Worldview War: Critical Theory vs. Christianity

Dr. Christian Overman


If you are seeing and hearing what I am, you are asking yourself how in the world we got to where we are today at such breathtaking speed.


“Drag Queen Story Hour” is now part of elementary schools and public libraries, where men dress in women’s clothing and read homosexual-themed books to children. This, according to the Drag Queen Story Hour website, “captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.”1


K-12 schools now have policies such as this one enacted by the Massachusetts Department of Education: “Some students may feel uncomfortable with a transgender student using the same sex-segregated restroom, locker room or changing facility. This discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student.”2


Gender identity is one of the many topics educators have absorbed from secularized culture. Other areas have to do with “race” and “class” (two words that are not part of my vocabulary).


For example, a senior vice president of a conservative theological seminary suggested that a “white” Christian’s attitudes about race are “deeply informed by whiteness.” Apparently because he is white, he asserted: “I am a racist, and I’m going to struggle with racism and white supremacy until the day I die and get my glorified body.”3 Really? What’s going on here?


Various streams of twentieth-century thought have merged into a common flood as wide as the Mississippi River. Streams of thought such as Postmodernism, Deconstructionism, Dialectical Materialism, and political correctness have found their common denominator in an overarching idea called Critical Theory.


The Influence of Critical Theory Critical Race Theory, Literary Critical Theory, and Critical Pedagogy are all subsets of Critical Theory. The theory assumes social “progress” can only occur when the traditions, social structures, and norms of acceptable behavior found in a particular culture are torn down or “disintegrated” to make way for a new social order to arise from the ashes. Critical Theory is a form of Marxism and is sometimes called “Cultural Marxism” or “Neo-Marxism.” It is driven by rampant criticism of traditional social structures, which are seen as “controlling” and “oppressive.” The ultimate goal is the collapse of such structures.


If you do not know what Critical Theory is by name, you know it by its effects. You cannot escape its current running through radio, television, social media, and advertising. We are being flooded by its weight.


Critical Theory is a lens through which many Americans (whether they realize it or not) now view society and human freedom. It is based upon a system of premises developed after World War II by a group of “social theorists” who fled Germany and came to the United States. This group became known as the Frankfurt School.


The members of this school of ideas found welcome mats at prestigious American universities, and their activist ideas have influenced higher education ever since. This group included Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, and Erich Fromm.

Critical Theory is on a bold mission with a compelling (some would say heroic) purpose. This purpose provides the fuel that feeds its engine. That fuel is “human emancipation” and “liberation,” as defined by Critical Theory itself.


The Frankfurt School divided people groups into two categories: the oppressed and the oppressors. Critical Theory can be summed up by the idea that oppressed (dominated) people groups must be liberated from all forms of oppression, particularly in relation to gender, race, class, politics, and religion.


According to Critical Theory, it is a person’s group identity that determines whether he or she is an “oppressor” or “oppressed.” Critical Theory rejects the idea that people are individually guilty or innocent. Any “dominant group” that expects others to abide by its norms and values is oppressive and must be silenced.


Domination of human beings is the enemy, no matter what form this domination takes. Freedom from the obligation to conform to any oppressing group’s norms is the goal of Critical Theory, and social transformation is the intended outcome.


From its beginnings, Critical Theory has been about changing society, not just understanding or explaining it. Thus, Critical Theory “liberators” are often activists.

Followers of Christ, who believe that biblical norms governing morality are determined by God (sanctity of life, marriage, homosexuality) and that these norms apply to everyone equally, are members of an “oppressor group.” There are efforts to silence Christianity because it teaches there are universal, objective, and unchanging moral norms (expectations) that apply to everyone.


From the standpoint of Critical Theory, the biblical God is the ultimate oppressor. People must be liberated from the very idea of a personal deity who exists and has spoken about how we should live.


Critical Theory (through both unknowing and knowing adherents) is now fueling an impassioned fight to “liberate” America from its ultimate oppression: biblically informed Christianity. I believe this is at the root of the cold civil war we are in.


