The “anti-racist” work of Ibram X. Kendi has drawn praise from the Brigham Young University (BYU) community, despite his stance against religious missionary work which is central to the faith of students at BYU who are mostly members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This semester, two syllabi obtained by Natalie Cline, one from a business class for experience design and management, EXDM 350, and another from a social work class, Social Work 623, showed “How to be an Antiracist” as reading material.
The Fall 2022 EXDM course has Kendi’s book as an option for readings out of several others. As well, week 5 of Social Work 623 course, Kendi is taught as part of the section “Theoretical foundations, Race, and Racism.” Pages 13-23 in “How to be an Antiracist,” which contains the quote “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination,” among others which suggest discrimination must be used in order to get equal outcomes between groups, is required reading.
In 2021, Kendi gave a lecture at Manhattan’s Judson Memorial Church, where he compared the ideas of what he called “Liberation” and “Savior” theology.
When describing Liberation theology, he said that “Jesus was a revolutionary and the job of the Christian is to revolutionize society.” He added that they must “liberate society from the powers on earth that are oppressing humanity.”
“Savior” theology, as described by Kendi, involves the kind of religious missionary work that most Christian churches, including members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, participate in.
In Kendi’s words, for Savior theology “the job of the Christian is to go out and save these individuals who are behaviorally deficient. In other words, we’re bringing them into the church, these individuals who are doing all of these evil, sinful things, and heal them and save them.”
At BYU, a large portion of students have gone to many different nations for this purpose, because it is central to the mission of their faith. Kendi claims that Savior theology “goes right in line with racist ideas and racist theology.”
“That type of theology breeds bigotry,” he concluded.
Despite Kendi’s condemnation of this central aspect of the faith, sectors of BYU have gone out of their way to praise and endorse his work. Kendi’s book “How to be an Antiracist,” for example, was named the BYU Kennedy Center’s “book of the semester.” It has also been called one of the BYU Ballard Center’s “favorites” on their social media in 2020.
Additionally, professors at BYU have equated Kendi’s ideas to those of leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As of 2016, 65% of enrolled BYU students had served religious missions.
BYU has been contacted for comment about this story and it will be updated accordingly.
Thomas Stevenson: Editor-in-Chief at the Cougar Chronicle
The Cougar Chronicle is an independent student-run newspaper and is not affiliated with Brigham Young University or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints