This week’s column comes from my piece at The Washington Post – “Southern Baptists canceled an event with Ben Carson. Here’s why it matters.” Southern Baptists find themselves in the midst of political controversy again over the upcoming appearance – now canceled – of Dr. Ben Carson at their Pastors’ Conference. Carson is a celebrated neurosurgeon, conservative commentator, and likely presidential candidate. A number of Baptist pastors, especially those affiliated with Baptist21, spoke out against Carson’s appearance. Their concerns were primarily that Carson, as a Seventh-Day Adventist, presumably holds doctrines that fit uneasily with evangelical theology, and Carson has made statements about Muslims, Jews, and Christians all being “God’s children.” Hosting Carson and other Republican candidates continues to convey the impression that the Southern Baptist Convention is “in bed with the Republican Party,” as Baptist21 put it. Leaders of the Pastors’ Conference thought better of it and “mutually agreed” with Carson that he would withdraw. This was a welcome outcome to what had the potential to be a serious snafu for the SBC. Whatever the organizers’ intentions, Baptist21 has this exactly right – hosting any political candidate carries a tacit implication of endorsement. Baptists and other evangelical denominations would do better to stop platforming political candidates at all. (This includes handing out political pamphlets and “voter guides” at church.)
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