REPRIMANDED: Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land will lose his radio show. (Photo: Baptist Press News)
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land has been reprimanded and will lose his radio show, the commission’s executive trustee committee announced in a statement to Baptist Press Friday.
Land was reprimanded for his “hurtful, irresponsible, insensitive, and racially charged words on March 31, 2012 regarding the Trayvon Martin tragedy.” In a radio broadcast that day, Land accused President Obama of “aiding and abetting” “race hustlers” in fomenting violence in response to the Martin shooting.
“We are particularly disappointed in Dr. Land’s words because they do not accurately reflect the body of his work over a long career at the ERLC toward racial reconciliation in the Southern Baptist Convention and American life,” the committee’s statement said.
Land was also reprimanded for “quoting material without giving attribution on the Richard Land Live! (RLL) radio show, thereby unwisely accepting practices that occur in the radio industry.” That material was taken directly from a Washington Times column. As a result, RLL will be terminated as soon as its contracts with the Salem Radio Network allow, the statement said.
In his own statement, Land affirmed the committee’s work, saying “I believe in trustee oversight and governance. I am under the authority of the trustees elected by the Southern Baptist Convention. This whole process was conducted in a Christian manner by Christian gentlemen.”
Land Shouldn’t be Driven from the Public Square
At The Huffington Post, Mark Joseph, author of The Lion, the Professor, and the Movies: Narnia’s Journey to the Big Screen, praised the embattled leader, saying, “If Land is driven from the public square it will be a sad day for the Christian community which sorely lacks smart spokespeople who can tell the rest of the country what’s on its mind.”
Land Should Be Fired as SBC’s Chief Ethicist
At Patheos.com’s “The Friendly Atheist,” Mark Turner noted that “despite calls from several Baptist ministers for Land to step down, he has not lost the post which would seem most inappropriate to retain — his job as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.”
Land Is ‘a Study in Contradictions’
In a May 28 profile of Land at The Tennessean, Bob Smietana described him as “a study in contradictions,” saying Land is the son of a welder with a doctorate from Oxford University, a man who believes wives should obey their husbands, but who is married to an educated professional woman, and an opponent of gay marriage and abortion who supports immigration reform.
Land’s Legacy Is Unlikely to Outlive Luter’s
At Christianity Today, Bobby Ross Jr. compared Land’s downfall with the rise of the Rev. Fred Luter, who is expected to become the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention later this month. “Over the long haul, Luter’s election will have a more lasting influence upon the SBC” and “Land’s comments will be a historical footnote,” Nathan Finn, a professor of historical theology and Baptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina is quoted as saying.
Update: Land signed off from his radio show for the last time June 2, Associated Baptist Press reports. Without discussing the controversy surrounding his departure, Land reportedly said, “Due to a variety of circumstances this will be my last appearance on Richard Land Live!”
What do you think?
Should Land be fired as president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission or has he been sufficiently reprimanded?
It only slowly dawned on Charisma Media publisher Steve Strang that the Trayvon Martin story had gone national, even though Charisma’s offices are located “less than three miles” from where Martin was killed, Strang said in an op-ed published Friday. He organized a clergy press conference after meeting with with local pastors for two days last week and with Special Prosecutor Angela Corey. He said Sanford’s ministerium wants “reconciliation and healing—not marches and protests” and the June issue of Charisma will include an article on “The Church’s Response to Racism.”
Transcending Racial Division Is Everyone’s Responsibility
In another Charisma op-ed, the Revs. Joel C. Hunter and Nelson Rivers III said, “The fact that Trayvon’s family and George Zimmerman lived in the same gated community in the South is a mark of how far we’ve come as a nation. The fact that Trayvon was presumed to be a threat, followed and shot to death is a testament to how far we have to go.” They also said, “The slow, ambivalent reaction to this tragedy by many in the white Christian community demonstrates the need to break down stereotypes and fear, and to build closer relationships across racial lines. Transcending this division is a responsibility for people of all races and creeds.”
Land’s Comments Don’t Help Southern Baptist Efforts
Meanwhile, the Revs. Fred Luter and Dwight McKissic have expressed disappointment in Southern Baptist leader Richard Land for for comments he made condemning President Obama for speaking out in support of Martin’s family, the Associated Press reported. “When asked about the concern that Land’s comments hurt the effort to attract non-white members, Luter said, ‘It doesn’t help. That’s for sure.'” McKissic said he thinks Land’s remarks “will reverse any gains from the rightful election of Fred Luter.” He intends to “submit a resolution at the SBC’s annual meeting asking the convention to repudiate Land’s remarks.” Land told the AP that he stands by his controversial remarks, but he’s now been accused of plagiarizing them from a Washington Times column, The Tennessean reported.
