An influential black pastor says the Southern Baptist Convention should repudiate remarks about race by the head of its ethics commission, and if Richard Land does not repent he should be fired.
Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, said in an April 18 blog that comments on the March 31 Richard Land Live! radio program about race and politics surrounding the Trayvon Martin death were the “most damaging, alienating and offensive words about race” by an SBC leader in the 28 years he has served as a Southern Baptist pastor and church planter.
Land apologized April 16 for hurt caused by comments first reported by Associated Baptist Press describing Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as “race hustlers” and accusing President Obama of using outrage over police inaction for political gain. Both SBC President Bryant Wright and First Vice President Fred Luter, who is expected to be elected as the convention’s first African-American president in June, said in statements to Baptist Press that they accepted Land’s apology.
But McKissic, who in the past sponsored an SBC resolution applauding the election of an African-American president while criticizing many of Barack Obama’s policies, said Land apologized for the response to his words and not the comments themselves. He said Land’s explanation that he underestimated how much ghosts of the past still hinder race relations essentially blames those offended for not being progressive enough to accept them.
McKissic said he found even more troubling comments attributed to Land in an Associated Press story justifying racial profiling and saying that he believes most Southern Baptists agree with him. “If he is accurate in his assessment, it confirms the suspicion that many black Baptists have held for years regarding Southern Baptists; and that is many Southern Baptists, if not the majority, inherently and instinctively don’t honestly respect, relate to or view blacks with a mindset of mutual respect, equality and understanding,” McKissic said. “Blacks are primarily viewed as mission projects, not as mission partners. Inadvertently, Dr. Land opened to us the window of his heart and showed us this painful reality.”
McKissic said Land’s rationale that a person is more likely to be harmed by a black than white male would make him a suspect if a crime occurred at an SBC annual meeting while he was attending. “Now that I know how Dr. Land feels about profiling, I no longer feel welcome at an SBC gathering, especially if the majority of the SBC agrees,” he said.
McKissic said Land owes an apology to Jackson and Sharpton, who traveled to Sanford, Fla., at invitation by Trayvon Martin’s parents; to President Obama, who was expressing Christian compassion about an event already in the news because of the long delay of criminal investigation; and to the teen’s family for saying the fact he had gotten in trouble at school suggested that Trayvon “isn’t exactly a saint.”
He said Land probably was more correct than he knows when he said that in the eyes of Jackson and Sharpton segregation has never been repealed. “This may be the only true statement he made; the vast majority of African-Americans would agree with the ‘in their eyes’ statement,” McKissic said. “Land has to look no further than the annual SBC meeting, the SBC executive offices and Sunday morning in most SBC churches to see the kind of segregation he described.”
Since Land will not repent of his words, McKissic said he feels compelled to ask the SBC to repudiate and renounce them in a resolution. “He spoke these words as an official of the SBC; therefore, the SBC must take ownership and responsibility for Dr. Land’s words,” McKissic said. “I could not with a good conscience attend an SBC meeting in the post-Luter years, or increase giving to the Cooperative Program, as long as Land’s words remain un-repented of. To do so would be to engage in self-hatred; the exercise and practice of low self-esteem; to support Land’s view of racial profiling and his flawed racial reasoning.”
McKissic compared Land’s comments about racial profiling to a Curse of Ham doctrine once held by many white Christians that blacks are cursed by God to be inferior to whites.
“Richard Land has about as much business being in charge of the ethics of the SBC as I have being in charge of the physically-fit society or George Zimmerman being in charge of a battered women’s shelter and the temperance society,” McKissic said. “I trust and pray that Dr. Land will repent of his racially and attitudinally flawed words. If he doesn’t, I pray that the SBC will have the courage and character to hold him accountable by repudiating his remarks and dismissing him from an office that he no longer has the credibility to hold.”
In addition to apologizing to people offended by his words, Land also apologized for lifting much of his March 31 commentary from a published article without proper attribution. ERLC trustee officers said April 18 they were investigating plagiarism charges first reported by Aaron Weaver, a Baptist blogger working on his Ph.D. in religion and politics at Baylor University.
Land did not respond immediately to a request for comment.