Southern Religion

Medieval Catholic Southern Baptists?

At Ethics Daily Robert Parham celebrates Baptist historians, among them E. Glenn Hinson, once of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Parham reminds us that in 1980 amid the gathering fundamentalist storm, Hinson “took on Bailey Smith, the Southern Baptist fundamentalist, who said in 1980 that ‘God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.'”

Hinson told FaithLab in an interview:

I made five points in response to Bailey Smith: (1) Jesus was a Jew – you may have disenfranchised Jesus’ prayers; (2) You disenfranchised everybody from Abraham to Jesus; (3) The Bible teaches that God hears the prayers of unbelievers; (4) This conflicts with centuries of Baptists’ respect for every person’s religious belief; (5) This is the stuff from which Holocausts come. I think the last point may have ignited the tinder.

Hinson eventually left Southern, and although he still considers himself a Baptist was blunt in his assessment of Southern Baptists:

The Baptist tradition depends on a minority consciousness. And having become the majority, Baptists in the South could no longer think like Baptists, they thought like medieval Catholics.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , , , | Comments Off on Medieval Catholic Southern Baptists?

Catholic/Baptist anti-abortion convergence

Somehow, not mysteriously, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) chose the days preceding the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” [today] to renew their anti-choice attack on health care reform.

No overt Batholic/Catholic coordination was required, although there is convergence.

The SBC officially celebrates Sanctity of Human Life Sunday every year at Roe v. Wade anniversary time, and again this year, those promoting it mirror the USCCB arguments, saying, for example, that health reform would set off a “surge in taxpayer funded abortions in this country.”

In some regards, this celebration tends to make over the issue a delusion.

Among Southern Baptists, however, it is most visibly Richard Land, the SBC ethics chief, who raises the rhetorical stakes beyond the possibility of reasoning together to argue that the entire nation is “offering up its unborn children in a kind of pagan sacrifice.”

Land offers up those who argue a pro-choice position as worshippers of Molech:

I can still remember as a young boy having a Sunday School lesson about how the children of God had become so paganized that they sacrificed their little children to the pagan god Molech. I could never have imagined then that I would live to see my country offering up its unborn children as a type of pagan sacrifice.

Given the embedded arguments, certainly well-summarized by Land, the SBC might well also call this the “impossibility of further civil debate” Sunday.

January 18, 2010 Posted by | Medical Care, Religion, SBC | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Catholic/Baptist anti-abortion convergence

Batholic ‘scandal’ over Toy [Addendum]

Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, lit out after Tony Cartledge in a recent blog, for having suggested that Crawford Howell Toy was a “hero.”

Mohler argues that Toy was a “heretic” because after being, driven from Southern, Toy moved on to teach at Harvard, where he left the Baptist church to worship with the Unitarians. Baptists regard Unitarian theology as heretical. Thus, Mohler says, Cartledge’s characterization was both “tragic and scandalous.”

What Cartledge actually wrote of Toy is:

Increasingly, I have also come to admire Crawford Toy, who was no less devoted to Christ, and who was willing to suffer rejection by Southern Baptists rather than surrender to the narrow-minded demand that he forgo scholarship and limit his teaching to popularly accepted notions.

There’s more than one way to be a hero.

Bruce Prescott, a thoughtful critic of Southern Baptist conservatives, concisely argues at Mainstream Baptist that Mohler is in no position to know the late Crawford Toy’s heart and calls Mohler to account for presuming to pass judgment (Matt 7:1) on Toy (and by implication, on Cartledge). Prescott continues:

For the record, I would not hesitate to call Toy a Baptist hero. Baptists began as defenders of “soul liberty” and “liberty of conscience.” Considering the way, in Toy’s experience, Baptists had abandoned that belief, it is not hard to comprehend what made Unitarianism appealing to him. Unitarians are unashamed and unflinching in their defense of “liberty of conscience.”

Liberty of conscience is indeed at the heart of this. Cartledge, an Associate Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School and former editor of the Biblical Recorder, has long been a thorn in the side of doctrinaire and increasingly doctrine-bound Southern Baptists like Mohler.

Years ago when Cartledge was given to expressing greater hope for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), he wrote well about the dangers of the SBC conservatives’ drift into Batholicism and Cathist thinking.

