Echoes Of The Past As Southern Baptists Hesitate To Denounce White Supremacy, Alt-Right | THE POLITICUS

Echoes Of The Past As Southern Baptists Hesitate To Denounce White Supremacy, Alt-Right

The oldest Baptist church in America was built before we were even a country.

Established 335 years ago, the First Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina was the cornerstone of what became the largest Baptist denomination in the world — the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC has determined the policies of Baptist churches across the country for decades, holding an annual meeting attended by up to ten representatives of each church. Think “Council of Nicea,” when Constantine gathered the leaders of the Catholic Church to decide which books went into the Bible — and only slightly less important.

The annual convention has produced intrigue in the past. Perhaps the most famous American Southern Baptist, President Jimmy Carter, broke with the Church nearly ten years ago over their views on women. It was only after the annual meeting that the policies Carter disagreed with were codified, and he wrote at length condemning those views. But while even many women disagreed with President Carter over Church policy — they were raised Baptist, after all — the history of black congregants in the Church is more difficult to so narrowly define.

At the inception of the Church, blacks both slave and free were welcomed. It was after the American Revolution that leaders of the Church began to be dismayed at the roles nonwhites were playing in their own congregations and even communities. They put a lid on it, requiring white leaders to be present in black churches, and finally, eventually, adopting an interpretation of the Bible that declared blacks were afflicted with the “Curse of Ham” and thus subservient to whites.

Nobody would say that Southern Baptists of today still believe they should be able to own slaves.

But when one black pastor brought a proposal to this year’s meeting in Phoenix, it seemed that Ham, the son of Noah, was on the minds of leaders once again. Pastor Dwight McKissic submitted for the SBC’s consideration a resolution that would, in no uncertain terms, condemn the “Alt-Right” and white nationalism in general.

Stop right there.

Sure, they’ve come a long way from the days of slavery. And wasn’t it a black pastor who submitted this, anyway? They must be somewhat more tolerant now, right?

But apparently, the thought of actually condemning the disgusting Alt-Right and their band of modern-day Nazis was too much to bear for some in the Convention. The resolutions committee for 2017 declined to move the proposal forward. The leader of that committee, Barrett Duke, said in an interview:

We were very aware that on this issue, feelings rightly run high regarding alt-right ideology. We share those feelings…We just weren’t certain we could craft a resolution that would enable us to measure our strong convictions with the grace of love, which we’re also commended by Jesus to incorporate.

In other words, we don’t like those guys either, but we can’t not love them, right? The committee did not ask for revisions before quietly shelving the proposal.

Tuesday afternoon, McKissic took his unheard draft to the floor of the convention. He motioned for more time for it to be heard. The motion failed again. Tweets made their way to the convention from the flock afield:

Given that the convention seemingly had no issues hearing (and passing) resolutions regarding “moral character” and gambling, the omission was striking. De facto leader of the Alt-Right Richard Spencer tweeted with glee:

When the Convention realized they looked not only like they were failing to condemn white supremacy, but actively supporting it, leaders finally acted. They drew up a new draft of the resolution, one which omitted McKissic’s reference to “the Curse of Ham” — a redundancy, they called it — and they voted. The resolution passed.

Nearly unanimously.

Some were still not ready, it seems.


Featured image via Getty Images/Hulton Archive, 1876

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