How bad is systemic racism in this country? So bad that even conservative Christians, whose views typically all in lock-step with the Republican Party, are speaking out against it in the aftermath of George Floyd‘s murder.
Some of those voices are rather surprising. J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, recently released a video in which he denounced the saying “All Lives Matter” and claimed that #BlackLivesMatter is a gospel issue:
Southern Baptist Pres @jdgreear notes SBC’s founding in support of slaveholders, denounces phrases like “all lives matter.”
— Robert Downen (@RobDownenChron) June 9, 2020
Black lives matter, he says, because we are seeing evidence of injustice that our “black brothers and sisters and friends have been telling us about for years.” That’s good. That’s important to say out loud. That’s no small thing from the head of a group that makes up a sizable voter base for conservatives.
The full address can be seen here:
But what’s missing from the video is any suggestion of what his tribe can start doing differently in order to break the strongholds of racism — both in the country as well as within their own denomination. Remember, the Southern Baptists assembled over the perceived God-given right to own slaves. Greear can’t effectively lecture anybody about how Black Lives Matter without admitting that his denomination’s religious ancestors were wrong. That’s not even getting into the current members who hold similarly racist mindsets.
Even Greear himself undercut his speech by denouncing some of the demands made by protesters:
“I think saying bold things like ‘defund the police’ is unhelpful, and deeply disrespectful to many public servants who bravely put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect us,” he said.
Other Twitter users pointed out that Greear basically offered the bare minimum. He doesn’t deserve praise for saying what ought to be common sense to any decent person.
While I'm thankful he's saying something (it's a start but a very low bar), what I hear is a white moderate propping-up a historically racist institution that has betrayed BIPOC for decades and fails miserably at repentance, reconciliation, and restitution.
— SometimesPDX (@SometimesPDX) June 9, 2020
Grateful, but we have to stop congratulating leaders for doing the *BARE MINIMUM* You don’t get a pat on the back for saying stuff like this. https://t.co/WDIJFdGi7c
— Joey McNally (@jtmcfluffy) June 9, 2020
Welcome, Southern Baptists, to the hard work of racial redemption and reconciliation! Methodists have been holding a seat for y’all for years!
Now denounce the GOP and we’ll invite you to the potluck � focus your prolife efforts on womb to tomb and maybe we’ll confirm you too! https://t.co/d47OvH8FEn
— Savannah Smith (@savannahfindley) June 9, 2020
As researchers have pointed out, 86% of Southern Baptist voters picked Donald Trump in 2016. Whatever the number is now, it probably not too far from that. How can the denomination seriously pretend to care about racism when members had no qualms about voting for a candidate who was openly racist during his campaign and has continued to fan the flames of bigotry during his time in office?
That’s not to say Greear should endorse Joe Biden. That’s not his job. But saying people should care about racism isn’t the same as pointing out how Southern Baptists (specifically) have fallen short, what issues they should fight for with their power, and what member churches will change moving forward.
It’s just hollow speech for now. It’s a first step on a very long journey.