Three generations is a long time in terms of race relations in the United States, especially the Deep South. What kind of racism has dissipated in the last 50 years? And what kind of racism must pastors still confront from the pulpit?
The Gospel Coalition (TGC) posed these questions and more to preachers from three generations and locations. Robert Smith Jr. is the Charles T. Carter Baptist Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, where this conversation was recorded. Born in segregated Knoxville, Tennessee, and raised in Cincinatti, Ohio, Smith trains preachers at Beeson. He argues that racism is not a skin problem but a sin problem (watch clip). And he notes the difficult truth that slavery survived the two greatest spiritual awakenings in American history (watch clip).
A native of Biloxi, Mississippi, Russell Moore is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and a Council member for TGC. He laments how the ancestors of white Christians missed the sin of slavery and asks, “What are we missing today?” He contends that racism is destroying white people and sending white people to hell (watch clip). Modern notions akin to “separate but equal” won’t work for the church of Jesus Christ, Moore says, and “normal Christianity” is not white (watch clip).
“Most of the body of Christ in heaven and on earth isn't white, isn't American, and has never spoken English,” Moore observes.
The 40-minute conversation is moderated by Jason Cook, campus pastor at Iron City Church in Birmingham and a recent Beeson graduate. Raised in the Atlanta area, Cook played football for the Rebels at Ole Miss before discerning a call to vocational ministry. Watch the whole interview to see him explain why he gives white brothers in Christ freedom to be racist around him. Moore closes the conversation by identifying the sign that he says will tell him that true racial progress has been made in the SBC. You can find the audio in TGC’s podcast, download it here or stream the audio below.