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Op-Ed

Op-Ed: Has the Un-Wokening of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Evangelical Industrial Complex Begun in Earnest?

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In a stunning development, Russell Moore, at mid-career, is stepping down after an eight-year stint as the chief ethicist of the largest protestant denomination in North America, the Southern Baptist Convention.

This move adds to mounting evidence that wokeness and critical race theory-friendliness are weakening within the evangelical industrial complex that comprises many institutions and entities including the SBC, the Presbyterian Church in America, The Gospel Coalition and Christianity Today.

From his post at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, Moore castigated rank-and-file Southern Baptists who twice voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, saying they would have to “repudiate everything they believe” to vote for him.

Just months ago, Moore pooh-poohed CRT in a sit-down with fellow NeverTrumper David French. This as parents of all colors, learning of CRT being pushed down the throats of their children, are beginning to push back with fervor against school boards, many of which are composed of all white people.

White People Using Black People

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The disproportionate whiteness of the woke movement confirms Shelby Steele’s contention that the undermining of the promise of the civil rights movement is perpetuated by a few black race hustlers and the many more white people who use them in order to dissociate from racism publicly.

In the tradition of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and now Ibram X. Kendi, woke liberation theologian Walter Strickland of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is building a race industry career for himself with the help of EIC institution heads who need woke black teachers to “listen to” as cameras roll.

The intersectionality element of CRT requires that white people listen to black people and ultimately submit to their leadership. But Moore, like the other white luminaries within the EIC, has no answer to the question, “What is the proper name of the person of color who can fire you tomorrow?”

Shouldn’t white perpetuators of the contemporary social justice movement answer that question before another affirmation of intersectionality escapes their lips?

Do you think evangelicals are standing up to critical race theory?

White evangelical elites ignore the un-woke black voices within their own ranks for one reason: Those voices don’t serve their virtue-signaling aims. Orchestrated EIC panel discussions on race blatantly exclude un-woke black academics, allowing the white men to nod brow-furrowed as their woke black counterparts such as Jarvis Williams and Curtis Woods sing the praises of CRT in front of them.

White power brokers of the SBC and the wider EIC used black Southern Baptist pastor and theological educator Voddie Bacuham this way until he turned out to be way ahead of them on the perniciousness of CRT. When Baucham questioned the approved woke narrative about the events that transpired in Ferguson, Missouri, the white men canceled him.

Baucham traces the sad history of duplicity and hypocrisy at work in the EIC in his hot-off-the-presses best-seller “Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe.”

Similarly, award-winning, un-woke black Southern Baptist author and expert on white supremacy Carol Swain does not exist for the white elites who run things because, like Baucham, her views don’t serve their virtue-signaling agenda.

Amid controversy surrounding Beth Moore, a prominent Southern Baptist who bolted from the denomination, Russell Moore said, “An SBC that doesn’t have a place for Beth Moore [no relation] doesn’t have a place for a lot of us.”

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Isn’t it about time we hear an SBC leader say, “A denomination that has no place for Voddie Baucham and Carol Swain has no place for a lot of us”? Why haven’t we? Because virtue-signaling, not actually listening to black people, was always the aim.

Humpty Dumpty?

The positioning of the EIC as woke on race and supportive of the SJM reaches back at least 15 years and seemed to be working. But now some of the most ardent and articulate within the EIC know the party is over. North Carolina pastor Kevin DeYoung acknowledges that:

“[O]n the other side of Ferguson (2014), Trump (2016), MLK50 (2018), coronavirus (2020–2021), George Floyd (2020), and more Trump (2020–2021), the remarkable coming together [of Reformed evangelicals] seems to be all but torn apart. … We won’t be able to put all the pieces of Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

But does the Humpty Dumpty analogy work? Not entirely. Innumerable shards from a calamitous shattering do not lie at our feet. Only the two surviving pieces of a single fracture confront us — one woke and one un-woke.

