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Social Justice and Racism are terms which have reverberated throughout our societies in an especially amplified way this past year. The various riots of 2020 and the meteoric rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement has prominently placed these terms indelibly in the minds of many in our culture. Many well-meaning people, organizations, Church leaders, Christians and many more posted black squares on social media in solidarity – led by a desire to act compassionately and to listen and learn more.
It is a good thing that our first response is one of compassion and caring towards our fellow image-bearers! I too have spent a considerable amount of time reading and learning more about these movements and ideologies, statistic about racism in North America, as well as some of the genuine concerns surrounding racism by ethnic minorities. However, within our popular culture, many fail to understand some of the dangers beneath some of the terms and movements concerning racism today.
But how could a movement that is based on ending racism be dangerous? Isn’t the quest for social justice a good and noble thing?
It would be, if it were that simple. However, in this particular struggle, the definition of terms matters. What is meant by these terms can often be something quite different to what is understood.
Dr. Voddie Baucham Jr’s new book, Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe is not for the faint of heart. It is strong medicine for what he recognizes to be a fatal disease.
J. Gresham Machen once said,
“Men tell us that our preaching should be positive and not negative, that we can preach the truth without attacking error. But if we follow that advice we shall have to close our Bible and desert its teachings. The New Testament is a polemic book almost from beginning to end.”
Fault Lines is an open and direct critique of one of the most important ideological battles of our day – both in the church and in the culture around us. Dr. Baucham pushes the point that these fractures within the church over this ideology will lead to division if they continue in their current direction. He uses the metaphor of a fault line (to which the book owes its title) to describe what he sees awaiting the Evangelical church on the brink of a disaster that would split it into two sides along this divide.
What is this fault line? It is Critical Social Justice (CSJ) – and I think he’s right.
(Other authors have made a distinction of terms by using “Social Justice A” and “Social Justice B” – Dr. Baucham distinguishes his terms by referring to “Biblical Justice” and “Critical Social Justice”)
That’s Not Nice!
At the time of writing this review, Fault Lines is on pre-order (I had the opportunity to review the book in advance as part of the launch team). Already, there is quite the buzz around it. Twitter has put a warning on posts referencing the book and at least one Christian Store has contemplated pulling the book off their shelves. It wouldn’t be too surprising if the cancel culture mobs try their best to get rid of it as well. This issue is a sensitive one in our culture and many are intolerant of views that go against the accepted orthodoxy.
Many charges against this book will undoubtedly come from the tone police that, “Voddie is not being nice!” “He’s not engaging graciously” – despite him putting many disclaimers and nuances in the book. When addressing a topic like this, it can be tough to be graciously nuanced yet not let your argument die the death of a thousand qualifications. Some will say, “He’s bringing division” – despite his repeated calls for unity around the truth. Some will accuse that, “He’s an Uncle-Tom and a Sell-Out. Why does he hate his own black people?” Despite his obvious concern and care for the well-being of his fellow black brothers. Others may ask, “what right does he have to say these things? He doesn’t know what he’s talking about” despite him actually being one of the most qualified voices to speak on this issue having addressed them for some 20 years now.
These accusations will come, and there will be some who, regardless of whatever apologetic or defense is raised, will not ever give this book a sympathetic reading nor even open its pages. However, I hope that there will be some who will move past this rhetoric to engage honestly with the content of this book because it is an important (and some may say, the definitive) contribution on this hot-button issue.
Sometimes, we need the faithful wounds of a friend (Prov. 27:6). Strong medicine often doesn’t go down easy. So, read on, and I hope this review will peak your interest to at least give Fault Lines a fair reading.
Laying the Groundwork
Voddie said on social media that, “In Fault Lines, I strive to identify CRT/I fairly and accurately, relying on CRT/I sources. Then I show how the terminology, methodology, and ideology of CRT/I is being mimicked by many within Evangelicalism (openly championed by some and unintentionally by others).” I believe he has achieved this goal.
The book’s introduction starts off by defining terms and giving a brief history of the development of the ideas which led to today’s Critical Social Justice (CSJ) Movement. There has been a lot of confusion over these terms, leading many to speak past each other. With clear definitions, the book lays a good groundwork for fruitful discussion.
Revealing Marxist Foundations
Next, Voddie shows how CSJ has its roots in Karl Marx’s Conflict Theory which “viewed society as a group of different social classes all competing for a limited pool of resources.” (pg XII) Society was seen as basically divided into two classes in conflict – the oppressed and the oppressors. Everything was seen in terms of power differentials. This framework was later used by the Frankfurt School in the development of Critical Theory – the main goal of which was to address structural issues causing inequity. The influence of this thinking is also why many issues these days seem to become politicized. This influence of Marxist ideas on our current political and social conversations cannot be understated today!
