An earthquake with pirates at the Southern Baptist Convention
June 14, 2021 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Next week more than 16,000 Southern Baptist pastors and leaders will descend on Nashville, Tennessee. Some of them will be bringing pirate flags, part of an ultraconservative attempt to "take the ship" back. They want to take it back from people like Russell Moore, former president of the denomination's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, who wrote a pair of long, scathing letters condemning the racism and lack of support for sexual abuse survivors in the SBC's leadership. The letters have caused an “earthquake,” not just in the SBC but throughout conservative Christendom. Some are blaming the current state of the church not only on the marriage between Republican politics and the SBC, but also on the theology and institutions of white evangelicalism itself.

Most links via the Marginal Mennonite Society (Facebook).
posted by clawsoon (120 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
sad puppies, southern baptist edition?
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 1:15 PM on June 14 [18 favorites]


Traditionally this is when a denomination splits into at least 2 pieces. Possibly more! It’s easier for Baptists, since they’re congregationalist and affiliations are voluntary. (The denomination doesn’t own the property.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 1:18 PM on June 14 [16 favorites]


Literal pirate flags? Literal... Pirate... Flags...
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:19 PM on June 14 [11 favorites]


Yes, a white skull and bones rampant on a black background
posted by mbo at 1:28 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


I live in Nashville. Thank you for warning me to steer clear of anybody I see with a pirate flag, instead of eagerly rushing up to them on the assumption they are whimsical friends-in-waiting.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:37 PM on June 14 [87 favorites]




Huffy Puffy: Traditionally this is when a denomination splits into at least 2 pieces.

Could be a messy split. One quote that stood out for me from the Atlantic article about the Moore letters was this bit:
“‘We know we can’t take you down,’” Moore said an SBC figure told him in 2017. “‘All our wives and kids are with you. This is psychological warfare, to make you think twice before you do or say something.’”
posted by clawsoon at 1:39 PM on June 14 [31 favorites]


From Fred Clark at Patheos:
The SBC has many prominent leaders who seem like they don’t want to be perceived as racist and misogynist, but Moore, to his credit, seemed as concerned about the reality as about the perception. That made him the focus of a lot of hostility from people who — correctly, I think — perceived criticism of racism and misogyny as an existential threat to the entire Southern Baptist Convention.
Clark critiques the Atlantic article written by Wehner for "what begins as news reporting for outsiders ends as a sermon aimed squarely at insiders."
The clearest demonstration of this in Wehner’s piece is this wretched business here: "The abolitionist and civil-rights movements can’t be understood without taking into account the role of faith; the same is true of the anti-abortion movement."

That starts off badly and ends up worse.

First there’s the sleight-of-hand switcheroo of the first clause — Wehner’s deceptively true statement that “the abolitionist and civil-rights movements can’t be understood without taking into account the role of faith.” That’s grossly misleading in a self-aggrandizing way for an article that’s mainly about white Southern Baptists. The abolitionist movement can’t be understood without taking into account the role of faithful white Southern Baptists who opposed it at every step with sanctimony and violence — all while piously “claiming the high moral ground.”
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:42 PM on June 14 [44 favorites]


Worth noting that Russell Moore has not only left his post at the ERLC, but the denomination itself as well.

(On preview - this is the Wehner article referenced above)
posted by jquinby at 1:45 PM on June 14




Ah, the famously Christian symbol of the death's head, flown to symbolize that no quarter will be given
posted by Typhoon Jim at 1:46 PM on June 14 [88 favorites]


The weirdest angle to this story is that atheist, academic hoaxer, math PhD, former massage parlour owner, and anti-Critical Race Theory activist James A. Lindsay wants to save the Southern Baptist Convention from becoming too "woke".
posted by clawsoon at 1:49 PM on June 14 [6 favorites]


The GetReligionistas are on this too, with their usual excellent focus on the media side of things.
posted by jquinby at 1:53 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]


May their racist tower of Babel crumble to the ground.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:02 PM on June 14 [13 favorites]


It’s fascinating to see, again and again, the people most likely to be obsessed with Q Anon type paranoia about democrats and child molestation rings, when presented with allegations (or even actual proof!) of long term child abuse carried out under the auspices of the institutions they hold dead, they’ll immediately circle wagons and do their damndest to ignore it and burn the whistleblowers instead.

For people so obsessed with saving hypothetical children from made up bogeymen, when presented with the actual opportunity to assist in change to prevent further abuse that actually happened, it’s pirate flags and forcing out the people who acknowledged the need for change.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:07 PM on June 14 [62 favorites]


Ghidorah: it’s projection. Accuse the Other of what you yourself are shamefully doing.
posted by Sublimity at 2:12 PM on June 14 [25 favorites]


when they're not Gaslighting or Obstructing, they're Projecting
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 2:13 PM on June 14 [32 favorites]


They don’t give a shit about children, the whole thing is just a weapon they can use.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:16 PM on June 14 [14 favorites]


I was never Baptist by a long shot, so I don't have much of a dog in this denominational squabble, but as someone whose recent divorce from the church was for reasons of pervasive misogyny, this gives me 75% delicious schadenfreude and 25% utter terror for the left-activist Christians I know in Tennessee, some of whom are definitely going to drive several hours to get into it with these pirate flag clowns. Magna Mater, protect your children.
posted by All hands bury the dead at 2:17 PM on June 14 [7 favorites]


RNS article on how abusers are protected and enabled within SBC (via Get Religion):
In the spring of 2019, [Jennifer] Lyell, then a well-respected leader in Christian publishing, decided to publicly disclose that she was a survivor of sexual abuse. She did so after learning her abuser, a former Southern Baptist seminary professor, author and missionary, had recently returned to ministry. Lyell feared he would once again have the opportunity to abuse others and wanted to stop that from happening. So she wrote up a statement detailing the abuse and shared it with a reporter from a Christian news organization. Then things went terribly wrong.

Instead of reporting she had been abused, Nashville-based Baptist Press, which is overseen by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, reported in March 2019 that Lyell, then a vice president at Lifeway Christian Resources, had admitted being involved in a “morally inappropriate relationship” with her former professor.

The fallout was quick and devastating. Lyell was labeled on social media as an “adulteress” rather than an abuse survivor, with users leaving scores of vile comments about her on Lifeway’s Facebook page and the Baptist Press website. Pastors and churches called for her to be fired. She lost her reputation, her job and even her health in the process.

...

Lyell still attends a Southern Baptist church, in large part because of the friendship and support she has received from her pastor and his wife. But her feelings toward the denomination’s beliefs about gender roles have shifted. The convention’s statement of faith says women and men are equal in God’s sight but have different roles in the church and the home.

Today, she feels that belief, known as complementarianism, has created an unhealthy culture. Any criticism of complementarianism is seen as “a sort of gateway drug into theological liberalism.”

“I think a culture that believes that its righteousness is dependent on preserving and protecting the strictest form of complementarianism is a culture that sees women as a threat, sees women as a risk, sees women as more likely to sin,” she said. “And there were aspects of it certainly that I think is something that an abuser can use.”
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:18 PM on June 14 [25 favorites]


The convention’s statement of faith says women and men are equal in God’s sight but have different roles in the church and the home. Today, she feels that belief, known as complementarianism, has created an unhealthy culture.

