When the SBC voted a resolution inviting its constituency to boycott Disney it was a selective action. The tentacles of the corporate giant reached into places many hardly realized as they raised hands agreeing to abstain from watching, buying, or going to anything Disney. That was 1997.
Eight years later the SBC dropped the boycott. Dr. Richard Land contended that many off the record conversations indicated Disney indeed listened. He insinuated the effort led to the eventual vote of no confidence for Michael Eisner. That was 2005.
In between these events the SBC voted to cut its ties with the Baptist World Alliance. Search high and low and you cannot uncover a solid reasoning for the move. I had my own off the record conversations having served on the General Council of the BWA at the time. What seemed to be missed by the discovery of a needle of theological liberalism in the haystack of 200 million Baptists worldwide was that the SBC had neither the interest nor the structure to speak into international matters of justice. The BWA did. That was 2004.
The SBC severed its relationship with the one entity that worked around the world to bring peace by engaging people, systems, and structures that made life difficult for other human beings all in the Name of Jesus. There have been reports that the SBC may be rethinking the relationship as its attempted alternative has all but failed. I hope the SBC rejoins the BWA at some point in the future. It will require putting aside animosity toward the CBF.
Recently I listened to an interview with Frank Shcaeffer. He noted that his move away from the extremes of the Evangelical world came as he witnessed a lack. The largest Christian block, arguably, in the world often ignored some of the most egregious matters of justice.
Bono recently applauded Evangelicals (21:40) for their efforts for their leadership in curbing AIDS/HIV progress. The largest Evangelical denomination rarely gives as much energy to human trafficking, sexual abuse, AIDS/HIV, and poverty as it did when poking a finger in Disney’s face.
Meanwhile the BWA continues to advocate for matters of justice in the word. It is one of its organizational elements for which they provide staff. Sunday, July 7, the BWA issued a press release once again advocating the end of the Cuban embargo. The consequences seem clear. Castro did not flinch and the Cuban people suffer.
Washington, DC (BWA)–The General Council of the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) passed a resolution asking the government of the United States to lift its long standing embargo on Cuba.
The US embargo against Cuba was first imposed in October 1960, was strengthened in 1962 and codified into law in 1993. It includes commercial, economic, financial and travel prohibitions and restrictions.
“The BWA urges the US government to end the embargo of Cuba and re-establish formal diplomatic relations with the Cuban government” and “lift all remaining restrictions on travel to Cuba by US citizens.” Both governments need to “set in place a process for negotiating legitimate bilateral grievances.”
Essentially asserting that the embargo is irrelevant, the council, which comprises Baptist leaders from around the world, said “more than two decades have passed since the end of the Cold War, and that most manifestations of that struggle have been ameliorated or abolished, except for the continuing United States embargo against Cuba begun in 1960.”
The embargo, the resolution claims, serves no useful purpose. “The interests of neither nation – nor those of the international family of nations – are served by the status quo.” Rather, “the lifting of the embargo will improve living conditions for Cubans and provide greater opportunities for commerce, education, and travel.”
The BWA governing body noted that several of its member organizations in the US “have been on record for more than two decades in opposition to the embargo” and that “annually for the past 21 years the United Nations General Assembly has voted – nearly unanimously – for an end to the embargo.”
The council expressed concern about the effect the embargo has on Baptists on the Caribbean island, which has the fastest growing Baptist membership in the Caribbean. “The Baptist World Alliance® stands in solidarity with Cuban Baptists who have been negatively impacted by this embargo.”
The General Council convened during the BWA Annual Gathering that was held in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, from July 1-6.
In 2000 I was in Havana for the BWA General Council meeting. I heard stories from local pastors of what life was like. If I recall correctly, some talked of shoes made of Bible covers. Intercepted Bibles were stripped of their covers to make shoes. I recall the indoor stadium built to host the Pan Am Games crumbling due to poor construction. I remember the beggars who longed for something to eat. Recently I was reminded of my own action to help a young mother in need of milk while standing in a convenience store in Havana across from our hotel.
One of these days maybe the largest, wealthiest group of Baptists will put more energy in addressing these issues that surely rank higher in terms of frequency than same-sex marriage and are as risky to the viability of life as the matter of abortion. Surely it does not take much to see these matters as Gospel matters. We could then run a headline that includes Southern Baptists not just some Baptists.
And yes, our church has supported the BWA since the SBC severed ties.