I am going to make a motion at the SBC in Baltimore in a few minutes calling for an assessment of where we stand and how we can move forward in increasing racial and ethnic minority leadership at all levels of the SBC:
"In light of the upcoming 20th anniversary of Southern Baptist Convention's 1995 Resolution on Racial Reconciliation, I move that the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Baltimore, MD, June 10-11, 2014, authorize the president of the Southern Baptist Convention to form a task force to bring a report to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Columbus, Ohio, June 16-17, 2015 to assess our current progress in pursuing Biblical racial reconciliation within our convention and to make concrete recommendations to the messengers regarding how Southern Baptists, facilitated by the Convention's entities and seminaries, may better reach, make disciples, and raise up leadership from and among diverse racial and ethnic groups in North America."
These are exciting days for Maryland Baptists for many reasons, but next week marks one of those reasons as we welcome our larger Southern Baptist family to our state’s largest and most influential city. We hope you enjoy Baltimore!
But several weeks ago, our excitement grew exponentially here in the “free state” when we learned that one of our own—Dr. Dennis Manpoong Kim—would be nominated for SBC President. Many of the same things went through our minds that have probably went through yours—how great it would be to have an SBC President who actually lives in a region we seek to reach with the Gospel. How great would it be to have an SBC President who is fluent not only in English, but also a dialect that represents a huge minority of immigrant peoples. And how great would it be for our denomination—with its global aspirations—to be led by a truly global leader?
But for those of us who know Dennis Kim, what has gone through our minds the most is this: “How great is it that Dwight McKissic is nominating one whom we know to be a godly man of integrity—a man who has served his church and Maryland Baptists as well as we are confident he would serve Southern Baptist as a whole?”
If you have been keeping up with the press releases regarding Dr. Kim, you already know that he leads the largest SBC church in Maryland. You already know that, though predominantly Korean, Global Mission Church is a model for multi-cultural and multi-ethnic ministry. You already know that they have planted multiple churches, not only in our own region, but in other areas around our nation and the world. And, you already know of Dr. Kim’s laser-focus on evangelism and disciplemaking that have made Global Mission Church the congregation it is today. But since most of you don’t know him personally, I’d like to give you some insight from those of us who do.
For as long as I have known Brother Dennis, I’ve known he and his church to be people of intense, strategic, and intentional prayer. You can learn much about prayer from listening to sermons on the topic, or by reading books on the topic, but I’ve never learned more about prayer than when I am with our Korean brothers and sisters at 5:30 AM—calling out to God and begging Him for spiritual revival and the continued extension of His Kingdom through our churches. James chides us by saying “you have not because you ask not.” As I observe Global Mission Church, and Dr. Kim’s leadership, I can’t help but think that the primary reason they have seen growth, maturity, and Kingdom multiplication is because they model for the rest of us how to ask for it daily. We speak much about praying for revival in our denomination. Our leaders call for it constantly. Brother Dennis does it.
I also know Brother Dennis to be a consensus-builder and unifier. I have a few pastors like this in my own Association, and I thank God for these men who love, not only their own church, but who love other pastors and other churches, and support them. The last time Brother Dennis and I spoke face to face was about a month ago. Korean Hope Church of Glenwood Marylandhonored me by asking me to speak at their Constituting service as a new church. When I got up to speak, I noticed Dr. Kim sitting in the front row to my right. I would learn later that his busy schedule made his ability to speak at this event uncertain, but when he realized he could make it, he simply came to show his support. Here was the pastor of the largest church in Maryland sitting in a service where he would not speak, simply because he cared for this new church, and wanted to join the strong support that our Korean brothers and sisters always give to new churches when they launch. That afternoon, he stayed to join the rest of us for fantastic Korean food, and a beautiful outdoor event celebrating this new church. As always, he was “just one of the guys,” a pastor’s pastor if ever anyone could be given that title. This is the kind of humble, unassuming man I’ve always known Brother Dennis to be. In Asian cultural contexts, it is not considered rude or inappropriate for someone of his stature to presume a certain position or recognition, but I have always observed Brother Dennis to have the heart of a servant-leader. There is a unique unity among Baptists in Maryland, and much of that unity and focus on mission can be attributed to men like Dr. Kim.
