So the Christian Index (the GA Baptist newspaper) has finally admitted it no longer believes in liberty. And editor Gerald Harris has finally said it publicly.
In front of God and everybody. Said it. Out loud.
I have a problem with the GA Baptist Convention. The problem has been a long time coming. It's like a long, hard, contentious break-up where two people just keep moving in opposite directions.
Wait. Not exactly. I've not really moved. My doctrinal positions are that of the historical Baptists, i.e, Priesthood the Believer, Soul Competency, and the Separation of Church and State. Sadly, GA Baptists no longer believe in those three foundational principles. They moved from those historical moorings with the Conservative Resurgence of the 1980s. And they moved away from me.
The GA Baptist Convention paid for part of my undergrad degree and the Southern Baptist Convention paid for nearly all of my graduate work. So I don't take this break-up lightly, but it is time to finally say thank you for the memories and the good times, but please, don't call me anymore.
I learned all about what makes Baptists different. I was proud that we were not only one of the underdogs of the European religious groups (everyone hated us there) but we were the underdog here in Colonial America, too. We were the heretics; the ungodly outcasts; the radicals; the liberals; the ones that would destroy everything good; the ones the Devil had beguiled. And not only were we the underdogs, we barked at the political Empires and every sectarian Overlord that demanded all other religious underdogs bow to the Crown and Pulpit. We fought for the Quakers and the Mennonites and whatever other small number faith getting thrashed in the public square. We took the public floggings; the loss of our lands; the mistreatment of our children; whatever else could be thrown at us.
Yet we stood for the complete, absolute and total Separation of Church and State at all times, for all religions, for all time. No religious idea of sect was to be giving a Most Favored Status by the government. It was our Baptist cry of Separation of Church and State (and some convincing of James Madison by John Leland under an old tree) that was the foundation of the first phrase of the first sentence of the first amendment that says government was not even to give even a hint of a Most Favored Faith.
That was us. That was the Radical Baptists. That was the idea that gave all faiths at all times complete liberty. That is what Thomas Jefferson told the Danbury Baptists what Congress had done with the First Amendment in terms Baptists understood.
Until now. Until Gerald Harris. Until the Christian Index decided that politics is thicker than doctrinal foundations. Until complete historical and theological ignorance masquerades as piety.
So when Gerald Harris says a mosque shouldn't be built because Muslims are not worthy of the same first amendment protections we Baptists fought for, I have ask: hypocrite much? Why is religious liberty only good for some groups and not others?
I find it amusing Gerald Harris thinks he gets to decide who is worthy of protection and who isn't ... Gosh, that sounds just like the Anglicans and the other Establishment Churches of Colonial America when talking about Baptists.
Honestly though, Harris is just playing to the political base of the people of GA. He is saying politically what the majority wants to hear.
Hmmmm. Kinda like when Paul talked about those deceivers who just tickled the ears of people who to hear what they wanted to hear (2 TIM 4:3).
Sad, sad day for GA Baptists. Let's hope the rebuke by Don Byrd at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty will cause Gerald Harris to open a history book ... or maybe his Bible. You know, treat others the way you want to be treated.