A controversial resolution passed in the closing moments of last week's annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention continues to roil discussion among members of America's largest Protestant denomination. Some are taking issue with the way it was passed – and some are saying it elevates dangerous Marxist theories above scripture.
In the mind of its original author, Resolution #9 – passed by a raising of hands at the SBC gathering in Birmingham, Alabama – was meant to be a stinging rebuke of the social justice concepts of critical race theory and intersectionality (a.k.a. CRT/I). But when it passed – in a hurry, at the very end of the two-day convention – it left many who voted for it confused and wondering what happened.
Pastor Stephen Feinstein of Sovereign Way Christian Church in the Southern California town of Hesperia heard a complaint from a church member whose child was enrolled in one of the supposedly conservative evangelical colleges in California. The parent's complaint was that their child was coming home talking about "white privilege," social justice, and something called "intersectionality." When similar ideas started popping up at Southern Baptist pastors' conferences, Feinstein decided to do some research. (See earlier story from OneNewsNow)
"At the Shepherd's Conference where I saw some of my favorite people really almost go to battle over this," he tells OneNewsNow, "it really, really upset me."
At the heart of the social justice movement are two concepts rooted in radical feminism and Marxism: critical race theory (CRT) and intersectionality. CRT contends that American culture is rife with white supremacy that is baked in racism and used, often subconsciously, to hold back women and people of color.
According to the theory, even if a white person isn't racist themselves, he or she benefits from the inherent bias while minorities suffer. Those minorities are bound together in an interdependent and hierarchical system of oppressions known as "intersectionality." For example, a gay black woman – according to CRT – is oppressed by misogyny, racism, and homophobia. She would rate higher than a poor black man, who only suffers under two oppressions.
The two philosophies are the foundation of identity politics and carry an added benefit for social justice advocates of keeping people victimized and angry.
"Behind these theories," says Feinstein, "it really is a philosophy that is fueled by rage and anger and speaks purposefully to divide people."
Trevin Wax served on this year's SBC Resolutions Committee. In an article at SBCVoices.com, Wax addresses criticism of Resolution #9. He says it's "simply not true" that the Resolutions Committee is praising, promoting, or pushing critical race theory and intersectionality – and that to "twist" the words of the approved resolution misrepresents the Committee's work.
Seeing a rising tension in the SBC, Feinstein decided to write a resolution for the 2019 convention which he titled "On critical race theory and intersectionality." In his original submission, he noted the philosophies are "founded upon unbiblical presuppositions descended from Marxist theories … and therefore are inherently opposed to the Scriptures." He noted that "Scripture provides God's narrative on such matters" as racism, sexism, and the rest of the social ills besetting American culture. And he resolved that his denomination "decry … critical race theory and intersectionality as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
When Feinstein arrived at the convention in Birmingham, he was initially pleased that the Resolutions Committee had taken up his resolution – but then he looked closer.
"When I compared the differences," he shares, "I had my pen out and put a checkmark next to each paragraph that, for the most part, had my content. And I realized that about 60 percent of it was completely rewritten and it removed the whole worldview aspect of this." The pastor decided to give the Resolutions Committee the benefit of the doubt. "Perhaps when they read my original one, they thought it wasn't nuanced enough; that a broad stroke is not the best way to go about it," he tells OneNewsNow.
The revised resolution now categorized CRT/I as "a set of analytical tools [that] can aid in evaluating a variety of human experiences," and noted that "truthful insights found in human ideas that do not explicitly emerge from Scripture … reflect what some may term 'common grace.'" The reworded resolution resolved to use the Marxist theories "subordinate to Scripture."
Vote on the revised resolution
Not everyone at the convention was as understanding as Pastor Feinstein. The resolution didn't come to a vote until the very end of the last day of the meeting – and time was running short. Resolutions Committee chairman Dr. Curtis Woods, hoping to speed things along, proposed that the last five resolutions (#9 through #13) be considered en mass. Messenger Tom Buck from First Baptist Church in Lindale, Texas, asked that Resolution #9 on critical race theory and intersectionality be considered separately – and it was.
