The Southern Baptist Convention elected its first African-American president on Tuesday, a mere 17 years after it got around to apologizing for its past support of slavery. (Can’t be too hasty in these matters, you know.)
Fred Luter, a former New Orleans street preacher and a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, has a galvanizing style that the Baptists clearly hope will help reverse five years of membership decline.
It’s also a clever move in the Southern Baptists’ fight against the LGBT community: Although the organization is predominantly white, having a black president will bolster the group’s argument that gay rights are not civil rights. And Luter, 55, can serve as a counterbalance to President Obama by encouraging socially conservative African-Americans to back marriage-equality bans.
It’s a kind of modified version of the National Organization for Marriage’s strategy. NOM hoped to drive a wedge between blacks and gays by forcing gays to out themselves as racists. “Find, equip, energize and connect African-American spokespeople for [traditional] marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay-marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots,” NOM rather idiotically said in a paper leaked earlier this year.
Except for the provocation (well, maybe), that looks a lot like the Southern Baptists’ strategy. In fact, Luter did his part by lumping gays in with racists and sexual predators in his acceptance speech:
“Only the Word of God can change the heart of a racist; only the Word of God can change the desire of a child molester. The Word of God can change the lifestyle of a homosexual. The Word of God is the only hope for America today.”
Needless to say, Luter had the crowd on its feet, cheering. It’s the same sermon, just a different preacher.