The Full Ascol

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Introduction

The title of this post was almost “As White as a Woke Southern Baptist.” That would have reflected a proverb that might be circulating throughout the tribe of Judah even now. And if we didn’t do something, and fast, it would not be long before the proverb would have to be changed to “as woke as a white Southern Baptist.” You can take a minute with that if you like.

A Representative Entrée

A representative entrée being served up here at Dog’s Breakfast Café would have to be an article written by the then dean of Boyce College, and currently the provost at Southern Seminary. The structure of the article is pure identity politics, with the white cotton batting of evangelical clichés tied off around it all, protecting it from scratches. That cotton batting actually throws a lot of people—they are used to those kind of muffled sounds from the pulpit, and assume that if they are present then all must be orthodox and swell. But evangelical clichés are pretty flexible and can be wrapped around all kinds of different shapes.

The article in question was written three years ago, just after the shooting of Philando Castile. Here is the cash quote that says it all:

“Perhaps the best thing you can do to start is to take a humble posture, recognizing that you have a racialized worldview of which you are likely unaware. Your beliefs, attitudes, and values have been formed in ways deeply informed by whiteness.”

And if you wanted a deeper understanding of how Hall is thinking about these matters, there used to be a video clip in which he helps you understand whether or not you are a racist.

This kind of thing has been proceeding apace in the Southern Baptist Convention, and so in one sense there is nothing new to see here. Yesterday’s newspaper, right?

Why hasn’t the SBC taken swift and definitive action against those who are seeking to introduce this radically alien understanding of how our identity in Christ relates to our identity as whites and blacks, men and women, educated and uneducated, tall and short? And why have they taken decisive action elsewhere?

Scrubbing Honest Answers

I wrote the first draft of this post on Saturday, right after I read Hall’s article here, and watched his video here. But if you click on these links now, all you will get is a big fat “Not Found,” which is interesting. They were there last Saturday, but not there Sunday. Hall’s comments had begun to circulate online last week, and presto, social justice content began disappearing. So with regard to my interactions with Hall’s outlook, you are just going to have to trust me.

It is more than a bit ironic that social justice selections from a video series entitled Honest Answers is being memory holed. But to be clear on the point, I certainly don’t mind the authorities in the Southern Baptist world taking bad content down. That’s what I am asking for, actually.

What I do mind is them doing so in a fashion that will enable them to continue to pretend that the trailer for By What Standard wasn’t a bullseye. It was a bullseye. What I do mind is a disingenuous removal of content that proves the critics’ point entirely while simultaneously pretending that the critics have gotten themselves into a lather over a bunch of nothing.

Important Update: Nothing is ever really gone on the Internet. Here is a link to the article that should work.

The Full Ascol

But you don’t understand, Wilson. Southern Baptist polity does not allow for immediate, instantaneous discipline of errant ministers, academics, and whatnot. They are not episcopal, for example, and do not have a top down method of governance. They could not land on any particular individual hard, the way the Anglicans dealt with their unfortunate situation with Tom Ascol . . .

Excuse me, I am being interrupted with some breaking news . . . Ascol is a Southern Baptist? The poohbahs landed on him within minutes of his trailer dropping? It reminded intelligent observers of one of the more impressive moves of the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon—everybody in sync like that? All the seminary presidents threw their rifles into the air as one man?

Correction: Southern Baptists do know how to land on a troublesome somebody quick and hard. Blog & Mablog regrets the error.

They also know how to remove Internet content ipso pronto as Scipio Africanus might have put it.

So my point here—a glaringly obvious one, to be sure—is to contrast the ho-hummery that provides the background noises for the advance of identity politics in the SBC with the vigorous and strident reaction that happened when a short trailer about an upcoming documentary/exposé dropped. That documentary is not guilty of challenging the basic faith of Southern Baptists, which would be a venial sin, but rather guilty of challenging the reputation and position of the appointed guardians of the Southern Baptists, which is apparently a mortal one.

Founders Ministries was behind the trailer, and the lead voice in that trailer belonged to Tom Ascol, a gentleman and a real churchman. And the immediate blow-up shows us that some things never change. The Trojans, naturally, are far more concerned about the tone of Laocoön than they are curious about the faint scraping noises coming from inside the horse.

That’s what Trojans do. That’s how these stories go.

Don’t tell me that Southern Baptists cannot deal with an immediate threat. Don’t tell me they don’t know how to do it. Don’t tell me there are polity restrictions. All Tom Ascol had to do was release a short trailer that promised to address some of genuine problems in the Convention, and it was as though Tom licked his forefinger and attempted to touch their eyeball. They responded with all the requisite promptitude that one might expect.

But at least we now have our baseline metric to indicate the capability of the SBC in responding to something. We shall henceforth call it The Full Ascol (TFA), and it can be applied to anything. Fractions can even be applied to it. For just one example, concerns in the SBC about those who advocate women filling the pulpit would garner a .0936 Ascol, or .09TFA. If somebody thinks whiteness is a spiritual disease, then that should be no barrier to him becoming provost at Southern, since the general reaction initially only registered at .067TFA.

I am just trying to get our discussion of these matters on a more scientific footing.

A Brief Reply to Hall

I have asserted there are problems with Hall’s take, but we live in troubled times, and what those problems actually are should not be assumed, but rather pointed out and deconstructed.

Again, my original plan had been to link to all kinds of stuff, so that you, my dear readers, could read everything in context. But alas, honest answers have been scrubbed. Seriously? Without comment?

