I had a post on limited atonement lined up for today, but a controversy hit my school recently and I wanted to address it.
Social Media Fail
Yesterday, I bought Dr. David Allen’s The Extent of the Atonement for Kindle and scanned through some of it. I wholeheartedly encourage the reader to buy it also for a measly $10 (though the physical version is like $40). Little did I know that later that night, Dr. Allen would be apologizing for something outside the scholarly world. He and some professors posted this picture on Twitter:
Lol, wow. Predictably, cries of racism flew around the internet, both from within and without Southern Baptists, and the pictures were taken down. Everyone involved apologized. Dr. Patterson, the school’s president, also wrote a lengthy apology. Dr. Allen in particular gave an apology without qualification and said that “context is immaterial” for their joke picture.
And here is where I would disagree with Dr. Allen, though I understand his wish to give an unconditional apology. Context is not immaterial. We should always, always, look at context and also give charitable interpretations, even if we do still end up disagreeing with someone’s words or actions.
This picture was apparently given to a preaching professor here who recently got a job at a church and was therefore moving on. Dr. Vern Charette evidently raps as a hobby and even had a section where he rapped in a chapel sermon, so some professors thought they would give him a silly picture as a going-away gift. With this context in mind, does it make it wise to post a joke photo like that, knowing that the entire internet is not going to immediately know the context? No, it doesn’t. I’m actually very surprised none of those men thought, “Hey, this can easily get misinterpreted, so let’s either not do this in the first place or at least just keep it as a private joke among friends who know our intent and the context.” Given our hyper-sensitive culture these days, where even stating bare facts like “There’s a very high rate of single-motherhood in the black community” can draw accusations of racism, it was foolish to post that online. That’s not to excuse our hyper-sensitive culture, but surely a joke like that is not worth the controversy and potential damage to the witness of the professors as well as that of the seminary. It also does not help that the Southern Baptist Convention started on the wrong side of American slavery back in the 19th century and had to repent of that many years ago.