Extreme Faith in a Small Town

It’s days like today that make me realize how much of a small town woman I really am. Today was “Miracle Sunday” at the Baptist Church I’ve attended off and on for over 4 years. It’s the same church I had problems with and it’s the same church with which I gladly resolved my problems recently. Today was the culmination of a campaign to raise funds to replenish a building endowment established by a long-time and now deceased member of the church. The fund was intended for renovating the Sunday School space, but had to be used for operating expenses. The woman in whose name the fund was established is legend here and the finance committee dreamed up Miracle Sunday to honor her memory by keeping the fund flush. Like me, the pastor was somewhat lacking in faith and a pessimist because when we discussed it, we both thought the event would be great spiritually. We were sure that the congregation would never be able to raise the $25,000 needed to bring the endowment up to speed.

Today’s sermon text however seemed to hit a nerve in all of us:

Mark 9: 14When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

16“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

17A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

19“O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23” ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Well, like all people of little faith and like the boy’s father, I was suspicious of a “miracle.” I was wrong. Today I attended Sunday school with loving folks who genuinely care about each other. They encourage me and show me what faith really means in a world that thrives on criticism and insults and how much dirt can be gotten about this or that political candidate. Today I was blessed beyond measure by hymn singing, prayers, a special collection received, and then a luncheon following worship. At the end of it, amid tears and prayers, and good food and company, it was announced that $25,570 had been raised! O me of little faith. It was an overwhelmingly generous gesture by folks, some of whom came especially for this event. We saw people that hadn’t been there in years. The overall atmosphere was so full of love, I couldn’t really wrap my mind around it.

Sundays like these are why I believe in small town America. Despite being despised by large city dwellers; despite being patronized by political candidates; despite all the bad press and stereotypes wrought by those who know nothing about what really goes on in these small town churches, people still go to church, love, laugh, eat together, and form communities that work. It’s not only possible, it’s done everywhere there are people of faith. I was proud. I drove home full of joy and humbled beyond measure. It restored my faith in what I had allowed myself to become jaded against the most. Blessings.


Church and God’s Comfort During Suffering

Almost everyone I know asks where God is when we suffer. Today, I was asked this very question. I don’t know the answer, but I think this woman has an outlook that I think comes closest to what I’ve come to believe over the years. She writes of the guilt she doesn’t feel over her son’s chronic illness and how she is supposed to reconcile that with Psalm 91:

I am left with this: This experience belongs to everyone it touches: The illness itself is my son’s path to walk, his burden to bear. Our family’s path lies in learning new ways of living with each other through sorrow and concern and changed expectations. Our path lies in developing bonds that strengthen our relationships, finding ways to accommodate the emotions and reactions that come when a beloved members lives with chronic illness. I don’t know where God is in all that, but I am confident that there is a God, and that God is really, really big. Bigger than the bible, bigger than the church, bigger than Christianity. Big enough and good enough to provide meaning for our existence, even if it’s not in Psalm 91.

This has been on my mind lately and especially so this morning as I trotted off to church with my bible.Yep, I bit the bullet and went to church. Taking the stance that church is just ONE aspect of my faith and not the be-all and end-all of faith has helped me deal with the disappointment that I have had in other Christians (as I’m sure they have with me as well). I realized that new believers are set up to rely way too much on other Christians in the church. The real never lives up to the ideal in my opinion. But I’ve noticed that the farther away I get from the institution, the more my spiritual vision clears and I can accept them for what they are and for what I am; completely imperfect, but completely accepted by God anyway. Taking it a step further (something other Christians should do, but don’t), I realize that I am just as untrustworthy as any other Christian in the church. I have failed to keep my commitments, but I also refuse to beat myself up over it any more.

