Sunday, November 30, 2014

New Blog

I've started a new blog ...I don't really know if I'll keep adding more day-to-day stuff here occassionally or not.

If you'd like to keep up with what I'm writing, redirect your browser to:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hiroshima, Paper Cranes, and Peace

Every August I am reminded by some tweet or news headline that we are approaching the anniversary of the days that the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It always sets off a cascade of thoughts and memories in my head.

From second to fifth grade I, along with the rest of my elementary school classmates, took Japanese language class with a petite Japanese woman who taught us to count, name animals, and order food. We bowed and said, "Ohayƍ sensei" when she entered the room. We learned that Japanese students cleaned their classrooms and went to school on Saturdays. To this day, if ever anyone wants to settle a dispute with a game of "paper, rock, scissors" - I still instinctively say, "jan, ken, pon."  And in fifth grade, while we studied World War II in Social Studies, we read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes in Japanese class.  Sadako, a young girl with leukemia from the atom bomb starts making 1000 paper cranes while she's in the hospital. She dies before she gets to 1000, and her classmates complete the task for her. 

And so while I learned about the Allied Powers and the Holocaust and Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and other Pacific locations - I also learned about Sadako and the far-reaching horrors of wars. 

And that year, when our teachers sat us down to tell us that one of our classmates who had been out for a few days was in the hospital with a brain tumor, we grabbed little squares of white paper and started folding cranes. We hung them by strings in the school lobby, placed them on the shelves near the front doors. A massive flock of white birds to greet everyone who entered. Something in my child-hood heart believed that if we could get to 1000, then Orlando would come back to school, would fill the empty seat in our classroom.

And there was some deep connection in my heart to these white cranes and my classmate in that hospital. His family lived in a house one-bus-stop before my trailer-park stop on the ride home every day. His house was near the road, slightly run down, sagging porch, shrubbery growing close to the steps. One night, sometime before we knew that Orlando was sick, I had a dream about that house, though I'd never been inside. We were just classmates, not friends. But in the dream I pushed opened the door to find a gleaming and spacious mansion. Light bouncing off the white and gold surfaces that covered everything. A crystal chandelier hung from the high ceiling, a double curved staircase leading up from the center of the room. It was magnificent. It remains one of two dreams in my entire life where I awoke both remembering the dream, and knowing that it meant something.  Appearances are deceiving. Beauty is often hidden within. Judgments get us nowhere.

Orlando died. The cranes did not save him either. There was an empty spot on the stage when our 5th grade class had our ceremony to end our elementary school years. In the many years that followed I saw his house get swallowed by the trees and kudzu and vines that surrounded it. The family moved away, the house sat abandoned. And eventually the house was demolished and the vegetation grew back, taking over the land once again. But  if I slow down enough to look when I drive by, I can still see the pattern in the grass on the side of the road that indicates a driveway used to be there. A driveway that lead to a house where lived a boy who died far too young.

So when I hear "Hiroshima" - I hear all of that. Grief and hope. The far-reaching effects of war, the hopes of children, the way that dream still pops into my mind anytime I find myself judging something before I take the time to explore it.

When people argue about the "justness" of the use of violent warfare that kills civilians, weigh the benefits of annihilation over extended war, I find myself thinking we've all missed the point. These are not the options we should be aiming for. I recognize the complexity and the need to address immediate conflicts, but I think we'd fare far better taking the steps now to reduce the chance that we end up on that road, weighing those options. I get called naive for the belief, but I think building relationships and making connections goes a long ways towards peace, one slow tiny step at a time.

