Opinion

ADL: Southern Baptists did the right thing in condemning the ‘alt-right’

Southern Baptists overwhelmingly pass a resolution condemning the racism of the alt-right movement on June 14, 2017 in Phoenix. Photo courtesy of Baptist Press/Adam Covington

(RNS) The news out of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Phoenix earlier this week took some by surprise: The conference ended with a near-unanimous vote condemning the so-called “alt-right,” the political movement that gained notoriety last year for injecting racism and anti-Semitism into the presidential campaign.

Despite the outcome, some in the media sensationalized the vote. Much was made of the fact that the resolution initially failed in committee — even though it hadn’t failed on the merits, but rather, over disagreements about language.


RELATED: In dramatic turnabout, Southern Baptists condemn white supremacy


And by the time it had reached the floor, confusion reigned, with delegates questioning the lack of clarity around the process and a failure to communicate clearly what the resolution was meant to do.

Despite the temporary confusion over process and intent, however, as outside observers with a vested interest in seeing anti-Semitism and racism pushed to the far fringes of society, we believe adopting the resolution was the right, principled and moral thing to do. The vote was significant, and not surprising.

It is remarkable that the leaders of the SBC, which was founded by pro-slavery Southerners and didn’t formally condemn its past defenses of human bondage until 1995, have now put their church in the vanguard as one of America’s largest Christian denominations taking a step to clearly define and condemn the bigotry of the alt-right.

At a time when nooses and racist flyers are cropping up with shocking regularity on college campuses, and when swastikas and other graffiti have appeared at Jewish institutions and cemeteries, when Jewish journalists and others are being targeted on social media, and when Muslims and immigrants are harassed, it is imperative that major religious denominations step up and denounce this insidious and hateful movement, which is encouraging this activity.

Southern Baptists, meeting in Phoenix, overwhelmingly pass a resolution condemning the racism of the alt-right movement on June 14, 2017. Members of the Resolutions Committee that crafted the resolution, led by Barrett Duke , at podium, chairman, and executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention, vote for its passage. Photo courtesy of Baptist Press/Bill Bangham

The alt-right couches its hatred in the language of an alternative political movement, and has pretenses of being part of the political mainstream.

Alt-right is a vague term that actually encompasses a range of people on the extreme right who reject mainstream conservatism in favor of forms of conservatism that embrace implicit or explicit racism or white supremacy.

Though not every person who identifies with the alt-right is a white supremacist, most are, and “white identity” is central to their beliefs. In fact, alt-righters reject modern conservatism because they believe that mainstream conservatives are not advocating for the interests of white people as a group.

Although the alt-right is not a large movement, the number of people who identify with it is growing. It includes a number of young people who espouse racist and anti-Semitic beliefs. It has a loud presence online. The intellectual racists who identify as part of it also run a growing number of publications and publishing houses that promote white supremacist ideas.

The good news is they haven’t been entirely successful and people are waking up to what they represent.

Steps like those of the SBC to clearly repudiate the movement go a long way toward raising awareness of the danger of the alt-right and making clear that their brand of hatred has no place in religion, politics or society. This is particularly important in light of recent polls that show a large majority of Americans are still unaware of the movement or what it truly represents.

We haven’t always agreed with the Southern Baptists. While they’ve approved resolutions supporting Israel and rejecting racism and anti-Semitism, the denomination’s leadership has for years promoted the active proselytization of Jews.

We have been pained by public remarks, such as when the president of a seminary in Louisville, Ky., pointed to Scripture as mandating Jewish conversion and compared Judaism to a “deadly tumor;” or when, in 2002, a Southern Baptist leader said the Catholic Church had expressed anti-Semitism by adopting a declaration against proselytizing Jews.

We still disagree on some issues, and agree on others. But the alt-right is one on which we are in total agreement. It is important for society to see that people across the political and religious spectrum are united in rejecting racism in general and white supremacy in particular.

The SBC resolution states clearly that church leaders “denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as a scheme of the devil intended to bring suffering and division to our society.”

We couldn’t agree more.

(Rabbi David Sandmel is director of interreligious engagement at the Anti-Defamation League)

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David Sandmel

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  • But why wouldn’t they condemn a belief system foreign to the Gospel message?
    But is preaching the Gospel inherently antisemitic? Absolutely not. The apostles preached the gospel to the Jews with the intent to convert them. That is obedience to Christ.

