I Stand With Roger: A Call For Pastors To Take A Stand

I Stand With Roger: A Call For Pastors To Take A Stand September 5, 2017

From Roger Olson:

Kudos to Southern Baptist Russell Moore (president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) for his uncompromising condemnations of white supremacy (in a recent column in the Washington Post).

(I still think he owes me an apology for inventing a quote about open theism and attributing it to me in the Baptist Press in 2002, but to dwell on that lapse of ethics now would be petty.)

Rumor has it that the national executive board of the Southern Baptist Convention has called Moore to reign in his criticism of President Trump and some of his supporters and advisors. If true, I hope he ignores them and continues his very Christian and very reasonable criticisms of the “alternative right” in contemporary America.

In my opinion, America today is existing in an extremely precarious position with large and very vocal minorities—including some well-known and highly visible non-profit organizations—implying that violence against their “liberal” opponents would be justified. I’m not going to name them here, but anyone who reads the news cannot be ignorant of what is going on. (And these facts are not “alternative facts” invented by the “liberal press” because the articles include direct quotes from the organizations’ own web sites, press releases and publications.)

In my opinion, the time has come for Christian organizations of all kinds to loudly and firmly take a public stand against even covert racism and implicit calls for legal suppression of Constitutional freedoms. (A bill now before the Texas state legislature would make it illegal to promote boycotting a certain nation state’s industrial products and tourism to it. There is no possibility such a law would hold up in court, so the bill’s promoters and supporters are obviously simply expressing their own, personal view—probably “playing to” certain constituents. Nevertheless, this is just one example of many where today’s “alternative right” is making noise about shredding the U.S. Constitution.)

Let’s go back in time, in our imaginations, of course, to Germany in 1932. What if the majority of bishops of the state churches, both Protestant and Catholic, had publicly condemned “racial purity,” the budding religion of “[German] blood and soil,” the rising calls for persecution of Jews, the calls to re-arm against international law, and the whole of Mein Kampf as virulent hate speech barely disguised? What if they had come together and “nipped fascism in the bud” before it bloomed into full flower? Might history have turned out differently? I suspect so.

I am here calling for pastors, denominational leaders, leaders of Christian organizations, to risk the loss of millions of members and adherents, subscribers and supporters, by publicly taking a firm stand against the so-called “alternative right” and its rabid nationalism, barely disguised racism, and budding calls for suppression of basic constitutional rights. (I saw and heard one leader label opposition to America’s military adventures in the Middle East “treason.”)

Some years ago a friend of mine who is a well-known theologian and pastor of a mega-church preached a series of sermons against the idea that America is a “Christian nation.” (He then published his sermon series as a book entitled The Myth of a Christian Nation.) He lost approximately one thousand regular attenders. One leading member of the church told me privately that he, personally, considered it a “back door revival.” From all that I have learned about the situation I believe most of the people who left were at that church primarily because they considered it a haven and support group for their conservative political views—which it never really was. But millions upon millions of Americans have sought out and joined certain churches primarily because they confuse being “evangelical” with being “alt right”—a confusion created by the media.

What that pastor did is what I am calling for here—from the pulpit, now with full legal freedom and no fear of the IRS—to specifically condemn 1) white supremacy and other forms of hate in all its forms including subtle ones, and 2) calls for violence against or government suppression of people with alternative social and political views. I am not calling for any form of violence or legal suppression; I am calling for church discipline of political and social extremists.

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