President Bush stopped courting Catholic guilt long enough to foment evangelical fervor yesterday, when he spoke live via satellite to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting. Most of it was predictable abortion/gay marriage/God-loves-low-taxes stuff. But my favorite moment was a seemingly benign remark right up front....
"Laura and I are also thankful for your prayers. I have felt them at crucial hours. Your convention has a proud tradition going back to your first gathering in Augusta, Georgia almost 160 years ago. You represent more than 16 million Southern Baptists and congregations all across our country, and many others who serve as missionaries far from home."How about that meeting in Augusta in 1845? How did it come about? The Northern-based Baptist Home Mission Society had begun turning down slaveholders that wanted to take their, uh, love of different cultures into the field of church missions. Baptists in the South, wanting to uphold the dignity of the institution of slavery in the face of such discrimination, decided to establish their own Baptist body, because sometimes when your religion conflicts with your lifestyle it's easier to change your religion. That first meeting in Georgia organized just such a body, so slave holders could do the evangelical work of God with impunity, and with a support network of resources...the Southern Baptist Convention.
Though you wouldn't know it from their present state, the Convention does actually have a proud tradition, but just like it doesn't extend to the present day, it also sure as hell doesn't go back 160 years. What an odd thing for a President of the United States to say.
In January, 4 of the major predominantly African-American Baptist Conventions will meet together in Nashville, in a meeting that will be larger than the SBC meeting. I'm hoping that it will be President Kerry's first visit to Music City, but do you think a re-elected President Bush will bother to make a similar speech to this group? Tradition not proud enough?