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One benefit of driving across the United States these past couple of weeks is the opportunity to catch up with terrific audiobooks. One was Dr. Wilfred McClay’s fabulous “Our Land of Hope,” the best survey of American history I’ve read to date, published in 2019. The second was “Fault Lines” by Voddie Baucham Jr., a prominent Southern Baptist African American pastor and divinity school dean.
Wow. And what makes Baucham’s book launch and tour earlier this summer all the more impressive was the time he spent at the Mayo Clinic, recovering from heart surgery.
Both books have attracted a lot of attention, but Baucham’s “Fault Lines” strikes a chord in tackling the cultural issue du jour – Critical Race Theory (CRT). A quick search for reviews of the book underscores that. While Baucham’s book focuses on the battle over social justice raging within evangelical churches, it is valuable for anyone seeking to understand CRT and its growing global march across many institutions.
Some suggest that the book was “rushed” to publication by publisher Salem Books, given the organic emergence of CRT as a major cultural and political issue, thanks to angry parents showing up at various local school board meetings. But Baucham notes in the book that he began raising alarm bells and speaking out about CRT more than a decade ago. His book is well documented and footnoted with some 90 Biblical passages and many other citations, including the works of those he criticizes.
The hardest part of any book or blog on this issue is defining terms, especially given how the language is always redefined. Baucham expertly weaves a brief but thorough history, citing names and history with many footnotes from the beginning of his book in what he entitles “Thought Line.” He is probably off a bit on the year CRT was invented – he claims 1989 when its roots run a bit farther back to Harvard University’s School of Law in the 1970s – but that’s a quibble.
Authors run the risk of erecting strawmen – making arguments that falsely characterize matters and then proceed to knock them down. Baucham avoids that trap. Barack Obama was a master at making strawman arguments, and he’s hardly alone. Speaking of Obama, Baucham was no fan, with one notable exception (noted later). From his introduction:
“I started writing and speaking on political issues in 2008, during Barack Obama’s first run for the White House. At that time, I warned repeatedly of his culturally Marxist worldview. I also warned that an Obama presidency would not heal, but rather deepen ethnic tensions in America. I also warned much the same regarding both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in 2016.”
But anyone who has read the growing panoply of both pro- and anti-CRT books, blogs, articles, and other posts over the past several months will find his “thought line” fair and largely accurate. While not considering CRT to have the same severity as the Spanish Inquisition or Protestant Reformation in threatening church unity, it sets the stage for his evisceration of the “Social Justice” theory. Or, more accurately, Social Justice theology. He sees CRT not as a disfiguring lens or “analytical tool,” but as a philosophy or worldview that divides groups into “oppressors” and the “oppressed” based on race but also other “intersectionality” factors, such as gender, LGBT status, etc. The higher your “intersectionality” score, the higher your “victim” status.
Baucham’s book moves from defining CRT and outlining its Marxist roots to telling his personal background, not just as an African American, but whose ancestors were slaves. He was raised by a single mother, including time in south Los Angeles, surrounded by drugs and crime. He attended public schools, was forced to attend a privileged “white” school, underperformed, and narrowly avoided being expelled. If anyone were primed to fall into CRT’s “victim” trap, it would be him.
After outlining his Christian journeys, he begins his lessons on injustice and exposing many false narratives focused on crime and alleged police racism. He discusses myths and facts of not just the cases we’ve learned about, from Brionna Taylor and Michael Brown to George Floyd, but other victims whose “injustices” received no attention because they were white. Have you heard of Tony Timpa? Dylan Noble? Jeremy Mardis? I hadn’t.
The heart of Baucham’s argument is that CRT is not only contrary to Christianity. It is a new religion, even a cult.
“The antiracist movement has many of the hallmarks of a cult, including staying close enough to the Bible to avoid immediate detection and hiding the fact that it has a new theology and a new glossary of terms that diverge ever-so-slightly from Christian orthodoxy. At least at first. In classic cult fashion, they borrow from the familiar and accepted, then infuse it with new meaning. This allows the cult to appeal to the faithful within the dominant, orthodox religions from which it draws its converts.”
“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.”
He then proceeds to systematically eviscerate the logic and arguments of Ibram X. Kendi, the high priest of CRT, many of which are built on falsehoods. This part of the book is an invaluable resource for those who debate with a CRT proponent.
He also criticizes, on four occasions, the pastor of the church where I currently belong, David Platt of McLean Bible Church in northern Virginia. You may remember Platt being surprised in 2019 by President Trump dropping by (literally) McLean Bible after a golf game at Trump National in Loudoun County, VA, with 15 minutes’ notice to request the congregants’ prayers.