After Pastor’s Wife Lampoons Southern Baptists, His Church Wants Him to Resign

Last month, Angela Thomas wrote a pretty entertaining column for the Madisonville Messenger, a local newspaper in Kentucky. It poked fun at how the Southern Baptist Convention had voiced opposition to the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to allow in gay members:

Well, the Southern Baptist Convention has rejected the Boy Scouts of America. Thank goodness. It’s about time. They’ve already rejected the Democratic Party, Disney, the Teletubbies, and any Baptists that aren’t southern. So, it’s only natural that the Boy Scouts would be next, most likely followed by Betty Crocker (probably a lesbian), baseball (always going to Disneyworld when they win the World Series), and apple pie (eaten by Democrats, Mickey Mouse, Teletubbies…)

[Southern Baptists] are too sanctimonious to participate in Easter egg hunts and trick-or-treating. Santa and the Easter bunny are simply the devil in disguise, and cable television and the Internet are his playground. The Boy Scouts are his evil minions.

She went on to say that the rightward shift of Southern Baptists has turned them into “raging Shiite Baptists” and that they’re now the “crazy old paranoid uncle of evangelical Christians.”

I laughed. She makes good points! Southern Baptists often take their holier-than-thou attitudes too far and they really ought to let some things slide when they’re not big deals.

Her column wasn’t particularly offensive or mean — it was satirical more than anything else — but it’s causing quite the stir because her husband Bill Thomas happens to be an assistant pastor at First Baptist Church in Madisonville.

Bill Thomas directs the Madisonville Community Chorus

In the weeks since [her article was published], the status of Bill Thomas’ job with the church has become unclear. The First Baptist pastor said he had accepted Thomas’ resignation, but Thomas’ wrote in a letter obtained by the newspaper he had not quit.

Either way, one of the pastors is lying…

To his credit, Bill is supporting his wife on this one, saying of her column: “I did read it. I agreed with what she said and I don’t censor what my wife does.” He may also be under pressure to resign because he previously showed support for an openly gay church member who wanted to join the choir.

But SBC hierarchy isn’t taking his support of his wife lightly:

The Rev. Russell Moore, head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he was surprised the “shockingly sarcastic tone” of the column came from the spouse of a church employee. It’s not clear whether Angela Thomas also attended First Baptist.

“I didn’t find the column to be the sort of lighthearted poking that one would typically find in satire,” Moore said. “I found it instead to be more of a screed from someone who’s very hostile to where most Baptists stand.”

It’s not hostile to poke fun at your own people, especially when you have the ability to see them as others do.

More importantly, though, this whole debacle offers a lot of insight into how the SBC operates. A man’s job could be in jeopardy because church leaders are upset with something his wife wrote. It’s his job, in their view, to keep her in line.

The SBC’s response to all this just proves that Angela Thomas’ column was spot-on accurate.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Gus Snarp

    Sounds like somebody expects their pastors to be like Steve Anderson. They could all just move out to Tempe.

  • Crazy Russian

    Angela Thomas wrote a funny column. Then her church reacted, and it became hilarious.

  • Makoto

    “I didn’t find the column to be the sort of lighthearted poking that one would typically find in satire,” Moore said.

    Apparently Moore doesn’t follow most satire… sure, some is lighthearted poking, but it’s meant to be uncomfortable and force those involved to reflect on the truth it reveals about them, kind of like ripping off a bandaid. ” ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement”, after all.

    • eric

      The SBU appears to share the Texas GOP’s platform when it comes to self-reflection: no jokes that might accidentally lead to thinking. Remember this from early 2012?

      “We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

    • The Other Weirdo

      Religious people don’t really do “uncomfortable,” unless it’s them making other people uncomfortable. When it comes back at them, suddenly it’s “Woah woah! Can’t we all be nice to one another?”

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    It seems that some have adopted the old puritan view, that having fun is a deadly sin.

    • ajginn

      The group that she is attacking WORSHIPS the puritans. If you head over to Calvinist Central (The Gospel Coalition), you’ll find countless articles extolling the sheer awesomeness of guys like Jonathan Edwards.

