Thursday, March 26, 2009

Baptists No Longer for Separation of Church & State? How did we get here?

Waaaaay back in 1612, Thomas Helwys, the first Baptist, wrote The Mystery of Iniquity that outlined the basic ideas of what it is Baptists believe. Primary in that work was the concept of the separation of church & state, the theological concept that only God can judge a soul & therefore government should never compel anyone to follow or support any faith. Helwys went so far as to sign his name to a note he penned on the inside cover specifically for King James. For his efforts, Helwys was promptly arrested & died in prison in 1616.

wasn't alone. Roger Williams. Isaac Backus. John Leland. All of the early Baptist in the America supported the concept of the separation of church & state. In fact, until around 1980, the overwhelming majority of Baptists supported the separation of church & state.

So how did we move from overwhelming support for the separation of church & state, to the near unanimous approval of a Domionist ideology among Baptists in just 25 years?

I asked that question to Dr. Bruce Prescott back in November of 2007 & got an interesting answer. Paradoxically, the answer Dr. Prescott (the Baptist) gave is nearly identical to that a good friend of mine gave who happens to be Catholic. Odd.

After WW II, there was a surge in the effort of Catholic parochial schools to get gov't money. Obviously Protestants were opposed to their tax money being used to support Catholic schools. In 1947 the Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State was formed to oppose the funneling of tax money to Catholic schools. Religious & educational leaders fought to make sure Catholics weren't given any preference & the Protestants were danged sure to not let Protestant tax money be used unwisely. And, thus, the religious leaders, particularly Baptist leaders, recited well the history of Baptist support for the separation of church & state.

But something happened. Baptists began to grow after WW II with lots & lots of babies. The suburbs grew. And racial tension came fast & furious.

The turning point, according to both Dr. Prescott & my friend who happens to be Catholic, was school integration.

Now those Baptist kids --- mostly white --- would have to be in the same school with those "other" kids. To get their kids "away" from the "other" kids, Baptists began to populate private schools. That is an expensive proposition. That expense burden gave way to the call for vouchers in order to have those mostly white Baptist kids in private schools away from those "other" kids.

It came down to cost. As long as black kids were kept away from the public schools, Baptists were opposed to government money being used for private/religious education. But with integration, the color of green was more important than principle. Baptists needed money to keep their kids together & black kids out. The very thing they had opposed for 200 years was cast aside in order to use tax money to "educate," i.e., separate, their kids from another race.

Think the SBC wants to abandon public education because it is inferior? Oh, no. The reason is sinister in its scope: money & race. All those purported reasons are simply excuses. Protestants have sacrificed the sacred theological idea of fairness on the altar of mammon. They want the money to do the very thing they opposed the Catholics for wanting.

Now GA is trying to go the way of Arizona & get a school voucher law passed, that is nothing more than a back door attempt effectively bring a de facto segregation back.


1 comment:

Georgia Mountain Man said...

You hit the proverbial nail right squarely on the head. They are all so very Christian, aren't they?