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The Church Of Identity Politics

In today’s NYT, a black academic named Lawrence Ware announced that he is leaving the Southern Baptist Convention [1] — this, in the wake of a controversy over the Convention’s meeting this summer in which there was a second vote to condemn the alt-right. Ware says he is also offended by the number of white Evangelicals who support Donald Trump. He writes:

To be sure, many prominent convention leaders have opposed Mr. Trump and the alt-right. Indeed, one of them, Russell Moore, went so far as to voice his criticism before the election.

But not enough has been done to address the institutional nature of white supremacy in the convention. Many churches are still hostile to the Black Lives Matter movement, and even more were silent during the rise of Mr. Trump and the so-called alt-right. For all of its talk about the love of Jesus Christ, the Southern Baptist Convention’s inaction on the issues of racism and homophobia has drowned out its words.

So: in order to be good enough for Ware, the Southern Baptist Convention would have to affirm not simply the moral equivalence of all people, regardless of race (which is true, certainly from a Biblical perspective), but also affirm an extremely controversial activist group that, as part of its statement of “guiding principles” [2], affirms transgenderism and homosexuality, and also (this is a direct quote from its website):

We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, and especially “our” children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable.

What remotely conservative, traditionalist Christian church could possibly affirm that? None. Yet Ware makes affirming this particular organization the test of the SBC’s good faith on racial reconciliation. Ware continues, accusing the SBC of  “acquiescence in the face of racism and homophobia”. Racism, because even though the SBC voted to condemn the alt-right, the fact that many individual Southern Baptists voted for Trump, and the Convention does not endorse Black Lives Matter? That’s all it takes to be guilty of “acquiescence in the face of racism”? And “homophobia” because the SBC upholds traditional Biblical teaching?

Good grief. See, this is the kind of thing that vindicates some on the alt-right, who say that it doesn’t matter what you believe or why you believe it, they’re still going to hate you and accuse you of being one of us. So why not be one of us? (they say).

Is this really what the identity politicians like Lawrence Ware want? Because it’s what they’re helping make happen, over and against the efforts of Southern Baptists like Russell Moore and others.

Ware concludes:

I want to be a member of a body of believers that is structured around my Christian beliefs of equity, not one that sees those issues as peripheral. The equality of all people should be a fundamental principle that is a starting point of the convention’s existence, not a side issue to be debated.

I love the church, but I love black people more. Black lives matter to me. I am not confident that they matter to the Southern Baptist Convention.

It sounds like “equity” is more important than “truth” here. I wouldn’t doubt that within the SBC, there is racial conflict (I don’t know this for a fact, because it’s not my church; I’m just guessing that it does exist). But again, if proving that one believes in racial equality requires endorsing Black Lives Matter, then that is not going to happen — and it is extremely tendentious to accuse white Christians who don’t endorse that particular organization, given its stated principles, of thereby saying that black lives do not matter.

Second, nobody in the SBC would affirm that homosexuals are less human than anybody else. They deny, as does the Bible, that homosexual desire and conduct is morally licit. Desire does not define personhood. Ware apparently disagrees, but it is a legitimate philosophical point.

More than anything though: Can you imagine someone writing, “I love the church, but I love white people more”? Or, “I love the church, but I love straight people more”? We would know exactly what was wrong with that person: they had made idols of race and/or sexuality. Had Ware written, “I love the church, but I love the truth more,” that would have been understandable. It sounds like he has apostatized to the Church of Identity Politics. It’s a false religion, but an increasingly popular one, alas.

128 Comments (Open | Close)

128 Comments To "The Church Of Identity Politics"

#1 Comment By jxk On July 17, 2017 @ 11:16 pm

“You are correct to point out [that collective or semi-collective child rearing] is incompatible with traditional family values conservatism. I’m just not sure that it’s incompatible with *the Bible and the Church Fathers*. They talk a lot about sexual ethics but I’m not clear they make any authoritative pronouncements about how children should be raised”

I don’t think so. The Book of Proverbs stresses the role of the father for at least the first three chapters, with the constant refrain of “My son…, my son.” And then the book ends with the praise of the good wife (which includes being a good mother) – no mid-20th century slacker housewife, that one, BTW.

