Land On Park51 and Why the SBC Is Not Monolithic

Chatting with the Professor this week reminded me that some are able to grasp that the SBC is not monolithic. (A quick note here. My friend Greg affectionately refers to me as Reverend. So in an attempt to find my own affectionate description I chose Professor. And, in an upcoming post I want to explore friendship – specifically the nature of the Professor-Reverend friendship.)

Dr. Richard Land visited “flyover country” this week. The guest of Capital Baptist Association, Dr. Land covered a range of topics according to The Oklahoman,

Land said he enjoys traveling across the country and meeting with Southern Baptists about public policy issues. He said he does not endorse candidates, but encourages Baptists to vote their values and beliefs.

I had hoped to attend one of Dr. Land’s two events while here. The choices were Cohen Alan or Dr. Land. You be the judge.Dr. Land taught a course I took more than 20 years ago on American Religious History. He is well-spoken, confident, and quite smart. My only objection at the time came when he sought to refute one of my college professors assertions about the treatment of Native Americans by the United States. The late Dr. Paul Rutledge was no slouch holding two PhD’s and had taught a Comparative Civilizations course on Native Americans I took while at O.B.U. I have little doubt who to consider the “expert” on the subject and was disappointed in Dr. Land.

Reading the coverage of the event at Southern Hills left me wanting to hear a recording. For when someone like Dr. Land speaks many Southern Baptists either join lock-step with the espoused opinion or they defer to the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission to “help” them with their “beliefs” on the topic du jour. And, we would have all been surprised had Dr. Land not said something about Park51. He did.

And it is at this point everyone should understand the SBC is not monolithic. The one does not speak for all.

First, the Cordoba House project now dubbed Park51 is more YMCA than mosque. It is no more a mosque than the chapel at the Pentagon becomes a mosque when Muslims take their prayer times there. Continued use of “mosque” by those purporting to support religious liberty is more political than religious.

Second, suggesting the matter is one of “manners” begs the question of Christian manners and hospitality. And, here we are talking about American Muslims. Reading the Parable of the Wounded Jew (a.k.a. The Good Samaritan) must include the attendant connections. Jews and Samaritans in Jesus’ day were enemies. Think of the modern Palestinian-IsraeliĀ divide. Jesus concluded his conversation with the questioning lawyer by agreeing the Samaritan was the neighbor and commanding hearers to live the same way. Should we want to make of our Muslim neighbors our enemies we stand in defiance of the occasion to embody the ethic of Jesus.

Third, we who live in Oklahoma City should consider this cartoon when thinking about our position. It is too easy for us to conflate politics with our faith in a way that the embodied ethic of Jesus falls under the weight of our eagerness for vindication. Believing in the Kingdom of God and the fulfillment of the “coming Kingdom” sets the matter of my need for vindication aside.

The SBC is not monolithic. When the day comes, and if we fail on this matter it will, when Christians want to build a church building is challenged we will rue the day we only gave lip service to religious liberty and freedom in US America.

Other posts worth considering:

Solid Thinking on the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”

Ground Zero Mosque: It’s a Simple Question

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

4 comments on “Land On Park51 and Why the SBC Is Not Monolithic

  1. likemindead says:

    Thank you for this.

    I’d add Keith Olbermann’s comments here — — and this article — — to the discourse.


    P. S. — I’m generally not a fan of Olbermann. šŸ˜‰

    1. Ryan,
      Thanks for the link. That is quite a piece. I had heard reference to this but not seen it.

  2. Guy Rittger says:

    As always, Rev. Todd, you show yourself to be far more tolerant and perceptive than so many of your fellow Southern Baptists who occupy positions of leadership and influence. Dr. Land’s comments in the Oklahoman are not only in lock-step with current right-wing Republican talking points, they are mere assertions, unsupported by argument and patently contradicted by facts. Our respective OBU heroes – Paul Rutlidge and Slayden Yarbrough – would make short work of this kind of ideological bloviating.

    Setting aside the pernicious and biased ways in which the entire Park 51 “controversy” is being presented in the media – always ready to chum the waters of social discourse to attract the sharks and bottom-feeders – i.e., it’s a community center, not a mosque, it’s a substantial distance from the WTC site, not on “Ground Zero”, etc. – Dr. Land’s patronizing comment about “good manners” is utterly belied by the fact that the same bigots who loudly oppose Park 51 also oppose the building of actual mosques in locations all over the United States. Though it would no doubt never occur to him, Dr. Land exhibits the increasingly prevalent and disturbing “Crusader” mentality, which sees the United States as the modern day defender of Christian values locked in mortal combat with the Muslim heathen who threaten “our” way of life – i.e., unrestricted free market capitalism and straight white male privilege.

    To cut to the chase: Dr. Land’s perspective on Park 51, as well as on gay marriage, health care, and probably many other things, is far removed from the teachings and examples of Jesus, and embodies the same worldview and values that have repeatedly placed the SBC on the wrong side of history and in opposition to core Christian principles of tolerance and compassion – i.e., the things exemplified in your own speech and actions, Rev. Todd, a true disciple of Rutledge and Yarbrough.

    An aside on California’s Prop 8: Only someone who has not bothered to read Judge Vaughan Walker’s 138-page ruling could accuse the Reagan-appointee of being a legislating or activist judge. While the opponents of Prop 8 marshaled a thorough case, well-documented, fact-based, and supported by a small army of academics of unimpeachable repute, from the world’s top universities, the defenders of Prop 8 brought nothing but unsubstantiated opinion and personal prejudice. Indeed, the sheer vacuousness and incompetence of the Prop 8 defense is so breathtaking that it no doubt informs the CA Supreme Court’s decision to weigh in on the question of “legal standing” – i.e., the defenders of Prop 8 acquitted themselves so poorly that it raised questions about whether they were even qualified to defend it. Not surprising, of course, since here simply is no “reasonable” defense of their position apart from narrow religious intolerance and personal prejudice. Dr. Land appears to be quite comfortable occupying that space.



    1. Guy,

      Pertinent as always. It is very hard for some to have honest conversations about these matters tied as we are to our preconceptions and a priori commitments.

      Glad you weighed in.


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