Friday afternoon, I had lunch with the pastor I’ve mentioned in my blog previously. It was a very nice lunch and I think we put our relationship back on friends status. I’m glad. I’m sure she’s glad. I saw her today and honestly I feel no more animosity. I wonder where the bitterness came from before, but maybe it’s always necessary to step away from the situation to see it properly. A trial separation in relationships is always good. Obviously, some churches are very abusive and we should flee from those. But, this situation was as much my doing as theirs. So can you say “heaps of burning coals?” I came to Sunday school this morning and the love and warmth I received from the people there was overwhelming. Remember I had resigned my membership and am no longer on the rolls. It didn’t matter. I hugged and was hugged. I worshiped. I studied. We laughed and exchanged prayer requests. It felt mighty darn good. Am I setting myself up for a fall? Perhaps. Do I think all my problems will be over? Nope. I’m sure there will be disagreements and other run-ins, but I feel so at home there. It was such a relief to be back. I’m strong enough now to hold to my beliefs and convictions. This church honestly does not try to change your opinion, they just have strong ones of their own and aren’t ashamed to speak them out loud. But that’s the risk we take in forming and maintaining relationships. I think now, wiser and mentally healthier, I’m ready to take on that responsibility. Like the post quoted above says:

I don’t know where God is in all that, but I am confident that there is a God, and that God is really, really big. Bigger than the bible, bigger than the church, bigger than Christianity. Big enough and good enough to provide meaning for our existence…

Blessings to You,

Acting to Heal Relationships Around Me

In a previous post I wrote about my dialogues with a pastor of the church I’d been attending for 4 years. I was a tad smarmy then of course. Thinking I was taking the high road, I see now what an ass I probably was. Last weekend, in a fit of humility and loneliness, I emailed her and apologized for the role I played in that little scenario. She wrote promptly back and graciously said she had put it behind her and I should too. We mutually agreed that we missed the friendship we had and we are letting old feelings past and allow for a renewing of friendship.

Why have I done this? Well, because, I am acutely aware that Christians are the worst when it comes to healing damaged relationships. Don’t get me wrong. Some relationships are irreconcilable and SHOULD BE, especially where abuse is involved. But, in church especially, minor quibbles and spats can quickly get out of hand. No one wants to be the first to back down and say that perhaps they were wrong. In the secular world, it’s even worse. Our culture is saturated with a “me first” attitude in even the smallest areas, like driving. Every single day I see examples of rude behavior, people flipping other people off from their cars, road rage, and numerous instances of non-courteous living. Well, I’m tired of expecting others to be the ones to change. I’m not responsible for them. I’m responsible for my reaction to them. So I could have stewed for years about what happened at my church, but I’m not going to anymore. Regardless of whether I felt hurt or was “right” or how wrong I thought the pastor was, it damaged our relationship and when that happens, the whole church is damaged. Of course, mine was a trivial matter. Other damages in church aren’t so easy to heal, but I am so used to looking out for ME all the time that ME is who I instantly side with in every argument, whether I’m right or not. It’s the way of the beast. I decided not to let that control me.

The same goes with culture at large. I am a person of very conflicted political, religious, and personal beliefs. I don’t write about some of my political opinions because it’s not safe to in this political climate. Thought police are everywhere and conspiracy theories are ripe. Some of my opinions are not popular right now. Neither are some of my religious ones. I don’t write what I really think sometimes I know that a lot of the people I know share different points of view. I’m also very tired of Christians ALWAYS being “the heavy” in the news. All that we see on television feeds into the worst ideas that most Americans have about Christians and conservatives in general. The media take extreme and non-mainstream examples of religious hucksters and conspiracy theorists, play the soundbites ad nauseum, and then act as if everyone in certain parts of the country or all of a race believe this way. If they do that would be scary, but they don’t.

It’s the same with politics. Everyone is playing the moral equivalence game. No one can be criticized, examined, or commented upon without someone else becoming “outraged” or “disturbed” about the “trends” we find in society and the “levels of civil discourse.” Apologies are demanded every day by somebody. No one can have an opinion unless it’s the most popular one. People from the coasts stream into the Midwest to film documentaries about all those strange people in the Heartland of America, as if they were going into the jungles of the Amazon! I can hear them now…Look at those rubes! Oh, how stupid they are! …Such forays only reveal the ignorance of those who believe them or buy their product. It’s a sickening display of hubris for starters and the fool’s way to a quick buck by pandering to your audience for another.

I have never come across anyone in the church community who displays the characteristics of those portrayed on television or in the news. The very reason those media shills and religious hucksters are rich and in the news is because they are tapping into a PARTICULAR message that feeds the fear and paranoia of those who don’t understand them. Sure, we shouldn’t be giving money to people like that. There are better uses of money and time, but people have to have IDEOLOGY in their lives; something that feeds their motivation. Politics is all about this feeding process. Again, I could sit and stew about how wrong the media are on television and how stupidly they portray things they do not understand, but it’s pointless. And because we are being lied to and manipulated this way, we are therefore not responsible for the hatred they create in the world. We are responsible ONLY for our corner of the world.

