As we have recently celebrated the birth of Christ, we would hope that our nation would rededicate itself to the true Christian ideals of the season: peace, love, goodwill toward all. Yet, after four years of the Trump presidency, and in the wake of his ceaseless attempts to nullify Black votes in the recent election, we find those ideals under attack. Racism is perhaps worse now than at any time in recent memory.
In such an environment, we would expect leaders who call themselves Christians, especially those who lead from the pulpit, to repudiate racism and seek to bring a greater understanding of Christianity to their flocks about the evils of Trump and his policies. Sadly, exactly the opposite is happening, and in the very training ground for the next leaders of white evangelical churches in America.
In late November, the Southern Baptist Convention seminary presidents declared they would prohibit the teaching of Critical Race Theory at all their affiliated institutions. Rather than enlightening future pastors about the evils of systemic racism, they have, in essence, declared their hostility toward the issue. They should be showing future ministers how utterly at odds systemic racism is with the teachings of Jesus. Instead, they are training another generation of Southern Baptist pastors to dismiss it.
This decision to avoid scholarly consideration of the issue belies any claim they have made about opposing racism. Their explanation — that CRT is incompatible with biblical teaching — is not only weak but false.
What their refusal to allow CRT to be part of their curriculum demonstrates is that they will not acknowledge that this age-old evil remains very real. They will not face up to the truth: White entitlement pervades American society as strongly today as it did at the nation’s founding, and without strong opposition from leaders of all faiths, it will continue unabated.
The lie about the inferiority of Black people has deep, deep roots. Aristotle, the very father of Western thought, believed that Black Africans were inherently and permanently inferior to white Europeans — so much so that he declared them incapable of self-government. It was an astonishing statement from an intellectual living in the birthplace of democracy.
Nearly 2,000 years later, this flawed belief continued to be embraced by the European colonists who first brought enslaved people to America and then founded the United States. The Southern Baptist Convention itself was a racist offshoot of the Baptist church in the early United States. The Baptists were abolitionists; Southern congregations separated themselves in 1845, so their ministers (and members) could continue to enslave Blacks. A more anti-Christian purpose is hard to imagine.
Despite having 175 years to reconsider and repent their racist foundation, the choice Southern Baptists made at their seminaries in 2020 continues to build on that foundation.
“This is not some sort of philosophical debate. It has very real, very dangerous consequences.”
This is not some sort of philosophical debate. It has very real, very dangerous consequences. These so-called evangelical leaders, with their support for Trump and his delusions, provide cover for racist hate groups, from the Proud Boys to the KKK to neo-Nazis. Members of groups like that attacked Black churches in Washington, D.C. There have been thinly veiled threats against Raphael Warnock, candidate for the Senate and senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the onetime congregation of Martin Luther King Jr. COVID-19 has devastated Black communities far more than white ones because of the inherent racism in health care and community protection.
Instead of speaking out against these evils, as Christians should, the support for Trump by many highly visible Southern Baptist pastors continues unabated. They remain infected by the virus of racism, which is entirely counter to true Christian principles. In this season of goodwill toward all, they should acknowledge that they cannot be cured of this affliction by words alone. They must take action. They can take the first step by rescinding the ban on teaching about racism. This just might be the vaccination they need!
Amos C. Brown serves as senior pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco, the home church of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. He was a student and colleague of Martin Luther King Jr. and serves as president of the NAACP San Francisco Branch.