We should be aiming for a world where we encourage each other to push open creaky doors on falling-apart lives and discover the beauty within. Knock gently on the doors of the worn-down and the worn out, the ones who have thorny-bushes crowding at their gate. Assume there is grandness inside and wait to see it. And I well know that all the world's problems can't be solved with jan ken pon, but maybe if we have the hope of thousand paper cranes and the knowledge that goodness and beauty exists in unexpected places because we are all created in the image of God, we would be less likely to resort so quickly to war, to find reasons to justify our violence.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The only one that feels brave

I have a couple short weeks left here in Pennsylvania. And then it is one more cross country move,  likely my last. My nomadic heart has found healing and life in these past five years of living outside of my Southern home, but there are  things for me in Georgia. Babies I want to watch grow up. Family I'd like to spend time with. A tug back to those oak trees and sweet tea that I don't fully understand. It's not an "all my dreams come true" move - I'll be far from dense-cities with the clickety-clack of trains, far from wide shores and waves, far from many people I love. Far from a brother and sister and nephew and niece still. (We are a family of cross-country-movers) 

When I moved to Chicago I heard, "You're so brave!" countless times. When I uprooted once more and headed east to Philadelphia, the comments on my fearlessness came once again. I never once felt brave or fearless for those moves - they were invigorating and exciting. A natural, easy choice for my heart and mind that want to know and see and learn and discover. There is always some grief and sadness at the people and things that get left - - harder each time. But, only those who know me best call me brave for this move for they know it is the only one that has scared me.

When you move somewhere brand new you get to be you in a new way. I feel confident in saying that the people who know me from Atlanta and from Chicago and from Philadelphia would all describe me in different ways, there are similarities and all of the personas are me - I am not being someone I am not in any of these places. But, I have been different in each place, and I have naturally grown and changed as the moves also came with years. The differences make sense, I have had different roles in each place, different friends, different priorities and amounts of free time and money so I have pursued different things. All of this shines light on different parts of me. The blank-slate you get when you arrive somewhere brand new, all alone, is invigorating. There's nothing quite like having that much freedom to shape a time of your life into whatever will come.

But heading back?  Just as I have changed in the five years I've been away, so too have those I left. Still, there is no blank slate there and I am not quite sure what that will look like as I move forward. I am not quite sure how the much-more-outspoken, different opinions and beliefs and priorities, interested-in-different-things me will fit into the place I called home for a couple decades and some change. I guess that's why they say you can't go home again. I am unsure of what crafting myself anew will look like when there are people there I've known for forever.

I find I am not quite sure how to go about these new beginning when it's going back to somewhere old. I am predicting lessons about redemption and the value of roots and memories and traditions, but I don't know.  I realize I didn't know what life would look like before any other move either - I may have had a few more details than I do know about what waits at the other end, but I did not know the future any more than I do now. And each time God allowed me home and friendships and family to grow in those new places. I'm sure the same will prove true once again.

I am comfortable with the "three year itch" to reinvent myself - that cycle that seems to beg to try something new. As Meister Eckhart said, "And suddenly you know: It's time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings." I think I'll have to learn that new and beginning doesn't have to mean a clean slate and uprooting, time for me to learn a little about roots and staying - the bravery of going back. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

An Ode to my English degree

I used to hate poetry. There were a few poems I liked, but I hated it in general – so many meanings and allusions and things beyond and between the text. I liked words simple and straightforward – words that got straight to the point and told me what was what.

That’s how I was raised to believe words. Everything just as it says it happened in the Bible. Literally and concretely – an accurate science and history book.  I never thought to question it, I just accepted it. I rarely, almost never, read fantasy or science-fiction. Things that were outside the realm of reality held no interest to me. I shunned the Greek and Roman mythologies for their silliness, never noting the trace of irony. 

And then, oh you all know this story, I went to college.

I landed in an English degree, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I look back now and say, ”Providential hand of God” because I have never had a fascination with the classic works of literature, grammar often befuddled me, and my strongest subject was math.

In undergrad, my literary theory teacher told me about Derrida, deconstruction, semiotics. Many other theorists and theories too – but Derrida stuck with me.

All of a sudden I’m pouring over many lines of an Elizabeth Bishop poem over and over and over again trying to figure out what it means, not what it says. And I love it. The poem, at a glance, is a young girl in a dentist waiting room reading a National Geographic, waiting as her aunt has a procedure done. But in these new eyes of mine, suddenly everything means everything. Not that it can mean anything you see – there are still right and wrong answers, but things mean more than the black and white on the page in front of you. 