  • eric

    We may have reached a form of satirical unity here. Its kinda hard to further satirize an organization that responds to someone satirizing their overreactivity with an “off with their heads!” request.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      Positive Poe feedback.

  • pierre

    “I didn’t find the column to be the sort of lighthearted poking that one would typically find in satire,” Moore said.

    Have I got a modest proposal for you…

    • CB

      Mr. Moore: you keep using this word, satire . . . I do not think it means what you think it means

  • Compuholic

    We all know that the religious have a problem with humor and especially with satire. The muslims don’t like cartoons. The Baptists obviously have a problem with satirical columns. And the best part is that they are displaying exactly the kind of behavior described in the article and they are not even realizing it. Oh the delicious irony…

    • Tom

      Satire and sarcasm are unnerving enough to fundies (and authoritarians in general, who have historically always tended to be very wary of any form of expression other than realism – for a given value of “real,” in the case of the religious ones), but I think the cardinal sin committed here was frank self-evaluation. It seems that when you “get saved” from judgement, that includes your own.

      • Carmelita Spats

        You are very right. For some of us who left the cult, satire and sarcasm were coping mechanisms and the only tools we had to make sense and nonsense out of a very bad situation…Humor allowed us the happy distance to be able to evaluate the cult and ourselves. Maybe this will be a clarion call for her to pack it up and leave the SBC….Strip the bed, box up the cat, load the U-Haul and go anywhere with a mind-set not stuck like a bloody nail in the moral coffin of 1845. I feel for her.

  • the moother

    He’s a bad Christian for not censoring his wife. And a terrible husband for publicly supporting her.

    • LutherW

      That it. Women are supposed to be seen and not heard. He is a complete failure as a Christian head of the house.

      That means there is actual hope for him yet to live a rational life.

  • dats3

    Well, she did cross the line by dragging Betty Crocker into it.

  • Yoav

    She went on to say that the rightward shift of Southern Baptists has turned them into “raging Shiite Baptists”

    Look like the SBC bigwigs are not the only ones who are prejudiced, unless it doesn’t count as prejudice when it’s about muslims, and she was doing so well up to this point.

  • The Other Weirdo

    It’s not hostile to poke fun at your own people, especially when you have the ability to see them as others do.

    It is when you take yourself far too seriously. Which, in a way, proves her column right.

  • Jeff

    Is there a link to the original column that Angela Thomas wrote?

    • CoboWowbo

      It’s behind a paywall.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    I thought it was hilarious but then I was raised Southern Baptist and much of my family is still Baptist. They have no sense of humor about their denomination. And in spite of the fact that they commonly hear sermons about what is wrong with every other denomination and mega-church pastor in their area, they cannot abide any criticism of their beliefs or practices. That said, they are not the far end of the fundamentalist spectrum. I know that’s hard to believe for people who were not raised in this but their are plenty of churches that consider Southern Baptists too liberal.

  • Octoberfurst

    So the poor old Southern Baptists are having a snit over a satire column that lampoons their ultra-right idiocy. My heart bleeds. They’d love to scream “PERSECUTION!!” but the author is a pastors wife so that won’t fly. What to do? What to do? Ahh yes, write a condemning letter about the article and whine about how “hostile” the article was. (Truth hurts, doesn’t it?)

    Of all the Christian denominations I have the least respect for the Southern Baptists. In my opinion they are our own version of the Taliban. They are anti-science, vindictive, extremely self-righteous, easily offended, very homophobic,misogynistic and have no critical thinking skills. (I say this as a person who has Southern Baptist co-workers and attended a Southern Baptist church for a short while in my pre-atheist days. I know them well.)

  • mikespeir

    Still don’t wanna be a Baptist; but, hey….

  • jferris

    Reminds me of a southern joke (I know, I’m being redundant).
    Why do you take 2 Baptists with you when you go fishing? So they won’t drink your beer.

    • indy_girl

      The Southern Baptists I have known *would* drink your beer. They just wouldn’t admit it on Sunday morning–!

  • Tobias2772

    I’m not saying that I agree with Southern Baptists (about anything) but can you not see something parallel happening in the business world if a wife ripped her husband’s company this hard in the paper (the only reason that we think that it’s funny, is because we aren’t Baptists).

