My favorite Baptists

How many progressive Christians grimace a little whenever they hear about Baptists? To be fair, some of the most vocal among them present a less-like-Christian and more-like-Republican worldview, so this reputation is not terribly surprising.

But as is often the case when we generalize, we miss out on the image of Christ in our neighbors. Behind all the politicking, gay marriage-banning, you’re-going-to-hell preaching that we hear about in the news, there is a sincere desire to do what all Christians want to do: follow Jesus.

Baptists hold a belief system that I cannot subscribe to. I do not see the Bible as the inerrant, complete Word of God. I do not believe that congregations should hire and fire their clergy. I believe in a unified liturgy. Yet though I disagree with these and other fine points of doctrine, I refuse to enter that debate over whose faith tradition is better. And I will also listen when Baptists have good things to say, and they very often do.

So in the spirit of ecumenism, here are some Baptists who have done good work for God. Continue reading

Racism is still with us; it just has a different look

The city of Sanford, Fla. had already contributed a paragraph to the narrative of race relations in America decades before Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman were born. Jackie Robinson, in the midst of his long and difficult path to breaking baseball’s color barrier, was booted from the ballpark in Sanford for the offense of being a black man in a white stadium. As a local historian puts it:

“While playing in Sanford, Florida, Robinson singled, stole second base, then scored a hit run only to find the Sheriff waiting on him in the dugout with handcuffs. He was removed from the game.”


Jackie Robinson (LOOK Magazine)

67 years later, Sanford is a much different place. Formerly a steamboat port dependent on the citrus trade, it is now a cosmopolitan bedroom community for Orlando, which sits 20 miles to the south. Sanford is not quite the Southern hamlet it once was, as U.S. 17/92 now bypasses the quaint downtown area to get tourists to the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens or to the southern terminus of Amtrak’s Auto Train. Interstate 4 carries thousands of daily commuters within a half-mile of the Twin Lakes gated community where the Martin shooting took place.

I do not know whether or not George Zimmerman suspected, accosted and shot Trayvon Martin because he was black. The words that pundits have spoken, written and yelled before, during and after the trial have been based on speculation. Zimmerman himself is the only one alive who really knows what happened. Those who were convinced of his guilt before the trial are angry that he was acquitted. Those who were convinced of his innocence before the trial feel vindicated.

Regardless of Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence, the trial has exposed what blacks in America have known all this time: racism is alive and well in this country. We cannot dance around the issue any more.

Americans make the mistake of identifying racism as a personality trait, creating an imaginary dichotomy between those who are “racist” and those who are “not racist.” Being called a racist angers people because they take it mean that they are being lumped together with Nazis, Klan members and other undesirables. However, identifying racism as a trait not only creates labels (which is kind of how we got to racism in the first place), but it also misses the point. Missing from the racism debate is the very Christian notion that it is not “racists” who are bad, but racist thoughts and actions.

Continue reading

Blessed are the apologeticists; the Kingdom of Catholic Media belongs to them (The Badattitudes)

This post is the first in a series I’m calling The Badattitudes, which are Beatitudes that did not make the cut at the Sermon on the Mount, but are followed as though they were.

I know what you’re thinking. “Apologeticists” is not a real word; I meant to say “apologists,” right? Just bear with me.

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A Contemporary Pilgrim’s “Progress”?

Recently, for the first time ever, I read the English theological classic Pilgrim’s Progress.  The book, presented as an allegorical dream experienced by the author, follows the protagonist, Christian, in his journey to the gates of the Celestial City.  Along the straight and narrow way, he encounters numerous characters who personify various virtues and vices that one commonly comes across in life’s journey—folks like Hypocrisy, Patience, Hopeful, Ignorance, to name a few.  Time and time again, these characters distract or encourage him along the pilgrimage, but in the end Christian preserves nonetheless.

While it is a brilliant, multi-layered text that presents a reader with plenty to ponder, the book’s title and even the simplest consideration of the allegory inevitably begs one to consider: What counts as progress in Christian life?  What is the ends toward which a Christian should progress?  How can one tell if he/she is making progress?  Continue reading

The Darn Economy

Every time I turn on the news I hear more bad news about the economy.  And it’s been hard to see my family and friends suffer from it. Its hard to see the appeals for much needed donations to my favorite non profit groups come rolling in so often. Times are tough for so many people. Luckily I am a chaplain at a Catholic hospital so my job seemed pretty secure.

But little did I know that I was going to be one of the latest statistics in the current recession.  A few weeks ago I found out my hours were being cut in half and I no longer had a full time job.  I was sad and worried at first, then became angry, then motivated to find a new job.  Even though I saw very few job positions advertised in my field, I knew something would surface.  And I was reminded again that I am very lucky to have safety nets in my life, people who, if the bottom fell out tomorrow, could loan me a couch to stay on or a few bucks to get by. I realize that not everyone’s safety nets can do that.  Continue reading