Whether one agrees or disagrees with the Sanford, Fla., police department’s handling of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, what moral good is advanced by a Southern Baptist Convention official accusing black leaders of being “race hustlers” and President Obama of pouring “gasoline on the racialist fires”?
The answer, of course, is none. No moral good is advanced.

The only thing accomplished is the feeding of the deep-seated resentment toward people of color held by some white Southern Baptists.

Yet Richard Land, the SBC’s public policy official, made reckless statements on his radio show, stoking the fires of anger toward people of color, the media and the administration.

His statements were so egregious that the Tennessean put the word “rant” in its online story headline.

Referring to the Trayvon Martin case, Land said, “This will be vetted in court, not in a mob mentality that’s been juiced up by Al Sharpton, who is a provocateur and a racial ambulance chaser of the first order, and aided and abetted by Jesse Jackson.”

Land said the Trayvon rallies were being held “to gin up the black vote for an African-American president who is in deep, deep, deep trouble for re-election and who knows that he cannot win re-election without getting the 95 percent of blacks who voted for him in 2008 to come back out and show they are going to vote for him again. Polls show that many blacks have become demoralized under the Obama economy because they are the ones who have suffered the most from his economic failures.”

Since Land pitches himself as an advocate of better race relations, one wonders how he defines better relations given his rant against black leaders and the president.

Does he want the Southern Baptist denomination to abandon its long-standing prejudice against people of color without having to abandon the long-standing white resentment to sharing political power with people of color in the public square?

Saying “we” welcome black people to join our denomination and inviting them to pray and sing at the annual meeting but wanting them to stay quiet and out of public office hardly advances better race relations.

But even the SBC’s membership welcome mat is being reconsidered.

“At no time have I been embarrassed of being a Southern Baptist or a black Southern Baptist,” said Maxie Miller, an African-American official with the Florida Baptist Convention. “But I’m embarrassed because of the words that man has stated,” referring to Land.

Miller told the Tennessean, “I think the convention is doing a great job with diversity…but Land’s comments definitely will make my work harder – encouraging African-Americans to be a part of Southern Baptist Convention life.”

White Southern Baptist leaders offered no immediate public reaction to Land’s inflammatory remarks.

An equally troubling aspect of this charged episode is Land’s apparent flip-flop.

In a March 28 Baptist Press news story, Land was reasonable, compared to his radio rant. The story said Land had expressed surprise that the shooter was still at large with his gun and that the situation was sad.

“We need to encourage the authorities to do a thorough investigation and make certain that justice is done,” he said. “[W]e sadly in this country have a history where…oftentimes when the victims were black, there was not justice.”

Why the flip-flop from reason to rant?

Perhaps Land ought to remember Proverbs 15:1-2 before he rants on the radio: “[A]n offensive word stirs up anger” (Common English Bible).

RobertParham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friendhim on Facebook.

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