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SBC elects anti-gay author and pastor as head

Timothy Kincaid

June 11th, 2014

The Southern Baptist Convention has elected a new leader. (Christianity Today)

Rev. Ronnie Floyd of Cross Church in Springdale, Arkansas was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) on June 10.

The megachurch pastor received 1,834 votes, or 51.62 percent, and replaces New Orleans pastor Fred Luter, Jr.

Rev. Floyd was nominated by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., who called him a “gifted and visionary pastor,” as well as a “unifier and a denominational statesman”.

The SBC exists in a nation that is increasingly finding that the moral demands of Southern Baptist Churches are not consistent with a good and decent society. Nor are Americans finding that the Golden Rule, as espoused by Jesus (and other religious figures), can be much found in the SBC teachings on homosexuality.

And such conflict and disagreement is not safely outside the walls of the church. Increasingly, SBC pastors are having to counsel members and deal with family and friends who are gay and are finding that the ol’ time religion assumptions do not hold up well in the face of honesty and personal reality.

Yet in this time of cultural challenge, the SBC decided to double down and turn to leadership from a culture warrior. Specifically, an anti-gay pastor with a history of histrionics and fear-mongering about The Gay Agenda. Here is what he had to say in a 2003 sermon.

Satan has taken his tool of homosexuality, a gross and evil sin, and done a con job on the American culture, making it seem like all is okay when you are gay. I hope you are aware that what was once subtle has now turned into the rage of a lion as brazen and threatening as anything in our culture. I must sound the trumpet loud and clear, praying that we do not run in retreat, but march in the truth of God valiantly. This is not a skirmish or a conflict or a disagreement, but it is a war. The war they have declared against our culture has an agenda and we need to be aware of it.

Rev. Floyd not only has preached about how doing unto gay people as you would like done to you would destroy the country, he’s written a book. In his 2011 The Gay Agenda he rails on against the evils he imagines and warns against gay villians worthy of a 1950′s comic book. (Arkansas Times)

The Gay Agenda is not just any agenda. For Ronnie Floyd and his flock, the Gay Agenda – you know it’s serious because of the capital letters – is set to destroy American culture as we know it.

The Gay Agenda opens on a bizarre note – Ronnie Floyd is watching an episode of The West Wing that he says “astounded” him. In the episode in question, the President of the United States, played by Martin Sheen, confronts a radio talk show host obviously patterned after “Dr. Laura.” As Floyd recounts the incident, he writes, “My eyes widened as his anger rose.”

After confirming that the Bible (Leviticus 18:22) does, indeed, refer to homosexuality as an “abomination,” the Sheen character then recounts a few other warnings from the Bible, such as working on the Sabbath, or touching the skin of a dead pig (specifically, footballs).

Floyd leaps from describing the scene on his TV screen to discussing his take on the Gay Agenda, charging that “proponents” of homosexuality have declared war on American culture. He also writes that, “It seems that everything you see these days, everything you read, and everything you hear, is about the gay lifestyle.”

It is possible that Rev. Floyd has mellowed in the past couple of years. And this vote does follow on the footsteps of a conference in which voices within the church have called for less divisive and insulting language, a small but important step.

But from where I sit, it looks to me as though the Southern Baptist Church has chosen a path that will not only exclude gay congregants but the growing band of Baptists who no longer wish to live in hatred and war against their gay children, family, coworkers, and friends. And unless the SBC changes course, it’s hard to envision a future in which they remain relevant.

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Ben in oakland
June 11th, 2014 | LINK

“It seems that everything you see these days, everything you read, and everything you hear, is about the gay lifestyle.”

The only people that find this to be true are people who obsess over it.

Ben in oakland
June 11th, 2014 | LINK

Also from this younger version of Fred Phelps playing the Cryptmaster:

“I have had some say to me, “Pastor Floyd, it would have been easier to have lost my child to death than to homosexuality. It is killing me.”

So, you’d rather see your child dead than question your beliefs about homosexuality and what it means to be gay? Nice.

And: “With this same burden, I have attempted to assist those who are in that lifestyle who want out but are so blinded by their sin they do not think there is a way out.” Does Floyd have a gay relative? Does that explain his obsession? Is someone being blinded by the sin of judgment?