  • I don’t want to be accused of “Me Tooism,” but Yes. However be prepared to hear that the “alt-left” doesn’t exist. Still. I think we can agree that the Rabbi makes a very good argument with respect to the alt-right. Spuddie has recently opined that I am a paranoid wingnut beneath my “cool” exterior, but I think we have to face the fact that the members of the alt-right are the real wingnuts, apart from comparisons to the left.

  • Agreed. Efforts to convert Jews are no different than efforts to convert another group. It is not on the face, anti-Semitism.

  • Do you know what the Alt-Left represents? I had it wrong until I Googled it. So tell me what specifically about them do you want to condemn?

  • Prior to the attempted mass shooting at Family Research Council headquarters in 2012, I pretty much believed that “the real wingnuts” were exclusively Alt-Right folks.

    But after that gig, I started looking further, and indeed there were serious (as in seriously dangerous) Alt-Left mess, going back at least as far as the Sixties. BOTH “Alts” have actually got substantial murders, maimings, and attempted gigs to their credit. The time has come for equal-opportunity condemnations.

    (Although the “right-wing militia” imagery, is much more associated with Alt-Right. I don’t like them either.)

  • Edward, YOU should be the one writing most of these RNS articles. You got the knowledge and you got the temperament. (And, umm, the absolute fairness.)

    Me, I’m just an “Alt-Christian” who eats too much sugar, always wanting to stick lit-up bottle-rockets in everybody’s outdoor window-sill.

    (Gosh, did that last line even make sense? It’s my bedtime for sure. Believe it or not, I appreciate all the posters here. Variety is one’s friend.)

  • Actually they are since generally proselytizing outside ones faith involved denigration and insulting the subject’s existing one.

    Most groups take offense to proselytizing efforts.

  • To me the difference goes something like this.
    What do you do for a living? That is interesting, can I ask you some questions?
    Verses
    I have a business opportunity I think you will be interested in.
    I say that as a evangelical.

    I bet Steve Brannon sells Amway. Betsy probably signed him up…

  • No, that’s an attempt at spiritual genocide. If you achieved your goal, there would be no Jews left on the planet.

  • Paul the Apostle – a Jew – said in Romans 1:16 …the Gospel …the power of God for salvation to the Jew first but also to the Greek. The Gospel is the good news that man can be reconciled to GOD thru Jesus Christ – a Jew.

  • For the most part so do I, there are 1 or 2 that I can honestly say I don’t appreciate at all. My present nemesis is a gentleman named stan; he and I seem not to be able to reach any degree of cordiality at all. But I thank you for your generous appraisal.

  • With the implication that they are wrong and you are right. But I’d be a hypocrite if I said I have a problem with that.

  • I said an “attempt at spiritual genocide” and no, it’s not dramatic. It’s just the fact that is what they are aiming for. The SBC has an organization whose only purpose is trying to convert Jews. Especially now, since the Pope has said that Jews don’t need to convert and Catholics should not try to convert Jews.

  • Yes, Jesus was a Jew, but Jews have never believed that the Messiah was a personal savior. The Messiah is supposed to bring about an age of peace, love and understanding. That has clearly not happened. Paul was a Jew, but he became a Christian. You do know that the “New Testament” is not part of the Jewish Bible.

  • Well, Mordechai Kaplan said that Jews were a people and a civilization. That is true. Jews are not a race, but we are an ethnicity.

  • If it is presented as such. But usually not the case. Besides given the history of forced conversion, it has a touch of tastelessness. Few Christian proselytizers are sensitive to such things. There is an inherent selfishness to the process.

  • I would disagree. There is a centuries long history of forcible conversions that Christians need to examine. Christianity also claims to replace Judaism or to be superior to Judaism. You once called Christianity Judaism 2.0.

  • SBC’s only purpose is to convert Jews? I thought their purpose was to oppress blacks, gays, and women.

  • Well that’s why Jesus came. But most Jews rejected Him.
    And specifically Paul was Southern Baptist.

  • Religion is just a set of ideas and many have gone extinct, some have thrived, others have adapted to survive. A kind of survival of the fittest. I don’t see a problem as long as it isn’t forced.

  • I didn’t say that SBC’s purpose was only to convert Jews. I said this one part of SBC only purpose was to conver Jews.

  • Ok. So? Christian missionary oganizations are focused on many different countries/cultures. If you don’t want to be a Christian don’t convert.

