Controversy over women pastors and sexual abuse at the recent annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Anaheim edged out coverage of another explosive issue roiling the largest Protestant denomination in America — race.
At one meeting, black Florida pastor Kevin Smith, a fixture in establishment SBC circles, issued a challenge that could have been crafted by Ibram X. Kendi, Robin DiAngelo or any member of the Democratic National Committee.
Smith exhibited the authorized grievance, approved insult and infantilization that have come to epitomize the Democratic Party brand of racial reconciliation.
From a floor mic during Q&A, Smith addressed his grievance specifically to the white men empaneled before the assembly: “You mentioned 10 years as a window [for progress on race] and I’m less hopeful 10 years later.” Next came the insult: “I think some Southern Baptists just bent over and became political whores with this whole Trump stuff.”
Finally, an infantilized plea: “People who are not white feel like they are tolerated but not embraced.” Smith wants to see white Southern Baptists “giving a darn that somebody else is hurting who is supposed to be your brother or sister in Christ.”
Smith thinks “some Southern Baptists were unloving to black people beginning in 2012 with the killing of Trayvon Martin.” Smith also expected the white men on the platform to answer for black pastors Ralph West, John Onwuchekwa and Charlie Dates “feeling alienated” from Southern Baptists.
For more than 40 years, an array of black voices that span the political spectrum, including Christians and atheists, have warned that progressive recipes for improved race relations hurt rather than help. From Thomas Sowell to Southern Baptists Voddie Baucham, Carol Swain and Lee Brand, the SBC establishment has not heeded the voices that might have spared it the disappointment Smith complains of.
In 2000, John McWhorter, a black atheist Democrat and Columbia professor accused of being an “Uncle Tom,” wrote: “Often under the impression they are working on behalf of the oppressed, [whites] fail to realize they are feeding hatred against themselves, which also in turn discourages blacks from helping themselves to be helped, by infecting them with the idea that they are hunkered behind a barracks against outrageous racism.”
Smith spoke out as if from behind barracks of the sort McWhorter describes, and the white SBC elites did not dare question that posture. Democrat rules forbid whites from challenging grievances expressed by blacks.
The tense exchange with Smith exposed a critical race theory-sourced expansion of Democratic Party-approved black grievance. Systemic racism is now responsible not only for racial disparities in material goods such as employment, salaries, overall wealth, health, treatment by police, justice in the courts, etc., but also for the “feelings” of blacks like Smith, Dates and West.
CRT incorporates the triumph of the therapeutic of which sociologist Philip Rieff has written into the longstanding blaming of systemic racism for material disparities, giving rise to demands for trigger warnings and safe spaces for oppressed groups. Smith could count on passive acceptance of his rant by the Democrat-trained white men addressed.
The unacknowledged false assumption underlying the Smith exchange runs counter to both reason and the teaching of the Bible. Here it is: Meanings drawn from negative experiences attributed to racism by blacks cannot be invalidated, nor can the feelings to which those meanings give rise, least of all by whites.
In the Bible, complaining believers cannot always count on a patient and gentle response from God, but when the prophet Elijah fled from murderous Queen Jezebel, that’s what he got. What Elijah didn’t get, and what no child of God of any color should expect, is automatic divine validation of meanings we draw from our experiences.
Elijah’s flight from Jezebel left him suicidally depressed because, he believed, of all those who were “zealous for the Lord … I alone am left.” The Lord disabused Elijah of his surmises. Thousands of faithful ones remained, and the Lord had some kings for Elijah to anoint in the coming months if he’d snap out of his unwarranted pity party and trust God’s word (1 Kings 19:1-21).
At Caesarea Philippi, the Apostle Peter let Jesus know he was having none of his crucifixion talk. Jesus responded, “Get thee behind me, Satan” (Mark 8:27-33). Experience plus sincerity does not equal truth.
Wise and loving parents regularly negotiate the tricky terrain where experience, feelings and truth so often encroach on each other’s turf. The night terrors of a child who believes a monster lurks under his bed are real even though the monster is not. Love pities and comforts the child. But it does not validate the child’s unwarranted fear; it debunks it.
With good reason have the “Uncle Toms” characterized Anaheim-like exchanges as a species of infantilization. Adults do not require a warrant for complaints from infants. But as infancy is left behind, wise and loving caregivers, in the interest of the child’s maturity, do require such warrants.
Are the grievances expressed by Smith valid? Unlikely. But the point here is that the CRT-informed Democratic Party recipe for racial reconciliation inevitably infantilizes blacks by leaving unexamined the warrants necessary to validate such grievances.
A community of brilliant “Uncle Toms” reaching back to Sowell and up through the contemporary voices of Baucham, Swain and Brand would require such warrants. Thus, they and other un-woke Southern Baptists are barred from the contrived SBC “conversation on race” by elites committed to providing safe spaces for blacks such as Smith who serve the virtue-signaling needs of whites on terms set by the Democratic Party.
If the Anaheim pattern continues, so will the infantilization of blacks, the deterioration of race relations among Southern Baptists, and the captivation of the SBC by the Democratic Party.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.