Lindsay and Pluckrose note in their book, Cynical Theories, that Critical Theory “is more interested in problematizing—that is, finding ways in which the system is imperfect and making noise about them, reasonably or not—than it is in any other identifiable activity, especially building something constructive.” This in itself would be problematic enough. However, add to this is the fact that Critical Theory also denies objective truth and you get a recipe for a revolution based on subjective reasoning. Critical Theory is not just another neutral postmodern idea or ‘analytical tool’. It is based on anti-Christian, Marxist foundations which are opposed to a Biblical worldview. This is why this ‘Trojan horse’ is so dangerous as it infiltrates the modern church.
Voddie takes great pains, as is shown through the thorough usage of primary sources and many citations in his footnotes, to reveal the true nature of this hostile worldview. The thorough and attentive reader would do well to scour his footnotes.
Racism in Reverse
When Critical Theory is applied to the issues of racism in Critical Race Theory (CRT), this framework radicalizes and divides a society – leaving only destruction and, ironically, racism in the reverse direction. CRT actually redefines what racism itself means. No longer is the term “racism” in reference to the sin of partiality or evil things people think, do, or feel towards persons of a different ethnicity. Instead, it is defined in terms of systems which perpetuate inequity between different groups. This is where the term “systemic racism” (a popular phrase these days) originates. This is also where a lot of confusion takes place – as CRT advocates use ‘racism’ in a different sense than what is classically understood by the word.
The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs admits this when it states plainly that,
“CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture.”
Did you catch that? According to CRT, you can have racism without racists. It views racism as normative, and that “whites are incapable of righteous actions.” It thus ends up committing racism in the reverse direction.
A Case of Multiple Comorbidities – CRT & Intersectionality
Added to CRT is the related concept – Intersectionality – often paired as CRT/I.
Intersectionality analyzes the layers of oppression based on what oppressed groups to which a person belongs. Its goal is to try to use this analysis to achieve equal outcomes and distribution of resources. It is not primarily concerned, however, with actual instances of oppression but rather with group identity.
So, for example, a person who is white, male, and heterosexual is seen as having more ‘privilege’ than a person who is female, lesbian, and black because of his belonging to these identity groups. However, it wouldn’t necessarily matter if this man lives in abject poverty in a trailer park and the lesbian woman was a tenured PhD professor in an Ivy League school. Just by mere identification with those identity groups, they are seen through the lens of intersectionality as having more or less status and considered privileged or oppressed. CRT/I’s vision of seeking justice in these cases would be to take away privilege from one and give advantages (in the form of coerced reparations and/or affirmative action) to the other on the basis of their racial group identity.
Such a radically different understanding of the issue of racism by CRT/I can mislead many people who are unaware of what exactly they are supporting.
Speaking as a Fool?
Why is it that Dr. Baucham can speak to these issues?
Interspersed throughout the book are personal stories from Voddie’s own life that give depth to his insights on the topics and experience to speak to them. This is not a man speaking of hypotheticals of which he has no experience. He has lived through it. However, I suspect that Dr. Baucham would have been hesitant to ‘boast’ in his credentials. I think that he employs something akin to what Paul does in 2 Corinthians 11:16-29 – speaking foolishly that he might gain attention from a hostile audience to listen to his argument.
Voddie recounts his own upbringing and family history – tracing his family’s lineage back to slavery on both sides and his own story of growing up fatherless raised in poverty by a single-parent Buddhist mom in south-central L.A. He tells stories of being racially bullied in school and feeling like he didn’t belong.
Voddie also recounts his story of conversion and experience in black Christianity. He grew up a very “Afrocentric Christian” with childhood heros of Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X, and Elijah Muhammad on his T-shirts. He admits that, “At that point in my life, I was most certainly more black than Christian.” (Pg 26) He pursued Christianity solely within the confines of black community and society. Later, he was convicted when he realized that, “I had spent my short Christian life pursuing segregation.” (Pg 33) His experience visiting and eventually moving to Africa also awakened him to a whole new perspective on racial issues and the reality of the history of slavery in and from Africa.
