Led Zepplin hit upon our human language dilemma in the rock classic, Stairway to Heaven,
There’s a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.
In a tree by the brook, there’s a songbird who sings,
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it makes me wonder.
Tuesday, April 18, Bryant Wright talked with Soledad O’Brien. I watched the video and read the transcript. On each occasion where Wright was asked about the substance of Land’s comments, even when offered an audio clip to specifically discuss, the response was the same. Land apologized. We should forgive.
But, when the President of the SBC suggests that Dr. Land’s comments were inappropriate in that setting, does that not imply that in some setting the content of Land’s remarks are appropriate?
WRIGHT: Well, I think Richard Land has come out and expressed an apology for comments that were inappropriate in that setting . . .
Are we now to assume there would be no apology had Dr. Land expressed these sentiments in another setting? We continue to ignore the substance of the remarks. Remember, Aaron Weaver not only exposed the source material for the remarks, he gave them to us in transcript form to read them as they were intended, Dr. Land’s own convictions. Someone should ask Fred Luter if that is how he understood the brokered apology.
Before you question brokered as an appropriate adjective read the Baptist Press story wherein Wright found Land agreeable to an apology.
“In talking with Richard, I found a receptivity to apologize for the comments he had made,” Wright said.
Dr. Land needs the President of the SBC to encourage him to apologize? This may be more complicated than at first light. So under pressure from different quarters do we understand Dr. Land’s move in the same way he suggested President Obama looked for a means to bolster a troubled campaign? Maybe we should pick this up at a later time when we have more information from which to form an opinion. Let’s not rush to judgment.
My question, “In what setting could Bryant Wright possibly have in mind that Dr. Land’s remarks would be appropriate?” I did not get the sense from reading Dwight McKissic’s piece he thought there would ever be an occasion where the remarks would be appropriate. I would speculate that had Fred Luter thought the apology included the implication that what Dr. Land said would somehow have been appropriate in another setting he might not have been so diplomatic to suggest we should forgive. Maybe I would be off the mark.
I have been privately asked what steps have been taken in the past seventeen years to indicate the Southern Baptist Convention has moved to live into its apology for its sordid racial past. What action has Dr. Land particularly taken beyond being the progenitor of the 1995 declaration? What action has the Executive Committee of the SBC taken in direct response to the public apology of 1995? How have Southern Baptist Churches been influenced by the rigorous call for racial reconciliation by the ERLC of the SBC? How has the ERCL under Dr. Land’s leadership filled out its mission statement?
“To awaken, inform, energize, equip, and mobilize Christians to be the catalysts for the Biblically-based transformation of their families, churches, communities, and the nation”
I don’t know. I don’t have an answer.
But, if we are going to go public touting our great strides under the leadership of Dr. Land, SBC President Bryant Wright had a golden opportunity to point them out. Wright could have righted the perception that the sentiment Land expressed is the underlying sensibility of all Southern Baptists. Instead, we are left wondering if the Southern Baptist Convention should well have left the debate over its name off the table. After all, we worry about how the rest of the Country and world perceive “Southern.” We did not do much to alter that by this current affair.
Some may perceive this is being too hard on Wright. After all he did not invite this imbroglio. No. We need to face these occasions differently. Here is a prime occasion to exert the ways in which we are no longer Southern. The incident is a low hanging fastball. Knock this one out of the park. Provide an occasion to contend we need more than a nickname for the SBC. Show that our deeply Southern roots have been replaced by a greater sensibility for all people in the Name of Jesus. Maybe it was not the right setting.