An open letter to the pastor of First Baptist Church in Luverne, Alabama. This is a letter to a pastor of a Southern Baptist congregation where some people believe slavery was good. Others believe that Donald Trumps’ adultery is fine and excused as long as abortion is fought. This is a church that is struggling with racism and reveals that parts of the SBC haven’t moved very far from where the denomination was in 1845. Honestly if the Christian faith is represented by people like Jewell Killough, Terry Drew and Sheila Butler then I would rather spend an eternity in hell then be in heaven with them.
“Slaves were valued,” she said. “They got housing. They got fed. They got medical care.”
Sheila Butler on slavery in the Washington Post
“She hates me,” Terry said, sitting in Crum’s office one day. “She has contempt for people like me, and Clay, and people who love God and believe in the Second Amendment. I think if she had her way it would be a dangerous country for the likes of me.”
Terry Drew on Hillary Clinton in the Washington Post
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Matthew 5:16 NLT
Let’s think about what was said in the Washington Post by members of First Baptist Church of Luverne, Alabama
***Clay Crum is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Luverne, Alabama. He originally is from Georgiana, Alabama. Before becoming a pastor at a small SBC church he served as the Director of Mission in the Alabama Baptist Association. When he came to Luverne the local press, the Greeneville Advocate published an article welcoming him. On July 21, 2018 the Washington Post punished an article about life in this small SBC church and how many strongly support Donald Trump. You can read that article in, “Recommended Read: God, Donald Trump, Morality and First Baptist Church in Luverne, Alabama.“***
This is going to be a hard letter to write. I read about your church in the Washington Post earlier this week, I read the article and re-read it a few more times over the next couple of days just processing it. I was amazed and baffled. I read about your congregation to include Jewell Killough, Brett and Misty Green, Jack and Linda Jones, Terry Drew, and Sheila Butler. I read what they said and was shocked. If what the newspaper published is true, and I believe it is; well then I feel sick. Let me write about each person and offer some pushback. And then I will tie up this letter in the end and write about yourself.
Clay early on in the article I read about Jewell Killough who helps run the Alabama Crenshaw Baptist Association’s food pantry. In the article she is quoted as saying that God is using Donald Trump and that he is part of God’s agenda for the United States. Jewell also states that “liberals” are trying to frame Trump. Let me ask this, does your church believe in personal responsibility? Do you believe in personal ownership for sin? So why should Donald Trump be exempt from that? I guess that this explains why evangelicals in Alabama rallied around an alleged child molester last year. I wrote about this in, “The United States Senate Race in Alabama and the Culture Wars; Plus the Issues Dogging Roy Moore and the Problem of Evangelical Christians Embracing an Alleged Child Molester.” Your church has such a warped definition of sin that I must ask do you know what sin is? According to what Jewell said no one will be responsible for any of their actions or there is a way to explain them away in the end. In the end what Jewell is arguing for is ultimately undermining First Baptist Luverne. Why should anyone who has an affair in the church be dealt with or held responsible? All he has to do is say, “Well Trump is doing this…” I don’t view things as liberal or conservative, I view them in the context of truth. Since when does adultery or sexual assault become partisan? Also here is another question I have for you. When did God enter into a covenant with the government of the United States like he did with the state of Israel? He did not, and to believe so is foolish. What it ultimately shows is that Jewell doesn’t know her Bible or theology and that she is ignorant.
Next I read about Brett and Misty Green. I think the Greens are good people and for the most part I like what they say. Yes Jesus came from a shithole. Yes we should care for the least of these and those who are handicapped, disabled, have learning disabilities and more. I liked what was said. But here is what troubles me. Christians are to call out people when they are wrong. Let’s be honest. Franklin Graham, James Dobson and Robert Jeffres judge all the time. Every day they judge, all you have to do is look at their Twitter feed. So why would people in your congregation give James Dobson and Franklin Graham a pass when they judge people? You are supposed to be as wise as serpents and harmless as a dove. To be as wise as a serpent calls on people to practice discernment and critical thinking skills. Think of what the Bereans did in Acts. They stopped and studied the scripture. Isn’t it time your congregation do the same thing? But of all the people in First Baptist I have the most hope for the Greens and hope they develop.