Dr. Baucham doesn’t wince from naming names and giving examples – from Colin Kaepernick (NFL quarterback), LeBron James (NBA player), to Ibram X. Kendi (author – How to be an Anti-racist), Robin DiAngelo (author – White Fragility) and many other famous names within the CRT/I movement. Voddie also points out how mainstream media perpetuates these narratives (e.g. Vox, New York Times, CNN, and even Al Jazeera) showing how ubiquitous this worldview has become.
Voddie also shows how the ground is shifting in the evangelical world. Influential figures, pastors, authors, seminaries and even denominations are taking sides on this issue. Even some reformed authors, such as Jamar Tisby, have written books which promote and attempt to ‘Christianize’ CRT/I ideologies. He cites several influential Evangelical leaders such as David Platt, Matt Chandler, Eric Mason, Tim Keller, Mark Dever and more who have become sympathetic to the ideas of CRT/I. However, this is not just for the purpose of creating division – as he expresses his desire that these people would come to see the dangers of embracing CRT/I. Dr. Baucham is concerned that some key leaders are calling acceptance of CRT/I ideology “a gospel issue”.
Friendly Faithful Wounds
“One of the negative results of this is no longer being able to deal with ideas without attacking the people who hold them. Disagreements quickly deteriorate into arguments and worse. Consequently, taking a position on an issue carries the automatic assumption that one is utterly opposed not only to the opposing view, but to all who hold it. Therefore, we don’t debate ideas at all, but go straight for personal attacks and character assassination. And this debate is no different.”(pg 133)
However, Baucham is charitable in how he engages with fellow-Christian brothers and sisters with whom he disagrees. He continues,
“While I am aware that there are extremes at play that threaten to obscure the Gospel, I am convinced that much of what we are seeing today is disagreement between well-meaning brothers and sisters who are arguing around the margins but holding fast to the center—to the Gospel.” (pg 137)
Dr. Baucham makes clear that, “I harbor no animosity against anyone named in these pages, and if you happen to agree with my perspective on these issues, I hope you don’t either.” (pg 230) However, despite his numerous statements of charitable disagreement with fellow-brothers, I fear that many may still take this book as a personal attack. I only hope that we can be as charitable in our responses.
False Narratives & Biblical Standards of Justice
A major concern is that many people who joined in on the chants for justice for various figures who are said to be examples of racial injustice don’t know the full facts of these cases. Baucham notes, “Today, people are rioting and demanding justice before knowing the facts,” and ignoring the Biblical standards of justice such as requiring the evidence of two or three independent lines of witnesses to establish a charge (cf. Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19; Heb. 10:28) or judging impartially (Lev. 19:15).
We would do well to remember that “the one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). Which is why “if one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13). We should all be a little slower to speak, quicker to hear and slow to get angry – for the worldly anger driven by CSJ does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19).
Systemic Police Brutality
Dr. Baucham shows that many of the popular CRTI/I narratives prevalent in today’s media regarding racial injustice simply do not hold up to scrutiny.
For example, Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer Jr notes in a study that, “On the most extreme use of force [in fatal officer-involved shootings]… we find no racial difference in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account.” In fact, when the raw data in U.S. is analyzed it turns out that white people are actually shot at disproportionately higher rates when the number of police interactions are tallied up (pg 49). In a study by Fryer entitled, “An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force”, it was found that, “The only statistically significant differences by race demonstrate that black officers are more likely to shoot unarmed whites, relative to white officers.” This is certainly not what is the current narrative being told in popular media.
Be Careful Little Eyes What You See
The outrage culture over perceived racial injustice is further fueled by the visual nature of our news media that tends to makes its money off sensationalism. Images rather than printed text as news sources tend to encourage people to think with their feelings rather than logic. Just recently, there have been cries of “Asian Hate” over shootings in the U.S. before any adequate time to objectively assess the facts of the case has been given. We must be aware of the weaknesses and temptations of these new forms of media that lead us to jump to conculsions. Reacting in haste can end up actually hurting the cause of those wanting to seek true racial justice – if you call everything racist, it may end up sounding like crying wolf. Thus, instead of hasty reactions, we must honestly wrestle with the truth of the data and consider what are the best solutions.
Dr. Baucham looks at several popular stories cited as incidents of racial injustice such as Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, and George Floyd and shows how the mainstream media’s narrative was either heavily skewed or completely false when the facts are investigated. He demonstrates how these cases – though tragic – are improper for basing a narrative of systemic police brutality against blacks. He rightly points out that, “Simply put, we must be careful when we hear and/or draw conclusions. We must reject simplistic, univariate analyses as a basis for sweeping accusations of bias.”(pg 52)
Discrimination, Disparities and Democrats
Voddie also takes a look at the explanations for racial disparities and whether they are the result of systemic racism. Citing from prominent black voices before the rise of CRT/I, he shows compellingly that fatherlessness, crime, education, and attitudes to abortion have a lot more effect on racial disparities than is often given credit. Voddie doesn’t just cite from conservative sources either. He shows how left-leaning African American voices such as Moorehouse College and even President Obama’s Fathers Day speech show that this was commonly knowledge and exhorted from those who have since shifted their views due to CRT’s rise.
