Letter to the Editor
October 10, 2022
Anderson Cooper’s “60 Minutes” interview of Bart Barber began on a hopeful note. Asked if he believed the 2020 presidential election was stolen, the Southern Baptist Convention president answered: “No.” Asked if he believes Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States, he responded: “I do, absolutely.”
Southern Baptists are the largest evangelical group in the country, a voting bloc that has enthusiastically embraced Donald Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen. Sixty percent of white evangelicals believe it. To hear an SBC president repudiate that belief was refreshing. So was his commitment to cooperate fully with the current Justice Department investigation of sexual abuse in the SBC and clean it up.
But from there the interview took a turn. It was not so much about what was said as about questions not asked.
First is whether the list of 700 sex offenders compiled by the SBC Executive Committee several years ago and buried in a drawer is comprehensive or indicative of a larger number.
That leads to the question of whether or not the SBC is continuing to add to that list in cooperation with the Justice Department or if their efforts are limited to a list whose pages are yellow with age.
A third question is whether or not the Executive Committee has conducted an analysis of the potential financial cost to the convention to settle claims already filed, and if they have projected possible costs as certainly more claims are added.
These are questions of considerable merit, which have serious implications for Southern Baptists. It cost Catholics in just their Boston Archdiocese $95 million to settle sexual abuse claims.
Barber said he did not vote for Trump in 2016, citing his mistreatment of women and immigration rhetoric. He commented further that he could not “support a demonstrably evil man whose platform was based on his evilness.” That certainly underscores his commitment to address sexual abuse in the convention. It also suggests strong values.
Yet in 2020 he reversed his opposition and voted for Trump. Apparently those values are negotiable. His stated rationale for voting for him hinged on advocacy for sentencing reform and pro-life support. In themselves, these are admirable. Yet evidently as long as selected issues are addressed, whatever else a candidate drags with them can be ignored.
Bill Bangham, Memphis, Tenn.