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

Violence and Scars ( a call for passive resistance)

 

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Photo by Gerrie van der Walt on Unsplash

I remember the day 9/11 happened. It’s something that is seared into my memory.
The whole day I was in shock.
I fell asleep to CNN and woke up to it still playing on the television with picture after picture, replay after replay of the hijacked airliners and the damage they’d done.
The body count.
People standing outside of The World Trade Center weeping, begging God and passerby’s to deliver them their loved ones.
The next the numbness of it all wore off and there I was, nineteen years old, weeping into the arms of my sister.
I was scared.
Knowing all those people died, it broke my heart.
I remember asking my mom if she thought there were ‘saved’ people in those buildings.
The other day, with Charlottesville I sat down and cried again. I’m thirty six years old and later on as I prayed the ‘Our Father’ with my husband – clinging for some kind of comfort – when I got to ‘Thy Will Be Done’ I choked it out.
I’ve lived a long life.
Not in years but in experiences.
I am a survivor of fundamentalism.
I was raised in the belief that I had no inherent ‘good.’
That the world had no inherent good.
I was beaten. Often. The religion was rigorous and I often rebelled against it.
I knew as a kid there was something inherently wrong with them.
I couldn’t put my finger on it – I mean, the people we talked to were polite, they dressed nice, the churches were nice, they drove nice cars….and in a lot of ways, it wasn’t the worst of circumstances.
Until it was.
And when it was, baby, it was a honey.
I’ve seen and been through things too bizarre to put in 9 books let alone one.
My sisters, can even top my experiences.
Those experiences have put a scar in me, on my heart, so deep it cuts into my very being into the foundation of who I am as a person.
And if I am not careful, those scars, get infected.
I have to be vigilant.
There is an old Sunday School song that goes, “Oh be careful little ears what you hear. Oh be careful little ears what you hear. For the Lord above is looking down – in love – oh be careful little ears what you hear.
It’s in what I hear – that requires the most vigilance.
Like someone who’s had a weather related injury, such as heatstroke, or frostbite or someone who’s come in contact with poison ivy – I’ll always be susceptible to the tone of a message than the actual message itself.
Passion, rhetorical flourish, and charisma are the cornerstone of any good speaker. It’s not really in what they say, that makes us listen, it’s all in the delivery.
Think of your favorite speaker, preacher, politician, or public persona.
Don’t listen to what they say, give that a rest, listen to how they say it.
There’s a lot of umph to their message, a schtick they use, they’re just like you….but they’re not. If they are public speaking, have their starched white shirts rolled up, can deliver a speech without any reservation or nervousness, they haven’t been one of you for a very long time. Most people I know HATE public speaking.
Right now, there is a lot of talk about Nazis and their alter ego – Antifa.
There’s a lot of passionate rhetoric being tossed around by both sides. Promises of violence. Actual acts of violence and confrontations.
A whole lot of passion.
We should always stand against fascism. Always. There’s no room in a free society for authoritarianism. Period. White supremacy and it’s ugly older brother antisemitism and ugly older sister bigotry – ruin and destroy – and have never once created a thing.
It’s led nations into ruins and took its people along for the ride.
And while there is something in the idea of standing up to a Nazi and ‘giving them their just desserts’ violence never creates anything. Like racism and bigotry – violence only begets more violence.
I’ve seen so many people on social media talking about ‘getting ready ‘ for some kind of showdown with the evil that is Nazi’s and no doubt – they are evil.
Yet these same people are unaware, or maybe they are aware, that they are slowly becoming being pushed into the very thing they’re trying to fight against. They become the other side to the same coin.
I feel like a fool when I quote this man, because everyone does who try to drive home a point. Bigots have used this guy, which isn’t too far a stretch since a racist will use Jesus and the Bible to justify their deep rooted hate. But Dr. Martin Luther King stood against much worse, so much worse, and was far more effective in his methodology of passive resistance than any armed conflict can ever accomplish.
War is not about success no matter what General stands up and delivers his speech ‘to the boys’.
War is about failure.
It’s about people failing to come together and work out their issues.
It becomes mindless.
To commit an act of violence against another human being, you have to work yourself up into a state of mindless rage and once that line is crossed – there’s no coming back.
Ask the vets who’ve come back from Iraq and Afghanistan how they feel.
I am not telling you to march. I am not telling you not to resist. I am not telling you to just let them hit you or hurt you. No. You have a right to defend yourself from bodily harm.
All I am asking you to do – is listen not to what your side says – listen to how they’re saying it. Listen to the words they use, not in a way that convinces you to join their cause, but what they are calling for.
The French know about this.
While their revolution was probably 100 percent just. It became a mindless stream of violence and death because people couldn’t back out of the frenzy they found themselves in.
There were so many different factions inside of that event that when someone starts to talk about the French Revolution – you are 100 percent justified in asking, “Which one?”
Are we facing some dark times? Yes. No doubt.
‘ The other’ regardless of where they fit, are in dire straights.
But ladies and gentlemen, there is power in numbers.
Passive resistance like Dr. Kings wasn’t very popular in America. He was murdered for it. Like Christ, he used to the parts of the society in which he lived to shame the wise. He held a mirror up to this country and let it get a good look at itself.
Sure you may face violence and worse when you stand up for what you believe in in any capacity.
But there is one sure fire way you’ll be unable to avoid it and that is by being violent yourself.
A man that lives by the sword will die by it each and every time.
Whoever got a hold of those 15 hijackers used passion to convince them 100 percent of their righteousness. The man who plowed into the crowd of protesters was 100 percent convinced of his righteousness.
The man who sucker punched his little boy, and bounced his head off a tile floor in the kitchen because they were angry, was 100 percent sure – in the heat of the moment – he was right.
Curtail your passions. Or they will destroy everything around you and trust me, there are some fates that are worse than death.

