Tuesday, June 26, 2018


©Wendell Griffen, 2018
Justice Is A Verb!
June 26, 2018

News about the hateful words, policies, and practices of the Trump administration dominate the airwaves.  That’s understandable.  President Trump’s comments, policies, and practices should be discovered and exposed. 

However, we who believe in love and justice should focus more attention on building a counter-movement to the hate, fear, hypocrisy, deceit, and authoritarian mindset that Donald Trump represents, and that is particularly evident among white religious nationalists in U.S. congregations.  After all, white religious nationalists pushed Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy ahead of the rest of the Republican field in 2015 and 2016.  They overwhelmingly voted to elect Donald Trump, and remain his most faithful constituents. 

Any hope that the U.S. can become an inclusive, thoughtful, and just society doesn’t depend on President Trump or his white religious nationalist base.  Donald Trump and the white religious nationalists who idolize him are white supremacists.  Don’t expect them to change their views or their ways. 

That hope depends on people who believe in justice, inclusion, and thoughtfulness.  We must turn our attention from Mr. Trump’s hateful ways and words.  We must re-focus our efforts on building and advancing a counter-movement that offers a vision of a hopeful, thoughtful, inclusive, and just future for our society and world, and works to make that vision the new reality. 

It is not enough to merely be “anti-Trump” and “anti-white religious nationalist.”  People need an alternative to hateful, fearful, and otherwise wicked perspectives.  They need to believe in light, not merely rail against darkness.

A counter-movement focused on light will proclaim the truth that all are neighbors.  Immigrants are our neighbors from other lands.  People in Puerto Rico are our neighbors struggling to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.  Women and girls, people holding different views about faith, people of color, workers, people who are frail because of illness, age, and other vulnerabilities, LGBTQ persons, the soil, air, water, vegetation, and animals are our neighbors.  A counter-movement focused on light will say so. 

A counter-movement of light will declare justice as our highest value, and that justice only results from powerful love.  A counter-movement of light understands that people can and will trust powerful love more than vitriol and resentment. 

Shared trust and commitment to powerful love can overcome hate, fear, deceit, hypocrisy, greed, and violence.  The counter-movement of hopeful, thoughtful, inclusive, and just people will out-shine any darkness.  A counter-movement of truthful, freedom-loving, generous, and hospitable people will out-shine deceit, hypocrisy, oppression, selfishness, and unwelcoming people and policies. 

I hope we will focus on being that counter-movement.  Let’s turn our attention from the faces and voices of darkness (Mr. Trump and his followers).  Instead, let’s focus on being people of light and powerful love, together. 

Cursing darkness doesn’t create light.  Only shining does.  When we focus our energies on shining together, the resulting light of our powerful love will overcome the darkness. 

The result of that powerful love will be justice.   

Friday, June 22, 2018


©Wendell Griffen, 2018
Justice Is A Verb!
June 22, 2018

Unlike many people, I am not amazed that public policy in the United States towards immigrant families from South and Central America is cruel.

I am not amazed that President Donald Trump, his advisers, and political supporters have lied – meaning they have said and persist in saying things that are categorically untrue, false, inaccurate, and fraudulent.

I am not amazed that immigrant children have been forcibly separated from their mothers and fathers.

I am not amazed that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions quoted the Bible in a shameless effort to justify that conduct. 

I am not amazed that religious leaders who supported Donald Trump to become President of the United States are now trying to distance themselves from the hellish Trump administration “zero tolerance” policy toward immigrants who commit the misdemeanor offense of crossing the border without authorization.

And I am not fooled by people who say the cruelty, dishonesty, and hypocrisy we are witnessing every day is somehow a break from what the United States truly is. 

I am “un-amazed” and “un-fooled” because I know the true history of this nation.  

This nation separated Native American children from their parents and communities.  This nation separated and upheld the enslavement and sale of African children from their parents.  This nation separated Japanese children and their parents from their homes, schools, and neighborhoods. 

This nation separated Mexican children and their parents from lands their families owned for generations.  This nation separated entire Native American communities from lands they occupied.   

White religious nationalists voted for the people who developed and carried out those policies.  White religious nationalists profited from those policies.  White religious nationalists refused to join the victims of those wicked policies in calling for reparations. 

Yes, we are living in a distressing time for people who care about justice.  We are living in a distressing time for people who care about democracy.  We are living in a distressing time for people who care about immigrants, women and girls, people who are black and brown, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer.  We are living in distressing time for people who are followers of Islam.  We are living in distressing time for people who are injured, ill, workers, aged, not affluent, and not white.   We are living in a distressing time for people who believe in truth, generosity, hospitality, justice, love, peace, and hope.

However, we should not be amazed or fooled.  The U.S. has always behaved this way. 

