The Southern Baptist Convention is in the midst of a spiritual pandemic, and it’s not going to pass anytime soon. It’s spreading. It’s infecting more people. It’s getting worse. It’s ever-more-quickly destroying the Convention -- and those who are prepared to treat it are growing ever more scarce.
Shut down the flights, cancel the basketball games, engage in social distancing. Coronavirus is officially a pandemic, defined as a disease that is “prevalent over a whole country or the world.” Despite the obvious Democrat political maneuvering and despite the potential risk of societal overreaction, I’m all for a massive response when the goal is to keep Americans from contracting this highly contagious virus.
Given the events of the last week, I also couldn’t help but see an immediate contrast between the physical pandemic of the coronavirus and the spiritual pandemic that seems to be growing within the Southern Baptist Convention. The first one is inspiring a full-force engagement. The second one, largely, is inspiring pathological apathy.
As I laid out on my radio show this week (listen here and here), Southern Baptist Convention president J.D. Greear engaged in a rather happy-go-lucky “interfaith dialogue” at North Carolina State University with a known Sharia supremacist named Omar Suleiman (video link here).
Imam Suleiman is the founder and president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. He also wants Israel — the nation strongly supported through nine resolutions by the Southern Baptist Convention — to be destroyed.
Suleiman came under intense fire – rightly so – in 2019, when he was invited to deliver an invocation at the U.S. House of Representatives. At the time, Rep. Lee Zeldin tweeted out: ” Totally unacceptable that @SpeakerPelosi had Omar Suleiman give the opening prayer yesterday in the House. He compares Israel to the Nazis & calls them terrorists, supports Muslim Brotherhood, incites violence calling for a Palestinian antifada & the end of zionism, etc. Bad call.”
But there’s more to know about Suleiman, who also has referred to Israel as “JSIL,” likening the Jewish nation to the Islamic State. Which is more than a little ironic, because as Islamic expert Dr. Andrew Bostom, the author of “The Legacy of Jihad” and “The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism,” wrote here:
Suleiman has defended Sharia’s hadd punishments for adultery (stoning) and theft (amputation), advocated for both “societal Sharia” and a Caliphate, so that Sharia could “be applied in totality,” and even defended Muslim concubinage and sex slavery. He is also a virulent Muslim Jew-hater, who proudly lauds Islam’s Antisemitic canon, in particular, the Koranic epithet (Koran 5:60) for Jews as “apes and pigs.”
And despite his “religious freedom” comments at the interfaith dialogue, Suleiman might not be a very reliable First Amendment guy if his Islamic ideology were ever to triumph in the United States. For example, in 2012, at an ICNA-MAS (Islamic Circle of North America/Muslim American Society) Shariah Council Panel Q&A, Suleiman said that “the Sharia practiced on a societal level as was practiced by the companions of the prophet” was “a righteous system.” (Begin at 2:54 here.)
Let’s not sugarcoat this. This is the same Islamic supremacist ideology that not only places Israel in its crosshairs but the ideology that is, more than any other, driving the ruthless persecution of an unprecedented number of Christians around the world.
Christians are the most persecuted religious group on earth. As Save the Persecuted Christians has pointed out: “At least 327 million Christians face persecution … (and) more Christians have died for their faith over the last 100 years than in all prior centuries since Jesus’ time combined.” What’s more, “for at least 68 percent of Christians being persecuted, the driving factor is adherence to Sharia – authoritative Islam’s brutally repressive and supremacist Islamic law.”
But forget all that. Why not have the president of the Southern Baptist Convention president engage in “interfaith dialogue” — once a practice that all Bible-believing evangelicals understood to be something that only Bible-eschewing mainline Protestants would do? After all, it was Greear who said to the Executive Committee just a few weeks ago, ““I grew up Independent Baptist, Fundamental, Sword of the Lord. I’ve seen where this kind of uncharitable, narrow, 4-degrees of separation leads, and it’s not where most Southern Baptists want to go.”
