Michael Aitcheson: You know, Crawford, everything you’re saying is so wonderful and refreshing and challenging. You raise a good point about the subtlety of sin. Sometimes, it’s so subtle even to the point of where we avoid driving certain places and then we later discover subconsciously that we had a hidden bias, or an attitude of superiority, or that they were inferior, or this pace is laden with this kind of people, so we create the other. It’s so seductive, isn’t it?
Tim Keller points out also that … He tells a story of this guy who owned a car dealership, and of course they trained the guys to negotiate back and forth about pricing. He discovered when he evaluated certain outcomes that the very people who could afford cars to lease, single black moms, were the ones who were paying the most. The owner said, “I didn’t think that I was teaching my people to be racist,” but there was evidently something in the system and the way they were doing things that had bias outcomes towards people who have been historically marginalized.
Crawford Loritts: Yeah, yeah. Well, it gets back to what we said really at the top of this whole interview. Man, I mean it gets back to exegeting your culture. Here’s an illustration. You’re this car dealership and you see where are you located? Who’s coming to you? The question is, the question that a responsible believer should ask … There’s nothing wrong with making money. You’re in business to make money. You’re in business to make money. There’s nothing. The Bible doesn’t have any problem with that.
However, the believer ought to be asking the people question. The believer ought to be asking the compassionate question. How can I serve the people who are here? What are their needs? It’s not just what can I get from them, but how can I invest in them? What can I do for them? I think that’s where we differ. But again, it’s not only exegeting the culture. It’s exegeting your own presuppositions and set of assumptions, and we do too.
Michael Aitcheson: Yes, absolutely.
Crawford Loritts: And integrate our Christianity and make it whole. Don’t compartmentalize it. Yeah.
Michael Aitcheson: Absolutely. He would go on later to tell the story that the gentleman set prices in order to basically leave value for his patrons, et cetera, et cetera, after he realized that people were being disadvantaged by negotiation practices. To your point of serving.
Crawford Loritts: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. God has a way of blessing those businesses. One of the great joys of my life has been associated with Chick-Fil-A, and I’ve served on that board. One of the reasons why God has blessed that business in extraordinary ways, in extraordinary ways, is because they view the business as a stewardship and as a means by through which not just to make resources, and to make money, although there’s nothing wrong with that, but also to invest, and give back, and to give generously to communities, and to empower people, and to create a culture and environment where the operators of these stores see themselves as members of the community where they’re planted and that these communities need to be better because they were there. It’s an illustration that you can be enormously successful and have a great heart.
Jim Davis: Well said. Well, with the time that we have left, I want to bring to some more emotional terms. I’ve saved these three terms to the end, because they are more emotional. Some might call them triggering. But honestly, we’re asking you to address them because you have a history of navigating both majority and minority spaces well. You understand it. You pastor a multiethnic church. I believe, I’m sure you are addressing these terms in your own local church, which is important to me. More important than your national voice, that you’re dealing with real people. It’s why we want to ask you these terms. They’re not easy terms, but as we go into this conversation, they’re important to define. The first one is justice.
Crawford Loritts: Yeah. First, Jim, when someone gives just so many nice things about me and this thing, it’s kind of like my wife setting me up for a hard conversation. Justice is a little … I think we need to speak in terms of what biblical justice, because again, it gets back to what I said before. Careful of taking terms from the culture that’s laden a little bit with their definition and worldview. We need to come back to scriptures. What is biblical justice?
Well, biblical justice is not a very difficult thing to understand. I say it’s relational righteousness. It’s making things right. It’s making things right. It’s making things right by people. It’s doing what is right in terms of objectively speaking and that truth prevails. Truth is to be seen not only in terms of my personal life and my intellect, but also in terms of how I relate to other people and making things right by them.
Also in the Bible, justice relates to life. It relates to all of life. Let me explain what I mean by that. There are three big tributaries that flow into the river of justice I would say in the scriptures, and they’re summarized in these three propositions. Number one is that the conceived must live. That’s justice. Number two, the living must be cared for. That’s justice. Number three, the poor and the oppressed and disadvantaged must be defended. That’s justice. That is comprehensive life, comprehensive life.
To be pro-life, I would say to be pro-life, now you’ve got to be careful, means that you’re speaking in terms of biblical justice, but you’re speaking comprehensively. As important as it is, and I … Hey, I am anti-abortion, but be careful that you don’t say pro-life just means being pro-birth. Pro-life means being pro-life, and all of life is the arena for God’s justice.
The making of things right. The making of things right. It is wrong. It is wrong to demean people. It is wrong to be dismissive of people. It is wrong to exclude people. It is wrong to attack their dignity. That is not right. We use our position, we use our privilege, and our power by the way, to make things right. That’s biblical justice.