Suddenly words aren't always literal, and when they’re not, they usually mean so much more.  For the third time in my life I am assigned to read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness – a book I had hated for its darkness – but armed with some tools of critical theory – I find it a rich mine of information about colonialism and our life today.

The next semester the professor who taught me Derrida taught creative writing. I turned in my efforts at poetry and his brow furrowed and he scribbled notes in the margins and pushed me forward.  He told us about literary devices and the difference between latin and anglo-saxon.  In three hour chunks I learned about the beauty of language and how the wrangling of semantics changes things.  

Suddenly there is beauty in poetry and some speaker says that God is a poet and I get what that means – because I have learned in Creative Writing that poetry has surprise endings that suddenly weave all the lines together.

In The History of the English Language I began to understand language and grammar and syntax and diction in a way that goes beyond the “rules” of words. There is a reason we say both cow and cattle, pig and swine. There is a reason “Ebonics” is fraught with social implications. There is a history of peoples and wars, faiths and governments, the conquerors and the conquered that brought me here to a place where my “English” language is German and Roman, French and Cherokee.

And when words are so fraught with connotations beyond the denotations -  when words bring with them lineages of racism and colonialism and oppression and war – how much more do our societies do the same? How much more to the very fabrics that make up our laws and our communities and our deeply held beliefs give evidence to the long history of people?

And those ideas swirled about my head as I learned about racism and sexism and sizeism and ableism. They offered a foundation for how I processed the way that people in Chicago were different than the people in Atlanta and the people in Philadelphia different still. And in my first semester of seminary – when we started talking about literary-historical criticism and highlighting the parts of that ancient document that gave us pause or made us want to rail at the heavens  - my faith was safe. I had a number of years of understanding that words are more than words – that there is life and history and culture behind them. I knew that words could stand a close look, could be put up next to history and genre and age after age and we will still find them worthy to be read and held and pondered. I knew that truth is something beyond literalism – because I sat in a classroom and a read a poem over and over and over again until I realized it wasn't about a little girl in the dentist’s waiting room - - it is about us in the world.  Because of this I know that Genesis is not so much about how God made the world - it is about God in the world.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

War and Peace in the Southern Baptist Convention

My twitter feed is abuzz with notes and quotes from #SBC14, the Southern Baptist Convention's annual conference. It reminded me that I had yet to share this with you. It's long  - but if you enjoy history and church politics, it may interest you.  There's an infographic down a bit if you just want to look at the picture. I haven't heard if there's been a resolution on "war" or "peace" at this year's convention - but if ya'll hear of one, let me know! 

For one of my papers this semester I researched the Southern Baptist Convention’s history in regards to “War and Peace.”  I grew up in an SBC church, but today I call myself non-denomination and most closely align with the teachings of traditional peace churches. I also call myself a pacifist/non-violent resister. As I’ve learned about the long peace tradition of other churches (like Mennonites) I have somewhat mourned the lack of that type of teaching in my own spiritual formation. For as much as I can remember – my church always supported war as a reasonable and needed solution to evil in our world. True Just War theory promotes and pursues peace, but that was not the message I got from the “patriotic” celebrations in my church.  While all of that was subjective and based on my own experience, I thoroughly enjoyed researching the history of “War and Peace” in the SBC and learned some interesting things! I thought I would summarize that here for you.  While there are numerous other documents and factors one can research to look at this issue, for what is below I looked at the three version of the Baptist Faith and Message the SBC has had in their history and the various “resolutions” that were passed/approved at the annual national conventions of the SBC from the late 1800s until 2013.

