Friday, April 24, 2015

Quote for Day: Fred Clark on How Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy and Individualistic Notion of Salvation Stem from White Southern Evangelical Defense of Slavery

Fred Clark thinks that Emma Green's "Southern Baptists and the Sin of Racism" (in The Atlantic) "provides us a sharp image of the Southern Baptist Convention’s long, ugly struggle with what its leaders now at last admit is 'the sin of racism.'" But the image is a mirror image that gets things backwards, vis-a-vis how notions of biblical inerrancy and individual salvation connect to slavery.

Green thinks that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy and the heavily individualistic notion of salvation among white Southern evangelicals led to their support of the slave system as they pushed back against abolitionists. Fred Clark maintains (and I think he's right about this) that the cause-and-effect connection works the other way: it was the commitment to slavery that generated the fierce commitment of Southern Baptists to the idea of biblical inerrancy and to an individualistic understanding of salvation.

Fred writes:

Inerrancy is an artifice constructed to provide a way of reading the Bible to defend slavery. Period. That's where it comes from. That’s why it exists. It enabled Southern Baptists in 1833 and 1845 and 1965 to cite pro-slavery proof-texts in order to limit and to trump the Golden Rule. And it enabled them to read the Golden Rule without questioning whether it should be allowed to limit and to trump those pro-slavery proof-texts. 
And the white evangelical ideal of individual salvation — a 'personal Lord and savior' whose kingdom exists only in some otherworldly afterlife — was developed as a rationalization for the brutal injustice and denial of salvation that white Christians were determined to defend and endorse in this world and in this life. That's where white evangelical individualism comes from. That's why it exists.

And, of course, it goes without saying that these astute observations have significant import for the contemporary debate among U.S. Christians about LGBT rights, a debate in which white evangelicals, with their greatest demographic strength in the states of the former Confederacy, stand out among American Christians for their opposition to LGBT rights, because, as they insist, to give in to the movement to recognize the human rights of LGBT people is to undermine the literal truth of an inerrant bible and notions of salvation grounded on that truth.

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