A Political Purpose Driven Life
The world of the super evangelists is filled with competition for who can build the biggest church, sell the most books, draw the biggest TV audience and of course, make the most money. While last weekend's Saddleback Forum hosted by Pastor Rick Warren, who comes from a long Southern Baptist history family background, was a huge TV ratings success, and left many bloggers debating who supposedly "won" this interview forum, in the end it was Pastor Rick Warren who emerged as the biggest winner in the competition to be the biggest leader in the White evangelical community.
The White evangelical community, which is largely Southern Baptist in nature is largely comprised of many churches where politics, psychology or prosperity gospels are main articles of faith compared to so many African American churches in which there is a deeper sense of communion with the Holy Spirit and faith in God is more centrally the focus. Billy Graham once called the hour spent in church as the "most segregated hour in America".
All of of this is not to say that Pastor Rick Warren's Southern Baptist Saddleback Church located in Lake Forest, California does not have some good spiritual points, however in the end it is just another politically conservative religious hotbed that has sided in with antiGay issues and other Christian right causes in a fairly consistent pattern over the years. If anything, the forum hosted by Pastor Warren might have had two real winners, Warren, and John McCain who gave tailor-made answers to appeal to a large audience of Christian right voters across the U.S., many of whom are single issue voters on many issues such as abortion, same sex marriage, etc. The more theologically liberal Barack Obama never really had much of a chance to make much of a dent in the wall of White evangelical voters who are more commonly organized around right wing politics than prayer or God in too many cases.
In fact, is a remarkable public makeover that has revamped the image of the Southern Baptists over time. In the 1630's many Baptists came over from England and began to settle in the U.S. and soon frictions between this religious group and official religion of the government of England, the state church, the Anglicans, developed. Baptists were many of the early supporters of the revolution against England to establish religious freedom in the early American colonies from England. By the mid-1800's many wealthy tobacco, cotton and other farmers and landholders who wanted to keep slaves began to revolt from the mainstream faith of the early American Baptists. By 1845, a group of pro slavery Baptists who were supported by the wealthy tobacco and cotton landholders rule of society and others in the early Southern oligarchy formed the Southern Baptist Conference to use religion to justify slavery and as a means to justify the rule of this group of the wealthy in Southern society. For decades since, including with the American Civil War, the Southern Baptists were the central faith in the rule of the wealthy ruling class in the South. For decades the Southern Baptists separated themselves from other more traditional Baptists with unBiblical doctrines of White supremacy and support for slavery or segregationist views. The poorer Whites and Blacks were even removed from the right to vote in many Southern states by the means of poll taxes or literacy tests that kept voter turnout as low as just a little over 10% in some Southern states as late as the 1930's until these barriers to universal voting were slowly lifted or ruled unconstitutional by the courts.
The traditions of the Southern Baptists has still often been politics that leans heavily to the political right wing, as witnessed by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, or Rev. Pat Robertson or even largely by Pastor Rick Warren. Warren may make it a little less apparent than others that he is indeed a Southern Baptist, but that's his educational roots and politics roots both. He wasn't exactly as nonpartisan of a player in the Saddleback Forum as he might have claimed. But on some issues Southern Baptist Preacher Rick Warren has proven some sense of compassion such as on the AIDS issue. But that can hardly be mistaken for political independence or liberalism.
But one of the most telling quotes on the Internet about where many of the passion's of the Southern Baptist evangelicals fall was this quote, "The true scandal is not that Warren invited Obama. It's that the evangelical reaction shows that our loyalties do not lie ultimately with those who share our faith (or even our values), but with those next to us in the Republican Party". Evangelicals are largely Southern Baptists and the Republican Party is largely a Southern political party supporting Southern politics and values.
It is really nothing new in the long history of the Christian church for many of those profess to be Christian evangelicals to actually be far from the real nature of faith in God, where the church becomes an empty shell used for other purposes than professing genuine faith in God. In the book of Revelation it was the Apostle John who wrote about the Seven Churches, most of which were revealed by God to John to be without God at their very core of existence. Today many churches still follow in the same traditions, especially among the White evangelical churches where politics, psychology or a prosperity gospels have actually replaced a true profession of faith in God. Certainly any faith originally organized rule by a wealthy Southern tobacco or cotton aristocracy and supportive of White Supremacy and slavery started off on a bad foot of serious Biblical doctrinal error. And if you build a big church on such a bad foundation of bad faith in God, then you cannot help but wonder how much more doctrinal error still exists in such a institution built on bad faith cornerstones.
Southern Baptist Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church held the political forum because politics is still a core value of this church. Somehow most in the evangelical community are still trying to build some man-made political kingdom counterfeit here on Earth as a counter to the promised fully equitable kingdom of God in the Bible they claim to profess faith in. And while the Southern Baptists are no longer trying to control Southern Society or slaves, they now seek to control the votes of many members who vote overwhelmingly for the big oil and big military contractor rule of America by the modern Republican Party and all the wars, high oil prices and economic meltdown problems for the average person that it brings. In the end it is is the same old church walking in spiritual error, with not a page of the actual Bible itself endorsing any of this. It is a political purpose driven life to be sure.