Then I read about Jack Jones and his wife Linda. Their explanation of Donald Trump is that everyone cheats and that our Founding Fathers did and so that is fine. This is how it was quoted in the Washington Post. “George Washington had a mistress, Thomas Jefferson did, too. Roosevelt had a mistress with him when he died. Eisenhower. Kennedy.” I read this and just shook my head. What was said in the article about George Washington is false. Washington’s relationship with Sally Fairfax happened before his marriage to Martha Custis in 1759. It was Martha’s second marriage after her first husband died after a marriage that lasted seven years. Now let’s look at Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson had a child through a slave named Sally Hemmings. And Sally wasn’t his mistress, as a slave she was owned by Thomas Jefferson. She was property and had no rights. That information is factually untrue. The Monticello acknowledges Sally Hemmings today. FDR did have affairs, yes that is true. When he died in Warm Springs, Georgia in 1945 his mistress Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd saw him that day. As for Dwight Eisenhower his relationship with Kay Summersby is debated by historians. Some believe he did, and others believe he didn’t. Some believe he had an emotional affair and not a physical one with his driver in the UK during WW II. I will say this, can you imagine after defeating Nazi, Germany in WW II Ike turning around and saying that the Nazis were “very fine people?” John F. Kennedy yes he had an affair with Marilyn Monroe that came about after she sang “Happy Birthday” in 1962. I agree with you there. The only other example I can think of is Bill Clinton who did have several affairs. But to my knowledge Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, either Bush or Obama never did have an affair. Clay it sounds like some of the people in your congregation need a history lesson. Also and for what Linda said about abortion. There is more to being pro-life than being opposed to abortion. Its pro-life to help those who are refugees. Its pro life to help those who grow up and get them the education they need to function. You can be anti-abortion and not be pro-life. And it begs the question, when it comes forward that Donald Trump has paid for an abortion what are you going to do? Ignore it and rationalize it?
Terry Drew, a deacon at First Baptist Church rationalized the behavior of Donald Trump saying “it could be much worse.” He also claimed that Hilary Clinton was “of satan” and had faith in the second amendment. When is the Christian faith about gun ownership? Did Jesus suffer and die on Calvary for the right to own a shotgun? I am not opposed to guns and wrote about that issue in, “Liberty University Opens a “State-of-the-Art” Gun Range. Given how some Evangelicals can be Intensely Paranoid Could a Waco or Ruby Ridge Situation Develop One Day in Lynchburg, Virginia?” And as for Hillary Clinton being “of Satan” how do you know that? Did Hillary actually say that Terry is from Satan? It seems Clay is if your deacon is living in an alternative reality. What is fact and what is true? What would happen if Terry’s doctor told him he had cancer should that fact be dismissed? What about a bill from Alabama Power? How do you know the bill is a fact? How do you know its not “fake news?” What is even more distressing is that Terry I believe rejects Jesus in his attitude. Here is why, Jesus talked about pursuing truth and how he is the way and the truth and the life. To know Jesus is to know truth and that includes facts in life. If a person is going to follow Jesus they need to follow the truth. You have to deal with the facts on hand, it’s that simple.
The last person I read about in the Washington Post Clay is that of Sheila Butler. Sheila teaches Sunday School at First Baptist Church in Luverne. In the Post article Sheila believes that Obama is a Muslim and that he carried around a Koran. The least of these only applies to Americans. Also slavery appears to be good as slaves were valued, got housing, were fed, and got medical care. Sheila also fear memorials for lynching victims as that can incite blacks. Plus she is also upset about the removal of Confederate monuments. Then she closed out by talking about how they have to fight for her faith and die as well.
