I was just 13 when I stepped out of my ratty flip flops and down into the baptismal pool at Confederate Avenue Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta. As I waded over to Pastor R, the white robe covering my one-piece swim suit floated up around my knobby knees. There was a coarse cinder block in the bottom of the painted pool for the young’uns to stand on so the faithful could clearly see our pimply faces from the burgundy carpeted sanctuary. I stepped up on the block in all my gangly glory and ended up about a hand taller than the preacher. Before we could adjust ourselves, he grasped my shoulder and placed a hand on my head and said the words “Kimberly, I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost” and in an awkward, knee-bending dip, with his hand gently holding my nose closed, I was submerged and came up sputtering to a blurry but beaming mamma and daddy.
Fast forward to the day I first came out and the light in my parent’s eyes had turned stone cold because someone had lied to them. The liar wasn’t me. The lies came straight from a church that has been over-thrown by a political agenda so insidious that, in worship of power and money, it is ripping families apart, sending children to the street, consenting to abuse and celebrating injustice all the while telling good Christian folk they are doing so in the name of Jesus. Lies, damned lies.
But ugh! As much as it pains me to say this, I think I may still be a Baptist at heart.
I know, WTH?
Every day as I wander the winding path of wondering about this whole God, me and my neighbor thing, I recall the seemingly endless conversations around the supper table about the historic Baptist principles of soul freedom, Bible freedom, church freedom and religious freedom. Yeah, the grown-ups around our table really talked about that kinda stuff over the fried chicken, collard greens and cornbread. (To be fair and honest, sweet-tea infused freedom of conscience rants were slipped in between ardent union-supporting disquisitions and soul-blemishing racist jokes – no wonder I’m a damn mess!)
As we say when we are using our expensive words, let me unpack this for you.
Soul freedom is the belief in priesthood of the believer and the affirmation that every person has the freedom and responsibility to relate directly to God without the imposition of creed or control of clergy or government. Right, so like, uh you mean I am supposed to walk and talk with God on a regular? And like, ask hard questions and listen actively? For real?? But wait, does real relationship we can even get pissed off and hang up on each other once in a while? Yep, pretty much. Book of Job much? And that also means I have the freedom to ignore the misogynistic, homophobic asshats who like to play dress up in preacher’s robes while they are hijacking the gospel? Cool!
Bible freedom is the belief in the authority of scripture, which under the Lordship of J the C, is central to the life of individuals and churches. Every Christian has the freedom and right to interpret and apply scripture under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Wait. What? We are supposed to read the bible? Like the whole thing? Uh, and when we have questions because it is freakin’ cray cray in there, we what? Listen to the Spirit moving in and around us? Nuh-uh! And wait, if in our reading we discover that Jesus said there was too much to be said while He was dirt-side and that the Holy Spirit would reveal more in the future, that could actually mean that we as humans can grown in our scientific, psychological, sociological and sexual understanding of our humanity!? Okay!
Religious freedom is the principle belief that every individual has the right to freedom of religion, freedom for religion, and even freedom from religion. Ohhhhh, so like laws of the government should not impose one or another religious conviction on others? Hmmm.
Ok, ok – get to the point already.
SO, if your Baptist neighbor believes with all her heart, mind and soul (because her relationship with God, her reading of the Bible and her local church says so) that being gay is a sin – rock on, that is between her and God. No. One. Else.
BUT, if your neighbor and her Baptist church try to convince others of the LIE that LGBT children of God are abominations when those others have an active relationship with God, invest faithfully in reading the Bible and are in communion with other faithful old farts they recognize that YOU ARE BELOVED JUST AS YOU ARE- guess what? That first church , not Baptist. Not even a little.
AND, if your neighbor and her Baptist church want to make those egregious lies the law of the land. Nope. Nope. Nope.
So, when your local Baptist preacher stands up in his (it’s always his) pulpit to rant and rave about the gays and goes on and on hollering about conforming to one kind of relationship with God, one unalterable understanding of scripture, one goose-stepping ascent to “Baptist” polity or imposing “Christian” law on the land, you can safely and faithfully assume he has no idea what the hell he is talking about.