Douglas R. Groothuis, Fire in the Streets: How You Can Confidently Respond to Incendiary Cultural Topics, (Washington DC, Salem Books), 232 pages.
The summer of 2020 was a watershed moment for our culture. If we are honest with ourselves, a lot has changed since then, and very little of it feels as though it has changed for the better. Seeking to understand our times and know what to do, we look for clear-headed guides who can put these changes into terms that make sense and help us find ways to blaze a new path forward. A lot of ink has been spilt in search of just such an understanding, and not all of it has been profitable. But several books stand out for their clarity of exposition and for their unswerving devotion to the value of truth. Fire in the Streets is not only one of those books, it is the first one I would recommend to someone who has not yet read a book about our current cultural moment but would like to hear a strong and prescient Christian voice on the subject.
The primary object of the book is to understand the cultural fire started by Critical Race Theory (CRT), and its underlying ideologies, Critical Theory and Marxism. Not only were the streets on fire in the summer of 2020, but significant parts of our culture have been set on fire by the same worldviews. In the act of understanding what CRT teaches and stands for, Dr. Groothuis expands his analysis to the larger cultural issues at stake, such as the American founding, systemic racism, reparations, capitalism, and education (among others). If CRT has affected every major part of our culture, it seems right to address these large-scale issues as a result.
In his analysis of CRT, he provides definitions and describes the consequences of its implementation. His work is robustly researched and cited but is never pedantic or aggressive. Dr. Groothuis cites the original sources, others who have fairly and thoroughly critiqued them (the book is dedicated to Thomas Sowell), and he develops novel responses along the way. One unique contribution to this issue that stuck out to me was his development of a formal fallacy he dubs “the cancellation fallacy.” What is cancel culture and how does it work? What is wrong with it? He answers both of those questions in memorable and, I believe, rock-solid ways.
But the book is not just about what is wrong with those kinds of fires set by CRT. He says in his introduction, “As we address the fire in the streets and the fire in the mind in the pages ahead, we need to do far more than extinguish a malevolent and destructive blaze. We need to ignite a better fire – one that burns the dross and gives us the warmth and energy we need to walk wisely, both with the living God and our neighbor” (xxiii).
As a result, the last section of the book is devoted to building the case that the Christian faith is the best answer to the human condition, how to live with each other, and how to understand the afterlife. Any ideology that denies objective truth, which CRT and its related philosophies do, cannot coincide with the Christian faith, and certainly lacks the tools necessary to bring solutions to the human condition. The Christian faith, doing exactly what it was designed by God to do, provides sinful but hopeful humans with the answers they need.