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Southern Baptists grapple with morality, white nationalism in the Trump age

A crosswalk between two Phoenix Convention Center buildings overlooking downtown Phoenix displays the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting theme "Pray For Such a Time as This." The SBC annual meeting is being held June 13-14, 2017. Photo courtesy of Baptist Press/Matt Jones

PHOENIX (RNS) Southern Baptists, grappling with the country’s political realities, adopted a statement on the importance of public officials who display “consistent moral character.”

But, within minutes of that action at their annual meeting, they agreed with a committee’s decision not to bring forth a proposed resolution condemning the “alt-right movement,” whose members include proponents who call themselves white nationalists.

Barrett Duke, chairman of the 2017 Resolutions Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, discussed the statements considered by his committee and by Southern Baptists at their annual meeting on June 13, 2017. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

“Our decision not to report that resolution out is not an endorsement of the alt-right,” said Barrett Duke, chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Resolutions Committee, in an interview after the committee’s report on Tuesday (June 13). “There are aspects of people who identify as the alt-right, certainly, a lot of their views and their intentions, we would adamantly, aggressively oppose.”

The resolutions, five months into the presidency of Donald Trump, highlight divisions among Southern Baptists. White evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Trump, and many of the denomination’s top leaders have become advisers to the president. Still, at least one Southern Baptist leader, Russell Moore, president of the denomination’s public policy arm, strongly opposed his candidacy.

The Rev. Dwight McKissic, a Texas pastor whose resolution last year repudiating the Confederate flag was amended before passage, requested that the alt-right resolution be brought to the messengers, or delegates, for consideration. He called the separatist movement “darkness that’s invading our nation right now.”

Duke responded that the committee spent “considerable time” mulling the proposed statement but decided it was “too open-ended” and could be misinterpreted.

But at the end of the first day of their two-day meeting, the Baptists voted to hear from the committee again on Wednesday after SBC President Steve Gaines announced that it reconvened and drafted a new statement on “anti-gospel alt-right white supremacy.”

The Southern Baptist Convention is overwhelmingly white and has made pointed efforts in recent years to apologize for its history — founded in the defense of missionaries who owned slaves — and to attract African-Americans.

The resolution “On the Importance of Moral Leadership,” rewritten by the committee, was originally proposed by Tennessee pastor Micah Fries with exactly the same language as a 1998 resolution adopted during the time when President Clinton was being questioned about an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. 

“This resolution was originally approved by the SBC during a Democratic presidency and now we have an opportunity to remain clear and consistent in our convictions during a Republican presidency,” Fries told RNS.

But the committee added language commending “those leaders who choose not to meet privately with members of the opposite sex who are not their spouse.”  The added language is intended to ensure that leaders leave no room for temptation and “to avoid any suspicion of wrongdoing.”

Just as the committee two decades ago opted not to include Clinton’s name in the statement, the 2017 committee did not include either the names of President Trump, or Vice President Mike Pence, who has said he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife.

Other resolutions, all of which passed with no discussion:

  • Called for Congress to defund Planned Parenthood and urged the Justice Department to pursue criminal changes against it and its affiliates “for actions that may be in violation of federal law.”
  • Marked the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation by promoting its emphasis on “the sufficiency of Scripture.”
  • Condemned the “deceptive sin of gambling” and urged the end of state-sponsored gambling.
  • Reaffirmed the biblical doctrine of “penal substitutionary atonement,” the idea that Jesus took the place of sinners on the cross.
  • Called for Southern Baptists to pray for the next 21 days for God’s mercy on Southern Baptists and to commit to spend at least 15 minutes a day in prayer.

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

91 Comments

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  • I was an SBC person for the first part of my life until I attended one of their seminaries to study counseling ministry – it was there that I saw the denominations politics and the backwards ways they practice in action and it was ugly. I left the SBC and never went back. Their embrace of Donald Trump and their near execution of Russell Moore who dared condemn him only proves that the same old SBC I knew is still alive and well….they do not worship Jesus, they worship their male-dominated traditions, the GOP and political power.

  • “Southern Baptists grapple with morality, white nationalism in the Trump age”

    Just in the Trump Age? Ha! The history of the Southern Baptist Church is steeped in support and embrace of white supremacy and nationalism.

