Southern Baptists Won’t Renounce the so‑called “Curse of Ham”:
Sanctifying Slavery Then…
White Supremacy Now

June 23, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


Going into the national convention of the Southern Baptists (SBC) last week, Dwight McKissic, a prominent Black pastor in Texas, drafted a resolution condemning “White Nationalism” and the “Alt-Right” as “totalitarian impulses, xenophobic biases, and bigoted ideologies that infect the minds and actions of its violent disciples…”

Significantly, McKissic’s resolution also stated: “[T]he roots of White Supremacy within a ‘Christian context’ is based on the so-called ‘curse of Ham’ theory once prominently taught by the SBC in the early years—echoing the belief that God through Noah ordained descendants of Africa to be subservient to Anglos—which provided the theological justification for slavery and segregation. The SBC officially renounces the ‘curse of Ham’ theory in this Resolution.”

The Southern Baptist Convention was explicitly formed in 1845 to uphold slavery. In recent decades, the Southern Baptists have moved to change their image, take formal positions against racism, and distance themselves from their slave-upholding roots. Today, a fifth of the membership of the SBC is African-American, and non-whites are the fastest growing section of their membership. In the midst of the national uproar over the Confederate Flag—after the massacre by a white supremacist of Black people in Bible study in a South Carolina church in 2015—the SBC urged Christians not to fly the Confederate flag. At the same time, Southern Baptists are home to a big chunk of Donald Trump’s white supremacist, fascist hardcore base. Statements by some SBC officials that were taken as critical of Trump aroused the ire of powerful forces in the SBC.

When word got out that the SBC leadership planned to squash McKissic’s resolution—never bring it to a vote—“all hell broke loose” in the words of one commentator. Thabiti Anyabwile, a Black Southern Baptist pastor, tweeted: “We must be clear: We live in a time when equivocating on these matters furthers the sin of racism even to violence and death. Any ‘church’ that cannot denounce white supremacy without hesitancy and equivocation is a dead, Jesus denying assembly. No 2 ways about it. … I’m done. With this Twitter spiel. With ‘evangelicalism.’ With all the racist and indifferent nonsense that passes as ‘Christian.’” Other pastors, including at least one white pastor from an integrated church, posted statements of outrage.

Further exposing the stakes, neo-Nazi white supremacist Richard Spencer tweeted: “So apparently the Southern Baptists Convention *didn't* denounce the Alt-Right after all. Interesting development!”

The controversy spiraled within the ranks of the SBC, threatening to get out of control. At the last moment, SBC officials felt compelled to come up with their own resolution. Their resolution adopted some of McKissic’s wording opposing white supremacy and the alt-right. But it gutted the sharper edges of the indictment that explicitly called out “totalitarian impulses, xenophobic biases, and bigoted ideologies...” Most significantly, it stripped out the denunciation of the “curse of Ham.”

The SBC leadership’s resolution passed unanimously. But the fissures the whole controversy exposed reflect profound divides that are coming to a head, sharply, in every corner of society as the Trump/Pence regime moves to impose—in the words of the Call from Refuse Fascism— “their vision and plan for a nation cohered around white supremacy and a political form of Christian fundamentalism, that should rightly be called Christian Fascism.”

The racist “Curse of Ham” madness “sanctified” slavery then, and remains an ideological pillar of white supremacy now. With a fascist president of the United States, when the stakes are indeed “violence and death,” the Southern Baptist leadership refused to renounce it.


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