Summary:

All Peoples Community Church pastor Kenji Adachi was slammed recently for a 'church planter' training video in which he implied that Southern churches would become 'more intelligent' if their preachers were to lose their deep drawls.

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In 2020 a U.S. language training company, Alta, reported that “some people affiliate the twang with Southern hospitality and politeness. But according to studies, people with Southern accents are consistently rated as sounding less intelligent by their Northern accented peers, even among children.”

That information was recently seized upon by Japanese-American pastor Kenji Adachi, who spoke admiringly of a “church planter” from South Carolina who had completely lost his accent after he received training from a voice coach. Church Leaders said his words:

Seemed to imply that southern church planters should consider working to lose their southern accents in order to appear more intelligent.

Adachi’s point was emphasized by a graphic that popped up on the screen, which said:

Acoording [sic] to a 2012 study conducted by the University of Chicago, people with southern accents are assumed less intelligent than their northern accented peers, even among children.

Image via YouTube

Well, ah do declare that the rumpus that followed plumb shook the earth. One Southern preacher—Tom Buck, above, who serves as pastor of First Baptist Church in Lindale, Texas—was madder than a wet hen when he turned to Twitter to complain:

I’m sick of this, but people need to know how their @SBCCP & @sendnetwork dollars are used … NAMB church planters w/Southern accents are encouraged to lose their accent because ‘people w/Southern accents are assumed less intelligent.’

He later added:

Everyone knows if NAMB [North American Mission Board] had said that an individual of a different ethnicity changed his vernacular because a study found that people thought talking that way sounded unintelligent, everyone (including me) would be outraged. And rightly so.

Last year Buck, who thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow, equated Kamala Harris with the biblical Jezebel.

I can’t imagine any truly God-fearing Israelite who would’ve wanted their daughters to view Jezebel as an inspirational role model because she was a woman in power.

He later doubled down in the face of criticism, tweeting “I 100% stand by it,” and insisting:

Should Jezebel, who governed in godless ways, have been a role model simply because she was a woman in power? If not, why should Kamala, who’s governed in godless ways, be a role model just because she’s a woman in power?

Image via YouTube

Sho nuff, the video was quickly taken down, but reposted with the offending graphic removed. Too late, though, because Christian media grabbed screen shots, so now it still blowin’ up a storm.

Alta pointed out that, in 2014, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee started a class to help employees reduce their Southern accents. The course description read:

Feel confident in a meeting when you need to speak with a more neutral American accent and be remembered for what you say and not how you say it.

It didn’t amount to a hill of beans. The Tennessean reported that the Laboratory canceled the course after some employees complained.

Carolyn Ward of ORNL’s Learning and Development Services that an employee requested the class and so it was offered for others too.

ORNL spokesman David Keim said the class “probably wasn’t presented in the right way” and managers decided to cancel it after other employees complained.

And, to my mind, they were right to so. I actually find Dwight Yoakam-type drawls quite charming, which would explain why I have a huge collection of country music. But I have to say that there are accents that annoy me intensely, including my own.

When I first arrived in the UK, my South African accent was frequently mistaken as Australian, the sound of which I find equally grating, so I worked hard to try to rid myself of it. But bits of it stuck, and it becomes very pronounced when I raise my voice in anger—or have too much to drink.

I wonder if the same happens to one of my favorite actresses, the highly acclaimed Charlize Theron, who was born in 1975 only a few miles from where I lived in South Africa. Probably not. She left the country when she was just 16, moving first to Italy and then the U.S. so she’s had ample time to lose the accent for good.

Bottom line: no matter what accent or language you use when preaching from a pulpit or in a street, to rational listeners you ain’t ever gonna sound intelligent—especially if you’re fixin’ to talkin’ in tongues.

Veteran journalist and free speech activist Barry Duke was, for 24 years, editor of The Freethinker magazine, the second oldest continually active freethought publication in the world, established by G.W....