Where you gonna run to?

Where you gonna run to? May 17, 2023

• RNS: “Southern Baptist task force may split with Guidepost over LGBTQ views.”

Guidepost Solutions is the outside consulting firm that the Southern Baptist Convention brought in to investigate sexual abuse by clergy and to set up a formal database to track abusive pastors. Guidepost is a secular firm with institutional or ideological ties to the SBC — which is the whole point of hiring them as outside consultants. But it has recently come to the attention of some SBC pastors that this secular firm does not share the denomination’s anti-LGBT views.

“Guidepost” singular is the consulting firm. “Guideposts” plural is the “inspirational” magazine for gerontologists’ waiting rooms. You oughta know.

So now Guidepost is “controversial” and SBC leaders are looking for “alternative pathways” to protect congregants from sexually predatory and abusive clergy, perhaps “dividing the work among smaller firms that share our values.”

One could plausibly argue that this is simply an expression of the SBC’s longstanding and consistent (if repugnant) opposition to LGBT rights and dignity — that they now have genuine misgivings about working with Guidepost due to this difference in views about other matters.

But one could — less generously, but more plausibly — argue that this looks like an attempt to delay and derail meaningful accountability for abusive clergy while pretending to be “biblically” upset about something else. Given the long track record of shielding abusive clergy — a track record that involves the very same individuals currently pushing to drop Guidepost — it’s difficult to not see it that way.

For the SBC faction Captain Cassidy calls the “Old Guard,” any attempt to identify or condemn abusive clergy is part of the “wokeness” epidemic they’ve vowed to oppose. They’ve been looking for excuses to stop the process that congregations demanded and it seems they’re hoping this Guideposts Is Gay! nonsense will provide it.

• Another older, but still timely link from RNS: “This North Carolina church used to be multiracial. Then came Jan. 6.”

It’s hard to say how much of this story is particular and peculiar to this one congregation and how much it reflects larger trends in not-quite-entirely-white evangelical churches once billing themselves as “diverse and multicultural.” And I’m not sure whether the lesson is “Trump’s election made it harder for white evangelical churches to welcome non-white members” or whether it’s “Trump’s election made it harder for white evangelical churches to pretend to welcome non-white members.” Maybe both.

Yonat Shimron cites a 2020 study that found: “the proportion of evangelical congregations that were multiracial nearly tripled, to 22%, in 2018-19, up from 7% in 1998.”

That apparent increase in ethnic diversity has me thinking of Robert P. Jones’ work on white Christian anxiety and of those studies finding that Jan. 6 rioters seemed mostly to come not from “deep red,” all-white-Republican areas, but from areas that had seen a relatively recent increase in diversity (like, say, a shift from 7% non-white to 22% non-white). I wonder, in other words, whether Chapel Hill Bible Church is simply in the throes of its own white backlash against its earlier, modest efforts to build a more diverse congregation.

• Related to that, here’s Sarah Diefendorf from her study of another (mostly) white evangelical congregation:

To both illustrate and complicate this idea of change among White evangelicals, this book is oriented around a concept I call the imagined secular. I find that evangelicals at Lakeview talk about a range of liberal projects: topics like feminism, trans rights, reproductive justice, “deviant” sexuality, and the Black Lives Matter movement. The imagined secular encapsulates what white evangelicals imagine these liberal projects to be and shapes their responses to them.

Bart Ehrman discusses his new book Armageddon: What the Bible Really Says About the End with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air.

It’s a fun discussion, but never gets to the key point I think needs to be made whenever discussing Revelation with white American Christians: This book was not written for us.

This is a text that cannot, will not, should not make sense to the citizens of Rome or to the citizens of its imperial analogs. It was not intended for us and it is and always will be on some level inaccessible to us. We’re sitting in the wrong place.

Want a hint of what Revelation is about? Listen to people who are not sitting in the wrong place to understand it. Listen to some reggae. Or to Ms. Nina Simone.



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