Richard Land scandal festering in Southern Baptist Convention

Travis Loller of the Associated Press follows up on the Richard Land scandal at the Southern Baptist Convention.

When I say “scandal,” of course, I don’t mean that the SBC, or Land see it as such. They don’t, and neither apparently do most white Southern Baptists or most white evangelicals, among whom Richard Land remains a respected and respectable member of the establishment.

But when the chief “ethics” spokesman of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination unloads a racist rant on his radio show, then says he stands by every word, then I think “scandal” is a necessary word.

Here’s a taste of Loller’s AP report, which will appear in papers today nationwide:

Land, who is white, said in an interview he has no regrets about his remarks. He said he understands why the case has touched a nerve among black leaders, but he also defended the idea that people are justified in seeing young black men as threatening: A black man is “statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man.”

Why hasn't the SBC fired this man yet?

“Is it tragic that people react that way? Yes. Is it unfair? Yes? But it is understandable,” he said.

The comments come as the Southern Baptist Convention is trying hard to diversify its membership and distance itself from a past that includes support of slavery and segregation.

Last year, the denomination for the first time elected a black pastor to its No. 2 position of first vice president, and the Rev. Fred Luter is expected to become the first black president of the Southern Baptist Convention at this year’s annual meeting in June.

When asked about the concern that Land’s comments hurt the effort to attract non-white members, Luter said, “It doesn’t help. That’s for sure.”

While SBC presidents are elected for one-year terms, as the head of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for 23 years, the outspoken Land is arguably the most powerful person in the denomination and certainly its most visible spokesman.

“I think his (Land’s) statements will reverse any gains from the rightful election of Fred Luter,” said the Rev. Dwight McKissic, a black pastor at the SBC-affiliated Cornerstone Baptist Church is Arlington, Texas.

McKissic said he plans to submit a resolution at the SBC’s annual meeting asking the convention to repudiate Land’s remarks.

“If they don’t, we’re back to where we were 50 years ago,” he said.

… [Land] said he thinks McKissic’s resolution will fail.

“I have no doubt, based on the emails I have received, that a vast majority of Southern Baptists agree with me,” he said.

… Jonathan Merritt, a white Southern Baptist minister whose book, “A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars” is due out this month, said Land’s comments turn off not only minorities, but also many young believers who are “disappointed with culture war Christianity and want to move beyond name-calling.”

“I think Land’s comments reinforce, rather than rebut, the image of the SBC as a denomination of old, angry white men,” he said.

And here’s the extra bonus scandalousness: Land’s radio rant was stolen, uncredited, from right-wing columnist Jeffrey Kuhner.

Aaron Douglas Weaver documents the theft in a post titled, “Richard Land the Plagiarist: Top SBC Ethicist Stirs Up Controversy With Someone Else’s Rant.”

As this controversy continues over Richard Land’s rant continues to rage, I’d like to introduce a twist that thus far the media hasn’t picked up on.

Richard Land’s rant is not his. It’s a plagiarized rant.

Many of the words that he uttered during his radio show were taken verbatim – yes, word-for-word – from a Washington Times column penned by conservative commentator Jeffrey Kuhner. Kuhner’s column titled “Obama foments racial division” was published on March 29.

Land stole from Kuhner two days later on his March 31 radio show.

Weaver reprints Kuhner’s column, bolding the text that Land borrowed for his rant. Most of the column is in bold.

There’s nothing wrong with a radio host reading someone else’s column on the air. But it seems decidedly unethical to do so without ever mentioning that it was someone else’s words and not one’s own.

One more link to show that this slow-burning scandal isn’t going away. Here’s Alan Noble on “Citizenship Confusion: The SBC’s Richard Land and Charges of Politicizing Trayvon“:

Simply put, Dr. Land presents an incredibly deceptive picture of the character and concerns of black leaders. It’s inaccurate, and it’s wrong. …

Calling attention to potential racial injustices and acknowledging our differences does not feed the racial fire, but dismissing and condemning such calls as “shameful” and “exploitative” does. If anyone’s comments were “shameful,” they were Dr. Land’s. And as a Christian, a leader in the SBC, and especially as the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Dr. Land should apologize for his presumptuous conclusions about the intentions of our president and his deceptive portrayal of black civic leaders.

