Southern Seminary VP Impedes Tolerance

My jaw nearly slapped the ground when I read the words. They bellowed from Mark Coppenger, vice president for extension education and director of Southern Seminary’s extension center in Nashville, Tenn. Recently he sat on a panel that discussed the dilemma for evangelicals deciding whether to vote their values or their theology.

Thus spoke Coppenger:

“Sometimes I say Muslims can’t build cars but they can sure blow them up…Well, we can blow up candidates and we can blow up movies and we can blow up a variety of things, but can we build them? Can we build political engagement at the very best levels?”

Coppenger was trying to metaphorically explain the need for “evangelicals who believe the Bible correctly to be engaged and to be players, because it’s hard to complain when we’ve quit the field.”

News flash: metaphor failed.

After I read Coppenger’s quote, and subsequently picked my jaw up off the floor, I had to reach for my jaw again: this panel was convened on September 11. Of all days, of all times for someone to make an absurd quote about Muslims, that day was not the day.

Soon after these words were uttered, violence would explode in Cairo and Libya. Four Americans were killed, as well as Libyans. Though protests were initiated by those furious over a video, those killed were murdered by extremist Islamic factions that are as far from Islam as one can be.

I’m not sure why Coppenger decided it was necessary to reference Muslims blowing up cars. Though Coppenger is not alone in using this rhetoric, it saddens me that on a day of unity and hope he decided to reinforce vitriolic stereotypes. Coppenger would have done well to stick to the conversation about whether or not someone could vote for a Mormon.

This issue reveals his stereotypes. Among the many, one is that Muslims don’t build cars. Newsflash: Muslims build cars. Though exact statistical reporting does not exist, I’d be willing to bet there are at least two Muslims working at an auto manufacturing plant in the United States. In fact, one may have helped build the car Coppenger drove to the panel.

In the end, Coppenger’s remarks were incorrect, stereotyped, and fear-based. The “political engagement at the very best levels” he wants will not occur as long as leaders, such as him, disparage other religious identities.

Southern Seminary President Al Mohler said, “We’ve got to be clear that this is a false gospel…This is a belief system that we believe is taking people to eternal destruction.” Mohler was speaking about Mormonism. His quote might be more accurate used as a response to Coppenger’s statement. If that were the case, Mohler and I might finally agree on something.

In the Middle East, four Americans have died because of a world lacking love and tolerance. As we recognized another anniversary of September 11, we prepared to memorialize another event. As we remembered the lives of men and women lost fighting now unpopular wars, we remembered the lives lost of those working to pursue peaceful ends. On the world stage, and on a panel in Louisville, KY, we learned the hard way, yet again, that all too often love seems a distant dream.

Zachary Bailes

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About the Author
Bailes holds a Master of Divinity from Wake Forest University School of Divinity. He is the Editor of Crazy Liberals and Conservatives, a website dedicated to engaging the intersection of faith and public life.

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  • tommy9999

     “Sometimes I say Muslims can’t build cars but they can sure blow them
    up…Well, we can blow up candidates and we can blow up movies and we can
    blow up a variety of things, but can we build them? Can we build
    political engagement at the very best levels?”

    What a ridiculous comment, but he will get a pass by many folks.

    • dodadeo

       So now we are into Judging?

  • tommy9999

     ”Recently he sat on a panel that discussed the dilemma for evangelicals deciding whether to vote their values or their theology.”

    How interesting that Southern Baptist leaders who for years said that Mormonism is a cult now want us Southern Baptist to vote for Romney.

    What changed?

    • dodadeo

       Personally I do not hold with electioneering in the pulpit. That being said, we will not be voting for Preacher-in-chief, but we have a clear choice between a Christian that declared the USA a non-christian nation, and refers to the Quran as Holy and A business man that happens to be Mormon, and by the way I have known some very good Mormon people who had some very high morals and acted accordingly. I assume you are proselytizing for Obama the Great, is that correct?

      • tommy9999

        What you wrote is poor nonsense and not deserving of an intelligent response.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Roy-Fuller/38311758 Roy Fuller

    I picked up his comment too, and noted it in comments on the ABP site.  I was very concerned that the mainstream media might also find it, but, as of yet, they have not.  More revealing the fact that apparently he tossed this remark off, and nobody present challenged him on it.

    • dodadeo

       I do believe Paul tells us the proper way to correct a fellow Christian, who has strayed off the narrow path. and this public forum is not the place to do it. That is unless (His superiors at Southern Seminary’s extension center in Nashville, Tenn.)  first go the source of the problem, and he does not change his ways.. The apostle  Peter said we should conduct ourselves honorably among the Gentiles. This open and hostile article does not do this.

  • maggie33

    Christian Leaders sure aren’t representing their Jesus very well these days.

  • Concerned50

    Hasn’t anyone informed the church that they will lose their 501c3′s if they support political candidates or tell their church members to do so.   The Mormons are under investigation  for not only supporting but funding Romney.  Maybe tax deductable donations for churches should be taken away… we could use the 81 billion dollars to feed the poor.

    • dodadeo

       So what you are saying is that the Government can do better at feeding people than the Church? Are you selling some solid ground on the Louisiana Bayou at the same time?

  • http://www.facebook.com/susan.haseltine1 Susan Haseltine

    In my early 20s I was at the Unitarian Church where a prominent Jewish judge was showing his slides of trip to Israel. When he got to the Holocaust Memorial he began to berate the Germans. A woman jumped to her feet, “You have no right to condemn  a whole people! That is what they did to us.” Jerri had a number tattooed on her arm, she was a survivor of the Holocaust. 

    WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO CONDEMN A WHOLE PEOPLE!  Rev. Sue Haseltine

  • tommy9999

    ” On the world stage, and on a panel in Louisville, KY, we learned the
    hard way, yet again, that all too often love seems a distant dream.”

    Surely, Mark was saying what he did in a “loving” way–NOT!!