  • That’s true. Also White Supremacists don’t consider Jews to be white so they have also embraced antisemitism.

  • Gambling and family planning are unambiguously bad, but neo nazis are somehow debatable. What a set of priorities the SBC has!

    I guess we shouldn’t be too quick to exonerate Southern Baptists for their past role as the house church for the KKK.

    Ita not like they have even disavowed bigotry as an official stance of the church. So it really isn’t surprising here.

  • Gee, how surprising for an organization that refused to condemn the African slave trade until 1995.
    Still, they’ve faithfully railed against dancing for well over a century. Take that, Satan!

  • Dancing is an insidiuos evil. One can’t tell whether the dancer is dancing for sheer joy, or to false gods for rain, or under the spell of Satanic forces trying to seduce the onlookers. Sixties dancing was the break-through into upright sex. It gets your heart pumpin’, and everybody knows what happens when hearts go a-pumpin’!

  • I know many SBC members who are honorable and decent people but in this case their church is failing them. It doesn’t take a lot of thinking to explain why a church should oppose the alt-right. The unfortunate message here is that the church does not oppose the alt-right, that it will be silent. How disappointing.

  • When I first moved to rural South Carolina as a teen I was told a joke:

    Q: Why don’t Baptists have sex standing up?

    A: People might think they’re dancing.

  • The KKK is biblical, that’s why. The Gospels open up with a prophet named Join the Baptists and calls the people to repentance. When they ask him what they must do he says, “If you have two cloaks give one to someone who doesn’t have one.” So that’s what they did and it spread like a queen sheet on a twin bed.

  • OOO! My southern heritage! As the song goes, “O I wish I watten in the land of cotten, old times there were all so rotten. Run Away! Run Away! Run Away from Dixie!”

  • Yup…those dems are chameleons for sure. They went from denying African Americans their civil rights to denying little unborn boys and girls their civil right to live. Sneaky bunch those dems. Got to watch them.

  • But if Django Unchained has it correct, it took them decades before they figured out the most effective procedure to put eye holes in the pillow cases.

  • Well, I ain’t no dem. I ain’t no repub. I just an old southern boy like my friends–a racist in recovery.

  • Thanks for helping me fill out my rightwing talking points bingo card for today. I still need “liberalism is a mental illness”, “Islam is not a religion but a political system,” and “Soros!”

  • Yes, but the SBC hasn’t been “grappling” with it until recently. For a while it was their bread and butter.

  • This is actually a pretty honest admission that religious institutions have to deal with internal politics. The SBC has gotten to a point where they can condemn white supremacy and their past support of slavery and segregation. But they can’t condemn the alt-right specifically, because that group honestly contains a lot of Trump supporters, and Trump supporters make up a large base of the SBC. Just ask Russell Moore.

  • Me either. Nor a repub. nor a dem. I’m a traditional conservative Christian – a sinner in recovery by the grace of God. But we’re all in recovery, every last one of us. Good luck.

  • That was a mere pleasantry…as a Christian it is only by God’s mercy and grace that we can change. So instead of good luck I’ll say God bless you.

  • I was going to comment on this in one of the other articles on dem babtiss, only to find it already addressed here.

    Way, way, way too funny. The church that endorsed slavery, was born the idea that god liked slavery, and supported segregation and Jim Crow, and didn’t apologize until 1995, needs to have a conversation about racism.

    Forty years ago, it was “GAWD almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.”

    20-30 years from now, because conscience and righteousness take such a long time to move when slogging through hip-deep biblical mud, it will be “sorry about our misinterpretations of scripture and our regular sins of reviling and slander and bearing false witness.” I wonder whom they will be talking to then?

  • The results from a poll published by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (http://www.pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/Tea-Party-and-Religion.aspx) reveal what social scientists have known for a long time: White Evangelical Christians are the group least likely to support politicians or policies that reflect the actual teachings of Jesus. It is perhaps one of the strangest, most dumb-founding ironies in contemporary American culture. Evangelical Christians, who most fiercely proclaim to have a personal relationship with Christ, who most confidently declare their belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, who go to church on a regular basis, pray daily, listen to Christian music, and place God and His Only Begotten Son at the center of their lives, are simultaneously the very people most likely to reject his teachings and despise his radical message.

