We had a discussion today on our private “editorial board forum.” That’s a fancy term for our private Facebook group that started out as our Pastors’ Conference advisory board. Now it’s where we gather to solve the world’s problems, talk about sports, and discuss issues related to this blog. “Brain trust” might be a generous term at times, but it’s the closest thing SBC Voices has.
Today our attention turned to our recent discussions of race. Our contributors here have a wide range of view on many subjects, but on issues related to racial reconciliation, we tend to operate from the same playbook. We believe that tearing down the walls of division between races and working to unite under the banner of Christ is an imperative of the gospel and we also think it is one of the chief issues facing the SBC today. That is obvious from the fact that we have made this a focus of many of our recent posts.
No doubt the discussions on these posts have become tense and frustrating. We have been annoyed at the responses of some of our readers and some of you have felt that we were unfairly painting you as racists for not agreeing with our views. We disagree with the characterization, but as we looked at the discussions we understood why people felt that way. Our goal is to bring people over to our side, not to drive them into an intransigent defense of positions we believe are unhelpful and in some cases harmful. We want to convince people not coerce them. Of course, we also recognize that some people will not be convinced and confronting them in their wrong views is the only option. We want that to be the last resort, not a first response.
So, we are working through how to keep doing what we are doing; how to convince people that racial reconciliation is a gospel priority, and how to convince people that some of their rhetoric is harmful, unwise, and misguided, without unnecessarily putting people on the defensive.
I like to categorize. Here are some of the characters I’ve observed in this discussion.
The Cast of Characters
1. There are racists in the SBC. Make no mistake about it. They are here. I do not believe they exist among our denominational structure and there are very few pastors who fall into this category, but there are members of SBC churches who hold to despicable, dark, even Satanic views on racial issues. There were probably Southern Baptists in Charlottesville. I believe they are a minority among us, but they are here.
2. There are system defenders in the SBC. This is a much larger group. They do not actively harbor hatred toward Black people, but they love their way of life and do not want the “system” to change. They are true conservatives – wanting to “conserve” what exists. Some love the culture of the South and so resisted on the Confederate Flag issue. They don’t mind people of other races taking part in our denomination as long as they don’t change the way we do things. Culturally, politically, ecclesiologically – they just don’t want things to change.
System defenders resist most efforts toward racial reconciliation because they bring change. Black believers often don’t share our political outlook and many of our cultural assumptions. They don’t accept our system as right and good and best. They see things from a completely different perspective and system defenders do not like their rigid world view threatened.
3. The ‘whatabouters” abound. When someone brings up racism, they respond with a “whatabout” statement. “Whatabout. BLM?” Whatabout this? Whatabout that? They refuse to deal with racism unless every form of hatred out there is also condemned. We cannot condemn white supremacy unless we also condemn the Antifa and BLM and you name it. They specialize in moral equivalence arguments.
They do not deny that racism exists and protest loudly that they are not racists, but insist that white supremacy and racism only be dealt with as a part of the spectrum of evil, not as a unique or separate thing. If you don’t deal with ALL sin you can’t deal with any sin.
4. There are “gospel issue” folks like most of us here at Voices, who believe from Revelation 7, Ephesians 2, and other passages that the formation of One Body out of many nations on earth is a key purpose of the death of Christ – therefore a “gospel issue.” We cannot ignore it. The racially divided church is not fulfilling the purpose of God. We believe that it is incumbent on the church to address the effects of 400 years of racism and do better than we have been doing.
Of course, there are more than these four categories, but these are the main groupings I’ve seen in our discussions here. And, unfortunately, there’s plenty of the “works of the flesh” in all our discussions!
Our views and approaches are not identical – we have had some disagreements among the Brain Trust about approaches and such. But in general, we agree that racial reconciliation is a core gospel issue for the church. Many of you do not see it that way. Of course, that is going to lead to some tension and conflict. Discussions of race are always fraught with tension and full of land mines. We understand that. Discussions of race are not going to be easy – ever. But we want to make our agenda plain and clear and share our heart about tactics.
But we want to make our agenda and purposes as plain as we can. It is not our purpose to be disrespectful or disdainful, but we are passionate. We are constantly trying to figure out how to do this better, but make no mistake, we are going to continue to do this! So, here are some of the things we have discussed.
1. Alan Cross uses the term “tell a better story.” That’s what we want to challenge the SBC to do. For most of 200 years we’ve told a story to the world about race that has not been the greatest. We want to challenge our beloved denomination to “tell a better story.” Speak love. Speak unity. Speak reconciliation. Condemn racism in every form. Sorry, but we are not planning to back down on this issue.
2. We at Voices are not infallible (duh?). We understand that disagreeing with us doesn’t make you a racist. We really do.
Because we are passionate in stating our views we get that a lot. “You are calling everyone who disagrees a racist.” Actually, we haven’t done that. Because we say we don’t think the way you respond is good does not mean we are calling you racist.
- If we believe a comment is RACIST – it gets deleted. BOOM! We do not tolerate racist comments. You would receive either a private or public rebuke and would go on moderation. No tolerance. If you are commenting here, it’s because we HAVEN’T labeled you a racist.
- We have a couple of our regulars who push that line from time to time but don’t cross it. They make comments that horrify us but don’t quite cross the line into racism.
- We have a few folks who seem to resist EVERYTHING that the SBC ever does to promote racial harmony and reconciliation – I mean everything. Every resolution, every action, every effort – they loudly claim not to be racist but oppose every effort we do against racism. We form some opinions about these folks – I won’t lie to you.
All of that to say, we do not believe the vast majority of you are racist. If we did, your comments would be BLOCKED!
3. However, we do believe some of you hold views that hinder the process of racial reconciliation. The system defenders and whatabouters may not have racism in their hearts but are often defending an unhealthy status quo and hindering necessary changes. We ask you to understand that in our view, defending the status quo, being a “system defender” or a “Whatabouter” is harmful to the godly work of racial reconciliation. That doesn’t make you a racist, but it makes you a hindrance!
So, we can say, “What you are doing is hindering the process of reconciliation” without believing that you are a racist. We believe that some of you do things that “tell the wrong story” and that hurt our Black brothers and sisters, damaging our witness in this world. So, we confront your words, your tactics, and your logic, because we believe they have effects we hope you don’t intend, hurting the divinely commanded process of building One Body from many nations.
4. We also realize that stridency can be counterproductive. We cannot back off or compromise, but there comes a point when our frustration and irritation rises to a level where our rhetoric escalates. People dig into positions we don’t want them to hold on to and would like to convince them to abandon. We want to convince you to join the racial reconciliation movement if you have not already. We want to convince you to stop whatabouting and system defending. We cannot just “agree to disagree” because the issues at stake, for us, are rooted in the gospel. Some of you just won’t be convinced, no matter what, but we want to be productive and redemptive where we can be.
So, we are working on “telling a better story” and telling our story a better way. Ultimately, though, we believe it is the truth of God and we trust that the Spirit of God will convince you. We just don’t want to hinder that with anything we would do. It is tricky and we will never get it perfectly right.
We will never stop trying.
Scriptures to Ponder
Revelation 7:9-10 After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
Salvation belongs to our God,
who is seated on the throne,
and to the Lamb!
Ephesians 2:13-18 But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In his flesh, 15 he made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that he might create in himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. 16 He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death. 17 He came and proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father.