The Baptist Press is funded with Cooperative Program Funds of the Southern Baptist Churches. One look at their website and I am reminded of the various “News” outlets like CBN and TBN who offer “alternative news” supposedly from “a Christian” perspective. They have their own “Fox News” here. There is a front page story on the website about a “Creation Museum” that opened near Memorial Day in Northern Kentucky just south of Cincinnati. Other “news” focuses on various “issues” and chides any and all who oppose Bush. The denomination’s “leadership” should be an absolute embarrassment to any who still dare to identify themselves as Southern Baptist. I am embarrassed that the denomination of my own roots have descended to such depths of irrelevance and brainwashing. Most of all , of course, is the dominance of the American political scene in their “news”. They have become a “cultural” institution that bears little resemblance to the church.
One article bemoans the “prejudice” of professors at America’s colleges and universities:
The majority of professors at America’s colleges and universities hold an unfavorable view of evangelical Christians that leads to prejudice and intolerance in the classroom, a recent study on educators’ religious opinions confirmed.
No surprise there. But when taking into account “news” outlets like this, the irrelevance that pass as “press releases” from such perspectives would explain such attitudes. The fundamentalist backlash that swept the SBC early in the 80’s mirrored the rise of the “Moral Majority” and the “Christian Coalition”.
It’s not that I would defend the University culture, since I believe it it to be, in fact, an institution charged with the task of indoctrinating students to the “American way of life”. The SBC , on the other hand, considers “The American Way of life” to be a “guiding principle” that must be rescued from liberalism, but nevertheless a “key virtue” that is to be celebrated; even “baptized” as a spiritual virtue. It is this blind allegiance to nationalism and clear association with the radical right wing of this nationalism that has turned the Southern Baptist Church into one more cultural institution that celebrates “American might” and has joined the movement that venerates megachurches as the ultimate sign of success.
But the SBC is also a clear “subculture” within the larger mega-church, nationalistic groups. This “Baptist Press” has distinguished itself as a “badge” of resistance to what they perceive as signs of decay. But the “signs” they identify have little to do with the gospel. They seem to have few “marks” to distinguish themselves as a “Christian culture” other than what are identified for them by such “media outlets” and from their pulpits and educational literature. And their teachings seem unable to step outside of their identity as “Americans” and an ethnocentrism that renders them unable to imagine that American foreign policies and “defense” and the “war on terror” has devastating consequences for those with whom their lives will never come into contact. And that’s just fine with them. Because “freedom and liberty” have been defined for them by the empire, and they adjust their theology to justify such notions of “freedom and liberty”. They associate “Freedom in Christ” with these freedoms defined by the state, and ignore the evil unleashed in its name, and even work to brand as evil those who question America. Attendees at the Southern Baptist Convention of 2006 have pointed out that the emotions elicited by “American rally calls” such as “freedom and liberty” and “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful” far exceeded those elicited by theological matters of church.
And my earlier post today about the absence of signs of the “centrality” of the church in the lives of even the most church going Christians is so rampant in Southern Baptist life (which is why so many of them have turned to “mega-church” methods). They seek to be “on par” with the culture in which people have immersed themselves. They feel they have to be “just as good entertainment” and give us “tips on living”.
But they have become good at “absorbing” the culture and letting it flavor their “church”. (While I write this, I am aware that Southern Baptists are not the only ones “good at this”, but the Baptist Press stories only peaked my frustration at this, and so here I am, following this line of thinking). Anyway, for what it’s worth.