Thursday, May 20, 2021

The Ground is Shifting Under Evangelicalism

Fault Lines
Sometimes it feels good to say "I told you so." Sometimes it breaks your heart. Voddie Baucham has been warning people that trouble was coming for more than ten years, and now that it's here, he doesn't seem at all pleased to be have been right. The social justice movement, Critical Race Theory, and "intersectionality" have come together into an awesome force, and Voddie Baucham wants us to understand that these things are toxic for the church.

In Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism's Looming Catastrophe, Dr. Voddie Baucham, pastor, theologian, and currently dean of the School of Divinity at African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia, tries to warn the church away from what he calls "Critical Race Theory/Intersectionality" (CRT/I). This isn't some old white guy afraid he's going to lose his power. This is a black man who currently doesn't even live in the US who's afraid that CRT/I will turn Evangelicalism into something antithetical to the gospel.

While there are people who are fully on board with CRT, his greatest concern is for those who are "sympathetic to it because of their desire to fight what they see as a problem of racial injustice." Part of the problem is that people confuse modern "social justice" with biblical justice. "There are plenty of sincere, though perhaps naïve Christians who, if they knew the ideology behind it, would run away from the term 'social justice' like rats from a burning ship." So he tries to educate us about what is really going on in this movement.

Critical Race Theorists propose the idea of antiracism as the cure for racism. There is no neutral position — you are antiracist, or you are racist.

Racism is now “a system of advantage based on race, involving cultural messages, misuse of power, and institutional bias, in addition to the racist beliefs and actions of individuals.” This means racism is part of institutions and structures rather than just human hearts. According to CRT proponents, racial inequality is the proof of racist policies, and since we higher percentage of poor blacks than poor whites, of blacks in prison than whites, ipso facto, America is guilty of systemic racism.

White supremacy has also been redefined. "This is not your grandfather’s version of white supremacy. It does not refer to the KKK or Neo-Nazis (except when it does). This version refers to the very air one breathes in a culture created by and for white people."

He says Critical Race Theory is not just an analytical tool for addressing race. It is a worldview. In fact, these ideas are the foundation of a new religion: 

"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. ... This new cult has created a new lexicon that has served as scaffolding to support what has become an entire body of divinity. In the same manner, this new body of divinity comes complete with its own cosmology (CT/CRT/I); original sin (racism); law (antiracism); gospel (racial reconciliation); 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”). ... In case you’re wondering about its soteriology, there isn’t one. Antiracism offers no salvation—only perpetual penance."

As mentioned above, this new religion has its own priesthood: black (and other minorities, but especially black) voices are elevated above whites. Well, some black voices. Any black person that doesn't toe the line is dismissed as "broken" or having "internalized racism." Black voices are elevated because they have special knowledge (hence his name for this, "ethnic gnosticism") by virtue of their race or position in the oppressor/oppressed scheme.

The idea that really seems to chap him is that people, even otherwise conservative Evangelical pastors, seem to have accepted this as a superior canon for dealing with race, even being superior to the Bible. "In no area does God require me to walk in a level of righteousness for which the Scriptures do not equip me—including any and all aspects of justice." (I will say, however, that I feel like he may have been a little too harsh in some of his criticism of well-known Evangelical pastors, friends of his, over this issue. Some of what he said may be completely justified, but there were times when I think he took more offense than was warranted.)

So what's the big deal? Why all the noise about this? Voddie explores the immediate damage and potential dangers of this movement.

"One of the greatest tragedies of the Critical Social Justice movement is how it promotes devastation by encouraging people and communities of color to avoid 'adopting the dominant culture' by eschewing real data. As Thomas Sowell points out in Discrimination and Disparities, the CSJ crowd 'proclaim that statistical disparities show biased treatment—and that this conclusion must be believed without visible corroborating evidence… unless sheer insistent repetition is regarded as evidence.'"