Zimmerman May Apologize
Land may be immovable, but George Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara told ABC News that his client may apologize to Martin’s family for the shooting. “What I want to happen is for that conversation to occur directly to the family rather than …in the media through me,” he said. (O’Mara also told Florida’s WFTV that he will file a motion today to have the presiding judge in the case, Jessica Recksiedler, removed [at her own suggestion] because Zimmerman had contacted an associate of Recksiedler’s husband to represent him prior to hiring O’Mara.)
Central Florida’s ‘Dark, Violent’ Race History
At The Nation, Mark I. Pinksy pondered why white clergy in Sanford have been so slow to engage the issue and concluded that the “main impediment” has been the involvement of the Rev. Al Sharpton. More importantly, Pinksy outlined a troubling racial history in Central Florida as a backdrop for the story.
“In separate events in the 1920s, an attempt by two black men to vote in the town of Ocoee led to a race riot that spread to Apopka, Orlando and Winter Springs. Three years later, a white mob attacked the black community of Rosewood, burning the town to the ground and scattering its residents forever.
In the spring of 1947 … Jackie Robinson came to Sanford with one of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ minor league teams. Although Robinson kept a low profile, a mob of town residents effectively ran him out of town, forcing him to stay miles away in Daytona Beach….
On Christmas Day, 1951, Harry T. Moore, Florida’s NAACP executive director and an anti-lynching activist, and his wife were blown up in their wood frame home. Local law enforcement officers were widely thought to have been among the Klansmen responsible. Harry Moore died en route to a Sanford hospital, where his wife died nine days later.
In 2007, an all-white jury acquitted seven prison guards and a nurse of beating to death a 14-year-old African American boot camp inmate, a killing caught on videotape.”
Who Cares About Trayvon and Who Doesn’t
Strang may have been late to the story and Land may decry it, but they’re not alone. This morning The New York Times published an insightful article about why this story has blown up and with whom it has gained a hearing. “Opinion polls show high interest in the case, with blacks far more likely than whites and Democrats more likely than Republicans to identify it as a ‘top story’ in their minds, according to the Pew Research Center.”
Update: Richard Land has apologized for failing to give verbal attribution in radio broadcasts and for offending people in his public discussions of the Trayvon Martin case, USA Today reported this afternoon. “I am grieved that anyone would feel my comments have retarded in any way the Southern Baptists’ march toward racial reconciliation, which I have been committed to for the entirety of my ministry, since 1962,” said Land.
What do you think?
Has this story gotten too much media attention, not enough, or the right amount?
Just when the Southern Baptist Convention is making strides in its efforts to make black folks feel more at home in the denomination, along comes Richard Land, president of its Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, to throw an obstacle onto the road to racial harmony by accusing President Obama of the worst kind of race baiting.
On his March 31 radio show, Land said the president is “aiding and abetting” “race hustlers” like the Revs. Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, and Jesse Jackson in fomenting violence in response to the Trayvon Martin shooting.
“This situation is getting out of hand and there’s going to be violence. And, when there is violence, it’s going to be Jesse Jackson’s fault, and it’s going to be Al Sharpton’s fault, it’s going to be Louis Farrakhan’s fault, and to a certain degree it’s going to be President Obama’s fault,” said Land. “It was Mr. Obama who turned this tragedy into a national issue. He should have learned from the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police incident to stay out of these issues until the facts are clear, but he urged Americans to engage in soul searching, and then he said, ‘If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin.’ The president’s aides claim he was showing compassion for the victim’s family. In reality, he poured gasoline on the racialist fires under pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus.”
In an interview with The Tennessean, the Rev. Maxie Miller, “a Florida Baptist Convention expert in African-American church planting,” said he had never before been embarrassed to be a Southern Baptist or a black Southern Baptist. “I’m embarrassed because of the words that man has stated,” said Miller, who reportedly lives 90 minutes away from Sanford, Florida, where Martin was shot.
“I think the convention is doing a great job with diversity … but Land’s comments definitely will make my work harder — encouraging African-Americans to be a part of Southern Baptist Convention life,” Miller said.
