Tennessee Baptists have drawn their line in the sand and have taken their stand against rallies scheduled for Shelbyville and Murfreesboro, Tennessee tomorrow, October 28th. From the Tennessee Baptist and Reflector:
FRANKLIN – A mix of ethnically diverse Tennessee Baptists gathered in a display of unity at the Church Support Center in Franklin Oct. 25 to publicly denounce the white supremacist movement and racism during a press conference called by the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
“We don’t call press conferences very often but we believe it is impossible to stand silently by while the white supremacy movement plans to invade our state and perpetrate its evil Saturday (Oct. 28) in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro,” said Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
Earlier this month the Nationalist Front, a self-described “umbrella organization to bring unity and solidarity to the White Nationalist Movement in North America,” announced plans to hold anti-immigration rallies in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro.
“As Tennessee Baptists and as Southern Baptists, we are categorically opposed to the white supremacy movement and any movement that diminishes the dignity of any human,” Davis said.
He observed that the Saturday rallies are planned to oppose immigrants and refugees living in Middle Tennessee. “If history holds true, the intent of these groups gathering is to fear monger and fan the flames of racial hatred,” Davis said.
“This bigotry has no place in our American society and it certainly has no place in the life of anyone who is a follower of Jesus,” he continued.
Davis said the “movement is evil and is contrary to everything we are called to be as followers of Christ.”
This is a full blown assault on the Imago Dei and the Mission of God by the church. These White Supremacists/Nationalists are marching to oppose immigrants and refugees and our welcome of them. Their stance against racial minorities and Jews is already clear. These are some of the same groups that marched in Charlottesville. The anti-immigrant and anti-refugee movement in America over the past few years has been fueled by the Alt-Right, by websites like Breitbart, and other extremist groups who do not want to see these people come to the United States. The links between the extreme anti-immigrant fear mongering propaganda and racism are clear and will be on full display over the weekend in Tennessee.
Dr. Russell Moore responded with an OpEd in the Tennesseean:
If the horror in Charlottesville taught us anything, it’s that white nationalism cannot be ignored but must be exposed explicitly. In the aftermath of the event, which resulted in the death of a young woman who chose to stand in the face of evil, I argued that it was of utmost importance for the church to speak, bringing a word of moral witness against these noxious displays of white supremacy and racial demagoguery. And many have.
The truth, though, is that the church must oppose this by, first, knowing that it will not go away on its own. We should also recognize where this comes from. White supremacy is not just backward but devilish. And it thrives, in part, due to the fact that people lacking a sense of transcendent belonging are clinging to the idolatries of “blood and soil.”
To combat this, we must call it what it is. In June, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution stating that racism in any form is “antithetical to the gospel.” Indeed it is.
Racism does what as a Christian I believe the devil exists to do: to kill and to destroy and to exalt the idolatry of self. If we cannot call this what it is, we will sow in cowardice what we will reap in violence.
This means we should, as citizens, work to address structural and systemic inequalities that hinder full participation in the American promise by people of color. American of many different religions, and of no religion at all, should stand together on at least this: that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
Randy Davis, Tennessee Baptist ExDir, in his press conference “cautioned Christians to be on guard because ‘this movement preys upon people’s fears and the temptation is to buy into the rhetoric, especially since this group is targeting those who feel under-represented and disenfranchised.'”
America is facing an existential crisis. Will we be one people, or will we tear each other apart? Can the church provide leadership in helping us work together and live together in peace and brotherly love? Or, are we destined to come apart at the place of old wounds and new injuries? The Southern Baptist Convention was correct to condemn the Alt-Right at our Annual Meeting in Phoenix this past year. Thank God this happened. I’m thankful to Rev. Dwight McKissic for his foresight and prophetic urgency in calling us to make that statement. Likewise, the letter orchestrated by McKissic and Dr. Keith Whitfield of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and signed by many Evangelical leaders calling upon President Trump to fully and unequivocally denounce the Alt-Right Movement and to thank him for agreeing with Congress to denounce White Supremacy was also very much needed.
But, we must do more. Tennessee Baptists are leading the way this weekend. They are treating this like Southern Baptists treat Disaster Response. Churches are mobilizing and praying. People are on guard. They recognize that danger is growing and we should join with them in prayer and support. But, we should not just oppose the blatant “Alt-Right” and those who march with Nazi and Confederate flags. We cannot take the assumption that the only danger comes from those who have white hoods and robes in the closet or Nazi armbands. Like everything else, the danger is within each of us when we turn away from our neighbor, fail to listen to cries for justice, ignore people in need, and work to promote, protect, and defend our “way of life” over and above others. It is easy to denounce blatant racism and extreme images of grotesque hatred and violence. But, will we denounce the anger in our own hearts and the feeling that we have been somehow offended and disregarded by those different from us? Will we reach out to others in our communities in a posture of sacrificial love, which always means that our hands are stretched out and nailed to our own cross, going where we would not choose to go? What can we do to be peacemakers and bring the gospel of peace everywhere we go? How can we follow Jesus into this fire?
This weekend, simultaneously, hundreds of Southern Baptists and Evangelical leaders will gather to “tell a better story” at SEBTS for the Reaching the Nations in North America Conference. The topic will be how we can reach and love the nations who have come to us – immigrants and refugees from all over the world. While White Nationalists march against immigrants and refugees in Tennessee and the Church there courageously responds by taking a righteous stand against this hate, hundreds more will gather in North Carolina to pray and discuss how we can better love, serve, and reach our immigrant and refugee neighbors with the gospel of Christ. The contrast could not be more clear. Jesus makes a difference.
God is working and there is opposition. Are we promised it will ever be any other way?