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-Israeli 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.