It’s a manageable scenario that works for me. I cannot trust anyone else for truth out there. I am responsible for discovering the truth by which I live my life. I cannot trust that my money goes where people promise it will go. I’m not letting media of any kind tell me what my beliefs are, how my relationships will work, or even convince me that I play a part in the political system, because I don’t. My job is right here in my small town, in my local businesses, in my local congregation, in my family. My job is to heal the damaged relationships around me one person at a time. My truth is in my corner of the world and the only thing I know for sure. If I can act on it, I can heal it.

Middle Aged Spread

No, I’m not talking about weight. I’m talking about existing within the vast middle of society. The Golden Mean. The Middle Road. You know, the one that most everyone lives in but which the extremes of left and right think doesn’t exist. Political and religious right and left-wingers believe that existing in the middle is somehow “copping out” of making any kind of decision. I say it’s enjoying the fruits of and avoiding the worst of both worlds. Let me explain. I’m of the middle in practically every area, but the two that occupy most of my thoughts and time are religion and politics. Everyone has an opinion about these two topics. The most vociferous are those who live on the extreme edges of both. Both of the extremes miss out on the more reasonable, chewy nougat center. Let’s take say…..church architecture.

Church architecture has really, really gone downhill. Instead of wonderfully airy cathedrals, we now have stadiums resembling (and sometimes actually being) sports arenas. What does this say about the religion that dwells within it? LOADS! As I’ve said before I work in a large, urban Protestant church. The denomination can be, but is not necessarily, wedded to liturgy. In other words, there is a set pattern to worship every Sunday. It’s not the denomination that I go to so I have nothing invested in its polity. I just work there. Anyway, due to the stress I’ve been under, I decided to go to the sanctuary and meditate twice last week. It’s done wonders! The sanctuary seats about 500. It has wooden pews with cushions on the seat. It has a high, Gothic ceiling, an organ and choir balcony in the BACK, a raised chancel with seatingtourchancel_big.jpg stalls for elders and an alter of sorts for Communion elements (done by intinction but only once a month and at a specific service). The pulpit must be stepped up to and is higher than everyone else. There is a lectern for reading scripture. You get the idea. There is a baptismal font and a small room for the Handbell choir. There is also stained glass all around. And I mean STAINED GLASS; beautiful depictions of Christ, the apostles, the various Marys of the bible and other people. The church itself was designed by none other than Ralph Adams Cram and his firm Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson. The windows, especially behind the pulpit, are all blues, reds, yellows, oranges, etc. Beautiful when back lit by the sun in the afternoon. So walking into this cavernous place on a weekday instantly implies, darkness, silence, mystery, and peace. I’d sit behind a column and just soak up the sights and the lack of sound. It did more for my stress than pills and sleep ever did.

Now think on some Protestant churches like the one I had been attending in my small, rural town. It is small, seating perhaps 100 squeezed tightly, with blue carpeting and pine walls all around. The pews are padded and the backs of the pews have little ledges with holes in which to put your once monthly communion cups. The room is bright and airy and the stained glass has depictions of Jesus only in the classic “knock and door shall be opened” pose or some shepherding scene. Behind the pulpit is a large, adult sized baptism “tub,” big enough for immersion. The scene behind it is a painting of the river Jordan. The pulpit is directly in front of a few chairs for the choir on a “stage.” The communion table is on the floor in front of the stage. Off to the side is a hallway leading back to the fellowship hall. If one came into that sanctuary during the day, one would hear many things. Light would be everywhere. The church office is right behind the sanctuary. The door to the street is not sectioned off, as it is in my workplace church which boasts a separate narthex. No, in the church where I worship you enter and boom, you are in the church. There is no room to separate talking, laughing, and visiting from the worship experience itself.