History and Context

The Southern Baptist Convention began in 1864 after it broke away from the larger Baptist denomination. The Southern Baptist Convention was created explicitly as a result of the slave-owners’ desire to retain slaves based on an understanding of biblical literalism. The denomination traveled with the South through the Civil War and Reconstruction and as a result is strongly flavored with the “Southern” way of life. The SBC and the South saw strength and a purpose in rising above hardships and maintaining traditional and cultural ways of life. In regards to war and peace, we will see that the SBC holds a dedicated commitment to peace for many years before ultimately siding with a Southern sense of patriotism and embracing passages such as Romans 13 in an attempt to take the entire Bible as literally as possible.

Due to some intentional maneuvering within the politics of the SBC, in the 1980s the denomination took a conservative turn that focused on reading the Bible as literally as possible and with a strong emphasis on cultural morality (pro-family, pro-life, etc) that was said to be in-line with a literal reading of the Bible.[1] This move was also strongly correlated with the rise of the Religious Right in U.S. politics and the SBC became increasingly connected to the political views of the Republican Party.

 “Baptist exceptionalism”[2] is an understanding of the idea that in the Southeastern United States (the Bible Belt) that the SBC has achieved Establishment status as the largest faith-organization. Growing up in an SBC church in an Atlanta suburb, I had no idea other types of Christianity were thriving. I knew that other denominations existed; I just assumed they were all weak and dying. As far as I could tell, the SBC was the true expression of faith and the strongest. It seemed everyone I knew also believed this, even if only subconsciously.  At the very least, no one ever challenged this idea. To be a southerner was to be a Southern Baptist. Our politics and our lifestyle were tied up in these things. To critique the normative expressions of patriotism and military pride was to critique a defining feature of our faith because these were defining features of our culture. My home church regularly had patriotic services near Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day. The words to the patriotic songs we sung were projected onto the screen and the behind the words was an image of three crosses on a hill and the American flag in the background. The church I attended in college cancelled services one Sunday in order to have a patriotic picnic in the yard, complete with a military plane fly-over and paratroopers jumping down to join us. But even on the “normal” weeks, weeks that were not specifically dedicated to honoring the country or soldiers, an American flag often had a place on the side of the altar. The Christian Flag was on the other side and in the middle was the pulpit.

SBC on War, Peace, and Military

I read every SBC resolution on war, peace, or military that I could find using their online database.[3]  From my count, there are 53 resolutions between 1863-2013 addressing “war,” “peace,” or “military.”  While reading through the resolutions gives one a picture of a change in emphasis, I was also interested in the way word choice changed in these resolutions. “Peace” is the most frequently occurring word, showing up 197 times. “War” makes an appearance 130 times and “military” 93 times. However, when you look at the resolutions in two groups, dividing them at the 1979 schism, there is an obvious turn in the word choice, even when adjusting for the difference in the number of years each group covers. From 1863-1979 the word peace appears 159 times (an average of 1.37 times per year) and military occurs 29 times (.25/year).  From 1980 forward, peace shows up 38 times (.86/year) and the word military is used 64 times (1.94/year). The rate of the average per year use of the word “war” is roughly equal between the two groups (.88 and .85 per year respectively).  Even for the entire 130 year time span of these resolutions (1863-2013), the word peace is used on average only 1.31 times per year, less than the 1980-2013 average use of “military.” This is all linguistic observation, but one I find useful in gaining a wide perspective. As we look at the actual change in what the SBC resolutions are praising and endorsing in regards to war, peace, and military, we will see a turn away from classic just war principles. Here is a visual representation of the numbers I have just discussed. 

Baptist Faith and Message Changes
The Baptist Faith and Message (BFM) is the statement of beliefs for the Southern Baptist Convention. There are versions drafted in 1925, 1963, and 2000. The changes in the short “War and Peace” article of this document give a brief look at the changing views on this topic within the convention.  All three versions of the BFM include the following statement:
It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In  accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put  an end to war.The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord. The supreme need of the world is the acceptance of His teachings in all the affairs of men and nations, and the practical application of His law of love.[4]

That is the entirely of the 1963 statement on this topic. In 1925 there had been an additional sentence that said:

