On Race, Dallas, and Passive-Aggressive Southern Baptists

What can I say about this past week that hasn’t already been said? First, we got two murky black civilian shootings in a row, which appear to have been dissimilar in some key respects but were naturally spun together as “Policemen hunting down teh blacks!!!” As with Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile became equally worthy mascots of a movement that tramples individuality.

Then, the thing every smart policeman could have told you was coming, if you were willing to listen: Slaughter of white cops on a mass scale. An outpouring of vicious bile from gleeful, racist black Twitter users, of whose existence President Obama was apparently blissfully unaware when he said he believed he “spoke for every single American citizen” as he offered his obligatory phoned-in condemnation of the shootings. But remember, nobody really knows the motivations of the shooter. I mean it’s not like he said in so many words that he wanted to kill white cops or something. Oh wait. And I won’t even touch Dear Leader’s latest comment that it’s become easier for kids to get their hands on a gun than a computer or even a book, seeing as how Matt Walsh has already won the Internet on that front.

But enough about our bloviating, passive-aggressive president. Let’s talk about passive-aggressive Southern Baptists instead! Yes Russell Moore, I am looking at you.

Moore wrote one essay immediately after the shootings of Sterling and Castile. He said:

What we should understand, first, is that this crisis is not new. Many white evangelicals will point to specific cases, and argue that the particulars are more complex in those situations than initial news reports might show. But how can anyone deny, after seeing the sheer number of cases and after seeing those in which the situation is all too clear, that there is a problem in terms of the safety of African-Americans before the law.

Maybe because a) it is not statistically established that policemen wrongfully shoot black men at a higher rate than they wrongfully shoot white men (far from it), and b) even if this currently mythical statistic were proven to be true, it would be heavily tainted by the fact that violent crime is more concentrated in urban black areas of the country to begin with?

Moore’s very next sentence then begins with the phrase “That’s especially true when one considers…” [insert wuggah-wuggah about history of slavery, oppression, etc. here]. The “That’s especially true when” introduction baffles me. But I guess, “Of course, [wuggah-wuggah about history of slavery, oppression, etc.] has no argumentative, factual truth connection to the concrete cases I’ve just been describing, but the shootings make me feel sad, and slavery makes me feel sad too, and I need to pretend there’s something other than a vague emotional connection between them” doesn’t have quite the same ring.

He then goes on to make a truly pernicious parallel to the abortion issue:

…[Some white evangelicals] assume that if they do not harbor personal animus against those of other ethnicities then there is no “race problem.” We do not take the same view (and rightly so) when it comes to abortion. That’s why we rightly object to the pro-choice bumper sticker that reads, “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one.”

Actually Dr. Moore, “some white evangelicals” are unconvinced that there is a “race problem” in the police department, because we find the evidence to be weak. But by all means, keep comparing us to people who believe it should be legal to slaughter babies in the womb. Not divisive or un-Christian at all.

But the passive-aggressive hectoring didn’t stop there. Moore felt a need to inject it into a post-Dallas piece as well, entitled “How Pastors Can Address the Shootings This Sunday.” Moore suggested, among other things, that pastors should stalk their members’ social media feeds to figure out where their congregations lean politically. If a pastor’s white congregation seems to have “ignored” the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, obviously “the struggles of black lives are invisible” to them, so they need a condescending lecture  sermon on the topic. Moore is such a rigid scold that he doesn’t even seem to realize how many conservatives, white and otherwise, actually were discussing the Castile case and its implications for the holders of concealed carry permits. But notice how he talks about “the injustices in these cases (and so many others just like them).” In his mind, all altercations between policemen and black men that go south have melted into an amorphous blob, which he labels INJUSTICES.

I want to just pause for a moment and note how insulting it is to compare a Castile or a Garner to a Trayvon Martin or a Michael Brown. Comparing a man tragically and innocently killed to a thug dishonors the memory of the innocent. By pretending all these deaths were equally unjust, Moore shows that he actually doesn’t care about real justice. He doesn’t really care about guilt or innocence. He just cares about grinding his personal ax of white guilt ad infinitum.

However, so he can claim even-handedness, Moore says that if a congregation is “concerned greatly” about said “injustices,” but “doesn’t know [how?] to think or pray about the attack in Dallas,” a pastor should “speak to that.” Yet, the black congregation is lightly described merely as “not knowing how” to grieve about the cops’ murders, instead of actively ignoring or downplaying them. Nowhere is it acknowledged that black Christians could harbor a racist bias of their own. Meanwhile, Moore harps on their righteous indignation about the black shootings, while only admitting in passing that a conservative congregation might be able better to “identify with” the shooting of a policemen. The one idea that shows a glimmer of real balance is his suggestion that a pastor could invite a Christian policeman to come speak about the struggles of law enforcement.

Moore wraps up with some biblical truths pastors can incorporate. Included among these is “The Truth that God Knows about Lives We Deem not Worthy of Life.” Again, the passive-aggression is thick. Moore implies that anyone who contradicts the narrative on any of the banner cases for Black Lives Matter must be anti-life and anti-human. In his very final point, Moore instructs pastors to “Call people to see that their secret sins are not secret and will be exposed at judgment.” Yet the central “sin” emphasized in Moore’s writings is the “corporate” blame that all white people and white Christians should be forced to share for every black death. Meanwhile, the murder of the cops in Dallas is described as a “terrorist” act, even omitting the fact that the shooter specifically targeted white cops. There is no recognition that the rhetoric of the Black Lives Matter movement invites precisely this kind of violence.

I say this not to suggest that Moore should press black pastors to foist “corporate blame” onto their congregations too. In matters of race, I find the general notion of corporate blame to be a pointless, politically correct conceit. Rather, I submit that Dr. Moore has no right to lecture pastors of any race about how they should address their flocks. Furthermore, though the reader may judge whether sanctimony and presumptuousness are automatically conferred by the name “Russell Moore” in the author’s space, I submit that regardless of its author, such an advice piece is by nature presumptuous and sanctimonious.

I said “Southern Baptists” plural, so now might be a good time to find a second one. As it happens, this next example is mostly just passive. In the wake of the shootings, several friends insistently passed around a June 24th address by a black pastor named Mika Edmondson called “Is Black Lives Matter the New Civil Rights Movement?” I don’t even know how to begin pointing out the guilt-tripping, exegetical butchery, misleading statements, and political bias permeating this address. Edmondson’s repeated insistence that the BLM movement has “more moral sense than we do” on racial killings is particularly insulting. Even aside from its affirmation of the “LGBTQ” agenda, which Edmondson at least does realize he needs to pause and critique, the movement is founded on a sweeping and dangerous lie: that “black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.”

But when Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a response to it, apparently he found it impossible to criticize in even the smallest particular. He grovels pathetically, “What does the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary have to say to Mika Edmondson? What right has the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to say anything?” To which I reply, “You, sir, have the right to respond as a guardian of truth over lies.”

In The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape instructs his young nephew in the art of getting a culture to look the other way and focus on anything other than its actual besetting problem. I fear this is the case for the Southern Baptist Church right now. Even in the wake of the worst black-on-white hate crime in recent memory, its white members are still being shamed and chided for the “corporate sin” of racism. Indeed, they should feel shame, but not for the cause they have been given. The only thing Southern Baptists should be ashamed about is the mingled cowardice and insouciance of its own leaders.


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