Dr. Baucham demonstrates how leftist political agendas such as – LBGTQ issues, climate change, abortion, and CRT/I – are all inter-related because they share the same worldview. He corrects some of the popular myths of America being founded on racism. Baucham also exposes the roots of the Black Lives Matter Movement as an organization with Marxist, pagan and even occult practices that wage war against Christianity. (Ever noticed that BLM’s symbol closely resembles the Communist fist?) Many Christians have been duped by BLM and we must lovingly seek to correct and speak truth to them to warn of its dangers.
Ultimately, Cricital Race Theory is another religion altogether. Voddie unpacks the deeply religious nature of CRT/I. He notes,
“…this new body of divinity comes complete with its own cosmology (CT/CRT/I); original sin (racism); law (antiracism); gospel (racial recon- ciliation); martyrs (Saints Trayvon, Mike, George, Breonna, etc.); priests (oppressed minorities); means of atonement (reparations); new birth (wokeness); liturgy (lament); canon (CSJ social science); theologians (DiAngelo, Kendi, Brown, Crenshaw, MacIntosh, etc.); and catechism (“say their names”).”
However, in terms of its soteriology (its way to salvation), there is none.
One’s white privilege is the unforgivable sin, and denial of white privilege only shows one’s white fragility and complicity in the system of oppression. This makes the charge of white privilege and racism unfalsifiable. This is the intellectual fallacy of a Kafkatrap – “A sophistical rhetorical device in which any denial by an accused person serves as evidence of guilt.” One can never be rid of this ‘original sin’ and must acknowledge, perpetually repent and do the work of anti-racism and activism. It is all law, no grace. This is ‘another gospel’ and thus, no Gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-9).
A New Priesthood and Canon
Furthermore, persons of colour (POCs) are considered to have special access to knowledge by virtue of their experience as an oppressed minority group. This is what he terms “Ethnic Gnosticism”. It is a form of standpoint epistemology. In this way, POCs who are sympathetic to CRT/I become a new “priesthood” with access to unquestionable special knowledge. CRT/I also has a new canon – a list of authoritative and infallible writings – which challenges the sufficiency of Scripture and becomes the new lens through which to misread the Bible. Ever notice how CRT/I advocates will assert that to understand and provide solutions to racism you need to read ____ (fill in the blank with CRT/I theologians), as if what God’s Word teaches us is not enough? He notes that, “People are not coming right out and saying that the Bible is not enough. Instead, high-profile pastors get up and speak about the ways in which modern sociology texts have done for them what the revelation of Scripture has been unable to do.” (pg 125)
Other Christian apologists, such as Dr. Neil Shenvi and Monique Duson, have similarly sought to show CRT/I’s incompatibility with Biblical Christianity.
The True Gospel is the Cure
If ideologies like Antiracism, Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality are allowed to continue to spread like cancer in Evangelicalism, it will poison it from within and obscure the true Gospel. The patient is indeed critically ill, but CRT/I is not the cure – it’s the disease. However, this is a diagnosis many will dislike. Baucham admits,
“This book was hard to write. I knew that no matter how careful I was, how irenic, deferential, or gracious, the very content of this book would be deemed offensive, unkind, and insensitive. Some will go as far as calling it ‘violence.’” (Pg 230)
In this book, Dr. Baucham shows that the real way to fight racism has already been bought by the blood of Jesus Christ which brings both true justice and forgiveness. This, not reparations and the works righteousness of antiracism and woke ideologies is what we need. If racism is a sin (and it is), then the only cure is the Gospel.
We must speak boldly and directly about these truths. May we find the true rest and real reconciliation that is blood bought by Jesus Christ.
Fault Lines releases today, April 6, 2021 and I pray that many will read this book and be challenged to think deeply, biblically and compassionately about how we pursue true justice. I highly recommend this book. It will be well worth your time to read!
*At the time of publishing this article, Dr. Baucham had been scheduled for open heart surgery and we are awaiting news of his status and recovery. Our prayers are with him and his family – that the Lord would uphold them and grant a speedy recovery of his health.