Back when Baptists were in the minority in the U.S., they were strong supporters of church/state separation. Now, firmly in the majority, we’ve seen them virtually in lockstep with the Christian Right. It’s a shock to many that groups like the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty are actually on our side when it comes to interpreting the First Amendment.
Ken Camp, writing for the Associated Baptist Press, reminds us how tough it is these days for Baptist ministers to speak out against their own congregations:
When they do, it can be a lonely place, said Brad Bull, whose opposition to a Ten Commandments display in Knox County, Tenn., set off a firestorm locally more than a dozen years ago. At the time, Bull served as associate pastor of youth and young adults at Cumberland Baptist Church in Knoxville.
“I was motivated by what I learned in seminary and from my reading of Baptist history,” he said. “Beyond that, it’s like I told a county commissioner at the time: ‘I have a neighbor who is Buddhist. Another neighbor is Muslim. They pay taxes in the county just like I do.’ I just saw what I did as an issue of fairness.”He never anticipated the fallout. After the Knoxville newspaper and a local radio station reported his opposition to the resolution, his wife, Connie, nearly lost her job teaching Spanish and music as part of a cooperative for home-school students.
It’s a simple concept, really, yet so many conservative Christians don’t get it. Separation of church and state doesn’t hinder your own faith in any way. The government not promoting your faith isn’t the same thing as the government being against your faith. Neutrality is the best bet for all of us — because no religious group will be in the majority forever.
Bull and all the other believers who understand that deserve our appreciation.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)