The bold, brash, "let's see who we can offend" style of preaching continues down at the big church under the leadership of Mac Brunson and Jim Smyrl.
Smyrl has gone after the Catholics and priests calling them a "cult" and "cult leaders", has written that Obama voters have voted themselves out of fellowship, and has called the church to protest the Muslim domes in our city else we'll all "come under Muslim law" very soon. Smryl has even called another baptist church's TV advertisement "blasphemous self promotion".
Sunday night it was time to get the Sunday night crowd to laugh and guffaw at the stereotypes of black and Hispanic worshippers.
First Baptist Church Jacksonville had Dr. Ergun Caner preach unannounced Sunday evening, June 14, 2009. Caner apparently was in town to work with Mac on the next version of their book "Why Churches Die", and he preached at First Baptist Church Fernandina Beach that morning. Caner, a former Muslim, is the President of the Liberty Theological Seminary at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia [corrected].
The content of Caner's sermon on what constitutes worship was excellent. Caner opened his sermon with a discussion of various worship styles, pointing out that worship is about substance, not style. True enough. But in the process of making his point, unbelievably, he attempted to make the FBC Jax faithful laugh by exaggerating stereotypes of black and Hispanic churches and their church members that have nothing to do with either substance OR style:
"The central premise and thesis I want to give you, is 'its not what you say, its to whom you say.' Amen? How many here ever been to a black church? Isn't that somethin'? You worship - that's a different style of worship than First Jacksonville and Thomas Road. Anybody that's ever been to a black church: don't you ever complain to me about gettin' out after 12 noon. [Laughter] I preached in one about six weeks ago and didn't even get in the pulpit until 1! [Laughter] They took up 12 offerings. Apparently they go back in the back and count it and if it isn't enough they gonna take it up again. [Laughter] A different style of worship. Different style of dress….I am aware I am in a pulpit without a tie but I can't find a shirt wide enough to button. Boy, you go to a black church, gentlemen, you ain't just gonna have on a blue suit, your shoes are gonna match your suit, and your handkerchief is going to match your tie, and the whole outfit is going to match your car. It's BEAUTIFUL. [Laughter]
And ladies: when we talk about black church, we're talkin' about hats. And I'm not just talkin' Easter hats as some of you may wear, I'm talkin' 'bout satellite dish hats. [laughter]. Big enough to receive a signal [Laughter], with a curtain rod goin' down the front that you can just pull the curtain across. [Laughter]
How many of you ever been to a Hispanic church? Some kind of worship there. That's whole man worship - body, soul, and spirit. In the middle of the song, you may recognize the hymn, you don't know what they're sayin', but in the middle of a song they'll bust out with a BLEEEEEEYAHHHHHHHH. [Laughter]
Its not the style, it’s the substance."
This is stereotyping that has no place in the pulpit. It seems to me to be born out of arrogance on the part of such speakers, and it plays to the ignorance of the listeners. Would Fred Luter laugh at Caner's remarks? Would Voddie Baucham find that funny? How about other black ministers in our city like R.J. Washington at Titus Harvest Dome Church and Gary Williams at First Baptist Mandarin and Rudolph W. McKissick at Bethel Baptist? Would they be rolling in the aisle laughing at Caner's stereotypes of their churches? Are they counting offerings and taking multiple offerings if they didn't get enough, while their members wear suits that match their shoes that match their CARS and their women have curtain rods on their satellite dish hats?
My wife is Hispanic, and I've been in Hispanic churches and I've never heard them yell out a BLEEEEEYAYAHHHHHHH in a church service...in fact I've never heard anybody in our family yell that, let alone in church. Was Caner talking about Mexicans or Puerto Ricans or Cubans? Maybe Spaniards or Peruvians? I mean really, I thought Caner was next going to talk about fried chicken and watermelons, or tacos and burritos - those stereotypes have just about as little to do with worship styles as do the suits, hats, or cars of worshippers.
I know Caner is a fine man, and meant no harm and was trying to be funny while making an important point about being tolerant of different worship styles - which I fully agree with him on. But his poor attempt at racial humor is a prime example of the problem we have in the Southern Baptist Convention. While our numbers are dwindling and giving is down to missions - we have a PRESIDENT of a seminary telling racial stereotype jokes in one of the SBC's largest churches. This is what makes Southern Baptists look like racist rednecks to anyone that is not already a Southern Baptist.
I wonder if Caner would repeat these jokes in any SBC church he would visit - I seriously doubt it. In fact, that morning at First Baptist Fernandina Beach, Caner delivered the same sermon but very much toned down his "jokes" about black worshippers - and the jokes he did tell had only scant laughter (you can listen to his sermon here). But apparently he knows his audience at FBC Jax, and perhaps he knows what Mac and and Jim have been preaching and what they would tolerate, and felt all too comfortable in getting some belly laughs at First Baptist Church Jacksonville using racial and ethnic stereotypes.
The crowd ate it up, and had a good belly laugh.
Perhaps THAT says more about FBC Jacksonville than it does about Ergun Caner.