Hi and welcome back! Recently, we checked out some growing problems with racism in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). A couple of months ago, the SBC’s six seminary leaders condemned Critical Race Theory (CRT). It touched off a firestorm of conflict within the denomination. In fact, it’s starting to look like racism might end up being the next schism flashpoint for this already-ailing group. Today, let me show you the situation. No matter what the SBC’s leaders do, this was the worst fight any of them could possibly have picked — but perhaps it was also the most inevitable.
(Regarding capitalizations: See endnotes. The upshot is that current consensus involves capitalizing the ‘B’ in ‘Black’ but not capitalizing the ‘w’ in ‘white.’)
Racism: the Situation Report.
A couple of months ago, the exclusively-white, exclusively-male leaders of the SBC’s six seminaries got together to condemn critical race theory (CRT) — the scholarly tools people use to study racism in society.
The denomination as a whole had already tentatively endorsed CRT just a year earlier. With 2019’s Resolution 9, the SBC decided that CRT was okay — as long as it was completely shackled to correct Jesus-ing. But now, these seminary leaders turned completely against it. They not only rejected it for use in their seminaries, but also declared that it was completely antithetical to their entire creed as Southern Baptists!
I suspect that Al Mohler, who leads Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, either suggested the whole idea of condemning CRT or else propelled himself to the forefront of that effort. He certainly contributed the largest statement of all of them about the matter.
The SBC’s condemnation of Critical Race Theory didn’t surprise anyone. How could it? This entire denomination was founded in 1845 for the express purpose of allowing members to continue practicing slavery. Ever since then, they’ve been riddled with racism.
The Reaction to the CRT Condemnation.
In the wake of the seminary leaders’ condemnation of CRT, Southern Baptists split down the middle. A number of old-white-dude types embraced the condemnation, while more progressive Southern Baptists (and those who wish to appear progressive, at least) are criticizing it in the harshest of terms. In particular, a number of Black pastors and their allies in ministry have objected vehemently to this decision.
And the two sides seem to be set on a collision course. Since I wrote about this fight around Christmas (like here), the SBC has continued to detonate in slow-motion over it.
Despite all this blowback, the SBC’s old-white-dude leadership has absolutely, categorically refused to back down, even as Black pastors begin to leave the ailing denomination and those from outside the denomination scuttle plans to join up.
On January 6th, some of the SBC’s Black pastors met with the seminary leaders to discuss the CRT decision. Dwight McKissic, one of the Black pastors there, said that its outcome was “not respectful to who Black people are in our history.” McKissic himself says he’s giving the SBC’s top leaders until June (their next big annual jamboree) to shape up. If they continue to condemn CRT, then he’ll be leaving too. He said:
“If they adopt that statement in June, it would be the feeling to me that people you trusted hit you in the face with a baseball bat,” McKissic said.
I sympathize — and marvel at the skill of the SBC’s marketing division. At least he’s discovering at last who and what the SBC really is.
Racism: An Expression of Power.
The SBC is about power. That is all that it has ever been about and all that its top leaders have ever wanted. It was founded as an expression of the desire to enslave and utterly dominate other human beings. Everything about its social structure was created to serve that sickening desire. Southern Baptists built themselves a denomination that not only allowed for slavery, but supported the practice as much as possible.
With slavery that tightly bound into its culture, the Southern Baptist Convention cannot be redeemed. It cannot be improved. It cannot even be neutralized.
Even if any of its Dear Leaders wanted any of that stuff to change, which they absolutely do not, they’d be reckoning with their racist members and racist flocks at that point.
That is why, in all of the SBC’s long history, they’ve elected exactly ONE (1) Black President: Fred Luter. In December, Luter joined the 230+ signers of an objection to the CRT decision. In addition, he endorses Ed Litton for the upcoming June election of the next president.
Once I read that, I realized what was going on here — with the seemingly-disastrous timing of the CRT condemnation, the subsequent drilling-down, and the people involved.
These absolutely unspeakable ratbastards. To the SBC’s white leadership, Black people’s lives and rights are just collateral damage in the denomination’s newest schism. Racism — supporting it, criticizing it — is just a means to a desired end.
Seeking Ideological Purity.
This presidential election is going to mean a lot to the SBC.
This year, Fred Luton’s candidate, Ed Litton, competes for the denomination’s top position. Litton sounds like one of the more progressive leaders in the denomination, willing at least to make mouth-noises about systemic change.
He faces off against none other than Al Mohler.
