It was a strange and confusing spectacle. An angry young man stood before news cameras and chided Alabama Baptists for being soft on the Bible.
Baptists? Soft on the Bible? What’s going on here?
That angry man was Dean Young, director of the Christian Family Association. He has also been chief cheerleader for Judge Roy Moore and the quest for public displays of the Ten Commandments. In fact, it was Ten Commandment business that prompted Young’s angry remarks.
“It’s a sad day in the state of Alabama when the largest denomination, the spiritual leaders of the state, could not get enough votes to support the Ten Commandments,” Young said.
The vote deficit Young referred to was the result of a brief procedural struggle on the floor of the Alabama Baptist State Convention. He wrote a resolution affirming the public display of the Ten Commandments. The Resolutions Committee concluded that Alabama Baptists were already on record affirming the Ten Commandments and felt it was unnecessary to state the position again.
Young forcefully disagreed and urged the convention to hear his resolution. Using a complicated parliamentary procedure, he attempted to change the standing rules of the convention. A change in the standing rules would have allowed Young to bypass the Resolutions Committee and present his resolution directly from the floor. The convention voted not to change the rules and allowed the decision of the Resolutions Committee to stand.
From that Young concluded Alabama Baptists did not support the Ten Commandments.
Of course the idea of Alabama Baptists being soft on Scripture is nonsense. That would be like saying fish are wishy-washy about water. More likely, Alabama Baptists were reluctant to support Young.
Young has a single-minded agenda–the public display of the Ten Commandments. Young’s faith gets wrapped around this one issue. For him it becomes a test of orthodoxy. You are either with Young and the Ten Commandments or you are against the Bible.
Alabama Baptists understand that there is more to the Christian life than simply building monuments to the Ten Commandments. For two full days messengers to the state convention were challenged to support an array of aggressive missions and ministry programs. These missions and ministries were presented as ways to fulfill the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission.
The Great Commandment is a summary Jesus himself gave to the Ten Commandments. When asked which was the greatest commandment Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” He went on to say that the whole law was contained in this one commandment.
The Great Commission is Jesus’ challenge to his followers to take his story and tell it to the whole world. It is a call to teach by example. In other words, make the Bible visible through committed and faithful living.
Baptists take this stuff seriously. The Great Commandment and the Great Commission combine to create a blueprint that defines Baptist purpose and action. It prompts them to feed the hungry, care for homeless children, strengthen marriages, care for the elderly, teach English as a second language, provide tutors in public schools, teach adults how to read, provide educational programs about youth violence, provide disaster relief, offer counseling services, provide medical services, meet basic health needs and provide education about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, and gambling.
In other words, every day, in a hundred different ways, these believers put the Bible on display in their lives and in their churches.
So it’s understandable that Alabama Baptists were less than enthusiastic about Young’s resolution. In many ways, simply displaying the Ten Commandments is a step backwards. Alabama Baptists are already fully engaged, living out the meaning of the commandments and the rest of the Bible as well.
James L. Evans is pastor of Crosscreek Baptist Church in Pelham, Ala.