Now comes Mohler, using a variant of that often Roman Catholic term “scandal” and applying the heretic brand.


Cartledge in that same blog deals with a bid by Southwestern Theological Seminary head Paige Patterson to appropriate the Lottie Moon heritage.

In a comment, Biblical Recorder Editor Norman Jameson points to a similar effort by Patterson and his allies to appropriate credit for Southeastern Theological Seminary.

In an Oct. 15, 2008, blog touching on Southeastern President Danny Akin’s introduction of Patterson for a chapel message at Southeastern, Jameson wrote:

“If it were not for Paige Patterson I would not be standing here today,” Akin said, acknowledging the mentor relationship. “And none of you would be here because you would not have wanted to attend a Southeastern Seminary the way it was,” before the changes wrought by Lewis Drummond and Patterson.

I did not attend Southeastern Seminary so I was not insulted for myself at that comment, but I felt slapped on behalf of many godly Christian men and women who attended and taught at Southeastern “the way it was” before Patterson. The list in North Carolina alone is huge.

Akin followed his comment with a short litany of the doldrums Southeastern endured before Patterson began his tenure. Enrollment had dropped to 580 students, he said, and it now serves 2,500, including a new Southeastern College. That is impressive growth.

With its clear focus, engaging leadership and development muscle some say Southeastern Seminary is becoming the epicenter of theological education among Southern Baptist Seminaries. Akin said “all the good things happening at Southeastern today are traced right back to (Patterson).”

Maybe it’s just my lens coloring it for me, but the statement about the low point and its context implied that Southeastern pre-Patterson was in the doldrums for some reason other than the convulsions of a Southern Baptist Convention adjusting to change and because trustees were undermining the leadership of Randall Lolley, president from 1974-87.

Southeastern’s own website credits significant growth during the Lolley years.

In his comment, Jameson suggested that those “notes of triumphalism have such a harsh clang they do not attract anyone to a continuing cause.” An understatement.

January 14, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , , , , | Comments Off on Batholic ‘scandal’ over Toy [Addendum]

Using Catholic Church discipline to shape American public policy director Deal Hudson’s denigration of two progressive Catholic groups as “fake Catholic” provoked push-back from Bryan Cones, managing editor of U.S. Catholic magazine. Cones

Well, I disagree with him, and if he wants to have a debate about whether I’m a Catholic, I say: Bring it, Deal. It’s time for Catholics with actual knowledge of the breadth of the Catholic tradition to start speaking up for themselves before we all get read out the church.

This is no mere parochial quarrel. It is part of a conflict over how much the Catholic right will use church discipline to bend national policy to its will.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent interview with Eleanor Clift of Newsweek, and reaction to it, indicates what the right has in mind.

In the interview, Pelosi expressed concerns about the Catholic Church’s position on abortion and gay rights and touched on the difference between pastoral care by her bishop and lobbying by bishops.

Patrick Archbold at the Catholic blog Creative Minority Report called this “text-book definition of scandal (a grave offense which incites others to sin). He argued that “it should, at this point, be dealt with in a direct and public way lest no one else think that you can hold these positions and consider yourself a ‘practicing’ Catholic.”

“Direct and public” appears to imply something more than the 2007 letter Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., received from Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I., requesting that he not receive communion because of his stand on abortion. The letter was revealed in the wake of a conflict between Tobin and Kennedy after Kennedy criticized the U.S. bishops for threatening to oppose health reform unless the legislation banned the use of federal funds to cover abortion. Kennedy said their stance was “fanning the flames of dissent and discord.” And Tobin demanded an apology.

Archbold’s shaping and interpretation of Pelosi’s studied answers into an assault on the Catholic Church is less important here than the coherence of his conclusions with Tobin’s application of force and perhaps even Randall Terry’s theatrical attempt to pressure bishops into denying communion to Catholic public officials who take positions like Pelosi’s.

The emergent pattern is one of using the hammer of church discipline to direct the behavior of Catholic public officials and through them to shape public policies to a narrow view of Catholic theology.

