Race Is No Longer an Issue? or, Maybe My SBC Friends Will Rethink Our Progress

Recently Dwight McKissic raised issue with a Texas Baptist pastor who was against Mitt Romney before he was for him. He noted that once Romney won the nod for the Republican Presidential nomination, said pastor softened his rhetoric and amped up his support. In the piece, Dwight reminded his readers the SBC refused to consider his resolution decrying racism contained in Mormon documents.

The comments betrayed the commenters when it landed on an SBC blog. Many seemed incredulous that Dwight would dare play the race card. We have moved on.  “Why can’t he move on,” seemed to bubble to the surface. It appears my SBC friends may need to rethink the progress we think we have made – at least in our Country. And, I would imagine since the SBC allies so strongly with the Republican party we need to reconsider the matter in our own ranks.

Tad Delay pointed to research released that calls into question the notion we have gotten better with regard to racial sentiments in our Country. Tad begins his post noting the news,

Walter Benjamin once famously said, “Every fascism is an index of a failed revolution.” This is the type of thing that naturally concerns anyone interested in the health of a society. Tavis Smiley rightly predicted this would be the most racist election since the ’60s (voter suppression and all). By now everyone has heard of the research showing Obama lost 2-4% because of race in 2008, and a new poll by AP shows the problem is getting worse. It’s no surprise that anti-black attitudes rise during the past 4 years. Sad, but not surprising at all.

Maybe one could argue that the way Mormon doctrine evolves they do not hold the racist positions they once did. But it appears those sentiments among our wider population do not die easily.

I wonder what my friend Alan Cross would say about this news as he continues writing on the issue of race in the South.

What do you make of the report? Of the notion we have made progress in matters of race?

Those of you who pastor, especially in the SBC, what do you do with the apparent latent racism that lies underneath perceptions the issue has passed? How will you address the hearts of those with whom you share life that you know well fit the described percentages?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=523454689 Alan Cross on Facebook

    I think that to claim “racism” is ultimately a losing argument, though. I think that what looks like racism is just a symptom of a deeper problem, which is the categorizing of the “other” as a threat and the promotion of my own self-interests at the expense of the “other.” We do that is all kinds of ways that often have nothing to do with race, but it is the same basic thing as what looks like racism. There are very few true racists anymore, if racism is defined as thinking that one race is inherently superior to the other. Most people don’t think that and they have moved the point of Dr. King’s dream of judging a man by the content of his character as opposed to the color of his skin. But, the fear and distrust that still pervades our attempt to protect ourselves from the other is still racialized. In other words, we no longer think that because a person is black, they are necessarily a threat. We used to think that when we had “Colored” water fountains and restrooms. We don’t think that any longer. But, we do still use race as a classification for those who are more likely to be in the category of “other” that we have to protect ourselves from. There is a distinction there and unless we begin to see it, claims of racism fall on deaf ears among Whites because they quickly pull up their few examples of Black friends and acquaintances that they are not threatened by at all. But, those examples only prove the point that we still iive in a Racialized Society and that our religion is thoroughly Racialized. We may not be classic racists, but we are just like our ancestors in many ways in that we protect ourselves against the “Other” with whatever economic, social, and spiritual power we have so that we can protect OUR way of life. And, we use often use God to do it.

  • John Elam

    Todd,
    I wonder if we make this issue to ‘thin’ we we only speak of race. For many I believe the issue is also one of culture. Power moves and self Identification have led the lives of majority/minority populations to develop in isolation culturally. While I can’t recall the exact quote Merkel announced a few years back the death of multiculturalism. For many race is the charge when the underlying issue is cultural preferences. Music, family roles, socio-economic status, food, housing all play together to isolate and then further identify us with our own kind. This goes beyond race.

    I would suggest that our embrace of the other needs to go deeper than “am
    I a racist? No! Glad we settled that.” and actually push into embracing my neighbor, the other, as Christ has embraced me. One allows us to check the box of non-racist and then be affirmed with our “one black friend” and look deeper at the things which divide us from each other.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=523454689 Alan Cross on Facebook
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=525372245 Todd Littleton on Facebook

    Alan,
    Pointing to the way we marginalized across our tribal penchant s does help us think broadly about the way “othering” works in a host of situations. But, in order to address the deeper matter, as you put it, requires particularity. Until there is wider acceptance that the underlying issue is the way we reduce and dismiss others in ways that align with our fears and preferences, we must name racism as still a reality rather than feel better by invoking radicalization.

