NOTE: This article was originally published on June 10, 2011, on the Associated Baptist Press Web site.
Written by J. Zachary Bailes, an M.Div. candidate at Wake Forest University Divinity School and editor of the blog Crazy Liberals . . . and Conservatives
In his Letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport, George Washington wrote in 1790: “May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
Growing up Baptist, if someone had told me that Washington had written a letter assuring safety of a “Hebrew congregation,” I’m not sure I would have believed it. This is because I was either explicitly or implicitly taught that Christians and Jews are not to mingle. Yet in Rhode Island, it was Baptists who created the space for Jews to worship as they pleased.
Today, fundamentalist viewpoints have conflated Israeli identity with Zionist belief. As the record will show, Israel does not demonstrate the most tolerant attitude when it comes to other religions. And, yet, it was Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission this past week that advocated for America to “bless the Jews” so that God will “bless America.”
Land’s words are neither constructive for the Middle East peace process, nor do they reflect the highly held value of religious liberty. Land’s thought conflates theology with public policy in a disastrous manner. Indeed, his words stir the boiling pot of militant activity. His theological belief creates political action that demeans the religious identity of Palestinian Christians and Muslims.
It is at this point Land stands against his Baptist heritage . . . . . .
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