A Note to my fellow Southern Baptists

So Richard Land has decided to leave the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques because many Southern Baptists apparently feel his membership in a organization that files court papers aiding the building of mosques is an endorsement of Islam.

Southern Baptists have historically been staunch supporters of religious freedom, and the various versions of the “Baptist Faith and Message” all have strong words about the importance of religious freedom(BFM 2000 #17):

“Church and state should be separate.”

“In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others.”

“The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work.”

“The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind.”

“A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal….”

Doubtless the principle behind the protest of Mr. Land membership on the Interfaith Coalition is based on yet another section of the BFM 2000(#15):

“Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.”

And Mr. Land’s decision to leave the Coalition is based on a scriptural argument:

1Co 8:9 HCSB But be careful that this right of yours in no way becomes a stumbling block to the weak.
1Co 8:13 HCSB Therefore, if food causes my brother to fall, I will never again eat meat, so that I won’t cause my brother to fall.

The Associated Press article then says “Land said he will continue to work for religious freedom and feels he can do it just as well from outside the coalition as from inside it.”

All well and good. But I’m reminded in this case of a more elevated writing that gives the lie to the idea that one can support something yet not actively work for it:

Jas 2:15-16 NET. If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it?

I would argue that it is better to be blasted for doing something, than nothing, and also that people should be more discerning that to take things at face value. Also, as much as I respect the apostle Paul (more brains and more Spirit in a single hair than I’ll ever have), I have to point out someone else used to do confusing things like eating with sinners and tax collectors,

Luk 5:30-31 NET. But the Pharisees and their experts in the law complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (31) Jesus answered them, “Those who are well don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do.

and saying apparently outrageous things,

Joh 6:53-54 NET. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. (54) The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

Joh 6:66 NET. After this many of his disciples quit following him and did not accompany him any longer.

Seeming tensions between our stated goals and our actions are inevitable. Let us not let those tensions prevent us doing the right thing, as our greatest example Himself did not.

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