  • Did I? I’m not certain that I did, maybe, I don’t honestly recall, though as a skewed metaphor I can see how someone might apply it. To your point about forcible conversions, it would be dishonest to deny it and reprehensible to excuse it. But such conversions can have no actual spiritual value, and that is not what I’m pleading. True and genuine conversion touches both heart and soul. I am arguing that in an open and honest exchange between people about spiritual truths, it is not a disservice to attempt to persuade others, of whatever background, that what has proved good and wondrous in one’s own life might prove beneficial to them as well, even when that effort includes a declaration that what is being shared is an immutable and unique truth. The recipient of such a communication is a free agent to receive or reject the message as they so choose.

  • The Church hasn’t played fairly with Jews over the centuries. Jews have been forcibly converted. Jews were discriminated against and persecuted. Christianity had the power and it used it. It’s true that its not forced now, but the history remains in most Jews minds when someone tries to convert them.

  • I may be wrong, it might not have been you, but it was on the RNS web site.

    Its surprising that more Jews didn’t convert under the circumstances. In the Middle Ages, Jews given the choice of conversion or death committed suicide.

    For most Christians, Judaism begins and ends with the “Old Testament”, but Judaism didn’t die it continued and remained vital. Even if Christians ignored it.

  • Because not one SBC professor teaches such a view; that myth is relegated to “churches” on the fringes, not the SBC.

  • You are being insensitive and clueless. Anyone who knows the slightest bit of Jewish history would be offended. They would be thinking of the past while you tried to convert them.

  • Baloney. You have no more experience than your years on earth. You didn’t suffer that persecution – they did.
    But if you are correct i should take offence because my ancestors were serfs in feudal England. Or maybe I should be offended because my ancestors ended up on the wrong side of the Rev. War and had to escape to Canada. Lol. You libs should grow up.

  • Addendum: btw Jews persecuted Christians before Christians persecuted Jews. And you can also tell Christians not to talk to you about Jesus instead of playing the victim card here. Most will honor your request. Those that don’t just hit them with a brick.

  • But it is the height of arrogance since it implies that you have the “truth” and they don’t. This religious and cultural superiority manifested itself in how we (well Christians) tried to destroy Native American culture, language and religion in the late 19th and early 20th century.

  • Here is part of the original resolution’s statement. Notice that the statement refers to the “curse of Ham” having been taught in the early years (antebellum 1800s) of the Southern Baptist denomination:

    WHEREAS, the roots of White Supremacy within a “Christian context” is based on the so-called “curse of Ham” theory once prominently taught by the SBC in the early years…

  • Yes, and the denomination was born amid slavery and tried to justify it, as did churches in England and elsewhere. I don’t know; it may be that this issue has been dealt with specifically in past statements on race and human dignity of people made in the image of God. I do know for sure that it far removed from anything remotely taught today by any biblically literate person.

  • Addendum 2: which Christian religious group has supported Israel the most? Evangelicals. And you complain. Sad.

  • The author of the resolution wanted the convention to officially and explicitly denounce the “curse of Ham as justification for slavery” idea, something the convention had never yet done. That’s different from simply denouncing racism.

  • Actually, there was no such thing as the “curse of Ham.” You won’t find it in the Bible. The “curse” in question was upon the youngest son of Ham, whose name was Canaan.

  • Evangelicals support Israel for their own dubious reasons that have nothing to do with supporting Jews. They want a Jewish state with no Jews in it.

  • Antisemitism is alive and well and it exists on the right and on the left. The SBC often use devious means to try to convert Jews. The leader of the so-called “Jewish Messianic” group in Philadelphia was a Christian who adopted a Jewish sounding name. They teach English to Russian Jews who often are ignorant of religion.

  • Regardless of their motives they are unwavering in their support which cannot be said of American Jewry. And
    you are ungrateful. So typical.

  • Why should I be grateful to them for believing that the conversion of Israeli Jews is necessary for the Second Coming? What’s going to happen when the majority of Israeli Jews don’t convert?

  • They haven’t converted the Jews for 2000 years. Evangelicals aren’t holding their breath. But they continue their unwavering support of Israel even when AMERICAN JEWRY DOESN’T. You and your ilk are ungrateful.

  • I’m not wrong. Just because you say I’m wrong, doesn’t mean I’m wrong. There is no reason to think that the Gospels are historically accurate.

  • Your history is off. Jews were forcibly converted less than 2000 years ago. As I said they support Israel for their own selfish reasons.

  • The “New Testament” is not part of the Jewish Bible so it’s not Bible history to me.