(That’s not to say extended family does not play a role in the raising of children, but exploding the nuclear family means exploding the extended family – which in turn invites predators and decay – not the proverbial “village.”)

#2 Comment By Isidore the Farmer On July 18, 2017 @ 12:20 am

“Good grief. The original resolution at this year’s SBC wasn’t passed because, as has been already pointed out, it was too political. Too many SBC messengers there were also unfamiliar with the alt-Right. Too many of them thought the original resolution was simply against political conservatives.

The wording of the resolution was cleaned up, people were educated about what the alt-Right was, and the resolution passed overwhelmingly. It was a failure to manage media coverage. It in no way represents a lack of desire if the SBC to condemn racism.”

The obsession with identity politics is only beginning. There will be ample opportunity in coming years to play well for the media (“See, we’re not racist!”).

The demands will just keep coming, and you will either have to capitulate or be framed as racist by the very media whose positive coverage you seek. It is now identity politics all the way down. During SBC17 the twitter hashtag was consumed by identity politics. Not only did it fail at being gospel-centered, the gospel was nowhere in the feed. It was merely 21st century American politics. The very thing you claim to despise, in spades.

The SJW demands put before you are only beginning….

#3 Comment By Isidore the Farmer On July 18, 2017 @ 12:30 am

“The wording of the resolution was cleaned up, people were educated about what the alt-Right was, and the resolution passed overwhelmingly.”

The SBC doesn’t speak harshly towards any other group. For all other sinners we are trained to become great listeners, to engage with love, blah, blah, blah. By your handling of this issue, the SJWs now have a Trojan horse in the convention. Are you prepared to accept the demands that will now come, one at a time, for the next five years, wherein refusal to capitulate will result in being framed as racist by the media whose favor you seek?

You don’t even realize the corner you are in due to elevating identity politics front and center. The gospel will become a secondary issue forevermore. The SBC17 twitter feed (as it unfolded live that week) is your future. And it is ugly.

#4 Comment By Mark P Miller On July 18, 2017 @ 1:57 am

“I love the church, but I love black people more. ”

I like the guy – he understands ethnonationalism and refreshingly honest about it, which is more than I can say about a lot of whites who are too craven to even be honest with themselves on this subject.

#5 Comment By muad’dib On July 18, 2017 @ 8:55 am

[NFR: Fifty years ago? What, exactly, would the SBC have to do to win your absolution? Abolish itself? — RD]

Have a membership that is ~30% African-American, roughly the proportion of African-American in their states.

[NFR: It’s not remotely that simple. In my hometown, there’s a big Southern Baptist church. There is also a constellation of tiny black Baptist churches, some of which have been around since the days of slavery. Why should any black Baptist in that town turn his back on his family’s heritage to go to the Southern Baptist church, especially given that the worship styles are rather different? Why should the congregation of that SBC church be held morally responsible today for the fact that no black people attend? People are not widgets that can be made to fit into a scheme. They have histories. So do ecclesial bodies. — RD]

#6 Comment By Elijah On July 18, 2017 @ 9:16 am

Hi missh – thanks for taking the time to respond to my post.

“It’s reasonable to infer racism from a belief in the racist theory that President Obama is a secret Muslim.”

At various times polling among ALL Americans (not just Republicans) suggested 30-44% of the general populace thought that Obama was Muslim. Does that mean they ALL bought into a “racist theory”? Again, there are reasons to think Obama is a Muslim other than racism: ignorance springs to mind.

“…Trump voters decided that the guy who brought the racist birther theory into the mainstream was still okay to vote for.”

I reject the idea that any type of “racist birther theory” is mainstream at all. I always thought the birther nonsense to be a harebrained way to cast aspersion on Obama’s legitimacy as POTUS; I might be wrong, but I never considered “birtherism” to be inherently racist.

But I will remind you that much of the “birther” stuff got into the media in 2008 – long before Trump was even on the horizon as a candidate for anything – by disgruntled Clinton supporters. NOT by Clinton, but her supporters (though who can forget Hillary saying Obama isn’t a Muslim “as far as I know.”)

