Borne from original sin

Borne from original sin June 15, 2021

Michael Gerson aims for a nuanced defense of Critical Race Theory in his Washington Post column, softening the blow of that for his fellow white evangelicals/Republicans by contrasting CRT with its purported “extreme” variant. The latter, he writes, is “a variant of postmodernism” — the early ’90s ultra-elastic Scare Word for culture warriors — which teaches that “all power structures are rotted to the core by white supremacy.”

This seems intended to be a gasp-inducing claim but — as we discussed here in “Calvinist Race Theory” — it’s actually just baseline Reformed theology.

Something very, very odd is going on when conservative white evangelicals convince themselves that they’re shocked by the possibility that “all power structures are rotted to the core.”

• The Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Nashville is making headlines as the nation’s largest Protestant “denomination” gathers to choose new leaders. We’ll get back to the larger issues from that rambunctious gathering later, but first I’ve got a bone to pick with this bit from outgoing SBC president J.D. Grear:

Traditionally, Southern Baptists open the two-day meeting … with the banging of a gavel. In most years, the meetings have featured the Broadus gavel, named for John A. Broadus, a founding faculty member of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who was also a slaveholder and a believer in white superiority.

This year, Greear told Religion News Service prior to the meeting that he would use a different gavel, named for a pioneering missionary.

“I’ll be using the Judson Gavel,” he told RNS in an emailed response to a question about his plans.

That gavel is named for Adoniram Judson, the first Baptist missionary sent out “by the organization that would eventually become the Southern Baptist Convention,” Greear wrote.

When I was in seminary, I had a part-time job in the archives of the American [Northern] Baptist Foreign Mission Society in Valley Forge, where I assisted several visiting researchers who came there to study Judson’s records and correspondence. Judson was born in Waltham, Mass., graduated from Brown and Andover, and sailed from Salem as a Congregationalist missionary later converted and baptized by the British Baptist William Ward. Not really a Southern Baptist.

But I do appreciate the symbolism of preferring Judson’s legacy to that of Broadus. That’s a positive step, for all the meaning that will have when the SBC elects either Al Mohler or Mike Stone as its next president.

Offshore wind, baby. (I’ll believe it when I finally see it, but this is a step in a good direction.)

• The religious-right extremists of the Nevada Family Council want public school teachers to be required to wear body cameras. The group says this would be to monitor the content of their teaching to ensure that students aren’t learning anything about justice or sex or evolution.

But it’s hard not to notice that this is also a bunch of middle-aged folks demanding video of teens and pre-teens that they’ll be able to watch and download from their home computers. To appreciate why this creepy demand should creep you out, just Google “youth pastor” and then click on the “news” tab.

Yeah, that.

This exercise is not in reference to any specific story in the news at the moment. You can do the same thing six months from now, a year from now, two years from now, and get similar skeevy results.

This doesn’t suggest that all youth pastors are creepers and criminals. I’m a step-dad, and the same exercise Googling “stepfather” will produce similarly icky results. That doesn’t mean that all stepfathers should be presumed guilty unless proven innocent, but if a Nevada Stepfathers Council starting demanding video feeds of schoolchildren, I’d still view that request with extreme suspicion.

• On a somewhat related note, John Turner interviews historian Zachary Schrag about his new book, The Fires of Philadelphia: Citizen-Soldiers, Nativists, and the 1844 Riots Over the Soul of a Nation. Those riots left dozens dead, reduced several churches to ashes, and involved the use of cannons by all sides.

The 1844 anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant riots in Philly were fueled, in part, by the dispute over what public schools should and shouldn’t teach. The history of those riots is, today, an example of what the kind of history that the religious-right, the Republican Party, and Fox News do not want public school children to learn.

• The title of this post comes from this apt-seeming oldie from Eurythmics. It seems to me that the rest of the song doesn’t quite live up to the gut-punch promise of its opening lines, but then how could it?


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