But when you take the prayerful humility I’ve described and you wrap it in a globally-aware, bilingual, strategic thinker like Dr. Kim, the result is a man poised to lead our denomination—still a largely regional group of churches—into its future as a truly global Convention. No one understands the world nearly as well as one who has lived on both sides of it, and we have in Dr. Kim a man eminently qualified to help us engage all of that world.
I am thankful to be part of a Convention that is able to present three good and godly people as Presidential nominees, and each will have his unique strengths described for our consideration during the nomination process. But if I am asked who I think is best suited to lead us toward becoming the globally effective people we aspire to be, I have no doubt that the life experience, ministry expertise, and Christ-centered passion of Dennis Manpoong Kim make him the best choice. I will be honored on Tuesday morning to cast my vote for a man whose leadership I have followed in Maryland for years, and whose leadership I would gladly submit to should our Convention feel the same way.
I am excited by the nomination of Dennis Kim for president of the Southern Baptist Convention because I think that it speaks to a new day in the SBC when we begin to draw leadership from outside of the traditional Southern states and known Baptist circles of influence. I pray that his candidacy will open the door for qualified leadership to emerge from all corners of Southern Baptist life so that we can truly be a denomination of churches that reflects the nations of the earth. I'll be supporting Dr. Kim in Baltimore next week.
Following the Convention, Hunt added four more members, saying, "After announcing the names of the GCR task force, I received feedback about the need for greater representation," Hunt said July 8 in a statement to Baptist Press. "I have added an African American who is a church planter, a Hispanic, an additional woman who also is familiar with the western region of the U.S., and a representative of the Northeast region.
"I want Southern Baptists to know I heard their concerns and have responded," Hunt said.
You can see who was on the Task Force in the link above.
I am not in favor of quota systems according to race/ethnicity. We should first look to Christian character, calling, and experience. But, in a Task Force designed to consider the future of the SBC in regard to carrying out the Great Commission in North America where Race and Ethnicity are MAJOR issues, why was racial/ethnic diversity and representation an afterthought? And, why were there no concrete recommendations for our churches/entities regarding how we can reach people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and cultures, especially when we consider how Southern Baptists have historically struggled in this area? My guess, if I had to make one, is that it just was not thought of. The focus was on NAMB, reorganization, money, the Cooperative Program, and funding issues. The major players who led the Task Force and made it up had their own concerns and those concerns were reflected in the report. Becoming a more ethnically and racially diverse convention of churches was not a part of what they were addressing.
Five years have passed since Johnny Hunt put his Task Force together to reshape the SBC. Baptisms and membership continue to decline. Some of this is inevitable and is based in demographics, not necessarily a lack of fervency. There have been great strides made in church planting and NAMB's reorganization has been a seeming success. I thank God for the election of Fred Luter as our first African American president of the SBC in 2012. We are seeing more and more ethnic church planting and we are seeing greater participation from various races and ethnic groups in Baptist life. I am encouraged by the progress that seems to be occurring just because the gospel is bearing fruit.
But, we have a long way to go for the SBC to be a denomination that is reaching all people effectively. Next year marks the 20th Anniversary of the landmark 1995 Resolution on Racial Reconciliation that apologized for slavery and racism in our founding and our past. We have made progress in this area of gospel reconciliation. But, we have a lot further to go.
Dennis Kim: As the first Christian in my family, I accepted Christ as the Lord and Savior of my life in 1962. I became interested in evangelism and world missions as I studied the Bible. When I was in college, I became specifically interested in sharing the gospel with teenagers as a secondary school English teacher. I prayed whether or not I had the calling for ministry after my pastor and professors recommended me to go to seminary. In answer to my prayer, God gave me the conviction of His calling and I decided to commit my life for God’s glory serving as a pastor and a seminary professor. I started my ministry in 1970 serving as a student pastor. Ever since, I have graduated from various seminaries in South Korea and America and I am currently serving as a pastor and a professor.