There is no doubt in my mind that some of Trump’s supporters are racists. There are crack-pots of all descriptions in his corner, as is the case for just about any national office holder on the planet.

Another note unrelated to your comment: I get that people are annoyed by the 81% Evangelical support for Trump, and some of the obsequious fawning over him by pastors is nothing short of revolting. But I do think that for a majority of Evangelicals (based on my tri-state area) this election boiled down to the Supreme Court. Evangelicals supported Trump not with gusto, but disdain, given the man’s character.

And it’s been eight months exactly, but this is still worth a read.

[3]

#7 Comment By Oakinhou On July 18, 2017 @ 9:21 am

“We also discovered the hard way that when leisure stops being the mark of luxury/wealth and become the default mode for 50% of the population it becomes bloody mindless and drives people crackers. Hence the rebellions of the 1960s.”

Slightly off-topic, but this is what happened in the Heian culture of the 1000s Japan. Total leisure turning into mindless concerns about color matching, dancing, perfume competitions, casual sex, and some of the best world literature. Anything to break the endless boredom.

#8 Comment By Elijah On July 18, 2017 @ 9:30 am

“By “not insubstantial” I mean, significantly greater than zero. To simply say “substantial” (canceling out the double negative) I could be implying that a majority, or nearly half, or a plurality, of dedicated Trump supporters are overt racists. I don’t have any basis at all to suggest that.

What I said is, those who are racist were for Trump, and were a noticeable portion of those who really like him. Was it 20 percent? I wouldn’t be surprised, but I don’t know that anyone has specifically surveyed that. When I have a numerical percentage to offer, I will use that number, rather than making a less precise observation.

Its more like, if I see a large crowd, among which something like one quarter to one third are loudly cheering a man, I would say, gee, its hard to count, but something like one quarter to one third really like this guy. If, among that one quarter to one third, I heard some calls of “get those darkies” and it seemed to be a scattering of calls from maybe one tenth or more, that would be my rough estimate.

So, from watching video clips and news reports, etc., those who are overt racists have not been shy about their support for Trump, and I know lots of people who voted for Trump who are definitely not racists. Was there any other candidate overt racists might have given substantial support to?”

That’s a long-winded way of saying you have no idea how much of Trump’s support was or is dependent upon racists.

You heard a racist call in a crowd and estimated based on that; while I am unimpressed, it’s probably at least as accurate as the polls were last year.

#9 Comment By Ain’t Benedict On July 18, 2017 @ 9:34 am

It’s not fair to blast Ware regarding the resolution condemning the alt-right without any explanation of how that whole thing went down. The SBC tabled it repeatedly – they treated what should’ve been a no-brainer like it was radioactive – and then scrambled to pass it immediately after bad headlines started popping up. Bad PR motivated them to action where repeated requests from their black membership did not. How could that not alienate congregants like Ware, who see tolerance and equality as central elements of their faith?

This article omits those crucial aspects of the story and leaves readers with the impression that Ware is simply being churlish even after getting what he wanted. That’s not fair to Ware or to the story.

#10 Comment By Anonne On July 18, 2017 @ 11:43 am

It’s always identity politics when it’s not white people about whose politics you’re talking.

I never took the BLM statement about family as anything more than “it takes a village” but writ larger, because blacks in particular have societal challenges that are bigger than any one nuclear family. It’s basically what you are asking for in the BenOp – to create a supportive and positive culture in which to raise your children. The main difference to me is that it affirms whatever family structure people choose, and acknowledges that most black families only have mothers. To do that is not to denigrate fathers, but the lack of presence is a thing that you rightly noticed and you interpreted it in a caustic way which probably was not intended.

This is why the Guardian article months ago called you “arch-reactionary.” This, your response to the article in La Civiltà Cattolica, and quite a few things of late demonstrate why you earn that title.

[NFR: BLM is effectively anti-Christian. The Civilta article was just flat-out ignorant. If by “anti-reactionary,” you mean “possesses a lick of common sense,” I’ll own that. — RD]

#11 Comment By dominic1955 On July 18, 2017 @ 12:02 pm

He can go join the Unitarians. The main one where I live has a big Black Lives Matter banner and a rainbow flag out front. Other than the fact that it’s more colonial in its architecture, it could be the picture on this post.