Buck addressed the chair and reminded it that while the new resolution says critical race theory and intersectionality "have been appropriated by individuals with worldviews contrary to Scripture; the truth is they weren't merely appropriated, but originated with those that would hold unbiblical worldviews. It's fundamentally flawed, that worldview."
Buck pointed out that the resolution as presented found that CRT and intersectionality alone are insufficient to diagnose and redress social ills. But he argued "they're not merely insufficient – they're incapable of diagnosing man's problem, and [they're] incompatible with the biblical gospel. These views do not complement the gospel; they completely contradict it."
In his response, Dr. Woods answered a question he wasn't asked:
"When you read this resolution, you see a resolution that says that we must keep the Gospel of Jesus Christ above all, and any theory or epistemology has to be subordinate to Scripture."
Woods then defended his team against a charge that was never made:
"There's not one member of this committee that would consider himself or herself an apologist for critical race theory or intersectionality. We have been called to defend the faith that was once for all delivered unto the saints."
Pastor Tom Ascol of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida, then offered what he hoped would be considered a friendly amendment to Resolution #9:
"Whereas critical race theory and intersectionality are godless ideologies that are indebted to radical feminism and post-modernism and neo-Marxism, we repudiate all forms of identity politics and any ideology that establishes human identity in anything other than the divine creation in the image of God and for all redeemed humanity, our common identity together, eternally united to Christ."
"We will take this as an unfriendly amendment. What we're saying is that this can be utilized simply as an analytical tool, not a transcendent worldview above the authority of Scripture – and we stand by the strength of this resolution."
At this point, it was estimated that roughly three-quarters of the 8,000 messengers who had come to Birmingham had already left the meeting hall. According to evangelist messenger Phil Glisson, those remaining were mostly confused.
"I had never heard of these terms – critical race theory, intersectionality," says Glisson, who was among those present during the discussion. "Since the convention, I have talked to a number of other messengers who were in that meeting and they said they had never heard of any of that stuff either."
The confusion, apparently, was even felt among those on the stage. Adam Greenway, chairman of the committee on Order of Business, pulled Dr. Woods and SBC president Dr. J.D. Greear to the side and asked that the measure be pulled.
"We need to appeal that they withdraw the resolution entirely," Greenway advised, according to video of the discussion. "This convention is not prepared to deal with it. They don't understand it. We need to withdraw it." Someone unidentifiable on the video answered a quick and decisive "No" – and the original motion, without the amendment, was put to a vote.
Glisson explains why he voted for the resolution: "The fellow on the Resolutions Committee gets up and says, Hey guys, remember we've got to keep the gospel above all. We need to leave this like it is. We're aware of your concerns, but this is a well-written resolution.
"Since none of us know what's going on, we don't understand it, and he said we must keep the gospel above all, most people just decided to go with the resolution," Glisson adds, suggesting that he wasn't the only messenger who left with more questions than answers.
Mohler: Ideas have consequences
Resolution #9, as approved, calls on Southern Baptists to "affirm Scripture as the first, last and sufficient authority with regard to how the church seeks to redress social ills." But at least one Southern Baptist seminary leader is unhappy with the resolution and the way it was voted in.
Dr. Al Mohler, Jr. is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. In his June 14 briefing, Mohler notes that however the SBC views critical race theory and intersectionality, "they were never merely analytical tools, and in the common discourse in the United States, and especially in public argument, and in higher education, both critical race theory and intersectionality are far more than analytical tools."
"Both critical race theory and intersectionality are a part of the continuing transformative Marxism, that is now so dominant in higher education and increasingly in policy …. I did not want the resolution to say less than it said. I wanted it to say more than it said. I wanted it to acknowledge more clearly the origins of critical race theory and intersectionality. I wanted it to state more clearly that embedded in both of those analytical tools is a praxis – that is a political extension ….
"Ideas, as we know, do have consequences, and one of the most lamentable consequences, but the main consequence of critical race theory and intersectionality is identity politics – and identity politics can only rightly be described, as antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Dr. Woods has declined a recorded interview with OneNewsNow.
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