Alan Cross: If there was anything that you would say is a theme for your life and ministry, what would it be?
Dennis Kim: I have endeavored in the ministry of the gospel in accordance with 2 Timothy 2:15 - "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth." I have worked diligently in order to handle the Word correctly because I firmly believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God that is infallible and inerrant. I have strived to live out the gospel according to the lessons that I learned from the Bible studies. I also devoted my life to preach the Word to the world and to other believers. I consider Ezra (Ezra 7:10) and the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 4:9) my role models.
AC: You seem to have a great passion for local church involvement in God's Mission. Tell us about how you see the role of the local church in the Mission of God.
KIM: Christ, the Head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23), has commissioned all believers to makedisciples of all nations with all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 20:18-20;Mark 16:15;Acts 1:8). Therefore, it is only natural for Christians to carry out the task that the Lord has given us. This commission cannot be fulfilled by the efforts of a single church. The New Testament shows us that the apostle Paul accomplished the mission of the church by partnering with other co-workers and local churches. I actively collaborate with the Southern Baptist Convention because I highly value the fact that SBC churches are cooperating with one another for greater effectiveness in witnessing Christ.
AC: Can you tell us about your greatest disappointment in your ministry? Perhaps something that you would do differently if you had an opportunity?
KIM: I cannot recall an incident in which I was greatly disappointed during 43years of my ministry. I have always endeavored to preach and teach about the importance of testifying the gospel and making disciples of all nations. But there was a time when I was somewhat disappointed at my inability to present a specific method and strategy to fulfill the Great Commission. But because of my disappointment, I began to pray even more fervently. As an answer to my prayer, God gave me the wisdom to develop the Anothen Training for evangelism and discipleship in 2012.
AC: How have you seen yourself grow in your faith over the years? With your family and with your church?
KIM: Through Bible study, I realized the truth of the gospel that we are saved only through faith in Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). I believe that the Bible is infallible and inerrant Word of God (Ps. 119:96; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). The Bible is the book that equips the people of God for all kinds of good works (2 Tim. 3:17). Over the years, I have seen my family and church grow in Christ-likeness as we strived to grow in our unity and knowledge of the Son of God by following the biblical guidelines (Eph. 4:11-16). We will continue to grow in our knowledge of Christ (2 Pet. 3:16) by staying committed to worship, prayer, Bible study, fellowship, service, evangelism, and world missions.
AC: Why are you a Southern Baptist? What draws you to Southern Baptist life and keeps you active and participating?
KIM: I am a Southern Baptist because God, in His providence, has led me to the Southern Baptist Convention. I give my wholehearted consent to the theology and ethics of the Southern Baptist Faith and Message. I believe in the biblical principle of baptism and cooperation for world missions. I know and truly appreciate the collaboration among International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, GuideStone Financial Resources and the convention's six seminaries for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. I am grateful for this spirit and heritage of cooperation. I was privileged to make use of all these resources as the senior pastor of the Global Mission Church of Greater Washington for the past 23 years.
AC: What are your prayers and hopes for the SBC in the future? What do you hope to see God do in us and through us?
KIM: I want the SBC to continue to focus on world evangelization through evangelism and discipleship. When I served in the Task Force for Evangelism Impact and Declining Baptism, I received the statistical data that about 1,000 Southern Baptist churches are closing every year. I have been praying for a revival for this nation with a broken heart. I also fully commit myself to collaborate with the SBC in its initiative to develop a strategy for effective evangelism and discipleship in order to plant 1,500 churches every year. I believe in the biblical promise that the Lord Jesus will return when the gospel has been preached to every people group of all nations (Matt. 24:14). I will thus pray, train, and promote active cooperation among all believers for the coming of the Lord.
AC: If there was one thing that you could change about the SBC, what would it be?
