The lead singer of the rock band Skillet says Christians are in the middle of a "civil war" over social justice and critical race theory – and that it can only be solved with "honest conversations" filled with grace.
John Cooper, the frontman for the award-winning Christian band, told Fox News that too often, terms are redefined in the discussion over racism. Cooper recently released a book, "Awake & Alive to Truth," that examines modern worldviews.
"What kind of Christian isn't against racism? I mean, that would be a very strange thing to not be against racism," Cooper told Fox News. "But I need to know what you mean when you say [you oppose racism] so that I know what I am marching for or what I am standing up for … Can we have a definition of terms? That would be really nice.
"Honest conversations are really hard to have these days because people are … ready to fight and so I just pray – I'm not suggesting I always do a good job of this – but I always do pray that I could be full of the spirit of God in order to be gracious toward someone that I disagree with," he said. "I can't be responsible if they will reciprocate that to me – and I know that I have strong opinions and I say things firmly – but I really want to have those conversations."
Christians who embrace critical race theory often have "good intentions," Cooper said.
"That means that they look back at America and our history of racism in this country, and the church – all of the times that the American church did not step up as I believe she should have. There were some people [that did], but there were a lot of people that didn't," Cooper said. "And we look back at that and say man the church missed some big opportunities to be a light to the world – to have stood up during Jim Crow laws and during redlining, and during all of these various things.
"Because of that, we don't want to be on the wrong side – we don't want to be on the wrong side of history, and so people I think were kind of going along with a lot of the terminology," Cooper said of social justice and CRT terms. "They were going along with the terminology without understanding what they were going into, and now I think that's becoming very clear. We're having a bit of a church split because a lot of people really believe one way and a lot of people believe another way. I think we're seeing a civil war in the American church – over social justice."
Cooper said he wants to be a "voice for unity" on the subject. The problem, he said, is that if the two sides aren't in agreement on the definition of terms, "then you cannot have any true unity."
"My friend will say … part of the gospel is speaking out for the poor and oppressed," Cooper said. "And I say, okay I think I know what you mean – and then they say, therefore, we need to march because, just as the Biden administration said when they commented on the [Ma'khia] Bryant shooting. The Biden administration just says that's systemic racism. Well, my woke pastors' friends also think that it's systemic racism.
"So, now I have to go march for something because, to them, it's a gospel issue. To me, that's not a gospel issue and that is not systemic racism. That's a different worldview than mine. It's built on something different, so how can we have truth? In their minds now – my woke friends – in their minds, I am someone who claims Christ but does not stand up for the least of these … even though I think there's a pretty good argument to be made that the police officer saved the life of a girl, of a Black girl at that."
Cooper urged Christians to have "conversations in love." He also encouraged the church to find solutions from Scripture.
"The Bible gives us a lot of solutions; things like promoting sexual morality, promoting marriage, promoting fatherhood, working hard, work ethic, teaching the wisdom of Proverbs," Cooper said. "I don't hear any of these solutions coming frankly from the other side – all that I hear is march for systemic racism, and I don't know what that is going to do. But I do know this – if you apply the wisdom of Proverbs to your life, you will thrive, and there is nothing that can stop you from flourishing because you are acting within the design of God."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Ethan Miller/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.