After some commotion and a bit of to-and-froing, the Southern Baptist Convention recently denounced alt-right white supremacy, and did so overwhelmingly. As far as that goes, considered within a narrow compass, no problems. When alt-right racists get poked with any kind of stick, it is difficult for me to summon up any kind of sorrow.
“Racism and white supremacy are, sadly, not extinct but present all over the world in various white supremacist movements, sometimes known as ‘white nationalism’ or ‘alt-right.’ The messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention . . . decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ . . . . We denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil.”
The full statement can be found here, and almost all of it is very good.
Okay, someone mutters. You are about to say but . . .
But here is the problem. The SBC statement admirably denounces every form of racism in general, but specifically denounces only one kind of racism, the kind that has recently come bubbling to the surface in the alt-right movement. What this does is almost completely ignore where the alt-right movement is deriving its energy. So that pot is coming to a boil. What is the burner underneath that pot? How is it that they are attracting recruits? More about this in a moment.
Here is a thought experiment. Suppose someone introduced another resolution, next time around, identical in theology to this one, and identical in theological expression to this one, but with the only difference being that the specific groups denounced were the Nation of Islam or Black Lives Matter. The same sin is rejected, and for the same reason—because of the denial of what the blood of Jesus Christ was intended to do. God intended to make one new man out of the two. Right?
Does anyone believe that such a resolution would sail through? I am afraid that it would not. There would be an uproar because, while the theology was righteous, there would be legitimate suspicion that there was a surreptitious (political) agenda in the selectivity of the identified villains. And so there would be.
And this is why, when representatives of Jesus Christ are denouncing hateful bigotries, and they take it upon themselves to repudiate what star-bellied sneetches have done to the non-star-bellied sneetches, they must also take care to address any problems that have run the other way. This must all be done at the same time. Otherwise, the church is being played. In the New Testament, the Jews have to love and accept the Gentiles, and the Gentiles also have to love and accept the Jews. Everybody does this, and all at the same time. True communion at the Table of Christ must run in every direction. No one is permitted to come with any grievances in hand. All of us must set all of them down.
The leadership of the church must be seen as insisting on this. If we do not, what happens? Instead of presenting a gospel-oriented “third way,” we are actually being used by various competing factions in the world.
I have noticed for some decades that evangelical Christians are adept at adopting worldly fashions ten years after the world has done adopted them, and then doing it worse. This is true of fashion, music, diets, you name it. It is also true of political fads and fashions. As chronic late adapters, we are often climbing on board just as the carnal overreaction to the carnal stupidity is setting in. The world is about to throw off whatever it was as “dumb and stupid,” while we are all clamoring to be included. “May we join you on board?” we ask the disembarking passengers.
For a generation or so, our society has been busy at creating the preconditions for the rise of the alt-right. We have done this by abandoning the early promises of the civil rights movement (to judge on the basis of content of character only), and by instituting a hard regime of political correctness, hating whitey, affirmative action, not to mention vitriolic denunciations of those “racists” who believe that budgets should balance.
So let me say it again. The alt-right is the bastard child of obsequious political correctness on race. That is where this is coming from. That is the root. That is where the energy is coming from. And so what are we doing in the church? Right when the explosive (and sinful) reaction has started to happen, we say (ten years late), that we need to copy what the world did in order to get us into this mess.
No. No thumb on the scales of racial reconciliation. Equal weights and measures. Even-handedness. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek.
I said at the beginning that (considered in isolation) I found it hard to summon up any sorrow over denunciations of the alt-right. But I think it is only fair to say that I believe that one-sided denunciations of one sort of racial animosity is not something that will in any way dismay members of the alt-right. They will welcome it. That kind of thing is their food, their nourishment. And if you don’t want weeds in your garden, then stop fertilizing and watering them.