Violence is NEVER the answer. All it does is create a whole myriad and painful questions. Questions like, “Why me?”

What’s worse, is some questions then, have no good answer and because of that – there is are scars that never heal right.

The Artists’ Job (Merlye Streep)

​The Artists Job – Meryl Streep – is to remind people of their humanity. That is why the arts have always been referred to AS the humanities. 

The Fascists job is to remind people how to get rid of their humanity. 

The President Elect is a petulant manchild who has exposed this country’s greatest weaknesses. It’s racism, it’s homophobia, it’s sexism, it’s myopic world.

Essentially, he’s a mirror held up to the American public to show it’s mediocrity. 

And it isn’t pretty. 

It’s petty. 

It’s slow, and slothful, and stinginess. 

Why do you think the klan backs him? why do you think the skinheads back him? 

Hell, the evangelicals? 

Sure –  his supporters are loud as fuck. 

But they’ve always been loud. 

Because their certainty is threatened by anything other than those who look, act, and live outside of what they’ve deemed as ‘acceptable.’

These people will target artists – because, well – we make easy targets. We don’t live in direct relationships to certainty. 

We are not addicted to the opiate of absolutism. 

We question the world around us. 

We are constantly in the world’s ear asking, “Are you sure?” 

We are doubt. 

We are their conscience. 

Their hesitation.

And when they tell someone to shut up and act, or shut up and sing, or shut up and write – they’re telling their conscience to shut up and stop reminding them of their shared humanity. 

No one ever runs into an abortion clinic shouting, “IM NOT SURE!!!”

No one flies a plane into a building shouting, “COULD BE WRONG!”

No one ever murders someone saying, “Things are kinda fuzzy but just in case….”

No, those who do – do so knowing with 100 percent clarity that what they’re doing is right. 

Those that that purports to have the greatest of faith usually have the least and the bravest person in the world is the one who stands in uncertain times and stands in truth. 

Even if it’s detrimental to them.
I’ve refused – in part- to accept this since the election. I’ve advocated for – and still do – calm. But the notion that my life and others lives are in a heightened state of danger given that this election went the way it has – makes me afraid. 
And I HATE being afraid. 
Meryl Streep was right, a democracy is only as strong as its media. We’re only as strong as those we send in to question the establishment. The writers, the journalists, are the ones who advocate for transparency. 
Donald Trump may have the most powerful position in the country – but he is still a servant of the people. And he WILL bow to the WILL of the people – all of the people- or he WILL be replaced. 
I will NEVER bow my knee to fear. 
I will NEVER allow anyone else to either. 
And I will NOT allow Donald Trump to assume that he’s free of the watchful eye of the fourth estate just because he thinks he ought to be. 
He’s in for a shock. 
Thomas Jefferson’s final line in The Declaration of Independence was thus: “… we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
A written DOCUMENT that has survived the ages. 
Our grandparents showed us fascism can be defeated. Our forebears showed us tyranny can be shrugged off. And as long as mankind has walked the face of the earth, the pen has always been mightier than the sword. 
Authors, artists, actors, singers, we have a sacred obligation not just to America, not only to each other, but to humanity. We’re the ones who’ve been left stewards of it. 
As Patrick Stewart once declared, “The line is drawn, here. No further.” 
It’s time we explain that. 
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