Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Not the Devil, But the Rednecks Made Them Do It

Posted By on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 5:30 AM

Southern Baptist pastors are in town learning about sexuality and Blake Farmer has the story over at WPLN. On the one hand, it's commendable that the Southern Baptists are trying to find ways to remain true to their own beliefs without seeming like such tremendously smug assholes to the rest of the world.

On the other hand, I was taken aback by how much blame they seemed to be placing for their attitudes and behavior on rednecks. From Farmer's story:

“I just think we have to reject redneck theology in all of its forms,” pastor Jimmy Scroggins of West Palm Beach told ministers Monday night.

and

“We’ve run off at the mouth, said things we shouldn’t have said. We’ve run around like a peacock all over the platform. We have said things because we were playing to the home team, and they all liked our act. On this issue, nobody likes our act, except the redneck factor.” [Greg Belser of Clinton, MS]

Wait a second. The rednecks aren't to blame for pastors getting a charge off of making spectacles of themselves denouncing homosexuality. And I find it really icky that rednecks are being scapegoated here — like, if only these poor, rural, religious white people would be kinder, then these preachers wouldn't succumb to the temptation of making Adam and Steve jokes.

It seems to me that there's two problems being conflated here — one is a theological issue. If homosexuality is theologically incompatible with being a Southern Baptist, it's theologically incompatible with being a Southern Baptist. Fine, carry on, Southern Baptists. But please don't be surprised when your message of "God hates fa... er, homosexu... well, maybe God is kind of okay with celibate gay people." isn't embraced by the wider community. But the other is just an issue of human nature and I do feel free to comment on that. Society has changed. And the things you did, even five years ago, like make your little Adam and Steve jokes, are embarrassing today.

No one wants to look back and say "Wow, I was really behaving like a top-notch cad." But it's far better to just admit that the way you marketed your message was wrong than to cast about for someone other than yourself to blame for your actions. And it's especially problematic to cast about for the people with the least power in your congregations — the rednecks — to blame when you and I and everyone reading here knows that, when you made your Adam and Steve jokes, bankers and politicians laughed along, too.

Making like this is just a problem of you succumbing to the bad attitudes of some marginal part of your church is dishonest and unfair to the people you're blaming. And it lets the people you're not blaming, yourselves included, off the hook.

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