    My overall contention is we have not progressed as much as we convince ourselves we have. Remember your comments on Dwight’s post. When challenged by CB, you softened a bit. Then he and others came and illustrated your very point.

    it is not that I disagree with you. Instead, I see no good reason to back away from what still plagues us by naming the specific ways we treat others. Consider the shift in that same thread when the issue of economic injustice showed up. The lack of compassion called into question the existence of Christian charity when all anecdotes played the, pull yourself up by your bootstraps card without so much a sense of deference to the complexities of our current economic crisis, and system.

    What it seems we witness is the wholesale lack of an understanding of human interdependence. IMO

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=523454689 Alan Cross on Facebook

    It is a complex issue to be sure and calling out “racism” does little to help clear it up. Honestly, I have no way of knowing if someone is a true racist or not if they claim not to be. That is the reason for the softening. I can make general statements about an issue, but when someone says, “that is not me – I am not a racist,” to continue to claim that they are becomes problematic. The truth is, I cannot know read their minds. But, what does become clear is how we operate in our own self-interests most of the time and that race becomes a good category for those who we think might be a threat to us, even if we do not really believe that there is a biological reason why they are a threat. Perhaps we claim it to be cultural differences or a lack of family values or economic socialism or liberalism or a rejection of Christian morals. We have lots of code words. The real issue, I think, and one that goes far beyond racism, is that we use our religion to protect ourselves, to save our life or to gain our best life now. In doing this, we actually reject Christ because He calls us to lose our lives for the gospel and His sake. To lose our life means that we have to embrace the “Other” and do so sacrificially. Racism made Black people the “Other” for Whites. Racialization, even after Racism has been denounced, perpetuates the situation as we continue to make economic, social, and psychological decisions based on what benefits our Way of Life over and against what honors God and shows love to others. I have to soften on personal, pointed charges of Racism because I just don’t know what lies behind another’s thinking. But, on the ways that Racialization provides a cover for our pursuit of the good life aided by our expression of Christianity, I am pretty firm about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=523454689 Alan Cross on Facebook

    And, my contention is that we have not progressed at all, despite our rhetoric. We are dealing with the same sins. We have just shape-shifted in their manifestation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=523454689 Alan Cross on Facebook

    John, that is what I am trying to say. Denying “racism” gets us off the hook too easily.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=525372245 Todd Littleton on Facebook

    John,
    A more careful reading would pick up that I simply used race as how we “other” people because of the recent AP piece. There is little doubt we other people when we do not find them toting a preferred SBC line. Read the comments at Voices. There is often a lack of working toward understanding and agreement, even on a limited plane. Rather the shouting is vociferous and loud. Dwight was treated poorly in my opinion. And, mostly by a bunch of white guys. There was hardly the slightest interest to hear him describe the complex ways the black vote must be viewed. Instead, he was excoriated for his willingness to accept Obama’s personal confession that he was a Christian. When the conversation turned to economics, the bluster continued. Again, mostly by white guys.

    If we apply the same requirement – that to be a Christian requires us to give evidence of how are beliefs are held (ethics/praxis) then it seems consistent to call “bull” when those who claim to not be racist in fact follow racialized rhetoric.

    I believe we agree. The nexus for the post, however, was that in the aftermath of Dwight’s experience and stating his opinion, it seems hard to defend we have not made the progress we allege. That was my point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=525372245 Todd Littleton on Facebook

    Alan,
    Sometimes in our attempts to nuance we create space for the very thing to continue unabated. That is my point. We may invent euphemisms to make us feel better about the way we want the world to work in order to salve the conscience. The piece in question simply stated that we have not moved much on the issue. And, to create a layer that seems to assert the same as if we were still wiling to use “racist” seems intent to engage a language game for comfort rather than systemic change. That goes for the multitude of ways we advantage ourselves by disadvantaging others.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=523454689 Alan Cross on Facebook

    I understand. So, you are saying that we should just keep declaring others to be “racist” when they act in ways consistent with “racialization” to protect their own privileged position? That is definitely an argument that cuts through the rhetoric and assigns a strong denunciation to the current actions of almost the entire SBC in almost everything that we do. Under that categorization, we are still racist in our denomination and our churches and our personal lives. You might be right. Perhaps the attempts at reconciliation are just a way to save face, give a little ground, and still maintain our position all the while continuing on in our own racists machinations. But, I don’t think so. I think that the disease is just as deadly but it goes far deeper than race. Racism was not even really a thing until around the 1500-1600’s with the Portugese slave trade in West Africa. It came to justify the perceived economic necessity of slave labor in the New World. The religious/theological justification came later after the economic interests dictated that African slave labor was needed for White European survival in the New World. My contention is that true racism is only employed when it is useful for Whites to do so. It is hardly useful now as any expression of it makes you a societal pariah. But, promoting your life over the Other is the American Way. The fact that this act continues to fall along racial lines shows how embedded we are in promoting ourselves over others, even when it appears to all as though we are classic racists. And, maybe we are. But, what I am proposing as the real cause is no less severe. It is actually worse because it manifests in every relationship with every people all the time. It cannot be localized to one race or set of relationships. But, I see what you are saying. If you want to go all the way and just call it all racist, you can make that point. I just think that the White defense against it, especially the White Evangelical Christian defense, is so engrained that there will not be a hearing for it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=525372245 Todd Littleton on Facebook

    John,
    That should have read, reading of my reply to Alan.

