The Chickens Come Home

The Chickens Come Home May 26, 2022

Anyone aware of my personal story knows that before leaving the fundamentalist/evangelical world, I was a Southern Baptist, which is the denomination called the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). It was, and still is, the largest Protestant/evangelical denomination in America.

It’s origins lie in the Civil War, as it took the side of the Confederacy and slavery, thus the “Southern” designation. I was raised up in these churches, although ones out in the Pacific Northwest and California. Since these western churches would often seek and hire pastors from the south or mid-west, they often had a southern or mid-western sensibility or cultural influence.

I was “saved” in an SBC church, baptized, and eventually served in almost every capacity a young man could, from helping take the offering, to teaching Sunday school, deacon, youth leader, and finally a pastor. I was educated at an SBC seminary and for a big part of my life, the SBC was my home spiritually and religiously.

Moreover, I truly thought (at that time) it was the denomination that most closely aligned with what the Bible and the early church taught and practiced. It was my world. I had drawn deeply from the wells it had to offer. I knew the culture, the history, the myths, the heroes and, most importantly (I thought at the time), the “villains.” 

I grew up during the “conservative resurgence” when, according to the myth, the SBC was saved from becoming “liberal” or “progressive” like all those other heathen denominations. Nope, not us, we were going to go back to truly believing what the Bible said, meaning “literally,” said. None of that namby, pamby, highfalutin, hermeneutics/higher criticism for us from places like Europe for Pete’s sake.

Anyway, they were successful. They (people I would consider fundamentalists) did take over and they purged from SBC institutions those leaders/professors they believed were too liberal/progressive or, who were just, women. The people who set the takeover in motion were hailed as heroes. Two of those people, Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson, no longer seem to be viewed that way (Gee, I wonder why?…).

These were the same people who joined with Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority,” defended “family values,” and began to become active politically eventually becoming a key force within the Republican Party. They were vocal in their condemnation of feminism, same sex attraction/relationships, gay marriage, and a host of other cultural issues. They became culture warriors and champions of “traditional values.” They lectured the culture and demonized their opponents, framing the divide as a war of good against evil, and not as something where reasonable people could reasonably disagree.

It turns out though that underneath all that bluster and activity, hidden, was something putrid and rotting. See here and here. Was it all projection? Was it all something that happens when a person, due to their own internal struggles, tries to over-compensate and hide those struggles by crusading against the very thing they fear holds them?

For example, there have been cases (again, see Paul Pressler) where it’s turned out that some of those the most vocal in denouncing same-sex attraction were themselves struggling with same sex attraction. Was all the anti-feminism, sexism, and misogyny due to their own insecurity and fear of strong women? If not an outright hatred, was there an underlying deep disrespect and distrust of women? Was it what happens when patriarchy and “complementarianism” become deeply embedded in an institution?

Was it all the result of reading the Bible “literally” along with a deeply misguided and shallow method of interpretation? All of it? Probably, along with other factors. I’m not sure it matters now. I doubt it matters to the people who were abused. The damage has been done. This report and these events, if I needed any, only confirm to me again this point: I made the right decision to leave that world and that denomination.

One other final observation: The people noted in this report and those who have been leading the SBC since the fundamentalist takeover, are some of the same people who brought us ethically challenged political personalities like Trump and the culture wars. I don’t know if they ever did, but after this report, they have zero credibility in these arenas.

The next time any of them tell us who to vote for, or what they think about “family” or “traditional” values, the role of women, women pastors, or something else in the cultural or political realm, I think we have every right at this point to tell them to, well, I’ll leave that to your imagination but I’m thinking of a word that begins with the letter “f” and ends with the word “off.”

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