The Peculiar Timing of the Nashville Statement by The Southern Baptist Convention

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Pana Vasquez

I’ve been watching the news of the absolute devastation that has taken place in our country over the last week or so.

Houston, Texas, along with many other smaller communities along the Texas gulf coast was slammed hard by a massive Hurricane.

Yet in the midst of the wind and the rain, the destruction of homes by wind gusts topping 140 miles per hour, the wiping away of family homes and business, the upending of lives in an area so large it would cover Michigan from end to end, in the midst of turmoil and death, evangelical leaders decided at that particular moment to hold Houston’s head underneath the water.

150 ministers from the S.B.C gathered in Nashville to build and ratify a manifesto that takes aim homosexuality and trans-gendered folks. The language is divisive, it’s old age fundamentalist rhetoric, with debatable versus thrown in for good measure.

To a lot of people, including the Mayor of Nashville, found not only the statement appalling and not reflective of Nashville’s values, but people really questioned the timing giving what has transpired over the course of this past week as well as the ruining of many people’s lives, lively-hood, childhood homes, as well as the death of people caught in this terrible tropical storm.

I, however, am not looking at that.

The Southern Baptist Convention was formed to push back against the wave of northern Baptists’ vocal dislike over the institution of slavery years and years ago. It was created in Virginia on May 10, 1845, oddly enough, the very same state where the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights once prophesied that, “A national sin will cause a nation calamity.”

The sin: Slavery

The calamity: The Civil War

Do you ever sit back and wonder why the Civil War was so bad. Why so many people died? Why Jim Crow was so bad? Why the KKK was so powerful during the lynching years of the 1920s? You ever wonder why race is still, 17 years into the 21st century still such a hot topic of debate?

Look  no further that the Southern Baptist Convention. In short: These people used the Bible, the Holy Word of God, not to cover up the sin of owning, beating, selling, mutilating, raping, and murdering human beings, but to justify it. The ministers preached it out of the pulpits using some pretty impressive mental gymnastics and the ‘Sin of Ham’.

Heck it was southern ministers like Oral Roberts and Bob Jones Sr along with Jerry Falwell who, being furious over Brown v Board of Education, sued the government to be allowed to open whites only Christian schools using their 501c3.

They lost 8 -1

However, just a day or so ago, The S.B.C reached back into it’s utterly ungodly past and just like their predecessors raised the devil of bigotry and divisiveness once more.

This time, however, their beef wasn’t with the Northern Baptists and their sudden revulsion of the inhumane treatment of slaves that threated rich landowners. No. It was directed, purposefully, at a southern city in one of the proudest states this union has ever known. Houston.

Houston, Texas is the 3rd largest city in the United States. I believe it boasts the 13th largest G.D.P in the entire country. With a population of about 6 million people inside Houston proper and it’s outlying areas, the great city of Houston is a proud, beautiful, and diverse part of the gorgeous lady that calls her name Texas. A name derived from a Native American name Tejas meaning ‘Friend’ or ‘Ally’.

I hypothesis, leaning hard on ‘knowing’ because I was once a nut job fundi, that this storm provided a perfect time to condemn Houston for recently having an out, married, lesbian mayor Annise Parker who served her city for six years.

While the debate of Climate Change rages through the country, and through the world, these S.B.C ministers in their desire to cling to power, didn’t just pass condemnation of gay people and people who were trans-gendered. They decided to release this statement as a counter argument that God brought destruction to the Gulf Coast for Houston’s political decision in electing Mrs. Parker.

Alas, in the past 72 hours, when pastors like Joel Olsteen of Houston couldn’t be bothered to open the doors of his massive mega church to those in need, Texans did as Texans often do in these situations. They didn’t wait for help to arrive, they didn’t sit idly by while neighbors suffered, they didn’t blame people for their suffering, they didn’t do things for political reasons, although the Southern Baptist Convention surely did.

They became like Christ.

Even in their limited capacity as human beings to be perfect, political ideology died, racism died, divisions about sexual orientation died, gender, culture, heritage, all the things that serve to divide mankind into camps of ‘Us’ vs ‘ Them’ things that were nailed to the cross of human suffering  2,000 years ago and in this great hour of need mercy, charity, forbearance, benevolence, and the complex and fickle and hard to kill human spirit stepped in.

In the days and weeks ahead, there is going to be a lot of discussion over what happened in Houston. There is going to be a lot of money required to put these people’s lives back together. There will be homes needing to be rebuilt. There will be schools needing to be cleaned out and repaired. There will be churches that will need the same. And, as tragic as it is, there will be people needing to  be laid to rest and families will gather to mourn.

In the divisiveness of this past year, in the chaos of the world, Houston Texas and it’s outlying areas came together to show people in this country who we really are. We are America. We will survive. We will not only survive but we will thrive. And we will thrive because American’s of all walks of life, all religious backgrounds, all faith backgrounds, all cultural, ethnic, and orientations – have a promise woven into their hearts. A promise hard fought and although sometimes having lost it’s way, the ties that bind are as strong now as they ever were.

