Is the SBC for Sale? How Progressive Money and Influence Is Subverting the SBC

Is the SBC for Sale? How Progressive Money and Influence Is Subverting the SBC

This speech was given by Megan Basham at the 2024 SBC Event: SBC at a Crossroads, hosted by Founders Ministries and the Center for Baptist Leadership.

So I’d like you all to imagine for a moment. You’ve just started a new job and on your first day your supervisor tells you that at 2 pm every afternoon the entire company pauses to “carve out time for their spirits. To “connect with their divine source.” And to “honor the sacred world.”

As a Christian, this New Age jargon sets off alarm bells in your mind. But you decide to keep your reservations to yourself. (You don’t want to look like a fundamentalist!) Then your boss leads you to an all-white room he calls a “communal space” where he rings a “sacred meditation bell” three times.

A “spiritual engagement coordinator” steps forward, lights incense and invites you, along with the rest of the staff, to sit in the lotus position and close your eyes. He then tells you that he is going to lead you through a 20-minute “sacred pause” designed to deepen your relationship with yourself. He tells you this “sacred” meditation with yourself (he really likes the word sacred) is being done to the benefit of all beings everywhere.

This little eastern mysticism scenario is not imaginary. This is the daily practice of The Fetzer Institute, a leftwing foundation who says its mission is to “build the spiritual foundation” of our world.

If it weren’t clear enough that Fetzer’s method for building that spiritual foundation is nothing like the Bible’s, another way it does so is by giving money to groups like the National LGBTQ Task Force. 

Who else does it give money to? The ERLC.

In 2018, Fetzer gave the ERLC more than $346,000 to “collaborate” on research that would identify the “rhetorical framing” evangelicals use when it comes to democracy. That is, how we talk about politics. And it was then to share the insights from that political research with the ERLC’s national conference and with “churches under the Southern Baptist Convention.”

The following year, in 2019, Fetzer gave the ERLC another $200,000 to, among other things, conduct seminars on “how American evangelicals might contribute to healing political divides.”

In other words, Fetzer bought access to Southern Baptist conferences and churches through the ERLC in the form of an explicitly political project. And the ERLC earned its pay.

The research Fetzer bankrolled has been disseminated and promoted in ERLC material and at ERLC events. In one such document, the ERLC recommends we learn how to engage in civil political discourse from a fellow recipient of Fetzer funds–Cherie Harder, President of Trinity Forum and a prominent Never Trump voice.

At a February 2024 conference for a Never Trump Political Action Committee, she called the former President a “frankly evil and nihilistic leader.” She has never used such rhetoric to describe Biden, the most pro-abortion, pro-perversion, and anti-family president this nation has ever known.

Yet this is who the ERLC (and Fetzer) hold out as our model for civil, Christian discourse.

When we look at Fetzer’s political stances like its “unequivocal support of the LGBTQ community,” it’s clear that when they say they want evangelicals to “heal our political divides” what they mean is that they want Christians to soften their public positions on issues like marriage and sexuality.

According to Fetzer, Christians who are confident in our convictions harm democracy. Nor is Fetzer the only leftwing foundation that has managed to tie some purse-strings tothe ERLC.

The Democracy Fund was founded by Buddhist billionaire Pierre Omidyar. You might recognize him as the man who gave the world Ebay. His foundation gives grants to groups like Red Canary Song, which describes itself as a “grassroots collective of Asian & migrant sex workers.”

When Roe v Wade was overturned, the Democracy Fund put out a statement. It said the Dobbs decision proved “how vulnerable our political system is to perversion by leaders who are not committed to protecting and strengthening our democracy.”

Let me say that again—according to the Democracy Fund, protecting and strengthening our democracy means protecting and strengthening abortion.

In 2018, when the Democracy Fund was looking for evangelical leaders to help foster more “constructive politics” in the U.S., it, too, turned to the ERLC.The purpose of the $100,000 grant it gave them was to pursue “long-term action” against America’s alleged white supremacy problem.

The ERLC took it for granted that the Southern Baptists it is supposed to represent would agree that one of America’s most pressing problems is white supremacy.

It’s worth noting that independent journalist Glenn Greenwald, a liberal, was once a beneficiary of Omidyar himself. Omidyar bankrolled his left-leaning news outlet, The

Intercept. But Greenwald was forced to quit the company he co-founded when it wouldn’t let him publish stories critical of Joe Biden. Greenwald said this of Omidyar: “Liberal billionaires will only fund groups that advance liberal causes.”

So what cause did Omidyar want to advance through the ERLC?

Another liberal billionaire who has taken an interest in the ERLC–Mark Zuckerberg. In 2020, the Facebook founder spent over $400 million dollars turning out the vote in heavily Democratic areas in swing states. According to reporting in the New York Post, he did this by “funding a targeted, private takeover of government election operations through…nonprofit organizations.”

