Bestselling Christian author and speaker Josh McDowell has apologized following comments he made about Black Americans and other racial minorities, saying they were not raised to appreciate things like hard work and education. He also disparaged the idea of systemic racism and Critical Race Theory, which he described as an “epidemic” facing younger generations.
On Wednesday, McDowell apologized after an outcry, saying he “made comments about race, the Black family and minorities that were wrong and hurt many people.” He also announced he would be “stepping back” from his ministry for a “season of listening.”
Statement directly from Josh McDowell: pic.twitter.com/bLbU2eXoE3
— Josh McDowell (@josh_mcdowell) September 22, 2021
Last weekend, McDowell — best known as the author of Evidence That Demands a Verdict — spoke at a a meeting of the American Association of Christian Counselors where he described the “Five Greatest Global Epidemics.” Notably, the talk did not address the literal epidemic facing the globe right now, but did spotlight things like Social Justice and Critical Race Theory, the latter of which he said “negates all the biblical teaching.”
“There’s no comparison to what is known today as social justice with what the Bible speaks of as justice,” he said. “With CRT they speak structurally. The Bible speaks individually. Make sure you get that. That’s a big difference.”
McDowell then admits that he agrees that not everyone in the U.S. has the same opportunities as he’s had, but takes a decidedly novel track with it: “I do not believe Blacks, African Americans, and many other minorities have equal opportunity. Why? Most of them grew up in families where there is not a big emphasis on education, security — you can do anything you want. You can change the world. If you work hard, you will make it. So many African Americans don’t have those privileges like I was brought up with.”
Critical Race Theory — or CRT — is a relatively obscure field of legal academia that explores the way racism has played a role in shaping American law. Broadly, CRT teaches that citizens are sorted into various striations of power and that, historically, race was one of — if not the — primary means of constructing and enforcing those striations. This is what people mean when they talk about “systemic racism.” CRT argues that while individual people can be racist, our society is built in such a way that racism can be an adverse factor in things like the education system, the prison industrial complex and the corporate ladder even if the people themselves aren’t racist. RELEVANT covered CRT and its controversy among many Christian communities in-depth in our Fall Issue.
As Religion News Service notes, McDowell’s ministry is associated with Cru, which has also faced controversy for its own handling of race issues in recent years. A group of staff interpreted the ministry’s recent conversations about racism as “embracing a secular system of ideas that divides humans into victims and oppressors.”
McDowell’s comments were first noted by Aaron New, a professor at a Christian college who heard about the comments secondhand, from an attendee. He tweeted that he was “kinda stunned” by the comments, which were then verified by subsequent audio recordings, which were quickly removed from AACC’s archive.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's senior editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.