And if someone wants desperately out of the lifestyle, then what it stopping them? It’s simple. Don’t have gay sex. Don’t watch gay porn. don’t attend gay entertainment. Drop all of your gay friends. don’t go to gay venues. Voila. you’re no longer gay.

but then, we have declared war on American culture. Can you say “projection?” Because we’re not the ones declaring war on anyone.

I just had the latest in a long line of communications with a so-called Christian who tells me how much he loves me. For some reason, I just can’t seem to buy it.

Bose in St. Peter MN
June 11th, 2014 | LINK

Tiny edit: His book, The Gay Agenda: It’s Dividing the Family, the Church, and a Nation, once you go the Details tab at isbn.nu, appears to have been published circa 2004 (a tiny bit more in sync with the rapidly evolving history here).

…great piece by the arktimes.com!

Nathaniel
June 11th, 2014 | LINK

Timothy, I think you are correct. The SBC’s journey into extremism is decades old. The church I currently attend left the SBC a long time ago, and I wouldn’t even describe that congregation as affirming. If the SBC leadership continues on this path, they are going to keep loosing churches to more moderate, or even, to less rigorous, organizations. Baptist tradition teaches the priesthood of the believer and the independence of individual congregations. The SBC looks less and less like this tradition, and when they start looking so much like the RCC that it is impossible to tell the difference, then we will know that we have completely lost them.

Todd
June 11th, 2014 | LINK

Organizations generally get leadership that reflects the views of the organization.

They’re America’s Own Taliban.

Merv
June 11th, 2014 | LINK

I don’t think it’s fair to label the SBC extreme when it comes to homosexuality. Extremism implies they’re outside the mainstream of US Christianity, but as the second largest denomination (next to the similarly anti-gay Roman Catholic Church), they define the mainstream. Their views also have the virtue of being much better supported by scripture than the much smaller, left-leaning denominations. No, the problem is not that the anti-gay churches are perverting Christianity. It’s that they represent the religion all to well.

Priya Lynn
June 11th, 2014 | LINK

Merve, the way gays are treated in Uganda is mainstream for that country. Their treatment of gays is still extreme despite its being typical. Just because the SBC’s views are common doesn’tmean they aren’t extreme.

Timothy Kincaid
June 11th, 2014 | LINK

Merv,

While I don’t define the SBC as extreme, you err in asserting that “Their views also have the virtue of being much better supported by scripture than the much smaller, left-leaning denominations.”

Virtually any position you could possibly imagine can and has been “supported by scripture”. And either simultaneously or subsequently refuted by scripture.

The Christian holy texts are a compilation of writings by hundreds of people over thousands of years. The culture and shared impressions about god and man at the time of the writing of the Book of Job – believe to have been written about 1500 BCE – was vastly different from that at the time of the writing of Revelation in roughly 95 AD. And during that time, it went through a lot of notions and positions.

There are some strong themes:

* Treat people the way you want to be treated – an idea which evolved from how one treats a tribesman, to a fellow Israelite, to all people in one’s geography, to in theory of all humanity.

* Protect the weak from bullies and tyrants. Demand justice for the oppressed.

* Observe the Law with strict rigidity – but show mercy to those who do not (most biblical heroes were very lax with their adherence).

* Worship only one god.

Beyond that, it’s a free for all. And I find that those who most insist that “the bible says” something or other are either trying to oppress someone else, or trying to prove that the bible is oppressive.

Merv
June 11th, 2014 | LINK

Priya, it’s a question of semantics. You and I consider the SBC and anti-gay Ugandans extremist, but within their respective Christian cultures they are mainstream. I am defining extreme as far outside the mainstream. By that definition, and judging with respect to US Christianity, the SBC is not extreme, because are part of the dominant thread of Christianity in the US today. It’s the Episcopalians and their ilk who are more properly considered extreme Christians today. Sad, but true.

Merv
June 12th, 2014 | LINK

Timothy,

I can appreciate that some Christians approach their religion with a more intellectual perspective, analyzing sources, considering history and culture, acknowledging contradictions, and rejecting atrocities in order to recognize broad themes and deduce moral lessons. But you should appreciate that that’s a form of ivory tower Christianity that bears no resemblance to how mainstream Christianity is practiced in the real world.

