Ooh, first an amendment 2 update. While I was writing the post below, I saw another Life Communications ad (during the football game, of course); it was the one with Suppan, Sweeney, Warner, Heaton, and the guy from Passion of the Christ. Interestingly, it had been edited this time. What was cut out was the lies. It was still deceptive, but much less hard-hitting. I wonder if they got a lot of complaints and realized most people are smarter than that, or if they just needed a shorter version of the ad for the game today?
Anyway, on to the Baptist fun...
If you like drama, Baptist life for a generation has rarely failed to disappoint. This year's annual gathering of the Missouri Baptist Convention (the state affiliation of the national Southern Baptist Convention) provided lots of excitement.
First and foremost, I have now been involved with not one but two churches that have been kicked out of the convention. Yes, kicked out, as in, your money and opinions are not welcome here. Basically, the authoritarian fundamentalist conservative movement which has spilled over into secular life the past few years has much of its roots in the takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention by fundamentalists in the 70s and 80s. If you're unfamiliar with this rather fascinating power grab, here's a good chronology
and the wikipedia article
for the Southern Baptist Convention. By the way, if you are familiar with this and would like to take issue with my description of it as a fundamentalist takeover, I would love to engage that discussion.
But that's just for background. What happened last week is the messengers to the convention decided that Third and 18 other Missouri churches were no longer welcome. We give money to multiple Baptist groups, and that kind of inclusion is dangerous to the fundamentalists who need to control everything. It's not a young/old, liberal/conservative, traditional/contemporary kind of thing. It comes down to a core question of authority and hierarchy, one which puts Baptists and Catholics on opposite ends of a Christian spectrum between which most other denominations fall (at least, historically). Does the pastor of a church rule the church or serve the church? Do the state conventions exist to tell local churches what to do, or to facillitate cooperation among local churches? Does the Southern Baptist Convention exist to promote a pure conservative ideology, or a broader coalition inclusive of a variety of viewpoints? Is the bureaucracy of the convention to be used for service and ministry, or for furthering a specific agenda? My home church is in a college town and has a wide variety of viewpoints on all kinds of stuff, from trivial to fundamental. That's my formative experience of Baptist life. Promise Keepers
and women deacons
fellowshipping together. Alcoholics and prohibitionists studying Scripture together, dancers and poker players eating donuts with those who think you need to make room for Jesus between you and your dance partner and that the devil is to be found in cards. A few years ago, our disinterest in taking a stand on homosexuality, among other things, got us kicked out of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Third is a little different. Rather than the more academic and teaching bent of intellectual plurality, Third is more prone to emphasize unity and inclusion of a different sort. There is great desire for harmony and good relations with all. In particular, this manifests itself in being a church not separated by the slavery issue. It's both black and white, urban and suburban. Significantly, it is a place that has maintained ties with both the SBC (ok for missionaries to own slaves) and American Baptists (not ok for missionaries to own slaves). That's what makes Third being a part of the most recent group kicked out interesting. Unlike Second, my home church, Third was never aligned solely with the state and national Southern Baptists. Third goes out of its way to avoid political entanglements in Baptist life.
But that's just the beginning of the excitement; really, it's more just the natural conclusion of events that were put in motion years ago, although I recognize that I am less distraught than some others as I have already been through the experience of being made to feel most unwelcome for sticking to traditional Baptist values. No, this year's convention had much more excitement, as well. I share a couple highlights. Interestingly, the Missouri Baptist Convention
hasn't posted the full text of any of the speeches. The only thing I've found with quotes seems to be an article
that ran in the Post-Dispatch a few days ago.
On Islam:Today, Islam has a strategic plan to defeat and occupy America...What they are after is your sons and daughters...They are coming to this country in the guise of students, and the Saudi government is paying their expenses...They are trying to establish a Muslim state inside America, and they are going to take the city of Detroit back to the 15th century and practice Sharia law there...your freedom is on the floor with their foot on it, with their sword raised, and if you don't convert, your head comes off.
That's not some powerless nutcase on the fringe who caught a reporter by the restroom. That's the Reverend David Clippard, Executive Director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, giving an address to open the annual meeting. In fairness, it should be noted that Clippard commented the following day that, "I don't hate Islamic people". Thanks for clearing that up.
On Wal-Mart:We encourage the 2,100 Missouri Baptist churches and their members to exercise moral stewardship regarding the businesses they patronize.
Oh hey, they're recognizing the impact companies have on workers and communities. Oh, wait, it's a Disney repeat. Apparently Wal-Mart has immoral "pro-homosexual support". I think that's the first time anybody has accused Wal-Mart of being too generous with their employees.
And to top it off, Senator Talent (who is not Baptist) was there speaking about stem cells. Remember, his decision to oppose Amendment 2 and to simultaneously remove his name as a cosponsor from Senator Brownback's anti-human cloning bill is all about principle. Good Missouri Baptist principles.