Saturday, March 28, 2009

Our Eroding Baptist Principles

That Baptist Ain't Right asks: That Baptist Ain't Right: Baptists No Longer for Separation of Church & State? How did we get here?

Here is some of that post with hyperlinks inserted by me:
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 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.

Helwys 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 fought to make sure Catholics were 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.

I'd like to offer some additional insights to the problem. Another reason certain Baptists aren't standing up for the separation of church and state is because with the Fundamentalist Takeover of the SBC and the Religious Right's dominating influence on Southern Baptist life, eschatology began to shift toward a premillenial dispensationalist stripe. This coupled with the SBC's shift towards dogmatic theocratic Calvinism paved the way for the erosion of traditional Baptist principles. While it is true that premillenial dispensationalism in itself is anti-political, premillenial dispensationalists are ardent political Zionists. See also: "Left Behind" and the Corruption of Biblical Interpretation and Evangelicals and Israel: Theological Roots of a Political Alliance.

Also, Christian Reconstructionism's influence on the Religious Right plays a part in the problem. See also: Republican mastermind bemoans GOP+theocracy partnership. Anyways, because of these factors, we have Baptists as well as other fungelicals that mix theology and politics in a theocratic manner.

See also: TheoPoetic Musings: It's Time: Week 8---A Baptist Witness That Dissents On Manichaeistic Fundamentalism.

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