A Missouri legislator and pastor’s wife who appears in a Baptist Center for Ethics DVD about faith and politics is running for Congress.
Two-term Missouri State Representative Judy Baker announced Monday she is seeking the 9th Congressional District stretching from northeastern Missouri to the western suburbs of St. Louis. She is the third Democrat joining the race for the seat being vacated by the six-term incumbent, Republican Kenny Hulshof, who is running for governor.
Baker, a 1986 master-of-divinity graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and managing partner of a healthcare consulting firm called Cura Advantage, said in a series of speeches across the state that making healthcare available to all Americans would be a top priority.
“We must not have a wishbone where a backbone ought to be,” she said, according to the Columbia Missourian.
Baker supports expansion and reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), twice vetoed by President Bush.
She also called for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, saying she would support the Iraq war policies of either Democratic presidential candidate.
Baker, 47, is married to John Baker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Columbia, Mo. They appear together in last year’s “Golden Rule Politics,” a Baptist Center for Ethics-produced DVD that challenges a 25-year prevailing myth that GOP stands for “God’s Only Party.”
In this clip, Baker says she’s seen as “quite the anomaly” because she is a Baptist minister’s wife.
“I’m actually looked at with a lot of mystery,” she says. “They want to know, ‘How can you be both a Baptist minister’s wife and a Democrat?’ And I got that question over and over when I first went down to the Legislature a couple of years ago.”
At a screening of “Golden Rule Politics” during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in 2007, Baker said people on both sides of the aisle didn’t know what to make of the fact that a Baptist minister’s wife who attended seminary would run for office as a Democrat.
“I’ve been a Christian practically all my life,” she said, “a confessional Baptist Christian deeply rooted in my faith and very well rooted in my Bible.”
“When I was running, first of all Democrats were suspect of me because I was a Baptist, and Republicans were suspect of me because I was a Democrat.”
“What this DVD is about is you can be both of those things, and there is a myth out there you cannot,” she said. “If we equate God with any political party, we will give God a bad name.”
Baker says she considers politics an extension of a call to ministry that led her to seminary, where she originally aspired to a pastoral or educational ministry.
Baker said in a 2005 interview with EthicsDaily.com that she differs with some religious leaders who implied in the 2004 presidential election that a real Christian must vote for a Republican.
“I am a ‘real’ Christian, and I am a representative in the Democratic Party,” she said. “My biblical understanding informs my politics just as heavily as any other party.”
“I believe there are inherent dangers to the perception that God has only one political party,” Baker said. Paraphrasing the words of Abraham Lincoln, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.
Baker, who has been raising money to run for office since December, faces Democratic challenges from former House Speaker Steve Gaw and Marion County Presiding Commissioner Lyndon Bode. Other candidates could also enter the race.
Released in September, “Golden Rule Politics: Reclaiming the Rightful Role of Faith in Politics” challenges a political myth constructed over 25 years by the Christian Right that the Republican Party is America’s moral party and the party of God’s favor.
The 36-minute documentary–produced and directed by Baptist Center for Ethics Executive Director Robert Parham and EthicsDaily.com Culture Editor Cliff Vaughn–has an accompanying discussion guide for use in church, civic or home discussion groups.
Public screenings and panel discussions of the film have been held in Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn.
Rooted in the theological conviction that God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat–and that neither party is thoroughly moral or completely immoral–the DVD explores the rightful role of faith in politics through interviews with clergy and politicians in Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee. It expands the moral agenda from the narrow list of issues prioritized by the Christian Right to the fuller expression of issues found in the Christian tradition, beginning with the biblical priority of doing justice.
“Golden Rule Politics” features interviews with pastors and faith leaders who discuss how party politics have sometimes attempted to co-opt religion and trample on the separation of church and state. It eschews the more familiar faces and shouting heads of partisan politics and instead interviews four faithful Democratic politicians in red states who know the religious and political landscape better than many.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
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