KIM: God willing, I may provide an evangelistic tool that is simple enough to train all church members, effective enough to ignite believers' passion for evangelism, and engaging enough to captivate the hearts of the present generation. As an answer to my prayer, the Lord gave me the wisdom to develop an effective tool of evangelism and discipleship called Anothen Training. If the members of the SBC generously accept my initiatives, I would like to introduce Anothen Training and equip Southern Baptist churches so that we may share the gospel effectively, increase the number of our baptisms, revitalize our passion for evangelism, and plant more gospel-driven churches.
AC: Finally, why are you willing to serve Southern Baptists in the office of President if you are elected in Baltimore? What do you hope to bring to our Convention through your leadership?
KIM: I was surprised that several leaders of the SBC recommended me as a candidate for the office of president. I was not expecting this nomination, for I have always considered myself as an ordinary servant of the Lord. I have collaborated with the ministry of SBC with joy and willingness because I believe all servants need to learn, emulate, and follow the leadership of the Lord. I will continue to remain faithful in my companionship with all other fellow laborers of God’s kingdom. If God gives me the opportunity to serve as the president of the SBC, I hope to contribute to the convention by introducing and implementing an effective strategy for evangelism and reproductive discipleship that the Lord has commanded us to do (2 Tim. 2:2).
When Alan asked me if I would share, he said for me to think about what I have learned about God through motherhood. I began to think and pray and make a mess of my journal. Messy as it was, there were three main things that stood out to me.The first thing that came to mind is something God keeps on showing me over and over. It is the thing that if you don’t hear anything else, hear this: It’s that God is real and He cares. God is real, and he cares. He really cares about me and you and the details of our lives. For me, personally, I have seen His care through his provisions for me as a mom. He gives me strength and rest and patience (though I don’t always receive that particular provision). He gives me those sweet moments when my children show gratitude or a love for others or for me that I know is from Him. God is real and he cares.
The second biggest thing God has shown me through motherhood is that every day I have a choice to make. I believe all of us, mothers or not, have a thing that’s difficult to deal with, perhaps a person who’s difficult to deal with. All of us have challenges that can take us on the road to sin and seeing those challenges as burdens or the road to sanctification as we view those difficulties as blessings. For me, being a mom is that thing. It is the one thing in my life where the temptation to complain, or give in to bitterness or anger or comparison or inadequacy is greatest. It’s really easy as a mom to start feeling sorry for yourself. I am sure, because we’re all sinners, that whatever your thing is, your job, chronic illness, difficult relationships, whatever…I’m sure it’s really easy for you to feel sorry for yourself too. For me, I may think things like, I have to take care of this person AGAIN! Haven’t I changed like a 100 diapers already today? How long can a person really go without a shower before she becomes a health hazard? When will I get ‘me’ time? There have been times in my life as a mom where I have gone down that road. It was ugly. It was full of whining and complaining. I am sure I was not living the abundant life Jesus talks about. I remember so very vividly after my fourth child was born and I was counting the hours of sleep I didn’t get. I remember the thought, which I think was the Holy Spirit saying ‘get over yourself.’ That was a pivotal moment where I began to view my role as a mother as the life-giving place that God had me. There were no fewer diapers or whining or runny noses, but there was real life and freedom and grace and love, and its flow was more than I could possibly absorb and way more than enough to minister to these precious little ones entrusted to me for a time. I realized then and there that every day I have a choice to make.
Lately I have been reading and rereading Colossians and trying to soak it in. A couple things have stood out to me which are also applicable to what I’m sharing. Remember the put off and put on passages? Col 3:8 says we are to put off anger,rage, malice, slander and filthy language. And in verse 3:12 it says we are to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. As a mom, I am to put off the world’s idea of children and of motherhood, that they are a burden, or a thing to check off my life list, and I am to put on Christ. Put on His idea of children and motherhood. That I am blessed to be able to have this short stewardship, that children are a gift from the Lord, that the very things I am tempted to complain about are the very things that force me to get my eyes off of myself, to serve others and to take part in kingdom work. He meets me in those hard places, because He is real and He cares. (Ya see what I did there? God is real and he cares.) In Colossians, we see the choice we have to make. We can view our circumstances as burdens or blessings because they create in us Christ-likeness. When I properly orient to my role as mother, I see Jesus and He’s beautiful!