Jim Davis: All right, so real quick, this just has to be a couple sentences. When we say the term racial injustice or racial justice, apply just in a couple of sentences, apply what you just said to that specific term and how you inject it, how you hear it, how you process it.
Crawford Loritts: When we say racial injustice, what we mean is that the sin of partiality has attacked a group of people that’s made in the image of God. To attack image bearers is to attack God himself, and that is not right. To exclude them is to exclude God himself. Jesus said that, didn’t he, in Matthew 25? That’s exactly what he said. That’s exactly what he said. He said, “Okay, you didn’t visit me in prison.” They said, “Oh, when were you sick?” “No, no, no, no, no. You didn’t do it to the least of these.” Any marginalization, any attack, any attack on any group of people based on a racial bias is an affront to a living God and a loving God, so it’s injust. It’s injust.
Now see, the problem that we have, and you didn’t ask me all of this, but the problem that we have is that we’ve got to be careful that we don’t excuse, we don’t excuse racism or tolerate it and run back and say, “Okay. Oh, boy. You’ve got to be careful doing that, because you’re part. You’re being driven by critical race stereo … or you’ve been driven by this or being driven by that.” No, no, no, no, no. We’re being driven by the Bible. We’re being driven by truth.
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I mean that the way in which I say it, not in a profane way, in the name of Jesus, any marginalization, any mistreatment of anybody that bears his image is wrong, it’s sinful, and it is unjust, and if we have a voice, we should speak up.
Jim Davis: Well, one of the encouragements I think, the spaces I’ve navigated for most of my life have had a really robust doctrine of you said the image of God, the image of God as it applies to the unborn. But now it’s encouraging and exciting to see that really being applied increasingly more to the issues that you’re talking about, the injustices on those who are living. I’m very thankful for that.
All right. You mentioned power and privilege. This is term six, second to last term. We have the term white privilege. This is a very emotional term. I mean it creates a lot of different feelings, well, all over the emotional spectrum. Help us understand what you hear by white privilege and help even just white people like me to understand what it means. You’ve already said a couple of times you don’t want us to feel guilt, and I appreciate that.
Crawford Loritts: Well, and I do want to say this. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. If we’ve been to Calvary, we don’t have quote the “privilege” of walking away from one another. We love each other, and we need to work on these matters and work on them together. We need to lovingly correct each other and to build into one another, provoke one another to love and good works, all of these things.
Now, having said that, I’ve read a lot about white privilege and what have you. There’s so many different ways of dealing with this. My son Brian helps me with his thinking. Let me just say two things about this.
In a general sense, we all have privilege. I mean I’ve got privilege. I mean, for whatever reason, there’s people who return my phone calls, okay? I’ve got privilege. There’s nothing wrong with having privilege. Nothing wrong with having power. Nothing wrong necessarily with having position.
Now, privilege, power, and position, they’re not your identities. They’re your stewardship. Now, if your identity’s wrapped up in privilege, power, and position, then you’ve got a problem. Now, God gives leaders and God gives people those things to steward. My identity is Jesus. Now, it’s how I leverage those things.
Okay, so getting specifically back to white privilege, here’s a way I describe it. You can talk about it from a sociological perspective, from a historical perspective, and all of that, and I’m sure there’s a lot of stuff that’s right about it, but the bottom line is this. Whenever you talk about race, or racism, or the history of race in this country, the big difference between my white siblings and my black siblings is this. My white siblings can walk away from the conversation without having been affected. You can walk away. I mean it doesn’t bother. You still live where you live. I mean you can still be successful at what you do. You can still do whatever you do, because it has not been a tool of oppression in your life. You’ve not been marked by it, so you’re free to …
Now, I say this. I say this with no degree of blaming anybody or trying to make anybody feel guilty, but for those of us who are black, we can’t walk away from it. We can’t walk away from the conversation, because it is our history. We have been impacted by it.
What do you do? Just is it a dilemma? No, it’s not a dilemma. What you do is what I should do. Let me just take it out of the race side of things and illustrate it this way. The only reason why a person has a position of leadership as far as God is concerned, the only reason why is that it is a platform to serve, and he is trusting them to use position and power to underscore the value and dignity and to open doors of the ones he serves. That’s the only reason why anybody has any leadership by the way.
When you think of white privilege, I think as a white person, you should say, “Well, yeah, sure. I got it,” and you should say it without any guilt. The question is, what are we going to do with it? How am I using that? Am I using it redemptively, or is it all about me? Or if I’m being defensive, am I being argumentative? “Well, I didn’t have any slaves. I didn’t do this. I didn’t do that.” Well, no you didn’t, and nobody should be blaming you for that, but the truth of the matter is you can walk away from the conversation. You should be saying, “Okay. What can I do to come alongside and leverage and steward that,” as we would do in any other area of our lives. That’s kind of how I view this whole issue of white privilege.
