In inside-the-Beltway speak, by releasing an extensive report on its racist past, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., decided to “hang a lantern” on its problem. (It’s a term that readers of Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” will understand.)
In other words, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s oldest educational institution, wanted part of the story to be about how blunt and candid the seminary was in acknowledging its historic sins.
The basic point is that when something is really bad, you want to be the person who tells the public that it's really bad.
Mohler did that Wednesday in releasing a report that has drawn — and rightly so — extensive national media coverage.
The lede from the New York Times:
The first and oldest educational institution of the Southern Baptist Convention disclosed in a report Wednesday that its four founders together owned more than 50 slaves, part of a reckoning over racism in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.
The 71-page report released by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is a recitation of decades of bigotry, directed first at African slaves and later at African-Americans. Beginning with the founding of the seminary in Greenville, S.C., in 1859, the report found that the school, with few exceptions, backed a white supremacist ideology.
“The moral burden of history requires a more direct and far more candid acknowledgment of the legacy of this school in the horrifying realities of American slavery, Jim Crow segregation, racism, and even the avowal of white racial supremacy,” wrote R. Albert Mohler Jr., the president of the seminary, which is now in Louisville, Ky.
Over at the American Conservative, blogger Rod Dreher praised Mohler for the release of the report:
I have an immense amount of respect for Albert Mohler and the institution he leads, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, for having commissioned a hard-hitting report looking into the seminary’s racist past. This is a profoundly Christian act of historical reflection and repentance. Read the report and Mohler’s cover letter here.
But the Times’ coverage — like that of most other mainstream news reports that I saw — lacked any mention of the theological angle.