The other thing I have noticed reading through Colossians is the third and finalthing I want to share. Have you ever noticed how much, especially toward the end of the book, Paul talks about gratitude?
2:7-He says for them to remain rooted in Christ overflowing with thankfulness
3:16-Have gratitude in your hearts to God
3:17-Whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him
4:2-Devote yourselves to prayer being watchful and thankful
I have found that gratitude goes a long way in helping me experience motherhood the way God wants me to experience it. When I am having a rough day, I try to stop and just start being thankful. I usually start big and extreme, like thank you that I don’t live in a hut in the desert or thank you that I have indoor plumbing and then it becomes easier and easier to thank Him for the little things as well. And finally I am able to thank Him for the very thing that got me all tied up in knots in the first place. I know that whether you are a mother or father or student or whatever, that you can be thankful for something. We can all be thankful for Jesus. If that seems too difficult at first, you can be thankful for this church. You can be thankful that the person sitting next to you showered this morning, and if they didn’t, you can be thankful that you did, or you might get to later. There’s always something to be thankful for.
So, to sum it up, three of the things God has taught me through my role as a mom:
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
Matthew 26:36-46. Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Matthew 26:47-56. While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
Because evangelicals view their primary task as evangelism and discipleship, they tend to avoid issues that hinder these activities. Thus, they are generally not countercultural. With some significant exceptions, they avoid “rocking the boat,” and live within the confines of the larger culture. At times they have been able to call for and realize social change, but most typically their influence has been limited to alterations at the margins. So, despite having the subcultural tools to call for radical changes in race relations, they most consistently call for changes in persons that leave the dominant social structures, institutions, and culture intact. This avoidance of boat-rocking unwittingly leads to granting power to larger economic and social forces. It also means that evangelicals’ views to a considerable extent conform to the socioeconomic conditions of their time. Evangelicals usually fail to challenge the system not just out of concern for evangelism, but also because they support the American system and enjoy its fruits. They share the Protestant work ethic, support laissez-faire economics, and sometimes fail to evaluate whether the social system is consistent with their Christianity (21-22).
I talk about this in chapter 2 of my book. In chapter 3, I consider the thesis of the French philosopher and theologian, Jacques Ellul who, in The Subversion of Christianity, claimed that Christianity was being continually subverted by people who consistently sought to make it fit the larger cultural consensus. This is what happened in regard to race-based slavery and racism. These things did not arise from the Bible or Christianity. They arose in the larger culture based in Enlightenment and Greek thought (as I will soon show) and then adherents of the Christian religion, wanting to be accepted by the larger culture for a variety of reasons, one of which so that they could share the gospel, then acquiesced to the larger cultural ideals.
Audrey Smedley and Brian Smedley, in Race In North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview, tell us that (along with the vast majority of scholarship on the history of slavery/racism today) Racism, as we understand it, was a relatively recent invention and it developed progressively. It developed in the Colonies as a way for wealthy English landowners in the mid to late 1600s to justify a labor system that began in the indentured servitude of all kinds of people (poor Irish, English, and other Europeans as well as a growing number of Africans). The economic impetus came first. Then, laws were changed to reflect the new reality and to begin to see "blackness" as a sign of a permanently servile class because it was the African slaves that were the most successful and profitable for the English planters. The African slaves most enhanced the planter "way of life." Along with the changing laws came a culture shift where "whiteness" began to develop as a way to separate the Europeans from the African for the purpose of power and to control the enslaved labor force. Finally, along with all of this came the theological justification that was needed to give the whole enterprise Divine Sanction. Things began to be found in the Bible regarding a need for separation of the races and a defense of slavery that had never before been articulated. But, the Bible was not the source of all of this - not initially, at least. We'll get to the source in just a minute.
