My friend C.B. Scott has a way with metaphors. He chose a bull riding analogy to describe what it is like to submit a Resolution to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting,
I think we need to let people make any resolution they desire. After all, they paid their entry fee (CP giving) to ride the bull in this rodeo (convention 2021). If they think they can ride the bull, no matter how wild and crazy he is, I say, “Straddle up and cinch up” and ride.(Comment left at SBC Voices)
If you are not familiar with the process, we Southern Baptists issue position statements at every Annual Meeting. Resolutions are contingent. They represent the group of Messengers meeting as the Southern Baptist Convention for that year. We do keep a record of our resolves. They range from commending a host city for its hospitality to objecting to abortion. There are occasions where the debate over our resolutions continues after those voting up or down on the measure.
Since 2019, the last time the SBC met for an Annual Meeting due to Covid, Resolution 9 has been hotly debated. One of the points of contention that emerged was whether Critical Race Theory could be a useful tool for assessing cultural, social, political, or economic conditions within the wider culture. Resolution 9 asserted that Critical Race Theory was a tool that could be a useful analytical tool.
WHEREAS, Critical race theory is a set of analytical tools that explain how race has and continues to function in society, and intersectionality is the study of how different personal characteristics overlap and inform one’s experience; and(Resolution 9)
Those who opposed Resolution 9 have kept the debate alive ever since.
Pastors, preachers, missionaries, and professors in the Southern Baptist Convention use all sorts of tools in their various tasks. It seemed odd to me that a theory that stemmed from the question, “How is it that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 started out so well at bringing equality to a subordinated group of people fizzled and ran out of steam effectively leaving structures in place that continued to privilege White people just for being White?”, would be vilified given the origins of the Southern Baptist Convention itself. Many church leaders make use of all sorts of analytical tools that are not derived from the Scriptures to learn about the people who live in our neighborhoods to effectively market the Gospel as a product. A statement that should make pastors cringe. The Gospel is not a product but a Person.
What made this theory so terrible that it garnered attention in Presidential politics, State Legislative sessions, and public schools? For me, a lifelong Southern Baptist, aware of our foibles and our fables, this seemed silly that we would depict as evil a theory that points out ways racism, racialization and race have been socially constructed to subordinate non-White people – Asians, Native Americans, Italians, Blacks and a myriad of Brown people instantiated in our laws and Supreme Court decisions.
I tapped out some thoughts on the keyboard related to what appeared to be an effort to either rescind Resolution 9 or offer a different Resolution to correct the perceived wrong done in 2019. After sharing the ideas with some friends, it was suggested I submit a resolution. Or, in C.B.’s imagery, “I straddled up and cinched up.”
Following the appropriate instructions, and meeting the deadline for submission, I offered a resolution, On the Incompatibility of Structural Racism and Oppression with the Baptist Faith and Message. After submitting the document, I posted it on the Interwebs.
Denny Burk, Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary published a piece on his website addressing submitted resolutions related to Resolution 9. He begins,
Because of the aftermath of 2019’s infamous “Resolution 9,” one of the most important items of business before the Convention will no doubt be a resolution relating to Critical Race Theory (CRT). I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. So I could be wildly off in this prediction, but I anticipate that we won’t leave Nashville without a strong resolution against Critical Race Theory.
He described my resolution in contrast to the others as,
and one that is in favor of CRT.
This is what C.B. must mean when he suggests, “If they think they can ride the bull, no matter how wild and crazy he is . . ..” Or, maybe I should interpret this as the warm-up event. We are Baptists, Southern ones at that. There are variations of this old saying that hold true, “Where three or four Baptists are there, you will find four or five opinions.” We like to make our opinions inerrant.
Who knows how my resolution will fare? For many, it does not reflect their inerrant opinion. But this Annual Meeting will be rife with weightier issues. One of those issues will be our ongoing resistance to hiding behind local church autonomy as a denomination when it comes to clergy sex abuse and abusers. And here is where part of the Critical Race Theory package is resisted. We seem to ignore the impact of abuse on the abused. Many have been speaking up and the system tamps them down. Hearing about how a person’s faith is undermined and shattered by the inaction of leaders demonstrates the way a system is designed to absorb the hits and maintain its status quo. Just like our system of laws and SCOTUS opinions have functioned where subordinating non-white people is concerned.
Resisting any analytic that exposes our sins and errors by blaming the theory as Marxist, Communist, Socialist is, well, so American. It is not Christian.
No matter how my Resolution gets resolved by the Resolutions Committee or the Messengers of the Annual Meeting, I hope more of us want our wider world to know that the Gospel that gives us Jesus Christ is incompatible with structural racism and oppression even if it is found within the habits of our own denomination.