That same year, his foundation also gave the ERLC a $90,000 grant for an unspecified criminal justice reform project. How was the money used? We don’t know. The SBC lacks financial transparency and the ERLC has not disclosed this information. And the ERLC staffer who procured the grant left a short time later to join the Biden Campaign.

I didn’t set out to write a book about the SBC. And despite the rumors, I did not write a book about the SBC. But the SBC does loom large in my new book. And that’s because the SBC looms large in the minds of the people I did set out to write about—the powerful progressive influences in the church. And I’m not just talking about the ministry leaders bringing in racial hiring quotas, female pastors, and pronoun hospitality.

I’m talking about leftwing billionaires and organizations who, in their long march through the institutions, have now set their sights on the Church. And too many leaders within the church are proving only too happy to help them.

When we see the secular foundations the ERLC is partnering with—those who work to see abortion, legal prostitution, every sort of LGBT perversion protected and promoted in our law, Southern Baptists should echo 2 Corinthians 6:14 and ask—what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? What fellowship has light with darkness?”

The ERLC was created to represent the interests of Southern Baptists to the secular political world. Instead, it is now taking money to represent the interests of the secular political world to Southern Baptists. Which must prompt us to wonder, just who does it see as its mission field?

Know this, it is not a coincidence that these leftwing influencers decided to work with the ERLC. They have been specifically strategizing about how to co-opt Southern Baptists for years.

Yes, they are talking about the SBC and its entities by name. And not just the ERLC.

In 2015, the George Soros- and Bill Gates-funded think tank, New America, released a report on efforts to pass climate change legislation.

The report noted that the strategy of the environmentalists was to recruit “elite evangelicals” who would then use their influence to give spiritual legitimacy to specific climate change policies. Their hope was that this advocacy for fossil fuel legislation would “trickle down” to ordinary Christians in the pews.

That is, the climate change activists wanted to use evangelical leaders in trusted organizations who know the lingo to persuasively sell a message to what would otherwise be an unreceptive audience. New America explained that the object is to “collect strange bedfellows” and “sort of sneakily break down” the faith coalition from the inside and “give cover to Republican members of Congress to support climate action.”

“Because” they wrote, “even just neutralizing the Southern Baptist Convention” could “disrupt the solid Republican opposition to measures like cap and trade.”

In the nine years since that report, the climate change activists have had significant success in convincing SBC institutions to take up their cause.

Southeastern Seminary, for example, has been particularly active in promoting climate change alarmism to its students.

Just one example of many, in 2022, it welcomed Jonathan Moo, Environmental Studiesprofessor, to give a guest lecture titled, “How to love our neighbor in the midst of the climate crisis.”

In it, Moo claimed that environmental activism is a necessary part of being “faithful to the Gospel.” He said the United States bears the lion’s share of guilt because of how “rich and prosperous” our use of fossil fuels has made us. And he told the students Americans are especially obligated to “sacrifice” by adopting emission-restricting policies.

The kinds of policies that are making everything from gas to groceries more expensive, not just for us, but also for those neighbors we’re supposed to be loving.

If Moo adding new environmental requirements to the Gospel weren’t shocking enough, he also suggested the students purchase indulgences for climate sins like traveling by airplane. In particular, he suggested they buy carbon credits from the environmentalist group A Rocha. On whose board Moo just so happens to sit.

Now A Rocha probably isn’t a familiar name to most of you. So I’ll tell you a little bit about it. Though it brands itself as a Christian ministry, it gets much of its funding from secular groups like the Annenberg Foundation, which also funds the National Abortion Rights Action League, Planned Parenthood, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

As with many other major secular foundations, Annenberg’s interest in environmentalism is married to a desire to reduce the population through abortion.

And A Rocha’s leadership isn’t especially bothered by that goal. Its executive director, Ben Lowe, ran for Congress as a Democrat, assuring voters that despite claiming to be personally pro-life he would not support overturning Roe v. Wade. In other words, he took the same position Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi have.

Then there are A Rocha’s strange hymns and prayers that sound more like Marxist Gaia worship (or something you’d hear at the Fetzer institute) than anything recognizably biblical.

Among the sins A Rocha calls humanity to repent from in its recommended prayers are “ecological violence” and humanity “act[ing] like parasites.” It suggests praying for the “courage to speak out against increased nuclear capability” and lamenting America’s “exploitive economic system.”

Listen to part of this prayer it published for distribution to churches and ask yourself whether you could imagine your congregation praying this together on a Sunday morning. It’s titled “Woe to the Unholy Trinity.”

…We have acted as cheerleaders and chaplains to the unholy trinity…

And so we name the unholy beast.

We renounce it.

We repent of it.

Unrestrained Capitalism,


Individualism . . .

This unholy trinity

That oppresses the poor,

Ransacks the Earth.

One has to wonder what average Southern Baptists would have thought had they known their “unholy” capitalist tithes, which help support Southeastern Seminary, were going to pay the lecture fees of a representative from A Rocha. Who then used that invite to do a bit of capitalist carbon trading himself.