Land’s critique wasn’t only directed at President Obama. He said it will be U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s fault if violence breaks out in response to $10,000 “Wanted: Dead or Alive” bounty flyers for alleged shooter George Zimmerman’s “capture.”
“Until Mr. Holder and the justice department do something about this, they’re going to continue to do it and when they end up killing somebody, it’s going to be Mr. Holder’s fault,” said Land.
He identified the group who distributed the flyers as “The Black Panthers,” but Mediaite reported that a group calling itself the New Black Panther Party is responsible. “The New Black Panthers are not affiliated with the original Black Panther Party in any way. In fact, leaders of the original Panthers have denounced the NBPP, even suing them for use of the name, and stating that the New Black Panthers operate on ‘hatred of white people.’ The NBPP has been designated a ‘hate group; by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Anti-Defamation League.”
Land also said a “failure of leadership on the part of African American leadership in this country” is to blame for inflaming the situation and said “the media” has “shamelessly exploited” it.
What do you think?
Should Christian ethicisit Richard Land take a hard look in the ‘race baiting’ mirror or is there some validity in his critique?
CIVIL DISCOURSE: Lisa Sharon Harper and D.C. Innes provide a model for constructive Christian dialogue across political divides.
Left, Right & Christ is a thoughtful examination of the intersection of evangelical faith and politics by two evangelicals who have spent their careers working amidst the tensions of that sometimes-crazy political space. In the book, coauthors Lisa Sharon Harper, a politically progressive Christian, and D.C. Innes, a politically conservative Christian, engage in a constructive dialogue about the issues that are defining the nature of political discourse in our nation today — healthcare, abortion, immigration, gay marriage, the environment. (Full disclosure: I helped research Lisa Sharon Harper’s portion of the book.) A couple months ago, Innes and Harper held a panel discussion and book signing with Jim Wallis of Sojourners and Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Innes, an associate professor of politics at King’s College, offered a construal of Christian public engagement from the right; Harper, director of mobilizing at Sojourners, shared one from the left. Needless to say, it was a lively discussion. Having read the book and attended the launch event, two things merit mentioning here here.
The role of technology in disrupting consumption and employment
An audience member noted that technology plays an often-overlooked role in reconfiguring labor markets and purchasing patterns. For instance, the advent of automated teller machines — ATMs — marks an improvement in the access and availability of money for consumers. ATMs, however, reduce the need for the traditional function of tellers in local bank branches. As more banks adopted ATMs, consumer patterns shifted and the demand for a certain type of labor diminished.
Neither Innes nor Harper fully integrates this ongoing development — Austrian economist Joseph Schumpter calls it creative destruction — of technology in particular, and capitalism more generally, into their account of the State, the Market, and the Church. To their credit, though, both authors acknowledged the point once it was made. Technology is an existential issue as much as an instrumental one. Phrased differently, it not only alters what we do, but it also radically re-arranges our way of being in the world. I left the panel thinking about this question: What does it mean to be the Church in a world where technology is such a powerful force? To put it crudely, is a proximate cause in unemployment and underemployment from Wall Street to Main Street and our consumption of everything — from the news we read to the Facebook updates on our profiles — is mediated through technology? I’m still pondering this one and I encourage you to consider it as well.
The use of Scripture in political arguments
While reading the book and listening to their remarks, I noticed an interesting difference between the co-authors. Ms. Harper generally constructs her arguments from passages of the Old Testament. Her treatment of Genesis 1-3 distinctively accents the image of God doctrine and shalom theology. It is rather commonplace to hear Christians from the left invoke the Hebrew prophets or the Imago Dei as a resource for biblical claims about justice and human dignity. Harper’s unique turn within that conversation is to take Genesis — rather than say, Amos or Isaiah — as her starting point and then to deepen the appeal to the image of God doctrine by connecting it to shalom — the sense of wholeness and right relationships between people, between people and creation, and between people and God.
Mr. Innes, conversely, places the weight of his arguments in New Testament passages like Romans 13:1-7 and 2 Peter 2:13-17. His vision: God ordains the government to restrain human sin, punish evil, and praise the good. The last point is particularly important for the professor, who draws a distinction between a government that praises the good (i.e. distributing civic awards like the Presidential Medal of Freedom) and a public sector that attempts to provide goods such as housing, healthcare, and so on. Innes’ arguments — in the book and in person — conclude that a State with large public expenditures and direct service programs overreaches the biblical proscribed role for government.