  • Guy Rittger

    I’m going to have to go with Todd on this one. Racism is alive and flourishing in the United States, if not in the ways we stereotypically think of racism. Take, for example, Mitt Romney’s unguarded remark to wealthy donors about the “47%” of Americans who are “dependent on government, who believe that they are victims,…” To anyone with historical memory, Romney’s comment evokes Reagan’s “welfare queens” and the widely held tendency in white circles (affluent and otherwise) to equate “victimization” and “dependency” with Blacks and Latinos. Indeed, the entire discourse of illegal immigration is essentially a racialist discourse.

    It is telling, to me, that, as far as we know, nobody in Romney’s audience publicly objected to his characterization, no doubt because they shared his sentiments.

    And the GOP doesn’t have a monopoly on racism. It is fully institutionalized within our government, as well as our legal, healthcare and financial systems. How else to account for the shocking statistics on the disproportionate incarceration of people of color, the huge discrepancy in wealth and access to economic resources, the major gaps in adult mortality rates, etc.

    That such deeply ingrained tendencies would manifest themselves within the SBC and its congregations, in any number of ways, and given the denomination’s unfortunate history, should surprise nobody. That they are utterly inconsistent with the Gospels, should go without saying.

    Which is why my constant refrain is for Christians to liberate themselves from the false consciousness of American nationalism / exceptionalism, and submit their leaders and would-be leaders to the litmus test of Jesus’ teachings. And not just on the “pet” issues of abortion, homosexuality, and school prayer, but on the full range of issues where love of neighbor must be brought to the fore.

    Respectfully

    • http://www.toddlittleton.net Todd Littleton

      Guy,
      Glad you amplified my point in a way that I should have in my post or first reply.

  • Tom Parker

    It was said:”My overall contention is we have not progressed as much as we convince ourselves we have. Remember your comments on Dwight’s post. When challenged by CB, you softened a bit. Then he and others came and illustrated your very point.”

    CB and the others treated Dwight in a horrible way and I’m sure he will get no apology from these guys.

    The way especially CB questions President Obama’s salvation is beyond the pale and he also calls him a Neo-pagan. It is not their call and it is divisive. But do they care if they divide us?

    I’ll call these guys what they are–BULLY’S!

    I think there is only one opinion and that it must be there’s.

    They are making things worse and not better in the SBC.

    Shame on them. Racism is alive and well in the SBC.

    I find it hard to believe SBC leaders who have taught me and others for years that Mormonism is a cult can know turn around and vote for Mitt Romney.

    I cry hypocrisy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674874652 Guy Rittger on Facebook

    If “salvation” is simply a function of whether or not one was sufficiently sincere when reciting the sinner’s prayer, then challenging Obama’s (or Romney’s) salvation is about as juvenile and “un-serious” as a person can get. But if by salvation one means: demonstrates through words and deeds a commitment to living according to the principles laid down by Jesus in the Gospels, then clearly neither Obama nor Romney could possibly be considered “saved” or Christian. But so what? They’re in great company, particularly among self-avowed Christians and churchgoers throughout the United States.

    • Tom Parker

      Guy:

      I do not understand how you or anyone can determine who is saved or not. That seems mighty self-righteous to me.

      I really tire of people like yourself making this call. Is it not above your pay grade?

      • http://www.toddlittleton.net Todd Littleton

        Tom,
        I understand your frustration with many who call the way a person holds his or her beliefs over at Voices. It is clear from my reading the you aim for a very benevolent form of Christianity. What Guy does in his reply, at least as I understand him, gets at the heart of how one holds belief not that someone may claim belief.

        Guy surely does not need me serve as apologist. But, when you race to lump him into the same category as, “I really tire of people like yourself,” you pack that with assumptions about Guy rather than ask for clarification. Guy is no Joe Blackmon.

        interestingly one could view Guy’s analysis as applying the chosen language game for many Christians and using that same game to point to its empty core.

        • Tom Parker

          Todd:

          You said to me:”Guy is no Joe Blackmon.”