We urge Christian people throughout the world to pray for the reign of the Prince of  Peace, and to oppose everything likely to provoke war.[5]

In 2000, the SBC added back the first clause of that sentence back to the statement, but left off “and to oppose everything likely to provoke war.”[6]  This is perhaps the most explicit formal stance on the changing views of war and peace within the SBC even though the terms of “Just War” are not used. The choice to leave off the clause that encourages an opposition to “everything likely to provoke war” after the 1963 BFM shows a shift in theological views on war and peace. Each article of the BFM is annotated with the references to scripture passages that back up these doctrinal statements. There were changes to the scripture used to support the “Peace and War” article in 1963 but no further changes in 2000. [7] Notable among the changes between 1925 and 1963 is the exclusion of Romans 14:17 (For the kingdom of God is [a matter] of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit) and the simultaneous inclusion of Romans 13:1-7 (Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. . .). 

War and Peace, 1835-1979

Given the history of the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention, it is no surprise that their first recorded resolution concerning war and peace is about the Civil War.[8] This resolution is in strong support of the confederacy and there is a mournful tone to the resolution which is titled “On Peace.”  Those that gathered at the convention in 1863 said, “The war which has been forced upon us is, on our part, just and necessary.”[9] The resolution also repents of unspecified sin and laments that the war causes poverty, interruption to education, and death. Ultimately they believe the war to be just and that includes that they “confidently anticipate ultimate success” for the Confederacy.[10] Outside of the official convention meeting, the everyday “rank and file” members of the SBC were also in support of the Confederacy. “Churches constantly observed days of fasting and prayer on behalf of their armies and readily donated bells to be cast into cannon.”[11] The South officially lost the war two years later, and there are no more resolutions on war or peace in the SBC until 1907. This resolution is a mere 42 words, saying simply, but beautifully: “RESOLVED, That we look with devout gratitude to Almighty God upon the advance throughout the wide world of the cause of peace, for ‘Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war; and we desire and will pray for the day to hasten when all nations will settle their difficulties by arbitration rather than the resort to arms; and the song of the angels at the advent of Christ be fully realized—‘Peace on earth, good will to men.’’"[12]  It had taken 42 years for the SBC to make a new statement on war and peace after what was to them a devastating loss of a war they fought believing they were just.

In 1911 an SBC “Resolution on Peace” declared that “a civilization uninfluenced by the teachings of the New Testament is without the groundwork of permanent peace. War is a scourge, is wrong in principle and morally corrupting.”[13] They further resolve “that as Southern Baptists we will talk up peace and talk down war; that we will pray God [sic] for universal peace.”[14] Six years later, when the United States entered WWI, the SBC convention that year issued a statement expressing “loyal and sacrifical [sic] support in the war,”[15] yet the focus and bulk of the resolution centers on mourning the presence of war and re-affirming that “the righteousness of the Sermon on the Mount, and [their] confidence and infallible wisdom of him who has taught us to love our enemies, to bless them that curse us, and to do good to them that despitefully use and persecute us.”[16]

 In 1935, the SBC declares their “unalterable opposition to war and [their] devotion to the maintenance of peace among the nations of the world.”[17] In 1936 they affirm once again their “utter opposition to and hatred of war as the most inexcusable and insane policy that could be pursued by the nations of the earth in their dealings with one another, destructive not only of human life and treasure but of all that is high and worthy in human ideals and objectives.”[18] This same resolution also explicitly supports a just war as a final resort, but emphasizes the “last resort” stipulation by also expressing disgust with the “enormous military and naval establishment [. . .] being built up and maintained by our government at the expense of approximately one billion dollars a year.”[19] In June of 1940 WWII had begun but the United States had not yet entered the war. The SBC “Resolution on Peace” at that year’s convention said:
That while we acknowledge the right of national self-defense, our utter abhorrence of war and its attendant evils compels us to voice the conviction that even a defensive war should be waged only as a last resort after every effort has been made to reach a  settlement of international problems in fairness to all the nations involved that all International differences could and of a right ought to be composed by peaceful diplomatic exchanges, and, when these fail, by arbitration.[20]

