What is the rightful role of faith in politics?
That perplexing question is at the heart of a new DVD that Baptist Center for Ethics will preview on June 29 at this year's annual gathering of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Washington, D.C.
The preview is scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 11:40 a.m. in room 102A of the Washington Convention Center. Seating is limited.
The DVD challenges the Christian Right's political myth constructed over 25 years that GOP stands for God's Only Party. It explores the rightful role of politics through interviews with clergy and politicians in Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee.
Following the 35-minute, documentary-style DVD, participants will have an opportunity to dialogue with two of the film's major interviewees: John Baker, pastor of First Baptist Church, Columbia, Mo., and Judy Baker, a Missouri state representative.
The Bakers reflect on their marriage, leadership in the fields of religion and political communities, identify their primary moral concerns and recommend how Christians should engage in the political process.
Other clergy interviewees are Henry Parsley, bishop of the Episcopal Dioceses of Alabama; Jim Evans, pastor of First Baptist Church of Auburn, Ala.; Tim Alexander, pastor of Smith Springs Church of Christ in Antioch, Tenn.; and William Buchanan, pastor of Fifteenth Avenue Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., a church affiliated with the National Baptist Convention.
The elected politicians include Congressman Artur Davis (D-Ala.), a Lutheran; Congressman Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), a Southern Baptist; and State Senator Roy Herron (D-Tenn.) a Methodist.
The final version of BCE's faith and politics DVD will be available at the end of the summer.
BCE's DVD and the panel discussion will move beyond the false framing of faith in politics as a choice between one political party as God's party and the other as the anti-God party.
Additionally, the preview workshop expands the moral agenda beyond the few issues the Christian Right has prioritized to include poverty, war, health care and the environment.
BCE will also offer a screening of its global poverty DVD on Friday, June 29, from 9:00 to 10:10 a.m., in the same location.
"Always ... Therefore: The Church's Challenge of Global Poverty" is a 28-minute DVD that examines what goodwill Baptists are doing together around the world to address hunger issues, with a special focus on Baptist World Aid.
The DVD title comes from Deuteronomy 15:11: "For the poor will never cease out of the land. Therefore I [God] command you, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in the land."
Both the DVD and its online study guide have four chapters: (1) realism and responsibility; (2) relief; (3) rehabilitation and development; and (4) renewing justice.
Interviewees include Alistair Brown, general director, Baptist Missionary Society World Mission, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom; Joe Haag, coordinator, Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger, Baptist General Convention of Texas; Paul Montacute, director, Baptist World Aid, Falls Church, Va.; and Suzii Paynter, director, Christian Life Commission, Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Montacute and Brent McDougal, coordinator of the Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, will serve on a panel to discuss the DVD and what goodwill Baptists can do to feed the hungry and seek justice for the poor.
Cliff Vaughn, BCE's culture editor, is the producer of both DVDs.
These screenings offer attendees at both the American Baptist Churches and the CBF gatherings an energetic and informative opportunity to join hands in support of a centrist to progressive moral vision rooted in the Bible.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.