    Jesus unambiguously preached mercy and forgiveness. These are supposed to be cardinal virtues of the Christian faith. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of the death penalty, draconian sentencing, punitive punishment over rehabilitation, and the governmental use of torture. Jesus exhorted humans to be loving, peaceful, and non-violent. And yet Evangelicals are the group of Americans most supportive of easy-access weaponry, little-to-no regulation of handgun and semi-automatic gun ownership, not to mention the violent military invasion of various countries around the world. Jesus was very clear that the pursuit of wealth was inimical to the Kingdom of God, that the rich are to be condemned, and that to be a follower of Him means to give one’s money to the poor. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of corporate greed and capitalistic excess, and they are the most opposed to institutional help for the nation’s poor — especially poor children. They hate anything that smacks of “socialism,” even though that is essentially what their Savior preached. They despise food stamp programs, subsidies for schools, hospitals, job training — anything that might dare to help out those in need. Even though helping out those in need was exactly what Jesus urged humans to do. In short, Evangelicals are that segment of America which is the most pro-militaristic, pro-gun, and pro-corporate, while simultaneously claiming to be most ardent lovers of the Prince of Peace.

    What’s the deal?

    Evangelicals don’t exactly hate Jesus. They do love him dearly. But not because of what he tried to teach humanity. Rather, Evangelicals love Jesus for what he does for them. Through his magical grace, and by shedding his precious blood, Jesus saves Evangelicals from everlasting torture in hell, and guarantees them a premium, luxury villa in heaven. For this, and this only, they love him. They can’t stop thanking him. And yet, as for Jesus himself — his core values of peace, his core teachings of social justice, his core commandments of goodwill — most Evangelicals seem to have nothing but disdain.

    Conservative Americans have every right to support corporate greed, militarism, gun possession, and the death penalty, and to oppose welfare, food stamps, health care for those in need, etc. — it is just strange and contradictory when they claim these positions as somehow “Christian.” They aren’t.

  • Who at that time had the same ideology as most of today’s pubes and switched sides when the pubes gave them an offer they couldn’t refuse with their Southern Strategy. Sell that dirty narrative somewhere else, Harry.

  • Half bricks are also good for finishing the end of the wall. My father used to cut them in half for that purpose, when he got to that point there was no more discussion.

    He constantly reminded me how valuable I was to him. Several times he called me a gold brick. Made me so proud.

  • “I’m a traditional conservative Christian”

    Now that’s an oxymoron for you. The Christ was a liberal. Who else would have thrown the capitalists out of the Temple?

  • “Most SB’s aren’t white supremacist” Such high praise!

    O! and didn’t they split off in defense of slavery?

  • Judaism does not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

    Protestants do not recognize the Pope as the Vicar of Christ.

    Southern Baptists do not recognize each other in the liquor store. 😉

  • That was then, not now. Little by little Jesus has been rescuing them – one generation at a time, one person at a time. We’re all on the road to recovery – some farther along than others.

  • okay. Then that also applies to your tirade about dems . You know there are a large number of dems who are anti-abortion, don’t you?

  • Before you question well-established facts, you might save yourself some shame and disgrace in the future by googling before you respond. The key words here are “Republican Southern Strategy”. Of course, wingnuts’ disregard for any mainstream knowledge and information that don’t agree with their know-nothing attitudes or preconceived notions is legendary.

  • Yes, someone here said about 28% (?). One man’s tirade is another man’s reasoned response. 🙂

  • I’ve spent my entire adult life south of the Mason-Dixon line surrounded by Southern Baptists. Most were at least mildly racist. It’s much better now – I no longer know of any KKK members and no one threatens to kick my ass anymore for being a liberal atheist. However, sitting on my front porch I can see two Baptist neighbors flying Confederate flags and nearly everyone here voted for Trump and hate Muslims.

  • I believe you. Takes time for people to change tho. Can’t legislate the human heart. Takes just one black person to befriend a white guy flying a confederate flag to make a change. The SBC has come a long way. Give credit where credit is due and the credit is due to God. Paul said Christ makes no distinction among sexes or races or social classes. Btw there are many African American SB churches. And won’t that be a day when a black man is president of the SBC. It’ll happen.