The point I’m making is that modern church architecture, for me, implies a paucity of mystical worship. The focus is not God but on the preacher. Rather than draw your eye upward to the heavens, as “high church” settings do, or at least to stained glass of Jesus emerging from the Divine Womb, you are immediately directed in “low church” settings to see the pastor. The teacher is everything. On the “low church” side, you can’t beat the teachings and the sermons. Part of my job is to type sermons the pastor writes out longhand. (YAWN). In order to never rock the boat of this well to do congregation, the pastor manages to say very little in a sermon. There is no mention of “blood” “salvation” “the Holy Spirit” or how to become a Christian. It’s very generic. So what one does very well, the other lacks completely. The “low church” paucity is in worship. The “high church” paucity is in theology. I guess you can’t have it both ways, can you?

This same “high brow/low brow” classism is behind every social phenomenon you could care to name. You see it in academia, politics, religion, and social welfare programs. Applying this to religion leads to freedom of worship on one side and legalism on the other. In academia it’s the difference between literature and popular fiction. In politics is the extremes of Republican and Democrat. The problem I see in either extreme is that in “high church” churches the building is almost worshiped as much as God is. Rich people tend to flock to the church where I work. In “low church” churches working class folks place no emphasis on the building, but there is a lot of infighting personally. Where I work, infighting is virtually non-existent. Trust me, I would know. We Administrative Assistants almost become the confidants of everyone, from the pastor to the parishioner! So why is there no infighting and personal backstabbing going on? Because, worship is not about them or the pastor or the sunday school teacher. It’s very curious.

The effect of dividing our lives into either/or extremes leaves the rest of us scratching our heads. We can see the wisdom in both, but choose not to throw all our eggs into one basket. Why does it have to be that way? Why is compromise such a dirty word? Why can’t both worlds agree to disagree or meet in the middle? The refusal to compromise or learn from each other is why I will always be Catholic/Baptist or politically Democrat/Republican (Libertarian is not an option. It is not moderate in its complete divorcement of government control over some social programs). I will be both. I am a moderate. I will always be a moderate. There are good and bad ideas and doctrines on both sides of the political and religious fences, but I am going to mix it up and choose neither exclusively. I’ve got my religious and political fence stile built and will continue to use it.

TV + the Other Detritus of Life

There’s a lot going on this week boys and girls. For one, I’m on “vacation,” which means that I’m off work and doing nothing at home. No, I’m not even cleaning my house. What kind of vacation is that??? Vacations are for something called “relaxing,” resting from your labors, not adding to it.

My son is home on leave from the Army and is planning a wedding in October with his girlfriend. In the meantime, he is home for almost two weeks before being stationed at Ft. Riley, KS. Sounds fun. We are having a good week getting to know our son again after these long absences. The Army’s been good for him. While in college he went through a particularly existential, “what difference does it all make” period before deciding to join up. We were all surprised that he took this route, but we are extremely proud of him nonetheless.  I pray for peace but hope for full funding of the military’s needs. If you’re going to kick ass, you’d better do it fully prepared. I will now descend my soapbox for more mundane issues.

I’m trying to read way too many books. I’ve started a pile from way back and just keep adding to it. So far, I’m reading His Excellency (a biography of George Washington), The Plague (Camus), The Handmaid’s Tale (Atwood), Glittering Images (Howatch), and Dune (Herbert). Toss in a couple of romances and mystery thrillers for brain candy and you get the idea. Will I get through them? I doubt it, although the Washington biography is a fun read, believe it or not. And even though I’ve got thousands of books in my library, I bought a book at Barnes and Noble yesterday Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke. The plot sounds like the premise of The Prestige.

