To the BSK Community
The events of January 6 were deeply troubling. Many of us are today feeling grief, anger, anxiousness, and hurt. As a community, how do we grapple with this moment? How did we get to this moment? How are we, as people of faith, called to live in and beyond this moment?
In this moment we are reminded of the brokenness of our world. We watch with horror as corrupted power tempts people into hate and violence. We stare in disgust as the worst qualities of humanity are enflamed and encouraged.
On January 6, a mob in Washington D.C. expressed hatred, did violence, and displayed incredible selfishness and arrogance.
A cross and a lynching station were erected in front of the capitol, while flags of the Confederacy were flown alongside Christian flags. Jesus’ name was used. Christianity was aligned with earthly power and force, supporting the heresy of American Christian nationalism.
The contrast in the way law enforcement handled the overwhelmingly white mob as opposed to how Black protesters were treated in Summer 2020 was stark and revealed clear systemic injustice.
Rather than turning away or moving on, we must face this moment and see the evil laid bare before us. We are called to minister in this moment, to work for justice in this moment, and to strive for God’s transformation in this moment.
How did we get to this moment?
Even as we condemn the evils of racism, hatred, prejudice, violence, arrogance and the worship of power, we must also face the reality that white Christianity has been complicit in enabling these cancers.
Robert Jones, author of White Too Long, explained in a July 2020 interview with the Huffington Post that white supremacy has been infused in white theology since the days when slaveowners brought their slaves to church with them, “You’re not going to preach a lot of liberation, freedom and equality from the pulpit. You’re going to preach more about obedience to the master and fulfilling your roles, those kinds of things. I think that fundamentally distorted American white Christianity from the beginning . . . salvation became this very hyper-individualized concept. So it becomes about a person’s individual relationship to God through Jesus, and it’s very much about personal morality and piety. It was this very privatized and cordoned off way of thinking about spirituality and Christianity.”
Black theologians and ministers have been far more likely to preach and teach about liberation, freedom and equality. I am proud that BSK is continuing to rework our M.Div. curriculum to bring the voices and insights of Black leaders into every subject we explore. But we have much still to do in building on this work.
To be clear, BSK’s ancestry, and that of any white Christian, shares this shameful heritage. We have a long way to go. We continue to be about the task of decrying and dismantling white supremacy, especially where it intersects with our Christian heritage. We are grateful for the diverse family of BSK, who partners with us in this task.
BSK is also honored by the invitation of Simmons College of Kentucky and the National Baptist Convention of America to share in their work and learn from their rich community and heritage. We are gifted through these relationships and this authentic tradition.
I pray BSK will continue to find ways to also affect transformations in teaching, preaching and ministry with our local church partners seeking to face white supremacy and Christian nationalism.
How are we called to live in and beyond this moment?
The early church also faced challenges and a broken world. In Galatians 5:22-25 we hear advice about practicing our faith. “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.”
May our work at BSK, and the quality of ministry we support with our students, alumni and partners reflect the practicing of these virtues. They are of the Spirit, and are trustworthy guides for action and transformation in the midst of a world that deeply needs justice, truth and peace.
May the Spirit of God trouble us in ways that prompt repair, justice and healing.
President, Baptist Seminary of Kentucky
January 7, 2021