First, Smedley/Smedley's explanation of the impulse of the common man in the South, even apart from economic concerns is worth noting:
But colonists of all sorts, slave owners and non-slave owners, did not seek to maintain slavery for merely economic reasons. It became predominantly a social institution, a mechanism integral to the structuring of the colonies’ social system. It evolved simultaneously as a relationship of dominance and power and as a form of conspicuous consumption for the socially ambitious. Europeans of all social and economic classes and ethnic identities learned that they had the right to yearn for the plantation lifestyle, with its comforts, graciousness, elite mannerisms, and luxuries. Even if the economic efficiency of slavery declined or was subject to question at times, the structural relationships and social functions persisted and strengthened in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Leaders in the South manufactured a “Southern way of life” that was imbued with concepts of honor and grace and tightly linked to religion. Historians who have treated American slavery as only an economic institution, as a mode of production, have often ignored or failed to perceive the importance of this social-cultural factor. It was this latter reality that generated the greatest resistance to ending slavery, as southerners and other proslavery advocates recognized that the social dimension in all its complexity was critical to what they saw as their way of life (116).
Religion, Christianity, and the Bible was used by the powers-that-be to promote a social system that benefitted those with power so that they could pursue their own prosperity at the expense of others. The source of this idea that one man could own another found its real origin in Greek philosophy, not in Scripture. 20th century Southern novelist, essayist, and philosopher, Walker Percy, explained well the problem in the South with Christianity and the philosophies of the Greeks in his essay, "Stoicism in the South."
The greatness of the South, like the greatness of the English squirearchy, had always a stronger Greek flavor than it ever had a Christian. Its nobility and graciousness was the nobility and graciousness of the old Stoa ... The South’s virtues were the broadsword virtues of the clan, as were her vices, too—the hubris of noblesse gone arrogant. The Southern gentlemen did live in a Christian edifice, but he lived there [as] Chesterton spoke of, that of a man who will neither go inside nor put it entirely behind him but stands forever grumbling on the porch.
Percy says that it was not Christianity that was the primary influence in the Old South. Rather, it was the ideas of the Greek philosophers, which were also the major influence of Enlightenment Thought which promoted man's Reason over God's Revelation and which so affect Britain, France, and the American Revolution. The Bible was used to bolster the Greek ideas and give them a Christian veneer. But, make no mistake. The arguments behind race-based slavery in the South came primarily from the Greeks and using Bibilcal descriptions of the state of Master-Slave relationships while making them prescriptive for all times and cultures as God's ideal. That was an error. I make this case in detail in chapter 4 of my book.
I would posit that the real impetus behind Southern race-based slavery was not Paul speaking descriptively into a situation where Christians were a powerless minority, but rather, it was Aristotle's Natural Slavery argument. Aristotle claimed that there were some who were natural masters and some who were naturally slaves and you could tell who was who by basic observation. Who was superior? Who was inferior? Who was strong? Who was weak? Who conquered and who were conquered? This was unalterable, he said. It just was what it was and people were born this way. It was also, as South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun declared, a "positive good" for the ordering of society and the good of all.
Aristotle, in his Politics, Book I said,
But is there any one thus intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom such a condition is expedient and right, or rather is not all slavery a violation of nature? There is no difficulty in answering this question, on grounds both of reason and of fact. For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.
And there are many kinds both of rulers and subjects (and that rule is the better which is exercised over better subjects—for example, to rule over men is better than to rule over wild beasts; for the work is better which is executed by better workmen, and where one man rules and another is ruled, they may be said to have a work); for in all things which form a composite whole and which are made up of parts, whether continuous or discrete, a distinction between the ruling and the subject element comes to fight. Such a duality exists in living creatures, but not in them only; it originates in the constitution of the universe; even in things which have no life there is a ruling principle, as in a musical mode.
