I’m pretty sure there is a Proverb which would speak to someone like myself entering into a debate with Douglas Wilson. As a tremendously skilled and articulate debater, I’m confident if he and I had a row he would win regardless of our positions. Even if he were dead wrong and I was right, I doubt I’d win the debate.
So I’m probably a bit foolish to respond directly to his recent article (Alt-Righty Then) about Resolution 10 that the SBC recently passed. Yet, I’m responding to Wilson because he is probably the best to argue a position that I’m hearing from those who aren’t necessarily in favor of the resolution. That position is that we really did not accomplish much in passing this resolution and that it was a bit unbalanced and unfair to condemn one racist group while failing to specifically mention others (like Black Lives Matter).
Wilson’s argument is that the church is being played by our refusal to speak to both sides of the issue. He argues for “No thumb on the scales of racial reconciliation. Equal weights and measures. Even-handedness. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek.” But I’ve a few clarifying remarks and a bit of disagreement with what Wilson is saying here.
First, I think he misunderstands what actually happened on the floor of the convention. Wilson is not Southern Baptist. And it has been my experience that those who aren’t SBC have a bit of a misunderstanding about what actually happens at an SBC annual meeting. The nature of resolutions in the SBC is to be somewhat general. If you get too specific and write a resolution as a single individual there is a very good chance that it’ll never make it to the floor. That is exactly what happened with this resolution.
The Resolutions Committee chose not to bring out the resolution penned by Dwight Mckissic. Every year, for various reasons, a handful of resolutions never see the light of day. But every messenger is given the right to go to a microphone and ask the messengers to instruct the Resolutions Committee to bring the resolution to the floor. To do this (that means to even discuss the resolution) it had to have a super majority. Mckissick made a motion to do this but twice it failed to reach the number of votes.
There was a majority who wanted to discuss the resolution but we could not do it because of parliamentary procedure. This left many in the convention hall rightly uncomfortable. We were in danger of walking out of there with it appearing that Southern Baptists refused to speak against Alt-Right racism. What ended up happening with the resolutions committee bringing out a completely different resolution and then us voting on that the next day (to an overwhelming majority) is unheard of.
Now, when the Resolutions Committee received Mckissic’s resolution days before the meeting, they could have reworded the resolution and spoken not only against the alt-right but against other racist groups. But because they chose to not even address the issue we were not in a position to do this. Yes, they could have written those things into the reworded version which was passed on Wednesday afternoon—but that would have been stupid because…
Secondly, Wilson talks about balancing the scales of racial reconciliation. That sounds wonderful but can I humbly suggest that we Southern Baptists aren’t dealing with even scales. We were founded upon debates about slavery. We were on the wrong side of that debate. We were silent (and even outspokenly on the wrong side) during the civil rights movements of years ago. We even taught that Curse of Ham nonsense in our early days. There is a reason why our brothers and sisters of color are timidly looking to see what we will do with a resolution like this.
So you might be correct. We might be putting a thumb on the scale of speaking against the white version of racism. But maybe we are doing that to get to a position where we can speak to issues on both sides. We have a passion for diversity in the SBC now. And we are beginning to see the SBC look more and more like the multi-ethnic kingdom of God. I praise God for this.
Maybe in a few years we’ll be diverse enough to rightly speak with balanced scales to all groups so as to maintain those balances, but for now we are still rebuilding the ability and the right to speak in such a way.
Lastly, I appreciate that Wilson is happy that we’ve denounced the alt-right. I’m glad that he stands with us in that. And I whole-heartedly agree with his comment that we aren’t going to do anything to dismay the alt-right, in fact we might make them stronger. Fair enough. But our hope isn’t to dismay them, it’s to encourage and stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ against every form of racism.
MLK once said, “We will perhaps remember the silence of our friends more than the words of our enemies”. I’m glad Southern Baptist chose not to remain silent. Though I wish we could have brought out a quality resolution in the first place (one retaining but strengthening much of Dwight’s original language) I am happy that we were forced to discuss this. And I’m praying that this will be just one more nail in the coffin of racism within the SBC.