The 1940 resolution also makes the first resolution concerning the rights and freedoms of people to conscientiously object to fighting in a war and calls for the convention to make a way for members of the SBC denomination to register as conscientious objectors within the denomination. While a 1946 resolution will show that the SBC failed to make plans to support those who would wish to conscientiously object to the war, their support for one’s ability and freedom to do so remained.[21] By a 1969 resolution, it seems that the convention has set up the proper channels by which a member of an SBC church could register as a conscientious objector within the church.[22]
In June 1941, mere months before the attack on Pearl Harbor the resolution of the annual convention laments the war in Europe but makes an argument for the justness of the war.[23] It is the longest of the resolutions on war, peace, and military.  They first affirm the right of people to consciously object and then explain why this war is necessary. Their defense is long, citing primarily that the evil being committed in Europe against the various rights of many innocent people cannot be allowed to continue.  They acknowledge that there are a variety of opinions on how best to proceed given the reality of the war in Europe, but the only concrete thing they call for is that the United States should stop supplying arms to Japan. At the very end of the resolution they clarify that  the resolution “may be misinterpreted by some as a committal to the principle of militarism, Therefore, be it resolved that the aforesaid resolution, in no way commits the Southern Baptist Convention to an approval of war, as a recognized principle in settling international differences.”[24] It seems clear that they are wrestling with the theological implications of going to war. The horror happening to the people in Europe weighed heavy on their minds, but they maintain a strong focus on peace, an allowance for the theological freedom to abstain from war, and careful words to avoid being seen as supporting war. This is dedicated Just War theology and the agonizing wrestling that comes with trying to weigh the forces of good and evil.  Their commitment to the Just War principles continues after the war has begun and many SBC members find themselves fighting. The 1943 convention issues a resolution reminding the U.S. government that the war “may not accomplish the purposes for which it is fought unless a just and righteous peace follows the termination of the war”[25] and that those principles must be decided upon before the war’s end or they will not work.

As the United States moves from WWII to the other wars that America will engage with between the 1950-1970s, the SBC position stays predominantly anti-war in their resolutions. Throughout these decades the SBC prioritizes peace by saying that they need “desperately to have new aspirations for world peace,”[26]  that they “are eager to meet [their] responsibility to promote peace through Christian love and the application of Christian principles to human affairs,”[27] resolving “not to allow fear to suspend [their] reliance upon the processes of Christian diplomacy as practiced by those who acknowledge the Prince of Peace,”[28] that the use of torture is a sin against God,[29] and that “all Christians, including Southern Baptists, should consistently oppose inhumanity, injustice, and war.”[30] In 1972 they urge the United States government “to utilize the massive resources now allocated to the military to the healing of those bleeding lands abroad and to the binding up of our nation's wounds at home”[31]  and “to move in imaginative and reconciling ways to seek mutual agreements with other nations to slow the nuclear arms race.”[32]

However, hints of the transition from a Just War view to a more militarist/nationalist view begin to show up during these decades as well.  In 1969 the convention acknowledges that “There appears within conscientious men a need to reconcile the Christian's pursuit of peace with the patriot's prosecution of defensive war” and the convention “encourages a search of Scriptures for principles which set forth one's responsibilities both to God and to country.”[33]  And while in 1941 those at the convention were careful to clarify that they were not supporting militarism, the messengers at the 1969 convention, made certain to clarify that the acknowledgement of the right of people to consciously object “does not imply approval or support of any citizen who refuses to accept the full obligation of responsible citizenship.”[34]  In 1970 the SBC convention also expresses their fear that communist violence “may ultimately render America impotent before its adversaries” and we find the first occurrence of “Commander-in-Chief” in the resolutions by the SBC.

