Liberals could learn a few things from Southern Baptists

This is a post from a guest blogger, Kerri K. Morris, who writes Cancer is Not a Gift, also at ChicagoNow. Many thanks to Mysteries of Life for letting me use this space to air some political views.

This is a strange election. As a progressive and liberal and an unapologetic atheist, I’ve found myself feeling grateful for Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, Karl Rove, and other Republicans who have spoken out against Donald Trump. And, then on Friday, I found myself feeling grateful to the leadership within the Southern Baptist denomination for doing the same and separating themselves from evangelicals.

On the other hand, I find myself increasingly irritated with my fellow Democrats who are threatening to leave the country if Trump is elected. On Facebook they are talking about moving to Canada or maybe south to warmer climates, abandoning their fellow citizens, many of whom couldn’t leave if they wanted to, to live under the rule of a racist, authoritarian, and it embarrasses me.

So, let me start with the Baptists. I was raised in a Southern Baptist home. My father is still a Southern Baptist minister, as he was from the time I was born. I even followed in his footsteps and graduated from Wayland Baptist University.

But the Southern Baptist Convention broke my heart when they moved from advocating the “priesthood of the believer” into a hardcore, far right political machine. Since the 1980s, Southern Baptists have excelled at transforming their culture into a hostile place.

They not only don’t support, but have also fought against, equal treatment of women, LGBT people, and people of color. One of their leaders, Bailey Smith, in 1980 famously said, “God almighty doesn’t hear the prayer of a Jew.” I have no love for the Southern Baptist machine.

But, then I heard this on NPR: “Evangelical leaders question movement’s support of Trump.” I almost had to pull the car over when I realized they had interviewed Southern Baptist leaders, men who said things like

“Donald Trump [is] a moral degenerate” and “Scripture tells us that we are to engage with people who disagree with us with kindness.”

The interview with three Southern Baptist leaders was even nuanced. They articulated an understanding that the term “evangelical” is a political category, used by people who identify with far right beliefs but who aren’t necessarily practicing Christians.

I heard these men trying to reclaim some of the decent values of their denomination and realizing that they’ve been hijacked, not only by Trump, but by a host of politicians who are using the pulpits of many churches for their own purposes.

It may well be too little, too late, but it’s a far cry from denying that Jews pray to the God of Moses.

On the other hand, there are my own, who are posting all over Facebook the news that Google had a spike in search terms about moving to Canada after Trump’s success on Super Tuesday. Some claim they’ll move to Canada if Trump is elected, and others claim they will do so if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic candidate.

I’ll admit that I have, myself, joked about moving out of the country should Trump win. But as I’ve thought about it I’ve become embarrassed. This is a new sort of “white flight.” It’s the white flight of liberal, upper middle class folks. It’s the flight of privilege.

If Donald Trump is so very dangerous, how can we leave our country to him? The response to the Donald Trumps of this world—and he is not singular—is to dig in and recommit. The best response is to reclaim our country.

And here, I have to admit, I’m taking heart from Southern Baptist Leadership, who are reclaiming their core values. They have had a terrible realization, and I do choose to take them at face value. They are showing courage by speaking out and rebranding themselves. I have no illusions that they will ever embrace equal rights, but I am heartened that they reject Trump’s particular brand of hate.

Instead of threatening to leave this country should Donald Trump become our president, we liberals and progressives need to make clear that we’re here to stay. We have work to do.


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