My friend Joe suggested that I provide everyone with the background of my struggles with Southern Baptists. I must first begin by stating that my faith in Christ is due to having been â€œraisedâ€ in Baptist churches. Thus, I have many wonderful Baptist friends that I thank God for every day. In fact, the last time I went to a convention, it was very emotional and exciting for me because of all the old friends I saw. So, I am deeply indebted to Southern Baptists. To quote one of my professors, â€œMost of my friends and all of my enemies are Southern Baptists.â€
The struggle began when I was only six years old. I had been a â€œcradle rollâ€ baby and had never known a Sunday that I hadnâ€™t had vanilla wafers and cool-aid during Sunday School. The snow cones at VBS were great too! Unfortunately, my father quit his job at the munitions plant (making bombs and guns to send to Viet Nam) and took a job at Schlitz Brewery in Longview Texas. When the pastor and deacons came by to â€œconfrontâ€ him about it, my dad sincerely asked a couple of questions. One was, â€œYou mean to tell me that last week I was making stuff to send over seas and kill people and you were OK with that, but now that Iâ€™m making beer Iâ€™m unacceptable to you?â€ My dad had been raised by nuns so he hadnâ€™t read all those Biblical passages that prohibit making beer. The second question was, â€œDidnâ€™t Jesus himself make wine?â€
Neither side was convinced by the other, so my family was officially â€œchurchedâ€ as it was called back then. Sure, we could attend the church and should continue to pay our tithe, but we were no longer members of the church.
My dad quit going to church, but my mom continued to take us. When my older brother was â€œold enoughâ€ he quit going to church. He didnâ€™t want to be a part of anything that said his dad was unworthy. Needless to say, the Baptist churches we did attend were the most moderate we could find. One pastor even asked my dad to take him and his brother on a tour of the Schlitz plant. It was fun because when we went to the brew house, the preacherâ€™s wife asked how much of each ingredient was put in the brew kettle because she wanted to try this at home!
Although my experience in Baptist churches was mostly positive, there were those in every church that looked down on us because of my fatherâ€™s vocation.
The next big problems came at seminary. I taught there during my doctoral work and though I know I made a positive impact on many of the students, there was always two or three, or an entire back row who challenged me in every class. I really donâ€™t mind being challenged, the real problem is that some students began to question my commitment to Scripture, to the Christian tradition, and my faith itself. I constantly had former students who knew and loved me that would approach me in the student center and tell me that they had heard the following about me: I denied the trinity, I didnâ€™t believe persons are sinners, I didnâ€™t believe the Bible was inspired. There were many more, but these bothered me the most.
When the new BF & M came around, I talked openly with several others teaching at the institution who were Calvinists. I asked them about the statement on original sin. They disagreed with it, but signed it anyway. I had other problems with the document so I couldnâ€™t sign it. Now, Iâ€™m the heretic! Theyâ€™re just liars, but they have jobs! God Bless emâ€™! Many other events happened there, but I donâ€™t wish to hurt anyone that I love. Several of the profs that retired or asked to leave were my friends. They loved the Bible as much as any one I know. I heard all sorts of things said about them behind their backs. I worked at the seminary motel and would constantly have to â€œstraighten outâ€ some of the slanderous things the â€œextension studentsâ€ would say about the profs. It was sickening.
Iâ€™ve gotten over the bitterness. It took a long time. Longer than it should have. But, I wonâ€™t stop speaking out against those things that my Baptist brothers and sisters do that are harmful to others and to the body of Christ. With Joeâ€™s help and the help of others, Iâ€™ll try to do it in love.