Monday, August 10, 2015



I have African American friends who claim that they are "Southern Baptists," and that is simply not true in most cases. Yes, they may be Baptists and they may be Southerners, but they are not "Southern Baptists." There are many, many different Baptist groups, and "Southern Baptists" is one of them --- and it is one which did not welcome blacks until fairly recently. While there are probably more African Americans who are members of Baptist Churches than any other, most of them are very emphatically NOT "Southern Baptists."

Baptists may have been considered rather liberal back in The Day, but that has not been the perception lately. Baptists have usually been at the conservative end of the theological continuum, and Southern Baptists have usually occupied the extreme right edge of that; they are dominated by Biblical literalists.

The Southern Baptist Convention is, after the Roman Catholic Church, the largest Christian body in the United States. And they have always been at least as powerful politically and socially in the South as the Mormons have been in Utah and Idaho. I say "at least" for a very clear, specific reason: Whatever the Southern Baptists thought was wrong or sinful, they made illegal --- and laws against such "sinful behavior" were passed and upheld by state legislatures and judiciaries, which were very often also dominated by Southern Baptists. That was hardly the case in, say, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic small towns in Massachusetts; as far as I know, those towns never passed laws and regulations making it illegal to sell or serve meat during Lent or on Fridays back when that was the standard Roman Catholic practice, and I'm not aware of any town in Utah in which it was illegal to sell cigarettes or coffee, even though good Mormons would have avoided both. But, blue laws, sodomy laws, and Jim Crow laws were all but universal throughout the South. And I just can't forget that membership in such groups as the KKK was dominated by Southern Baptists.

Black Baptists have usually been more politically liberal than have their white counterparts, although they may have been at least as conservative from a theological standpoint. Thus, much of the civil rights activism during the middle part of the last century was born in Baptist churches, and many of the leaders were Baptist ministers. A little aside: Probably the best-known of all African Americans during the 20th Century was a Baptist preacher, Rev. Martin L. King, Jr.; he was turned down for the pastorate of Calvary Baptist Church in my hometown, Oklahoma City, because he was too young --- and, I'm sure, considered too radical for the ultraconservative leaders of that historic church!

But, those black folks were and are not Southern Baptists; most of them belong to a very different group, the National Baptists. As I said in the preceding paragraph, National Baptists are probably as conservative theologically as are Southern Baptists, but they have tended to be more politically (but not socially) liberal and activist than have their Southern Baptist brethren.

Once again: The Southern Baptist Convention is a distinct group or denomination, and very few blacks belong to it. Please google "National Baptists" and "Southern Baptists," and if you belong to, or grew up in, a congregation that has a website, please check to see which Baptist group it belongs to. If you're black, and grew up in a Baptist church, I'm willing to bet that it was a National Baptist church, and you are or were a National Baptist. It is highly unlikely that it was a Southern Baptist church, and that you were or are a Southern Baptist.

One more little tidbit --- which will probably not be interesting to anybody but me: Two of the largest and most powerful traditionally Southern Baptist churches that I know of have left that denomination; they are no longer aligned with the fundamentalist-dominated Southern Baptist Convention, but are now part of the more progressive (read: liberal --- well, "liberal" or "progressive" as far as Baptists are concerned, anyway) Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. No, I'm not speaking about the famous Carter family church, Plains Baptist, which left the SBC for the CBF several years ago; I'm referring to First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina, and First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. Who'da thunk it? In fact, the Greenville church is even open to performing same-sex marriage ceremonies. Did you grasp what you just read? Yes, First Baptist Church of Greenville (South Carolina!) will even allow and recognize same-sex marriage ceremonies. Remarkable. Revolutionary!

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