  • I don’t look to the Hebrew Bible or the “New Testament” for historical accuracy. That is not its purpose.

    You have no knowledge of Judaism or Jewish history.

  • There are a lot of things we believe to be true but can’t prove. By faith I believe Jesus rose from the dead. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen. If I could “prove” it through the scientific method it wouldn’t be faith. I thought Jews believed by faith too.

  • Yes, that’s true. Your point? But what was done in the name of Christianity was brutal nonetheless.

  • No they’re not. There was no census that required a trip to Bethlehem. No record of Herod’s slaughter of children. The events don’t line up with Herod’s rule. Plenty of evidence even among bible scholars not to treat these books as accurate. They were written well after the events they describe.

  • For the first 4 centuries Christianity spread b/c of its life changing message that we could be reconciled to God thru Jesus Christ. After Constantine it became the state religion and conversions became politically advantageous not b/c of faith in Christ. True much violence was committed from then to now in the name of Christ. But no where in the NT are Christians ordered to do violence. Islam has always enforced its religion through oppression at the least and outright violence at its worst esp. when it is politically in power.
    Addendum: to return to your point: Christianity did/does not always spread by the sword. For eg: the Chinese church. And nowhere today is Christianity being spread by the sword.

  • And how many years ago was that?
    Oh but I forgot about the BG Crusades forcing Jews to come forward and pray the sinner’s prayer. Paleeeze. Why are you such a victim?

  • Arguing that they are not accurate from evidentiary silence? And liberal scholars once said there was no Ninevah – until they found Ninevah. And THEY said there was no evidence for Pilate – until they found his name carved into a wall. And THEY said there was no evidence for the Pool of Siloam until they found it. And they said there was no evidence for king David until they found it. There may not be absolute comprehensive evidence in the form such as you require but then it (salvation) would not be by faith and Paul said we walk by faith and not by sight. If God appeared to you and every one around you including all of the scientists and they confirmed that He pretty much fit the Biblical description of God then you probably would believe. But it wouldn’t be by faith. “For if it is by sight it is no longer by faith…for by grace are you save thru faith…”

  • I don’t agree that it equates to arrogance, because I believe the assertion is testable.

  • But I’m not certain that Judaism today, in its many manifestations, reflects the Judaism of the Old Testament.

  • Yes, it is ultimately a matter of faith. History has a methodology and some kind of proof is necessary. The Hebrew Bible and the “New Testament” are not history.

  • Jesus has fulfilled none of the requirements for the Messiah. The Messiah was supposed to restore the Jews in Israel and it was supposed to bring about a world of peace, love and understanding. That clearly has not happened. What the Messiah was not supposed to do is to give personal salvation to individuals who believed in the Messiah. Jews tend to think that one should not focus on the afterlife. The purpose of believing and of doing good works is not to get into heaven. That is not acting for the love of God. Yes, Jews believe by faith, but we don’t ignore science or evolution. That does not render the Hebrew Bible to the dust bin. You can still learn a great deal and develop your spirituality by reading the Bible. There are Jews who would disagree with me, but not the majority.

  • Jews did not have to come forward and pray the sinners prayer. They were given the choice of death or conversion, but the Jews who converted were never accepted as Christians. Many Jews committed suicide. There were also massacres where Jews were just murdered, especially in cities and villages along the Rhine River in what is now Germany. Do you know the history of what happened to the Jews in Spain and Portugal?

    In the terms of Jewish history a thousand years is the blink of an eye.

  • My favorite was how the skeptics used to say that Belshazzar never existed because he was never mentioned anywhere except in the Bible. Until the Nabodinus Cylinders confirmed the existence of Belshazzar and also explained the curious little detail of how Daniel could be made “third ruler” in the kingdom (there were already two co-regents). Leaving Harvard’s Dr. Robert Pfeiffer, a hard-line critic of the book of Daniel, scratching his head and musing “We shall presumably never know how our author learned… that Belshazzar, mentioned only in Babylonian records, in Daniel, and in Baruch 1;1, which is based on Daniel, was functioning as king when Cyrus took Babylon.”

  • Of course we are not allowed to use that as evidence for the historical accuracy of the biblical text because as THEY tell us there is NO evidence for that. (wink wink nod nod)

  • If Japheth was the ancestor of the whites, Shem of the Arabs and Jews, and Ham of the blacks, shouldn’t Canaan (Phoenicians) have been the son of Shem and a Semite, not black? That is, if you believe the Bible.

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