Let’s start with that troublesome quote. Here it is again:

“Perhaps the best thing you can do to start is to take a humble posture, recognizing that you have a racialized worldview of which you are likely unaware. Your beliefs, attitudes, and values have been formed in ways deeply informed by whiteness.”

So first, let us take the proposed standard and apply it in the first instance to the person promulgating that standard. Is Hall contaminated by any whiteness? Is this statement a product of whiteness? Speaking frankly and just between us girls, it is the whitest thing I have read in quite some time. And if it is just whitey talking, why should we listen to whitey? And if it isn’t, then how did Hall manage to get loose from his whiteness chains? If the answer rhymes with critical race theory, then I think we have identified the problem.

So my outlook is deeply informed by whiteness, is it? Like all such erroneous teaching, there is a strong element of truth in it. Of course a white man is going to speak and write as a white man. I suppose that’s what “informed by whiteness” is supposed to mean. That’s the position God assigned to him. A black man is supposed to speak and write as a black man, and that’s from God also. Of course, all our knowledge is situated.

But in Christ, the white man and the black man can appreciate the gifts and graces of the other (instead of misunderstanding and resenting them). But that only happens when the red blood of Christ has dealt with the natural animosities and vainglories that the sinful hearts of white and black men alike manufacture with such ease. And in the goodness of God, when men are forgiven, they are equipped to love others from the place where God has situated them, and they should be able do so without someone describing their race as a spiritual pollution.

The blood of Christ puts racism (i.e. racial vainglory and/or racial animosity) to death. By way of contrast, critical race theory plants those two forms of racism deep in the fertile soil of the resentful hearts of men, and then juices them with the MiracleGro of trendy academic jargon.

Hall takes something God did in creation (whiteness) and makes that the name of the sin. Imagine doing this to anyone else, for any reason. “You need to repent of your Hispanic ancestry . . . You need to repent of your womanhood . . . you need to repent, yeah, you, for those blue eyes.” No, you couldn’t get away with that in any other realm. It only works with whiteness these days, and with masculinity, which is toxic by definition.

Now a prophetic ministry will throw down idols, and that includes any idols that have been graven out of the milky marble of whiteness. Sure, topple the idolatry, and you can certainly be my guest. But to make someone’s race the name of the sin? 

In the check-your-racism video, Hall distinguishes ethnocentrism, that thing that has done bad things all over the world, from racism here in this country, which he says is the downstream legacy of chattel slavery. I don’t know what making such a distinction does for his case. Our legacy-of-slavery animosities and bigotries are simply our species of the genus ethnocentrism. We are not that unusual. Human beings have felt superior to one another, and have hated one another, and have enslaved one another, for a long, long time. And Christ did not come so that the Christian church could be a late entry in this tournament of tangles. We were supposed to preach an alternative to all of it.

But Hall also pulls his punch, just like the authorities pulled his video. He starts out really strong. Am I a racist? Well, he says, in North America racism has seeped into everything, and has gotten into all the cracks. So if you live in this country, and if you are human, then it would be safe to say that you have been “affected by racism.” Okay, what does that mean? Affected how? Tainted by? Slightly racist? The actual conclusion of his implied line of reasoning is that if you live in this country, and if you are (a white) human, then, yes, you are a racist.

Awake, O Letter to the Ephesians

What many don’t realize is that the first part of Ephesians is the unwoke part of the letter, especially that predestination business in chapter one. The hinge of the letter, the turning point, the place where Paul comes into the light is where he cries out to the sleeper to awake. He too awakes, he too gets woke.

“Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph. 5:14).

This means that we have to go back to the earlier parts of the letter and edit everything accordingly. Awake, first part of Ephesians!

I speak particularly of that glib way in which the unwoke Paul had attempted to deal with the ethnic hostility between Jew and Gentile.

“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace” (Eph. 2:13–15).

Let’s edit it according to later trends, shall we?

“But now according to the most recent HR guidelines ye marginalized who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the order of the Supreme Court. For the Court is our bulwark of liberty, who hath made both ostensibly one, although the micro-aggressions of the white people hath seeped into everything, and hath contaminated all. The Court hath posted these regulations on the middle wall of partition between us, having memorialized our enmity through the law, even the law of commandments that requireth a heightened racialization of every issue; for to make from themselves multiple tribes, thus achieving diversity, fragmentation, and bitter enmity” (Ephesians Woke 2:13–15).

Back to the Founders

Given what the public response to all this was, I can only imagine the behind-the-scenes pressures that are currently being applied to the Founders. I am thinking along the lines of red hot pincers and bastinado.

But whatever happens now, the men behind the Founders trailer already won this round. They got the Convention’s undivided attention. They were treated as having risen to the dignity of being a real threat. This was their big promotion. The provost of Southern had his teaching on whiteness unceremoniously yanked, which was also, as long as we are on this subject and using these categories, a very white thing to do. Al Sharpton wouldn’t have done it.

I do have one concern with regard to the Founders, and a word of encouragement for them. This was a victory, it really was, but I would encourage them to remember that one of the key principles in situations like this is the principle of pursuit. If there is more where that came from—as I am sure there is—we should hope to see a good deal more. Soon.

We wouldn’t want to be in the position of the prophet, peeved that the king didn’t whack the arrows a few more times. 

“And he said, Take the arrows. And he took them. And he said unto the king of Israel, Smite upon the ground. And he smote thrice, and stayed. And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times; then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it: whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice” (2 Kings 13:18–19).