Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples, Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.
On Friday, I wrote about my mother’s Southern Baptist pastor passing away from COVID-19, and I admitted that I have two prejudices: Republicans and Southern Baptists. Besides the unwelcoming nature of Southern Baptists, I thought I would explain why I think they are the modern-day equivalents of the scribes and the Pharisees that Jesus laments about several times in the Gospels. The Pharisees and scribes were upset because they believed the people were abandoning the purity of the covenant that Jews had made with God. They believed that Jews in the Roman Empire were being lax in their morality and in their obedience to the commandments of God. So, they sought to draw together and draw apart from the masses and to set a moral example. These were the conservatives of the day. They had a high system of honor and virtue, and they committed themselves to obeying God. Yet, they outwardly professed their faith the loudest, but they secretly did not follow their own beliefs and morals. They were hypocrtites.
Growing up in the South, the religious right was often centered around the Southern Baptists. They are the largest Protestant denomination, and they tend to be the loudest. Of course, there are other denominations that follow suit, but it is often the Southern Baptists that try to speak for all Protestants and condemn those who do not believe like they do. One reason for this is their seminaries and universities, and another reason is because of the press the annual Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) receives, especially when it comes to their views on the LGBTQ+ community.
In its history, the SBC has issued several resolutions in which it rejects homosexuality as a lifestyle and refers to it as a “manifestation of a depraved nature”, “a perversion of divine standards and as a violation of nature and natural affections” and “an abomination in the eyes of God.” It opposes same-sex marriages and equivalent unions. The SBC has urged churches not to show any approval of homosexuality; however, it also holds that “while the Bible condemns such practice as sin, it also teaches forgiveness and transformation, upon repentance, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” But that is only if a person turns away from the sexuality that they were born with. I personally think it is a gift from God. The SBC doesn’t even allow the term gay Christian because they say that even if you are celibate you cannot identify as both gay and Christian at the same time. The SBC only allows members of the LGBTQ+ community to worship with them if they denounce their sexuality.
My sister and I were raised in the Church of Christ. My father was far angrier at my sister for converting to being Southern Baptist when she got married than he ever was for me being gay. Yet, to show you how filled with hate he has become, he and my mother now attend a Southern Baptist Church. When I was growing up, he hated to even step foot in one of their churches. My mother was raised a Southern Baptist but claimed years ago that she was truly a member of the Church of Christ where we attended. I just don’t understand the sudden change in them. The only excuse I can find is because the church is convenient to where they are now living, and all my parents’ friends and neighbors attend that church. I find it disgusting that they would attend a church that is part of such a hate filled denomination. They think I will attend with them the next time I am home. I will not be. It will probably cause some strife, but I will not budge on this. I have been to a Baptist Church a few times in my life, and I always felt an evil surrounding me.
I am probably being a hypocrite on this because the Church of Christ is no better when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues. However, there are fundamental differences between the Church of Christ and the Southern Baptist Church. Most importantly, every congregation of the Church of Christ is independent. Southern Baptists claim the same thing, but they have the Southern Baptist Convention that governs all their churches and the denomination’s doctrine. The Church of Christ has no equivalent. Each Church of Christ could decide on their own to affirm the LGBTQ+ community because the elders of the church are in charge, but the Southern Baptist must abide by the doctrine of the SBC. Therefore, while I hold no hope for the SBC ever changing their stance, I do believe that the Church of Christ could and should. Will it ever happen? I can only hope and pray. One day, Christianity will accept the belief in a true universal love of God and will act accordingly.
August 2nd, 2020 at 7:20 am
Joe, I am an Epicopalian and lived in a dry county in North Alabama. When I would go to a neighboring wet county I often ran into Baptist friends there. The saying is so true: Baptist don’t drink in front of each other. We also had a friend who was the puller of the Church of Christ. They loved to come to my house for dinner because they knew they would get a few glasses of wine.
August 2nd, 2020 at 7:25 am
There’s an old joke: What’s the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist? A Methodist will speak to you in the liquor store.
There is way too much hypocrisy in the churches today. Back when Alabama voted for a lottery during Siegelman’s administration, the churches defeated the lottery because it was “gambling,” yet they’d all get on a bus in the church parking lot on Saturday to go to the casinos in Biloxi.
Hypocrisy is one of the things I hate most about the South. It’s everywhere, look at the Republican Party, but the South seems to have made it an art form.
August 2nd, 2020 at 3:43 pm
It is 1975, I am 11 yrs. old, and I am in the 6th grade boys Sunday school class at a large Southern Baptist church in Savannah, Georgia. The lesson that day was Genesis 9. The teacher taught us that the Curse of Ham meant that all black people were to be treated as inferior because they were cursed by God. I asked the teacher, “Where is it in the scripture that Ham was black?” The teacher replied, “It is inferred.” That was insufficient evidence and so I repeatedly pressed the question in different ways. Eventually, I stood up, told the teacher that he was teaching us something that was not in the Bible and I walked out. I did not tell my mother about the encounter and was taken again to the class next Sunday and discovered that the teacher was trembling when he looked at me.
I secretly rejected the Southern Baptist church when I was 7 because of racist beliefs and denial of science that permeated the church culture, but was still dragged there until my early teen years. It was the church where my grandparents went and where my parents met and married.
I share your hope that Christianity will move more to the belief in an all-loving God. So many Christian churches claim that their God is loving under certain conditions. Conditional love though is not really love. God’s love embraces the whole human race in all its beautiful diversity and life-giving faiths. Denying that prevents us from loving each other in the fulness that Jesus preached.