Separate But Equal only works as long as you can convince the oppressed party that true equality would be scarier than the lip-service version.
posted by All hands bury the dead at 2:23 PM on June 14 [15 favorites]


From Russell Moore's May 31st letter (pdf):
You and I both heard, in closed door meetings, sexual abuse survivors spoken of in terms of “Potiphar’s wife” and other spurious biblical analogies. The conversations in these closed door meetings were far worse than anything Southern Baptists knew —or the outside world could report. And, as you know, this comes on the heels of a track-record of the Executive Committee staff and others referring to victims as “crazy” and, at least in one case, as worse than the sexual predators themselves.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:24 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]


I feel like this is only going to complicate my yet-unfinished sexy queer pirate epic that's also kind of about the Wars of the Reformation.
posted by thivaia at 2:27 PM on June 14 [21 favorites]


Unfortunately, it doesn't coincide with International Talk Like a Pirate Day, which falls on September 19.

I feel like this is only going to complicate my yet-unfinished sexy queer pirate epic that's also kind of about the Wars of the Reformation.

Yarrr. Be that a schism yer fomentin', matey?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:29 PM on June 14 [27 favorites]


Ah, the famously Christian symbol of the death's head, flown to symbolize that no quarter will be given

Let the dead bury their dead.
posted by thelonius at 2:45 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]


I have, as you will imagine, many thoughts on this, starting with: "Some are blaming the current state of the church not only on the marriage between Republican politics and the SBC, but also on the theology and institutions of white evangelicalism itself." Oh, no shit? (Not aimed at you, obviously, clawsoon, this is a great post!)

Daily Intel: "the willingness of Southern Baptists to scornfully attack other churches for sexual impropriety has been exposed as hypocritical thanks to horrifying allegations that church leaders covered up sexual assaults and pedophilia by clergy and other church employees."

This. Scandal. Has. Been. In. Plain. Sight. Since. Spotlight. I was in seminary in the American South (45% Methodist, 45% Baptist, 10% "other" like me) when Spotlight broke, and our professors and allllllllll pastors and church officials associated with or visiting the Divinity School were absolutely clear that "If you think this is just a Catholic problem, you are delusional. If you think this is caused by celibate clergy, you are delusional. The same scandal is coming for American Protestants." One of the biggest battles going on in Protestant churches between 2000 and 2004 (when I graduated) was whether Protestants were going to learn from the Catholic sex abuse scandal and proactively start improving denominational rules and procedures to root out sex abusers and protect children, or whether they would stick their heads in the sand and pretend it didn't happen in their churches.

The Southern Baptist Convention chose, over and over again, to go with "head in the sand." I know people who were at the forefront of fighting to get fundamentalist evangelical denominations (including the SBC) to take this seriously; Pastors and theologians who created conservative theological task forces and conservative, Biblically literalist justifications for adopting rules and procedures and oversight programs that would protect children; lawyers and accountants who laid out the liability and lawsuit costs in stark and clear terms. They just arrogantly insisted that Bible-believing Christians didn't have those problems. Nearly all of the SBC people I know who were active in child welfare in any capacity ended up leaving the denomination over it.

(And I mean, not there's any denomination I'd hold up as having done a great job, but UMC and PCUSA and UCC and ELCA all started reviewing and revising their policies and actually LOOKING at it, even if progress and adoption has been uneven.)

I -- argh, I have so many theological opinions -- so, to be clear, I basically agree with Moore about ... almost nothing beyond the Nicene Creed. WaPo: "Moore’s letter took direct aim at several members of the SBC’s Executive Committee, the group based in Nashville that runs the business of the convention and handles its finances. He described the “spiritual and psychological abuse of sexual abuse survivors by the Executive Committee itself,” as well as “a pattern of attempted intimidation of those who speak on such matters.”"

This is the stupidest shit (and I freely admit, everyone who said it was a lost cause was right, and I was wrong, and I feel naive about it), but I spent some 16 years after Spotlight fighting for the soul of Catholicism, even when I moved to a shitty diocese, even when my bishop excommunicated all Obama voters, even then, even then. What finally, permanently shoved me out was a 1-2 punch (in the same month, even) of my childhood priest being named in the Illinois Catholic sex abuse report by the Illinois Attorney General (and I remember both the accusations, and the many, many adults who told me, "his parents are lawyers, they're just looking for easy money" and implications that his mother was some kind of high-strung harpie b/c she worked outside the home), and this BuzzFeed News report about a Catholic orphanage in Vermont (cw: child abuse, murder -- really, honestly, you do not need to read it, especially if you read about the Canadian residential schools in the news recently) from the 1930s to the 1970s. It wasn't that it had happened -- I was well-aware of the shit that went down in that kind of institution, and have been since college at least. But this is what did it, this is what made me quit:
In the early 2000s, a judge ordered the Burlington Diocese to hand over the personnel files for dozens of priests who had been accused of sexual misconduct. The files included letters from accusers, police investigations, transcripts from secret church tribunals, rehab reports, and a number of the orphanage settlement letters that Widman had fought so hard to get. The cache had never been made public. I came into possession of it near the end of my reporting. Only then did I begin to understand how much information had not been disclosed to Widman and the St. Joseph’s survivors , and how much less than the whole truth the Burlington clergy had told under oath [during a series of lawsuits in the 1990s]. I began to see how much would have been possible — and might still be possible — to prove as fact.
The Burlington Diocese, and the US Catholic leadership, and the Vatican curia too, were all over the media at the time talking about reconciliation and truth and reparations for Catholic sex abuse survivors, while fighting tooth and fucking nail to prevent the truth from coming out about things that happened seventy goddamned years ago in states where the statute of limitations had completely run out -- this was ongoing in 2018. MILLIONS OF DOLLARS on lawyers to prevent the truth from coming out, even when they would have no financial liability. Even after the promised transparency, they refused to provide it. They continued to pay lawyers rather than victims.

I jointly enrolled in seminary and law school, and I had this set of verses from 1 Corinthians 6 quoted at me a whole bunch of times, including sneeringly by an ethics professor, who flatly insisted I could not be a Christian and a lawyer at the same time:
1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?
Same smarmy jerks who quoted that at me were insisting on using their financial and legal power to keep victims in the courtroom so they would not be forced to confront and reckon with their complicity, to act in a truly Christian fashion where the harm to the community and its members matters more than the damage to the institution or -- Jesus flip the tables -- money.

In Russell Moore's letter, I see him hitting that same wall. You can fight, and fight, and fight, you can work to reform the institution, you can do everything you can, and then you find yourself, finally, face-to-face with an institution that is not just flawed, that is not just human, but that has made affirmative decision after affirmative decision to care a hell of a lot more about money and prestige than about human beings, and has made choices upon choices that they know are hurting the vulnerable. That is what they have chosen to be, the Medicis and Borgias of modern Christianity, and, when confronted with it, they continue to choose it. You can't fight that. They don't care about Jesus, or the Bible, or God, or fellow human beings; there's no common ground for the battle.

The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.

(Yes, I know Baptists don't have bishops, you can sub "church leadership.")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:46 PM on June 14 [183 favorites]


Jesus Tap Dancing Christ, Eyebrows McGee.