Demands for repudiation Land’s remarks and an apology from Land himself are growing. They’re also inadequate.

Richard Land needs to be fired.

  • hidden_urchin

    Leviticus 19:11 (NIV)

    Do not steal.  Do not lie.  Do not deceive one another.

  • AnonymousSam

    The fact that he is not fired, nor is there nearly enough of a voice of outcry against him, does not give me much reassurance about the fate of this country.

  • Lori

    Clearly the SBC is never going to fire Land on their own initiative, but if the situation continues to draw this kind of attention they may feel forced to cut him loose. If he does get fired I strongly suspect it will be the plagiarism and not the racism that does him in. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    And that’s really the most appalling aspect of this whole thing.

    Gunning down a teenager and walking away from the situation unscathed is no big deal, really, and people should really just shut up about it, but expressing empathy with the grieving parents is “fomenting racial divisions”.

    It’s the twisted logic that they’ve gotten people to buy into, that switches priorities like that. Plagiariam is bad, and all, but that’s not even close to being the main problem with this debacle.

  • http://lightningbug.blogspot.com lightning

    No, the member churches need to fire the Southern Baptist Convention.

    Baptist churches are “congregationalist”; their theology is what the individual church says it is*.  “Conventions” are just a group of individual churches with similar ideas getting together.  Think of it as theological networking.

    The SBC does not have a good record in civil rights.  Nowadays, it has become downright toxic; a religious branch of the Republican Party (some say the Republican Party is the political branch of the SBC).

    Any church that takes this “Christianity” stuff seriously needs to take the “Southern” out of their name.  Let the SBC wither away like the hate group that it has become.

    * This is why nobody can do anything about “Westboro Baptist Church” (a hate/lawsuit organization) or “Landover Baptist Church” (a spoof site). Nobody holds a trademark on “Baptist”.

  • Ima Pseudonym

     Oh yeah, like the SBC cares about a little thing like what the Bible might say….

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    My conclusion is that Richard Land has not been fired because he  does a very good job representing what the SBC stands for. That you, me, and many other people find what the SBC stands for to be utterly reprehensible isn’t new for them, given why the SBC split off in the first place.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    The SBC does not have a good record in civil rights.  Nowadays, it has become downright toxic… Let the SBC wither away like the hate group that it has become.

    It has always been toxic. It has always been a hate group. Ever since it split away in 1845 because other Baptists had the gall to decide slavery wasn’t God’s Will.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    The statistical likelihood of a white guy killing you just went up.  Especially if you have the nerve to be the wrong color.

    Whenever any kind of well-publicized tragedy occurs, Southern Baptists and other so-called Christian spokesmen are statistically more likely than any other group to blame the victims.  They are also statistically more likely to be racists.

  • http://twitter.com/BigDaddyWeave Big Daddy Weave

    Thanks for bringing attention to this and also your previous post on Richard Land.

    Just wanted to clarify one thing: I didn’t reprint Kuhner’s column.  Instead, I transcribed the relevant segment of Land’s radio show, posted it on my blog and then bolded the parts that were verbatim or nearly so from Jeffrey Kuhner’s column.

    Although, the end results looks like a near reprint of Kuhner’s column!

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    I found this part interesting:

    Land counters that he has been working for racial reconciliation for his entire ministry.He was one of the chief architects of a 1995 resolution by the Southern Baptists apologizing for their role in supporting slavery and racism. Since that resolution, black membership in the SBC has tripled, Land said, going from about 350,000 in 1995 to about 1 million today.While he recognizes that his comments may hurt black membership within the SBC, he said he was not setting back the quest for racial reconciliation.”Part of racial reconciliation is being able to speak the truth in love without being called a racist and without having to bow down to the god of political correctness,” he said.Land told The Associated Press that he has also criticized white religious leaders, including Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, when they behaved in ways he considered irresponsible.

