September 22, 2015

Southern Baptists and Political Action

I recently found myself explaining, once again, my opposition to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. I've covered this ground in a previous post, but I think it may be helpful to elaborate a bit.

As I told a fellow church member, though he and I share the same theology, that is no guarantee that we share the same political views. In fact, we almost certainly don't.

Why is that? We believe the same Bible. Why wouldn't we hold similar political views? Politics is, after all, ethics writ large. No Bible-believing Christian would argue that Scripture does not offer sufficient ethical guidance. What's so special, then, about political ethics?

I would argue that, though the Bible offers sufficient ethical guidance, it offers nothing approaching a comprehensive, how-to guide for political action. The Bible doesn't come with a voting guide in the back. Two Bible-believing Christians may agree that a particular goal is desirable (helping the poor, for example) but disagree completely on which, if any, political means are appropriate for achieving that desired end.

This is why an organization like the ERLC is so problematic. They are funded by all Southern Baptists, yet they don't speak for all of us—not even close. The SBC includes everything from theocratic neocons to moderate progressives to radical libertarians. How can this be? It's simple. The SBC is not a political organization. We are not united by our political views. We are, however, united by our theological views (more or less).

When I give to my local church, I do so knowing that a significant portion of those funds will be funneled into the SBC's cooperative program. Those cooperative program dollars are then used to fund, among other things, the ERLC.  

The problem is: I don't want to fund the ERLC. They don't speak for me. I find many of their political goals to be wrongheaded or downright repugnant (like lobbying the government to regulate the payday lending business out of existence). When I give to my church, I do so to further the mission of the church. I don't believe funding a Beltway think tank/lobbying group furthers that mission.

If I wanted to fund political action, there are any number of other organizations I would like to donate to (Justice for All, Ron Paul Institute, Tenth Amendment Center, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Rutherford Institute). The good ol' boys at the ERLC have no business deciding for me (or any other Southern Baptist) which political causes are worthy of support.

If they feel so strongly about their political goals, then they are free to use every means available to them to try to persuade the rest of us (kinda like I'm doing right now). They should not be using Southern Baptist dollars to fund their political crusades.

99% of Southern Baptists don't even realize that the ERLC exists. If they did, their days would almost certainly be numbered. So why are we paying their salaries?

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