I’ve also kept up on my TV watching. I was looking forward to the premier of Dancing With the Stars last night. All of our usual professional dancers are back and some new ones too. Is it just me, or does Alec look a little surly this season? Hmmm.John Ratzenberger Maybe he always looks like that. Remember he won the first season with Kelly Monoco. This season he’s paired with Paulina Porizkova. Anyway, they have quite a line up but I can tell right now that Billy Ray Cyrus will be the first to go. Or perhaps Heather Mills, who looks like a psycho chick waiting to pounce at any minute! Scary. Who’s going to go far? Ian Ziering (who’s paired with our reigning champion Cheryl Burke), Laila Ali, Joey Fatone, and A. A. Ohno. Ali looked like she put a very arrogant Maksim in his place for the first time in four seasons! Good for her. He was getting a little insufferable there and now he’s downright meek. Go figure. Clyde Drexler, the NBA star, did well. He just looks like a giant teddy bear out there dancing. John Ratzenberger proves that just because you have a few pounds around the middle, it doesn’t mean you can’t dance! I always like to root for the underdog.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…the hubby and I are trying to make sense out of Deadwood. We’ve started watching it in the middle of last season and we are hopelessly lost, so we rented the first season from Netflix. Interestingly, the first season is vastly different than what it’s morphed into. The lighting and cinematography are lighter. There is not as much cussing as in later episodes. Calamity Jane smiles a lot more. Swearingen does not have this flowery speech that he seems to have affected in later episodes. You know, that stupid 1800’s faux syntax that passed for Victorian speech back then. It’s nowhere to be scene, in anybody’s speech for that matter. Good. I find that to be the worst part of the show. I mean really, do we really expect the settlers of Deadwood to sound like they just stepped off the London stage? Nope. Everyone appears to be cleaner in the first season, too. All in all, I wonder if perhaps the writers were listening to their own press and stylizing the show after that? I do know that without Timothy Olyphant as Seth Bullock, the show wouldn’t hold as much appeal for me. He’s the moral center and the compass of the entire show. Somebody’s gotta do it after all. Keith Carradine’s turn as Wild Bill Hickok will also be greatly missed. Ah well. I suppose now that we know what’s going on we can at least figure out what Hearst is doing. Sheesh!

On Sunday I went to the Baptist church. Those people are hopeless. Or maybe I’m hopeless. Either way, why is it that when you go to church and basically tell everyone you are having a crisis of faith, that they immediately turn tail and run as fast as they can the other way? Even the pastor isn’t initiating any “help” by offering solutions. Ordinarily I’d find this refreshing, but these people have nothing to offer to help those who doubt because THEY HAVE NEVER DOUBTED! I find this a scary thought. How can you even have faith if you’ve never questioned, doubted, or wrestled with God? I can’t comprehend it. It’s the old adage: Having to work for something makes something that much more valuable. No wonder this small church is dying. They are nice people, but there is no fire. The service isn’t “worship,” it’s a good old hymn sing with a sermon thrown in because you have to, don’t ya’ know. I don’t know. I’m dying on the vine here.  Where’s the encouraging, uplifting word of comfort from the body? I must be looking in the wrong place.

Shalom til next time. 🙂

Contrary to the Evidence

Mardi Gras

I almost went to the Baptist church I tried to resign from today. Almost. We invited my deacon friend and his wife over to dinner last night and had a good time talking and practicing for our town’s trivia night next Saturday. Discussion eventually turned to church and the problems with the pastor there. (see my earlier post) Something the deacon’s wife said on her way out the door after a full evening got me thinking. After we were saying goodbyes and I said I’d see them tomorrow, she was surprised because I’d voiced my opinion about how I didn’t like the pastor and didn’t want to come to church since she’s there. She said in jest, “Well, you’re not going to be causing any trouble are you?” Now if you knew her, you wouldn’t think that she meant anything mean by her offhand remark, she’s just not that way. But even the hint of my being the troublemaker in all this kind of steamed me a little. I mean, even they were saying how they don’t like her methods and how she twists their words around to make them look bad. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but I get tired of always being the bad guy because I say what I think rather than be false.
Anyway, since we woke up on Sunday this morning, like a trained monkey, I felt the pull toward the two houses of worship I usually frequent, one of which exhibits very little worship and much fellowship and the other very little fellowship and much worship. Since I couldn’t decide between the two, I decided to do neither and stay home. Besides it’s too cold to go outside and I’m enjoying my romp around cyberspace. I’m also very, very tired of thinking about religion; and irreligion for that matter. Theists have valid arguments for God from experience. Atheists have valid intellectual arguments against God. Both convince me and both irritate the hell out of me with their aggressive and contrary ways. Both are equally unreasonable in style and approach. Both are also completely dichotomous and refuse to admit the value of the other. Neither would even exist without the other. They feed off each other symbiotically. As for me, why should I expend so much energy on something with so little reward? Because I like giving money to pastors who don’t deserve it? No. Do I like supporting institutions that use and abuse children because of a prurient need to hang on to medieval ethics? No.

