Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Four Changes Evangelicals Must Make

Just before the presidential election, I was invited to speak in Berlin at the annual meeting of the German Baptists’ theological society. The theme was the “social gospel,” a topic on which I, as a historian, am reasonably well-informed, and the opportunity was a welcome interruption from the incessant bombardment of election propaganda and the absurd claims so-called Christian politicians were then making. Once again, in the U.S. election campaign, our evangelicals—including among them many of “my” Baptists—were promoting a slew of “social issues,” but precious little “gospel.”    
Self-proclaimed and media-designated evangelicals had done everything they could to defeat President Obama, and in the process they discredited the evangelical message and reduced it to a mere political gospel. From where I’m sitting, it’s obvious that they need to engage in the kind of soul-searching that results in genuine repentance—but of course that is not likely to happen. But I will go out on a limb and suggest some places where they might begin.    
1) The Southern Baptists need to get rid of the discredited Dr. Richard Land immediately, not wait for his announced retirement as President of the denomination’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which won’t be effective until October 2013. Dr. Frank Page, the President and CEO of the Executive Committee, needs to act summarily and forcefully. He certainly must understand that Land’s (and by implication the Southern Baptist Convention’s) endorsement of Mitt Romney undermined the Southern Baptist witness. He and his office are an embarrassment to the convention, attract unnecessary criticism, and contribute to the public image problem that hinders the ministry of the SBC.
The convention could channel the money expended on its tarnished reputation to the International Mission Board where it could do some real good in reaching men and women for Christ. Proclaiming a political gospel will never achieve this noble goal. Also, there’s no need to jump aboard the “religious freedom” bandwagon when Southern Baptists could contribute funds to aid in the task of fostering religious freedom around the world through the respected and well-managed Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty.
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