That some would naturally be Masters and some Slaves was the natural order of things. It was the only acceptable way of life for Aristotle. And, who would rule and who would be ruled? He tells us:
But among barbarians no distinction is made between women and slaves, because there is no natural ruler among them: they are a community of slaves, male and female. Wherefore the poets say, “It is meet that Hellenes should rule over barbarians; as if they thought that the barbarian and the slave were by nature one.”
Do you see the distinctions that are set in place "from the hour of their birth"? Barbarians. Women. Slaves. The Greeks ruled over the Barbarians, the men ruled over the women, and the free ruled over the slave. As I was researching all of this for the book and trying to figure out why Southern White Evangelicals had failed so miserably on the Race issue, I found this and recognized that the reason that we had failed was because we were living according to the worldly distinctions of Aristotle and the Greeks instead of the heavenly reality laid out for us in Scripture. Paul actually dismantled Aristotle's categories and removed the foundation for slavery being a fixed system. It was Paul who gave us the impetus for freedom, not Enlightenment Reason and Greek philosophy. That only led to bondage.
As we know, Paul addresses these categories in Galatians 3:26-29 where he says that we are all one in Christ if we have been baptized into Him and that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, but we are all one in Christ. In Colossians 3:11, Paul also says that Barbarian and Scythian are also not distinctions that keep us from God or from one another. We are all one in Christ. This teaching was ignored and subverted by Enlightenment and Greek thought that exalted Man's Reason over God's Revelation to promote the "Way of Life" that seemed best to the Southern Mind. In order to be accepted in that culture and gain a hearing for the Gospel and gain prominence, Evangelicals subverted their understanding of Scripture and their practice to a wholly pagan way of seeing the world - a world where it was obvious that the Masters were white Europeans and the slaves were black Africans. I make this case in great detail with plenty of support in chapter 4 of my book - much more than I can get into here.
So, it was not the Bible or Christianity solely that gave us race-based slavery and racism, except where it subverted itself to the larger cultural impulse. For that, the Southern white church bears enormous responsibilty. But, the Bible is clear that we are all one in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 says that we are to no longer regard anyone from a worldly (racial? ethnic?) point of view but that we are new creations in Christ. That is all that matters. Ephesians 2:11-22 tells us that Christ is our peace and has torn down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile and has made the two into one new man. Revelation 7 tells us that every nation will be worshiping together around the Throne praising God for eternity.
The reason that Southern white Evangelicals erred was not because the Bible was unclear. They erred because they were reading the Bible through their own cultural lens of what made sense to them at the time in relation to racial issues and they were far more influenced by Greek/Enlightenment thought than they realized (if you want to know how much Greek thought influenced the South, just notice the architecture of the public buildings and plantation homes with the Greek Revival columns. That was a philiosophical statement). Race-based slavery and Racism was a modern invention that developed in the 17th and 18th centuries to secure prosperity for wealthy English landowners and, on this issue, Christianity was subverted to its cause. Once racism was seen as evil and once the ideas that we are all created equal actually worked its way through American society, racism as a legitimate perspective was jettisoned, though it still exists under the surface. But, the offspring of Enlightenment Thought, Secularism, then turned and blamed the Church for the affair, conveniently forgetting its own role in developing the problem to being with.
This leads us to the present day. People like Rachel Held Evans and others calling for Evangelical Christianity to consider its mistakes on slavery and racism so that it will then reconsider its stance on homosexuality are trying to prove too much, I believe. Yes, Southern Evangelicals were terribly wrong on slavery and racism. But, the reason for the massive error and heresy that was promoted was not because they derived their position from Scripture, but rather because they were too heavliy influenced by a culture that only wanted to promote its own prosperity and survival and way of life in ways that seemed best according to human reason and understanding. There was little of the power of God in it - none actually - and it was all a devlish affair that led to effects and consequences that we might never recover from as a nation, not to mention the human toil on the individuals and their descendents who suffered through what happened. Also, this assessment diminishes the fact that the Abolition Movement was also a Christian movement rooted in Scripture and a fidelity to the way of Jesus. In addition, it ignores completely the fact that the Civil Rights Movement was a Christian movement led by Christian pastors and largely attended to by praying African American Christians living out a Biblical ethic of non-violence and perseverance. That heritage should be remembered as well as it came from Christians gathering together to interpret and live out Scripture faithfully.
