Book Review: “Fault Lines” by Voddie T. Baucham, Jr.

I recently got access to an early copy of “Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe” by Voddie T. Baucham, Jr. Since I’ve long found Dr. Baucham to be a compelling speaker and writer, and this issue is one that demands our attention, I put a pause on my reading list to see what he had to say.

The short review: this is a desperately needed book, written by perhaps the best man for the job.

It’s no secret that race discussions of recent years have created a major “Fault Line” in both society at large and churches specifically. Writing as a black man who has the cultural experiences of South Central Los Angeles, white neighborhoods in Houston, and now Zambia, Africa, has an education in both sociology and theology, and has clout in the world of Christendom, Dr. Voddie Baucham may be better suited than anyone to offer the dissenting opinion on Critical Race Theory (CRT) in evangelicalism. The first few chapters explore Baucham’s personal background and his experiences navigating racism and racial division, affirming that he certainly has the experiential knowledge some consider a requirement for offering an opinion on race matters (something the author rejects and labels “ethnic gnosticism”).

Much of what Dr. Baucham says builds on the foundations others have set with regard to CRT, Intersectionality, and Social Justice, but his compilation of the arguments along with quotes directly from the sources (Kendi, DiAngelo, et. al.) makes for a good introduction to the current “antiracist” movement. It won’t break any ground for the reader who has spent time researching CRT, but for those who are new to the topic it’s a good primer, and for those who are somewhat familiar it will shore up their understanding of the ideas being promoted.

The truly controversial section, I suspect, is where “Fault Lines” begins to get into specific applications of the questions at hand. Police shootings and the narratives surrounding them are examined with penetrating questions that challenge the CRT framework. The book also explores some of the more popular responses to claims of racism, such as abortion in minority communities and black on black crime. Baucham does not merely parrot them as the “gotcha” talking points they are often used as, but digs in to the question of their validity in the discussion. 

For me, the greatest value is in the way the book examines the issue within the church world. I believe the case Dr. Baucham makes is a strong one, that CRT will continue to drive division because it is incompatible with core ideas like the Gospel and the sufficiency of Scripture. CRT is not just an analytical tool for helping us understand racism. It is both a worldview and a competing religion, as Baucham demonstrates, and the evangelical leaders who have jumped on board seem unaware of the Trojan horse they are wheeling in to their churches and to Christendom as a whole.

I pray this book reaches open hearts and minds and helps heal divisions before they grow any wider. But, I’m pessimistic. I think it’s far more likely to be read and championed by those who agree and ignored or spurned by those who don’t.

In any case, it offers a well-researched, well-argued alternate view to the prevailing narrative of the day. Even if you don’t end up agreeing with the conclusions, it provides valuable insights into the side of the argument that is often either under-represented, prevented from speaking, or argued poorly.

4 stars out of 5, highly recommended

To preorder Fault Lines on Amazon, or for more info, go here. The book release date is scheduled for April 6.

Key quotes

  • Those belonging to the social-justice crowd present themselves as the only ones pursuing justice, to the exclusion of all who disagree with their assessments—who, by that definition, are pursuing injustice. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the current struggle is that it mischaracterizes Christians that way too. On one side are “compassionate” Christians who are “concerned about justice.” On the other are “insensitive” Christians who are “not concerned about justice.” This is wrong. (page 5)
  • Families are at odds. Marriages are on the rocks. And I don’t believe the fracture in this fault line is yet even a fraction of what it will be.
    No, I am not writing this book to stop the divide. I am writing to clearly identify the two sides of the fault line and to urge the reader to choose wisely. (7)
  • In case you’re wondering about its soteriology, there isn’t one. Antiracism offers no salvation—only perpetual penance in an effort to battle an incurable disease. And all of it begins with pouring new meaning into well-known words. (67)
  • I have often said, “The Eleventh Commandment is, ‘Thou shalt be nice” . . . and we don’t believe the other ten.” One of the negative results of this is no longer being able to deal with ideas without attacking the people who hold them. (132-3)
  • The idea that we need a new canon to be able to decipher what the Bible says, or more specifically, what it means regarding race, is quite troubling. This attack on the sufficiency of Scripture should serve as a call to arms. (130)
  • This will not repair the fault lines. Nothing will. These divisions are both real and necessary. As I said at the outset, the goal here is to be on the right side of the fault line when the catastrophe comes. In the meantime, we must love. I do not mean that we must accept the world’s faulty, emasculated, unbiblical version of love—the version that sees any disagreement or confrontation as inherently unloving. No, we must love each other with a tenacious, biblical, Christlike love.
    Dear reader, I know it is hard. I don’t like losing friends, being called names, or being ousted from platforms any more than you do. However, you and I must love the truth more than we love our friends, our reputations, or our platforms. (224)

Note: I was given early access to my purchase – not a free copy – by the Fault Lines Launch Team in exchange for posting a review.

White Fragility is anti-Gospel

Original post from Facebook (links below):

I’ve been hesitant to speak on this and have been reading and watching stacks of material to make sure I understand it correctly before I do, but I think it needs to be said: not all efforts against racism are created equal.

Before you go assuming I’m on whatever side you think that statement puts me on, the disclaimers:
Yes, racism exists (both individual and systemic, in the original sense). Sadly, I’ve seen it first hand even in the church and have heard plenty of accounts from others as well. Yes, it’s important we fight racism. I’ve been writing on this matter long before the events of the last 2 months, so don’t take any of this as me downplaying racism. However, it’s incredibly important we choose carefully in our approach to this matter.