Every one of these I read I just feel lucky to have dodged a bullet and been raised far outside organized religion.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 2:59 PM on June 14 [12 favorites]


I was brought up (non-Southern) Baptist. I learned early that some of the worst people were church people.
posted by Hutch at 3:01 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]


I thought racism was already in the bones of the Southern Baptist church going as far back as the schism that led to the formation of the Southern Baptists as a separate denomination.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:03 PM on June 14 [8 favorites]


One thing I was surprised to learn from these articles was that there was a conservative takeover of the SBC in the 1980s. Who ran it before then, I wonder?
posted by clawsoon at 3:06 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Segregationists ran it
posted by fluttering hellfire at 3:10 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]


"Beginning in 1979, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) experienced an intense struggle for control of the organization. Its initiators called it the conservative resurgence while its detractors labeled it the fundamentalist takeover. It was launched with the charge that the seminaries and denominational agencies were dominated by liberals. The movement was primarily aimed at reorienting the denomination away from a liberal trajectory."
posted by clawsoon at 3:13 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]


Since I just woke up when I read the article title, I hoped for a brief shining moment that people were taking organized action to protest the crimes and horrific moral failings of the church. But no, these people are making a pilgrimage to protest basic human decency, and...... There are no words, I just can't.

I know I tie so much going on in the world currently to the Republicans massive murderous attacks on transgender children, but it shines a whole new even somehow worse light. If these people don't care about their own children to this atrocious length, what utter abominations we must seem like to them. Judge someone by the quality of their enemies.
posted by Jacen at 3:21 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]


I wish these people could just stop stealing every sign and symbol they get their hands on. They sell pirate-themed tchotchkes at like every water-adjacent tourist attraction in the country, and all pirates-themed sports teams, we all kind of had a gentlemans' agreement that these things didn't symbolize literal death, literal rape, literal theft, and now all of a sudden they do, and there's nothing anyone can do about it? Can all of this just stop? (....she cried into the unfeeling winds of history...)
posted by bleep at 3:24 PM on June 14 [12 favorites]


Mod note: Comment removed - please don't mimic other people's accents for rhetorical effect.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:32 PM on June 14 [7 favorites]


First Hawaiian shirts and now this. FFS.
posted by acb at 3:33 PM on June 14 [6 favorites]


It’s my accent, jessamyn.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:34 PM on June 14 [12 favorites]


Poor Nashville. I miss it, and I am afraid there will be a COVID uptick. These people are the type to cause it.

Ah, the famously Christian symbol of the death's head, flown to symbolize that no quarter will be given

I am deeply sympathetic to the left/liberal Christian tradition, having passed through it on the way to atheism. I just feel like at this point, it no longer matters what the historical Jesus said or would have said. This is an indivisible part of what Christianity is; this and the Catholic Church. The practice overcomes the theory.

seanmpuckett: I hear you. "Babdist" is just how I pronounce it.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:38 PM on June 14 [9 favorites]


There was a pre-Convention conference this past week. "Wokeness and the Gospel 2021". This conference shows the path forward for the SBC. One in which they give up all pretensions to justice and appeal directly towards racists. #WG2021TX is some rather unpleasant reading.

Samuel Perry (Twitter) is doing great work covering it. Here's his tweet from the end of the conference in which the SBC's path forward is made clear:
There we go. Strachan with the final talk. Where it was always leading. Tells audience to “fight for your country.”

Says Christians should use anti-wokeness as a witnessing tool. Some non-Christians won’t like wokeness. You can tell them Christianity is against it too!
This is particularly funny to me because it makes me think of the contrast with what most corps and their marketing are doing in the secular world. Choosing messages of tolerance and breaking with hateful groups. They think that's the path forward for gaining and retaining the most customers.

I've often wondered when the SBC's self-awareness would kick in. When they'd start to regret their past choices. In the face of this monumental decline in membership & baptisms--especially with their huge failure to retain the young people born-and-bred in the church--I was thinking they would make at least superficial stabs at moderation. Similar to what Francis seems to be doing on the Catholic side. But no. There's zero self-awareness and they're going to double down. Racists are their growth market and the hell with everyone else.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 3:38 PM on June 14 [14 favorites]


...and The Privateers shall bring one Rotating Neon Jesus fog machine.
posted by clavdivs at 3:50 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]




However, while evangelical clergy only get their congregants in the pews one to three times a week, Fox News and talk radio get them every day, all day.

There's a difference?


The last linked article (from ReligionDispatches.org) actually points out that there is, yeah - especially in the sense that "Fox News" & other 24/7 conservative media is a useful scapegoat for distracting both Christians and the mainstream secular media from examining the long history and usefulness of racial bias in the white evangelical church. Well worth a read.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:03 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


That whole Twitter thread is worth a read, The Card Cheat. Thanks for posting it.
posted by clawsoon at 4:11 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]


Come to think of it, somebody could argue that the entire history of Christianity started with a capture by a conservative interest with no historical relationship to Jesus—that is, Paul, who proceeded to remake it in his vision. But you would have to be better educated in the subject than I am.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:14 PM on June 14 [20 favorites]


Cognitive dissonance is a hell of a drug
posted by bq at 4:15 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]


This is calling out for a TPB flash mob.
posted by joeyh at 4:18 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


This 2018 article is a good reminder of the SBC’s white supremacist and pro-slavery past and it’s willful blindness to racial equality today, despite its own work to generate reports detailing the aforementioned sins.
"They did a very good job reckoning with the past, and a not-so-good job reckoning with the present.”
posted by darkstar at 4:21 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


I think "next week" in my post was wrong. Seems that they've already started:

SBC Executive Committee rejects request for system-wide abuse inquiry
posted by clawsoon at 4:46 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


"I was thinking they would make at least superficial stabs at moderation. Similar to what Francis seems to be doing on the Catholic side"

A really, really important difference between Catholics and the Southern Baptist Convention is that Catholics are a supranational church and always have been, while the SBC is a national conference, and always has been. The SBC sends missionaries to not-US countries, but to be an SBC church is to be an American church. Which in very powerful, inescapable ways ties the SBC in to US politics. The Catholic Church has a ton of movements and needs and biases that are totally unrelated to American politics -- in fact, until pretty recently, Vatican politics involved a heck of a lot of active rejection of American politics and American concerns, to the ire of American bishops, since the US Catholic Church has been the Vatican's pocketbook since about 1920 and feel like they should therefore HAVE SOME SAY, whereas the largely-Italian curia was like "FUCK YOU UPSTARTS AND IRISHMEN." (A vastly disproportionate amount of Catholic money comes from the US, even today.) Pope Francis is liberalizing within Catholicism in some very important ways, but he appears more liberal to Americans than he is, because he's liberal on American issues, without necessarily being liberal on Catholic issues. (He is liberal within the Catholic continuum, it just doesn't map to the American continuum. And American conservative Catholics are WAY more ticked off by him than conservative Catholics in other parts of the world.)

This can manifest itself in weird ways and in very weird media coverage -- there was (15+ years ago) a cardinal from a third-world nation who did a tour of the US and got raves from the liberal media everywhere he went because he was pro-socialism and pro-communism, while a lot of Catholic media was like, "Uh ... you know this guy SUPER hates women, right? Like, favors-FGM-level-hates-women." But economic issues were his thing, and once he talked about the virtues of socialism and communism and how Jesus was a communist, American secular media didn't press him on women's issues, because a) he was liberal! and b) they didn't want to appear anti-religious, and the cardinal had great media training to tap-dance around women's issues. (I had a friend who was a reporter with National Catholic Reporter at the time, and when the Catholic press would try to push him on women's issues, suddenly his English would get bad, which in fact he'd gone to university in an English-speaking country and was utterly fluent. One outlet went so far as to hire someone who'd grown up in the same province he had to ask questions in his native tongue, and he kept insisting he couldn't understand the guy's accent, and who can gainsay that?) (I am being non-specific because I haven't followed the guy's career for the last 15 years and I don't know his current deal.)