The nuclear family isn’t necessarily traditional in the sense that this is the way it’s “always been” but when a whacked out activist group like BLM is advocating ending it, they aren’t talking about trying to foster old school extended families, they are talking about making it easier to indoctrinate the kids. So no, no traditional Christian with any sense is going to support such a group.

#12 Comment By missh On July 18, 2017 @ 12:27 pm

Hi Elijah –

Thank you for responding, too!

I inferred racism from the need to “other” President Obama. With all of the false allegations thrown at President Clinton – and the womanizing charge was certainly accurate, but the Clintons didn’t run cocaine out of the Mena Airport, or murder anyone, etc. – those on the right never, ever thought to say “He’s not one of us!” President Obama, on the other hand, was from the first cast by many on the right as foreign, strange, scary, despite his documented birth in the United States and openly professed Christian faith. (As you noted, Muslim faith should have no bearing one way or the other on one’s fitness for office or perceived patriotism, but to those who bought these theories, it was not just disqualifying, but sinister.)

I’ll quote someone who made this argument much more effectively than I can:

“David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker magazine and author of an Obama biography, wrote this week: ‘To do what Trump has done … is a conscious form of race-baiting, of fear-mongering.’

‘The cynicism of the purveyors of these fantasies is that they know very well what they are playing at, the prejudices they are fanning,’ Remnick wrote. ‘Let’s say what is plainly true … these rumors, this industry of fantasy, are designed to arouse a fear of the Other, of an African-American man with a white American mother and a black Kenyan father.'” [4]

And I think that the Hillary diehards who promoted birtherism in 2008 and for years afterward were racist as all hell, too.

#13 Comment By TR On July 18, 2017 @ 1:08 pm

To answer your question, I don’t care what the SBC does to correct its past–it’s none of my business. And, in all fairness, you can see Black faces in every (televised) Southern Baptist service these days. And both cynic and pragmatist can agree that the white SBCers are glad to see them and Latinos as they try to stanch the decline of whate attendees.

It’s disturbing to me that so many Catholics and Orthodox on the site seem to think Mr. Ware is leaving the “church” (itself a problematic word for Protestants) and is no longer a Baptist. He’s leaving a convention. His salvation depends on his personal relationship with Jesus, not what “church” he belongs to. There are all kinds of Baptist “churches”: not just SBC. And by the way, Catholics and Orthodox should know that Baptism itself does not have the same significance in Baptist theology that it does for the older persuasions.

We are really ignorant about one another.

#14 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 18, 2017 @ 1:32 pm

Let ethnonationalism be anathema… and yes, I do argue with nationalistic black friends about this too. People who could choose to think of themselves as “white” will have to throw the dirty label away first, because the whole scam was dreamed up by men who called themselves “white,” but actually, there’s nothing about dark skin to be particularly proud of either. Its just, when someone tells you to be ashamed of it, the reflex to take pride in something that is objectively neutral can be overwhelming.

As for the SBC justifying its existence, this is a bit like asking why the United Methodist, AME, AME Zion, and CME churches don’t all just merge. I’ve heard AME Zion ministers discuss this. Theologically, there is no reason (although the same sex marriage thing might have thrown a monkey wrench into that), but there would have to be mergers of boards of bishops, publishing houses, etc. When there is a long history, its easier to stick to the church you know, with suitable acknowledgement of past errors, than to close up shop.

Baptists don’t generally have bishops, or those who do its more of an honorary individual title, but inertia is a powerful force. The critique is coming from outsiders asking “Why do you still exist?” Well, strip away a very real and well known history of racism, there is still adoration of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world and all that. It didn’t just disappear.

#15 Comment By Michael R Honohan On July 18, 2017 @ 1:40 pm

My father was brilliant, as pretty much everyone in the history of Pfizer knew. But he was a devout Catholic. I have always struggle with the disconnect between that highly logical chemical engineer and his belief is such anti-scientific absurdities such as transubstantiation. Or the anti-historical belief that Peter was the first Pope. (The Pope is the Leader of the Romish Church that did not exist at the time!)