Jim Davis: I’m hearing from you this is another area we need Jesus, because a Christian understanding of empathy and understanding, it should prevent Christians from being, white Christians from being able to walk away from the conversation if we have a Christian empathy for our brothers and sisters who can’t walk away from it.
Crawford Loritts: There’s a biblical principle. With great visibility and great blessing must come corresponding brokenness and humility.
Michael Aitcheson: That’s great.
Crawford Loritts: The more I have, the more accountable I am, and that’s just a biblical principle. No one’s never not accountable, nobody. Jesus said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” Now, I don’t want to say … Slavery was not a blessing, okay? It was not a blessing, but God in his providence said, “Okay, this is what has happened. Now we need to come together and correct the sins of the past, and move forward, and use position, and power, and providence to enhance unity.” Come to the table and say, “Okay, how can we change this thing?”
Jim Davis: Well, I was just thinking in the words of the great theologian Spiderman. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Well, you’ve bridged us already effectively to our very last term, because I think it stems from a misunderstanding of white privilege or a feeling of guilt that surrounds it. But we have this last and seventh term, white fragility. Help us to understand that term.
Crawford Loritts: Oh my. I think that it would almost be better to ask some … I think the term white fragility, as in the title of the book, the term white fragility exists primarily because of two dynamics. I think white guilt and white trauma. Trauma and guilt. See, I think what we miss in all of this is that there have been a lot of white folks who’ve gone back and looked at the history, and seen what has happened, and taken a hard look at, my goodness, from 1900 to 1950 there was nearly 4,000 lynchings of black folks. You go down through all the injustices there. It traumatizes you. I mean I’m serious. I don’t mean that as an overstatement. It’s traumatic and many wake up and they see that happened.
Then there is this sense of guilt that you don’t know what to do with. If it doesn’t drive us to meaningful engagement, and meaningful relationships, and drives us to Jesus, what ends up happening is that we become even paranoid or so hyper-defensive about things because it’s a self protective deal.
Again, not every white person is fragile. That terms does not apply to every white person, and I don’t think … I’ve said this a ton of times today. I’m not into making anybody feel guilty about anything that they shouldn’t feel guilty about, although guilt is a gift if something needs to be changed. I don’t think lasting solutions are ever born out of miring yourself in shame and guilt. You end up doing stupid stuff. I think that sense of what has taken place in the past, what has happened, what has been wrong needs to be acknowledged. You shouldn’t close your head to it and close your eyes to it. There needs to be appropriate lament over the pain that’s been caused in the African-American community.
There’s a great book that I have the privilege of endorsing. It’s just coming out now entitled Weep With Me by Mark Vroegop. It is a powerful biblical application of lament to curing racism and the path to racial reconciliation. I think positive steps need to be taken there, but I think understanding fragility there means that there is a lot of latent guilt, and some of it is not so latent underneath the surface when things happen.
I think some of the extreme responses to what took place with George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery, and the rest there, the hyper reaction from some of the white community might be an expression of what we’re calling here for the sake of our discussion white fragility. But underneath that, I would say are the two words guilt and trauma.
Jim Davis: That’s really helpful. Really well said. Before we conclude here, let me ask, as churches, organizations, families continue to engage in this conversation, especially where there might be disagreement, when it comes to defining terms, do you have any last principles or advice for us as we navigate this unique cultural moment?
Crawford Loritts: Yeah. I think we need to read good books, but more than anything else, Jim and Michael, I actually think that we need to become biblically literate and do the heavy lifting of reading the scriptures and wrestling with God’s Word in terms of what are the biblical propositions and principles that govern this moment in history. Read the Word of God.
As a pastor, I’m just so burdened. Our people are getting their theological framework form their favorite commentator and whoever is talking on TV, and they have the tendency of allowing their commentator to edit God’s truth rather than the other way around. That is what is the big problem we’re facing right now. Some of us need to turn the TV off and turn off some of these crazy, extreme podcasts. This one is not a crazy, extreme podcast. We turn off some of these other things and get our heads in God’s Word, and stop allowing people to tell us how to think. Let God tell us how to think. The Spirit of God, I mean God does not have a speech impediment. He doesn’t need a public relations agent. His Word is true, and it remains true, and let that frame how you think about people, and how you think about these events, and how we think about one another.
Jim Davis: Well, I can’t think of a better place to end this. Man, I just can’t thank you enough for your friendship, and time with us, and navigating some very emotional, confusing, and even tense topics. Thank you for all that you’re doing and for your time here with us today.
Crawford Loritts: Well, thank you. I’ve just loved it, man. I wish we could hang out together. These Zoom days will be over one day.
Jim Davis: We’re going to make that happen.
Crawford Loritts: Amen.