          I would pray that he is not.

          I do not like it when people question others salvation.

          I’ve seen that ugly game game played to many times.

          Thanks for letting me have my say.

          • http://www.toddlittleton.net Todd Littleton

            Tom,

            You are welcome to have your say. Others may push you a bit but that is healthy. I never expect everyone to agree with each other, or with me. I do expect charity and decorum.

            Guy and I went to college together. We have known one another since the early 1980’s. We lost touch for quite sometime. I am glad that we have re-connected and I appreciate his voice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674874652 Guy Rittger on Facebook

    No redeemed individual could pursue the policies that Obama pursues. And no redeedmed individual could casually dismiss the poor, needy, oppressed, and marginalized as Romney did in his infamous “47%” remark. The behavior of both these men, and of those around them, is simply incompatible with their professions of “faith” in Jesus. If Jesus’ own examples don’t condemn them, let me refer you to the Apostle James or, perhaps, to Martin Luther.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674874652 Guy Rittger on Facebook

    Todd – Being fairly well-read in the rich historical tradition of ecclesiastical disputes over the nature/basis/scope of soteriology, I was not being cavalier in my observation. Rather, I was calling attention to the vast gap between what individuals claim about their relationships with God, and the actual ways in which they comport their lives. As something of an unrepentant Calvinist, myself, I would be the first person to acknowledge that God only knows who is among His elect. At the same time, I believe there is substantial value in calling out the hypocrisy of self-avowed Christians, particularly when the magnitude of their hypocrisy beggars both belief and description. For all I know, Judas Iscariot and Josef Stalin (a one-time seminary student himself), are enjoying the fruits of their election as I type. Be that as it may, my larger point is that anyone can claim anything they want about their salvation, but if they contradict this every day of their lives through their actions, then I won’t hesitate to call bullshit on them. As for me, I make no such claims to my own salvation / election / redemption, etc. In truth, I suspect that I won’t make the team. :) Respectfully.

    • http://www.toddlittleton.net Todd Littleton

      Guy,
      I did not take you as being cavalier. If I intimated as much I regret my tone or verbiage.

      My interest in a couple of post-structuralist critiques of the way beliefs function or don’t is in the back of my mind. Maybe, and I am risking here, something like desire works for Lacan and Zizek.

      I would only extend your calling bull by suggesting we may need to elevate a comprehensive lack of charity to the normal discourse that takes in abortion and war.

      As for making the team, well I will follow Tom on this one. If McLaren is right, and now I am surely to get castigated for invoking he who shall not be spoken of, debugging a long history of virus-y Christian practice and doctrine may actually produce a strong and benevolent Christianity. As such, I am left thinking Michael Card’s vision of Like’s Gospel helps – the people who should get Jesus don’t and those who shouldn’t do. This leaves us all in need of falling under the vision of/for Jesus’ Kingdom.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674874652 Guy Rittger on Facebook

    If memory serves, this whole soteriology thing is something Fitch sort of danced around in his book. However, due to his own gracious tendency to avoid the condemnation of others, he was content to call attention to the ongoing tension over the claims people make about their own salvation and the way they lead their lives. Indeed, my take-away from his book (“The End of Evangelicalism?”) was that the two biggest challenges facing Evangelicals today are: “Who is a really a Christian?” and “How should Christians comport themselves in a fallen world?” And a key point of tension here falls within the space of ecclesiology – i.e., who is the Church and how should the Church act? As I think I mentioned in my extended remarks on Fitch, I actually find myself in agreement with his trajectory, even if I think he is disinclined to take his suppositions to their logical conclusion. Respectfully.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674874652 Guy Rittger on Facebook

    As always, your generosity of spirit, particuarly in the heat of debat, is deeply appreciated and warmly felt. But for just a second there I was afraid you’d force me to fall back on my Bonhoeffer defense. :)

    • http://www.toddlittleton.net Todd Littleton

      Guy,
      Somehow I suspected we may hear from Bonhoeffer before long. ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674874652 Guy Rittger on Facebook

    And which also reminds me that I have a bunch of books to send you. Shall get to it as soon as Hurricane Sandy permits.

    • http://www.toddlittleton.net Todd Littleton

      Guy,
      Always appreciate what you might send. I do hope Sandy does not wreak too much havoc. It is looking pretty rough. Maybe all will break by the weekend and you will be on the water.

  • Tom Parker

    Todd:

    You said to me:” I do expect charity and decorum.”

    And please call me out if I am not.

    • http://www.toddlittleton.net Todd Littleton

      Tom,
      My comment, while in response to you, was really a general expectation for all comments and commenters.

      I appreciate your contribution and attitude here.

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