For anyone who cares, the Southern Baptist Convention is about halfway through its 2013 annual meeting in Houston, Texas. This year’s theme? “Revive Us … That We May Be One!” I thought (for the hell of it) that I’d share a little bit about how this is playing out. So sit back, and prepare to roll your eyes, walk across the room, pick them up, and roll them again…
Item #1: In the interests of Christian unity, the SBs moved to remove Lake Shore Baptist Church of Waco, Texas, from fellowship with the convention. Characteristically quick on the uptake, they did this only 12 short years after Lake Shore did it for them in 2000, upon publication of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.
(This one’s rather near to home, since my wife Tammy is Lake Shore’s office manager.)
The rationale behind this motion? Lake Shore supports Planned Parenthood. They even–wait for it!–give money to that evil, evil organization. Which, by the way, has nothing to do with an abiding interest in issues of women’s health. No, it can only mean one thing: these rogue Baptists are “promoting abortion.” Which as far as I’m concerned demonstrates a very shallow understanding of what Planned Parenthood does. Yes, they do perform abortions–I can’t argue with that; it’s on their web site (along with links to information on parenting and adoption options, by the way, for those faced with this difficult decision). However, if one bothers to read beyond that point, it turns out that they also offer comprehensive sex education programs for children, youth, and parents, facilitate access to birth control, and provide a number of important health-related services such as gynecological exams, HIV testing, and breast and cervical cancer screenings. They even assist with adoption procedures.
Obviously, no good can come from supporting this bunch of crazy-eyed, fanatical PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT WOMEN.
I’m no fan of abortion–let’s get that straight right here and right now–but it strikes me that the ones really “promoting abortion” are the folks who insist that groups like Planned Parenthood not be allowed to educate children and youth about the responsibilities of human sexuality. Also, it seems to me that to vilify this organization because of what amounts to three percent of their operating budget is to miss the forest for the trees. However, the abortion debate in conservative Christian circles is a zero-sum affair: it trumps every conversation, and it allows no room for other considerations. I was told in 2008 that my vote for Barack Obama amounted to a vote for abortion. Not for health care; not against environmental depredation; not in favor of social justice. For abortion. End of discussion.
Because they can’t see past this admittedly important issue to all the other equally important issues in its wake, the SBC feels it necessary to jettison their fellow believers, with neither inquiry nor debate (not to mention a decade too late), because Lake Shore’s congregation believes women should have greater access to vital healthcare services. Coming from a bunch of folks who just finished singing “Mercy said no, I’m not going to let you go, I’m not going to let you slip away, You don’t have to be afraid,” this seems a little odd…
Item #2: There will also be a vote on a resolution declaring that federal (read, Obamacare) contraception policies are a threat to religious liberty. ***See Item #1***
Item #3: A third resolution deals with Southern Baptist church sponsorship of the Boy Scouts of America. They’ve gone gay, you see. And any organization that’s a friend to gay kids is NOT a friend of theirs. SNAP!
Thus, on the heels of a long and fruitful relationship between the Southern Baptists and the Scouts, the SBC is proposing to encourage its affiliated congregations to end their support of the BSA. This is just a friendly admonition, of course…although one assumes that any congregation that chooses not to heed this advice will eventually find itself on the Lake Shore chopping block. And this is a bit strange, coming from a denomination historically based on the autonomy of the local church.
But let’s not forget that famous expression of Jesus’ love in Matthew 19:14: “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. Unless they’re gay.'”
Item #4-5: In addition to their “no gays in the Scouts” stance, the SBs have decided to go all in and add “no gays in the military” and “no gays in the wedding chapel” to their list of unifying resolutions. It would seem that both the striking of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the legalization of same-sex marriage represent a clear and present threat to the religious liberty of Southern Baptists. The fact that the failure to take either action opposed represents a clear and present threat to many people’s civil liberties seems to be of little concern.
In sum, I think we should all applaud the SBC’s efforts to promote unity through cutting ties with anyone who disagrees with them in any way. Pretty sure they won’t be missed…