    “I can’t be a serial killer; I help little old ladies across the street.” Seriously,  “speak[ing] the truth in love” requires at a minimum that you treat your opponents as though they, too, are behaving in good faith. The minute you accuse someone of “pour[ing] gasoline on racialistic fires”, you’ve dropped the “in love” part with a thud, and distorted the truth.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Man must have a wheelbarrow to carry around the sheer balls he had to say stuff like that.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I found this part really telling. It seems like racists just can’t comprehend that not everyone feels the way they do, but that rather, all white people secretly agree with them but lack the “courage” to speak out.

    This makes the dumber ones really easy to expose, since it’s easy to make them think they’re among friends and can safely say what they feel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    Land has enough privileges.  He doesn’t get the privilege of spouting racist bullshit without being called a racist.

  • nirrti

    Why doesn’t the SPLC register the SBC as a hate group? Do religious groups with large memberships get a “get out of jail free” card on racism? They have done more than their share over the past 150 years to keep black folks marginalized. When is someone going to hold them accountable?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     I am frankly surprised that the SPLC has not done so. They’ve shown little hesitation in accurately applying the label to such hate groups as the American Family Association that like to present themselves as “mainstream.”

  • Zozo

    “Why hasn’t the SBC fired this man yet?”

    The SBC stands behind the foul, hateful, racist spew of Richard Land because the SBC is a foul, racist, hateful organization. Richard Land is a model employee and has no reason to fear losing his job.

    Matthew 7:16–20. By their fruits etc.

  • http://reflectionsinajaundicedeye.info/ Colin J Guthrie

    Since Anabaptism is NOT Christian to begin with – Vide:  The Acts of Council(s), the Patrilogia, both Greek and Latin Fathers, and any reputable history of the Christian Church – why all the fuss?  Southern Baptism - as is true with any of the other “Southern” groups that broke away from American Protestantism on the issue of slavery - is nothing more than the various and sundry inventions of whatever Preacher wants to use the title, “Baptist”, and wind up with a Cadilac Escalade in his driveway on his take from the witlings, dolts, and simpletons who revel in racism, hatred, and a kind of very ugly self-righteousness that appeals to the likes of the superstitiously ignorant and arrogantly stubbornly stupid.

  • mirele

    If the Southern Baptist Convention can’t bring themselves to fire Land for his racist comments, maybe they can can him for flat-out plagiarism? On the other hand, that might cut too close to the bone, considering how many preachers (all over the place) “borrow” from other preachers.

  • Ian needs a nickname

    nothing more than the various and sundry inventions of whatever Preacher wants to use the title, “Baptist”
    You could say the same thing about “Christian.”  Nobody holds the trademark.   

    Since Anabaptism is NOT Christian to begin with – Vide:  The Acts of Council(s), the Patrilogia, both Greek and Latin Fathers, 

    homooúsios.  homoioúsios. One letter was enough to schism the Catholics and the Orthodox, splitting the Christian world in half.  Which side is right?  I submit that there is no such thing as Christian orthodoxy.  What Christianity needs is orthopraxy — being united in right action.  Condemning racism, for example, and uniting against the harm it has done and the harm it is doing.

  • Helena

    Then fire him, already! Cut yourself loose from these people!

  • hf

    Don’t know if other people have mentioned this: if you count as white then black Americans do not, in fact, pose a greater statistical risk to you. The percentage of black Americans among people who attack whites appears slightly less than the percentage of blacks among the general population (FBI stats as quoted on right-wing website). Even for people of “other” race, black Americans pose less of a statistical threat than whites pose to each other.