Yes, SBC, you’re cool now. You’re not into that “separation” stuff. You certainly wouldn’t want to look like a bunch of uncharitable, narrow (cue scary music bed) “fundamentalists” by refusing to share a stage with a guy who wants Israel eradicated. Even if your denominational stance is to support Israel. Because who wants to be called a “fundamentalist?”
Wait, though. Greear is not totally against separation. It’s just that you need to follow his personal shunning parameters, which don’t include anti-Semitic, Sharia-supporting imams but certainly do include former SBC president Dr. Paige Patterson. Greear said so in January, when he reacted to the fact that some churches were inviting Patterson to address their congregations: “Trustees terminated Paige Patterson for cause, publicly disclosing that his conduct was antithetical to the core values of our faith. I advise any Southern Baptist church to consider this severe action before having Dr. Patterson preach or speak and to contact trustee officers if additional information is necessary.”
Shun the, er, believer! But Suleiman? He’s an LSU fan, bro. Greear said so. Greear also said that Matt Chandler, SBC pastor of The Village Church in Texas, declared of Suleiman: “That’s good people right there!”
That would almost be funny if it weren’t so utterly ignorant and infuriating.
Same with Greear’s comments about his supposed political independence and bold prophetic capabilities, which he said he would most certainly employ if any politician tried to get him to serve as a photo op. Greear told the NCSU audience, “In the position I’m in now, you get invited to be part of certain discussions with politicians … (and) I’m telling them, ‘I just want to be really clear. I’m not coming to be a part of your platform … I’m not going to do anything that implies I stand with you, but I’m not going to do that with your adversary, either. If I am up there, it’s to be someone who says, ‘Thus says the Lord!'”
So a “Thus says the Lord” for Trump but none for anti-Israel Sharia supremacist Suleiman? Is that what it means to be a prophet?
Oh, wait. I forgot. We’re trying to build bridges here with Suleiman and other Islamists. Make friends. Have conversations. All with the end goal – always at some nonspecific point in the future – of evangelizing them. I mean, after all, the Lord Jesus, the apostles and the great missionaries of old were never able to befriend or evangelize the unsaved without a formal “interfaith dialogue” event. Especially one like Greear’s, in which the numbers of surveyed Christian attendees with a positive view of Islam going into the event liked the false religion even more afterward!
Well, why not? Given that overriding concern of “bridge-building,” is it any surprise that Greear — when asked what his message to Muslims would be – could only muster a tepid-sounding testimony and gospel presentation that came after his claims that Christians can be “really annoying,” “unhealthy,” full of “fear” and leaning on Trump as a “strongman?” A gospel presentation was only thrown in after several minutes of basically begging Muslims to “be patient” with Christians who are having a tough “transition” out of losing majority religious status in America.
Suleiman, after watching Greear stammer through his plea for Muslim patience with Christians, did a much better job of telling the Christian community what his message was: “Become Muslim.”
Game, set, match! Well played, J.D. Greear. You failed to stand up for Christians, either American Christians (well, most of them voted for Trump, so …) or foreign ones, who are experiencing intense persecution by Sharia supremacists. You also failed to stand up for Israel. But you sure succeeded at insulting and apologizing for your own and gushing about what you’ve learned through personal experience in the Muslim world.
You have to hand it to Islamists: They really are great at interfaith dialogue. To paraphrase one of Bostom’s colleagues, “Interfaith dialogue works like this. Christians tell the Muslims how great and peaceful Islam is, and Muslims tell Christians how great and peaceful Islam is.”
But all sarcasm aside, if you’re still under the impression that interfaith dialogue isn’t a gigantic scam that’s rigged against Christians, read these links here, here and here. Because if evangelicals don’t get schooled on why we’re useful idiots for engaging in it, we’re only going to engage in more of it.
The notion that we’ll soften Christianity, make excuses for Christianity, even put down Christians, in the hopes that Muslims will like us more and suddenly want to become Christians is not just ridiculous. That impulse alone is indicative of a more-widespread disease, in which Christians are increasingly looking to everything but God and His Word to guide them.
