By Mahan Siler
I pulled up my email message, checked on Alliance, only to see the bold declaration coming toward me on the screen — Excavate the Alliance! Then I scrolled down the article reading “re-visit our founding and wrestle with the white supremacist structures upon which we now stand . . .[a] work of unearthing our history and reckoning with our roots.”
I felt a blow to my gut. My nervous system lit up, on alert, ready to defend. After all, I was a part of the “founding” to be re-visited. I was one of the fifteen or so who envisioned an alternative for Southern Baptists in 1987. The dictionary soothed me not at all. It defined “excavation” as “to dig out and remove” and “digging away a covering.”
I took a deep breath. No, I took many deep breaths. Then the counter message surfaced. Of course, this is our work to do. It’s true, we were founders, all white, assuming that racism was an injustice “out there” to be engaged. Little did we know that racism was a bleeding wound on our backs.
This excavation is courageous and timely. Our Alliance leaders have discerned and called for our participation in the uncovering, unveiling and reckoning occurring in our day, thank God. The 1619 Project is excavating the root, origin story of the first slaves purchased a year before the Puritans settled at Plymouth Rock. We know now that founding European explorers and colonizers came with the conviction of superiority. One of our founders, Thomas Jefferson wrote the inspiring words — “all men are created equal” — with only white men in mind. Our educational systems, from their founding, have been injected with toxins of white supremacy into the minds of generations. Yes, in John Lewis’ words, “This is good trouble” to take on.
To accompany this foundational, excavating work I add this Pauline prayer with a supporting metaphor: “As we excavate our roots, may we be strengthened in our inner being with power through the Spirit, rooted and grounded in the love of Christ“ (Ephesians 3: 17 paraphase).
I took another breath, a deep breath and then clicked “donate.”
Excavating the Alliance is the Alliance of Baptists’ 2021 Giving Tuesday campaign. Learn more about the campaign and donate here.
Mahan Siler is one of the founders of the Alliance of Baptists.