On a day when reactions were predictable, one man’s was not.
That is, unless you’ve followed the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell D. Moore and his online columns promoting compassion over knee-jerk reactions.
On a day when some on the political right posted hostile social-media comments bashing protesters or mocking African-American commentators, Moore wrote that white Americans are too quick to dismiss the anger and that “the old zombie of Jim Crow still moves about” in America.
In the latest blog post meant in part to draw a younger and more diverse Baptist following, Moore wrote: “One of the things I’ve learned over the past year is that nothing brings out more hate mail — nothing — than when I say too many black kids are being shot in America.”
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Instead of pounding a hard-line authoritarian, the way white Southern Baptists did in the 1960s, Moore wrote that African-American men are more likely than whites to be arrested, sentenced, executed or murdered in an imperfect justice system, and “we cannot shrug that off with apathy.”
Moore returned a call Tuesday, phoning from the Nashville office of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
His comments are based in part on what he hears from Southern Baptist worshippers, he said, including the denomination’s African-American pastors.
“The most striking comment was when a pastor told me he had been helping his son through his college applications, and he had been praying his son would not get into certain schools because this father feared for his son’s safety,” Moore said.
“That’s something white people just don’t understand firsthand.”
Moore, 43, grew up in Biloxi, Miss., near the waterfront home of Confederate States President Jefferson Davis.
In other online columns, he has spoken sharply against domestic violence, defended Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly against criticism from Ann Coulter and Donald Trump, and called for Southern Baptists to worry over divorce more than same-sex marriage.
In one of several columns that turned conservative radio on its ear, he criticized talk hosts’ opposition to increased legal immigration and wrote that Christians’ response must be more than “Get off my lawn!”
My church is not in his denomination, and I don’t agree with every column. But it’s refreshing to read something thoughtful instead of comments bashing people of another color.
I’ll add here that my father, the first Bud Kennedy in the family, was a conservative farmboy from rural Oklahoma and a faithful elder in several Churches of Christ in west Fort Worth.
At the height of 1960s desegregation, whenever race would come up or if a co-worker told a racist joke, he frowned and said 12 words: “My Bible says all men are equal in the eyes of God.”
In our house, there was no further discussion.
Other Baptist leaders also spoke for reconciliation Tuesday. The Rev. Fred Luter Jr. of New Orleans, just off his term as the Southern Baptist Convention’s first African-American president, told Baptist Press that worshippers have “mixed emotions” about Ferguson but that “violence is not the way to deal with issues.”
The president of the denomination’s National African American Fellowship, Philadelphia pastor K. Marshall Williams, called for Baptists to be an “empathetic listening ear for the community,” saying that black Americans “are hurting in ways which very few people groups in this nation have a historical reference point to appreciate.”
When Moore called, he said Baptists have begun to realize the church should speak up for worshippers of all colors and do more to include races and “look like heaven.”
Even if it means catching heck.