    • ajginn

      That’s true. I have to believe the Thomases expected this type of reaction. If not, they should have. Not to say that everything she said wasn’t dead on, but sometimes speaking the truth comes with a personal cost.

  • anniewhoo

    Angela Thomas was right on. She did the Southern Baptist Church a huge favor by pointing out what everyone else sees as the obvious truth: keep it up and you will alienate all of your parishioners away. I look forward to seeing how this unfolds.

    • indy_girl

      My immediate thought when I saw what she had written was, she’s saying what many of us who left the SB church have said to one another for 15+ years. The only difference here is that she published it, so now her husband is taking a hit from the SBs for not having a (biblical!) meek, submissive wife. More power to her!

  • freddieknows

    The problem is Baptists don’t understand satire. They thought she was disclosing tactical battle plans.

  • ajginn

    Southern Baptists run the gamut of evangelical Christianity. The wing that Mrs. Thomas is lampooning is the Calvinist group whose epicenter is Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky of which Russell Moore is a dean. She’s also dead-on in her criticism. This group adheres to an ultra scrict interpretation of the bible which includes man=authority and woman=submissive. So some of this backlash is almost certainly due to Mr. Thomas not reining in his disobedient wife. Nutters all of them.

  • Bob Becker

    “Shiite Baptists.” Love it!

  • Paul D.

    I’m shocked — shocked, I tell you! — to learn that religious fundamentalists have no sense of humour.

  • Brian

    Life is to short to live it without a sense of humor, even the occasional self-deprecation. So why is it that a sense of humor seems to be directly proportional to how religious you are?

    • Rod

      Actually, I think you mean inversely proportional….

  • Pseudonym

    Russell Moore doesn’t seem to understand that the SBC itself is “hostile to where most Baptists stand”. The Baptist movement is, for example, anti-creedal and anti-denominational at is core. That’s one of its most distinctive traits.

  • Robster

    Is being a Baptist different from the christian faith’s many other flavours? Do they spend their church services in a big pond full of holy water splashing it over each other while muttering in tongues? I’m guessing there’s got to be lots of water involved in baptist stuff like the catholics use the red wine and crackers for their nonsense. Do the baptists perhaps get re-baptised each week in response to being good, tithing lots of cash or leaving the children alone? I wonder. If they fail the weekly goodness/money test and they dont get re-baptised are they dried out and excommunicated? I’d love to know.

    • Gus Snarp

      Really?

      Baptists believe that baptism must be a choice of the participant, so they don’t baptize infants. Not sure what the age cut off is, but teenagers can get baptized. I almost became a Southern Baptist, but I was already a Methodist and it seemed silly to me that to switch churches I had to get baptized again, but my Methodist infant baptism didn’t count.

      Southern Baptists, in particular, tend to eschew alcohol (well, officially, but a lot of church members drink anyway), so you’ll find communion served with grape juice. There’s also no common cup at communion. They don’t do all that kneeling and standing that Catholics do at church services, they stand up to sing and occasionally to pray, but mostly sit through service.

      They are fundamentalists, often biblical literalists, and highly evangelical. This is one of the churches that says the most important and best thing you can do is “witness” to other people, i.e. try to convert people. They do not believe other denominations are actually Christians. If you’re a Catholic or a Methodist or whatever, then you have to get “saved” and become a “real” Christian, including being baptized again.

      As the linked article says, many are against halloween and the Easter bunny (that’s the first I’ve heard Santa Claus was out too, but I’m not surprised).

      Basically, Southern Baptist is the denomination that fits most of the Christian stereotypes that are worth making fun of. If you set aside faith healing, snake handling, speaking in tongues, believing in the planet Kolob, not celebrating birthdays, wearing weird clothes and having strange haircuts.

      • grindstone

        True, except “fundamentalist” Baptists see the Southern Baptists as wildly liberal. The SBC is on the right of the Protestant spectrum, but there are sects much more conservative than they, specifically Free Will Baptists and the IFB, and the much smaller Primative Baptists.. I was SB right when the church took a hard turn to the right, and luckily I got flung off the truck.


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