Much has been made in the media of the “Richard Land Affair.” Land is the head honcho, beginning in 1988, of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, with offices in Nashville and Washington, D.C. According to its Web-site, the ERLC “is dedicated to addressing social and moral concerns and their implications on public policy issues from City Hall to Congress.”
A graduate of Princeton University, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Oxford University in England (Ph.D), Land picked up some political experience as an administrative assistant to Texas Governor William Clements in the late 1980s. The media firestorm was precipitated by remarks he made on his 31 March radio show, in which he called African-American leaders such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton "race mongers" and "racial ambulance chasers" who are politicizing Trayvon Martin’s murder by George Zimmerman on 26 February in Sanford, Florida.
Land also indicated that young black men are understandably considered threatening since statistically they are more threatening than a white man to do harm. His statistics-reference probably had to do with the prison population of young black men, which is inordinately large compared to their overall population-percentage.
Land has apologized for the incident, of course, including for the fact that he plagiarized his comments from a column in the Washington Times. A prolific writer, he simply may have neglected to give the proper attribution through negligence. His radio program has been cancelled by the ERLC trustee executive committee.
As both a citizen and a Baptist, I inveighed heavily against the ERLC back in the day, figuring neither the Southern Baptist Convention nor any other denomination had any business messing in politics and also resenting the fact that one man, Richard Land, could speak for all Baptists about anything. The current brouhaha regarding the Martin-thing is yet another opportunity for ridicule to be heaped upon the denomination, as it has been before in Land’s appearances on TV talk-shows such as the former Larry King Live.
Having said that, I believe the plagiarism charge is the only one that holds any credibility. His remarks concerning the actions of Obama and others in fomenting racial upheaval was spot-on. Al Sharpton is best-known for his Tawana Brawley hoax, for which he was successfully sued. Jesse Jackson is best-known for using his organization’s hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars to support his mistress and their “love-child.” These are the guys who made a 14-carat circus out of the Martin-affair and then got out of Dodge. Their moral bona fides were/are nonexistent.
When the president, without knowing any facts, solemnly intoned that if he had a son the boy would be a Trayvon Martin look-alike, he pushed the envelope too far. That remark reminded of his 2009 comment that, without his knowing any facts, the Cambridge police (specifically a white policeman) acted stupidly. Both instances involved race-baiting and were beneath contempt. Even Obama finally got it – or somebody in his mélange did – and he invited the policeman down to D.C. for a beer with him and Veep Biden, an incredible bit of hypocrisy.
The National African American Fellowship (about 3,400 predominantly black churches in the SBC) got in the usual snit regarding the need for an apology but Fred Luter, an African American pastor expected to become the SBC president this month, magnanimously spoke out in Land’s defense, another way of saying that Land had it right.
The SBC 1995 official resolution offering an “apology” for slavery, besides being wrongheaded since all the pre-Civil War SBCers had been long dead, was scorned by the head honchos of the African-American denominations. They knew that a person can’t apologize for something he didn’t do, which is what the naďve Baptist leadership tried to do.
The ERLC has outlived its usefulness, assuming it ever existed. It reminds of an organization initiated in September 2003 called the Clergy Network and later called the Clergy Network for National Leadership Change. It was a "527" organization, meaning that it was not tax-exempt. Its head was Albert Pennybacker of Lexington, Ky., a retired minister and former National Council of Churches honcho, and its headquarters was in the nation's capital. Sitting on its National Committee was James M. Dunn, former executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, an organization dedicated to the "separation of church and state."
As explained on its web-site and indicated by its name, the CNNLC was formed for one purpose only, the defeat of President George Bush. It was made up of ministers and partly funded by the infamous billionaire anti-American, George Soros. It was a prime example of clerical mischief-making. Serving with Dunn was…yep…the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The ministers furnished the prime example of exponential hypocrisy.