War and Military, 1980-2013

Throughout the 1980s the resolutions continue to use peace language while also frequently qualifying the peace-talk with statements like, “We realistically acknowledge the timely reassessment of our nation's security needs and we appreciate the attention given to spend for defense”[35] or that they “appreciate the renewed commitment to a strong national defense.”[36] The beginnings of patriotism (as defined for indebtedness to those who will “kill [or] sacrifice his/her life for the country, ostensibly defending its people, freedom, and or/traditions”[37]) show up in the SBC response to Operation Desert Storm in 1991. After defending the military action in Kuwait as a Just War, they make a note to “especially honor those who died in the conflict for their ultimate sacrifice in the cause of freedom and that we offer our heartfelt sympathy and gratitude to their families.”[38]  While the resolutions during WWII that focused on the armed services were in praise of the chaplains who served on the field, in 1994 the SBC honors the “many Americans [who] voluntarily gave or risked their lives in the invasion of Normandy by the Allied Forces.”[39]  Resolutions specifically in praise and support of those individuals who serve in the military were also issued in 2004, 2005, and 2006.

During the SBC convention that occurs after September 11, 2001, the SBC offers clear support for the “War on Terror,” calling it a reasonable act of self-defense, pointing out that “Scriptures command civil authorities to restrain evil and to punish evildoers through the power of the sword,” and offering full support for the “President of the United States in his denunciation of terrorist groups as “evildoers” who must be resisted.”[42]  Aside from a few resolutions mentioned earlier on support of the military, the SBC convention has been relatively silent on the issue of war and peace. In 2009 a resolution on President Obama mentions the SBC’s appreciation for “his decisions to retain many foreign policies that continue to keep our nation safe from further terrorist attacks”[43]  Aside from the word “peace” popping up once or twice in a handful of recent resolutions, the last time that any resolution was devoted to the importance and prioritizing of peace was in 1983. The last resolution I could find from the SBC on an issue related to war, peace, or military was in 2010.  The resolution is a 1,147 word statement titled “On Homosexuality And The United States Military.”  The SBC took a stand against repealing the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” for a variety of moral, spiritual, and logistical reasons. Among them, “that normalizing the open presence of homosexuals in the military is incompatible with generating, strengthening, and maintaining good discipline, unit cohesion, and combat readiness.”[44] In other words, regardless of one’s opinions on God’s view of homosexuality (as faithful Christians disagree on a variety of points), in roughly 100 years, the Southern Baptist convention went from declaring that “War is a scourge, is wrong in principle and morally corrupting” to spending a considerable amount of time arguing that there should not be homosexuals openly in the military because it damages the military’s ability to kill people.


This research was cathartic for me. One of the things I've "grieved" over the past couple of years is the lack of a "peace tradition" in my own early years. It's been reassuring to see it in those middle years of the SBC even though I no longer call that denomination “home.”  While it is easy to say that the Religious Right is enjoying too much power currently to voluntarily surrender it in the name of once again pursuing peace, it is my hope and prayer that as a people, the SBC will once again lead its members to “oppose everything likely to provoke war.” In the meantime, part of my faith heritage is the Southern Baptist Convention with all its flaws and strengths and I will continue to pray that Christians of all perspectives will join in that 1907 prayer and “will pray for the day to hasten when all nations will settle their difficulties by arbitration rather than the resort to arms; and the song of the angels at the advent of Christ be fully realized—‘Peace on earth, good will to [all].’"[45]

End Notes:

[1] Nancy Tatom Ammerman,.  Baptist Battles: Social Change and Religious Conflict in the Southern Baptist Convention. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1990.

[2] Bruce B. Lawrence, Defenders of God: The Fundamentalists Revolt against the Modern Age (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989), 197 as cited in Oran P. Smith, The Rise of Baptist Republicanism (New York: New York University Press, 1997). 39.

[3] Southern Baptist Convention, “Resolutions Search,” (accessed April 28, 2014)

[4] Sunday School Board, Baptist Faith and Message. (Nashville: Southern Baptist Convention, 1963).

[5] Sunday School Board, Baptist Faith and Message. (Nashville: Southern Baptist Convention, 1925).

