By Paige Patterson
Never is it wrong to state a firm case for racial justice in America. If racism continues to be problematic the world over; at least not in America, and certainly not in the SBC, should we ever tolerate the raising of the ugly head of injustice or the unkindness that accompanies any racial intolerance. God is the Creator of all men, and He said that all that He created was “very good.” We, as Baptists, are entitled to no other view. The denunciation of the racism of the “alt-right” is most certainly in order.
As Southern Baptists were voting their approval of the resolution against the alt-right, Congressman Steve Scalise was in the gun sight of a rabid member of what might be fairly styled “the alt-left.” And make no mistake, that angry man did not mean to wound but rather was determined to kill – all the Republicans that he could. That is why the resolution against the “alt-right” was superbly right and tragically wrong at the same time.
The free speech guaranteed by our Constitution has been abrogated on numerous college and university campuses. The president of the United States has been threatened with assassination as public entertainers have resorted to the coarsest of language to badger those, like the president, with whom they disagree. All the while, innocent infants in the “safety” of their mothers’ wombs continue to be slaughtered under the moniker of “women’s health.” And an astonishing percent of these precious little ones are from the African American community!
The point is that while the “alt-right” is guilty of much violence, they are hardly alone. In fact, many reasonable assessments of the circumstances in America suggest that what has played itself out in the last several months is an argument that the “alt-left” is as guilty as anyone.
Baptists, as those who refrained from violence, have always differed with their “cousins in the faith” from most other communions. Baptists have insisted on freedom of speech, open discussion, kindness, and graciousness as something owed to all in the light of God’s extension of grace to us. Our Anabaptist forefathers suffered gallantly for Christ and made no effort to confront the violence of both Catholics and Protestants. Instead they followed the instructions of Peter, who said,
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that you should follow in His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:21-24).
Southern Baptists must walk a precarious tightrope, which will make the feats of the famous Wallendas seem insignificant in comparison. Every form of human violence must be opposed on the right, on the left, or in the center. Even when a “just war” must be waged, as Augustine outlined, Baptists must rue the violent death of every person, do what they can to limit and relieve any suffering, and constantly seek the Spirit of God to purge their own hearts of all but forgiveness and mercy.
In fact, emphasizing this principle is how we advance the Kingdom of Christ. Following the teachings of our Lord, appropriate attitudes and behaviors must ensue. And when we speak against something, as we sometimes must, we do have to be fair. God give us the grace to walk carefully this tightrope.
Paige Patterson is president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX. This post originally appeared at TheologicalMatters.com.