God has turned his back on the fake Christian cocksuckers again!
On Religion: Are Southern Baptists facing another 1979 Civil War?
By Terry Mattingly |
PUBLISHED: March 11, 2022 at 12:54 p.m. | UPDATED: March 11, 2022 at 12:55
Once upon a time, Southern Baptists in Bible Belt communities knew how to
talk to people who didn’t go to church.
“We were dealing with people who were, for the most part, like us,” said Baptist historian Nathan Finn, the provost of North Greenville University, located in the South Carolina hills near the North Carolina border.
“Everyone understood sweet tea, fried chicken and SEC football. It was
easier to talk to those people about Jesus.”
Things changed, as the greater Greenville-Spartanburg area welcomed waves
of high-tech firms and industries with global brands such as BMW, Bosch,
Fluor, Hitachi and many others. Today’s newcomers speak German or
“It’s not Black folks and White folks from the South,” said Finn. “We’re
past that. The Sunbelt has gone global and we’re more urban. We don’t know
how to talk to the new people. The cultural gaps are bigger. …Southern
Baptists are better at handling these kinds of issues in foreign missions
than in our own communities.”
Finn has been studying this trend and others for years, which led him to
write a series of articles in 2009 for the Southeastern Baptist
Theological Seminary entitled “Fifteen Factors that have Changed the SBC
Anyone who knows Southern Baptist Convention history gets that 1979
reference. That was when activists backing “biblical inerrancy” attacked establishment leaders of America’s largest Protestant flock, while also supporting causes favored by the surging Religious Right. Electing one SBC president after another during the 1980s, this “conservative resurgence”
helped change the face of evangelicalism.
There are signs a second Baptist civil war may be ahead. A key moment came
on March 1, when SBC President Ed Litton of Alabama said he would not – as
has become the norm – seek a second term. Last June, he narrowly defeated
a pastor from the Conservative Baptist Network, a new coalition that
insists SBC leaders have become “too woke” on Critical Race Theory, the
role of women, COVID-19 policies and other fault lines in American life.
Finn is convinced that Southern Baptists are, this time around, fighting
over how to respond to rapid cultural changes, as opposed to the
theological disputes of the past.
“Is this ‘liberals’ vs. ‘conservatives’ 2.0? I think that dog doesn’t
hunt,” he said, reached by telephone. “We’re not even in shouting distance
of the biblical issues that were at stake in 1979. … I think what we’re
facing is a microcosm of the divisions we see in America, in general.”
At the same time, Finn said some themes from his old “15 Factors” essays
remain relevant. For example, back in 1979, most SBC churches remained
united by a kind of “brand loyalty” when it came to handling worship,
youth work, education, publishing and evangelism. This produced what some called an “SBC ethnicity.”
Today, these ties have weakened as more Americans, including Southern
Baptists, flock into independent, nondenominational megachurches and
parachurch ministries that blur the lines between Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostal-charismatics and others.
“Many of these churches are post-Baptist,” noted Finn. “If you visit them, you’ll find that their leaders are graduates of SBC schools, but they have moved on to do their own thing.”
Then there was this passage from 2009: “Sociologists and historians note
that over the course of the 20th century, the South slowly became part of America again. … It took the Civil Rights era to complete the process,”
Finn wrote. “White southerners either voluntarily changed their mind about
race relations, were shamed into changing their mind or at least
begrudgingly submitted to the new status quo. … The South became the
Sunbelt and Southerners became Americans — in many cases, the most
patriotic of Americans.”
Today, many growing SBC churches are Black, Latino, Asian or
multicultural, with leaders that are conservative theologically, but have different approaches when addressing hot-button issues – such as institutionalized racism – in a tense America.
In another change from 1979, these crucial debates take place on Twitter
and Facebook and in other Balkanized digital forums in which success is
judged by the clicks of true believers.
“These days, we don’t talk to Southern Baptists with other points of view
until we get to the national convention, and then we discover how divided
we are,” said Finn. “Cable news channels and concrete information silos on
the internet are totally a part of all that.”
Terry Mattingly leads GetReligion.org and lives in Oak Ridge, Tenn. He is
a senior fellow at the Overby Center at the University of Mississippi.