This is the first in what will likely be a series of five posts discussing Fault Lines, a new book by Bro. Voddie Baucham. In it, he explores the discordant relationship between Scriptural truth and the current move to combat supposed racism in the church and larger culture. This week, we will look at chapters 1-3.
Bro. Baucham offers a great opportunity for Christian followers of Critical Theory and social justice theories to read a thorough, well-researched, and Biblical critique to explain why it is not compatible with our most holy faith. Like me, he has lived a thoroughly black experience and shares his testimony in detail. Equal parts memoir, sociological research, and Biblical analysis, Fault Lines is a must read for Christians trying to figure out what to make of the current madness.
One of the most frequently wielded weapons in this ongoing cultural war is an outsized emphasis on feelings, narratives, and so-called lived experiences. The redundancy of the phrase “lived experiences” never ceases to amuse me. While Bro. Voddie makes the case throughout his book that Christians are called to a higher standard that subjective reasoning, he is also highly attuned to the current zeitgeist. Attempts to dismiss his criticisms as invalid are inevitable and have already begun. In anticipation of such objections, he begins the book with a fairly transparent background sketch of his early life, of his own “lived experiences”.
Chapter 1: A Black Man
Unlike myself, Baucham has bothered to trace his antebellum roots all the way back to the state where his third great paternal grandfather was a slave. He outlines the migration of various family members from the south to the west, eventually setting the stage for his 1969 Los Angeles, California birth and childhood.
One of the most notable moments he recalls is the experience of being bussed from his home in South Central Los Angeles to a mostly white school in Palisades. It was there when he first had the experience of being called a nigger:
“I have heard it said that you “never forget the first time a white person calls you a nigger.” That was certainly the case for me, but not because I’d never heard it before. I’d actullly heard it all my life. People had used it to refer to me, and I’d used it to refer to others. When black people used the word, it was rather a benign moniker, even a term of endearment. But from a white person’s mouth, it was a weapon being used to demean and dehumanize me.
The little boy who said it probably had no idea what he was doing. He used the word like it was a new toy with which he was learning to play. However when he saw my reaction to it, he used it with greater fervor. He had struck a nerve, and like any kid on the playground who feels like he has figured out how to get the upper hand, he continued to strike at that nerve.“
Eventually Baucham had enough of the bully on the playground, physically retaliated, and with the boy was sent to the principal’s office. He remembers that his mother never excused his resorting to violence, and that she never allowed him to view his blackness as a curse nor as an excuse not to excel.
Despite being similar age as Voddie Baucham (I am a couple of years younger), and having had a similar experience of being bused weekly from my all-black school to an all-white school as part of a gifted and talented program, I have no memories of any white student calling me a nigger. It is a nerve that was, blessedly, never struck in me. However, there were plenty of parallels between my trajectory and Baucham’s relative to how he interacted with the larger world as a black American, and as a black Christian.
Chapter 2: A Black Christian
Chapter 2 is a continuation of the memoir portion of the book. Again, Baucham takes pains to be clear about the reality of his past experiences as a pre-emptive strike against objections based on the notion that he was somehow privileged or, my personal favorite, self-hating. It is not possible to read this book and conclude that Voddie Baucham rejects critical theory, social justice, or the philosophy of anti-racism because his experience is divergent from that of the average black man.
In this portion, he describes his initial contact with Christianity. Having been raised by Buddhist single mother, he had neither the background nor religious frame of reference so common to most black Americans. I suspect this is what accounts for his powerful presentation as a Christian apologist.
As a standout college football player, his conversion began the detour of his life away from a prospective career in the NFL, to that of a distinguished and passionate young preacher, and later a standout in the Southern Baptist Convention. Upon transferring to Bible college, he learned that in order to receive a generous and much needed scholarship, he had to be a member of a Southern Baptist church. Despite being devoted to Christ, he was extremely Afrocentric. He recalls his first query about the requirement to be a part of a Southern Baptist Church: Where he could find a black SBC? The registrar, he recalled, didn’t find his question the least bit shocking.
His experience in the Southern Baptist Convention, even all those years ago, put to death the narrative that it is a racist institution. His rise to prominence came during his time in white Southern Baptist churches. His eventual parting of ways with the convention was a diverging of ideas and theology, not race or ethnicity. That is all I’ll offer on the subject. I encourage you to go buy and read the book. It fills in all the blanks.
Chapter 2 explores many of Baucham’s experiences on his evolution toward belief the universal brotherhood of believers. It was not an easy journey, but it is worth reading about. At the time of the book’s writing, Baucham, his wife, and their 7 remaining minor children had relocated to Lusaka, Zambia in sub-Saharan Africa to build a classical Christian college from its foundation. This is hardly the landing place a man would choose if he was consumed with self-hatred. Of course, that’s all detractors can offer to those of us who refuse to tow the leftist/liberal narrative, despite all evidence to the contrary..
Chapter 3: Seeking True Justice
In Chapter 3, Baucham gets down to the business of confronting the mania that has gripped the United States and is now being exported around the globe. It is important to pause here and remind readers that Fault Lines is a cry to the Christian church, so when Baucham asks, “What is True justice?”, he is looking for a Biblical answer to that question. It is in this chapter that he begins to unpack that very large knapsack, with Scripture as the authoritative answer to the question.
Before he does that, however, he recalls many of the pivotal public events that have brought us to this moment. He starts by revealing false narratives, beginning with Colin Kapernick in 2016. I’d like to note here that in 2016, Barack Obama was still president. Baucham sifts through the details of several of the most infamous racially charged cases of the past decade to determine if they can objectively be characterized as racist incidents. He also highlights several other shooting deaths of actual unarmed innocents at the hands of police, for whom justice was never demanded, and whose stories were never told because they had the misfortune of being white.
Exploring narratives, defining terms (or more accurately allowing the SJWs to define their terms), and setting the stage for what follows is the main goal of chapter 3.
Stay tuned later this week as we look closer at the next few chapters of Fault Lines.