WALKING THROUGH LAND MINE(S)
A WAY OUT: A FOLLOW-UP TO THE LAND “REPUDIATION” POST
William Dwight McKissic, Sr.
April 23, 2012
There are three questions that have surfaced to the top in response to my Richard Land “Repudiation” Post that I want to address in this article: (1) Do I believe Richard Land is a racist? (2) Should Richard Land’s entire career be judged by fifteen minutes of commentary? (3) How do we resolve the “Land-mine” and the racial divide surrounding this issue?
How the SBC responds to the Land racial comments–not the election of Dr. Luter—may determine whether or not Blacks are attracted to the SBC, remain coy, or even be repelled by the SBC. Whatever gains that may grow out of the rightful election of Dr. Fred Luter as president—not on the basis of race, but on the basis of qualification—have already been neutralized, if not nullified, by the Land racial comments.
In recent years the SBC has been discussing and sometimes debating a name change; a Great Commission resurgence; and the renewal/revitalization of a declining denomination. The answers or solutions to these discussion/debates may all be wrapped up in the SBC’s response to the Land controversy.
I. Do I Believe Richard Land Is a Racist?
No! I have absolutely no reason to believe that. Do I believe Richard Land is racial in his outlook and interpretation of matters? Yes! And so am I. If Richard Land is a racist, so am I and the vast majority of America, Black, Hispanic, Asian and White.
I make a distinction between being racist and racial. A racist is intentional, unashamedly and foundationally, comfortable viewing persons of other races as being fundamentally and inherently flawed or less than. A racist prejudge or relate to other persons based on their foundational outlook. A person who is racial in their outlook—and most of us are—are simply products of the fact that we were born into a racial construct and society, and we observed or were taught certain things about race that shapes or form our world view. We sometimes think, write, talk and act out of the racial world view from which we basically inherited. This sometimes conflicts with a kingdom or biblical view of race. I do not believe Richard Land or most Southern Baptists are racist—but racial. The National Baptist Convention—of which I’m also a member—likewise is not racist, but clearly racial. As a matter of fact, the Southern Baptist Convention in many regards, are doing a better job than the National Baptists Convention to reach across the racial divide and bridge the gap. National Baptists generally view the SBC with suspicion and distrust because of comments like the ones Dr. Land made, the belief he reflects and the belief that his comments reflect majority Southern Baptist thought. Given that suspicion National Baptists rarely reach out to bridge the racial divide. When the moderates were in charge of the SBC race relations were actually far better between Southern Baptists and National Baptists then and now. The Conservatives who are now in charge really need to do some soul searching on that question.
Most Blacks who are a part of the SBC are members because someone in the SBC reached out and made us feel wanted and welcome as pastors, parishioners and participants; but the jury is still out as to whether or not we are welcome to occupy seats of power. In many instances the SBC entities provided resources and support that we could not or didn’t receive from the National Baptists. For that I applaud and appreciate the SBC. The issue before the SBC now is, will the Convention accept Blacks not just as members and participants, but will you accept Blacks as partners and share equal power? The ERLC that Land leads has twenty-one full-time employees and not one Black. There are about thirty persons on my staff at present and only one part-time White. Neither Dr. Land nor I are racist, but our hiring has been racial.
The Land racial remarks threaten the reservoir of goodwill in our convention regarding race that Dr. Land helped to establish, I’m told. Please read the Baptist Twenty One blog post where this young African American named Walter Strickland, whose spiritual DNA is SBC as opposed to NBC, clearly articulated the pressure and problem the Land remarks poses for us who are dually aligned or singularly aligned with the SBC. Ed Stetzer posted the best response to date by an Anglo SBC leader to the Land problem. Land’s racial statements, unchallenged, cause those of us who remain in the SBC be looked upon by other African Americans as “Uncle Toms.” I appreciate Walter Strickland for expressing the huge problem Dr. Land has caused us. By far, this is the best African American response to the Land controversy. He expresses his viewpoint in a much more gentle tone than I do, which is good. We are addressing the same pain and crying for help from the SBC to heal the wounds and repair the breach.
The racist in the SBC are those churches that don’t allow non-Anglo members, refuse to baptize African Americans, officially or unofficially will not employ African American staff members (except custodians), reject African Americans as guest preachers (this happen to Dr. Luter in Louisiana in the 90’s) reject inter-racial marriages (currently know of an Anglo SBC church where this is an issue) and I could go on. Dr. Land would not support any of these practices; therefore, I don’t believe he is a racist. Succinctly stated, racism–I believe–is intentional. Being racial is accidental and unintentional. I do not believe Dr. Land’s remarks were intended to hurt or do harm. I don’t think he would have spoken these words had he known it would create a racial fire storm and deepen the racial divide in the SBC. To that extent, he has apologized; and I accept it. However, we are still waiting on him and the SBC to own and then disown his words.
