Racism splits a religion with a history of racism

A month ago, a Southern Baptist convention initially refused to pass a resolution condemning racism because its leaders thought the language too strong.

When a watered down resolution was passed a day later, some members — mostly African American members — thought it went too light on white nationalism.

Now, writing in today’s New York Times, a black pastor says he’s done with the Baptists, renouncing his ordination with the country’s largest Protestant body.

“I can no longer be part of an organization that is complicit in the disturbing rise of the so-called alt-right, whose members support the abhorrent policies of Donald Trump and whose troubling racial history and current actions reveal a deep commitment to white supremacy,” writes Lawrence Ware, a co-director of the Center for Africana Studies at Oklahoma State University.

But not enough has been done to address the institutional nature of white supremacy in the convention. Many churches are still hostile to the Black Lives Matter movement, and even more were silent during the rise of Mr. Trump and the so-called alt-right. For all of its talk about the love of Jesus Christ, the Southern Baptist Convention’s inaction on the issues of racism and homophobia has drowned out its words.

I’ve discussed my concerns with many other black ministers my age, and virtually all of us have questioned our membership. At least five of them have quietly left the convention over the past year. (To be sure, I will still remain a minister in the Progressive National Baptist Convention, a liberal black Baptist organization, founded in 1961 by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)

An organization with a history of racism does not change easily, and asking for forgiveness is not tantamount to doing what is needed to eradicate the lingering stain of it. To be sure, seeking to change a broken system from within has merits, and in this age of Trump, we need institutions that can bind us together.

“I love the church,” he wrote. “I love black people more.”

  • MrE85
  • Gary F

    It’s all about Trump, right?

    • MrE85

      I see him as less of a cause, and more of a symptom.

    • Chris

      It’s about the racism Trump harnessed and amplified.

      • Gary F

        And the mainstream media and late night talk show hosts that gave him all that free air time and helped him get elected.

        • jon

          Don’t blame the train wreck for the fatalities, blame the media for telling you that there was a train wreck with fatalities…

    • Jerry

      *cough* Obama and Clinton *cough*

  • Jim in RF

    To me, more evidence on how religion (at least in US), isn’t about salvation and original sin. Instead, just works to impose conformity and control people. It’s heavily structured social control.

    • Mike

      The idea of original sin as something we need to be “saved” from is the perfect ideological recipe for authority figures who want to impose conformity and social control. The first (or some other version of it, depending on the religion) makes the latter so much easier.

      • Jack Ungerleider

        Disclaimer: I’m not a Christian so if I’m improperly characterizing the religion I blame it on the fact that my comparative religion class was 35 years ago.

        The religion was originally one of slaves in an empire. Eventually it was co-opted by said empire because it realized, if the message was one that slaves would latch onto they could use that to control the rest of the population in the waning days of the empire. What was left of the ruling class then used said religion to control the now separated masses during the period after the fall of the empire. So the empire became the religion and for centuries controlled the lives of the people who held to its beliefs. (Many no better off than the slaves of the empire.)

        • jon

          Every religion started out as a small group of people, who would have been persecuted by others, and the group would grow slowly until there were enough of them in a given place that they were able to do the persecuting… (some eastern religions opted not to persecute people at that stage, and it confused everyone, so we generally ignore them) occasionally rulers who could see the writing on the wall would change religions and join the winning religion… (and sauls trip on the road to damascus gave a lot of cover for a leader to just change religions) it would move thing along faster, and maintain some civic stability during the transition of religions in the region…

    • kennedy

      Maybe for some. But for many,many more its about community and serving fellow humans in need. Of course, seeing people helping others doesn’t generate much outrage so it’s typically not making social media headlines. Go to a local event and see for yourself. Habitat for Humanity. Feed My Starving Children. Higher Ground shelter in Saint Paul. People are donating millions of dollars in time and money every year to help others.

  • lindblomeagles

    Back in the 1960s, several Christian churches stood by Southern segregationists who opposed the Civil Rights’ Movement. As a result, African-Americans began joining Muslim Churches. One of the most famous African Americans to do so, was none other than Cassius Clay, now known as Mohammed Ali.