I don't know when it happened. I think it happened when Baptists realized they were no longer the persecuted minority but were the the pious majority. Something happened after WWII when the Baptists were the Boom in Baby Boomers and took over as the largest Protestant denomination.
We Baptists became the very thing we used to preach against.
We Baptists were the initiators of Church-State Separation. It was our motto. It was in our DNA. It was who we were, what we were about (e.g., soul freedom and each person answerable to God alone) and the basis of our identity.
Not any more.
Starting in the 1970s and the rise of the Moral Majority, we Baptists became not the voice of Hope but the voice of a voting bloc that could be delivered by a group of pastors bent on a political agenda. We were not the Voice but the Vice. We stopped being the Compassionate Hand and became the Calloused Agenda. No longer did we serve the Master but the Mammon, the Power and the wishes of whatever political issue would sway us with pious words.
Shame on those Southern Baptist pastors that sold our Baptist soul for 30 pieces of silver ... and the ear of the politicians'.
We got played. We were used. We were to be delivered on the altar of November 4 each year and every other year for the Congressional elections. Forget the social implications of the Gospel; Baptists were now the voting bloc to be herded by the voice of Another Shepherd. And we listened. And we went to other pastures. And we grazed on our secular delights, thinking we were making a difference because God had to be blessing us if we were the largest and the most prolific vote getters and givers.
Now we realize that we have left our identity, our passion, our mission.
When we confuse politics with the Will of God, we remake God in our image. Worst of all, we build a new wall --- a wall that separates not church from state, but people from hearing the Message of Peace.
Bruce Gourley has a wonderful artice on Baptist identity in this month's Baptist Studies Bulleting (September 2010). I am honored to have him as my invited guest to speak at the September meeting of GA's combined chapters meeting of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, September 24, 6PM at Moe's Southwest Grill. Bruce is a voice of reason, scholarship and practicality.
We need to learn our own history.