Understanding Each Other & the Best Way to Respond to Charlottesville

I’ve been trying to figure out why people are getting so angry at each other about the events in Charlottesville this past weekend. Discussion has turned heated in almost irrational ways as we’ve tried to discuss and make sense of how we should respond to what happened. And here’s the thing— virtually everyone here at SBC Voices, both contributors and commenters, agrees about most of the major elements:

We all agree that white supremacy is abhorrent and evil, whether KKK, neo-nazi, alt-right or other. We all agree that leftist groups were there to escalate and incite violent conflicts, which is also wrong and evil. We all agree that protests of any kind should be peaceful. We all believe in the right to free speech, even when disgusting things are being said. We all are grieved by the terrorist attack by the white supremacist who used his car to drive into a crowd of people. We all mourn the death of Heather Heyer and pray for others who were injured in the attack. We all wish the country wasn’t so polarized right now.

So if we agree on all those things, why are we so divided? It seems like the major dividing point in the conversations I hear and read has to do with how we talk about the situation. One group emphasizes condemnation of white supremacy. The other emphasizes the need to condemn all the extremist groups involved (usually stated as to include Antifa and Black Lives Matter). Will we condemn the KKK without qualification or must we also include all groups involved in the Charlottesville protests? I’ve literally been angry at people, just yesterday, who have refused to condemn white supremacists without mentioning other groups along with them. Why should something that could be seen as a subtle nuance cause such a rift among people who agree on so much?

I’ve tried to trace it out and here’s what I’ve come up with. My hope is that it will help bridge the divide and promote understanding between the two viewpoints I’m describing.

View #1: White supremacy is evil and Christians should speak out clearly & mainly against it.
View #2: Right wing and left wing groups both caused problems and should both be condemned.

The difference between the two stems from how we answer this question: What is the most pressing and urgent problem in the Charlottesville situation? If people believe, as I do, that the most serious problem in Charlottesville was the presence of an emboldened white supremacist movement, then your primary reaction is going to be view #1. You’re going to want to speak out clearly and unequivocally against white supremacy. If people believe that the biggest problem in Charlottesville was that the protests turned violent and you’re looking to place blame for that – then #2 is likely your response. And there may be a legitimate argument that the leftist groups were equally instigating violence and that both sides were at fault, at least until the car attack made all the other violence look minor.

So the difference between us actually begins much sooner. Not just which groups we should condemn, but what is it in the Charlottesville situation that needs to be confronted? And I believe if we look at it through this lens, I can try to understand better why some want to talk about all groups and hopefully others can understand why I think that primarily addressing white supremacy alone is the better path.

Which Approach Should We Take?

In deciding between the two viewpoints, and in advocacy of my own view, I would first point out that everyone agrees that peaceful protests should be conducted without resorting to violence. That goes for all locations, all groups, and all causes. There’s nothing unusual about Charlottesville in that respect. We feel about Charlottesville the same way we did about Ferguson and Baltimore. We might disagree about the how legitimate the complaints were in any of these instances, but we all hated to see them turn violent and we all condemned the violence. The fact that there was violence between the protesting groups isn’t mainly what brought this Charlottesville event to national prominence (again, at least until the car terrorist attack).

The most significant aspect of this event is that it was an open, national gathering of white supremacists who feel emboldened to come out of the shadows, show their faces, and march chanting old Nazi-era slogans. This is the shocking facet of what happened on that Friday night. This is what makes me wonder what minority believers must be thinking and feeling — and how I can unite with them in responding to this. This is what makes me determined to speak up. The main problem was this KKK/alt-right march in the first place — and that’s not the fault of Antifa or BLM or anyone else.

I believe there are objective and subjective reasons to consider the white supremacist aspect of Charlottesville the part that needs to be urgently addressed.

