I’m sure some Southern Baptist Convention Christians are wolves in sheep’s clothing, but my hunch is 99% of all SBCers want to be good and think they are good. They are not delusional enough to believe they are perfect, but they are certain they are seeking goodness and righteousness — and they are certain they are more good and more righteous than others.
The positions Southern Baptist Christians have on moral issues and their beliefs about the Bible are two major aspects that factor into their perceived goodness.
I know fundamentalist Baptists like the back of my hand. I grew up a fundamentalist Baptist. I once believed in my Southern Baptist goodness.
I also believed in my badness. I had trouble sleeping for 10 years as a young child and teen because of what the fundamentalist Baptist church I grew up in did to me with its hellfire and damnation sermons. Twenty verses of “Just As I Am” as the Sunday-night invitation hymn, with all eyes closed on the last three verses, didn’t help either.
I wanted to know: “Why doesn’t the guilty party just get it over with and go forward and repent so we can go home?” The more I thought about it the more I knew I was that person, but I wasn’t going to make a fool out of myself going up to repent every Sunday night. There was a teenage girl in the congregation who did that, and I wasn’t going to be like her. I would suffer in silence and let my sleep be messed up.
“I consider one of my greatest life achievements getting the church I served as pastor to leave the Southern Baptist Convention.”
I am now a retired American Baptist pastor. I consider one of my greatest life achievements getting the church I served as pastor, Wedgewood Church in Charlotte, N.C., to leave the Southern Baptist Convention. The congregation and I felt it would be a grave sin to continue to be a Southern Baptist congregation when the leadership of the convention was badmouthing women, Jews and gays and the SBC was passing resolutions not to our liking. We were the first SBC church in North Carolina to leave the denomination in light of the fundamentalist takeover. We left both the North Carolina State Baptist Convention and the SBC in 1993.
As a person and as a pastor, I saw up close the damage the SBC did to people. Some people never get over the damage. For others, it takes decades to recover.
I was not surprised that at the last SBC annual meeting messengers voted to kick out any churches that let women preach. Female preachers are just one of many groups of people abused by the SBC.
I don’t think Southern Baptist Christians are evil or bad, at least not 99% of them. I just think they are people trying to be good for God and the Southern Baptist Convention has messed up their goodness.
But SBCers are not the good people God and the world need them to be. They are, in fact, like the religious people Jesus criticized the most.
Jesus did not pick any temple priests, scribes, Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, or members of the Qumran community to be a part of his inner circle of 12 disciples. Jesus seemed to have a thing for fisher people, tax collectors and other non-good religious people. Pretty interesting.
“Jesus seemed to have a thing for fisher people, tax collectors and other non-good religious people.”
In addition, Jesus’ harshest words were to the priests, scribes and Sadducees, some of whom were always questioning his authority because he had no official religious credentials. Jesus was not a Levite or a member of any of the groups mentioned above.
Jesus told the Sadducees they didn’t have a clue about Jewish Scripture. To the Sadducees Jesus said, “You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Jesus told the Pharisees and the scribes: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”
Many other verses could be cited.
I have bet my ministry and my life on the belief that SBCers are modern day Sadducees, Pharisees and scribes trying to do good. In reality, they make human beings twice as much a child of hell as themselves.
Chris Ayers recently retired as pastor of Wedgewood Church in Charlotte, N.C., after 30 years there. He earned master of divinity and master of theology degrees at Southeastern Theological Seminary and a doctor of ministry degree from Columbia Theological Seminary. He also completed an intensive two-year training program at Presbyterian Samaritan Counseling Center in Charlotte and reached member level of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.