"that is, Paul, who proceeded to remake it in his vision. But you would have to be better educated in the subject than I am."

I dunno, people do like to say that, but Paul was pretty dang radical for the 1st century, and for 1st century Christians -- "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" -- and put women in leadership positions, opposed slavery, and had some incredibly interesting theological beliefs about baptism. I think sometimes it's easier to say "Paul was conservative" than "Jesus was a 1st-century Mediterranean Jewish(-ish) man bound by his time and place and also said some VERY WEIRD SHIT that is VERY HARD TO INTERPRET." I also think because Paul said a LOT and said it pretty plainly and clearly, it's easier for a lot of people to get at Paul's beliefs than, say, Mark's. Buuuuut to my modern American mind, Matthew is the most regressive of the Gospels (including Paul's Gospel-by-letters), by kind-of a lot. (But also, I can't even with John, he's SO tedious, so maybe John is worse, I wouldn't know.) Buuuuuuut Matthew wasn't talking to modern Americans, he was talking to first-century Mediterranean Christians, and I can learn a lot about that (I know a lot about that!) but I can't truly put myself in that place.

----

Anyway, Russell Moore gets called "liberal" by SBC conservatives to delegitimize him, but he is liberal in today's SBC -- having a theological education is automatically liberal. Reading the actual Bible is liberal. Disagreeing with the GOP is liberal -- including if you think Christians should take care of the poor. The SBC is not Christian conservatives; they're American conservatives, and even the most conservative Christian is automatically a liberal if they're not a GOP acolyte. It's been a theological problem for 40 years, the insistence that (SBC) Christianity was co-terminus with American conservatism. But Trump has really heightened the contradictions (as the kids say) and brought it all to a crisis point.

The desire of American media not to appear anti-religious, btw, is part of how fundamentalist evangelical churches prosper in the modern US -- for nearly 40 years they've been able to scare off a lot of American media coverage by insisting that anything critical was anti-religious and biased. A number of media outlets have now hired people or have freelancers who have theology backgrounds and Christianity bona fides, which helps a lot in more balanced, clear-eyed coverage. (It also does help that they know what theology jerks are trying to say in a theology way, and can assess their theological jerkiness/meretriciousness.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:08 PM on June 14 [70 favorites]


Anyway, Russell Moore gets called "liberal" by SBC conservatives to delegitimize him, but he is liberal in today's SBC...

And he is also a "complementarian" and has said very nice things about the patriarchy a while back, which makes your story about the cardinal on-point.
posted by clawsoon at 5:22 PM on June 14 [8 favorites]


The minister at our church took aim at the people who complain about having to do the safe church training all of a sudden. He acknowledged that it's not fun having the government dictate to churches, but it's a moral issue. If the church had been on the ball about preventing these issues then we wouldn't have the government imposing regulation.

The Royal Commision into child sexual abuse has had pretty big impacts (good!) On churches and schools here in Australia, with legislation. Is there similar legislation in the USA?
posted by freethefeet at 6:12 PM on June 14 [6 favorites]


No government in the United States is allowed to make any law that regulates what a church does or does not do. It’s in our constitution.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:24 PM on June 14


That is not in fact what the constitution says. It's far more complex than that.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:38 PM on June 14 [24 favorites]


It is true that it is far more complex than that, but practically speaking mr_roboto might as well be right for the next twenty to forty years.
posted by wotsac at 6:41 PM on June 14 [6 favorites]


No government in the United States is allowed to make any law that regulates what a church does or does not do. It’s in our constitution.

Tell Georgia that, where new legislation was aimed squarely at suppressing black churches' "souls to the polls" movements.

As with all things Constitutional, it all goes... wobbly depending on whether it's someone conservatives like or do not like doing it.
posted by delfin at 7:48 PM on June 14 [22 favorites]


One thing I was surprised to learn from these articles was that there was a conservative takeover of the SBC in the 1980s. Who ran it before then, I wonder?

Mostly a bunch of people who had decided to stay the fuck out of politics and keep their heads down. Given the decentralized nature of the SBC, there has always been wide variance in what goes on in individual churches, so I'm sure some were still actively segregationist and some were still preaching Great Awakening politics, but the one I was forced to attend as a child wasn't, even through the end of the 80s. By the early to mid-90s the cohort of pastors who came up in the time of keeping spirituality and politics apart were retiring or dying and were replaced by the sort of people who still control the levers of power in the SBC today.

Back then there was an obvious difference between the older folks who finally accepted that society was changing and the people fresh out of seminary who considered it their job to fight change as much as possible. They were still assholes in many ways, but they weren't talking about abortion, race, or politics in general in their sermons. In a modern context it seems weird at best, but compared to where they were when they were twenty years before they were doing pretty well. Not great, but also not teaching the kids to be intolerant racist fucks.
posted by wierdo at 8:31 PM on June 14 [6 favorites]


Conservative Christendom, LOL.

If I only had a magic wand, I’d make it so that all Christendom-club-members would sincerely start choosing love in every thought word and action.
posted by andreinla at 9:48 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Traditionally this is when a denomination splits into at least 2 pieces.

The Northern Southern Baptists and the Southern Southern Baptists.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 10:59 PM on June 14 [6 favorites]


I think, Cardinal Fang, Twitter suggests it will be the Popular Southern Baptists and the People's Southern Baptists.

(That fella over there is the Southern Baptists of the People. Splitter!)
posted by k3ninho at 11:54 PM on June 14 [11 favorites]


Holding out for the Southern Primitive Protestants (SoPrim!).
posted by SPrintF at 6:01 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


If I only had a magic wand, I’d make it so that all Christendom-club-members would sincerely start choosing love in every thought word and action.

See, though, conservative christians have this nifty bit of magical thinking that acts as a sort of "get out of hell" card while confirming (in their minds) their eternal, never-flagging, christian "love". Love the sinner, hate the sin.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:28 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


My favorite religious joke, from Emo Phillips

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, "Don't do it!" He said, "Nobody loves me." I said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?"

He said, "Yes." I said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?" He said, "A Christian." I said, "Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me, too! What franchise?" He said, "Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?" He said, "Northern Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?"

He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region." I said, "Me, too!"

Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912." I said, "Die, heretic!" And I pushed him over.

posted by CostcoCultist at 6:33 AM on June 15 [47 favorites]


Traditionally this is when a denomination splits into at least 2 pieces.

Ironically, SBC broke off from the regular Baptists so that they could defend slavery.

With that flag, they're basically anti-biblical, beating plowshares into swords.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:26 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


I appreciated that The Atlantic article was written by someone who seems to be actively Christian, and is writing from that perspective and highlighting voices within the various Christian denominations that offer more humane and ethical ways to live in this faith. It's easy for someone who is anti- all religion to pour scorn on this (and well deserved scorn, I would add). Atheist commentary pieces are a dime a dozen. But there is something powerful about a well written and thoughtful commentary, making clear that heinous sexual violence, misogyny, and anti-black racism are not intrinsic to any religious faith, including Christianity.

Partly because, if we cynically throw up our hands and say that "well all religions are sexist, what did you expect?", then we are unintentionally furthering the abuser's core argument: that it is a black and white either/or debate; if you are a Christian, you have to submit to this particular interpretation.
posted by EllaEm at 8:57 AM on June 15 [5 favorites]


I thought racism was already in the bones of the Southern Baptist church going as far back as the schism that led to the formation of the Southern Baptists as a separate denomination.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:03 PM on June 14


Sure, but, as someone who lives in the USA, it's more interesting to think about how that in-group thinks about it, and particularly how SBC leaders of color think about systemic racism.
And so i'm glad we have all this reporting on it, to answer your question, like this article.

