Tag Archives: Southern Baptist Convention

Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and GOP Arrogance

The April issue of “The New Republic” features an article by Sarah Posner entitled, “Amazing Disgrace–How did Donald Trump—a thrice-married, biblically illiterate sexual predator—hijack the religious right?”

Posner offers further analysis of the Southern Baptists and their current effort to “purge” themselves of one miscreant, Russell Moore, who dared to bring a dissenting voice to their group think on Donald Trump.  Posner quotes Richard Spencer, himself an alt-right leader, declaring how that the evangelicals as a group have been totally duped by Trump, declaring, “Trump has shown the hand of the GOP…(that it)…is a white person’s populist party.”  Posner declared that the “white evangelicals” were the key to Trump’s victory and argued that Steve Bannon carefully courted them during the campaign, knowing that without them his cause could not compete against the progressive left.  Bannon told Posner last July that “If conservative Catholics and evangelicals ‘just want to focus on reading the Bible and being good Christians there is no chance we could ever get this country back on track again.’”

Even Richard Schenk, a leader of conservative evangelical Christians recognized how that his group had sold their soul to the devil in supporting Trump, exposing an evangelical culture “that doesn’t know itself.”  This lack of “self” awareness, or meta-cognition, has kept them from recognizing just how foolish their support of Trump appears giving his egregious affront to everything that the teachings of Jesus represents.  This lack of awareness reflects a very human tendency to opt for an opportunity for power even in the arena of spirituality, even if that “opportunity for power” is an in opposition to all they purport to hold dear.

A core dimension of the evangelical Christian tradition is the “us” vs “them” paradigm best illustrated with the attitude of, “I’ve got it” and “most of you don’t”.  This exaggerated emphasis on drawing distinctions between “me” and “thee” overlooks the teachings of Jesus which sought to put Grace on the table in an historical moment when the “letter of the law” of the Old Testament was being overly emphasized in his culture.  Jesus recognized that the religious establishment of his day was paying too much attention to that “us” vs “them” or “right” vs “wrong” paradigm. It is no coincidence that the Trump administration’s first significant action was to start getting rid of people “who don’t belong” by moving fast on the immigration issue.  The Southern Baptist Convention is mirroring that impulse to “clean house” of all dissent or difference.  “If people aren’t like us, let’s send ‘em packing!  We don’t want difference of opinion.  We don’t want diversity, we want unity!” And if you are so arrogant as to assume that you have an objective grasp of what “truth” is, then you can feel empowered to take this position, and even take comfort in the illusion that, “God is leading us.”

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Southern Baptists Devoured by the Trumpian Black Hole

As Trump was gathering steam last summer, I found it interesting see how Russell Moore, a prominent leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, was openly critical of the morally and ethically challenged candidate.  Moore immediately ran into a buzz-saw of criticism and I knew then he was in trouble and might not survive in his position.  According to a Washington Post story today, it sounds like he probably will not last through the week.

I greatly admired Moore for brazenly taking a moral stance against a popular, but brazenly immoral man who represented the antithesis of everything Jesus taught.  But having been raised a Baptist, I knew “group think” and tribal loyalty and realized that Moore was coming to blows with ideologues and ideologues, as much as they want to “praise Jesus” and such, have only one thing in mind and that is loyalty to their ideas.  And remember it was ideologues that nailed Jesus to Cross, men whose allegiance was to the “letter of the law” and not to one who embodied the Spirit of the law.  Relevant to this point, the former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, has criticized Moore, arguing, “Why should we be paying someone who is insulting us?”  Well, any prophetic voice will first sound insulting and certainly the religious establishment of Jesus’ day found his accusations insulting.

Decades ago I worked on a Master’s thesis in religious history at the University of Arkansas.  One of the books I discovered in my research was titled, “Churches in Cultural Captivity: A History of the Social Attitudes of Southern Baptists” by John Lee Eighmy which focused on how the Southern Baptist Convention even in the late 19th century was becoming co-opted into the culture of the day.  This Russell Moore incident shows how that nothing has changed which is how it usually is with any group, including religious groups.  Before the election I posed the old bumper sticker question of the 1980’s that the SBC had promoted, “WWJD—What Would Jesus Do.”  I asked, “Would Jesus be supporting a man who repeatedly had expressed sexual focus on his beautiful daughter, who had even said to Howard Stern at one point, “Yes, you can refer to her as a nice piece of ass.”  Would Jesus support a man who is a known sexual predator and misogynist?  Would Jesus support a man who, being the owner of a teen beauty contest, took advantage of his position to walk in on the dressing room of the semi-clad or nude girls, obviously “checking out the merchandise.”  Would Jesus support a man who was a compulsive liar and who could not even humble himself to say he had ever had any need to ask God for forgiveness?

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