Critical Grace Theory
This is a special edition by TPCS Board Member, Mike Tooley
Critical Grace Theory
My name is Mike Tooley, and I am privileged to serve on the Board of Directors for Traders Point Christian Schools. I am better known within the TPCS community as the husband of the late Danielle Tooley--the beloved former head of the English Department at the high school and mentor to so many students and fellow teachers--and the father of three former TPCS students: Samantha, Cameron, and Jackson.
Like others, I have mourned with our nation over the past year and a half as we have grappled with the pandemic of racial injustice at the same time we’ve struggled with the more visible pandemic caused by COVID-19. While mourning, I also have been encouraged as we have begun to learn some long-overdue lessons about the toll of racial injustice on our African-American brothers and sisters and to build necessary bridges to reconciliation.
Over the past few months, I have observed as school boards across the nation have been asked to take a stand on the issue of “CRT,” or critical race theory. That theory, as I understand it, is a way of reexamining the role race has played in our nation’s history and its continuing impact to this day.
Proponents of this theory believe teaching it in our schools is necessary to uncover our eyes to the real and lasting impact of race in America and how it has contributed to systemic discrimination. Opponents of the theory voice concerns that it is being used as a cover to undermine our system of government and to sneak in a Marxist and atheistic worldview in its place.
As an unapologetically Christian school, TPCS has a singular advantage over our public school counterparts in that we can turn to the example of Jesus when faced with controversial questions intended to divide.
The Gospels are full of stories of how the religious leaders of the day would attempt to trap Jesus with trick questions such as whether he supported paying taxes to the Roman government or which commandment was the greatest. They cared less about the specific answer he gave and more about undermining his authority, as answering the question one way would cause problems with the ruling authorities and answering the other way would discredit his testimony among his followers.
Time after time, however, Jesus refused to fall into their trap. Instead, he brilliantly turned their questions into opportunities to teach what was truly important to the heart of God the Father. Perhaps the most beautiful example of this is described in Matthew 22:34-40, when Jesus turned an attempt to force him to elevate one religious law over all the others into a powerful summary of God’s will for his people, responding to the question of what was the greatest commandment by answering:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Luke records that when Jesus subsequently was asked “and who is my neighbor,” he answered by telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which is ultimately a story of how God’s love transcends racial differences and leads to reconciliation. Re-read Luke 10:25-37, and you’ll see what I mean.
Following the example of Jesus, my own view is that it is a mistake to fall into the modern-day trap of answering the question “are you for or against the teaching of critical race theory?”
Instead of answering a question intended by some only to divide, I believe we should be answering a different question: “As a Christian school, what DO we believe about the role of race and teaching about race in our nation and in our schools?”
Here are my thoughts on how we should answer that question as people who follow Christ and who love our nation, our students, and our school:
- We believe we live in a broken world that Jesus came to heal through his sacrifice and God’s grace.
- We believe one of the ways we are broken as a nation, as a community, and as individuals is through the tragic sin of racism.
- We believe the sin of racism has been present in every age and every civilization since the Garden of Eden and that no group and no individual has been immune from it—save Christ our Savior alone.
- We recognize and acknowledge that the United States of America has its own unique history of racism, which has resulted in untold suffering for generations of African-Americans.
- We recognize and acknowledge that the evil of lawful slavery was ended as a result of a bloody civil war that cost the lives of over 600,000 troops—both black and white—and was punctuated by the assassination of a President dedicated to the proposition that all men and women were created equal in the eyes of God and, therefore, should be free under the laws of man.
- We recognize and acknowledge that the evils of racism in our nation did not end with the legal prohibition of slavery or with the last battle of the Civil War, but instead have rippled throughout the generations since, including through terrors committed by hate-filled organizations such as the KKK and through other forms of intentional and unintentional racism.
- We believe as Christians and as a Christian school that only Jesus can fully heal the world of the sin of racism. We also believe, however, that we are called to act as his hands and feet in doing our part, which requires us to:
- Educate ourselves about our nation’s history and the contributions of Americans of all races;
- Appreciate and celebrate the humanity of all of God’s children, whether they look like the numerical majority of our particular community or not;
- Strive for reconciliation within our nation and world, including reconciliation between races and among races; and
- Honor God’s commandment in Micah 16:8 to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Like our Lord Jesus, when presented with a question meant to divide us, we can give a better answer that displays God’s love for and through us and ultimately unites us. Instead of debating the merits of critical race theory, perhaps we are called to share the Critical Grace Theory to a hurting world in need of truth and mercy in equal measure.