Friday, January 14, 2005

Giving with one hand...

I feel that I need to say something about Baptists in my life, as I have said a number of things about Baptists in general in a few recent posts -- and intend to say a few more things in future posts -- that sound negative. I don't mind offering criticism, but I am uncomfortable when others seem to have some scapegoat on whom they blame everything. So I should say at the outset that this is not my intention in talking about Baptists the way I have.

I have known the work of a number of Baptist writers who have been influential on me, and whom I respect. One, of course, is Real Live Preacher. There are others, too.

Two members of my extended family are Baptists and they have always been a model of Christian living for me: generous, loving, self-sacrificial, gracious, humble. They have been saints of God in my life and would be embarrassed to hear me say so.

I have many friends who are involved with Baptist churches, including one longtime friend who is pastor of a Baptist church in Virginia, and another who is a New Testament scholar teaching at Moody Bible Institute. I regard all of them with affection and respect.

Also, I must say in all honesty that I owe a debt of gratitude to the Baptists, for I became a Christian in a Baptist church. Without exaggerating, I cannot imagine what my life would be like now if it weren't for a few friends inviting me and a church welcoming me and telling me what it's about back when I was a teenager. In plain terms, I owe them my life.

Finally, in case it should ever sound in my writings as if I were picking on the Baptists, as if I were suggesting that if we could just isolate them or eliminate them or change them and everything would be okay, please remember this: we are all Baptists.

That is to say, if I am right in the ideas that I am unpacking, then the same habits of mind and soul that animate the Baptists are what drive and form all Americans, not just those who were dunked in a free church setting.

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