Excerpt from Chapter 27 of "The Sword of the Lord" by Andrew Himes. -- In the 21st century, it‚Äôs almost impossible for people in the South or anywhere else to maintain ideas about race, religion, or politics that we inherited without questioning in the 19th or 20th centuries. The Southern Baptist Convention, for example, was firmly in the hands of fundamentalists in 1995 when it finally acknowledged that:
Our relationship to African-Americans has been hindered from the beginning by the role that slavery played in the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention; and many of our Southern Baptist forbears defended the right to own slaves, and either participated in, supported, or acquiesced in the particularly inhumane nature of American slavery; in later years Southern Baptists failed, in many cases, to support, and in some cases opposed, legitimate initiatives to secure the civil rights of African-Americans. Racism has led to discrimination, oppression, injustice, and violence, both in the Civil War and throughout the history of our nation.[i]
Likewise, Bob Jones University, long known as the last major Southern educational institution holding onto the old Southern tradition of racial segregation, at last apologized in 2008 for its past defense of racist policies and attitudes:
For almost two centuries American Christianity, including BJU in its early stages, was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture‚Ä¶we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves. Though no known antagonism toward minorities or expressions of racism on a personal level have ever been tolerated on our campus, we allowed institutional policies to remain in place that were racially hurtful.[ii]
Clearly, change is in the air, and younger generations of fundamentalists and evangelicals are considering how their Christian practice might be a truer and more radical reflection of their Christian faith. At stake is the very definition of a Christianity driven more by praxis than by doctrine, more inspired by the life and spirit of Jesus than by arcane doctrinal disputes.
[i] Southern Baptist Convention, ‚ÄúResolution on Racial Reconciliation on the 150th Anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention,‚Äù http://www.sbc.net
/resolutions/amResolution.asp?ID=899 (accessed November 7, 2010).
[ii] Bob Jones University, ‚ÄúStatement About Race at BJU,‚Äù http://www.bju
.edu/welcome/who-we-are/race-statement.php (accessed November 7, 2010).