I am about five years behind everyone else in reading Barry Hankins’ Uneasy in Babylon: Southern Baptist Conservatives and American Culture. I actually began reading the book a couple of years ago, but then got distracted and only picked it up recently to finish it. But don’t be deceived by the narrative of my history with this book. Uneasy in Babylon is a great read and will be of interest to anyone who wants to understand the history of the conservative resurgence in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
Hankins’ most significant contribution is his account of what motivated conservatives to resurge beginning in the 1970’s through the 1990’s. In my view, he is correct to note that Albert Mohler and others were animated by the neoevangelical spirit of Carl F. H. Henry and Francis Schaeffer. But I think that Hankins gets the cart before the horse in different places throughout the book where he suggests that the desire to wage a culture war was motivating conservatives more than the theological issues that were at stake (like inerrancy).
My other complaints about Uneasy in Babylon have to do with his account of certain events that involve people I know whose recounting of those same events differ from that of Hankins (I’m thinking in particular of his chapter on Mohler’s transformation of Southern Seminary). For the most part, however, the broad strokes are correct. Yet this is in spite of the fact that one-sided, unfair portrayals of certain conservatives are a bit overdone. But I suppose this shortcoming is difficult to avoid in a book that relies heavily on interviews with principle players in the controversy.
All in all, it’s an important book on the history and the causes of the controversy. I recommend it so long as the reader can remember the wisdom of the proverb, “The first to plead his case seems just, until another comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17).