Donald Trump’s administration is proof about the ugly, yet un-amazing, truth about white religious nationalism and the demonic theology of white supremacy on which white religious nationalism has always stood. 

People in the U.S. have always pretended they do not know that white supremacy is the dominant theology of this society – no matter what religious affiliations they claim.  White religious nationalism is how the theology of white supremacy influences public policy at every level of this society. 

I am un-amazed and un-fooled by the distressing things we are seeing, however much I am distressed by them, because I have long understood that white religious nationalism is not limited to the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizen Council and other notorious white nationalist hate groups.  White religious nationalism is the pernicious operating philosophy for the entire society.  White supremacy is the theology that undergirds it. 

That is why Donald Trump became President of the United States.  That is why immigrant children have been separated from their parents.  That is why the U.S. leads the world in mass incarceration, including detention of children.  That is why black and brown people are routinely slaughtered by law enforcement agencies with impunity. 

We should be saddened, distressed, angered, and determined to resist white supremacy, white religious nationalism, and the unjust policies and practices associated with it.  But we should not be amazed at it nor fooled by people who claim to be surprised about it. 

This is what the United States has always been. 

This truth is ugly. 

It is not new.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


 ©Wendell Griffen, 2018
Justice Is A Verb!
June 13, 2018

The Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship are the largest two bodies of white Baptists.  So, as Southern Baptists and Cooperative Baptists convene separately this week in Dallas, Texas, a year and a half into the Trump presidency, ponder a few questions with me. 

The Trump administration has been hard at work trying to deport undocumented immigrants almost from the moment President Trump took office.  What have Southern Baptist and Cooperative Baptist leaders said or done to voice support for the immigrants subjected to that xenophobia and racism? 

When did they say it?

When did they appear before Trump administration officials and challenge the policies as contrary to the gospel of Jesus?

When did they appeal to their constituents to mount phone, social media, and other communication efforts to members of the U.S. Congress and Senate?

Where are the prophets among white Baptists who have been speaking up for immigrants who currently resemble the Palestinian Jewish family that, according to the New Testament gospels, migrated to Egypt when their infant son named Jesus was marked for death by a tyrant named Herod?

Prophetic people nudge a society toward the moral imperative of repentance.  I shared the following thoughts on that issue during a 2015 lecture at Hardin-Simmons University in Texas.

The Bible also reveals that persons and societies are called to repentance by prophetic challenge, not internal impulse.  In Genesis we read of God confronting Adam and Eve following the Fall and God confronting Cain after the murder of Abel.  Then we read of Noah confronting his society before the Deluge.  In Exodus Moses is the prophetic agent sent by God to confront the Egyptian empire with the repentance imperative concerning oppression of the Hebrew population. 

The prophetic call to repentance is always an act of protest.  It is an observation and objection that the way we live violates the Great Commandment that we love God with our whole being and love others as ourselves.  Somehow, people are inspired to recognize that people are not living as God would have us live, meaning that our relationships are not right with God and each other, whether because of actions we take or duties we neglect.  Somehow, the Spirit of God inspires people with insight about love, truth, and justice (righteousness) who are then impelled to protest conditions and situations that violate the love, truth, and justice of God.  Without that protest, idolatry of self prevents us from recognizing our sinfulness and confronting the imperative for repentance.

So repentance does not begin with us.  Repentance begins with God whose love, truth, and justice define the meaning of right and wrong, good and evil, healthful and harmful, just and unjust.  God inspires people to see situations and relationships from the divine perspective.  Then God commissions those inspired people to become prophetic protestors with God for love, justice, and truth and confront persons and societies to confess sinfulness, return to God, and restore what has been harmed because of sin. 

There is no repentance, personally or societally, without the disturbance of that subversive protest, subversive in that it asserts a different and counter-cultural version about life, love, truth, and justice from what is the dominant narrative.  God is literally Protestor in Chief concerning our actions and attitudes that violate divine love, truth, and justice.  God summons prophetic protestors to proclaim God’s demand that we live according to divine love, truth, and justice and protest our failure and refusal to do so. 

And in repentance, we join God in protesting our transgressions and derelictions.  We not only agree with God that our transgressions and derelictions are wrong and harmful. We agree to turn back toward God in repentance to protest our sinfulness with God, and in repentance turn away from that sinfulness toward God.  With God’s help we become protestors of our ways.  We not only agree with God that our ways require prophetic protest.  In repentance we become God’s people of protest, prophetic and subversive agents of divine love, truth, and justice.  We never become repentant people without somehow becoming prophetic people about God’s love, truth, and righteousness (justice).

