'This movement is evil.' Southern Baptist leader warns off white supremacists on eve of march


The leader of one of America’s most conservative religious traditions gave a powerful and unflinching condemnation of racism ahead of a white supremacist march in Tennessee.

White supremacists are still on the march even as the nation struggles to heal from the wounds inflicted in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August.

The League of the South, a white nationalist group, is planning a pair of so-called "White Lives Matter" rallies in Tennessee, in the cities of Murfreesboro and Shelbyville. Police are already increasing security for fear of more deadly violence.

But religious leaders from all faiths and all across the state are speaking up, including Randy Davis, leader of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and representative of 3,200 Southern Baptist churches in the state.

Davis condemned white supremacy as "Satanic," and accompanied by fellow church leaders representing all races and ethnicities, gave a fiery denouncement of race-based hatred.

"This bigotry has no place in our American society and certainly has no place in the life of anyone who is a follower of Christ," Davis declared.

"This movement is evil. It is contrary to everything we are called to be as followers of Christ."

The Southern Baptist church is traditionally one of the most conservative mainstream faiths in the United States. In fact, the Southern Baptists originally split off from other Baptist churches in 1845 out of opposition to the abolition of slavery.

But in recent years, many Southern Baptist leaders have made strides towards social progress. The church passed a resolution formally condemning white supremacy in response to increasing incidents of violence and hatred.

Indeed, Davis is not the only local Southern Baptist leader to speak out. Russell Moore, who heads the faith’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, penned an emphatic op-ed in the Tennessean, in which he also called out the evil inherent in white supremacist ideology.

"The church must oppose this by, first, knowing that it will not go away on its own," Moore wrote. "White supremacy is not just backward but devilish."

Donald Trump has repeatedly ducked out of condemning white nationalism, even appallingly insisting that there are some "very fine people" among groups of rioting neo-Nazis.

But conservative faith leaders have no problem denouncing these movements for what they truly are.

Americans, black and white, liberal and conservative, are not by their nature hateful people. And in times like these, faced with the toxic bigotry of white nationalism, the better impulses of the many can drown out the violent prejudice of others.