Sunday morning I was watching one of those cable news shows where they interview politicians and dissect the issues of the week. A Republican Congressman was interviewed about his thoughts on the recent resignation of the Speaker of the House and the discord over naming a replacement. As he was summing up his comments, he suggested they need to get the matter resolved so they can get back to “fighting the other side.”
It is interesting to me that a Congressman believes he was sent to Washington, not to represent the people of his state or the nation as a whole, but to fight the Democrats. I was under the assumption, apparently mistaken, that Congressmen should strive to find ways to work together to accomplish things for the good of the nation. Instead, this man seems to think his purpose is to whip his own party into shape so they can get about the business of beating the other guys.
It reminded me of my experience as a Southern Baptist. I grew up a Southern Baptist, and up until the last couple of years considered myself to still be one, although not quite as involved or interested as before. Much like this Congressman, Southern Baptists have so focused on whipping their own into line so they can attack others that they forgot the purpose of the church is not to fight the enemy. As a child I was taught that Southern Baptists existed to carry the Gospel of Christ around the world.
As I thought about this, it became clear there are some interesting similarities between Southern Baptists and the Republican Party.
- In their heyday, both were conservative, but accepting of others who did not hold identical beliefs.
- Both experienced a takeover attempt by a radical conservative wing of the organization. For Baptists, the takeover was successful rather quickly. For the Republican Party, the jury is still out, but the Tea Party does hold a great deal of power and influence. Even those who don’t consider themselves members of the Tea Party, bow to their wishes in order to keep from being attacked. This was a common response to the SBC takeover, many good people simply kept silent for fear of being labeled a liberal.
- Both suffered from infighting and bitter attacks on their own. In the SBC, numerous pastors, seminary professors, and denominational leaders lost their positions because they refused to submit to the new power. A good example of this in the Republican Party is the recent resignation of Speaker of the House, John Boehner.
- Both have witnessed the radical conservative wing narrow the definition of who belongs and who does not. The SBC has an unwritten set of beliefs you must hold in order to be in good standing, it is called the “Baptist Faith and Message” (the 2000 version, not the 1963). The list continues to grow in an attempt to control others. The Republican Party has their own list, including positions on abortion, gay marriage, gun control, etc.
- Both are becoming more and more irrelevant to those who do not care about their issues. Baptists are losing people who don’t want to fight over the Bible and the inerrancy of Scripture. People who have an interest in preserving the environment or are willing to be loving toward their gay neighbor are losing interest in politics.
- Both have been shaped historically by racism. Of course, the origin of the SBC traces back to the issue of slavery. However, the Republican Party, at least since the 1960’s, has also been greatly influenced by southerners, many who have backgrounds of racial prejudice.
I don’t pretend to be a historian so this list is not exhaustive and possibly not even accurate. I am confident it is an oversimplification of the situation of both Baptists and Republicans. However, I am saddened that two organizations that have accomplished a lot of great things over the years seem to be following the same path toward irrelevance. The world will not be a better place because of their demise.