Equating the way that the Bible was used in support of Slavery and Racism and then relating that to opposition to Gay Marriage is a mistake, historically, culturally, and theologically, I believe. Being wrong on one issue does not mean that one is wrong on the other. The best way to determine where the error lies is to actually discern where the winds of culture are blowing, how Christianity is being currently subverted, and to then compare those winds with the overall impetus and focus of Scripture regarding humanity's true purpose in God and the actual freedom that He gives that is only found in relationship with Him through Christ.
For much, much more on this as well as the Better Way of Jesus found through the sacrificial love that flows from the Cross of Christ, check out my book, When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus from New South Books (February, 2014).
Saw a book review yesterday about a book that claimed to explain how Christians lost influence in the culture over time. Lots of evangelical leaders were saying that it was a great book and it really explained what happened. I looked through the book on Amazon, just to see, and it did not mention racism, slavery, or Race at all. Not once. I heard a podcast recently with a major evangelical scholar and he said that the weakness in the church today could be traced back to the 1800's. I became hopeful. Unfortunately, he did not mention Race or slavery or racism.
When the larger culture makes "12 Years a Slave" and gives it the Academy Award for Best Picture and Evangelicals still do not see the causes/effects of what happened and how it all pointed to a much deeper/bigger problem that we STILL struggle with every day, we have a massive disconnect that is killing our attempts at discipleship and mission.
For an aspect of the story of what went wrong at the end of Christendom in America and how it can be and is being made right again, check:
@kyndramoore: @drmoore ...But the real ethical question is: would Jesus bake a king cake?
31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man mustsuffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Suffereing and Rejection are the summary expression of Jesus' cross. Death on the cross means to suffer and die as someone rejected and expelled That it is Peter, the rock of the church, who incurs guilt here immediately after his own confession to Jesus Christ and after his appointment by Jesus, means that from its very inception the church itself has taken offense at the suffering Christ. It neither wants such a Lord nor does it, as the Church of Christ, want its Lord to force upon it the law of suffering.
This makes it necessary for Jesus to relate clearly and unequivocally to his own disciples the "must" of suffering. Just as Christ is Christ only in suffering and rejection ,so also they are his disciples only in suffering and rejection, in being crucified along with Christ. Discipleship as commitment to the person of Jesus Christ places the disciple under the law of Christ, that is, under the cross.
This is the best thing about this entire proposal: It defines friendly cooperation with the convention to exclude from friendly cooperation those churches who deliberately and publicly demonstrate their opposition to the convention’s statement of faith, The Baptist Faith & Message (which, as our friend Nathan Finn so eloquently reminds us, is and only is the document in its latest revision). I do not recall the precise wording of this portion of the proposal, but the effect is what I have written in the preceding sentence.
The second category consists of those churches who practice open communion (or worse) in the SBC. It would be the effect of this measure, they will remind us, to make the practice of open communion a dismissible offense in the Southern Baptist Convention. To that group I would have to concede that their reading of the proposal would be correct, but I would remind you that the wording of Article III would not dismiss a church for practicing open communion; it would only make the practice of open communion one of the grounds by which a church could possibly be dismissed. The convention assembled would still have to vote to boot you. I (who think that open communion is a sign of our present weakness) think it far more likely that the SBC would vote to amend the BF&M on this point than that the convention would actually vote to exclude any church for the practice of open communion. And indeed, should we come to use this document in a way in which we have never used this particular document before, we may find that a very few revisions are expedient. I urge you to look at this matter realistically and to consider not so much the enforcement of the BF&M in its present form as the general idea of having a confessional fellowship in lieu of trying to tack on a running laundry list of dismissible offenses to Article III.