  1. There would have been no event, no conflict, no violence, no death of Heather Heyer, no police officers killed in a helicopter crash if this event had not taken place in the first place.
  2. The white supremacists came armed with weapons, ready to be violent and kill if the opportunity arose. They’ve stated since then that they believe in their future rallies more people will die.
  3. The terrorist attack with the car was perpetrated by a white supremacist and later defended by leaders of the white supremacist group.
  4. A white supremacist rally in and of itself is meant to intimidate and terrorize the public, particularly minorities, but also anyone who would stand up against their white supremacist vision.
  5. Standing with minorities in our culture means we take seriously their perspective. Do you think very many non-white people look at Charlottesville and think the main problem was that the different groups got angry and violent with each other?
  6. Undoubtedly the public perception about Charlottesville is that the white supremacist element was the most notable. The photos of young, angry white men carrying Walmart tiki torches (seriously?) will be seared into the national consciousness for years to come. Can we not speak clearly to that without diluting what the world ought to hear the church saying? This isn’t a time for anti-PC warriors to try and score points against leftist groups. That’s an exercise in missing the point.

This is a time for Christians to keep the main problem in view and speak clearly, without equivocation or qualification, about the evil of white supremacy.

Bruce Ashford series on the alt-right

Bruce Ashford has written an incredibly helpful 4-part series on the alt-right movement and how evangelicals should respond to it. Not only is this worth your time for reading and your own understanding, but many church members will likely have questions about Resolution 10 and what the SBC meant when it passed a resolution condemning the alt-right movement. This is don’t-miss material.

The Anti-Gospel of the Alt-Right

Overview: An Evangelical Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right
Part 1: An Introduction to Alt-Right Ideology
Part 2: A Profile of 5 Alt-Right Leaders
Part 3: A Response to FAQs about the Alt-Right
Part 4: An Evaluation of the Alt-Right

I mainly post this here to make you aware of this excellent resource. I plan on making it available to our church members when we give a #SBC17 overview to our church.

H. B. Charles Lays Out Vision for 2018 Pastors’ Conference

Last week the news broke that H. B. Charles would be nominated for President of the 2018 SBC Pastors’ Conference. It was big news and widely welcomed in news and social media. Brad Graves, who had previously been announced as a nominee withdrew his name from consideration in support of Charles’ nomination, which made a noteworthy announcement even more significant.

Today H. B. Charles posted at his blog an article titled “My Nomination for SBC Pastors’ Conference President” where he gives some personal reflections about his nomination. The post is well worth reading for several reasons – two of which I want to highlight here that I find hugely encouraging.

First is that Charles lays out his vision for what the 2018 Pastors’ Conference will look like. Here are his words:

If elected, I will give my best effort to plan a conference that will encourage pastors, model biblical preaching, and promote the Great Commission.

We know that H. B. Charles is highly regarded for his biblical preaching – and that’s exactly what we want to see at the 2018 Pastors’ Conference. You might remember the 2017 PC President got the ball rolling on his nomination by asking the question “Why Not Focus on Biblical Preaching at the Pastors Conference?” This is a theme that resonates deeply with me and with the team who has been involved with the 2017 PC. We would love to see it become an expectation that future SBC Pastors’ Conferences will feature expository, text-driven preaching as the norm.

Second, it is hugely encouraging to see Charles’ consideration of what Dave Miller has brought to the Pastors’ Conference. Again, his words:

As I contemplate this opportunity, I cast my eyes toward the work for this year’s conference. Before coming to Jacksonville eight years ago, it was my joy to serve a smaller congregation in Los Angeles for almost eighteen years. I pray this year’s conference will be uplifting for one and all. And I pray the Lord will grant me wisdom to consider the spirit of this year’s conference, as he leads me regarding next year’s theme, program, and speakers.

When Dave set out to implement his vision for 2017, we planned that it would be a one-time event. None of our group is interested in running or being as involved as we have been this year. It’s a lot of time and work. We’ve loved doing it, but at this point it feels like we’re nearing the end of a marathon – the finish line is ahead and it means what its title implies. We didn’t expect another conference to be exclusively preachers from average-sized churches. We didn’t expect that every PC in the future would preach through a book (though we hope this years’ will show the value and possibility and that we will see the approach again).

But we did hope that some of the themes that we’ve desired and promoted would be given heavy consideration in the future. Dave’s vision resonated with enough people in St. Louis to win that election, which surprised many at the time. But it showed there is a desire for a Pastors’ Conference that aims for biblical expository preaching and values SBC churches of all sizes. So it’s a joy for H. B. Charles to say he plans to “consider the spirit” of the 2017 PC as he plans for Dallas.