In the real world, Christianity is a simplistic, fundamentalist religion where the Bible is an inerrant rule book, doled out exclusively via sound bites, and is the unassailable arbiter on all matters, from science to politics. Evangelical grifters are the only authorities in the field considered relevant, monopolizing mindshare in TV, publishing, politics, and cyberspace. Based on volume of rhetoric, an unbiased observer would conclude that the central themes of the religion are not those you listed, but opposition to homosexuality, abortion, and socialism (defined as anything even slightly to the left of Reagan). Liberal theologians occupy an isolated intellectual backwater, daring not to contradict anyone, and content to be ignored by all. Any exaggeration in the above characterization is only slight.

Contrast this to a discipline such as physics, where intellectual rigor is respected, and there is at least rough congruence between what is discussed by researchers and laymen, schools and the popular press. Threats by pseudo-scientists to corrupt the field are taken seriously, and challenged with vigor.

Victor
June 12th, 2014 | LINK

The only path forward to the next emanation for humanity is the death of religionism and the rebirth of faith unshackled to the incongruous writings of men, which have been insulated by a blind belief that they were divine in origin. We are living through this death. The wailing and thrashing and doubling-down on The Crazy are the paroxysms of an entire system of belief collapsing under the weight of its indefensible inconsistency and resultant hypocrisy. Like the survivors of the once unsinkable Titanic, Classic Christianatics will cling to every shard of debris, because they’ve got nothing else. Humanity will survive and move on. But a lot of people are going to die.

Nathaniel
June 12th, 2014 | LINK

Merv, the extremism of the SBC goes beyond their treatment of LGBT people. You have a clear grasp of the areas where they misrepresent the religion they profess to follow. However, in spite of their and the RCC’s relative size, the majority of members within these denominations do not entirely agree with their leadership. The Bible, in the practice of everyday Christians, is hardly as legalistic and rigorous as you claim. It can be, when they come up against something unfamiliar and scary, but even then, I don’t know of a single person that actually throws stones at sinners. Even amongst anti-gay leaders and members, views can be varied and nuanced. Most are satisfied with keeping us in the closet. Individuals like Floyd make even these believers uncomfortable – he is the very definition of extremist.

Timothy Kincaid
June 12th, 2014 | LINK

Merv,

I’m not sure what real world you live in.

Yes, a good many people see the Bible as an inerrant rule book, but there are many that do not, far more than you seem to be aware of.

Is it that you are not part of a community of faith and only come in contact with Christianity through the media or when some nut is quoting the Bible at you? Or perhaps you live where such approach is not visible?

It is true that liberal theology is not present on televised religion. That medium does not lend itself much to moderation or thoughtfulness on much of anything (religion, ideology, history), but that doesn’t mean that such moderation doesn’t exist.

Timothy Kincaid
June 12th, 2014 | LINK

Okay, I reread that and it sounds harsh and accusatory. Sorry.

Perhaps my point could be better made this way: trying to understanding Christians from television and media is a bit like trying to understand gay people from watching Logo or reading news articles about GetEqual. Certainly RuPaul exists and the GetEqual activists are not fictional… but there are only a part of our community, not its entirety.

Steve
June 12th, 2014 | LINK

The SBC has always been extremist. Remember that they were founded solely to continue slavery. Then the got big into segregation and racism. Then it was – and still is – misogyny. And now homophobia too. They have always been defined by who they hate.

Merv
June 13th, 2014 | LINK

Timothy,

Don’t be sorry. I didn’t think your comment was harsh at all. You are correct that my perspective is as an outsider. In the secular media, almost all the Christian voices being heard are anti-gay. I’ll give one example I’ve been experiencing on and off for the last couple months.

There’s a YouTube music video that was posted by a gay rap artist. It’s become quite popular, with over a million views and thousands of comments. Popular might be the wrong word, because, from the beginning, the comments section has been inundated with comments of the most vile sort by anti-gay Christians using religious language. For a while, I tried to keep a running total of death threats, but gave up after a while because there were so frequent it was pointless. Funny thing is, I don’t see any pro-gay comments from a Christian perspective. If pro-gay Christians are as numerous as you believe, then many of them undoubtedly saw the comments. Yet, they said nothing. Why?

I can hear you saying now: “It’s YouTube. Of course the comments are vile. Nobody should waste his time on them.” I don’t think that’s an excuse. When such opinions to go unchallenged, they become established popular opinion. Weren’t groups such as NALT supposed to address this problem? They have had no noticeable effect.

