It appears that Richard Land’s non-apology backfired, badly, as the Religious Right leader and chief ethicist of the Southern Baptist Convention is quickly doing damage control following his explosive racial comments on President Obama and the Trayvon Maritn case and accusations that he repeatedly plagiarized conservative columnists during his radio show. Initially, Land took a defiant stance and criticized his detractors, but then issued two statements expressing his “regret” that he “overestimated the progress that has been made” on race relations, and he admitted not to plagiarizing but simply failing “to provide appropriate verbal attributions” during his show. As Kyle pointed out this morning, Land is now facing an investigation by the Executive Committee of the ERLC and also took down the archives of his radio show, ostensibly due to “the danger that such unauthorized use by news agencies or others might include quoted material used by Dr. Land without clear and proper credit being given to the author or source of the quoted material.”
Yesterday, Dwight McKissic, a prominent African American pastor in the SBC who has received attention for his virulently anti-gay views, slammed Land for his initial remarks and his condescending non-apology, and even threatened to boycott future SBC meetings if Land is not repudiated. He even said that Land was reviving the racist “curse of Ham”:
Richard Land’s racial remarks against the backdrop of the Trayvon Martin tragedy are the most damaging, alienating, and offensive words about race that I’ve read or heard, rendered by a SBC personality, in the twenty-eight years that I’ve served as a SBC church planter/pastor.
The pain that Richard Land inflicted upon Blacks in the SBC is a pain that would be only felt greater by the pain inflicted upon Trayvon Martin’s family by George Zimmerman. In his non apology—apology, he blames those of us who responded to his racial views, for the pain we felt. The opening line in his letter of apology, dated April 16, 2012, says, “I am writing to express my deep regret for any hurt or misunderstanding my comments about the Trayvon Martin case have generated.” He then blames his readers and listeners for not being “progressive” enough to be on the same page with him racially.
I remain appalled at his unrepentant words. And since Dr. Land will not repent of his words, I feel compelled to ask the SBC by way of resolution to repudiate and renounce the racially offensive, biblically unjustifiable and factually incorrect words of Dr. Richard Land. He spoke these words as an official of the SBC; therefore, the SBC must take ownership and responsibility for Dr. Land’s words. I could not with a good conscience attend a SBC meeting in the post Luter years, or increase giving to the Cooperative Program as long as Land’s words remain un-repented of. To do so would be to engage in self-hatred; the exercise and practice of low self-esteem; to support Land’s view of racial profiling and his flawed racial reasoning.
What was even more troubling to me than Land’s remarks, was his assertion that the vast majority of Southern Baptists agree with his racial views. If he is accurate in his assessment, it confirms the suspicion that many Black Baptists have held for years regarding Southern Baptists; and that is many Southern Baptists, if not the majority, inherently and instinctively don’t honestly respect, relate to or view Blacks with a mindset of mutual respect, equality and understanding. Blacks are primarily viewed as mission projects, not as mission partners. Inadvertently, Dr. Land opened to us the window of his heart and showed us this painful reality (Mark 7:20-23). The question now is, did Richard Land show us the heart of the entirety of the SBC?
To read Land’s initial comments and his apology is painful, shameful and heartbreaking for many of us. Now the SBC must take ownership of Dr. Land’s words, because according to Dr. Land, his words reflect the views of his constituency. There are three reasons why I believe the SBC must repudiate Dr. Land’s remarks; or I, for one, will remove myself from SBC gatherings.
As I’ve listened to Black Baptists discuss Land’s comments, I believe his most offensive remark related to his belief in justified racial profiling. The SBC must repudiate the profiling comment, if nothing else. According to the prosecutor and investigators in Florida, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed because of Zimmerman’s profiling. Land’s comments gives ecclesiastical license from the SBC for this kind of profiling. Land’s racial profiling comments are analogous to what the major SBC pastors and theologians said about Black people for many years—for which they have never repented of—and that is, Black people were cursed by God. Land’s “justifiable profiling” doctrine is virtually identical and analogous to the SBC “curse of Ham” doctrine. Land just presented the 21st Century version of the “curse of Ham” doctrine, financed with Cooperative Program dollars. This is an egregious offense. Black SBC churches only give 1% to the Cooperative Program. Nevertheless, our churches helped to finance Richard Land’s communicating to all of America that racial profiling is justifiable. It was the justifiable profiling doctrine that led the SBC to conclude that slavery and segregation were biblically permissible. Land has revived that doctrine. According to Dr. Land, persons like me are worthy of being profiled.
Elsewhere in the post, McKissic commented on racial segregation at SBC meetings, called on Land to apologize to President Obama and Trayvon Martin’s family, and said that is comments “are not only factually incorrect” but are also “biblically unjustifiable.”