The 2017 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention kicked off today about an hour ago. As someone who has more than a passing familiarity with, a fondness for and an interest in the SBC I like to keep tabs on them and see what is going on. As one of the few larger, national denominations that hasn't abandoned orthodoxy wholesale, the SBC should be supported in spite of some serious flaws. I think that the SBC, at least on the level of local congregations, can support needed reformation while other national groups have made apostasy an article of faith. Anyway I saw a few things that related to the SBC and I thought they were noteworthy enough to mention and comment on.
I have posted several times over the last six months about the controversy surrounding Russell Moore and the direction of the ERLC (for example see here, here and here). Dr. Moore has been a lightning rod for controversy but he is also perhaps the most prominent speaker at the SBC annual meeting. So I found it interesting that he is at the very end of the program on the second day when a lot of people are leaving or already left to get a head start on getting home. Perhaps it was just the ERLC's turn to be at the end but I am sure that many leaders are glad to see Moore tucked away at the end.
I was glancing at the schedule. About half an hour ago as I typed this, the program listed the following:
8:50 Honoring America and Recognition of Veterans
The Pledge of Allegiance
The National Anthem: “The Star-Spangled Banner”
I have no use for Christians pledging allegiance to the American flag or any flag for that matter, or really any secular worldly authority. The SBC has always, in my Christian experience, had too much attachment to the U.S. but it was interesting nevertheless. Here is why. A guy named Dwight McKissic writing at SBC Voices proposed a resolution condemning the "alt-right" (scare quotes his), Resolution for the 2017 SBC Annual Meeting – Condemning the Alt-Right & White Nationalism. His resolution is full of righteous indignation:
WHEREAS, there has arisen in the United States a growing menace to political order and justice that seeks to reignite social animosities, reverse improvements in race relations, divide our people, and foment hatred, classism, and ethnic cleansing; and
WHEREAS, this toxic menace, self-identified among some of its chief proponents as “White Nationalism” and the “Alt-Right,” must be opposed for the totalitarian impulses, xenophobic biases, and bigoted ideologies that infect the minds and actions of its violent disciples;
A growing menace that threatens to reverse improvements in race relations? What improvements is he talking about because it seems to me that race relations are already at a low point in my lifetime? Ethnic cleansing? Violent disciples? In general, and not always but in general when there are violent clashes between "alt-right" types and counter-protesting "antifa", the violence is one sided or at least any violence directed at the antifa is in self-defense. The alt-right are not sneaking up behind a girl and whacking people with a bike lock while wearing a mask (that guy is going away for along time after multiple felony assaults), or throwing bricks at cops, or smashing windows or setting fires or taking over a campus and patrolling it with a mentally ill kids carrying baseball bats. That is not to defend alt-right ideology but simply to point out that seeing how much over-the-top rhetoric you can add to a resolution is unhelpful. Then there was this:
RESOLVED, that the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, AZ, June 13-14, 2017, denounces every form of “nationalism” that violates the biblical teachings with respect to race, justice, and ordered liberty;
I wonder if he would include saying the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the U.S. national anthem at the SBC annual meeting? Or what about Jewish nationalism in the form of Israel that is based on ethnicity? Or is our concern only the "wrong" sort of nationalism?
I don't really know who Dwight McKissic is so I Googled him. He is a minister of an SBC church in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and is one of the relatively rare black pastors in the SBC. A perusal of his personal blog showed an almost exclusive focus on racial issues. That is his prerogative, it is his blog. I blog on what I want and he should too. I have to wonder though, do many people really think that the alt-right is somehow a threat to the SBC? Many of the leaders like Richard Spencer appear to be atheists. Is "White Nationalism" a growing movement in the SBC, because I haven't really seen it. Or is the intent here to repeatedly flog White Christians, specifically Southern Baptists, because of past racial bias?
I don't know if this resolution will pass. I hope it doesn't. It doesn't really address any issues, it is mostly a bunch of overheated rhetoric that often flirts with being false witness and in the grand scheme of things doesn't really address the actual issues facing the SBC, instead simply being a grandiose gesture. We already have plenty of those in our country. The SBC needs to be looking to the future, not endlessly looking back, because the future is both extremely perilous and infinitely promising. The Great Commission for us and for our posterity lies in the now and the tomorrow, not in the yesterday.