During "Holy Week," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran an article that quoted phierma and cos_x's pastor on the subject of the leader of the Missouri Baptist Convention, the state branch of the Southern Baptist Convention. I've been meaning to comment on it, and just got around to it, because I may never see a more vivid example of the thesis I set forth in my modestly popular 2004 essay series, "Christians in the Hand of an Angry God." In that essay, I proved (to my satisfaction, at least) that using the term "Faustian bargain" to describe the relationship between Christian fundamentalism and the Republican Party is painfully literal, that starting in 1964 the leaders of the top fundamentalist seminaries began the process of replacing Christian doctrines with explicitly Satanic ones out of self defense, in order to more closely ally themselves and their followers with the anti-Communist caucus of the Republican Party. I demonstrated that the gospel of social reaction and corporate greed that was taught in those seminaries, and that is now enforced by church leaders who graduated from those seminaries (or laymen whose pastors did) is a false gospel that, if the actual Christian Bible is to be believed, is sending them and their deceived followers straight to Hell.
Some of you may have doubted me. In particular, you may have doubted that the leaders who made these decisions knew that the gospel they were preaching, and that they have spent decades evicting from their denominations any preacher that wouldn't conform to, is anti-Christian. If you still doubt this, then take a good look at Post-Dispatch religion reporter Tim Townsend's April 2nd interview with the chairman of the Missouri Baptist Convention, Roger Moran, "Missouri's Most Powerful Baptist Takes On the 'Emerging Church.'" In particular, observe the final paragraphs, where Moran admits that he is fighting hard against a group of local Christian evangelists who are "theologically conservative," that is to say fellow Biblical literalists (more so than him, it turns out), successful in reaching people for Christ and bringing people back to the church who've left it. Even Moran admits that what they preach, and practice, "may be theologically sound" and that "they have a passion for reaching people for Christ ... and I think they do." And that's what he opposes. He opposes them because what they're teaching is God's actual word, not his personal gospel.
And Moran does, in fact, have his own gospel, alluded to in the article, a series of "Resolutions" that he took door to door to churches all over Missouri, campaigned on to get the job of head of the Missouri Baptist Convention, and that he has spent the intervening ten years evicting from the denomination anybody that won't preach them. He has diverted many thousands of dollars of money that was raised to pay for church renovations, Sunday School literature, missionary work, and service to the poor, redirecting that money into legal fees in a series of brutally fought frivolous lawsuits aimed at hostile takeovers of state Baptist organizations that have, in their founding charter and bylaws, no obligation to obey him, such as the state's Baptist newspaper, The Word and the Way, in an attempt to stack their boards of directors with people loyal to him personally. He recently evicted 19 churches from the denomination for refusing to preach his gospel. And phierma's church left the denomination voluntarily over one of Moran's ugliest and sleaziest tactics, one that's alluded to in the article. The state Baptist convention, like most state-wide denominational bodies, has a program to offer low- or no-interest loans to member churches and allied churches for repairs, renovations, and expansion. Moran has expanded that program ... but there's a catch. Under Moran, if your church preaches the actual Christian gospel rather than his false gospel, he can "call in" the loan at any time and repossess your church building if you can't pay off the whole principal at once.
I've spoken to Pastor Johnson, the pastor of Overland Baptist Church who is quoted in the article, and with several members of that church. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention at this point that if it hadn't been for charity from Overland Baptist Church during the time when my disability claim was being processed, I might well be dead now.) Many of them are, in fact, exactly the kind of right-wing Christian fundamentalists that would really annoy most of my regular readers. But even they can't stand what's been done to the Southern Baptist denomination, and that, not some sudden explosion of theological or political liberalism, is what's fueling the defections from the Southern Baptist convention and the deviations from its demands that so scares Moran. What Moran is doing, by seeking to enforce "Baptist doctrine," is angering even many of the most conservative members of the denomination. Why? Because at the heart of the Baptist movement, going all the way back to its Renaissance roots, is one and only one doctrine: "the priesthood of the believer," the right of every Christian to interpret the Christian scriptures for himself or herself. Moran, and all of the post-1964 crop of leaders of the Southern Baptist denomination, have spent decades trying to get people to forget that, and some of them have had it up to here with the demand that they quietly go along with it or be punished.
In the 5th and final section of "Christians in the Hand of an Angry God," I said that there wasn't much of anything that non-Christians like myself, or liberal Christians who don't accept the authority of the Christian Bible, could do about the Satanic takeover of fundamentalist Christianity. I said that they, and we, have no credibility with the people who would need to be persuaded. I said that the most that we could possibly do would be to encourage the vast majority of Americans who are Bible-professing Christians to actually carefully read the gospel for themselves and then to compare what it says about the various issues preached in their churches to what their pastors are claiming that it says. I said that this awful trend, and the political advantage that it has given the worst parts of the Republican Party, were never going to end until actual Bible-believing Christians stood up in supposedly Bible-believing churches and preached the actual Bible. Now there is a group of fundamentalists called "the emerging church" that is doing just that. And I was right. Because of them, monsters like Roger Moran are "worried that his promise to conservative Baptists during his rise to power is beginning to show some wear. He promised his allies they would enjoy a prolonged era of control." As seminarian Bill Leonard is quoted, ""The Southern Baptist Convention is growing increasingly terrified that they've spent all this time recreating the denomination in this image, and now nobody cares. Young seminarians are challenging them on issues and saying, 'Your vision of reality is not ours.'" And it's about time.