Cognitive dissonance is very provable condition among the religion. It fly completely in the face of the Biblical claim that Christians have a personal relationship with their Jesus and that the Holy Spirit resides within. If any of that was true, the most doltish of Christians should know more about the real world than any atheist could possibly have. Add to the irony that it has been statistically proven that we atheists have a greater knowledge and understanding of the Bible than the Christian does – we score higher on your own tests of biblical knowledge. Oh, yes, I get the old saw of how God only reveals the real truth to the believer, implying (unwittingly) that perhaps without such guidance, the Bible is really a pack of lies. Oh, my.

So in the end, there might be a real God and real Jesus. I would suspect that the real Christian who believe such would see the Gospels and Epistle as highly flawed an unreliable and choose instead to actually be guided by their sense of some “Holy Spirit” who doesn’t feel a need to keep up the prejudices against gays and non believers, and all the cultural baggage added on.

If one cast aside their own cognitive dissonances, they might grasp that homosexuality and abortion, two the biggest issues among “Christians” today, were well known in Jesus’ time. Yet, Jesus never mentioned either. If the Gospels are to be believed at all, Jesus had to much of a preoccupation with fighting the rigid religious establishment of his day, denying the Torah (yes, in a many passages!!!), and teaching love, compassion, tolerance, etc. One might expect that since his followers have the moniker meaning “little Christs”, that they too would actually want to follow Jesus’ lead. That means the Southern Baptists can’t really claim to follow Jesus at all, but rather white Western Culture that is built on centuries of distorting the Teachings of Jesus.

[NFR: Jesus never mentioned porn either, so I guess you, who in an earlier passage described yourself as a daily, enthusiastic porn user, are in the clear. Awesome how that works! — RD]

#16 Comment By Anne On July 18, 2017 @ 2:35 pm

For the record, the NBC/Survey Monkey Poll, one of the final ones on the subject taken in 2016 — *after* Trump admitted the birther nonsense was incorrect — showed a whopping 72% of Republicans still doubted Obama’s place of birth. To the statement, “Barack Obama was born in the United States,” 41% said they disagreed strongly, and only 27% said they agreed.

#17 Comment By Potato On July 18, 2017 @ 4:51 pm

I would attempt to engage in Michael R Honohan’s ridiculous post except that our host has done such a magnificent job that I have put the lid back on my pen. Wonderful!

#18 Comment By Anne On July 18, 2017 @ 5:50 pm

Semi-collective child rearing may be incompatible with traditional family values conservatism in America, but it’s far from unknown among Christians, children having been raised in extended family settings throughout the history of Christendom. Then, there are our Biblical forebears, the Jews, who pass on Hebrew family values via religious kibbutzim and ultra-orthoxox settlement compounds throughout the modern state of Israel.

#19 Comment By Anonne On July 18, 2017 @ 6:36 pm

[i][NFR: BLM is effectively anti-Christian. The Civilta article was just flat-out ignorant. If by “anti-reactionary,” you mean “possesses a lick of common sense,” I’ll own that. — RD][/i]

That’s rather arrogant of you. I see nothing anti-Christian about the concept of “it takes a village” to raise a child, especially since that’s implicit to the BenOp except for BLM’s queer/gender affirming tenets. Everything else on the site, I don’t consider outside the bounds of Christianity and calling BLM “anti-Christian” per se is not wholly correct. It’s about community and equality, primarily, and there is nothing wrong or evil about community as a concept.

I had a different reaction to the Civilta article, nowhere near as alarmed as yours.

#20 Comment By jamie On July 18, 2017 @ 9:41 pm

[NFR: Why does there have to be? This is their tradition. — RD]

I don’t know, isn’t that identitarian and in tension with broader community and spiritual interests? I would have though that a religious denomination founded upon a very (I’m being polite here) temporal political dispute, and maintained for strictly sectional reasons was kindof a reach, even for a protestant Christian denomination. Differences over governance I get, different patriarchies, doctrine I get, these come down to beliefs, to conscience.

Tradition isn’t conscience, and nominal “traditionalists” are quite capable of switching churches and manufacturing searching their hearts for the concomitant traditional imperative to justify it.