Thus, the Hebrew prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus and the people who followed Jesus were prophetic subversives of repentance.  They were markedly and intentionally inspired to view life and living from the radically different perspective of divine love, truth, and justice.  That inspiration caused Moses to confront Egyptian unjust treatment of Hebrew workers.  Nathan was inspired to protest to David about misusing personal and political power in his relationships with Bathsheba and Uriah.  Isaiah, Amos, Micah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were inspired to protest the ways that power was abused to oppress widows, children, immigrants, workers, the weak, and people who were poor.  Jesus was inspired by the Holy Spirit to protest the ways power was abused by religious authorities to oppress rather than to liberate, to rupture fellowship rather than nurture reconciliation, and to benefit the wealthy while disregarding the plight of suffering people. 

Ponder how history might have been different if white Baptists had entered into honest dialogue with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. rather than catered to popular racial prejudice.  Ponder how history might have been different if white Baptists had entered into honest dialogue with Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor (who inspired Rev. Jesse Jackson and Dr. Jeremiah Wright).  Ponder how history might have been different if white Baptists had entered into honest dialogue with Dr. James Cone about black liberation theology. 

Ponder how the coming years might be changed if Southern Baptists and Cooperative Baptists learned from Dean Emilie Townes, one of the leading contemporary thinkers about womanist theology.  Ponder how the state of things might be challenged and changed if Southern Baptists and Cooperative Baptists would bother to re-think the gospel of Jesus by hearing from Dr. Cornel West. 

Each person I have mentioned is or was black.  Each is or was recognized as being prophetic. White Baptists could benefit from more exposure to prophetic people who are not white and privileged. 

That exposure might inspire a new consciousness in them about faith, love, justice, peace, truth, and hope. The new consciousness might lead to a deeper and stronger awareness about the urgent need for repentance among white Baptists and other religionists about white supremacy, patriarchy, xenophobia, racism, sexism (including homophobia and transphobia), capitalism, imperialism, militarism, and techno-centrism.  In other words, it would force white Baptists to confront the idolatry of self and its unjust societal and global results.    

That would be a very good thing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


©Wendell Griffen, 2018
Justice Is A Verb!
June 12, 2018

This week the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship convene, separately, for their annual meetings in Dallas, Texas.  SBC and CBF constituents will – separately - sing, pray, preach, hold hands, and talk about God’s love for the world.  Separately, leaders of both groups will profess commitment to the Great Commission Jesus issued to his followers to make disciples. This week in Dallas, Texas the largest white Baptist bodies in the United States will put on the latest demonstration of their mendacity about love and justice.  Both groups will behave as if religious ceremony, religious entertainment, and marketing schemes can undo or make up for systemic, deliberate, and sacralized bigotry, discrimination, and practiced disregard for victims of systemic injustice.    

The Southern Baptist Convention meets this week on the heels of revelations about sacralized misogyny in SBC seminaries led by Dr. Paige Patterson.  Dr. Patterson has denied treating women and girls unfairly.  However, credible evidence that he condoned, enabled, and/or openly endorsed sexist, abusive, and otherwise misogynistic treatment of women as leader of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary led to his recent dismissal as President of Southwestern. 

The Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845 by white Baptists who were determined to permit slave owners to be appointed as foreign missionaries.  Southern Baptists sang, preached, prayed, held hands, and talked about God’s love for the world while insisting that owning other humans and treating them like breeding stock was consistent with God’s love and the religion of Jesus.  Southern Baptists supported racial segregation.  Southern Baptists opposed and criticized the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders.  Southern Baptists continue to deny women opportunities for pastoral leadership.  The revelations surrounding Paige Patterson are merely the latest episode in Southern Baptist sacralized bigotry and discrimination perpetrated in the name of the Great Commission of Jesus.

White Baptists displeased with fundamentalism, power politics, and sacralized hostility to women in ministry formed the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in 1990.  At the Convocation of the Baptist Fellowship in Atlanta, Georgia on May 9, 1991, Cooperative Baptists adopted a document titled “An Address to the Public,” considered the founding document of that body.  Early in that document one finds this sentence:  “Being Baptist should ensure that no one is ever excluded who confesses, ‘Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:11).’”  Yet in 2000, nine years later, Cooperative Baptists adopted a hiring policy that banned employment of persons who are lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. 

Two years ago, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship launched its Illumination Project during its annual meeting at Greensboro, North Carolina.  While the Illumination Project was purportedly created to give constituents a process aimed at reaching consensus about contentious issues, one thing was clear from the outset.  The Illumination Project was contrived to game dialogue and policy about the discriminatory hiring policy.  After an eighteen month period of “listening sessions,” in February of this year the CBF Governing Board replaced the discriminatory hiring policy that totally banned employment of LGBTQ persons with a policy accompanied by an “implementation procedure” which bans married LGBTQ followers of Jesus from employment as mission field personnel and several leadership positions.  

