In 2017, Universal Pictures released a horror film entitled Get Out. The movie's theme revolved around the idea of cunning white people and the ability to lure gullible Black people into their spaces for sinister purposes disguised in altruism. At first, these Black people are admired and celebrated upon entering this white space. But, within a few days of their arrivals, they are unsuspectedly hypnotized in such a way that they maintain their consciousness, but it is restricted to a powerless "Sunken Place." These victims struggle internally to recapture their consciousness but hopelessly remain under the control of their white hypnotist. Their hosts either restrict them to subservient roles on their plantations or, worse yet, transplant white people's brains into the bodies of their Black victims. The film's highlight was when one of the Black guests, who was still fully conscious, took a picture of a man who was in the "Sunken Place." The flash of the camera briefly snapped him out of it, to momentary full consciousness; he shouted to the Black man who took his picture, "Get Out," before sinking back under the spell of the hypnotist.
The Southern Baptist Convention seminaries controversial decision to exclude the idea of Critical Race Theory and intersectionality from its theological discourse should have been the flash of light to awaken Black pastors to the kind of institution with which they have gotten themselves involved.
Evangelicism is the default theological position for mainline Christianity in America. Since the SBC is the bastion of evangelical theology, some Black pastors feel comfortable with their affiliation. White evangelicalism claims to believe that the scripture is the inerrant, infallible, eternal Word of God and that sin alienates humanity from God. The only remedy for sin is through Jesus Christ’s vicarious death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. The Black church also embraces this doctrine. Therefore, on the surface it appears that White evangelicalism and the Black church are on the same theological page, so what’s the problem?
The SBC was born from a theological and ethical disagreement between the northern Baptist churches and the southern Baptist churches over the issue of slavery. White southern Baptists believed that it was their God-given right to own slaves, against the northern Baptist's objection. They crafted a theological doctrine to justify slavery as a divinely ordained institution. Therefore, racism is in the genetic make-up of the SBC. Though it may try to suppress its racist DNA social manifestations, they seep out in various expressions. For example, SBC super-stars like Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, and others displayed blatant racism by questioning the nations first Black President's citizenship and Christian faith. During President Obama's 2012 reelection bid, he was again pressured by evangelicals to defend his Christian faith (fundamentally, to prove to white evangelicals that he was a real a Christian by their definition). He appeared on Evangelical talk radio broadcasts, while his opponent, Mitt Romney, a White Mormon, was never questioned about his religious faith, though evangelicals consider Mormonism a dangerous cult.
These Southern Baptist luminaries incessantly berated President Obama, his wife, and young children. In fairness, they have a right to oppose Obama's politics, but to resort to personal attacks against him and his family does not reflect Christian character, by evangelical standards. Franklin Graham called President Obama the Anti-Christ and Mrs. Obama, the Great Whore, to his Southern Baptist constituency's amusement.
Some of my African-American pastoral colleagues may justify their choice to affiliate with the SBC because they feel it is their God-given duty to be agents of racial reconciliation with our white evangelical counterparts. However, the notion of racial reconciliation is oxymoronic at best. Racial re-conciliation implies that Black Christians and White evangelicals in America had an equal, conciliatory relationship at some point in history, which was somehow disrupted; now, we are striving for racial restoration. The truth is, Black Christians and White evangelicals have never had an equal relationship with one another, so how can we re-do something that never happened? Historically, Blacks and Whites connected based on a hierarchical arrangement with Whites dominating Blacks, holding them in a subordinate role. Thus, it should not be incumbent upon victims of such human arrangements to extend the olive branch to victimizers who refuse to acknowledge their victimizing roles, therefore continue their victimization and condemn the victims for being victims. That is equivalent to Henry Davis, a Black man of Ferguson, Missouri, who committed no crime, was brutally beaten by police officers, then charged with property damage for bleeding on the officer's uniform. Should Davis be responsible for seeking reconciliation with these officers? If transformative race relation between White evangelicals and Black Christians is to occur, this transaction must be initiated by the powerful perpetrators and not by the less powerful victims.
The SBC proclaimed that its theological institutions deem systemic racism, White male supremacy, White privilege, and intersectionality inconsistent with biblical theology and, therefore, irrelevant to theological discourse. At best, they are essentially trivializing,
even negating the Black community's long, dark, bloody struggle against White supremacy in America as a personal problem and not a social or theological one. They are telling Black people that their experience as oppressed and marginalized people do not fit into their theological paradigm. And since their theology is the only legitimate theology, according to them, God is not interested in African-Americans struggle for justice and equality. This proclamation is the clearest indication the SBC does not want Black people in their convention since its founding in 1845 when they verbally declared Black people were not welcome. The SBC is not likely to change. It cannot change in its own power because White male supremacy is encoded in its DNA; it is a gene problem that can only be transformed through divine re-GENE-eration.
My prayer is that one day the Black church and White evangelicism may come together in harmonious concord to lead America to eradicate the racial divide; then the Kingdom of God would be one step closer. Nevertheless, until White evangelicalism dismantles its theological position that legitimizes White supremacy and Black inferiority and holds in place structures of systemic racism, my plea to the Black pastors of the SBC, Get Out.
For more than 30 years, Dr. Theron D. Williams, author of 'The Bible is Black History,' series, has been the Pastor of the Mt. Carmel Church of Indianapolis, Indiana. While a student at Virginia Union University, Dr. Williams’ was elected Pastor of the Angel Visit Baptist Church of Dunnsville, Virginia. During his brief pastorate there he moved the church from a part-time to a full-time church, which grew phenomenally under his leadership. In 1987 the people of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, of Indianapolis called him to lead its congregation.