May 11th, 2005

Was a time when I’d be linking Neil Gaiman‘s fascinating blog every other week. I got so self-conscious about constantly linking that I once declared I’d just make my website a redirect to his. He’s writing less frequently, I think, and I find less that I want to quote or link to these days (though I’m still a faithful reader). But slacktivist is knocking my socks off, blowing me away, ruling my world and whatever other expression you care to add that colors me suitably impressed.

Last week he wrote an incisive post about the false persecution complex some American Christians currently indulge in. I’d have linked it sooner, but I’m still sort of digesting it, and haven’t yet formulated any kind of response past resounding agreement.

Today he did it again, with his timely, cogent post about that pastor down in North Carolina who apparently confused his Baptist church with a Roman Catholic parish and tried excommunicating members of his congregation. The ludicrousness of this whole maneuver is probably not clear to people who don’t know a lot about Baptist doctrine and theology, but slacktivist does an excellent job of explaining the jaw dropping cognitive dissonance required by the perpetrators of this nasty attempt at exclusion with a concise FAQ as part of his post. I quote the most relevant bits :

“Q: You keep talking about this “soul liberty” as the essence of what it means to be a Baptist. But isn’t the essence of the Baptist tradition, you know, baptism?

A: What sets Baptists apart is not that they are baptized — all Christians practice baptism in one form or another. Nor is it the form of baptism (we prefer old-school, take-me-to-the-river-style immersion, but it’s not an article of faith). The distinct thing is that Baptists choose baptism, and thus are only baptized when they’re old enough to make that choice on their own. The significance of this is that it means that membership in the church is a matter of individual choice — soul liberty again. This also has political significance as an expression of individual freedom and the separation of church and state. This political aspect was a rather big deal a few centuries back. The separation of church and state is the one and only contribution Baptists have made to Christian political thought — but it’s a pretty good contribution.

Q: If “soul liberty” is the essence of what it means to be Baptist, then how do you explain the Southern Baptist Convention?

A: The Southern Baptist Convention is none of the above. For the past 20 years or so it has been evolving from a convention into a denomination. They have, in function if not in name, bishops and archbishops. They have inquisitors. Eventually, and sooner rather than later, they will have their own pope. They regard the separation of church and state as a “myth.” They don’t allow disagreement. They strictly enforce adherence to creed-ish “statements of faith.” In short, they’re about as Baptist as Cotton Mather.” *

Amen! Sing it, brother.

* Information on Cotton Mather can be acquired here and here.

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