You can't just quit people--even if schisms separate you from some, schisms will draw you even closer to others within the group.

And for those of us on the outside, I feel like how the SBC can wrestle, or not wrestle with these issues has an outsized influence on how the USA's larger structures of white hegemony and sex abuse are holding up. Texas

I'm interested in when are they taking stances on police.

it seems like what we are witnessing, more fragmentation, largely in line with a kind of reactionary current for SBC that combines defensiveness around sexual abusers and white supremacy in order to...attract new followers? mobilize the resources of the institution toward white nationalism? emulate the last US president? that's where I get lost

But i'm very thankful for all the coverage linked here. god bless the Houston Chronicle, but uh, y'all should subscribe, too!


I found these quotes to be interesting

"Another committee member, Joe Knott, argued against Wellman’s request [for a system-wide audit]

“In most cases, most of our churches are 100, 150 people; the children’s Sunday schools are run by the mothers of the children and their grandmothers,” said Knott, a Raleigh, North Carolina, lawyer. “There’s no safer place on earth than most Southern Baptist churches for children. If there is a problem, we can address it without hiring a third party and giving them unlimited access to our people."

....

"Committee member Dwight Easler pointed to what the two-hour meeting said about the Executive Committee’s willingness to address problems in the denomination.

“At the end of the day, I want us to be fully aware that what’s coming out of this room is we can debate nominations but we cannot debate or discuss how we’re going to investigate the way we handle sexual abuse,” said Easler, a pastor from Gaffney, South Carolina. “That’s very, very telling about our situation.”

Outgoing President J.D. Greear, during his time to speak during the meeting, also seemed to be concerned about outward appearances of Southern Baptists’ actions this week.

“What happens over the next few days has not just an impact on our fellowship together,” he said, just before leading the committee in prayer for the two-day meeting ahead, “it has an impact on the witness that we give and to a watching world.”"
posted by eustatic at 8:59 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Through a related article I learned about the Acts 29 movement that has apparently split(?) off the SBC recently. I found this notable, from their website: (emphasis mine)
Both husbands and wives are responsible to God for spiritual nurture and vitality in the home, but God has given to the man primary responsibility to lead his wife and family in accordance with the servant-leadership and sacrificial love characterised by Jesus Christ. This principle of male headship should not be confused with, nor give any hint of, domineering control. Rather, it is to be the loving, tender and nurturing care of a godly man who is himself under the kind and gentle authority of Jesus Christ.

The Elders/Pastors of each local church have been granted authority under the headship of Jesus Christ to provide oversight and to teach/preach the Word of God in corporate assembly for the building up of the body. The office of Elder/Pastor is restricted to men.
posted by achrise at 10:05 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Dry info: SBC is strictly complementarian based on creation order. Egalitarianism is heresy.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 10:30 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Outgoing president J.D. Greear just gave a sermon. Apparently my pessimism about moderation came too early. He's trying to pull the convention back a bit from being inextricably linked to conservative politics. Quote:
Whenever the church gets in bed with politics the church gets pregnant and that offspring does not look like our Father in Heaven...

We aren’t elephants or donkeys, we are the people of the lamb.
Awkward phrasing but it's still a good move for them. The crowd at #SBC21 seems to be strongly in favor of this. And I'm hearing the resolution condemning CRT is not going to be presented. Not sure if that's definite yet.

Starting to look like the ultra-conservatives might lose this day.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 10:50 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


One more Greear quote because it's remarkable to hear anything like this from the SBC:
“It was the Pharisees, not the liberals, that crucified our Lord.”
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 10:51 AM on June 15 [5 favorites]


Gavel named for slaveholder replaced with one recalling missionary at SBC meeting
As outgoing Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear prepared to open his final annual meeting in that role, he determined to follow through on his plans to change the way he officially got it started.

Traditionally, Southern Baptists open the two-day meeting — which starts Tuesday (June 15) — with the banging of a gavel. In most years, the meetings have featured the Broadus gavel, named for John A. Broadus, a founding faculty member of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who was also a slaveholder and a believer in white superiority.
So the outgoing president is a flaming liberal (who probably believes about 1000 conservative things). I wonder who the new president will be. I hear there are three candidates; does anybody happen to know whether it takes a plurality or a majority to win?
posted by clawsoon at 10:58 AM on June 15


fluttering hellfire: Dry info: SBC is strictly complementarian based on creation order. Egalitarianism is heresy.

So the best possible outcome here is men saying that they'll be benevolent rulers, and the worst outcome is men saying that they'll continue to be abusive rulers?
posted by clawsoon at 11:02 AM on June 15 [3 favorites]


So the outgoing president is a flaming liberal

He's not liberal even by the twisted standards of Southern Baptists. But he is pragmatic and has some awareness of where the church is headed if they don't change their ways. Which will probably be enough for some ultra cons in pirate hats to label him as "liberal", but most won't see it that way.

The vote this afternoon will be interesting. I was thinking the ultra-conservative Mike Stone was the front-runner. But after Greear's "at least pretend to be sane" sermon, seems like Ed Litton might have a chance. Ed would be fairly moderate, relatively speaking. He'll say all the right things about race and abuse while the SBC continues to circle the wagons. By the low standards of the SBC, that's progress.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 11:20 AM on June 15


Maybe it means they will recognize that "man" should be subservient to sea creatures, flying creatures, and land creatures since those were created before "man"?
posted by achrise at 11:25 AM on June 15 [7 favorites]


One more Greear quote because it's remarkable to hear anything like this from the SBC:
“It was the Pharisees, not the liberals, that crucified our Lord.”


I mean actually it was the Romans but, like, whatever.
posted by bq at 12:18 PM on June 15 [10 favorites]


Dry info: SBC is strictly complementarian based on creation order. Egalitarianism is heresy.

So we're subservient to animals? Sounds good.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 2:02 PM on June 15 [2 favorites]


One of the many worst parts to this whole situation - because it's all so fractally awful that there's quite a few worst parts - is that seems straightforward easy to seriously cut down on these types of crimes by removing opportunities?

I was a volunteer teacher for preschoolers at my congregation back in the early 2000s. And the rules changed to forbid an adult and child being along together in a room. We had to ask more people to be teachers, people set up patrol schedules so if one of the kids had an accident we could get the parents to come instead of taking the kid to them and being alone in the hallway, things like that. There was a kneejerk upset reaction because of course none of us would ever harm kids and it was upsetting to have to imagine that. We got over it really quickly because clearly some people would and we were OK with being mildly inconvenienced to prevent that.

And some people seem fight so, so, so hard to not make similar simple changes or talk about it or do anything to actually safeguard children. I just...the only conclusion is that they're OK with kids getting molested so long as it's convenient?

mr_roboto is wrong, actually. The Constitution forbids establishing a state religion. It's still 100% possible and usual to regulate things like 'you can't hold human sacrifice', 'you can't hold sermons during a pandemic', etc, despite the pro-plague activists' best efforts.
posted by Ahniya at 2:14 PM on June 15 [12 favorites]


My dog agrees.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 2:16 PM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Cat is presenting me with a paper containing creation date. Weird.
posted by clawsoon at 2:17 PM on June 15 [3 favorites]


Round 1 of the presidential voting is complete.