It’s not customary for the current Pastors’ Conference to comment on an upcoming nomination and probably isn’t appropriate for it  to do so. So I don’t speak for the Pastors’ Conference or leadership team in any official capacity. But personally, I’m glad to tell you I plan to enthusiastically support H. B. Charles for Pastors’ Conference President. I’d be glad for you to join me and many others who are already planning to do the same.

SBCPC Scholarship Recipients (Round 2)

We’re glad today to announce the second and final round of recipients for the 2017 SBC Pastors’ Conference Scholarship. Round two includes 30 pastors and church planters who will, along with 30 in the first round, receive $1,000 for travel and other expenses to attend all sessions of the SBC Pastors’ Conference and SBC Annual Meeting. As before, these recipients pastor average-sized SBC churches and wouldn’t be able to attend without these scholarship funds.  About 30% of our applicants are church planters. Close to half of this list are from outside traditional SBC states. We love having this opportunity to bless small church pastors.

We’re also glad to recognize the following scholarship sponsors who have come on board since the first round were announced:

Shades Mountain Church (Birmingham, AL), John & Myra Prince (via North Carolina Baptist Foundation), Idlewild Baptist Church (Lutz, FL)Cornerstone Fellowship Baptist Church (Haskell, TX), and The North Carolina Biblical Recorder (state Baptist newspaper).

Along with early donors we announced during the first round: Cross Church (Springdale, AR), Hickory Grove Baptist Church (Charlotte, NC), Johnson Ferry Baptist Church (Marietta, GA), Roger K. Simpson (individual donor, member of First Southern Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, OK, where SBCPC speaker Shane Hall pastors), First Baptist Church (Woodstock, GA), Liberty Baptist Church (Hampton, VA), Broadmoor Baptist Church (Madison, MS), Cornerstone Fellowship Baptist Church (Haskell, TX), and the SBC of Virginia (state convention).

If you would still like to contribute to the scholarship fund, please feel free to do so (instructions here). The Pastors’ Conference is funding all scholarships not covered by donors. We’ve received, at this point $17,000 from our donors to greatly increase the number of scholarships we have been able to offer. Thank you all for working together with us to make this vision a reality. Now, without further ado…

 

Scholarship Recipient List

Randy Alston
Redeemer Church
Fort Myers, FL

Gregory Scott Bittle
First Baptist Church
Zeigler, IL

James Briggs
First Baptist Church
Fayette, MO

Kevin Bruinsma
Narrow Path Church
Saint Clair Shores, MI

Bill Carter
Antioch Baptist Church
Royal, AR

Peter Choi
New Life New Vision Church
Tustin, CA

Cody Dean
Epiphany Baptist
Springfield, TN

James Dettman
Hills of Grace Fellowship
Rapid City, SD

Jimmie Evans
Pine Hill Baptist Church
Leesville, LA

James Forbis
FBC Willow Springs
Willow Springs, MO

Mark Fugitt
Mountain Grove Family Church
Mountain Grove, MO

Chris Harris
Greater Things Baptist Church
Burns, TN

Kevin James
New Creation Bible Fellowship
Tracy, CA

Donghyeok Kim
Dreamers Church of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, OH

Jin Kwon
Hattiesburg Korean Baptist Church
Hattiesburg,MS

Joseph Lee
Wells Chapel Baptist Church
Wallace, NC

Samuel Louis
Grace Church of Cape Cod
Sandwich, MA

James W. Luders
Lincoln Street Baptist Church
Mt. Pleasant, IA

Sean McKale
iGnite Church on Fire
Yelm, WA

Von Paxton
Grace Baptist Church
Quinlan, TX

Cheston Pickard
First Baptist Church of Delassus
Farmington, MO

Joon Roh
Church of the Wonderful Light
Clarksville, MD

Felix Sermon
Grace International Christian Church
Alexandria, VA

Mark Slattery
First Southern Baptist Church
Larned, KS

Josh Smith
First Baptist Church
Alpaugh, CA

Michael C. Smith
Island Baptist Church
Chincoteague, VA

William Stack
Haven Baptist Church
New Bedford, MA

Ryan Strother
Central Baptist Church
Marion, OH

Ritch Wilhelmi
Memorial Baptist Church
Hot Springs, AR

Jeff Wright
Midway Baptist Church
Cookeville, TN