As a matter of fact, seven to nine years ago, I recall reading in a Baptist publication, the fact that Dr. Land had a burden against modern day slavery in Sudan. He was addressing that issue with words and work, as I recall. I was impressed with what he was saying and doing based on what I read. I invited him to our church to preach on that issue. He accepted my invitation and he did a very fine job. Subsequently, our church responded to his message with prayer for the Sudan situation; and, as best I recall, we raised funds and supported a ministry that was addressing the situation.
I was experiencing personal pain over a personal situation that I was dealing with when Dr. Land came to preach. I shared with him my pain. He listened and ministered to me mightily, for which I will always be grateful. No! I do not believe Richard Land is racist. I do believe his word-view and words are sometimes racial and reflect a Euro-centric or secular, conservative, political, sociological outlook—as opposed to a biblio-centric, Christo-centric, and Kingdom of God oriented outlook. His Trayvon Martin comments reflected the racial construct in which he was born, not a biblio-centric outlook that says, “for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). By most accounts, Dr. Land has a history of racial reconciliation work that is positive and long-standing.
II. Should the SBC Repudiate a Man’s Life-long Work Over Fifteen Minutes of Commentary?
Dr. Bart Barber, echoed by David Brumbelow, raised this valid and compassionate question. First of all, I do not suggest that we repudiate his life-long work; only the controversial Trayvon Martin comments and particularly, the racial profiling justification commentary. I agree with Dr. Barber and David Brumbelow: It would be non-Christian to repudiate a man’s life-time work over those fifteen minutes. Therefore, I am not, would not, and never have proposed that.
In The Tennessean article, dated April 14, 2012, Travis Loller reports:
“Land, who is white, said in an interview that he has no regrets. And he defended the idea that people are justified in seeing young black men as threatening: A black man is ‘statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man.’”
I appeal to Brother Bart and Brother David, to please try and understand that if the profile quote goes unchallenged, un-repented of, and not repudiated by the SBC or Dr. Land, then it forever becomes the official position and attitude of the SBC regarding racial profiling. Do we really want that statement to go unchallenged? If so, that statement would be far worse unchallenged than the curse of Ham teaching, that was taught by Dr. Criswell and most SBC preachers before him. That’s where he learned in from. And no one would deny that W.A. Criswell was the single most influential pastor/preacher in the past fifty years in SBC life; Although, Dr. Adrian Rogers would be an honorable mention in the same sentence with Criswell, when it comes to influence and impact upon the SBC over the past fifty years.
The reason that Dr. Land’s profile statement must be recanted is because, it approves of viewing Black men with suspicion, sanctioned by the SBC. Land’s profile statement places my freedom, job opportunities, goodwill with all men, life and ultimately my destiny at risk—to those who with SBC approval believe it is permissible to profile me based on statistics and skin color. Why in heaven’s name would the SBC place God’s kingdom agenda, the Great Commission, race relations and the future growth of our convention at stake—to uphold a secular worldview racial profiling posture. I can assure you, if this comment stands, it will greatly hinder the conventions outreach to African Americans. Why would I want to be a part of a convention that the chief ethics officer says that it is justifiable and understandable to view me as a suspect? This is a serious matter that must be addressed. YES! This portion of the fifteen-minute commentary at the very least must be resolved, because of the influence and impact it has over so many.
III. How do we resolve the Land Mine and the racial divide surrounding this issue?
There are three ways to view the Martin/Zimmerman matter: (1) The White view; (2) The Black View (3) The Kingdom View. If the SBC embraces and adopt the Kingdom View, I believe that at least internally, we can resolve the crisis within our convention, so that we can celebrate the election of Dr. Luter, without any racial baggage associated with this case hindering it.
A. The White view of the Martin/Zimmerman case is basically:
- Let’s not rush to judgment.
- Zimmerman had a right to defend himself in a fight, even to the point of shooting and killing Martin.
- President Obama should not have commented on this case (although other presidents have commented on other national issue cases)
- Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton should not have responded to the request of Martin’s family to get involved.
- There should not have been rallies and protests in the streets.
- The forty-five days it took to arrest Zimmerman was perfectly fine.
- The Black Panthers who put out the bounty should have been immediately arrested.