Mike Stone 36.48%
Ed Litton 32.38%
Randy Adams 4.71%
Al Mohler 26.32%

Now set for a runoff between Stone and Litton. Can't imagine a more stark choice for the SBC. Ultra-conservative vs. a moderate semi-reformer.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 3:11 PM on June 15 [3 favorites]


Lotta stuff going on in the #SBC21 Twitter hashtag.
posted by clawsoon at 3:33 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


I really hope some folks can get a few of these pirate flag wavers to wear a colander on their head.
posted by brookeb at 4:12 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


The resolutions they're voting on start on page 6 of the bulletin (PDF). There's everything from condemning the Equality Act to condemning the January 6th insurrection.
posted by clawsoon at 4:14 PM on June 15


Countess Elena: Poor Nashville. I miss it, and I am afraid there will be a COVID uptick. These people are the type to cause it.

Looking at the pictures on Twitter, yes. There's a resolution coming up to say they're sad about everybody who died from Covid, but no one in the room seems to be worried about the people they're going to kill.
posted by clawsoon at 4:35 PM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Ed Litton wins with ~52 percent of the vote. Guess the pirates are going to sail home empty-handed. Very bad day for them. They lost the election. They didn't get a floor condemnation of CRT. They even didn't get what they wanted with the abortion resolution. Greear essentially called them out.

I guess my earlier prediction about the death of moderation was premature. It seems as if a majority of the convention realized they were at the point of no return in terms of ever appealing to anyone outside of a very narrow base.

Will be interesting to see how many conservative churches bolt from the denomination over the next year. There's been many threats if Litton won, but threats are easy. It's still probably fewer losses than the mass exodus which would have happened under Stone.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 5:02 PM on June 15 [18 favorites]



From Russell Moore's May 31st letter (pdf):
You and I both heard, in closed door meetings, sexual abuse survivors spoken of in terms of “Potiphar’s wife” and other spurious biblical analogies. The conversations in these closed door meetings were far worse than anything Southern Baptists knew —or the outside world could report. And, as you know, this comes on the heels of a track-record of the Executive Committee staff and others referring to victims as “crazy” and, at least in one case, as worse than the sexual predators themselves.
A Texas pastor has stepped forward -- with recordings -- to corroborate allegations Moore made about Executive Committee conversations:
Calling himself a “Southern Baptist whistleblower,” a Texas Baptist pastor on June 10 accused Southern Baptist Convention leaders Ronnie Floyd and Mike Stone of lying about their previous closed-door comments regarding sexual abuse concerns in the denomination.

Phillip Bethancourt, pastor of Central Church in College Station, Texas, released a public letter — linked with audio clips — that he says refutes claims by Floyd, president of the SBC Executive Committee, and Stone, a Georgia pastor who is running for SBC president and previously chaired the SBC Executive Committee.

Bethancourt previously served seven years on staff of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, where he worked with the agency’s head, Russell Moore. Moore resigned that post at the end of May after coming under continuous attack from Stone and other conservative pastors within the SBC.
The clip seemingly available at the top of the article wouldn't play for me, but the links in the body did work.
posted by jamjam at 5:18 PM on June 15 [4 favorites]


"The convention overwhelmingly approved a resolution declaring that “any person who has committed sexual abuse is permanently disqualified from holding the office of pastor.”" - AJC

This is the right thing to do, and I applaud it, however, in practice it's going to mean even more pressure being put on victims because "He'll lose his job, you'll ruin his whole life!"

"Opponents had argued that it precludes the possibility of an abuser repenting and transforming"

Of course they did. And then somehow the repenting and transforming is always internal and never involves public confession, reparations to victims, or actual consequences.

I think there are some unique American Protestant inflections to how repentance and transformation is thought about in the SBC and other fundamentalist evangelical churches, with big Second Great Awakening echoes, with personal relationships with Jesus and having your heart changed and big conversion narratives. (Do you remember "Behind the Music" on VH1? That was literally an American Protestant conversation narrative, but featuring music and drug abuse rather than God and sins. But that's the structure.) But when it's all personal and internal and individualistic, with very little community role, it's very difficult to have accountability. If you can tell the story in a convincing, compelling way, with your early hubris and then your fall from grace after the second commercial break and your conversion away from cocaine/sins after the third commercial break, that is taken as "enough." But saying "I was a terrible sinner, I found God, and now I have grace" doesn't involve making reparations for the wrongs, or reconciling with your community (which is the Body of Christ). It doesn't even necessarily involve ceasing to sin, because there's not a lot of real accountability. And it's always striking to me, from a historical perspective, how incredibly individualistic American Christianity is in general, but fundamentalist evangelicals in particular, who have such an underdeveloped theology of community. Which in the sweep of Christian history is really weird, because the early church developed theologies of community much faster than theologies of the individual (and certainly not a modern, post-Cartesian individual!).

If you dropped, say, St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas in the 21st century and caught them up to speed, a lot of modern Christian theology would be understandable and comprehensible to them. Like, "Um, yo, your culture is super-weird, but I can understand and follow your theology about it." But I don't think they would understand at all the withered theology of the Christian community. (They definitely would not understand post-Cartesian theologies of the individual.) I think so much about how the church thinks about itself as a community would be totally unrecognizable to them. And I think that impacts how well we're able to hold pastors accountable from their wrongdoing.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:05 PM on June 15 [18 favorites]


an underdeveloped theology of community

Wasn't the rejection of "good works" towards salvation (a good concept abused by Catholic "indulgence salesmen") one of the fundamental protests of the Reformation? I'm kind of amazed that Protestants can organize at all, given their supposed rejection of theological hierarchy. ("Your personal relationship to Jesus is all that matters. Now, may I have your credit card number?")
posted by SPrintF at 7:25 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


There are a lot of kinds of Protestants, with basically every kind of organization and doctrinal variation you can think of, plus a bunch more that nobody can really explain. (Luther wound up being surprised by this, too.)

Quickly, there are 3 basic types of church structure:
1. Episcopal. There is a bishop, he answers to an archbishop, who answers to [someone else]. Church of England, Methodists and Episcopalians, and of course the Catholics. The denomination, in some form at some level, often owns the church property/employs the priests.

2. Presbyterian. There are elders who are probably elected who are in charge of the congregation, and they send representatives to a next-level organization (presbytery; “presbyter” = “elder”), and they send representatives to the next level up, and so on to a general assembly at the national level. Church of Scotland, and Presbyterian and some Reformed churches in the USA. The Scots fought at least one war to have elders instead of bishops.

3. Congregationalist. The local congregation is its own self-governing thing. Any membership in an overall denominational structure is totally voluntary. This includes the Congregationalists (UCC, the descendants of the Puritans), Baptists, Disciples of Christ, and a whole bunch of nondenominational and other churches. Baptist churches may be members of one or more denomination/convention but it’s entirely voluntary.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:39 AM on June 16 [17 favorites]


The desire of American media not to appear anti-religious, btw, is part of how fundamentalist evangelical churches prosper in the modern US -- for nearly 40 years they've been able to scare off a lot of American media coverage by insisting that anything critical was anti-religious and biased. A number of media outlets have now hired people or have freelancers who have theology backgrounds and Christianity bona fides, which helps a lot in more balanced, clear-eyed coverage.

