from Grace and Truth to You:
Jack Beavers sent me a link to an article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram with a profile on Joel Gregory, former pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas and Southern Baptist Convention celebrity. Joel is now ministering in black churches across America. Toward the end of the article, in explaining the ministry he has in now in black churches, Joel Gregory is quoted as saying:
"To some degree, white evangelicals preach grace. But when it comes to dealing with real-life situations, there's a good deal more judgmentalism and legalism. Black churches not only preach grace, they are willing to take you where you are and if you fall down, really try to help you get up, and not punish you."
Read it all...
I have to say that this fits totally with my experience of Southern Baptist Churches, in large part. It's been a long time, and I learned a lot when I was Southern Baptist. I got a lot of love from a lot of different people, but I heard very contradictory messages about grace and legalism. I heard "grace, grace, grace," and then heard a lists of things to do and not to (some from the pulpit, some at home) if you're really a Christian. Don't drink. Don't smoke. Don't be gay. Don't get divorced unless there's unfaithfulness. Now, most of the rules aren't necessarily bad things, but there wasn't a lot of room for mess up. I mean sometimes the lived reality of it was graceful, but the attitudes about people getting pregnant outside marriage or messed up on drugs were shame/guilt based, even if the person wasn't explicitly excluded.
This not having room for people to be fully welcomed back doesn't encourage people to be real with one another. It encourages behavior modification. Derek Webb says on The House Show
Because, here’s the truth, flattery at its very best will encourage nothing more in you and in your community than behavior modification – modifying your behavior to act the way you should, to hide the things you do that are wrong, and to try to amplify the things you do that are right. But, see, here’s the truth: all the behavior modification in the world will never change your hearts, and it can never change our communities. Jesus however, does change our hearts and he will change our communities. And that is why boldness is called for.
And later, more on grace and legalism in my experience.