Defining some as “fake Catholic” follows the pattern of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) fundamentalist takeover which among its effects made the SBC a mainstay of the right wing of the Republican Party. Those bidding for power tarred opponents as “liberal” (rather than “fake”) in order to drive them out. That process of narrowing continues as the SBC shrinks.

The resulting SBC is more politically right-wing than the Catholic Church is currently.

Most recently, the Roman Catholic Church found ways to oppose Uganda’s anti-gay legislation. Yet the SBC through its political arm — the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission — remains scandalously silent on that matter. One which has otherwise attracted sweeping opposition from religious leaders and human rights groups.

A part of what has been ironically dubbed Batholicism, there lies the future of a Roman Catholic Church whose members permit some to be defamed and either silenced or driven out because they dissent from ideological narrowness.

December 30, 2009 Posted by | Catholic | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pope downplays interfaith dialogue (maybe)

Batholics in Bohemia

“Batholics in Bohemia, or when your pastor enquires of you” is a Czeck cartoon which was inspired by Tony Cartledge’s May 20, 2005, blog “Baptists or Batholics?”

I am informed that the caption translates, “Did you vote for Christian democratic party, Civic democratic party or social democrats? According to the new SBC instruction no. 214/09 we cannot accept liberal voters.”

A few days after a Baptist minister called the Roman Catholic Church a cult comes word that the pope himself is sending mixed signals about the worth of interfaith dialogue.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote in a letter to an author that “an interreligious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible” according to a report in the New York Times. In theological terms, the pope said, “a true dialogue is not possible without putting one’s faith in parentheses.”

The news comes after Jim Smyrl, the executive pastor of education at the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, called the Catholic Church a “cult” in one of his church’s official blogs.

But it’s important to note that the pope also said “intercultural dialogue which deepens the cultural consequences of basic religious ideas” is important and called for confronting “in a public forum the cultural consequences of basic religious decisions.”

A Vatican spokesman seemed to walk back the pope’s comments even further, saying the comments were not meant to cast doubt on the Vatican’s many continuing interreligious dialogues.

Perhaps some good would result now if Jim Smyrl had an audience with the pope. He is, after all, a Batholic.

November 26, 2008 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Pope downplays interfaith dialogue (maybe)

Batholics and Cathists rise again

Over at Frink, allusions to the Southern Batholic Convention recalled to mind “ye borogoves,” said by Lewis Caroll to be “all mimsy.”

This particular inventive use of words bespeaks Baptist ministerial behavior that reeks of doctrinal inquisition — no reason to “gyre and gymble,” the seasonal appropriateness of wabes notwithstanding.

Former Biblical Recorder Editor Tony Cartledge used those two faintly whimsical words, applying them to to similar effect It is, indeed, Cartledge’s past use of Batholic and Cathist that forms the core of Frink’s blog.

Fascinating coinages, both words have been employed from time to time elsewhere on the web.

Batholics in Bohemia

“Batholics in Bohemia, …or when your pastor enquires of you,” is a Czeck cartoon which was inspired by Tony Cartledge’s May 20, 2005, blog (no longer online) “Baptists or Batholics?”

I am informed that the caption translates, “Did you vote for Christian democratic party, Civic democratic party or social democrats? According to the new SBC instruction no. 214/09 we cannot accept liberal voters.”

Batholic and Cathist are found in the sometimes painful online struggles of teens who are growing up with one parent who is Catholic and another who is Baptist.

Self-description as Batholic may be attended by less turbulence as the blogger gains years of experience.

As for Cathist, Papa Slugg of the Shooting Forum gently styles himself a Cathist.
One blogger terms a friend a Batholic and they both appear to be happy about the term. The term is also applied, “Hee hee” at a blog whose overarching view is humorous.

Still, the diversion of those writings, each of which I found to be enlightening in its way, failed to carry me far from Cartledge’s and Frink’s concerns. An inclination to enforce doctrine through censure precipitated from the pulpit is, I think, a human rather than a denomenational weakness.

There is about censure from the pulpit, or even indirectly from the recent Baptist State Convention of North Carolina gathering in Greensboro, an odor I cannot shake from my nostrils.

Is that the the ashes of Girolamo Savonarola I smell?

Or just another volume of Lewis Carroll’s poetry burning?

November 16, 2008 Posted by | Religion | , , | 11 Comments