The Pen

First Black SBC President Thought Obama Would Bring Racial Reconciliation

According to Baptist News Global, the first black president of the SBC stated in a Black History Month video made for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary that he believed electing Obama was an opportunity to bring racial reconciliation. Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and former president of the SBC  said…

“I really thought that this nation was ready to move forward from our days of segregation when Barack Obama was elected as president of the United States of America…As much as we needed racial reconciliation in America, I really thought that was the opportunity for our nation to come together and make us one as a nation.”

You can see Luter’s full comments with more context here.

Likewise, Luter’s presidency at the SBC was similarly seen as an opportunity for racial reconciliation in the Southern Baptist Convention. His presidency was lauded by SBC leadership, the Intelligentsia class and bloggers as the lynch pin in nearly a half-decade’s worth of apologizing for slavery-based denominational origins in the Convention. Elected in 2011, the Baptist Press reported that Luter’s presidency was a historic moment and turning point, making special note that Luter’s election took place on the anniversary of the date slavery became illegal in the United States.

The Baptist Press ran a story later in August of that year, claiming that Luter’s election “is important evidence that the SBC has departed from the racial exclusion of its past.” The next year, 2012, saw Luter claiming that his election would improve the SBC’s public perception in regards to race. Many agreed with Luter that the election of an African American president in the SBC would greatly improve and speed up the process of racial reconciliation in the Convention, and possibly even seal it.

Earlier this week, Luter is reported as saying in the Baptist Message quite the opposite, however, opining “Race relations are not better since the election of the first African American U. S. president, but the Church can lead in modeling reconciliation.” It is here that Luter also explained he believed the election of President Obama would also have improved race relations.

Baptist leaders have also echoed Luter’s claim that the SBC still needs to work on reconciliation (source link), and Russell Moore has claimed that “white Christians” just don’t understand racial reconciliation (source link). Believing president Obama would bring racial harmony, it appears that it’s not only “white Christians” that don’t understand how to achieve racial reconciliation.

Luter did not explain why he believed the policies, ideology or worldview of Obama would lead to racial harmony, but pointed out that because many Caucasians voted for Obama, it seemed like a sign of improvement. Luter now asserts that neither his nor Obama’s mutual presidencies served to help the cause of racial reconciliation.

And what is my commentary? It is a simple: no kidding. Electing a leader, whether Obama or Luter, partially based upon (among other things) the color of one’s skin does not undue the race problem, but accents it.

As overly simplistic as it may be, we are ever more convinced that racial disharmony is sin, and the solution for racial reconciliation is the Gospel and not the election of a particular ethnicity to positions of leadership.


[Contributed by JD Hall]