  • hf

    Don’t know if other people have mentioned this: if you count as white then black Americans do not, in fact, pose a greater statistical risk to you. The percentage of black Americans among people who attack whites appears slightly less than the percentage of blacks among the general population (FBI stats as quoted on right-wing website). Even for people of “other” race, black Americans pose less of a statistical threat than whites pose to each other.

  • christopher_young

     homooúsios.  homoioúsios. One letter was enough to schism the Catholics and the Orthodox, splitting the Christian world in half.

    Actually that one letter divided the Athanasians from the Arians, and with all due respect to John Milton and Isaac Newton, I think it’s safe to say that the Homoousians ended up with a good deal more than half the Christian world (there may be some Unitarian congregations which identify as Arian, but I don’t think it’s many).

    The Catholic/Orthodox split came later and over even more trivial differences. Never underestimate the ingenuity of a hierarchical clergy in defending their own privileges by demonising their opponents – even if their opponents didn’t realise they were opposing until the demonisation started.

  • http://thesidos.blogspot.com/ Arthur Sido

    Huh? Somehow you have linked Anabaptism, a group that suffered at the hands of the Catholic and Protestant state churches alike with torture and murder in the name of Jesus, with prosperity preachers. Have you actually met an Anabaptist or are you basing your screed on the writings of “The Fathers”?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    “Anabaptist”.

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • Ursula L

    My conclusion is that Richard Land has not been fired because he  does a very good job representing what the SBC stands for. That you, me, and many other people find what the SBC stands for to be utterly reprehensible isn’t new for them, given why the SBC split off in the first place. 

    This, this, very much this.

    Fred, you keep focusing on the SBC needing to fire Land.

    But in doing that, you make the problem seem like it is just one individual, rather than a fundamental characteristic of an organization created to promote slavery and racism. 

    It’s like saying the KKK needs to fire its current “grand dragon” or whatever they call their leader.  It’s like saying it would have been fine for my grandparents to be Nazis, if they’d just replaced Hitler with someone else, leaving the rest of the party and its political apparatus intact. 

     (For those who don’t know, my grandparents were Nazis, in Germany, from nearly the beginning.  It wasn’t okay, and changing one person in the leadership of the movement wouldn’t have made it okay.  And I only exist because my paternal grandparents met at a Nuremberg rally, when under any other circumstance, they would never have met, being from very different regions of Germany.  And if the world was good and God was just and merciful, that is how it should have been.)  

    If the SBC were to fire Land, he’d be replaced by another devoted Southern Baptist.  Someone who shares the very same beliefs that define Southern Baptists.  

    But it would, in a way, make things worse.  Because by firing Land, the SBC would look, to some people, as if it was changing for the better.  When in fact it would merely be replacing a leader who had become a political liability with one who shares the same beliefs and goals but has not yet attracted the same negative public image. 

    And if Land was removed from the public spotlight, the SBC would (at least temporarily) remove itself from the public spotlight and the negative publicity that Land has gained.  This would allow it to continue to act as it does and to continue to promote the beliefs that it has, but without the much-needed public opposition to overt racism.  

    The SBC can’t redeem itself by firing Land.

    The only redemption for the SBC, that I can see, is if it were to dissolve, and recreate as a sub-group of the American Baptists, following the decisions made by the American Baptist organization, but not participating in a voting capacity because they know that the beliefs they have been raised to believe are corrupted by the fundamental racism of their denomination, and that they can not trust their instincts when making political, moral or theological decisions, due to that spiritual mis-education.  Following the leadership of churches such as this one: http://www.lakeavebaptist.org/

  • Tonio

    Well said. Fred almost seems apologetic or defensive about the SBC, as if he has some forlorn hope that the organization can be reformed from within.

  • james blakelyMy_mygrumpy

    richard land was right on target. jesse jackson and al shaprton are race baiters. Helping obama who isn’t even a christain, at least i have seen no fruit. i pray  fred luter doesn’t try to preach the black theology of wright,jackson and sharpton. we  will have wait and see. 


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