Specifically, I want to address the “White Fragility” theory presented by Robin DiAngelo. First, because it has become the go-to resource in our national discussion, racing up the bestseller charts and even selling out on Amazon and being handed out and suggested by many within Christendom. Second, because it is representative of much of the ideology of Critical Race Theory, the prevailing viewpoint in our national discussions. Learning DiAngelo’s work helps one see much of the ideology being shared on television and in print today.

You can read the book, or you can watch the interviews, and you can read and watch the counterpoint articles and videos being produced. There is no shortage of her material available right now. However, the best entry-level summary is DiAngelo’s interview with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show from June 17. Asked by Fallon how white people can say they aren’t racist, DiAngelo answered, “I think white people should remove that phrase from their vocabulary, ‘I’m not racist.’ … When I’m talking about the racism that I have, that you have, it’s the result of living in a society in which racism is the foundation. We all absorb it, we all absorb it, there’s no exempting ourselves from it.”
She goes on to say that white people should stop trying to decide if they are racist… because they are. In the book, she sets up a trap to drive home the racism of all whites. Are you a racist? If you say yes, then you can admit it and live with it. If you say no, you’re both a racist and a fragile white because you can’t come to grips with your own racism. It’s the classic “have you stopped beating your wife?” trap translated into racial matters.

This is anti-Christian in every way. Either she’s saying that because it’s natural, racism isn’t a sin (which is not what she’s saying, and would be wrong), or that racism is both natural and a sin. If people are guilty of a sin solely because they are born into a certain race, then the Bible lied to us. If people are guilty of a sin solely because of the color of their skin, and cannot change it, then they cannot be forgiven. This kind of thinking also makes a mockery of biblical unity. Being “colorblind” isn’t the answer, but seeing everything as a matter of color and seeing races as different teams, all of which are inherently opposed to each other, leaves no room for the unity Jesus brings.

3 sin categories in which someone can show racism are hatred, pride, and/or partiality. You hate another person because of the color of their skin, you view someone as lesser than you because of the color of their skin, and/or you treat them differently because of the color of their skin. If you’re guilty of any of those three, repent. The Good News is that there is forgiveness and transformation for you in Jesus Christ. If you’re not doing those things, and you are loving your neighbor as God commanded, you aren’t guilty. Period.

Because these ideas are anti-Gospel, one would expect to see side effects that go in the opposite direction of the Gospel’s destination, and that’s what’s happening. We’re seeing the return of segregation, but this time voluntary. We’re seeing moral relativism that says the wrongness of an act depends on the color of the skin of the perpetrator. We’re seeing the sin of partiality being endorsed. We’re seeing the biblical concept of assuming the best about each other flipped on its head, teaching instead that we should assume the worst. (Spend any time with DiAngelo’s work and you’ll see that she trains people to constantly be looking for racial slights, whether intended or not. If you’re constantly looking for something, guess what happens?) We’re seeing the commands to be patient with one another and tolerate one another in love for the sake of unity be ignored on multiple sides. The mild, unintended insensitivities that may arise and the difficulty of hearing out a brother’s stories are not proof a person is racist. They are proof that cross-cultural issues can be difficult to navigate and will need Christlike patience and love to overcome.

The binary thinking I wrote about recently tells a person that you either accept every issue on one side, or you belong to the other side. Binary thinkers will think that because I’ve taken issue with these things, I must be the racist. Because I said that DiAngelo trains people to see racial slights that aren’t there, that racial slights don’t exist. We are smarter than that. There is room for nuance. Very few things in life are an either/or, and this one isn’t either. One can be fully against racism and still take issue with the methods and ideas of other people who are also against racism.

We must realize the way we fight it, the teammates we choose, and the ideas we espouse in opposing racism make a big difference as to the outcome of our efforts. An ideology that undermines the Gospel and totally precludes the possibility of unity and equality cannot be embraced if we want to reach those ends – as we should.

So, in the sermons we preach, the articles we write, the Facebook posts we make, and whatever else we say, it’s of incredible importance that we let the Gospel be the answer. We can say the Gospel is the answer all day long, but our actions and the ideas we hold to will determine if we truly believe it.

DiAngelo on Fallon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZfiSjTHVqA

DiAngelo on “Challenging White Fragility”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xtZ0nAFHow&

Secular writers on White Fragility:

https://taibbi.substack.com/p/on-white-fragility

The Problem with White Fragility

Ben Shapiro also did a video on the matter, but I’m not linking it because A) I haven’t watched it and B) He wouldn’t be taken seriously by many

Christian writers:

The Incompatibility of Critical Theory and Christianity

The Worldview of White Fragility – A Review of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility

Segregation:

https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2019/3/12/editorial-defending-black-commencement/

My articles on racism:

https://jackrwilkie.com/2017/09/02/racism-is-real-and-it-isnt-what-you-think-it-is/

Race, the Police, and the Christian’s Response

Why “I’m not a racist” isn’t good enough

focuspress.org/2017/08/15/how-you-can-fight-racism/

3 myths about racism

Binary thinking:

https://jackrwilkie.com/2020/06/18/please-i-beg-you-dont-be-a-binary-thinker/

Further useful reading: 

The Woke Breaking Point