I serve as pastor of New Millennium Church, an inter-racial welcoming and affirming congregation in Little Rock, Arkansas that has been affiliated with CBF since its formation in May 2009.  Each year since 2009, persons from New Millennium have attended and participated in annual CBF General Assembly gatherings. 

However, I and others from New Millennium Church will not attend the 2018 General Assembly in Dallas.  We refuse to engage in a charade whereby claims about professed devotion to the Great Commission of Jesus and buzz words such as “big tent” and “denomi-network” are used by CBF to justify excluding married LGBTQ Baptists from mission field and other employment opportunities. 

This week, Southern Baptists and Cooperative Baptists will sing, pray, preach, hold hands, and engage in other ceremonial acts two years after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida.  They will engage in religious preening three years after the Emmanuel A.M.E. church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina.  As the residents of Flint, Michigan continue suffering the toxic consequences of the evil that has them purchasing unleaded fuel for automobiles while being poisoned by leaded water, Southern Baptists and Cooperative Baptists will profess commitment to the Great Commission of Jesus but say and do nothing to demonstrate the compassion of God for them.   

SBC constituents are unlikely to confess that the SBC enabled and condoned misogyny and sex discrimination against women.  CBF constituents are unlikely to confess CBF bigotry and discrimination against LGBTQ Baptists.  Both groups are unlikely to say or do anything prophetic about the fact that unarmed black and brown people are routinely slaughtered by law enforcement agencies.  Neither group is likely to say or do anything that approaches being prophetic about the injustice of gentrification.  The harms suffered by victims of SBC and CBF bigotry, misogyny, and discrimination will not be confessed, let alone remedied.  There is no sign that either group will express disappointment, let alone prophetic outrage, about how the people of Puerto Rico have been mistreated and disserved by the Trump Administration since their lives and communities were devastated last year by Hurricane Maria. 

There will be lots of singing, preaching, praying, and hand holding.  Meanwhile, victims of sacralized bigotry and discrimination will be ignored, patronized, blamed, and otherwise trivialized.  To put it plainly, white Baptist mendacity about love and justice will continue without apology, remorse, or any serious effort to begin repentance. 

This week, SBC and CBF constituents will demonstrate separate, albeit common, devotion to their versions of religious empire, while professing love for God, their neighbors, and the creation in a blazing exhibition of sacralized mendacity.  Whatever else that audacious sacralized mendacity may be, it isn’t obeying Jesus. 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Paige Patterson's Misogyny Exposes Pervasive Bigotry and Patriarchy Among White Baptists


I am reminded of Dr. King's powerful statement that the moral arc of the universe sweeps wide, but bends towards justice.

How do victims of Paige Patterson's wickedness achieve re‎parations? Do current leaders of these religious institutions see no similarity between Patterson's reign of misogyny and sexism and the abuse cases involving Catholic priests and vulnerable persons?

Expect some of the leaders to take solace in statutes of limitation which will work to defeat claims dating beyond three to five years. That answers the legal liability question for "stale" - the legal term - claims. It does not address the moral, emotional, physical, and ethical harms ‎inflicted on untold women and girls at the hands of Patterson and any other persons whose similar conduct he may have enabled.

The Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship convene, separately and ironically, later this month in Texas. It will be interesting to observe leaders of both groups try to ignore or play down the crocodiles of longstanding injustices ‎against women and persons of color (SBC) and persons who are LGBTQ (CBF) that the world knows and sees in their respective bathtubs.

Those efforts are doomed to fail. The "nones" - meaning persons who no longer are affiliated with any religion - include a growing influx of former Baptists. SBC and CBF efforts to stop the bleeding by appealing to black and Latino clergy and congregations cannot and will not change what the world already accepts as true about their respective realities: notwithstanding their pietistic rhetoric and pretensions about "inclusion," SBC and CBF are merely different manifestations of white religious nationalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy.‎

Civil rights activists‎ share a slogan, "No justice. No peace."  As CBF meets later this month in Dallas on the heels of its Illumination Project exercise to apply pietistic Great Commission makeup on a generation-long history of open bigotry and injustice toward followers of Jesus who are LGBTQ, CBF leaders should ponder that slogan. They should think of the Paige Patterson SBC history. They should think about the longstanding bigotry and injustice CBF has tolerated and continues to empower aganst persons who are LGBTQ. And, CBF leaders should remember what Dr. King said about the moral arc of the universe.

Repentance is a moral and ethical imperative and prerequisite to attaining reconciliation and doing justice. Unfortunately, it appears that the largest predominantly white Baptist bodies in the U.S. lack the capacity to perceive and pursue the urgent imperative of repentance.

That is not "good news" for victims of injustice. 

That is not "good news" for the world.

It is merely the latest manifestation of hatefulness masquerading in the costumes of religion and‎ empire.