It's Wednesday, so I am continuing my series on why I am still Baptist. You can read the previous posts here. As it's the fourth of July, today I share one of the more politically motivated reasons I remain Baptist. This is taken from the Baptist Faith and Message, a document that I by and large agree with. I have bolded a few items below for brief discussion following:
XVII. Religious Liberty
God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.
Genesis 1:27; 2:7; Matthew 6:6-7,24; 16:26; 22:21; John 8:36; Acts 4:19-20; Romans 6:1-2; 13:1-7; Galatians 5:1,13; Philippians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; James 4:12; 1 Peter 2:12-17; 3:11-17; 4:12-19.
The knife of these words cuts both ways.
On the one hand, you have what the text says and on the other, how it's been interpreted.
I've never been a huge fan of the patriotic jubilee of the American church on Independence Day weekend, despite being pro-American and perhaps even more pro-Southern. I could belabor this point, but I commend to you Christ and Culture's explanation from yesterday that I think summarizes my views best.
That said, if you ask me why I am still Baptist, one of the key reasons is the idea of religious liberty for all religions and denominations. How this has played out has been imperfect, but on paper the ideal is that the church shall not become the authority of the state and the state shall not interfere with the work of the church. Of any church.
No more tossing out crosses from memorial sites. (Which means, dear friends, that you can't get rid of other religious symbols either.)
No more forcing churches to marry those they do not morally believe they should have to marry. (Which means, dear friends, that your concern should not be with how the state defines marriage, but the church.)
No more picket signs protesting a secular government over policies that seem unfair. (Which means, dear friends, the church becomes responsible on its own to minister to the poor, the oppressed, and the refuge.)
Why am I still Baptist? Because ideally, I can be Baptist and apolitical, even if this is the one weekend of the year that I feel the need to skip church, because I don't pledge allegiance to our flag in the space where I make my vow to the risen Christ.
And this is my tension: ideal vs. reality. Appropriate, no, for the fourth of July?