Falling on Deaf Ears

We're all told that we should love equality, yet it's clear some love it more than others. That’s an obvious fact for most observers, but the real question is then: who are the real egalitarians?

Could it be those who view all men as one and the same, all just individuals living here on God’s green earth, all created by the maker in his own image?

If we’re all endowed with a soul at birth, shouldn’t we strive for equality in life?

This is the question that might be guiding the Southern Baptist Convention’s new thinking on race. The SBC, as I previously noted, is now working for something called “race reconciliation” and The Atlantic just published an in-depth look into this new church policy. What race reconciliation essentially means is that White Southern Baptists need to come to grips with their racial prejudice and repent for their ancestors’ past injustices in order to bring non-whites into the faithful fold. The SBC was, in fact, founded over a dispute about slavery among Baptists. . .with the Southerners taking the pro-slavery position.

The SBC’s apology for slavery in 1995 is what prompted Sam Francis to quote Spengler and declare “Christianity is the grandmother of Bolshevism.” But that apology was orchestrated by the supposed "arch-conservative" Richard Land, who headed up the church’s policy arm. Land spent most of his time in this position boostering social conservatism and palling around with the Bush Administration. After pointing out the inconvenient truth that Blacks are more likely to commit crime in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, he was pressured to step down in 2012 and in his place came Russell Moore.

Moore is in a close race with University of Oklahoma President David Boren for winning the award for “Most Contemptible White Man in America.” Though Moore, unlike Boren, probably genuinely believes his own bullshit. What makes Moore worse is that more people are susceptible to his message of racial surrender. The new SBC policy chief is a powerful figure within a denomination that holds immense sway in several parts of flyover America. Many of the church’s members are good-natured conservatives who are worried by immigration, the country’s rapidly changing demographics, cultural degeneracy, and the breakdown of community. They go to church because that’s what their parents did, that’s what their peers do, and that’s what they want their children to do when they become of age.

There’s something inherently healthy in the average church-goer, in their respect for tradition and the desire for order. Most attendees (or at least the male ones) probably can’t articulate the substance of the sermons they hear every Sunday or what message the national denomination is currently pushing—they simply go for the ritual and the solace it brings. Which is why there’s such a large gulf between pastors and laymen on issues like immigration. But while there is a presence of a major divide in political opinion and the message of pulpit pundit often falls on deaf ears, there’s still an insidious danger to men like Moore.

For it’s how Moore packages his message of race reconciliation that makes him a threat. He articulates it as one of individual responsibility, a part of man’s sinful nature that we all have, and it all comes wrapped in a southern accent from a man that would cut the model figure for a stereotypical conservative.

The conservative folk who frequent church aren’t going to listen to this message if it’s delivered by a blue-haired lesbian showing off her bulldyke wife. They will listen to it if it is given by a man they see as one of their own.

That message might be catching on within the ranks and might already have a prevalence among the preaching class of the SBC.

Here’s how one Latino pastor expressed his thoughts on race and Christianity:

When I spoke with pastors and church leaders in Nashville, many cited passages in scripture as justifications for opposing racism. Juan Sanchez, a pastor from Texas, started with the book of Genesis, in which man was created in the image of God. Trillia Newbell, the director of outreach for the Convention, pointed to Revelations 5 and 7 for a vision of equality in the kingdom to come. And in his opening address to the conference, Moore cited verses in Ephesians 3: “Through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”

. . .

But if Southern Baptists in 1860 believed the scriptures justified a system of slavery based on race, and Southern Baptists in 2015 believe the scriptures justify total opposition to racial discrimination, did one group err?

Sanchez, the pastor from Texas, thinks so. “The people who used the Bible, for example, to argue for slavery—they were using the argument for evangelizing the heathen,” he said. “I would argue that they were flat out wrong—they were teaching contrary to our Lord Jesus Christ’s teachings.”

To Sanchez and other contemporary Southern Baptists, racial equality is the logical extension of Christianity. “What I find hopeful and encouraging [is that] throughout the history of the church, there have always been people who misinterpreted what the Bible thought for their own purposes,” Sanchez said. This is hopeful in the sense that there’s historical precedent for internal shifts on theology within a denomination that believes in biblical inerrancy.

The view of Southern Baptists on racism is essentially the colorblind message that has resonated with conservatives for several years. We’re all children of God and we shouldn’t be judged by our race—just by the “content of our character.” It’s very individualistic; and very egalitarian. The equality of souls—or at least this view of it—implies both a sameness and an individuality that negates the power of human collectives and human identities.

But while White Southern Baptists might eat this up, Black Baptists aren’t too inclined to adopt it.

They prefer seeing themselves as intertwined group, with interests as a group and unified as a collective.

“Most of my white brothers and sisters place a great emphasis on individualism and meritocracy,” said Thabiti Anyabwile, a black pastor who heads a church in southeast D.C. “Most of my African American brothers and sisters, we've had a group experience. Our experience in this country has been defined first and foremost by this pigment that we share. So when we have these conversations about how to make progress, African Americans go to group experience pretty quickly. We speak in ‘we.’ And white Americans go pretty quickly to individual and speak of ‘I.’”

And this is why the SBC’s attempt at racial reconciliation will fail. It imagines that America’s race problem is that we see race, when we should just look at individual souls. This view was oddly confirmed by a viral video of a Black man discussing police racism. After being pulled over by a White cop, this Black man thinks that “world really needs to stop putting labels on people and things and see them as who they are. People.” As this young man reminds us, “God doesn’t see color. Why should we?”

While this colorblind vision is appealing to conservative Whites, non-whites still want to see race—because racialism is to their benefit. It means millions poured into their communities. It means easier access to education and jobs thanks to racial quotas. Most importantly, it means moral superiority over Whites. There’s power in racialism, and these minorities are not going to willing to give it up in favor of marginalization.

Just like how the Republican Party hopes to win over Blacks and Hispanics with the message that we’re all Americans, the Southern Baptist message that we’re all children of God will fall on the same deaf ears. All people—except for deracinated Whites—want to retain their identity and be a part of a unique community. Deriding this as “identity politics” or “identity religion” reveals a failure to understand the nature of man and what he wants. Even if we are all “equal” in the eyes of God (whichever way you interpret that), we are not all equal in the flesh. More importantly, we are not all the same—human biodiversity is as much a fact of life as death.

Taking this message of hyperindividualism, equality, and universal homogeneity outside the confines of a church is ultimately futile. All it does is reveal how much the SBC is as much a part of the degenerate culture its leaders despise. It won’t bring any people into the faithful fold, and it will not integrate Southern Baptist parishes. All it will it do is further alienate the decent White folk who attend church to find solace in Sunday’s ritual. Blacks want a religion that reinforces their racial solidarity, not undermine it by saying there’s no such thing as Black people. The only audience for such a message riddled with nonsense are the devout church ladies who eat up anything their preacher says, but they’ll likely do nothing more than entertain these ideas in private conversation.

If these denominations want to avoid further irrelevance and decline, it’s time for them to remove themselves from the public square—where they seem to only promote harmful policies—and focus on the personal salvation of its members. That’s what White people want in a world increasingly devoid of meaning and chaotic in nature. They don’t want to be browbeaten about slavery or police brutality; they just want to be a part of something more than their individual existence.

If church leaders still want to reconcile the races, then leave it to the Big Man in the Sky. For if man is inherently flawed, then isn’t God the only one with the power to do such a thing?