The Church Of Identity Politics
In today’s NYT, a black academic named Lawrence Ware announced that he is leaving the Southern Baptist Convention — 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”, 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.
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.