Baucham, V.T. (2021) Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe. [Kindle] Salem Books.
Those of us who grew up in California understand earthquakes better than most people in the US. We are aware that the State is riddled with fault plane boundaries, commonly called fault lines, where tectonic plates move against others, creating friction that eventually releases energy. That inevitable release comes in the form of seismic waves, shaking the earth, and devastating whatever lies above it. Californians understand the risk of living near fault lines, and take the necessary precautions to avoid damage. There is no stopping an earthquake, but the harm can be mitigated by awareness and preparation.
Dr. Voddie Baucham’s aptly named book uses the metaphor of increasing friction along fault plates to illustrate the impending and inevitable release of worldview tensions and the destruction that will come when (not if) the seismic waves of anger, fear, and frustration reach the surface of the culture. Baucham is clear that he did not write the book to stop the divide between sacred and secular cultures, but rather to “clearly identify the two sides of the fault line and to urge the reader to choose wisely” (p. 6).
Well-researched, with pages of citations following each chapter, Baucham defines the dominant worldviews that make up US culture. As a Black man, he knows the issues well, and from both sides of the argument. His lived experience testifies to his deep understanding of the issues now facing the US, but research informs his conviction that, while advocacy may have a place in the culture, it cannot overcome the divide. For Baucham, Truth, in all its capitalized glory, is necessary for justice, and Truth (or the denial of it) is the source of current cultural seismic waves. In earthquake country, there are often small temblors that precede a major quake; using Baucham’s metaphor, it is fair to say that the US is currently reacting to small cultural temblors that should make people prepare for the big quake that will come.
Baucham sets up a clear binary of secular and sacred. As a reader, I do not always agree with his conclusions; he skips over some of the important nuances of the complex issues, choosing to lay out his argument in purely black and white terms (wordplay intentional.) The strength of this book is in his definitions of a secular religion that puts humans at the center. He uses publications by those who hold to the views of secularism as the sources for the definitions, citing them not only by words, but also by hyperlinks (in the Kindle edition) to the source documents. He also exposes the faulty logic of secularism as he defines the new Gnosticism that prevails in the not-so-new religion (chapter 5.)
The book takes a decidedly sacred position, calling on people of faith to reconnect to the sufficiency of scripture as the source of Truth and as the model of how people ought to treat one another: “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength…love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40) and “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). He calls on the Church to have hard conversations about the issues at hand, conversations that both address the cultural divide and prepare people of faith to speak the truth in love, knowing that the difference between human-centered religion and Jesus-focused faith is the underlying source of conflict, not just now, but throughout all of history.