Monday, June 19, 2006

Can a Lefty Progressive be a Southern Baptist?

Considering myself a “recovering southern Baptist” and thinking I might have a little, well actually a lot, to add beyond what I can cover via a comment, plus I think it will be a decent post on its own if Bamacrat allowed that as they once seemed to allow, I’ll try to add to what John Hubbard recently posted on Bamacrat as “Good Choice, Baptists: Part II”. John commended the Southern Baptist Convention for selecting an “outsider” named Frank Page. According to John’s source, Associated Baptist Press, Page said, “I'm not trying to undo a conservative movement that I have supported all these years." He said he would continue the trend of appointing leaders who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible but who also have "a sweet spirit."

John closed his post with:

“I haven’t been keeping up with SBC politics and don’t really know any of the candidates, but Page seems like a good choice and has his priorities straight. The most important duty of the SBC should be to organize and fund missionaries to spread the message. That’s what the Cooperative Program accomplishes. People are not lead to God through gay marriage bans and lower taxes for the wealthy. They are lead by people going out in the community and teaching the word of God. I’m glad we have a man in the position that understands the importance of the Cooperative Program and will encourage its growth.”

I'll cover the "Cooperative Program" later yet unfortunately there a small but very significant part of the CP that goes way beyond "spreading the message", at least the message that I think John is considering. I do however agree an “outsider” taking the helm at the SBC likely is better than their usual annointment yet I recall from my youth that each church essentially does their own thing. From what I’ve learned of Frank Page it appears his candidacy was partially bolstered by Baptist bloggers which I thought was rather a nice touch. Grassroots growing everywhere these days it seems. It is nice to see any populists win one. If the other candidates had Karl Rove and Swift Boaters on standby it might not have worked out as well Frank.

Dr. Page is 53 with grown kids. He is the pastor of a 4300 member South Carolina megachurch named Taylors First Baptist Church located between Greenville and Spartanburg) plus he’s a Southern boy. Some six years ago Page wrote "Trouble with the Tulip: A Closer Examination of the Five Points of Calvinism" with that being the topic of the reporting of Ken Camp of Associated Baptist Press entitled “Will election of SBC president deal blow to neo-Calvinism?” Here is the Founders Ministries Blog that seems to best deal with Page’s take on the matter and damned if I’m not totally confused. Normally when I’m struggling I dig until I have at least somewhat of a handle on something yet I could give less than a rat’s rear end over this doctrinal spat. I’m sure my enlightened sisters and/or their broods can explain since they have all or at least most of the answers, or so they "know".

The WaPo’s Tim Whitmire reporting “Page Touts Conservatism As SBC President” has me less than optimistic on the significance of Dr. Page's selection for the immediate future. The following especially influences me:

Bill Leonard, dean of Wake Forest University's School of Divinity and a frequent critic of SBC leadership, is less sure that the Southern Baptists have reached a turning point. He noted that Sutton and Floyd likely split the traditional conservative vote, allowing Page to eke out his win.

"Whether it becomes a 'kinder, gentler' denomination, publicly, depends on how much the traditional leadership _ especially certain seminary presidents respond," Leonard said in an e-mail interview.

"Page's narrow election may give false hope to many," said Robert Parham of Nashville's Baptist Center for Ethics, which also opposes the SBC leadership. "Even if Page wants to pursue a reformation, he can't overturn decades of fundamentalist control and organizations stocked with fundamentalist employees."

E. J. Dionne Jr., of WaPo fame appears in The San Francisco Chronicle with his “Evangelical evolution” yet I’m rather sure he’s being a bit too quick in his optimism.

Whatever the case, the real portion of John’s post at Bamacrat is his seemingly total blessing of the "Cooperative Program". Now I’ll agree it does some good even though it is based in evangelism via the Great Commission. I’m hardly an Evangelical and rather the Universalist or skeptic or Bokononist or … Whatever I am, I take great exception to the funding of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Here’s the deal, and the real reason for the post, straight from their “What is the CP” site:

“The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is dedicated to addressing social, moral, and ethical concerns, with particular attention to their impact on American families and their faith. They also provide print resources that offer scriptural responses to the moral and ethical problems of our culture”