Al Mohler is one of the most “made” of all the SBC’s made men. Dude’s never met a single culture war he didn’t worship, and he embraced the Conservative Resurgence with all his heart, soul, life, and mind. It is hard to imagine someone more craven, opportunistic, self-serving, and lacking in both morality and compassion than him.
But the SBC may have found someone who fits that bill.
See, both Mohler and Litton face off in turn against a complete wingnut named Mike Stone.
As unlikely as this might sound at first, Mike Stone is even more hardline than Al Mohler. In fact, he thinks Mohler’s caved and gone all liberal.
Stone’s group, the Conservative Baptist Network, started a year ago. It seeks to steer the SBC to become even more conservative. Seriously. They think the SBC is just too liberal, and they’re certain that Mike Stone is the guy they think can get the SBC back to correct Jesus-ing. In particular, Stone and his group appear to think that the SBC’s gone dangerously liberal on racism issues.
That’s what the SBC’s looking at, when they consider their next election vote.
Seeking Ideological Purity — Then.
The Southern Baptist Convention used to encompass a number of different ideological stances on social issues — once, but long ago. The denomination’s more power-hungry leaders wanted more. They wanted an authoritarian juggernaut full of easily-controlled sheep who were incapable of critical thought or dissent. And they wanted leaders who held absolute power over their fiefdoms.
So they engineered a hijacking, a takeover, of the denomination. Nowadays, we call that takeover the Conservative Resurgence.
During the takeover, these insiders very deliberately expelled all members from their group who did not completely agree with them about everything. At the same time, they put sympathetic friends into positions of power — and those friends voted to put more friends into other positions, and so on and so forth.
Their efforts succeeded. They stacked their denomination top-to-bottom with super-conservative, ultra-authoritarian dictators just like themselves. They got exactly what they wanted.
Seeking Ideological Purity — Now.
But the juggernaut’s steps are faltering these days. Constant strings of scandals and a slowly-disintegrating membership base has introduced a number of cracks to the facade of power. It’s easier now for the flocks to dissent against their leaders than it has been for the past 30 years.
I’ve got no doubt that the SBC’s leaders are casting about for some kind of rallying point they can use to achieve ideological purity again.
Last time, Baptist leaders united the flocks with the threat of women in pastoral roles. This time, their ginned-up threat may be the end of white supremacy over Black people.
What’s kinda funny here is that Al Mohler, having succeeded in molding the SBC to be just as authoritarian and entitled as he is, has now been so completely lapped by the denomination’s wingnuts that he’s become the dangerously-liberal enemy they must fight.
Projecting the Plans Around Racism.
And don’t forget: while their racism fight erupts behind the scenes, Al Mohler, Mike Stone, and all the flocks supporting them must pretend to be allllll about that love-n-compassion thang while fighting tooth and nail to maintain a cruel, evil, and completely one-sided social system that benefits themselves — at the expense of an entire segment of our society and many of their own members.
I’ll be keeping an eye on this election. It’s hard to say who’ll win this far out. Whoever wins that crown, it’ll be a statement of the image the SBC plans to project in the near future regarding its entrenched racism.
Will the SBC’s voters want to project an illusion of totally wanting to fix racism? Or would they rather make a statement about drilling down on racism? Gosh, who even knows?
NEXT UP: Cognitive dissonance, and why it’s so bad for us. See you tomorrow!
Regarding capitalization conventions around race: Some time ago, I noticed that Black writers were referring to their race with a capitalized ‘B.’ So I adopted the same practice out of respect. In the past few months, I’ve seen that practice endorsed by big-name journalism outlets and style-guide arbiters as well.
Last year, I began noticing calls to standardize how races get capitalized. A lot of folks (like this group) were arguing for consistent capitalization (‘Black’ and ‘White’). A few days ago, I briefly adopted this convention because the argument for consistency made sense. However, since then I’ve seen that most outlets like Associated Press and New York Times have decided to go with ‘white’ instead. This position represents the overwhelming consensus as of now.
Languages are living entities in a lot of ways, and likely conventions will change again someday. This is where the movers-and-shakers in the English-writing world are now. Their reasoning makes a whole lot of sense and the Black writers I’ve checked out seem to agree. And so this is the convention I’ve adopted going forward.
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Last thoughts: You have got to see this photo. I’m still laughing about it. J.D. Greear doing emphatic ducklips while forcing his obviously-unwanted opinion on a panel of very dubious-seeming Black people might be the most gott-damned SBC-est SBC thing I’ve ever seen.