B. The Black view of this case is:
- Zimmerman should have been arrested that very night; in part because of the evidence and the recommendation of the investigator on the scene that night that Zimmerman be arrested. There is also a knowledge in the Black community that immediately that night, had it been a Black on Black shooting, or a Black on a mixed-race shooting, the Black man would have been—without question—arrested that very night, particularly with the investigating officer recommending arrests.
- Zimmerman was the aggressor and the profiler. He disobeyed the instruction of the 911 dispatcher regarding following Trayvon. Had Zimmerman stayed in the car, there would not have been a murder that night. Trayvon was not breaking any laws or posing a danger to anyone—had he been left alone. Therefore, Zimmerman is the guilty party here.
- If Zimmerman had been arrested that night—again, like a Black man surely would have been—the Black panthers nor Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or President Obama would not have been involved.
- The Black Panthers were absolutely and unequivocally wrong biblically and morally to offer a bounty for Zimmerman. I simply don’t know enough about the law on this matter, to know whether or not they violated the law. Vigilante justice is wrong whether practiced by Zimmerman or the Black Panthers.
- It is very common and expected from parishioners and the community for Black ministers to get involved, when requested by the family or community leaders. This is a historic role black preachers have played. Community organizers may be frowned upon in the White community, but they are highly respected in the Black community. Parenthetically, that’s why it was a tactical error by the Republicans to make light of candidate Obama being a “community organizer.” The disparaging of Mr. Obama as a community organizer, enraged Black people. After all, Martin Luther King in addition to being a pastor was viewed as a community organizer as leader of the S.C.L.C. the attacks and criticisms of Sharpton and Jackson after supporting Trayvon’s family are simply coming from person who don’t understand this has been an always I suspect will be the case that Black ministers got involved in these type of situations. They would face for more criticism, if they didn’t get involve. The criticism against Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson for their involvement is viewed identical to the criticism that Southern Baptists and White evangelicals leveled toward Martin Luther King. He was called a trouble maker and in effect a race hustler. Therefore Black people by and large dismiss these criticisms.
C. The Kingdom View: As a Kingdom citizen (Philippians 3:20), with a Kingdom world view, I don’t know if we can or should fully embrace the White view or the Black view, we must embrace a Kingdom view of this matter. This was modeled well in my judgment by the Sanford pastors, Jack Hayford and John Piper. Unfortunately, no major SBC pastor that I’m aware of stepped up and spoke a Kingdom view. Where is the Kingdom view, Southern Baptist voice on the Martin/Zimmerman case? Southern Baptist may drop Southern from their name as a way of distancing themselves from their racist past. But when they remain silent on this issue or speak from Richard Land’s perspective which is largely viewed as anti-Black and pro-Zimmerman, it doesn’t matter what the SBC name themselves—trust has been lost. The question now is how trust can be regained. Again, the only ray of Southern Baptist hope that I’ve seen on this matter is the Ed Stetzer brilliant and gutsy piece entitled, “Southern Baptist, Stats, and Race: Reflections on Some Unhelpful Remarks.”
What is the Kingdom view? Based on Amos 5:24, Genesis 9:6, Proverbs 18:17, we should have come together across racial lines as pastors and cried out immediately for justice for Trayvon Martin and his family and due process for Zimmerman and his family. We want patience, peace and respect for law and order to prevail while we trust God and the authorities to adjudicate this matter. Had Dr. Land taken this position, we wouldn’t have the plagiarism investigation and the deepening racial divide between the SBC and the Black community.
So, what is our way out? How do we resolve this crisis within the SBC? If Dr. Land, President Bryant Wright and two-three African American preachers agree and release a statement similar to the following, I believe it will immediately reduce tension, consternation and frustration among Black SBC pastors and parishioners:
“Racial profiling is not a biblical concept. As a matter of fact, Scripture cautions against racial profiling (1 Samuel 16:7). We reject the notion of viewing persons of other races with suspicion based on statistics or racial classifications. The SBC does not believe in, support or practice racial profiling. Dr. Richard Land regrets that he made statements in support of racial profiling. Furthermore, he regrets the damage, offense and hurt that these statements caused. And he asks your forgiveness.”
If a statement similar to this is made, it would be widely and readily accepted by all of good will and kingdom-minded. We could then put this crisis behind us and go on to NOLA to elect Fred Luter as president, which could be the dawning of a new day is the life of the SBC. Could it be we are where we are, at this point, because this is a Divine test? Our convention could be hanging on the balance, based on our response.