[6] Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Faith and Message, 2000, (accessed April 28, 2014)

[8] SBC, Resolution On Peace  (Augusta, GA, 1863), (accessed May 1, 2014)

[9] Ibid., Article 1.

[10] Ibid., Article 2.

[11] Jesse C. Fletcher, “Effect on the Civil War on Southern Baptist Churches,” Baptist History and Heritage (July/October 1997): 36.

[12] SBC, Resolution On Peace  (Richmond, VA, 1907), (accessed May 1, 2014)

[13] SBC, Resolution On Peace  (Jacksonville, FL, 1911), (accessed April 28, 2014)

[14] Ibid.

[15] SBC, Resolution On Peace  (New Orleans, LA, 1917), (accessed April 28, 2014)

[16] Ibid.

[17] SBC, Resolution On Peace  (Memphis, TN, 1935), (accessed April 28, 2014)

[18] SBC, Resolution On Peace  (St. Louis, MO, 1936), (accessed April 28, 2014)

[19] Ibid.

[20] SBC, Resolution Concerning War and Peace  (Baltimore, MD, 1940) (accessed May 1, 2014)

[21]SBC, Resolution Concerning Conscientious Objectors (Miami, FL: 1946) (accessed April 28, 2014)

[22]SBC, Resolution Concerning Conscientious Objectors (New Orleans, LA: 1969) (accessed April 28, 2014)

[23] SBC, Resolution on Peace  (Birmingham, AL, 1941), (accessed April 28, 2014)

[24] Ibid.

[25] SBC, Resolution on Peace  (San Antonio, TX, 1943), (accessed April 28, 2014)

[26] SBC, Recommendation Concerning World Order and Peace (Chicago, IL, 1950), (accessed April 28, 2014)
[27] SBC, Resolution on World Peace (Houston, TX, 1958), (accessed April 28, 2014)

[28] SBC, Resolution on Summit Peace Conference  (Miami Beach, FL, 1960), (accessed April 28, 2014)

[29] SBC, Resolution on Torture (Kansas City, MO, 1977), (accessed April 28, 2014)

[30] SBC, Resolution on Peace and Justice for All Men (New Orleans, LA, 1969) (accessed April 28, 2014)

[31] SBC, Resolution on Achieving World Peace  (Philadelphia, PA, 1972) (accessed April 28, 2014)

[32] SBC, Resolution on Multilateral Arms Control (Atlanta, GA, 1978) (accessed April 28, 2014)

[33] SBC, Resolution on Peace  (Miami Beach, FL, 1967), (accessed April 28, 2014). See also 1970 Resolution on World Peace where they “call upon Southern Baptists to search the Scriptures to determine the role of the Christian in time of war.”

[34] SBC, Resolution on Conscientious Objectors (New Orleans, LA, 1969) (accessed April 28, 2014
[35] SBC, Resolution on Peace and National Security (St. Louis, MO, 1980) (accessed April 28, 2014)

[36] SBC, Resolution on Peace and National Security (Los Angeles, CA, 1981) (accessed April 28, 2014)

[37] Ryan LaMothe, “The Problem of Patriotism: A Psychoanalytic and Theological Analysis” Pastoral Psychology 58 (2009): 153.

[38] SBC, Resolution on Operation Desert Storm (Atlanta, GA, 1991) (accessed May 1, 2014)
[39] SBC, Resolution On Commending World War Ii Veterans On The Occasion Of The 50th Anniversary Of D-Day (Orlando, FL, 1994)

[42] SBC, Resolution on the War on Terror (St. Louis, MO, 2002) (accessed April 28, 2014). The sentiments are repeated in their 2003 Resolution On The Liberation Of Iraq.

[43]SBC, Resolution on President Barack Hussein Obama (Louisville, KY, 2009) (accessed 28, 2013)

[44] SBC, Resolution on Homosexuality and the United States Military (Orlando, FL, 2010) (accessed 28, 2013)

[45] See note 26