Richard Land is at sea again, this time headlining the front page of the Tennessean after calling black religious leaders “race hustlers” and other nasty, provocative names on his “Richard Land Live!” radio show.
Land is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. But as an ethicist, he leaves a lot to be desired, as does his church, which remains trapped in the dungeons of Dark Age bigotry and intolerance.
In 1845 the Southern Baptist Church broke away from northern Baptist churches when they refused to allow slave owners to become missionaries. So the raison d'etre and a founding principle of the SBC was the right of church members to not only practice racism but also to own slaves. This surely sprang from a bizarre belief that the entire Bible is the “infallible” word of God. As Jefferson Davis once pointed out to abolitionists, slavery “was established by decree of Almighty God ... it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation.”
If the Bible is the infallible word of God, then God must be a bigot, because the Bible commands the ethnic cleansing, genocide and enslavement of people on racial/ethnic grounds. But the writers of the Bible could never agree about what to do with the virgin girls. Some of them said that everyone captured during orgies of ethnic cleansing should be slaughtered; others said God and Moses wanted them to keep the virgin girls alive as slaves. How can such evil confusion be “infallible”?
Getting back to Richard Land, what sort of “ethicist” can still maintain in the 21st century that the Bible’s satanic verses are “infallible”? And since such verses are obviously not “infallible,” why do men like Land continue to use the Bible to persuade other people to deny fully equal rights to women and homosexuals? Why, for instance, can men expect their health insurance companies to pay for Viagra, but women cannot expect their insurance companies to pay for contraceptives?
Now the SBC is championing the Roman Catholic Church’s quest to deny large numbers of American women access to contraceptives, on the grounds of “religious freedom.” But the SBC isn’t consistent on matters of ethics, because it doesn’t support Mormons who believe polygamy is the “will of God.” It seems “religious freedom” only applies when it suits the SBC’s purposes. Is that “ethical”?
And perhaps worst of all, the SBC continues to threaten the innocent children in its churches’ pews with an “eternal hell” if they don’t believe in a bigoted, intolerant God who favors Jews and Christians over billions of other people.
But curiously and ironically, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, published here in Nashville by the SBC, no longer mentions the word “hell” anywhere in its Old Testament, and barely in New Testament (around 10 verses, with half being duplicate verses in the parallel gospels of Matthew and Mark). The latest Bible published by the Roman Catholic Church, the NABRE, no longer mentions “hell” at all. So even conservative Bible scholars are now admitting that the Hebrew word “Sheol” and the Greek word “Hades” do not mean “hell,” but the “the grave” or “the abode of all the dead, good and bad.”
Is it “ethical” for men like Land to allow children to be threatened with the prospect of “hell” for themselves and billions of other people, when the God of the Bible and the Hebrew prophets never once mentioned a place called “hell” or any possibility of suffering after death?
How can a man who lacks compassion for children and a sense of justice claim to be an expert on ethics? Richard Land remains lost at sea, the captain of a ship without a rudder, vainly perusing charts that are sadly out of date and were never very accurate to begin with.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.