Due to pervasive ideas spawned by critical theorists, there are some buzz words that followers of Christ should understand. The words don’t mean what Christians think. The term oppression (in the context of Critical Theory), does not necessarily mean cruel treatment. A person is an oppressor if he or she is part of an oppressor group. The individual is a non-entity.


But what defines or determines an oppressor group? An oppressor group is not necessarily the largest group. For example, older white males only make up 15 percent of the U.S. population, but they are deemed an oppressor group because they have “hegemonic power.” Hegemonic power means they determine what is socially normal and acceptable. They are the gatekeepers of expectations in society.

For years, Christianity was the acknowledged and welcomed hegemonic power in the United States. When I was a boy, even non-Christians referred to America as a “Christian nation.” This was commonly accepted as normal.


In the 1830s, when the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville came to examine the United States, he noted: “The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other” (from Democracy in America). Sadly, this is not so today.


Critical Theory cannot tolerate hegemonic power because hegemonic power is at the top, and it determines what is normal or acceptable for all others. This is considered oppressive.


Imposing social norms on others (even if it is through unspoken expectations) is an offense because it restricts people’s freedom to determine what is socially acceptable for them. This is why Christian groups are now being branded as “hate groups.” Teaching that homosexual practice is wrong for everyone is deemed “hate speech.” It imposes a norm on people across people groups. Such cross-group shaming is hegemonic. This teaching about homosexuality is an imposition, even if those who teach it are quoting the Divine.


Activists buoyed by Critical Theory see themselves as having a moral duty to liberate themselves and others from the supposed oppression of Christianity. Such activists see Christianity as a hegemonic power that is stuck on the ideas of Higher Law and a Higher Authority to Whom we are all accountable. Therefore, Critical Theory activists believe it is their moral duty to not only silence Christianity but to oust it.


Liberating people from the “oppression” of Christianity is now part of social justice. Who can object to social justice? Yet it turns out the term social justice, like the term oppression, is something other than what most Christians think it is. That’s because Christians view these terms through the lens of Scripture, while social justice activists view these terms through the lens of Critical Theory. They are two radically different lenses!


Critical Theory activists are now fighting Christianity in the name of justice, and some of these folks are out to win this war at any cost, even if it means imposing their norms on everyone else by force. And this is the great irony.


A Battle of Worldviews We need to understand what we’re up against here. It’s a battle of ideas. We’re dealing with strongholds of the mind that can only be brought down by the power of God. That’s because we’re not fighting against flesh and blood (see Ephesians 6:12). We’re dealing with the principalities and powers of the air (demonic forces).


We need to call out these mental strongholds for what they are: pretensions. These are pretensions of the most serious type: pretensions against God and His Word.

How can we respond to these pretensions? As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:5, we can “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,” and we can “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”


This is what worldview training is about. It’s about demolishing mental strongholds and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. This is a learned skill. We need more teachers, pastors, parents, and grandparents who are adept at it. We need trainers of trainers.


It’s serious business, folks. We’re at war. In case you have not yet noticed, the stakes are too high to be passive. But I think you have noticed, just as I have.

Dr. Christian Overman is the Founding Director of Worldview Matters® (biblicalworldview.com). He is the author of Assumptions That Affect Our Lives and God’s Pleasure at Work: The Difference One Life Can Make. Dr. Overman has taught on the topic of biblical worldview and Christian education across America, as well as in Central America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. He and his wife, Kathy, have four adult children and twelve grandchildren. Contact Dr. Overman at overman@biblicalworldview.com.

ENDNOTES

1. Drag Queen Story Hour, accessed September 23, 2019, https://www.dragqueenstoryhour.org/#about.

2. “Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students,” Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, accessed September 23, 2019, http://www.doe.mass.edu/sfs/lgbtq/GenderIdentity.html.

3. “Breaking: Admitted Racist is Provost at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,” Capstone Report, July 29, 2019, http://capstonereport.com/2019/07/29/breaking-admitted-racist-is-provost-at-southern-baptist-theological-seminary/32870.