Timothy Kincaid
June 13th, 2014 | LINK

Merv,

I think that in general, comments on any site tend to be utilized more by those who are angry or who object or who wish to vent their hatred. A commentary which is snarky or angry gets cries of “yes, yes” and those which call for moderation get cries of “sellout” and “traitor”.

I believe that to be less true here at BTB (I think we get a good many thoughtful commenters), but even so, whenever there is a controversial commentary we can get hundreds of insulting or angry or even downright vile comments with very little supportive ones. It took a while, and some private communication, for me to realize that the majority of our readership simply doesn’t comment. Ever.

Thats just how the internet – and probably life – works.

This definitely does skew impressions about what [group x] is like. Be it gays or Christians or fashionistas, the group identity of people writing comments on a website are pretty much always going to look like hate-filled idiots.

From time to time, some in the anti-gay industry will point to some gay website’s readers to illustrate just how awful and dangerous and threatening gay people are. And if we went by nothing other than comments made on, say, JoeMyGod’s threads, you’d have to agree.

But that isn’t reality. It’s not the community. It probably doesn’t even reflect what those commenters would say in person. It’s more of an echo-chamber used primarily to vent frustration in an anonymous and relatively safe space.

I’m sure that my world view is skewed as well. Other than through online communication, I mostly encounter Christian people who are kind, generous, loving and who seek to make the world a better place. Those whom I personally know who are theologically opposed to homosexuality are genuinely troubled by how their positions impact others.

But I know – intellectually – that the haters do exist. We do see them on, for example, the youtube site you mentioned. But either I don’t encounter those people or they keep their hatred limited to their anonymous onsite rantings.

(There are exceptions – I do have a relationship of sorts with some of the better known crazies that write the crap you see at some of the “Christian press” sites. And while most are civil and decent when not trying to rally the masses, some are every bit as hateful and crazy as they seem.)

But in general, my interaction is positive. Very few people are really nasty aholes – no matter what group they are in. And most people genuinely want people to be happy, even people that might be in groups with whom they have some level of disapproval.

And it’s hard not to take our own personal experiences and extrapolate to “that’s what ‘they’ are like”.

I guess it’s like coming out. Once people get to know gays, they stereotypes drop away.

I think Christians, ordinary everyday decent Christians who don’t troll websites or march with hate signs or scream on television, need to ‘come out’ as it were. They need to chat more with their less religious friends and coworkers and family about how their faith impacts their lives. And more need to make the effort to be visible on the gay rapper’s site or on television or with signs.

I think that is starting. It’s not high visibility yet. But if you read the local newspaper accounts of, say, a non-discrimination vote at a city counsel, you’ll see that there are now almost always clergy and religious folk who are pushing for inclusion.

DN
June 13th, 2014 | LINK

“They [christians] need to chat more with their less religious friends and coworkers and family about how their faith impacts their lives.”

I’ll settle for evidence, thanks. Just one iota of actual evidence. Until such time as someone presents real evidence to me, it’s all just silly.

Merv
June 13th, 2014 | LINK

Timothy,

I have heard about a few clergy pushing for non-discrimination laws. They’re outnumbered, but it’s a start.

I still think it’s striking that I see few if any pro-gay comments on YouTube coming from Christians. There has to be a reason for it. I agree that angry people are more likely to post, but aren’t the pro-gay Christians upset both that gay people are being unfairly attacked and that anti-gay Christians are using their shared religion to bash gay people? Apparently not very much, because the barrier to leaving a YouTube comment is extremely low: Just type a couple sentences and click a button. It’s even anonymous. Is it because they themselves aren’t confident that their religion isn’t anti-gay? Maybe they’re posting, but not as Christians (there are few pro-gay posts at all on the video I’m referring to). Are they reluctant to criticize a fellow Christian? It’s really strange.

Nathaniel
June 16th, 2014 | LINK

I’m not sure a YouTube comment section is a reliable cross-section of any group. I usually don’t notice that there are comments on a YouTube video – I doubt most people pay attention to them unless they have something really awful to say. But, you also have to consider that a pro-gay comment or response doesn’t necessarily have to be overtly religious. If I respond to some hateful rant, I know it won’t do any good to try to debate theology; it is far more effective to to point out every other way they are being an idiot. Of course, I usually just roll my eyes and move on, because there is no point in getting worked up over the idiots bred by the internet. But maybe, from now on, I will give a little more thought to those judging my faith based on who does and doesn’t comment on the internet.

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