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Josh Duggar's father-in-law delivered a racist sermon praising Christian slaveowners
Preacher Mike Keller claimed, falsely, that enslaved people turned to Jesus in lieu of protesting
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On Sunday, during a guest sermon at Fairpark Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, missionary Mike Keller delivered a sermon that has since gone viral for all the wrong reasons.
That’s partly because of who he is.
One of Keller’s (many) children is Anna, a.k.a. Anna Duggar, a.k.a. the wife of Joshua Duggar, the guy who sexually abused his own sisters and is currently in jail for downloading illicit content involving kids. Another one of Keller’s (many) children is Priscilla, a.k.a. the wife of David Waller, who happens to be the pastor of Fairpark Baptist Church (and urged a judge to let Josh go free). Keller himself evangelizes in Florida prisons and there were clips of him doing just that on the Duggars’ TLC show.
(These people all run in the same circles.)
The other reason the sermon went viral is because of what Keller said.
While the sermon’s topic was all about overcoming “spiritual warfare,” he went on a brief tangent to talk about slavery. That’s when things predictably went off the rails.
Keller was talking about how to change America for the better. He said protesting wasn’t the way to do it—citing the events of January 6, which he indirectly claimed was a “trap.” Instead, Keller insisted, we just needed more Jesus.
You can hear the clip around the 26:31 mark in the video below (which I’ve saved a copy of because you just KNOW this is coming down any minute now).
(***UPDATE***: Well, well, well, it looks like the video was made private. Don’t you worry. Here’s a copy of the full sermon for you and you and you. I’ve also posted a tweet with the clip.)
… 150 years ago, or 200 years ago, when the Blacks were slaves, did they ever go to Washington, D.C. and have a rally 200 years ago to protest against slavery? Did they? No.
What did they do? Well, a lot of good people in the plantations would say, "Hey, it's wintertime! Let us help build a church for you dear folks."
And they loved them and taught ‘em how to read so they could read the Bible. And here's what the Blacks did about 150 years ago: They humbled themselves. They prayed. They saw God's face and they turned from their wicked ways, and God made slavery illegal through several white presidents, right? It worked, didn't it? They didn't protest.
Maybe there's a place for protests. I don't know. But there's sometimes… it’s… That was a wise pastor that warned his flock [that January 6 was a “trap”].
Nothing like getting a history sermon from a guy who refers to many slave owners as “good people in the plantations”…
But to state the obvious, yes, enslaved people protested! They did it all the time! They didn’t just sit around and accept their fate. There were uprisings and rebellions and abolitionists and a freaking Underground Railroad and legal challenges. Those protests came with incredible risks and the punishments were often fierce if not fatal. (Also, even if they wanted to attend an anti-slavery protest in D.C., how they hell were they supposed to do it? By asking for a day off?!)
Jesus may have provided solace for many enslaved people, but they sure as hell didn’t sit and wait around for God to rescue them.
By the way, it never seems to occur to Keller that, in his own revisionist history, Bible-believing Christians were also slaveowners. That fact is apparently trumped by the idea that they converted the people who involuntarily worked for them.
Also, who says “the Blacks”?!
While some enslaved people were taught to read for the purpose of reading the Bible, that was the exception and not the rule. And as Mark Frauenfelder writes at Boing Boing, “The purpose of the church in the plantation context was often to pacify enslaved individuals with religious teachings that emphasized obedience.” Anti-literacy laws were commonplace in most slave states. Among enslaved people, learning to read often occurred in secret because being openly literate could be seen as a liability.
Also, what “wicked ways” were the enslaved people turning from?! I thought that was just a misstatement, but I’ve read the sentence multiple times, and I don’t see how he could be talking about anyone else.
Finally, to give God credit for ending slavery “through several white presidents”—when most of those presidents were slave owners themselves or supported the institution of slavery—without blaming God for allowing the tragedy of slavery to occur in the first place is just willful ignorance.
Slavery didn’t end because Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation out of nowhere. (That’s worth noting in part because this sermon was delivered in Texas less than a week after Juneteenth.) Slavery ended as the result of activists, protesters, economic forces, political shifts, and a Civil War, among other factors. And while some Christians fought as abolitionists and deserve credit for that, others used the Bible to justify slavery. It took another century before the Civil Rights Act was signed and even that came after decades of segregation and redlining and massacres. Systemic racism obviously exists in our society to this very day. (As I write this, the Supreme Court is on the verge of ending affirmative action in college admissions.)
Prayer and the Bible didn’t end slavery. Neither did benevolent slaveowners (an oxymoron if ever there was one).
Mike Keller doesn’t know his history. He’s perpetuating misinformation and downplaying slavery, guided by the false notion that the Bible is always used for good. It’s no wonder that this clip has been circulating online as further proof of how conservative Christians distort history in their favor.
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Perhaps the most surprising thing about the sermon is that Keller wasn’t standing in front of a Confederate flag since he was echoing all their talking points.
This kind of Christian ignorance is also a reminder of why conservatives these days are going all in on book banning while attacking public schools. It’s also why Keller’s “righteous God-fearing” state of Florida is led by someone who picked a fight over AP African American Studies. The more educated people become about the true history of our country, the faster they’ll realize how much bullshit people like Mike Keller are spreading.
It’s not any better when you zoom out either. Keller is urging the audience not to protest but to put their faith in God. While that’s a standard conservative Christian message, it’s also one that exvangelicals and former fundies have been condemning for years because that mentality has allowed physical and emotional abuse to thrive in their homes and churches.
You would think someone related to the Duggars would realize the power of speaking out against injustice instead of silently praying for things to get better. Maybe Keller should watch the Amazon Duggar docuseries. It’s not like he’s spending his time reading history books.
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