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Unusual Suspects

Earlier this month, the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary voted to establish The Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement. Although there could be some question as to if Land's model of cultural engagement is a good one for Christians (like cozying up to one political party and making false statements), there was a comment from the announcement that seemed particularly ironic. Southwestern's president, Paige Patterson, offered his opinion as to why the center was needed. He claimed
Religious liberty is under attack today in our own country where we never thought it would be.
He is correct, but the irony of the statement is that it is Patterson's movement that has created some of these places where religious liberty has surprisingly come under attack. It used to be that Baptists were among the strongest proponents of religious liberty. Now, unfortunately, some Baptists are leading the charge to undermine true religious liberty. These individuals have included Rick Scarborough, W.A. Criswell, and even Patterson. Our Baptist ancestors--who literally suffered for religious liberty--likely never expected that Baptists would someday be among those causing the problems. For some more thoughts about this, check out a couple of my columns:

Preserving religious liberty
What have we "Plutoed"?
Majority rules


  1. Brian, these are SUCH important points. I imagine that the irony won't escape Dr. Land, either. That's what makes it all so sad.

  2. Anonymous10:49 AM


    I'm just a little confused about this statement and your affirmation:

    "Religious liberty is under attack today in our own country where we never thought it would be.

    He is correct",

    Has the government set up a state religion and I missed it? Are we not still free to practice religion as we see fit? If not, how so?

  3. TIA: Thanks!

    Stan: You are correct that there is not a state religion. Patterson's remark was not that religious liberty is dead but that it is under attack. There are, unfortunately, some Baptists and other Christians who would like to establish their faith.

  4. Anonymous12:23 AM


    So, religious freedom is under attack from Baptists and other Christians who would like to establish state religion, then?

    Please pardon my confusion, but I've been hearing this "religious freedom is under attack" all my life, and I have yet to understand what people mean by that. Nobody has ever interfered with my freedom to practice the religion of my choice.

  5. Anonymous4:21 PM

    Stan and Brian,

    I think you, Brian, and others confuse, and then worry over, Christian and Baptist conservatives'/ fundamentalists' (of which I am one) refusal to respect religious diversity in the spiritual arena with not respecting religious liberty in the civil/societal/governmental arenas.

    I've pointed out recently the difference in the two, noting that the New Baptist Covenant's talking points distinguish between religious liberty and religious diversity. The NBC calls not only for promotion of religious liberty, but also for respect of religious diversity. The latter is what we Baptists should be concerned about with the NBC, particularly in light of President Carter's leading role in the movement.

    We wouldn't want to be identified with a "New Baptist" movement if respecting diverse religions includes legitimizing them in the spiritual sense, i.e., as paths to salvation. Some of Carter's reported statements leave room for this concern. He should refute these reports and reporters to erase these concerns.

  6. Thanks for the comments!

    Stan: Just because no one has interfered with YOUR right to religion does not mean others have been so fortunate or that attempts have not been made. Are you a Christian? If so, that may explain it as the dominant faith rarely finds their rights under attack.

    Chuck: True religious liberty demands that we respect religious diversity. It does not mean that we accept the others but only their right to believe what they do. Learn your Baptist history because that is the historic Baptist position. The first Baptist in America (Roger Williams) established the first colony where there was true religious liberty--and not just for Christians. If you do not respect the diverse beliefs of others (not accept but respect), then you are not practicing true religious liberty and are not upholding our rich Baptist heritage.

    And no, Chuck, Carter's comments have not opened the door to the legitimizing of other paths. He has been clear about his affirmation of Jesus in salvation so please stop misrepresenting your brother in Christ.


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