At the event, Wallis and Innes held a brief but interesting exchange on regulation, Wall Street, and punishing evildoers. Wallis agreed with Innes that punishing evil and restraining sin is a biblical function of government. He then challenged Innes with a question like the following: “Why not apply the insight about punishing evil when it comes to Wall Street?” Innes did not offer a response, although in fairness to him, Wallis did not substantiate his provocative inquiry with a specific example. Nevertheless, given the high-profile conviction of Raj Rajaratnam for insider trading — and his eleven-year sentence, the longest ever issued for this type of offense — Wallis and Innes certainly stumbled upon a discussion worth having.
The panel discussion took place with a refreshing amount of charity amidst contrasting perspectives. Despite harboring significant and perhaps irreconcilable differences of political opinion, neither one made the argumentative move of questioning the other’s faith, audibly doubting the “biblical” nature of the opposing argument, or otherwise resorting to ad hominem attacks. Harper and Innes’ book, and their public dialogue, provides a helpful example for Christians from left to right. In a political environment that incessantly caricatures and stereotypes contrasting points of view, a steadfast refusal to bear false witness — and its corollary commitment, telling the truth as we see it — is a distinctive gift of conversational charity that Christians can bring to democratic discourse.
Progressive Christian leaders including former Democratic congressman Floyd Flake and Sojourners President Jim Wallis held a press conference today near the World Trade Center site to announce that they are adding their voices to the conservative chorus of religious leaders (Richard Land, Tony Perkins, Pat Robertson) that has criticized New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to exclude clergy from Sunday’s 9/11 memorial dedication at ground zero, CNN reported.
“But there’s a twist. In addition to criticizing Bloomberg, progressive religious leaders are also taking aim at prominent conservatives who have blasted Bloomberg in recent days, alleging that those critics are stoking division at a time that calls for national unity,” the article said.
Surprised and Disappointed
“Utterly disappointed and surprised” was the response of Fernando Cabrera, a New York City councilman and the pastor of New Life Outreach International church in the Bronx to Bloomberg’s decision, CNN reported.
“There’s certain things that government cannot do, and answering questions of meaning of ‘Why are we going through this?’ and ‘Where am I going to get strength from?’ – those are existential questions that can only be answered from a spiritual aspect,” Cabrera said.
Cabrera and the Family Research Council have collected over 62,000 signatures asking the mayor to allow clergy, prayer and first responders (who have also been excluded) at the city’s 9/11 memorial ceremony Sunday, The Christian Post reported.
The Microphone Won’t Melt
Among Bloomberg’s critics is former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani was widely praised for his handling of the 9/11 crisis when he was mayor. He echoed the recommendation of Southern Baptist Richard Land, who said there should be a priest, a minister, a rabbi, and an imam at the event.
“Say a little prayer. The microphone will not melt,” said Giuliani before launching into a brief lesson at the National Press Club on what the constitution says about church/state separation.
But clergy have never been an official part of the 10 remembrance ceremonies at ground zero; moments of silence have and will be again, The Huffington Post reported.
The ceremony was designed in coordination with 9/11 families with a mixture of readings that are spiritual, historical and personal in nature and this year’s six moments of silence allow every individual a time for personal and religious introspection, a spokeswoman for the mayor told HuffPost.
An Uphill Battle
Critics “face an uphill battle,” Religion News Service’s David Gibson said, because “Bloomberg is not one to second-guess himself” and “tends to get what he wants.” Besides, Bloomberg defended religious freedom when he “championed Muslims’ right to build an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero” and when he “rejected the advice of secular critics and defended the inclusion of a cross made of girders from the fallen towers in the new 9/11 Memorial.”
Protesting a Call to Compassion
Meanwhile, protests are being lobbed by some Christians because Evangelicals won’t be represented at the Washington National Cathedral’s “A Call to Compassion” on September 11, the Daily Caller reported. The commemoration will include a bishop, a rabbi, a Tibetan lama, a Buddhist nun, representatives of the Hindu and Jain faiths, an imam and an Islamic musician, but no evangelicals.
The idea that a group that represents at least 35 percent of the population has been excluded “is difficult to comprehend, much less to defend,” said Southern Baptist Richard Land.
What do you think?
Are these egregious omissions or much ado about nothing?