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About Me
May 5th, 2008

dexter.jpgI’ve been asked several times why I describe myself as a “recovering Baptist.” If you’re a recovering alcoholic that means that you’ve given up alcohol because it’s not been very helpful to you. In fact, it’s been very destructive. That description fits my experience as a Baptist. I could get all technical and say that I’m a small “b” Baptist via McClendon, but I’ll be less theological and more personal (though I’m not really sure those are separate enterprises.).

Many of you may know that when I was about five or six years old, my family was “churched” or kicked out of a Baptist Church in East Texas because my dad stopped working for a munitions company only to start working at a brewery. Since alcohol is sinful, the pastor and deacons took my family off the church roll. I was a cradle roll baby which meant that before I even attended a Baptist church, I was enrolled. Oh well…

Since we attended less conservative Baptist churches from then on, I was exposed to a less judgmental form of Baptist life. I did experience the oppressive pharisaical form of Baptist life when I was enrolled in a Baptist school in Memphis. It wasn’t too bad until High School, where the “Super Christians” were the popular kids and looked down on those of us who weren’t rich and good-looking and able to appear squeaky-clean.

This didn’t bother me too much because I learned early on that High School is meaningless and if that’s the high-point of your life you’re pretty pathetic. College was great! I attended a small private Catholic college and the brothers and other professors were really caring and interesting. I thrived there. It was wonderful to find persons who were committed Christians that weren’t complete jerks! Through the introduction of Catholic Social Teaching I learned that I was to make a difference in the world. As a Baptist, the only context for that understanding of life meant that I should become either a missionary or a pastor. That was so unfortunate. I spent a lot of wasted time feeling guilty.

After college I began to find my life as a business owner unfulfilled. I went to Seminary. I was so darn excited. I had sold my house, given away my dog, and moved my wife and kids 400 miles from the grandparents. What a wonderful time, living in a whole neighborhood surrounded by Baptist ministers!

Needless to say, I soon became a bit disappointed. However, I decided the best way to be a Baptist was to get a PhD, and teach Baptists how to follow Jesus without being jerks! During my PhD program I had the privilege of teaching at the seminary. I thought I had experienced narrow-minded fundamentalism in high school, but that wasn’t even close to the level of hatred I felt at the seminary. I met some of my best friends at the seminary and a few who still teach there are great friends, but the oppression there was stifling.

It seems that once again, I was on the outside looking in. I was labeled a “Liberal,” which is actually very funny, and the person I worked hard for for four years didn’t have the fortitude to go to bat for me. Once again I found myself at a Catholic institution. My colleagues not only respected me, but they embraced and valued my differences.

I still attend a Baptist church. But I do so knowing that if I really opened up and shared what I truly believe that I would be rejected there too. Sometimes I visit the seminary. I see friends there and former students that appreciate my ministry there. It sometimes makes me feel blessed. But other times, I feel like the lepers in the Old Testament. I feel like I should be yelling, “Unclean, unclean!” so that no one will be corrupted by my sinfulness.

That’s why I’m a recovering Baptist. I wanted so much to fit in and make a difference. I just can’t. I’m grateful for the blessings that I have. I only wish I could feel embraced by the tradition I grew up in.

Read the Comments

[ # 37547 ] Comment from Scott Jones [May 21, 2008, 9:54 am]

I need your e-mail to send you the requested Romans piece.

[ # 37709 ] Comment from Gary Long [June 13, 2008, 12:07 am]

Howie, funny but I used the same term, “recovery” on my own blog. I love this story and think you’re great just as you are…said the Baptist minister, making sure none of the deacons were within earshot…

[ # 37710 ] Comment from howie [June 13, 2008, 12:09 am]

Thanks Gary!

[ # 37807 ] Comment from Rick Wright [June 23, 2008, 10:22 pm]

May I ask exactly what the PhD was in? I see hints that it was in New Testament. (I did research for my articles and book at NOBTS as well – albeit in biblical Hebrew. 2 adjunct courses in Jewish Studies dept at Tulane.)

[ # 37843 ] Comment from howie [June 27, 2008, 12:14 am]

NT minor
Systematic Theology major

[ # 38338 ] Comment from Angel Pena [July 30, 2008, 6:58 am]

What a cool story thank you for sharing that much on your blog. I am a Y’at practial Catholic, 3rd degree Knight of Columbus with a Y’at wife and 4 adopted children living among the better than thou of Houston since 95. I am a banker and I happily count many Baptists as friends. In fact I’m helping finance a beautiful new church for my Baptist friends. One of my best friends is Jewish. I don’t know why I shared that other than to say that I think I understand where you’re coming from regarding religion. I care deeply about New Orleans and I can’t believe that this is the 1st time I found your blog. You seem to have a really interesting point of view and it appears that New Orleans has really rubbed off on you. GOD bless you and your family and I’ll be a reader of your blog from now on. Angel

[ # 47900 ] Comment from tomcottar [December 28, 2008, 7:37 pm]

Howie,
I’ve followed your blog for some time, commented occastionally, and as a recovering Calvinist (whatever that means) i just wanted to say how much i appreciate your openness and your transparency. For your readership, I’ll choose my words carefully:
thank you for loving and working to redeem the lonely, the jacked up, the burned out, the still-lost, and the religious in NO. I have a dear friend on staff at NOBTS–if i ever make it to see him, I’d love to take you out for coffee. I’m about to celebrate my 21st year in ‘ministry’ (again..whatever that means). it’s refreshing to still run across a fellow Ragamuffin who’s not afraid of the free handout of amazin’ grace.
Jesus confused everyone, it seemed. Although I’m still surprised that The Church is still missing it at times, I’m not at all surprised to see God working in/through you.

Blessings,
Tom

[ # 121804 ] Comment from Linda Joyce [October 19, 2012, 11:43 pm]

Just wondering if there are any new posts…any new photos.

Thanks,

Linda Joyce

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