A prominent Southern Baptist leader often engages in personal insults and character assassination in sermons, interviews and radio programs instead of merely explaining his disagreement on the issues, according to an analysis of his comments by EthicsDaily.com.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, recently made headlines for using a Yiddish slur during an address at Criswell College to attack Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is Jewish. In the same speech Land implied that Sen. Hillary Clinton is a witch.
Land issued a statement to explain his “careless language.” He apologized for “ignorance” about the origins of the word “schmuck” and claimed he “always attempt[s] to avoid crude and offensive language as a matter of conviction.”
Although Land asserted that he would not have knowingly used a Yiddish slur to describe a Jewish senator, he unashamedly admitted that he was trying to call Schumer a “jerk” and making fun of his name. Land also offered no apology or clarification of his remarks about Clinton “parking her broom.”
A closer examination of recent comments made by Land in chapel speeches, interviews and radio broadcasts reveals a pattern of name calling by the SBC’s leader for ethics. Some of these remarks even mocked the faith of Christian public officials.
EthicsDaily.com reported earlier this month that during the March 1 broadcast of the “Richard Land Live” radio program, Land mocked Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore and environmentalists when he claimed that “spotted Al Gore” was wrong about climate change. Land dismissed Gore’s claims as “pure quackery” and claimed that whenever he sees Gore speak he hears in the background, “Quack, quack, quack.” Land’s claims were based on a report about global cooling that has since been corrected.
While discussing embryonic stem-cell research during the Jan. 29 broadcast of the “Jerry Johnson Live” radio program, Land attacked Ron Reagan as “a mindless puppet” and a “moral pickney”–a Jamaican term for child. Reagan, son of the late president Ronald Reagan, supports embryonic stem-cell research in part because he watched his father die from Alzheimer’s. Land said the younger Reagan was “as good of an argument as I know for why we don’t have hereditary monarchies.”
During the March 1 broadcast of “Richard Land Live,” he criticized unnamed university professors for their economic and political philosophies. He dismissed “tenured professors sipping tea” for living “in la-la-land” and claimed they “never had to really earn a living.”
In the March 15 episode of his radio program, Land described Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz as “pathetic and arrogant and clueless” for defending New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer.
In a Feb, 18 Newsweek article, Land predicted that evangelicals would vote for Republican John McCain over Hillary Clinton, because they did not want “the added pain of Bubba back in the White House.” Although the term “Bubba” is sometimes used within Southern families as a term of endearment, it is also often used pejoratively to mock individuals as poor and uneducated. Critics of Clinton have long used the term “Bubba” as an insult.
During the Feb. 16 broadcast of “Richard Land Live,” Land clearly used the term “Bubba” as an insult as he also mocked Clinton with an imitation of Clinton’s voice. He also used the term to mock Clinton during the March 15 episode.
The “Bubba” label is not Land’s only attempt to castigate the former president. During the Jan. 29 broadcast of the “Jerry Johnson Live” radio program, Land said Clinton’s presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., looked not like a bridge to the 21st century but more like “a double-wide trailer hanging over a riverbank.”
In the Criswell lecture the next day, Land called Clinton “a judgment of God upon the United States” and mocked deacons who were upset when he made that claim in a sermon. Land claimed he called the deacons “political hookers” for saying they would vote for Clinton again. He reiterated his belief that Clinton had been part of “God’s judgment on America” during the March 15 broadcast of “Richard Land Live.”
Land also mocked Clinton’s marriage during the Feb.23 broadcast of “Richard Land Live.” He literally laughed gleefully and suggested it was not a real marriage.
Land has also mocked the faith other Christians. During his Jan. 30 lecture at Criswell College, Land called former President Jimmy Carter “mealy mouth” and “a phony.” He also made fun of Carter’s claim that he is born again.
During his March 15 broadcast, Land attacked Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s controversial former pastor, as a “racist nut.” Land said he would not want “that pastor to be advising me or anyone I knew about anything” and that “I don’t see anything pastoral about Brother Wright.”
During the Feb. 6 broadcast of “For Faith & Family,” Land dismissed the 2006 Evangelical Climate Initiative as “Al Gore at prayer.”
Land went on to attack Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union and People For the American Way as “liberal democrats at prayer or–maybe that’s a little too harsh–maybe they’re just at meditation.”
During the same episode, Land inaccurately claimed that the membership of all of the groups involved with the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant was declining or stagnant.
In Land’s 2007 book The Divided States of America?, he criticized the “needlessly strident” political rhetoric that has “generated plenty of heat and hot air.” He argued the “most thoughtful” people walk away from these “nasty shouting matches.”
Land has mentioned his book in several of the sermons, interviews and radio broadcasts since then that include what some might critique as “needlessly strident” personal attacks that add to those very “nasty shouting matches.”
Brian Kaylor is communications specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.
Brian Kaylor is editor and president of Word&Way, associate director of Churchnet, and a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com.