The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest protestant denomination, voted to reject racism as well as the “alt-right” political movement during the denomination’s annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday.
The nearly unanimous decision decried “alt-right white supremacy.” It was a move that reportedly came after Southern Baptists took to social media with in a fury, slamming an earlier decision this week not to bring a vote on the measure to the floor.
By Wednesday evening, though, the outrage had escalated and the resolution was brought forward, according to the Baptist Press.
Barrett Duke, head of the resolutions committee, indicated that the original refusal to bring a resolution condemning the alt-right was predicated upon language that was seen as too broad — words that could “potentially implicate” inappropriately and unfairly fold a wider swath of conservatives into the alt-right mix.
Considering that USA Today called the alt-right a “loose movement” with “no formal structure” and said that it has its rooting on the Internet, it’s not surprising that there’s some ongoing confusion surrounding the political ideology.
Political scientist George Hawley of the University of Alabama has studied the movement, describing its members during an interview last year with the Washington Post as follows:
From the people I’ve talked to, I’d say that the modal alt-right person is a male, white millennial; probably has a college degree or is in college; is secular and perhaps atheist and [is] not interested in the conservative movement at all. For six decades now, the mainstream right has really been defined by its basic principles: traditional family values, limited government intervention in the economy and a hawkish foreign policy. The alt-right, from what I can tell, has zero interest in any of that.
Duke later apologized after amended language was passed, saying the committee clearly has disdain for racism, but wanted to tread carefully on the language. Before the eventual passage, the Washington Post reported that some Southern Baptists were in a panic, worrying that the initial refusal and subsequent silence would somehow be seen as support for white supremacism and the alt-right.
This in mind, it’s important to define “alt-right,” a term and movement that garnered increased media attention through the 2016 presidential campaign. Dictionary.com defines it as: “
The new-found resolution specifically names “alt-right white supremacy” as something that is decried as “antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” and also condemns “every form of racism.”
The so-called Alt-Right white supremacist ideologies are anti-Christ and satanic to the core. We should say so. #SBC17
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) June 14, 2017
It also proclaims that racial and ethnic hatred are elements of evil brought about by the devil in order to divide human beings, with the resolution going on to encourage prayer for those who are deceived by engaging in these divisions.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the ethics and policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, supported the measure and passionately spoke out in defense of its passage.
“Southern Baptists were right to speak clearly and definitely that ‘alt-right’ white nationalism is not just a sociological movement but a work of the devil,” he said. “Racism and white supremacy are not merely social issues. Racism and white supremacy attack the gospel itself and the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
— ERLC (@ERLC) June 14, 2017
As CNN noted, this issue is particularly sensitive for the Southern Baptist Convention, which was founded in 1845 when it split with its Baptist brethren who opposed slavery.
It wasn’t until 1995 that the denomination officially apologized for its racist past and support of the institution of slavery.