Monday, March 28, 2011

Conviction and Freedom, by David Gushee

(from the Web site of Associated Baptist Press, March 28, 2011)

by David Gushee
Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics, Mercer University

What is the proper relationship between conviction and freedom? By "conviction," I simply mean clear theological and ethical beliefs and the willingness to communicate such beliefs just as clearly, one goal of such communication being to persuade others to share those beliefs. By "freedom," I mean a commitment to valuing and respecting personal liberty, especially liberty of religious conscience.

My experience of conservative Baptists in the South has been that conviction is very highly valued. Those considered leaders are often elevated to their status because of their perceived clarity of conviction and their willingness to communicate such convictions resolutely and passionately. To be called "convictional" in that sector of the Baptist world is a high compliment.

The potential downside of being "convictional" is obvious, of course. Clarity of conviction can easily shade over into intolerance of other convictions, loss of nuance, and an apparent unwillingness to ever consider modifying one's convictions on the basis of new evidence. Often, though not always, such "convictional" leaders tend to focus little on the freedom of other Christians to believe differently and, at least on debatable matters, still be found pleasing in the sight of God.

My experience of the moderate Baptist world has, in general, been that the freedom/conviction polarity is reversed. Freedom is highly valued. Everyone bends over backward to respect personal liberty and freedom of conscience. This is elevated as among the highest of Christian values.

It is harder to find resolute and passionate expression of clear convictions on this side of the Baptist fence, other than perhaps the expression of a commitment to individual liberty of conscience.

Example 1: Talking with a member of a moderate Baptist church struggling to meet its budget, I asked what the pastor taught about the responsibilities of members . . .

To read the entire article, click here.

Baptist Brief, Monday, March 28 - Texas Baptists Committed: Recognizing Reality - Then and Now

Friday, March 11, 2011

BJC’s Walker, other faith leaders respond to hearing on 'radicalization' in U.S. Muslim community

(from the Web site of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty)

WASHINGTON — Just after Congress convened the first in a series of hearings examining "radicalization" in the American Muslim community, Baptist Joint Committee Executive Director J. Brent Walker and a group of faith leaders responded with a statement calling fellow citizens and political leaders to the “bedrock American principles” of pluralism and religious freedom, mutuality and respect.

In the joint statement, released at a Capitol Hill press conference following the hearing, religious leaders urged “elected representatives to act — not against a single, unfairly maligned group, but against all forms of violence and extremism that endanger our security.”

“As faith leaders, we are committed to building a future in which extremism is an artifact of the past, and where religious identity is not the cause of hostility but of acceptance,” the statement said. “This country’s spiritual, religious and ethnic diversity serves to enrich our public discourse. When our public discourse is enriched, extremism is seldom given quarter.”

To read the entire article, click here.

Baptist Brief, Friday, March 11 - Bold Mission Thrust, Part 2: Planning & Strategizing