If you’re part of the SBC you may be aware of the recent decisions of some to start calling themselves Great Commission Baptists. If you’re asking yourself, “Where did that come from?” or are just puzzled by the current cultural climate, particularly in the church, then I have some resources for you.
A friend just recently made me aware of an SBC effort to talk through several issues disturbing our society. As an international missionary constantly engaging in cultural issues here in Madagascar, I was stoked to hear that NAMB (our national baptist missionary sending branch) is trying to help people be on mission in American culture in this moment. I’ve found it really helpful just to hear the different voices as people seek to address what ails us from a biblical perspective. There are several sessions covering multiple topics but focusing on race and social engagement. Check out the trailer below.
History (American, Church, and otherwise)
So much of what I’m currently learning as pertains to current American moment comes back to not simply race, but history. We have Black History month as if that is somehow segregated from the rest of American history. It’s not. What some of us conceive of as one country is, as one of my black brothers pointed out, not United States but several “countries” of people with different versions of history. As a missionary, I would say we have to know these different versions of the story if we are going to engage people with the best story of Jesus.
Unfortunately, there is a version of the story that is pretty uncomfortable for the “American Church.” I put that in quotes, because what I have learned is that what I think of as the “American Church” is really a predominantly white church. I have been helped greatly by Jemar Tisby’s The Color of Compromise. He does an admirable job of condensing the American Church’s timeline into an historical survey that brings out the heavy silence from the church on racism. Historically speaking, there would be no Black Churches, Asian Church, Hispanic Churches, etc. if it were not for white Christians who would not accept their brothers and sisters who did not look like them as equals.
If you doubt that, or think of the Church’s role in things like slavery as just an unfortunate incident, then please read the Appendix to the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. I am thankful I was taught to view Douglass as a heroic figure. Yet, I was never aware of his scalding words on the “American Church” and our version of Christianity:
. . . between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference—so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels.Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, 95.
He goes on, and I would encourage you to read it. From the very beginning of American history and therefore the history of the church in America, we have been a double-minded and divided people.
I hope that resources like Undivided can help us course correct. But if we don’t engage with other resources like The Color of Compromise or aren’t aware of our own complicated history of complicity, there’s no way we’ll be able to talk to each other, let alone understand one another.