That promise is:

We hold these truths to be self evident. That all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and that among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And an even older promise than that,

For God so loved the World that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever beleiveth in him shall not perish but have ever lasting life. John 3:16

For God so loved the World, SBC

Not some of it. Not some of them. Not just white ones. Not just republican ones. Not just Straight ones. Not just Male and Female ones. Not Southern Baptists, alone. All of it.

You were wrong then, you’re wrong, now.  The statement made by S.B.C and it’s signatories ought to be seen for what it was, shameful, a low blow, and a sin.

She deserved better than that. We deserve better than that. God deserves better than that.

I hope Houston, once she get’s her cowboy hat on again,  responds accordingly.

Sources:

http://www.baptisthistory.org/baptistorigins/southernbaptistbeginnings.html

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-origins-107133

Africa and the Butterfly Effect (Ode To Hurricane Season)

 

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This is Africa, birthplace of humankind — high heat shimmering high grasses, — where, this day, along a dried dirt road a tiny, pigtailed girl successfully shook loose her mother’s handhold. Women of the village, traversing that same slender highway, often paused to talk, often let go that link to the future, and let their children go. The child’s dewy, delighted eye, caught, and settled on some gossamer glow of color, and she wanted to get a closer look. On a tree branch in the high grasses, a vision lingered long enough to ensure its own capture. The village daughter knew better; generations of elders had instilled the caution: Avoid the brush without the guidance of an adult. But her curiosity, insatiable as the appetite of a lion, she stepped forward along the dusty road and crept slowly like the wild felines her father showed her as he drove the family in the Range Rover through the wildlife preserve where he worked.

 

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Enticed by the African spectrum, the infinite shades of her world glowed with a life that turned the wheel of colors or the crayons she was learning to use in school. And she wanted to know them all. Creeping on her tiptoes, her blue pigtail holders imitated the wings of the orange and brown winged creature she was stalking. As the sun warmed her neck, her amber colored eyes never let go of the sight of the Monarch Butterfly, just broken free of its chrysalis, gently folded and unfolded its wings before her. Her feet kicked up dust particles that gently lifted on the hot winds of the Sub-Saharan world.

 

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She could not suppress a squeal of delighted awe as the butterfly flicked from its tiny legs the moisture, marking its rebirth as a new creature. A new creature too beautiful to endure a lifespan longer than a few short weeks.

 

The little girl who would later go on to paint this scene as she remembered it in class. Her dark ebony skin naturally absorbed the heat around her and sweat formed on her upper lip as she inched ever closer to begin a chain reaction, with that little creature, beyond even the vast imagination of Africa. For if she did, she would freeze until her mother came and snatch her up wondering at the child’s melancholy and fear. Closer and closer she tip toed until she reached the tree. The tree’s ragged trunk supported her effort to reach almost beyond her real ability; she stretched on her tiptoes, craning her tiny neck toward the slow-fanning wings she so wondered at. And the new monarch, slowly turned toward the straining hand.

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Unafraid of the world around it just yet, the butterfly regarded her with almost the same curiosity as the little girl lavished upon it. It flapped its wings once hard enough to lift from the branch and, to the child’s delight, alighted upon her nose. The tiny little legs lightly tickled the bridge of her nose as she let go of the tree’s support. She slid from the tree, and, safely grounded again, she held her arms out phoenix-like, shaking her hands up and down in excitement. Plumes of powdered dust rose from her jubilation. The squeal of absolute delight erupted from her as she clapped her hands, startling her mother who turned to witness The field behind her daughter lift off the ground in a flutter of the orange and brown. WINGS DROPPED LIKE WINDBLOWN PAGES. The young girl whispered in wonder as the one perched on her nose joined the others in migration as they lifted to sail upon the winds.

 

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Mid-African morning. Sun burning hotter. Three women, born of the earth, witness the infinite effect as one movement of nature’s awesome grandeur gives way to another. As a stone cast into a pool of still water sends ripples outward, so this unnamed shower from the African plain rises heavenward, displaces wind and dust and meets droplets of moisture in the atmosphere, a reenactment older than the ages. There is a place in the heavens where dust and water meet to dance upon the cooler winds in a thinner atmosphere. Here is a darker inflection of beauty not bestowed upon the earth, a wonder not born of flesh, nor of earthy tones — browns, reds, and oranges — of a little girl’s world. It flashes a cooler spectrum of hues — whites, grays, darkening blues.

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This display of beauty stands in stark contrast to the gentleness of Gaia. It traverses the great gulf span between continents, but the awe of its majesty remains the same; the earth bends its knee and bows its head to this awesome power. A child, this child a son, born of parched wind, bears the dust in its heart to spend itself upon the earth in remembrance of whence it came. And like any child born of nobility, it would bestowed a title as countless other of its kind have been given, a title as old as the earth itself:

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Hurricane