This, by the way, is pants-on-head crazy. The fundamentalist bloc might, miiiiight have a point about anti-religious bias in reporting if, say, the WaPo was running editorial commentary about the various interpretations of the Sermon on the Mount and how it's affecting contemporary political positions vis a vis entitlement funding. They're not. They're running anodyne tell-it-like-it-is stories about how the SBC is employing and protecting child molesters, and how the church itself is basically an elaborate machine designed to collect money from its members and use it to fund the defense of the child rapists it employs. There's no religious nuance here, unless your position is "this passage from our holy text says we can molest children with impunity," in which case there's another conversation we need to have.
posted by Mayor West at 8:15 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


"The convention overwhelmingly approved a resolution declaring that “any person who has committed sexual abuse is permanently disqualified from holding the office of pastor.”" - AJC

I saw one attendee highly aggravated about this on Twitter. "The way resolution 5 is written, person's who committed sexual abuse while unregenerate are disqualifies from ministry after Christ saves them. What happened to Christ making us a new person? #SBC21"

Which scores four out of five for "letter of the law" and one out of six thousand for "what the hell are you thinking."
posted by delfin at 9:44 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


when it's all personal and internal and individualistic, with very little community role, it's very difficult to have accountability.... it's always striking to me, from a historical perspective, how incredibly individualistic American Christianity is in general, but fundamentalist evangelicals in particular, who have such an underdeveloped theology of community.

I think modern American xianity makes a lot more sense when you look at it not as a "religion" but as a narcissistic self-help cult/movement, where Jesus is your personal, internal life-coach, sort of like a spiritual Tony Robbins, and the goal is not about making the world a better place or helping others but about "self-actualizing" and "maximizing your potential!" This attitude is obvious in right-wing evangelicals, for whom their "personal relationship with Jesus" is a license to do whatever they want and screw over whatever minorities they want, but I also see it a lot in some of my more "liberal" Christian acquaintances: they'll post little notes to IG about how thankful they are that Jesus was with them when they auditioned for a commercial for car insurance or whatever, but they never connect their religious beliefs to anything or anyone outside themselves.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:48 AM on June 16 [11 favorites]


One person who says she's getting a mix of wonderful support and vicious attacks at the conference is Hannah Kate Williams, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by her father, a Baptist minister. Article, twitter. Trigger warnings, of course.
posted by clawsoon at 10:53 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


The prosperity gospel and concept of "planting your seed" (not through investment, but through "donations" to the church or more likely some shitty televangelist) are the modern equivalent of the old Catholic indulgences, only worse. Much worse, given that it goes directly against the rest of the theology that teaches that the only thing one needs to do to get into heaven is accept Christ as your lord and savior.

That doesn't generate the funds for luxury cars and private jets. Pretending that wealth and/or income is a sign of God's approval and saying that the only thing you need to do to get it is to give money to some charlatan, on the other hand, does.

I think the second most sickening thing about Southern Baptists in modern times is how most congregations have been taken over by this bullshit. Not only does it fuck many people over financially, but it makes it impossible to generate the political will to bring the ultra wealthy to heel. With few exceptions, the wealth is seen as a marker of of God's favor, so we can't possibly believe the wealthy do anything wrong. We'd be arguing with God's will after all.

Never mind that there are plenty of rich people who get heaped with scorn, of course. Those rich people we don't like must be agents of Satan himself.
posted by wierdo at 11:10 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


It's not just Southern Baptists. Here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is predominantly Christian Reformed, we have the DeVos-funded Acton Institute which is devoted to exactly that - biblical justifications for hoarding wealth and inflicting misery upon the less fortunate. Just as Jesus intended.
posted by JohnFromGR at 11:41 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


One thing to keep in mind about SBC resolutions is that they're non-binding. The resolution calling for a permanent ban on guilty pastors is non-binding. There will be zero enforcement, which means they can continue as "normal" when protecting molesters.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 12:02 PM on June 16 [7 favorites]


BTW, when you see people willing to out their terribleness by attacking Resolution 5, you now know they're doing it because they really really believe pastors should get away with anything. There's absolutely no reason for anyone to expose themselves as pro-molestation because the resolution is non-binding. The smart thing to do would be to shut up and wait for the moment to go away.

Fortunately they aren't smart, and this will keep it in the public eye.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 12:06 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


So what is binding? Where are the centers of actual power?
posted by clawsoon at 12:08 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


This, by the way, is pants-on-head crazy. The fundamentalist bloc might, miiiiight have a point about anti-religious bias in reporting if, say, the WaPo was running editorial commentary about the various interpretations of the Sermon on the Mount and how it's affecting contemporary political positions vis a vis entitlement funding. They're not.

Complaints about so-called "anti-religious bias" in the mainstream media stem less from good faith and more from, again, the alliance between evangelical christianity and the Republican Party, which has been working the refs with complaints about the allegedly "liberal media" for decades now, with the twin effects that much of the media bends over backwards to avoid the appearance of bias -- to the extent of abandoning the objective model of journalism for the "balanced" one, in which truth and lies are submitted equally and without comment -- and priming the faithful to disbelieve anything they see in the media that might trigger their cognitive dissonance.

If it's crazy of the SBC leadership to portray the media of bias, it's crazy like a fox. It just isn't honest. And I seem to recall a commandment against bearing false witness against one's neighbor.
posted by Gelatin at 12:10 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


The one thing they all agree on is that there should be more Southern Baptists and that their missionary efforts are the greatest thing of all the things. Which is, like... dammit, Jesus, why did you have to create that viral Great Commission meme?
posted by clawsoon at 12:14 PM on June 16


Where are the centers of actual power?

The pulpits.
posted by orange ball at 12:34 PM on June 16


Where are the centers of actual power?

In terms of rules enforcement on local churches, all that can be done is expelling a church from the SBC. The local church owns their own land, name, and pays their own budget. Even after disfellowship, the church can keep their name. Keep calling themselves Baptist. And basically proceed as normal. It's a fairly mild punishment compared to what other denominations can inflict.

The process of expulsion is usually done by the Executive Committee for violations of bylaws after the Credentials Committee makes a recommendation. Here's the process briefly explained.

The rules are laid out in the bylaws and amendments. These are voted on by the convention in session. Last time there was a big change was 2019. They streamlined the disfellowship process, and added abuse coverups as an expulsion-worthy action.

Enforcement is rather hit-or-miss. A couple of churches were expelled back in 2019 over abuse coverups. But, obviously, there's many more than those two. Also in 2019, two churches were kicked out for accepting gay members. But you could probably find at least a few tolerant churches flying under the radar.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 12:37 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


The local church owns their own land, name, and pays their own budget.

One thing I saw in some article or another was a poorer Black church struggling with its decision to leave given the money that they'd lose for local charity work. I guess something like that would create a power dynamic between richer churches and poorer ones?
posted by clawsoon at 12:55 PM on June 16


Definitely a power dynamic at play. And it would be a cudgel that could be enforced against very young churches. The ones called "church starts". They're dependent on denominational money for a time before they're self-sufficient.

And branding is important. Many in my family will only attend an SB church. They'd avoid, and frequently disparage, an unaffiliated Baptist congregation. Expelled churches will face splits and reduced local funding.

I don't know the effects of branding in the black community. Seems like the SB label would be more of a negative considering the SBC's terrible history. But I could be wrong on that.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 1:29 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Yeah part of the whole Baptist thing is a rejection of any sort of centralized church authority as Papist and inherently corrupt, corrupting, and false. Each local church is a full representation in miniature of the whole Church, and they don't need to all join together. Congregationalist churches can be more democratic or more focused on preachers -- Quakers, Amish, Mennonites, and a variety of types of Baptists (including the SBC) are all Congregationalist, and they all function in really different ways with really different types of governance. (Modern Protestant megachurches are ALMOST all congregationalist; a small handful are offshoots of (usually) Presbyterian-type churches, which allow slightly more centralized organization.)