Also, he thinks this movement is not only racist against white people, it's even racist against black people: "[I]t feeds into a victimology mindset that teaches disadvantaged people that their only hope is the benevolence, good will, and eventual revolutionary political action of well-meaning white saviors."

The potential dangers, however, explain the subtitle of the book, the "looming catastrophe." "One of the unintended consequences of the Critical Social Justice movement is that Christians who adopt its underlying ideologies will not be able to avoid the damage it creates." He and other CRT opponents say it is naïve to believe we can adopt CRT with respect to race and not be affected by it on gender identity, sexuality, and religion. He uses the example of veganism, which some CRT adherents see as a social justice movement connected to environmental justice, racial equality, immigration, worker's rights, and feminism (because meat production exploits female animals).

He then cites examples of Evangelical CRT proponents who hae moved from pro-life to, or at least toward, pro-choice (or pro-choice friendly) positions. Now, correlation does not equal causation; these things could have another source, but it's certainly alarming enough to want to put the brakes on this. It does seem CRT may be about getting people to move left on a host of issues out of guilt over racial injustices.

Voddie quotes several atheists on the anti-CRT side, so this isn't just a religious issue, but it is interesting and sad that they recognize the danger to the church more than many Christians. One formerly "angry" atheist says, "If I wanted to destroy the church, I'd make it woke." And in embracing this self-destructive philosophy, they're embracing an ideology that sees Christianity as part of the "oppressive hegemony." Jemar Tisby, author of The Color of Compromise, is quoted: “Religious freedom… is really code for white Christians being able to do what they want to do.”

Voddie says, "If white people need to 'check their privilege,' then Christians will soon be asked to do the same. Make no mistake about it—we are under attack."

So if CRT isn't the cure for racism, what is? The gospel! "As followers of Christ, we reject the idea that the sin of racism is entirely structural. We believe it is a problem of the human heart—and therefore, its only solution is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are most assuredly issues in the culture that are broken, and we should strive to repair them. However, the mission of the Church begins with and works through the hearts of men.

"In the end, it is forgiveness that will heal our wounds. ... I have heard a mantra lately that rings hollow in my ears: 'There can be no reconciliation without justice.” When I hear that, I want to scream, “YES! AND THE DEATH OF CHRIST IS THAT JUSTICE!' ... Who am I to tell a white brother that he cannot be reconciled to me until he has drudged up all of the racial sins of his and his ancestors’ past and made proper restitution? Christ has atoned for sin!"

Turning to a new religion, a new priesthood, and a new canon will not save us. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ as preached by the apostles and passed down in the New Testament can show us the way forward.

What to think of this book? If you couldn't guess from the subtitle, this book makes no pretense of being a calm, dispassionate analysis of the movement. Voddie comes out swinging. He thinks CRT is dangerous and wants you to as well.

This book was not written to address racism but CRT. It does not have much to offer about how to deal with racism other than forgiveness. It does not deny that there is work to do, but that is not the problem it was written to address. It was written to stop Evangelical Christians from believing that CRT is necessary for racial reconciliation or compatible with the gospel, and he makes a very compelling case.

Last time I mentioned Kevin DeYoung's categories of Christians who are speaking on this issue. Voddie is definitely in the "courageous" category, and it is aptly named, because he knows the flak he's going to get over this. In fact, he's had trouble getting this book into stores. But if half of what he says is true, we have cause for grave concern over the incorporation of CRT ideas in the church. I don't know that all Christians need to read this, but all pastors definitely do.

I'll leave you with a statement of Voddie's I think sums up this book:

This book is, among many things, a plea to the Church. I believe we are being duped by an ideology bent on our demise. This ideology has used our guilt and shame over America’s past, our love for the brethren, and our good and godly desire for reconciliation and justice as a means through which to introduce destructive heresies. We cannot embrace, modify, baptize, or Christianize these ideologies. We must identify, resist, and repudiate them. We cannot be held hostage through emotional blackmail and name-calling. Instead, we must “see to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

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