While researching the multiple guest lectures and conferences Southeastern has dedicated to the subject of climate change, I never found a single speaker who challenged the progressive position that it is an existential crisis. Yet there is legitimate evidence for skepticism about this claim. And reputable evangelical organizations whose members include NASA climate scientists would be only too happy to explain to an audience of seminary students just what that evidence is.

Yet for some reason, Southeastern Seminary students have never heard from those NASA climate scientists.

Is the degree to which humans are impacting the climate an issue on which Christians of good faith can disagree? Of course. The problem is demanding consensus on the subject by abusing and manipulating scripture. The problem is an SBC seminary, whose ostensible mission is educating students on the full breadth of Christian thought, promoting only one view. And it just so happens to be the view that aligns with nearly every major corporation, A-list Hollywood, the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, and the most powerful progressive foundations on the planet.

Then it seems less like debating debatable issues and more like turning our temples over to the environmentalist moneychangers.

But alarming as it is that these powerful secular left institutions have managed to harness the SBC for their purposes, it is even more disturbing that some of our leaders are covering their tracks for them.

Perhaps some of you will remember in 2020 when Baptist Press published an explainer claiming that “not a penny” of Soros money has ever gone to the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), which is a side project of the secular progressive group, the National Immigration Forum. The EIT is not, as you might suppose from the name, a group that preaches the gospel to or provides for the material needs of immigrants. No, it is a political coalition that includes the ERLC, JD Greear, Kevin Ezell, and Danny Akin, to name just a few of the SBC leaders involved. Through lobbying legislators and distributing material to churches and ministries it promotes amnesty policies for illegal immigrants.

In 2016, the internal board books for Soros’ foundation, Open Society, leaked. They revealed that it had given $200,000 to a program the EIT was a part of, known as Bibles, Badges, and Business. The report also noted future plans to divide an additional million between that program and another initiative because, Open Society said, “evangelical support [has been] highly influential in engaging conservative lawmakers.”

The 2016 Soros board book also said this:

“In the course of our work, we were able to generate engagement by some conservative voices such as evangelical Christians and Southern Baptists through grantee National Immigration Forum.”

Which, again, is the umbrella organization over the Evangelical Immigration Table.

As ERLC trustee Jon Whitehead, a Harvard trained attorney by the way, told me after he reviewed these documents, “Southern Baptists were shamelessly hung out for sale by these leaders. In exchange for subsidized meetings with their EIT friends, they looked the other way as their churches and pews were exploited. They even used Baptist Press to mislead people, claiming ‘not a penny’ of Soros money went toward EIT. It looks more like tens of millions of pennies!”

If we give Baptist Press the benefit of the doubt, they were negligently mistaken. The only other alternative is that they were lying.

And Soros’ Open Society is only one of the hard left NGOs that has supported the EIT. The Ford, Rockefeller, and Tides foundations–all groups that also support abortion, the LGBT agenda, and a host of other anti-biblical goals—have contributed over a million dollars to the EIT’s project to mobilize evangelical support for open borders policies.

The secular left powerbrokers see American Christians as a captive audience. Maybe the last captive audience they have not conquered. Their desire is to have SBC churches and ministries for their political projects, and we have leaders who are more than willing to give them that access.

As the largest Protestant association in the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention is uniquely positioned to influence the U.S. toward godliness. In an era in which almost the whole of our mainstream culture has been engulfed by confusion and darkness, we should stand out all the more for our willingness to cut against the cultural grain.

Instead, so many of our SBC leaders warn that to look different from our neighbors—by, say, rejecting feminist demands to open the pastorate to women—will damage our witness. (As if God didn’t know what would be “damaging” to His Church when He laid down his proscription against women pastors.)

According to the latest religion statistics, just over 5 percent of U.S. adults are Southern Baptists. That’s nearly 13 million Americans. Coincidentally, that’s almost the exact same number of American adults who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

Through their tremendous commitment to their cause, they have transformed America from the steps of the White House to the smallest local library. No corner of this country has not been touched by their influence.

Why can’t we say the same?

Can you imagine the transformation we might see in this nation if the whole of the SBC had the same courage of its convictions that the LGBT movement has?

If Southern Baptists uniformly demanded that their pastors, professors, seminary administrators, and national leaders stayed passionately focused on the cause of Christ and His Word, rather than taking up the preoccupations of billionaires, businesses, and lawmakers, it would be enough to see a new Reformation in the American Church.

We have a choice, we will either fulfill our commission to be salt and light, which starts with choosing biblical distinctiveness and holding our leaders accountable for what they do in our name. Or we will continue diluting our mission with the world’s priorities until we disappear into the crowd entirely.

Order Megan’s book: Shepherds for Sale: How Evangelical Leaders Traded the Truth for a Leftist Agenda

Megan Basham is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and the entertainment reporter for The Daily Wire. In her previous role as an entertainment editor and podcast co-host for World Magazine, she interviewed numerous A-list celebrities. She has also written for The Wall Street Journal, National Review, and Townhall. Her book, Beside Every Successful Man, was published by Random House.
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