#21 Comment By Philly guy On July 18, 2017 @ 11:43 pm

” I never considered birtherism to be inherently racist”.Most people did.Like some people did not understand why black people objected to Trump when he first started running.Obama made certain people feel they were part of the process for the first time and felt delegitimization of Obama by Trump threatening.Other people find Trump is the one making them part of the process.They are mistaken.

#22 Comment By dominic1955 On July 18, 2017 @ 11:54 pm

TR,

“It’s disturbing to me that so many Catholics and Orthodox on the site seem to think Mr. Ware is leaving the “church” (itself a problematic word for Protestants) and is no longer a Baptist.”

Well, I don’t think he’s done either yet.

“He’s leaving a convention. His salvation depends on his personal relationship with Jesus, not what “church” he belongs to.”

We obviously don’t agree on that point. He’s jumping from one erroneous sect to another erroneous sect. Nothing to see here.

“There are all kinds of Baptist “churches”: not just SBC. And by the way, Catholics and Orthodox should know that Baptism itself does not have the same significance in Baptist theology that it does for the older persuasions.”

Of course not, but as far as we are concerned, a valid baptism is what makes you Christian. We don’t care what significance you attach to it.

“We are really ignorant about one another.”

No doubt, some are but often times it more of a rejection of the belief system of the other.

#23 Comment By Vulcanic On July 19, 2017 @ 2:04 pm

Rod:

Love your writing but you were fundamentally unfair to Rev. McKissic. The words “Black Lives Matter” are not included anywhere in his resolution. Nothing in his draft resolution endorsed their goals. Bringing up their rejection of the nuclear family is, then, ridiculous in this context.

He asked for specific rejections of the “Alt-Right” but also any nationalism that would jeopardize scriptural understanding.

He also asked that the “Curse of Ham” heresy be specifically rejected. These were all removed from the resolution ultimately passed. I think that is ridiculous.

[NFR: I’m not criticizing McKissic. I’m criticizing Ware. — RD]

#24 Comment By M_Young On July 19, 2017 @ 4:01 pm

“” I never considered birtherism to be inherently racist”.Most people did.Like some people did not understand why black people objected to Trump when he first started running.Obama made certain people feel they were part of the process for the first time and felt delegitimization of Obama by Trump threatening.”

Space between sentences is obviously racist, a place to allow all that whiteness on page and screen to ooze up and capture the narrative.

#25 Comment By M_Young On July 19, 2017 @ 4:05 pm

The Southern Baptists of Texas has a specifically ‘Hispanic’ program.

[5]

As always, it is only whites who must forgo ethnic identity. (And please, spare me the sophistry about ‘minorities’ or ‘under-represented’ or ‘history of discrimination’ — either ethnic solidarity is right or it is wrong).

#26 Comment By M_Young On July 19, 2017 @ 4:21 pm

BTW the account at Alt-Right.com says that there were three votes on the anti-white condemnation, and that it was apparent the situation was ‘you will vote until you get it right’.

#27 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 20, 2017 @ 9:41 pm

As always, it is only whites who must forgo ethnic identity.

Not really. The “ethnic identity”(ies) in question were all formulated BY people who chose to think of themselves as “white” and IMPOSED on people who had never thought of themselves in those terms.

Nothing stops people with congenital melanin deficiencies from celebrating their true ethnic heritage, e.g., Polish, Croatian, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Welsh, Irish, any more than people of African descent are prohibited from celebrating their heritage as Ibo, Hausa, Xhosa, Dogon, etc. Although it is true that Americans of African descent have been largely severed from such ethnicity, but it didn’t happen all at once. A good portion of those organized by Denmark Vesey had retained their Ibo heritage, and ten percent were practicing Muslims.

#28 Comment By El Geherg On July 21, 2017 @ 6:06 am

Pretty much what I expected. This was never about condemning the alt-right, it was just an opening salvo in a massive effort to force compliance with the social “justice” movement onto the Southern Baptist Convention. By the way, if you think that Dr. Moore is seen as an opponent to this effort instead of an enabler, you haven’t been paying attention.

M_Young above is correct, the SBC is full of all sorts of race and nationality based identity groups already with one glaring exception.