Race and the Weariness of More and More Books

Race and the Weariness of More and More Books

There has been a lot of buzz online about two books. What's new? tempImageun12Xw

These two books are revealing additions to the discussion on race, Critical Race Theory, and related movements within evangelicalism (particularly in the SBC).

As soon as I saw they were being published, I wanted to read them. As a pastor engaged in SBC life, I felt like I should read them. At the same time, I didn't want to wade through it all. I knew some pages would be chore-like to finish.   

After reading Fault Lines by Voddie Baucham and Christianity & Wokeness by Owen Strachan the reasons "I didn't" want to dive in proved true.

After finishing the books here is what came to mind: 

The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.  Ecclesiastes 12:11-12 

This verse does not mean that we should not write or read books. It means that there are a few goads and nails in the world — fixed, immovably true wisdom — and that we should be careful about exhausting ourselves by reading on and on and on beyond them. Study can be vanity, too. Reading about anything these days (in a book or social media), especially matters of race, easily becomes “weariness of the flesh”. Like every subject, it can easily become a study that increases knowledge while not really accomplishing much else. Reading can easily be a way to confirm which side you take on a subject. Books are helpful though. They allow us to really hear someone out in ways social media (or even a personal conversation) can't accomplish. They give breath to the longer, fuller arguments which may be needed to arrive at accurate assessments of complex matters. And both these books have addressed complex matters.

Both Baucham and Strachan, who hold nearly identical view points and signed the Statement on Social Justice, have passed on several “firmly fixed nails” to us. That includes old, eternal truths as well as insights into the current events and the shifting ground in evangelicalism. 

I do not agree with some of the conclusions or assessments Voddie and Owen have made. It took work for me to discern some arguments (reading some pages twice). That is not a criticism of their books so much as my weariness of reading any book. I don’t see some of the authors, events, and messages as alarming as Voddie does. Other works and authors are more alarming to me now.  

But that is how study works. It's a conversation and a discussion. If the matters of social justice and wokeness concern you or confuse you, these may be helpful additions to your understanding and discussions. 

If you’re entirely unaware of the social justice movement or wokeness, there are some helpful introductory sections in both books. Both authors give historical background to define Critical Race Theory. Strachan's goes further on to define the broader category of being “woke”. 

If you are talking about these issues and books, read them. Weariness is not the same as laziness. Baucham and Strachan both show that the issues are deep enough and concerning enough to warrant our careful, thoughtful attention. Churches and families should be aware of what is happening in their world and should listen to various trusted voices. The best these books offer, I think, is the informative sections which help us define terms. Voddie's personal life story and succinct defintion of CRT were especially helpful to me. 

Still, it can be a wearying task to dive into it all. We shouldn’t feel like we’re behind on what God is doing, that we are left out culturally, or that we are ill-equipped to serve God if we haven’t read The NY Times best seller on a subject this week. It's OK to admit that one more book sounds wearisome. You may do better to take a walk and sit in silent mediation and prayer. You may do better to have lunch with someone and humbly talk through things.

Understanding the goads and fixing our lives to a few firm nails of truth is sufficient. Scripture is sufficient for every good work (2 Tim 3:16 -- both Baucham and Owen tell us that in their books). Reading more books may be very helpful, too. 

I feel the weariness of reading more. Yet, I’m also eager and interested to grow. It's different every day, I guess.

Two more works on my reading list in the scope of this subject include: 

The New Reformation: Finding Hope in the Fight for Ethnic Unity by Shai Linne
Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth by Thaddeus J. Williams 

Here are a few other books books I’ve read which are important parts of the discussion at large and may be helpful to you.  

HISTORICAL

  • The Bone and Sinew of the Land by Anna-Lisa Cox
  • The Lynching by Laurence Leamer
  • Frederick Douglas: Prophet of Freedom by David Blight 
  • Martin Luther King Jr by Marshal Frady

CULTURAL-POSITIONAL-THEOLOGICAL

  • Divided by Faith by Michael O Emerson (which Voddie and Strachan oppose)
  • Blood Lines by John Piper 
  • Under Our Skin by Benjamin Watson 

Don’t be lazy. Read to learn, grown, and test your own thoughts. 

But don’t be unnecessarily wearied by endless reading. Taking a walk to slowly gaze at the glory of God in creation may be better today. 

 

For His Glory,

Nathan