But DeYoung is right that the fracture cannot be mended, because the CRT-animated social justice movement that bewitched the EIC is incompatible with anything good for America, for the Martin Luther King Jr. brand of justice or for Christians of any color.

Is a smashing up of the woke contingent of the EIC in the offing?

Keller vs. Mohler?

The two biggest players in the EIC are Tim Keller, chairman and co-founder of Redeemer City to City, and R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a candidate for the presidency of the SBC to be determined in Nashville in June.

These men are moving in opposite directions. Since the publication of his best-seller “The Reason for God” in 2008, Keller has pushed a “Third Way” agenda to forge a path for evangelicals between two rejected options, both reductive caricatures that incentivize critique of conservatives and openness to the SJM.

Keller credits the left with just what it wants but doesn’t deserve — compassion for the poor and a love of justice. He then defines conservatives in ways the left is happy to acknowledge and then impugn — they are concerned with eternal souls, the unborn and money.

Given the opportunity in a recent interview to identify the most significant cultural realities that churches confront today, Keller uttered not one word about the Christian- and America-hating cultural revolution, cancel culture, cities on fire, CRT in our schools and the totalitarian turn of the Democratic Party.

But Keller was careful to issue an explicit warning of a rising racist, xenophobic Christian nationalism. Really? Rising from what to what? 10,000 to 14,000? Concrete numbers wouldn’t serve attempts to prop up Keller’s false-equivalence-dependent Third Way cultural analysis any better than does the vicious Democratic Party-driven SJM now threatening churches, schoolchildren and the nation itself.

Al Mohler Un-Woke?

Along with other EIC elites, Mohler has traveled for years as a happy passenger aboard the woke Keller train.

But over the last eight months, not so much. He reversed himself after four years of NeverTrumpism and supported DJT last November. He led the other five SBC seminary presidents to issue a joint statement declaring CRT incompatible with the confessional standards of the SBC.

Given the sheer size of the denomination, Mohler’s recent actions demolish the woke consensus that once animated the EIC. Mohler is scrambling to catch up to the un-woke SBC voices he has variously silenced, canceled and fired across the years.

While aboard the Keller train, Mohler hired two CRT-loving professors and elevated to provost of Southern Baptist Seminary Matthew Hall who, with woke catechetical precision, declared himself a beneficiary of white privilege, an incurable racist, and then basked in the glow of Curtis Woods’ praise — “One of the reasons why I love Dr. Hall is because he’s well-versed in critical race theory and history.”

In 2019 the Conservative Baptist Network formed to oppose the incursion of CRT into the SBC.

An amendment to the CRT-friendly Resolution 9 offered by Tom Ascol of Founders Ministries designed to steer Southern Baptists away from neo-Marxism was formally deemed “hostile” from the podium by Woods.

Now Ascol and others have put forward a resolution for consideration at the upcoming SBC convention that explicitly aligns itself with the joint statement of the seminary presidents. So far only one candidate for president of the SBC has endorsed this resolution — Mike Stone. Why not Mohler?

Let the Listening Begin

No true un-wokening of either the SBC or the EIC can be complete unless and until its leaders follow the advice they’ve given to others but have themselves eschewed — that white people must “start by listening” to black people.

We now know what that meant: Woke white men posed as listeners to woke black men to achieve the virtue-signaling the white men wanted. Woke black academics were rewarded with platforms and jobs in exchange for posing as absolution-dispensers for the white men in charge.

It’s time for a new listening, namely to the un-woke voices of the Conservative Baptist Network, Founders Ministries and the myriad un-woke black voices the church so desperately needs to hear — the voices of Voddie Baucham, Carol Swain, Derryck Green, Bob Woodson, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, Glenn Loury, John McWhorter and many others. Let the listening begin.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Mark DeVine teaches at the Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, and is the author of "Bonhoeffer Speaks Today" and "Shalom Yesterday, Today, and Forever."




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