Two Southern Baptist leaders dismissed as ludicrous charges by liberals that the nation’s largest Protestant denomination has been taken over by theocrats.
“I am an elected official in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said on last Thursday’s “Albert Mohler Radio Program.” <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
“I know thousands of Southern Baptists,” Land continued. “I know a half dozen who may be Dominionists and theocrats, and everybody I know in the Southern Baptist Convention thinks they are kooks.”
Contrary to several recent books by left-wing authors, Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, concurred. “No one, and I say as someone else who is an elected leader in the SBC, no one anywhere close to leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention holds such a position,” Mohler said.
“That’s right,” Land said, “and if they did they wouldn’t hold the position for more than about a week.”
Promoting his new book, The Divided States of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />America?, Land accused the left of using terms like “Dominionism” and “Reconstructionism” as a bogeyman to frighten Americans. He defined Reconstructionists as a fringe group, “mainly the followers of Rousas Rushdoony,” who “want to try to reconstruct a biblical country with Christians being the ones in control.”
Land’s definition left unclear whether he considers one of the SBC’s half-dozen “kooks” to include the convention’s current second vice president.
Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., elected last summer in Greensboro, N.C., made news last week when EthicsDaily.com and other Web sites noted his name appeared for three-and-half years on an online petition supporting the assassin of an abortion provider.
Chaplain of the anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project, labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “nativist extremist” group, Drake founded an organization called Americans United For The Unity Of Church and State.
After announcing he had formed an exploratory committee to run for president in 2003, Drake shared some of his views in an interview with the Orange County Weekly.
Drake said one of his goals was to restore the 1620 Mayflower Compact, the agreement settlers at New Plymouth came up with to create “a civil Body Politick” to govern themselves “for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith.”
“When I am president, we would have freedom of religion, not freedom from,” Drake said. “Don’t like religious freedom? Go somewhere else!”
“Some of my Christian friends feel we are ‘post-Christian,'” he said. “Not so. Jesus is still King of America. Look in your pocket: ‘in God we trust’ [is printed on] money.”
“We still pray in America,” Drake continued. “On Sept. 11, we prayed–no one said a thing. On Feb. 1, 2003, [the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy] we prayed–no one said a thing.”
“We will serve Jesus in this nation of our own free will, or He will put us on our knees,” Drake said. “In a tower, in a shuttle, in Iraq or in our own hospital room, the God haters become wanna-be God lovers. We need to honor the God who made this nation great.”
Drake said there has never been a so-called “separation of church and state” in America.
“Congress starts every session with church prayer,” he said. “The Bible is all over our Capitol. Only when we as Christians are asleep at the wheel do we let fools convince judges to take ‘under God’ out of our pledge, and then we have Congress put it back.”
In his book, Land argues the United States is not as divided as the media make it appear.
He offered an example on Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report.”
“I was being interviewed for a national talk show, and they said to me, ‘Dr. Land, what do you think of Pope John Paul II?'” Land said. “And I said I think he’s one of the transcendent moral and historical figures of the 20th century.
“And they said, ‘Well, that’s not quite what we’re looking for.’ And I said, ‘Well, what are you looking for?’ And they said, ‘We’re looking for someone who will go on the air and say that he’s the head of a false religion.’ And I said, ‘Well you’ve got the wrong guy.'”
“But they found someone who did,” Land continued, “and so millions of Catholics got the idea that evangelicals have a different view of the pope and their faith than they actually have.
“And it was that night that I decided to write this book. I said ‘I’ve had it. I’m going to write a book and go over the heads of [the media].'”
Land also mentions the anecdote in his book. He doesn’t name the program or say when the conversation occurred, but the words echo comments by Mohler March 22, 2000, on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”
“As an evangelical, I believe the Roman church is a false church and it teaches a false gospel,” Mohler said. “I believe the pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office.”
Mohler and Land didn’t discuss it on last week’s radio show. Mohler commended Land’s book, calling it “one of the most interesting things to emerge from a Southern Baptist context in a long time.”
While now posing as a voice of reason, Land also in the past contributed to the “shouting match” he now decries.
Land declared in 2003 the Southern Baptist Convention to be in a “cultural war and a spiritual war” against what SBC leaders called “the homosexual agenda.”
“The homosexual activists are out to normalize and affirm their lifestyle and to marginalize those of us who believe it’s unnatural and unholy,” Land told the Associated Press. “When we get attacked, we fight back. They want a war for the high ground of this culture, they got it, and we intend to win it.”
He called teaching about homosexuality in public schools “societal child abuse.”
“If we allow our children to be reared in a society where unnatural behavior is called normal and healthy and is affirmed and is seen as a perfectly healthy family situation for children, God’s judgment will come on us as a nation,” Land warned.
Along with Drake, Land supported the SBC’s 1997 Disney boycott. Land was also among SBC leaders present with Drake at a 2001 prayer luncheon sponsored by UnificationChurch founder Sun Myung Moon.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.