Clay I read Sheila’s part several times. What she says took me back, especially the part about slavery. I sat on that for several days just staggered to read that in July of 2018. But I am getting ahead of myself let me address these issues one at a time. First of all the concept that Barrack Obama is a Muslim is a lie. That is not true, and I would propose that it is a sin to believe falsehoods like that claim. He did not advocate for Islam. That is an outright lie. The “least of these” is not just through the lens of American nationalism. I would propose that if this is what First Baptist believes then they should stop any missionary activity in any third world country. To do missionary work in the “shitholes” of Haiti, Nicaragua, Chad, Uganda, Liberia or elsewhere is counterproductive. Why would you even consider missionary work in such a country and then reject people in other forms? Let me also ask one thing Clay. Do you guys in Alabama know that the Civil War is over? Do you know that the south lost the Civil War? I ask this based off the way Sheila acted in the Washington Post. If you want to read more about Confederate monuments you can do so in, “Why Racism is a Sin, and Why Confederate Monuments in the United States Need to be Removed.” That article that I wrote also looks at why racism is a sin.
The most troubling information that I read in the paper Clay is what was said about slavery. Slavery was evil and it led to a war that tore this country apart. We have never fully recovered from it. Have you read a lot of history? Can I suggest your congregation read up on a slave auction? Read up on life in a plantation. Read about how slaves were raped and sexually abused. Read about the life of from sun up to sun down. Read about Nat Turner’s rebellion and how whites lived in fear of slaves because THEY knew it was wrong. And Clay I can’t believe I am writing about this issue in the year 2018. But you know what also stuns me Clay? Its the following. The Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845 over the issue of slavery. They believed that slavery in the south was Biblical. You can read about the history of the SBC in, “An Open Letter to Russell Moore” So here we are in 2018, nearly 173 years later and your denomination is still arguing over slavery being good. 620,000 people died in the Civil War, you had Jim Crow and more and within your church people are still justifying and defending slavery. Good God! And this from a Sunday School teacher? As they say in the military, “Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot.” I am stunned that almost two centuries later your church hasn’t moved very far from where things were in 1845. If I were a pastor I would weep. I would cry to hear that. This is your congregation. Your flock!
This article isn’t persecution, This is your church suffering from the sin of racism. If you believe this is persecution than that is warped. To those suffering in North Korea, Syria, Saudi Arabia, China and elsewhere that is just a slap in the face. In North Korea people have practiced cannibalism to survive. They are also re-eating their own feces to survive in concentration camps. Now that is persecution, And nothing, just nothing even remotely close happens like that in Alabama. That is not happening in the United States. That is insulting to those who are suffering in such a way. I wrote about the topic of Christian persecution in, “The Youth Group of Hydesville Community Church in Hydesville, California Shows God’s Not Dead 2. A Frank Discussion on White Evangelicals Warped View of Persecution.”
Now as I wind this down let me tie this back to you Clay. Your church made me embarrassed, just absolutely embarrassed to be a Christian. I am on the edge with one foot in, and one foot out. I wrote about a lot of issues in evangelicalism here at The Wondering Eagle. I often writes about the issues of Neo-Calvinism. But I will say this, if churches like yours are what is being taught and practiced in other evangelical churches then I am not opposed to your church being theologically flipped and becoming Neo-Calvinist. We shouldn’t be discussing slavery in the year 2018. I am just staggered. So please if this is who your church is close it. Shut it down. If going to heaven means being around people like Sheila Butler, Terry Drew and Jewell Killough then honestly I would rather spend an eternity in hell. There is nothing in your faith that makes it attractive and that blesses humanity and the community. So by all means close down First Baptist Church and turn it into a parking lot. If you want to honor the Lord, that is the best way that can be done. I will also offer this to you and members from your congregation. I would be more than happy to walk through the Smithsonian Museum of the African-American to learn about black history and slavery with you. I would also be willing to walk through the National Holocaust Memorial Museum and learn about antisemitism with you. I hope this letter is passed around the congregation of First Baptist Church of Luverne and I hope it gives people a lot to think about. I am beyond embarrassed by what I read, and its clear that people in your congregation do not know what faith is. The beatitudes are lost. Caring for the least of these is also. In its place has risen a faith that is centered around white nationalism and racism. That is something I would hamg my head in shame. But if that is going to be who you guys are then by all means please, close your church and let it go into the dustbin of history. That is my plea to you.