It’s no secret that the Woke SBC Elites have been guiding America’s biggest evangelical denomination through a steady-handed downgrade.
In the last several years, the SBC leadership has embraced or tolerated everything from Critical Race Theory (Resolution 9, anyone?) to intersectionality, a globalist-friendly immigration policy, Trump-voter-bashing, mosque building (in the name of “religious freedom”), pro-LGBT thought and creeping feminism. And if de rigueur Leftist politics are increasingly guiding your denominational leaders and their followers as that virus spreads, then what possible harm could a little interfaith dialogue do, even if it directly flies in the face of the convention’s stated support of Israel and the persecuted church?
So it’s no wonder that, thus far, the top SBC leaders have had exactly nothing to say publicly about Greear’s interfaith dialogue. He’ll soon be a lame duck as president, anyway. He’s almost out. Shh! The controversy will pass. Spread the word. Keep quiet, friends in the Christian media. Never mind that ERLC employees serve as contributors for Neighborly Faith, which co-hosted the interfaith dialogue with The Veritas Forum. Shh-shh-shhh!
Where is the serious, organized pushback to all of this that would stop the pandemic? Strongly worded thought pieces aside, can anyone name any measure of serious accountability that has ever been brought to bear on these elites for supporting Critical Race Theory? How about accountability for their pro-LGBT ideology, revealed when elites have embraced “sexual orientation,” openly endorsed Revoice and gay-wedding-reception attendance or advocated for “pronoun hospitality?” What consequences have there been over leaders’ continual bashing of Trump-supporting conservatives in the denomination?
Even when the Executive Committee recently announced a task force will “review the past and present activities” of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission but Russell Moore’s job is safe, the ERLC trustees said they won’t cooperate.
But this will all pass, right? Shh. Just stay inside with your windows closed and your hands washed.
With Greear’s latest Sharia footsie, combined with no public response to the controversy from the SBC, I believe that the Southern Baptist Convention is experiencing more than a downgrade. It is in the midst of a spiritual pandemic, and it’s not going to pass anytime soon. It’s spreading. It’s infecting more people. It’s getting worse. It’s ever-more-quickly destroying the convention. And those who are prepared to treat it are growing ever more scarce.
Really, who within the Southern Baptist Convention is resolved not just to believe and preach and live out biblical theology, not just to befriend people on the other side and try to do gospel diplomacy, but to engage in an Ephesians 6 struggle to try to right this ship according to God’s Word and, by God’s grace, save the SBC before it’s too late? Does the year 1979 ring a bell? Has our Lord stopped caring about His sheep inside the SBC, or is He unable to right this ship? Of course not! “Indeed, the LORD’s hand is not too short to save, and His ear is not too deaf to hear.” (Isaiah 59:1)
Biblical downgrades and spiritual pandemics are nothing new. And Psalm 81:8-14 cuts right to the heart of what ails us when it says this:
“Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
“But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
to follow their own counsels.
Oh, that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
I would soon subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes.“
Consider also the words that our Lord and Savior spoke in Rev. 2:4-5 to the Church at Ephesus, even after praising the saints for all their good works:
“But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent.”
Is there not a lesson here for the Southern Baptist Convention?
Go back to Him, and listen to Him again! Remember who He is, and submit to Him! Thus says the LORD!
The SBC has been a mighty denomination for many years, used by God in tremendous ways to spread the gospel and plant churches throughout the world. Not only that, but when it was nearly lost to liberalism decades ago, God granted it an unprecedented reversal that brought the convention back to embracing the authority of God’s Word.
God could do it again.
But is there anyone who will fight — really fight — this pandemic in the SBC?
Janet Mefferd is the host of "Janet Mefferd Today," reaching more than 240 radio stations nationwide. A former news and religion reporter and editor for newspapers including The Dallas Morning News and the Daily Herald, Janet also has more than 25 years of Christian broadcasting experience.
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