Innocence may be lost in simple conversations. I learned ministry in a â??Ã?Ãºtriumphalistâ??Ã?Ã¹ Southern Baptist Church. We were always better, right and more evangelistic than any other group [read, denomination] – save a couple of cults we regularly used as illustration for committed â??Ã?Ãºsoul winning.â??Ã?Ã¹ I believed.
I am unsure if I communicated the same sentiment as an adolescent. I do recall a specific conversation shared across a drafting table. Certain of a career in architecture I relished the thought of designing and creating homes and buildings. Steve sat across from me for my second drafting class. One day the conversation turned to faith and church. I could not believe my ears when I was accused of belonging to a group who believed we were the only ones going to Heaven. (I may turn this phrase into a third or fourth post in this series.)
I protested. We discussed our respective traditions and the perceptions of our particular group with regard to the other. He was Roman Catholic and I Southern Baptist. I have not forgotten his experience at the hands of other Southern Baptists who sought to convert him because he was Catholic. It was at that point that I knew we had surely overstepped by summarily dismissing an entire segment of the population solely based on their affiliation in Christendom. I also knew the tinge of embarrassment that resulted. I apologized.
Before graduating high school I heard all the arguments by fundamentalists for the need to â??Ã?Ãºtake overâ??Ã?Ã¹ the Southern Baptist Convention. The church to which I belonged fell into the fundamentalist vein of the SBC and so was very sympathetic to the perceived â??Ã?Ãºliberalâ??Ã?Ã¹ drift.â??Ã?Ã¹ No doubt I began to live into the very notion my high school classmate had just a couple of years before decried. This time the recipients of the triumphal arrogance would be those within my own tribe.
â??Ã?ÃºThe Heresy Papersâ??Ã?Ã¹ written in regard to my Alma Mater left many attending Oklahoma Baptist University with overly sensitive antennae. Any language emitting the slightest hint of a liberal bent triggered often hostile responses. We did not even really understand the terms being thrown around. We just knew that if you used the right code words you could be trusted. If not, you must have been a â??Ã?Ãºliberal.â??Ã?Ã¹ The climate disallowed real relationship and honest inquiry. Even today we still suffer these ill effects. People are dismissed because they use words others deem out of bounds. Unfortunately the climate remains the same today.
I have a number of friends in both the emerging church and Emergent movements. Many take scathing diatribes from many in my tribe. I often have to apologize and often leave out the details of my denominational affiliation. I am embarrassed. Pejorative dismissals based on otherâ??Ã?Ã´s evaluations are intellectually dishonest. And yet, under the guise of preserving the faith we treat people as less than human. I am disgusted. I apologize.
â??Ã?ÃºWinning backâ??Ã?Ã¹ the SBC reinforced not only the external expression of â??Ã?Ãºtriumphalismâ??Ã?Ã¹ but created an internal â??Ã?Ãºusâ??Ã?Ã¹ vs. â??Ã?Ãºthemâ??Ã?Ã¹ that left one wondering how anyone could consider themselves Christian who did not embrace the â??Ã?Ãºhill on which to dieâ??Ã?Ã¹ spun by the â??Ã?Ãºus.â??Ã?Ã¹ The near recent dismissal of IMB missionaries underscored a â??Ã?Ãºcolonialismâ??Ã?Ã¹ stemming from the SBC â??Ã?Ãºtriumphalism.â??Ã?Ã¹ An ever narrowing of cooperation jeopardized the association with the Christian Missionary Alliance and the ministry of Christ followers from differing denominational affiliations. . How on earth would we preserve our â??Ã?ÃºBaptistâ??Ã?Ã¹ distinctives? I apologize.
Natalie commented on the previous post. There is little doubt we have done some amazing things to women in our tradition. Amazing here carries with it the force of â??Ã?Ãºunbelievable.â??Ã?Ã¹ I guess it is not so unbelievable when you consider our support of slavery, record on racism, homophobic dehumanizations, and again, the way we treat those who do not uniformly agree with our positions. Natalie, I apologize.
Quickly someone will proof text me to death. We will have long conversations about the feminization of the male. We will argue headship, complementarity and egalitarianism. The problem wonâ??Ã?Ã´t be in the necessity of conversation. Really the issue will be just how we treat real people. We do not do a good job in disagreement. I apologize.
Just today I was asked if I was Southern Baptist. Yesterday I was asked what in the world was going on in our denomination. Sunday a member of our church heard about an upcoming newscast that would talk about the â??Ã?ÃºBaptist Blowup.â??Ã?Ã¹ I hail from a faith with its own dark history. I apologize. I am still committed to a denomination that for which from time to time apologies need to be made. People matter. Relationships reflect the communality of the Triune God. Redemptive living in the world requires an incarnational expression of the work of Jesus that shows up more in love for my brother than my condemnations. When I am reminded of our less than stellar representations both Christian and Southern Baptist, I apologize.