Therefore, once again I’m trying to get back on the middle road. Or perhaps I’ll not take the road at all. I don’t like having the road chosen for me. It’s my life after all. Therefore, I think that for Lent this year, I’m going to give up religion and it’s favorite bedmate, atheism. Both are my besetting sins, therefore, both must go. I can’t say as I’ll be sorry to see them go. No doubt, I will have a lover’s quarrel with each and many reconciliations and regrets, but you have to start somewhere. It won’t be easy cause I work in a church. It’s like giving up porn while still working in a porn shop. But, I’m going to try. Wish me luck.

02/19/07 p.s. Ok, as some of my friends have wisely reminded me, I can no more give up religion than a duck can give up water. Let’s just say, I’m giving up institutional religion and will begin working on my spirituality.

Baptist History-Part IV

 mystery of iniquity

The Four Fragile Freedoms of Baptist Spirituality

            In the past few months, I’ve tried my best to condense into a couple of articles the rich, detailed, and complex history of the Baptist movement in England and America. I’m not sure I’ve done the project justice, but there are numerous volumes about Baptist history on the internet or from Baptist publishers. While there are resources readily available, one has clarified the issues for me far better and in a more succinct fashion than any other. Dr. Walter Shurden, executive director for the Center for Baptist Studies has written an invaluable book, The Baptist Identity: Four Fragile Freedoms, that every Baptist should have in their personal library. In it, Shurden outlines four freedoms that we, as Baptists, take for granted. We will begin looking at these issues in brief in the coming months: 1) Bible Freedom, 2) Soul Freedom, 3) Church Freedom, and 4) Religious Freedom.

Bible Freedom is the most basic freedom for Baptists and is defined as the right of the individual believer to interpret Scriptures for herself without the interference of church authorities, institutional hierarchies, or biblical hyper-literalists. For Baptists and other denominations, the Bible has been the final authority for most Christians’ faith and practice since the Reformation. It is the one privilege Baptists have historically insisted upon as the basis for their efforts at Church reform. But once again we must guard against extremes and temper all interpretations with the witness of other Christians throughout history.

Soul Freedom is probably the most fragile of freedoms facing Christians today. Those claiming authority over interpretation of the Scriptures have always formed creeds that they expected all Christians adhere to, sometimes under pain of severe penalty and even death. Sometimes we simply cannot adhere to creeds formulated by others either because the Spirit is confirming another path or because of faulty interpretations of Scripture. When our conscience becomes convicted by the Holy Spirit, we are then waging a battle for soul freedom. Without the freedom to formulate our own beliefs, we are severely curtailing the Holy Spirit’s action in our lives and giving undue power to leaders.

Church freedom is the right of each church, under the Lordship of Christ, to ordain its own ministers and to decide its own structure, order of worship, and membership requirements. Churches are also free to participate in larger associations in order to further the work of Christ’s kingdom. Most major battles in church history have been fought over the concept of church freedom, even going so far as to split the church over the issue of music in worship! The most notorious split was the Great Schism of 1054 when the Roman bishop, opposed by the Patriarch of the Eastern Church, set himself above all other bishops because of the interpretation of a clause in the Nicene Creed, churches have fought over structure and leadership ever since.

Religious Freedom is the right of individual Christians and, ultimately, all people of faith, to worship without the dictates or intervention of the state or state-sanctioned religion. Religious freedom must be fought for regardless of whether we agree with another’s religion or not, because when we limit another’s religious freedom, we limit our own. History has proven that limiting or directing faith by force through existing governments or church hierarchies has given birth to some of the darkest periods in church history. Mixing religion and politics never works. Therefore, theocracy and religious freedom are mutually exclusive concepts. Theocracy should never be encouraged because of the human tendency to lord it over others unfairly.

There are many more resources available to Baptists to begin their own study of the history and spirituality of our denomination. To get you started, I encourage you, if you are online, to go to http://www.centerforbaptiststudies.org/certificate/ index.htm and begin your own course of study. On the web site you will also find numerous links and resources to further your study. Judson Press, the American Baptist publishing organization also may be contacted for resources. May God bless you on your journey and thank you for indulging my passion for reading and research.


“…For why should my liberty be subject to the judgment of someone else’s conscience?” 1 Corinthians 10:29b