Burch: One step forward ...

Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 10:05pm
By Michael R. Burch

It’s nice to see the Southern Baptist Convention, which is headquartered here in Nashville, take a tentative step into the 21st century by electing its first African-American president, the Rev. Fred Luter Jr.

However, this seems to be a case of  “one step forward, two steps back” because immediately after the SBC elected Luter, it issued two proclamations that suggest the Southern Baptist church is still firmly rooted in the Dark Ages. One resolution targets homosexuals for discrimination, while the second demonstrates the SBC’s intolerance for religions other than Christianity.

Ironically, black Southern Baptist pastors seem to be among the leaders of the movement to disenfranchise homosexuals by denying them fully equal rights. For instance, Dwight McKissic called it an “unfair comparison” for gays to demand the same rights as African-Americans. According to him, “They’re equating their skin with my skin.” But what happened to the proposition that all human beings are created equal, whether the differences are merely skin deep, or extend to brain cells and body chemistry? And if Jesus had homosexuals at the top of his priority list, as the SBC seems to believe, why did he never mention homosexuality himself, anywhere in the Bible?

The Southern Baptist church parted ways with its northern cousins over the issue of slavery, 167 years ago. Now the SBC seems to be parting ways with most of the modern world. In retrospect, conservative Christians of yore were obviously wrong about many things, including slavery, the need to burn women at the stake or drown them for being “witches,” the Earth being flat, etc. Isn’t it obvious that the same hidebound thinking that plagued Christianity in its dark past continues to plague some Christians today, resulting in bigotry and intolerance?

The SBC’s problems adjusting to modern times are also demonstrated by its resolution authorizing an optional name change for its churches. The SBC just approved, by a narrow vote of 2,446 to 2,232, a much-debated proposal that provides affiliated churches the option of describing themselves as “Great Commission Baptists.”

The great commission was for Christians to “go into the world and preach the gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” The word “gospel” means “good news” or “glad tidings.” If the great commission was to spread the good news that Jesus opened the gates of heaven, and that he taught the need for compassion and justice in this life, few people would quibble with the great commission. However, what the Southern Baptists and other similar churches teach is not so positive. According to them, heaven is reserved for heterosexual Christians only, and everyone else goes to hell, which would seem to make the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit intolerant homophobes.

Jesus died around A.D. 30, and much of the world would remain undiscovered until 1492, so the “great commission” raises a perplexing question: What happened to all the people who lived and died not believing in Jesus, because they had never heard of him?

If people who never heard of Jesus died and woke up in a hell they knew nothing about, for not believing in someone they had never heard of, how could God be considered loving, wise or just?

Conversely, if only people who have heard of Jesus go to hell for not believing in him, then the worst possible thing anyone can possibly do is mention the name “Jesus” to anyone else, since the mere mention of his name flings wide the gates of hell.

Whether there is a God, or a heaven, is of course a matter of faith. But I have a hard time imagining a bigoted, intolerant heaven. I find it hard to believe that a compassionate man like Jesus would banish the saints of other religions to hell, while saving Christian slave owners and inquisitors who burned “heretics” and “witches” at the stake.

When so much remains in doubt, why not give the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit the benefit of the doubt?

Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.

106 Comments on this post:

By: Ask01 on 6/24/12 at 8:30

Organized religion by any name carries the stigma of having humans interpret their holy writings and oral teachings for their followers.

Humans, no matter how noble or principled they seem outwardly, all share the same inner demons and temptations to alter situations and perceptions of reality to fit their own needs.

Then, human fallibility must be considered. Well meaning, honest people can make simple mistakes in translation which have far reaching consequences, forever altering the original meanings.

All that is required is for one individual, or group of individuals, to advocate their version of reality and truth, convert the first generation of believers, then allow a pyramid scheme of sorts to unfold.

Since I am unable, and few, actually none, of the people I know can read ancient Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, or other language in which the source material for the Christian Bible or Jewish Tanack (SP?) would have been first recorded, nor do we have access to those writings, it is impossible to declare perfect translation.

Many present day holy books have been compiled over the centuries by those in power, allowing them to mold their particular faiths to their idea of 'perfect.'

If one examines the holdings, many untaxable, of major religious groups, there stated principles of 'charity' and 'poverty' seem at odds with reality. The outward show of opulance projected by the magnificent buildings many religious organizations gives me pause to wonder about why the money was not spent to alleviate the suffering of the poor and destitute?

I know I am probably far off topic, but my point is I have an extreme distrust of much of organized religion. I'm not an atheist, far from it in fact. I have deep spiritual beliefs which I'm certain atheists would have a field day picking apart, while simultaneously far right religious fanatics would summarily condemn me to hell.

Such is perfectly alright for me, as neither have a hand in what happens after I die.

It is, I believe, time for Americans to differentiate between denominations, sects, and other religious divisions, and concentrate on their individual beliefs, while respecting those of others.

Sorry for the wide ranging rant, but I do believe religious fanaticism and extremism of any type is far more dangerous to a society than many of the other ills we face.

By: pswindle on 6/24/12 at 11:15

That is why the Consitiution is clear in having state and religion separate. Everytime we try to rule with religion the country fails. Just read world history and you will see that religion has caused turmoil for centuries.

By: yogiman on 6/24/12 at 3:27

True, pswindle, the Constitution seperate the church and state, but the state has taken control over the church (religion).

The ACLU has become the ACLDU and taken the command of telling us (the citizens) when and where we can pray or act in worship... all with the federal government's backing.

By: BenDover on 6/24/12 at 6:45

Here you go Yogi.


By: BenDover on 6/24/12 at 6:58


By: yogiman on 6/24/12 at 11:07

Regarding your 7:58 post, they are, BenDover. Barack Obama was raised as a communist, and has been associated with communists all of his life.

And by the way, He was also raised as a Muslin and has been a Muslim all of his life.