Timing matters

By John D. Pierce

watchThe 2016 Southern Baptist Convention is formally opposed to racism. Good for them.

Is late better than never? Sure.

But as comedians, musicians and baseball hitters tell us: timing is very important.

Southern Baptist leadership would be taken more seriously if they stood against inequality and discrimination more closely tied to the times — such as current forms related to gender, sexual orientation and religious diversity.

Instead, many among them offer proclamations that aid in such discrimination while staking out doctrinal positions to support systemic inequality and injustice — perhaps to be rectified in the same latecomer fashion by dwindling Southern Baptists in a distant future.

To repudiate racism, however, is always a good thing. Perhaps it will help build some relational bridges.

In that sense, the convention gathering can be considered a success. Yet some good old boy pastors are surely dreading the return from their annual church-funded summer trip and having to explain to their deacons how the convention voted against the Confederate flag — years after supposedly running off all the liberals who might support such nonsense.

So let’s give the SBC their due for a step in the right direction.

Selective and tardy opposition to discrimination is better than none, one can conclude. And Southern Baptists have taken other related actions in recent years including formal resolutions apologizing for the denomination’s role and deep roots in slavery.

Primarily, however, contemporary Southern Baptist leadership has simply shown solidarity with some African-American male pastors who share their discriminatory views toward women and persons with same-sex attraction.

That’s not exactly blazing the trail for liberty and justice for all as Americans — and not even close to the inclusiveness and grace exhibited by Jesus.

So as news flows out of St. Louis where Southern Baptist representatives battled over an embattled emblem of racial division and debated whether religious liberty applies to all Americans, one might conclude that the denominational group is making a little progress on the equality front.

But timing matters. Really matters.

What if, just once, fundamentalist Christians were on the front end of an effort to bring about social change regarding basic human equality and justice — instead of being dragged across the line by a larger cultural tide?

Think of the pain — even the lives — that would be spared.

Just once.

Timing matters because lives matter.

2 Comments

  1. You’re right. Timing is important. Racism has suddenly reclaimed its position as the top kind of discrimination of the times, brought to the forefront again by, well, you can guess. This move needed to happen because of the historic relationship between the SBC and the Confederate States, more than just a repudiation of its past approval of slavery. And it is quite relevant to the times, as far as Southern Baptists are concerned, because the majority of its booming and growing congregations are African American, Latino, Asian and Slavic among others.

    There’s a difference between discrimination and conviction of religious belief and practice. Critics of the SBC claim that,because their churches won’t call women as pastors, they are discriminating against them. That’s a religious conviction based on Biblical teaching, and sound Biblical hermeneutics. And the claim doesn’t hold water, given the number of women employed by SBC churches in ministry, and the vast number who serve as volunteers. There’s probably not one Southern Baptist female in 50,000 who feels discriminated against, if that many.

    As far as the other groups you mentioned, that’s also the difference between religious conviction and genuine discrimination. A lot of Christians legitimately and accurately interpret the Bible to determine their position on this matter, and I’d say a majority probably see this as an issue of conviction, not discrimination. And it would be hard to connect the SBC to some form of discrimination here, anyway.

  2. As is clear from the firsthand accounts found in Bruce Gourley’s “Crucible of Faith & Freedom: Baptists and the American Civil War,” leading Southern Baptist theologians, editors and pastors of that era expressed deep religious convention for their support of human slavery as well, and considered themselves to be faithful to the Bible (lots of verses offered) rather than discriminatory.

    So did those who came after them who advocated for white supremacy and Jim Crow laws, and opposed integration and inter-racial relations. Those chilling episodes, at least, should allow for enough humility to admit that all blind spots might not be in the past. And that, sadly, discrimination and religious conviction are not mutually exclusive.

    Actually, it’s quite easy to connect modern Southern Baptists to forms of discrimination. Southern Baptist leaders in Georgia, for example, are heavily engaged in seeking state legislation that allows for discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender persons.

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