The Thing About the Baptists, part 1

Well, I did it.  I launch a blog and in my first entry I manage to thump the Baptists on the nose.  Not that Baptists are to be protected from criticism, but my treatment of them and use of hyperbole in my post bordered on meanness.  I’m sorry.

Now, if there’s anything I hate it’s apologies that are followed with the word “but,” as in, “I’m sorry I yelled at you but I only did it because….”  I hate apologies like that because they truly aren’t apologies in the sense of taking full responsibility for having done something wrong, but rather they serve to salve the apologist’s conscience while he or she continues to blame the other person for the apologist’s misbehavior.  Nothing truly changes in the heart of the person who says, “I’m sorry, but….”

So, what follows is not a “but.”  I was wrong.  Period.  Funny, but wrong.  Period.

If you’re going to read this blog you need to know that I suffer from an anti-Baptist bias.  My bias is probably akin to my dad’s distaste for the presence of cigarette smoke, a distaste he’s had since quitting his pack-a-day habit back in 1972.  You see, dad was hooked, and in a bad way–his first attempt at quitting almost put him in the hospital.  But after he finally got the stuff out of his system, his system reset itself to have an extremely low tolerance for cigarette smoke. 

There’s no question of dad ever going back to smoking–the question now is whether dad can be in the room with a lit cigarette for more than 5 minutes before he throws up.  He is über-sensitive to it because of his prior experience with it.

My problem with the Baptists is similiar–I grew up in baptist culture, thinking that the world worked a certain way, that the bible was to be read in a certain way, that people who didn’t behave like us weren’t quite with it spiritually.  And then, in 1996 I started an 8-year journey with ________ in Knoxville.  __________ is technically a denominational church, affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church of America, but for all practical purposes it functions as a non-denominational church (many EFCA churches would prefer it if Fellowship were to remove itself from the association).

Now, _________ is perfect by no measure, but there I learned the ways of grace for the first time.  I learned that the quality of a disciple was to be measured less by what he or she knows than by how he or she loves.  I learned to worship freely in public, without fear of judgment.  I learned that people who disagreed with me about things like prophecy or tongues or baptism or the role of women in the church could still love Jesus with passion and abandon that dwarfed my own, and love me the same. 

While I was there, God got the Baptist stuff out of my system.

I know that it’s not the Baptists’ fault that it happened to be their stuff in my system.  Had I grown up Methodist or Catholic or [insert your particular denominational designation here], God would have gotten that out of my system, and my sensitivity to it would be as severe.  But I did grow up Baptist, and it happens to be that Baptist stuff drives me crazy.

And I find myself a pastor in a church that is at times excrutiatingly Baptist, and very often I feel like my dad would feel if locked inside a room with 8 chain-smokers who think that smoking saved their lives and would be good for him, too, if he could just understand how biblical smoking is.

So, it’s going to come out, and I’m going to try to be as objective as possible, knowing that the only truly objective perspective in the cosmos belongs to God.

More to come….

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