Just because you’re quoting the Bible doesn’t mean you’re not embracing racism.
That’s a lesson Coach Mark Adams of Texas Tech University learned the hard way last week. While the comments that got him fired were discouraging and inappropriate, what’s perhaps more troubling is the team of white men who piled on to defend him because — “the Bible.”
The source of this drama is a comment Coach Adams, who is white, allegedly made to a Black player in an attempt to encourage him to be more coachable. He quoted Scripture to say there is “always a master and a servant.”
How, in God’s name, could anyone think this was a prudent choice of words? A white coach talking to a Black player about masters and servants. Have we dialed back the clock to 1863?
But Coach Adams is not alone in his ignorant bliss. Some Southern Baptist complementarians quickly came to his defense.
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary: “The insanity of the cancel culture strikes again. The coach was quoting the Bible! Amazing but no longer surprising.”
Tom Ascol, leader of the Calvinist wing of the Southern Baptist Convention: “Can someone make a list of Bible verses we are no longer allowed to use in certain contexts? With every woke mob takedown it seems like the canon within the canon gets smaller & smaller.”
Conservative political commentator Charlie Kirk got in on the criticism of wokeness as well: “So players can rap lyrics with the N word, professors can push anti-white racist screeds, and schools pay six figures for bigots like Nikole Hannah Jones to give speeches. But Texas Tech basketball coach Mark Adams gets suspended for quoting the Bible? Reinstate immediately!”
And just to be fair, you didn’t have to be an old white guy to be offended by the way the coach was treated. Conservative sports commentator (when did that even become a thing?) Jason Whitlock, who is Black, said: “The Bible is not the enemy of Black people. It’s the word of God. There’s no passage in the Bible that is ‘racially insensitive.’” This is absolutely embarrassing. It’s an abomination. Everyone at Texas Tech should be ashamed.”
There is “no passage in the Bible that is racially insensitive?” Really? Have you not even read the book? Entire passages are racially insensitive by today’s standards, especially when misinterpreted or misapplied.
Not only were Bible verses used to incite hatred of the Jewish people leading up to the Holocaust, slave owners and slave traders in Europe and America quoted the Bible to justify making chattel of humans created in God’s image. And more recently, clergy sexual abusers have quoted the Bible to subdue their young victims.
Abusive parents quote the Bible to control their children. Abusive spouses quote the Bible to demand obeisance. People who don’t want to be judged for their actions quote the Bible to get a free pass. I could go on and on.
Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, said it best: “Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus in the wilderness. Affirming slavery to a descendent of slaves, in order to challenge, correct, or encourage a certain behavioral outcome, is highly insensitive or tone deaf, at best, or consciously or unconsciously racist at worst. Wrong either way.”
Nathan Kalman-Lamb, assistant professor of sociology at University of New Brunswick, set the debate in context: “There is really no more perfect exemplification of the confluence of plantation dynamics and status coercion in college athletics than Texas Tech MBB coach Adams using the Bible to instruct a player to be better at ‘serving their masters.’”
Texas Tech administrators were right in flagging the coach’s speech as “inappropriate, unacceptable and racially insensitive.” You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to see the problem here.
The 66-year-old coach did not apologize for the comment and instead doubled down in a later interview: “I was quoting the Scripture. It was a private conversation about coaching and when you have a job, and being coachable. I said that in the Bible that Jesus talks about how we all have bosses, and we all are servants. I was quoting the Bible about that.”
The coach then added when he learned the player was upset about the speech: “I explained to them. I didn’t apologize.”
“Adams has resigned now, but the stain of his words remains with those who revere him for ‘quoting the Bible.’”
By the way, this is the same player Adams was accused of spitting on earlier in the season.
The coach’s explanation for that one? “He had a bad cough and slobbered on the player during the game,” according to a report in Stadium.
Adams has resigned now, but the stain of his words remains with those who revere him for “quoting the Bible.”
We should not be surprised by this attitude coming from Christians who already have demonstrated they revere the Bible over Jesus himself and stand by a literal and “inerrant” interpretation of the Bible that does more harm than good. We should not be surprised when white people who are threatened by the 1619 Project and Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory can’t see what’s wrong with quoting the Bible to reinforce the submission of slaves in 2023.
There’s a Bible verse for this truth, too: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: … a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”
Mark Wingfield serves as executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global. He is the author the new book Honestly: Telling the Truth About the Bible and Ourselves.
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