The Southern Baptist Convention, now the largest Protestant denomination in the country, began because Southern landowners didn’t want to give up their slaves. Even today, it’s this conservative wing people tend to think about when they hear the word “Baptist” (though there are progressive Baptists, too). So it’s always refreshing to hear when Southern Baptists in particular voice their support in the fight against racism.
Over the past two weeks, as protests against police brutality hit a fever pitch and our nation’s long history of racism bubbles up more than ever, several Confederate monuments have been legislated away or torn down by activists. And among their supporters are prominent Southern Baptists.
“To see the Confederate flag and these larger than life statues to over-romanticized Confederate heroes of the Confederate South strewn throughout Virginia constantly reminded me that there were people who were willing to fight, bleed, sacrifice and die to keep black people chained into a system of brutality and bondage,” said [Marshal] Ausberry, who pastors Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va., and is first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., and a former SBC president, was among a dozen Memphis-area Southern Baptist pastors who joined others in 2017 to advocate for the removal of a statue honoring Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. Gaines, who was serving as SBC president at the time, said Friday such monuments are a hindrance to Christian love and unity.
Not all SBC leaders are in agreement, but it’s not nothing. And at a time when hate-filled voices travel far, it’s important to hear people who traditionally identify as conservative speak out on this issue.
Anecdotally, in my own social media feeds, I am seeing more Christians than ever before — some of them friends, others more well-known, such as Bible teacher Beth Moore — talk about #BlackLivesMatter. Progress is often slow, but it’s happening. It would go more quickly if more conservative Christians joined the chorus.
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