So on the one hand we have highly centralized denominations like Catholics and Anglicans, where abusive priests have been shuttled around and hidden and the power of the denomination was used for coverups. BUT when those denominations decide to crack down, they have a lot of tools for that -- they own the land, they control ordination, they can defrock priests, they manage the finances, they have authority to say what sacraments are legit and which are not. On the other hand, we have Southern Baptists, who are all little independent churches who choose to fellowship together, and quitting or being disfellowshipped is kinda a big deal? But not a huge deal -- they can't take your money or your land or your building or even your pastor. So you don't have a large, worldwide organization shuttling abusers around to hide them. Buuuuuuut if you fire a pastor, there's zero ability to prevent another church from hiring him, there's very little in the way of centralized HR or record keeping, there's no obligation to report why you fired him. Abusive pastors can shuttle themselves around, and never submit to any discipline, as long as they're reasonably slick talkers.

This is why buy-in from rank-and-file SBC members and from individual churches is so important -- if local congregations are shruggo about abuse, they will just ignore it, and that pastor will move on to other churches and abuse more people. That's basically the fear here, and I think the likely outcome is that ultraconservative churches simply ignore the resolutions and just refuse to address abuse and abusers. Which could lead to the entire SBC just shrugging off abuse, and a continuing exodus of members and churches who take it seriously. Or it could lead to a schism between the ultraconservative SBC churches and the "simply conservative" ones.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:18 PM on June 16 [9 favorites]


The worst people in the SBC are young and fully overlapping with MRAs like Owen Strachan. Ugh. That's the future of the fringe to go mainstream.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 4:33 PM on June 16


Yeah part of the whole Baptist thing is a rejection of any sort of centralized church authority as Papist and inherently corrupt, corrupting, and false.

Do they really not see the irony of adhering instead to centralized political authority?
posted by Gelatin at 5:43 AM on June 17


It's even more ironic than that. The Anabaptists had been persecuted horribly, so when Baptists came along a century or so later, they were really strong proponents of religious tolerance and the separation of church and state.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:54 AM on June 17 [7 favorites]


Yeah, check out the official faith statement:
"Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. "

(Also a bunch of stuff about how the government can't tax religions etc.) But the SBC's official theology and its institutional practice are frequently worlds apart. (Which, I mean, that is The Story of Organized Religion, just generally. But it does get extra ironic sometimes.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:58 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


all things not contrary to the revealed will of God

...is a pretty big loophole, ain't it?
posted by clawsoon at 11:02 AM on June 17


A couple of churches were expelled back in 2019 over abuse coverups. But, obviously, there's many more than those two. Also in 2019, two churches were kicked out for accepting gay members.

Wow, they really are a garbage organization, aren't they.
posted by ryanrs at 1:29 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Very much a garbage organization. Litton might alter their course a little, but there's no turning that garbage barge around.

I predict the next high profile expulsions will be over ordaining women. There was quite a bit of noise at the convention about churches that did that. And that was one of the bigger sources of opposition to Ed Litton. Ed would sometimes let his wife speak from the pulpit. Oh the horror. That will put particular pressure on Litton & the executive committee to go after anyone who challenges the sausage fest.

And speaking of worldly politics, it never ceases to amuse me how little any of these people ever consider the words of Jesus: "My kingdom is not of this world."
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 5:35 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


My mom's childhood church, her dad's cradle to grave church, was kicked out of the SBC 20 years ago for taking the very Baptist step of choosing to ordain their long term youth director. But the SBC wouldn't allow them to follow their beliefs about God's leading because the youth director was a woman. I believe that's one of the more common reasons for churches being kicked out of the SBC.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:17 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Disfellowshipped SBC churches who lean progressive-ish often join the ABC, who like to semi-jokingly call themselves "the Other Baptists." The original Baptist fellowship in the United States (which was founded by a dude the Puritans declared a heretic) split into the Northern Baptist Church and the Southern Baptist Church when the fellowship voted to refuse to ordain slaveholders in 1845. The Southern Baptist Churches quit and formed the SBC. The Northern Baptist churches eventually rebranded as the ABC. They were the very progressive white baptists during Civil Rights era (since that Atlantic article above really wanted to talk about white baptists' positive participation in the Civil Rights era, but it was not the SBC doing that).

ABC churches ordain women, and continue to declare that performing LGBTQ+ marriages are a decision for local congregations, and have repeatedly resisted attempts to ban local congregations from performing them.

There are approximately 1/10 the size of the SBC. They are also, largely because of their geographical distribution, very very white. There are less white than the SBC, and tend to be slightly less white than other local mainline Protestant churches. But it's not the ideal you'd like to see in America where Sunday morning is not the most racially segregated day in America, and I don't want anyone to get the impression that it is. They are a church who have been out front on racial issues since 1845 and should be applauded for that, but they are still what I would characterize as a white church.

(They actually do some pretty interesting things to fellowship with Black Baptist churches, but right now it's very much two separate groups working together sometimes.)

Most Americans have never heard of them! But if you're curious what a more progressive version of a Baptist Church with a very straight up congregationalist baptist theology would look like, that's a lot what they would look like, and if you have family members who are sadly leaving the SBC because it has gone way too far right for them, you might see if there's an ABC Church local to them to check out. (There's only like 5,000 of their churches nationwide, they're a really small denomination. But your family member might get lucky.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:46 AM on June 18 [7 favorites]


There's only like 5,000 of their churches nationwide, they're a really small denomination.

You have just explained the puzzle of the local Baptist church, which is by far the left-iest of the many churches in the village.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:56 PM on June 18 [3 favorites]


Which scores four out of five for "letter of the law" and one out of six thousand for "what the hell are you thinking."

I don't think we should cede the law to them on this point. Conventionally, qualifications for leadership in the Church are over and above those of salvation. To work around that is to discard the basis of a lot of hot button things in the Church (i.e. ordination of women). On the other hand, if you are truly a new person in Christ then that implies its own difficult commitments which a Southern Baptist would be equally as uncomfortable with.
posted by wotsac at 2:40 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


I don't think we should cede the law to them on this point. Conventionally, qualifications for leadership in the Church are over and above those of salvation.

Along that line, a number of people in the Twitter comments were quoting 1 Timothy 3 to the effect that people with leadership roles in the church should be "above reproach".
posted by clawsoon at 5:03 PM on June 19 [3 favorites]


clawsoon - I should HOPE! Being against sex pests (and worse) in the ministry is hardly a liberal only position. Even the folks that do it will go to lengths to explain to others and themselves why they're not doing it.
posted by wotsac at 5:45 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


New SBC President Ed Litton apologizes for using JD Greear sermon quotes without credit

Seems like a minor brouhaha to me, but should produce much yelling from the anti-Litton ultraconservative pirates. This has been a good year for those rooting for injuries in SBC politics.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 1:48 AM on June 29


You down with ABC

YEAH YOU KNOW ME*


*PCUSA, sorry
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:18 PM on June 29


White Evangelicals Now Outnumbered by Mainline Protestants in U.S.

Posting this here because it adds a nice coda to this year's Convention. The conservative vs. ultra-conservative fight is especially useless as the under 40's continue to flee the church in droves. Average white evangelical age is now 56.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 9:47 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


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