  • Well here’s your chance. I simply asked for evidence. As you seem knowledgeable what was the offer they couldn’t refuse? Shame and disgrace? Why? I’m not a republican. And exactly how does that change the facts about Bob Byrd any way? Or the rest of the KKK democrat connection? You can say they have changed; I believe you. But so have the good folks in the SBC.

  • Instead of feeding you fish (evidence), I taught you how to catch it. Apparently, you still haven’t looked this issue up or still don’t understand what you read. I’m not asking you to believe me. Google it, learn something new. The offer by the pubes’ leadership to wingnuts was to adopt the ultra-right wing social issues and racial divisiveness in their platform in exchange for the Southern Democrats’ votes. Thus, since the 70’s, Southern whites have turned predominantly Republican while the remaining Democrats across the nation moved further to the left socially and politically.

    The Dems of yesteryear are not the Dems of today, and that applies to the pubes too. If you can’t connect the dots about Byrd and the KKK given those facts, then you ought to be ashamed or not engage in discussions that don’t fit your pay grade. Mark Twain had your number when he said that it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.

  • My favorite I was told:

    Q: What are two things Baptists don’t recognize?

    A: The Pope as spiritual authority, and each other in the liquor store.

  • If “most” aren’t then a resolution would have been brought up & passed. It wasn’t, therefore, “most” are.

  • We regret any racism that may have been expressed, and will publicly denounce anyone who finds out about it,

  • Remember also that he he uses dirt to build a mound may only find that he has been digging a hole.

  • The Myth of ‘the Southern Strategy’
    It’s an easy story to believe, but this year two political scientists called it into question. In their book “The End of Southern Exceptionalism,” Richard Johnston of the University of Pennsylvania and Byron Shafer of the University of Wisconsin argue that the shift in the South from Democratic to Republican was overwhelmingly a question not of race but of economic growth. In the postwar era, they note, the South transformed itself from a backward region to an engine of the national economy, giving rise to a sizable new wealthy suburban class. This class, not surprisingly, began to vote for the party that best represented its economic interests: the G.O.P. Working-class whites, however — and here’s the surprise — even those in areas with large black populations, stayed loyal to the Democrats. (This was true until the 90s, when the nation as a whole turned rightward in Congressional voting.)
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/10/magazine/10Section2b.t-4.html

    Well, how about that son. Latest research shows it was economics not race. Looks like someone needs to teach you how to fish.
    http://www.redstate.com/dan_mclaughlin/2012/07/11/the-southern-strategy-myth-and-the-lost-majority/

  • The only problem with Southern Baptists is that they don’t hold them under long enough…

  • The Real Story of the Un-Solid South

    At the center of the Southern Strategy myth is the idea that Republicans used the race card to seduce Democratic voters in the South into leaving their natural partisan home. The truth, as Trende convincingly demonstrates, is the opposite: the growth of GOP support among white Southerners was steady and mostly gradual from 1928 to 2010, and was a natural outgrowth of the fact that white Southerners were ideologically much more compatible with the national Republican agenda and coalition than with the national Democratic agenda and coalition. What retarded the Southern switch from the Democrats to the GOP was a combination of party loyalties dating back to Reconstruction and the Democrats’ use of racial issues. In other words, if you take race out of the picture, it’s likely that white Southerners would have switched parties earlier and in greater numbers. The real “Southern Strategy” was the one pursued by the Democrats, especially under FDR, to keep conservative white Southerners in a liberal party.

    http://www.redstate.com/dan_mclaughlin/2012/07/11/the-southern-strategy-myth-and-the-lost-majority/

  • And finally, you probably need this with your paranoia:
    How to Make an Aluminum Foil Hat
    http://www.instructables.com/id/Aluminum-Foil-Hat/

    Step 1: Get Your Hands on Some Aluminum Foil

    Get Your Hands on Some Aluminum Foil
    The beauty of the foil hat is that it requires no tools, just aluminum foil.

    Step 2: Wrap Your Head

    Wrap Your Head
    Tear off a piece of foil at least twice the circumference of your head. Wrap your head with the foil making sure to cover the base of your skull.
    Step 3: Its Working…

    Its Working…
    As you can see, in this configuration the hat is effective in blocking the signals but its not the most stylish head accessory.
    Step 4: Fit the Hat

    Fit the Hat
    Using your hands, mold the hat to your dome by pressing the foil firmly against your head.
    Step 5: You’re Done!

