Aidsand Wright-Riggins expected some sort of emotional response years ago as a religious-studies major in college when he illustrated a presentation on race and religion by tearing up an Ebony magazine portrayal of Jesus as an African-American.

His audience sat puzzled as he discussed the notion of a “black messiah” while destroying the image that meant so much to him as a young black man. He then pulled out the traditional blue-eyed and blond white Jesus. Before he tore the first quarter-inch of that picture, he was physically attacked and shoved into a wall.

“People began to haul off on me for attacking their Jesus,” Wright-Riggins says in new video resource produced by the Baptist Center for Ethics. Now head of National Ministries for the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., Wright-Riggins is one of several black, white and brown Baptist leaders featured in “Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism,” due for release Oct. 1.

“Beneath the Skin,” the fifth educational DVD produced by the Nashville, Tenn.,-based BCE since 2006, says racism is far from eradicated either inside or outside of the church, but it shows how many Baptists are working together to break down dividing walls of race and ethnicity.

It examines both past mistakes–like the role of white Christians in trans-Atlantic slave trade and during segregation–and current and future issues like immigration in light of the Bible’s moral vision.

Interviewees come from nearly a dozen states and represent the best in Baptist life. They include:
–Laura Cadena, a Baptist minister in Atlanta.
–Will Campbell, a Baptist preacher, author and activist in Mt. Juliet, Tenn.
–Miguel A. De La Torre, associate professor of social ethics at Iliff School of Theology in Denver.
–Javier Elizondo, executive vice president and provost at Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio, Texas.
–Fitz Hill, president of Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, Ark.
–Jim Hill, executive director of Baptist General Convention of Missouri in Columbia, Mo.
–Emmanuel McCall, pastor at The Fellowship Group in East Point, Ga.
–Yana Pagan, associate pastor at Upper Merion Baptist Church in King of Prussia, Pa.
–Joseph Phelps, pastor at Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.
–James Stallings, regional minister for Metropolitan Churches of New York in New York City.
–Alan Stanford, general secretary of the North American Baptist Fellowship in Falls Church, Va.
–Douglas Stowers, pastor at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Atlanta.
–Marilyn Turner, associate executive director of ABC/USA National Ministries in Valley Forge, Pa.
–Wayne Ward, retired theology professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Funding for the DVD was provided by The Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation; Christian Mission Concerns; National Ministries, American Baptist Churches, U.S.A.; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; Baptist World Alliance; Baptist General Convention of Texas; Baptist General Convention of Missouri; First Baptist Church, Auburn, Ala.; Smoke Rise Baptist Church, Stone Mountain, Ga.; First Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn.; First Baptist Church, Savannah, Ga.; Faith Baptist Church, Georgetown, Ky.; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Alabama; and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Arkansas

The DVD is available in both a 47-minute version designed for use in Bible study classroom settings over a four-week period and a 35-minute edition for use in public screenings along with a panel discussion. Each version has four main chapters: “Racism Defined,” “Opening the Bible,” “Encoded Racism” and “Five Ways Forward.”

Four extra feature also on the DVD are titled “Remembering Henlee Barnette,” “Will Campbell on Racism,” “Church Segregation” and “Family Influence.”

The cost of the DVD is $25 for individuals and churches and $100 for libraries and academic institutions. Both include rights for public viewing. Each DVD comes with a pass code for downloading a free study guide.

For a limited time (Sept. 16-23), those pre-ordering “Beneath the Skin” will also receive a copy of, “Good Will for the Common Good: Nurturing Baptists Relationships With Jews,” a DVD released early this year, free of charge.

Bob Allen is managing editor of

Also see:
Former Coach, Now College President, Fights Racial Disparity in College Sports

Integrating Churches Easier Said Than Done

Power, Not Prejudice, Keeps Churches Segregated, Author Will Campbell Says

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