The good news, not that “Good News”, is that the ERLC only spends 1.49% of the money the Cooperative Program took in for this last year. From $189,000,000.00 that is still a big chunk, especially given what they do with that money and the right wingers they fund. Just recently they did this. The ERLC allows a little freelancing it seems to make Richard Land fully a tool of the Republican Party. Dr. Land and his minions appear to me to be simply some crazy wing nut partisans, lots of that going around it seems these days, even here in Alabama where they hardly stand out anymore, but darned if I want to have a church I attend shilling for and supporting the Republican Party. I beg, and I don’t use “beg” lightly, to read up on the positions that the ERLC/SBC is taking on various matters and then decide on your own. Many of their concerns and the overwhelming majority of their concerns simply don’t fit my way of thinking.

Accordingly, I will not darken the door or give one thin dime to the SBC I expect, unless I’m required to by family and social obligations of course. I’m also likely to speak out against their radical positions when given the chance. If these culture warriors are helping the Big Mules control our government then how can we let them go without challenging their approaches? Is there any doubt that Land was a Bu$hCo enabler in 2004? That he has limits, perhaps motivated most when it comes to losing tax exemptions, should not reduce his arch-conservative credentials. Land went after Mickey Mouse dammit! But most of all never forget how wired in, and it goes both ways I’d offer, Bu$hCo is with Dr. Land and his SBC/Evangelical groups. PBS Frontline piece on Land/Bu$hCo is certainly revealing. Again, my “beg” applies to the above.

Returning once again to the SBC, Southern Baptist also did the following at Greensboro:

“Messengers passed a resolution opposing the manufacture and consumption of alcohol and urging the exclusion of Southern Baptists who drink from election to the convention’s boards, committees and entities. It passed approximately by a fourth-fifths majority. Like other resolutions, it is not binding on SBC churches and entities. All total, messengers passed 15 resolutions, including one that sought to balance faithful enforcement of the United States’ immigration laws with compassionate outreach to all immigrants. It passed nearly unanimously with no debate. They also adopted resolutions that: expressed displeasure with U.S. senators who recently failed to support a constitutional marriage amendment; affirmed Christian teachers in the public schools and encouraged Southern Baptists to provide a godly influence on school systems through such means as election to school boards; and condemned all human species-altering technologies, including the creation of human-animal hybrids. "
Of course my emphasis is suplied. So that is where that “human-animal” hybrids remark in the SOTU came from! I thought Dubyah had simply mangled the King's English again. I've already posted on the school issue at Captain Bama and it was far “worser” than many folks imagined. Get a brain Morans! Radicals! Wheeler’s takes, both of them, on the whole drinking thing works for me and in honor of the SBC I’m tipping my second Bourbon and Water as I polish this thing off.

Returning to the actual Southern Baptist Convention, here's an article from Jim Morrill of The Charlotte Observer covering Richard Land and the SBC loving Bu$hCo entitled "Conservative base shows no Greensboro cracks - Rice finds warm crowd, nary a sign of fading support for GOP, Bush". The White House has the full text and even a video of Bu$hCo pandering to the base. "Activist judges" and "culture of life" and "abstinence" and "faith based" groups/initiatives and ... were all covered!Dubyah didn't mention that he'd allegedly proclaimed The Constitution as "just a goddamned piece of paper" yet if he'd cleaned up his potty mouth I bet lots of the Bible Thumpers would responded favorably. The paper this bunch likes to study on is "The Bible" and of course that supplied by the Dobsonites or former John Bircher Tim LaHaye or The Moonie Times or...

I admittedly missed “Marriage Protection Sunday" and the commentary of Barrett Duke (although the prior link mistakenly calls him Duke Barrett). Again, hell will freeze over before I'll give a dime or my time to the SBC if they continue their political activity for the ReThuglican Party. I know Dr. Evans of Auburn First Baptist has rather Progressive approach even though the SBC might frown on his positions. Still, I figure he's rare in this neck of the woods. It's a scam folks where Karl Rove is just punking you/them, and therefore "us". The fundamentalist foolishness of recent years simply has gotten to the point to where I'm not going to be a part of this denomination any longer.

To each his own." and "Whatever gets you through the night." has always worked for me. I'd like the same courtesy. At least I think I'm due some willingness to engage me rationally and politely on where I'm mistaken, with the bottom line that it is 100% my decision on what I choose to think, believe, and do. Peace ... or War!