    You’re Done!
    Finally, put on your favorite hat over the foil. Now you are stylish and protected.

  • Only God knows the human heart. I hope that all would repent of their sin and trust Christ.

  • Junior cut his foot it appears. Lol. Maybe he needs some encouragement from y’all.

  • About as much as I trust 45. But I find it interesting how so many people will rationalize religious behavior when it comes to the religion they agree with.

  • There should never have been an issue. If they don’t know which side their God takes, their God’s not my God.

  • No. Your truth is an idiosyncratic mixture of poison and sawďust that keeps your ears apart.

  • I do enjoy how that film and the series Underground have made American slavers into the new all purpose historical bad guys. Gone with the Wind, gone up in smoke.

  • Southern heritage as best exemplified in the films Django Unchained, 12 Years a Slave, Mississippi Burning, Mandingo and Goodbye Uncle Tom (avoid that one it’s terrible).

  • It’s not actually mine. But you may send me money, seeing as hes dead and all.

    Google ernest bramah. You can get his books for free. His kai lung books are tererific. I suspect you will appreciate their style.

    You may still send money.

  • Oh, oh, Foghorn Leghorn is back, addressing me with the condescending “son” again without realizing that I’m probably much older than him. But, who am I not to indulge a blowhard plagiarist, who, surprisingly, knows how to copy and paste, but, alas, doesn’t know how to give proper credit to the author by introducing the quote and putting quotation marks around it, let alone produce an idea or two of his own.

    Sean Trende is a marginal scholar, with Fox News as his main beat. By questioning or negating the Republican Southern Strategy, he serves as a wingnut apologist and stands opposed to the 95% of mainstream historians of that period in America. Even Republican strategists aren’t trying to hide their stratagems involved in this seismic political move. Lee Atwater discussed the Southern strategy in a 1981 interview later published in Southern Politics in the 1990s by Alexander P. Lamis.

    “Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry Dent and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [Reagan] doesn’t have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he’s campaigned on since 1964 … and that’s fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster…

    Questioner: But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?

    Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, “N….r, n….r, n….r.” By 1968 you can’t say “n….r” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N….r, n….r.””

    It’s funny how many smart people had your number. Besides Mark Twain, Albert Einstein had you in mind when he said that the difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.

  • Lol. I forgot the “h” in your name and you get all sensitive about it. Regardless of your age – grow up.

  • But here’s the reality: I’m not a republican or daemoncrat. Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world. And all of the political parties are part of this fallen world. So I’m not surprised by any of their shenanigans. They all jockey for position and power.

    PMS issues? Lol.

  • So, there’s a silver lining to The 81% after all, then, Adelle M. Banks. I knew it, I knew it! I didn’t grow up with them for nothing! Praise Jesus for the eternal Home sweet Home memories! Very much thanks, then, sister, for reporting of the Southern Baptist:

    (1) “last year repudiating the Confederate flag”; (2) “in recent years … apologiz(ing) for its history (with) slaves — and … attract(ing) African-Americans”; (3) presently “commending ‘those leaders who choose not to meet privately with members of the opposite sex who are not their spouse'”; (4) presently “promoting its emphasis on ‘the sufficiency of Scripture'”; and – OMG! the best-est of all, ‘yo! – (5) “reaffirm(ing) the biblical doctrine … that Jesus took the place of sinners on the cross” such as you and me, sister!

  • One thing about it you can rant with the best of them. Lol. (The people you run into on this site…I swan…)

  • Obviously, everything I said in my previous post applies to you and has stung you where it hurts. That’s why you don’t have any meaningful rebuttals but use the bubba posturing, lol’s, and condescension as a cop-out and a fig leaf for an empty head and heart. Did you ever wonder how much better life would’ve turned out for you had you had enough oxygen at birth?

    Finally, I’m gonna take Mark Twain’s advice because any further response from me would be feeding a troll: “Never argue with a fool. He’ll drag you down to his own level and beat you with experience.”

  • You enjoy your orgy of spite. Lol. And I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t read your posts. You rant too much. But keep those comments coming. How does your wife put up with you. Good luck

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