Voddie T. Baucham Jr.’s Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe provides an in-depth perspective on how social justice has divided our culture, our country, and the church, and how the tenets of modern social justice employ narratives that do not match with evidence.
To describe this ideology, he uses his own term, “Critical Social Justice” (CSJ). While he supports social justice, he believes that Critical Theory has taken hold in today’s culture. In this context, Baucham certainly does the job of critiquing and engaging culture.
Most of the work is aptly summarized in Proverbs 18:17, which he quotes, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”
In examining the evidence for and against the idea of systemic, structural racism, Baucham does not deny racial disparity in America. Rather, he challenges the CSJ narrative, which argues that the inequality is due entirely to the racist “DNA” of America.
While Baucham offers some alternative explanations to the disparity, though not much, he mostly attacks one prominent fallacy in CSJ thinking: “There is unequal outcome, therefore, the structure is to blame.”
He claims, to help us get a broader perspective, that America is objectively less racist than almost any other country. His perspective, as he has lived in Zambia for the past six years, is one of an insider and an outsider.
He is frank, forthright, and defends the gospel. Furthermore, while he masterfully shows that the narrative of CSJ is downright dishonest, misleading, and extremely dangerous to the church and our culture, sometimes I think he doesn’t capture the full scale of the evidence.
With full respect and admiration for Baucham’s life, work, intentions, and thought, here are some critical reflections on Fault Lines.
He addresses some of the evidence but often leaves out the other side. For example, he uses Harvard Economics professor Roland G. Fryer’s paper, “An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force,” which shows that, when external factors are controlled, unarmed black and white Americans are shot at relatively equal rates. He cites this to disprove the 2.5 to 1 ratio that is often cited, which states that unarmed black men are killed at 2.5 times the rate of white men.
However, that same paper also shows that police disproportionately use force against black Americans (even when outside factors are controlled and the offenders comply with officers’ requests). He doesn’t acknowledge the latter point.
He sometimes uses unscholarly or difficult-to-confirm sources, like a tweet with a video compilation or an obscure YouTube video. One footnote led me through a difficult search, and I ended up listening to an entire podcast because Baucham didn’t cite the original content or timestamp. This, and other references, sometimes lacked context or only gave one side of the picture.
As another reviewer notes, when Baucham compares the CSJ movement to a “new religion,” complete with its own “creation story” and cosmology, he stretches the comparison. Undoubtedly, the CSJ movement with Critical Race Theory often has religious fervor and generally provides a worldview. Regardless, this comparison seemed forced.
Additionally, readers must remember that Baucham believes that there is a deep divide on this issue. When we look around, it’s hard to disagree. But, one will notice when reading that this division defines the work, and his charge is to “pick a side.” While he may be completely correct in his analysis, Baucham’s tendency to harp on the division is sometimes tough to swallow. This, compounded with the fact that he spends little time on positive solutions, makes the book sometimes feel partial and unnecessarily divisive.
Why Christians should read this book
Suffice to say, while those complaints are important, on the whole, Baucham excellently addresses the spreading destruction of CSJ in evangelicalism. For example, he demonstrates that Be the Bridge and other Christian works on the subject are often rife with “Ethnic Gnosticism,” whereby the truth can only be heard from people of color and people of color are always to be believed. While humility is important, as Christians we shouldn’t abandon the belief in objective truth.
He addresses the danger of accepting CSJ, as it can contaminate the gospel with legalism and distracting goals that tend toward disunity rather than unity. Additionally, he provides insider insight into the events of the SBC controversy and its resolution on Critical Race Theory.
Baucham affirms the importance of ethnic diversity. He values his African heritage highly as an important part of his identity. And, indeed, he affirms that Christians must “do justice.” However, he believes that CSJ can blind us to true justice and avoid the real problems that lead to racial disparity. Insofar as this book is a critique of the movement and its danger to Evangelical Christianity, it does its job excellently.
If you don’t pick up this work, I would at least recommend that you read and wrestle with the “Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel,” even if you disagree with it. Baucham refers to this document frequently and was a prominent signature on it.
All in all, Voddie Baucham’s work is a helpful source of argumentation and a fresh perspective very much needed in the CRT debate that rages in our culture.
In their own words
“I wish I could say this book is meant to help us avoid the impending catastrophe. However, it is not. This catastrophe is unavoidable. These fault lines are so deeply entrenched, and the rules of engagement are so perilously complex, the question is not if but when the catastrophe will strike.”
“In the end, the answer to everything is racism [in the CSJ movement]. Not only is this kind of reasoning logically flawed, but it also flies in the face of a substantial body of sociological research and the historic preaching and understanding of the black church.”
“The black family matters. Education matters. Decisions and choices matter. And above all, God’s Word matters.”
“Racism is real. Injustice is real. No matter how many times I say those things, I will still be accused of turning a blind eye to them—not because I deny them, but because I deny the CRT/I view that they are “normal” and at the basis of everything.”
“Pastors…I believe the church—your church—is under attack. As shepherds, we must defend the sheep. We must repel the wolves. And yes, the wolves are many. However, this one is within the gates and has the worst intentions. He desires to use your genuine love for the brethren as leverage.”
“Living in Africa for the past five years has broadened my perspective on social justice in two major ways.
1) I have come to understand that the Critical Social Justice movement is global…
2) I have come to realize that culture does matter, that not all cultures are equal, that Christian culture has produced the highest levels of freedom and prosperity and the lowest levels of corruption and oppression in the world, and that transforming culture is a laudable and worthwhile goal.”