Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Southern Baptists In the News

Since I am a Southern Baptist, and the graduate of a Southern Baptist college in Texas, I tend to notice when my denomination makes the news. Here's this morning's round-up:

1. Thanks to Stumpy for sharing this: The expectation among some of the Baptist faithful that colleges affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention should indoctrinate first has led to more disaffiliation of some of those colleges from the convention. Most recently ... Georgetown College in Kentucky.

"The [Southern Baptist] convention itself in its national and state organizations has moved so far to the right that previous diversity on the faculty and among the trustees is no longer possible," said Bill Leonard, dean of the Divinity School at Wake Forest. "More theological control of the curriculum and the faculty has been the result."

David W. Key, director of Baptist Studies at the Candler School of Theology at Emory, put it more starkly. "The real underlying issue is that fundamentalism in the Southern Baptist form is incompatible with higher education," Professor Key said. "In fundamentalism, you have all the truths. In education, you're searching for truths."

I've written before in this space that my own education at a little Baptist college on the High Plains of west Texas was a liberating experience. Even though we were required to attend Chapel three times a week, we were also encouraged to question, to search. We were quite literally wading in preachers every single day, but we also learned to be skeptical of preachers who were more than 50 percent ego.

2. Two very pious Southern Baptist hucksters were convicted in Arizona of three counts of fraud and one count of conducting an illegal enterprise in a scheme that lasted decades and cheated 11,000 investors across the country of about $585 million.

Investors were recruited "in Southern Baptist churches and by Bible-quoting salesmen who visited their homes." They were told "their money would help Southern Baptist causes, such as building new churches, and were promised above-market returns."

The difference between these guys and Ken Lay is only the difference of scale. They all proclaimed their righteousness in the eyes of men. I learned a long time ago to feel for my wallet in any business dealings with someone quoting the Bible.

3. UPI was moving a story on its wire this a.m. that the West Texas city of Lubbock, very near where I attended college, is organizing everybody in town to pray and fast for rain this Sunday.

This is a part of the country where a "wet" year would mean 20 inches of rain, yet it's incredibly fertile because of underground aquifer-mining. Or was. They've been depleting the Oglalla aquifer since well before I was a tyke, and the rains just don't come.

It's an environmental crisis of, well, Biblical proportions, and I'll join them in their prayers on Sunday if not the fast.

I know this place so intimately that it comes as no surprise that local government would actually organize a religious observance without the merest peep of protest because ... well, everybody's a Southern Baptist, or certainly the power structure is, which means everybody's a Republican too, and hey! it's the contemporary Republican vision, isn't it, to seamlessly meld government and religion into a single engine for making demands on the Almighty.

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