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Pence Among The Southern Baptists

Politicians on both sides speak to national church gatherings all the time. You know that, right? It’s not unusual for the Southern Baptist Convention to have invited Vice President Mike Pence to address their annual meeting today.

Some Baptists said in advance that it was a bad idea. For one, the role of Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, one of the biggest and most powerful church in the SBC, as a chief spiritual adviser for Donald Trump has been controversial within church circles. Many younger Southern Baptists — conservatives, not liberals — are tired of the denomination’s close association with the Republican Party. [1]Plus, Trump’s history of treating women crudely does not sit well with many in the SBC, which has been stricken by a sex abuse scandal that has taken out its most accomplished conservative leader, Paige Patterson. (N.B., Patterson was not personally accused of abuse, but of handling it very badly.)

Nevertheless, Pence came. This would have been a perfect occasion for the vice president to deliver a policy speech on the importance of protecting religious liberty — an issue that matters to Southern Baptists more than just about anybody.

Nope. Most of the speech — which you can watch here [2] — was pure political #MAGA. “Under President Donald Trump, America is back, and we’re just getting started!” he said, in a typical line.

When Pence did bring up religious liberty, he spoke passionately about how the administration is dedicated to getting rid of the Johnson Amendment, a provision of the tax code forbidding non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing particular candidates.

“We will not rest until it is repealed!” Pence thundered. The tepid applause indicates how low on the priority list the Johnson Amendment is for most Christians, even those who are really engaged on the religious liberty issue. It only really matters to the machers of Conservative Christianity, Inc.

Pence mentioned abortion and persecuted Christians abroad, but explicitly in context of how Christians have never had it so good as they do under Trump. It was a repulsive speech, quite frankly, despite some good non-political material at the end, added almost as an afterthought.

The Southern Baptists are not theologically liberal, mind you. For Southern Baptists hoping to escape their “Republican Party At Prayer” image, and refocus their denomination on religious mission, the Pence speech was a huge setback.

change_me

UPDATE: I know these guys. They’re conservatives.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js [4]

48 Comments (Open | Close)

48 Comments To "Pence Among The Southern Baptists"

#1 Comment By Elijah On June 13, 2018 @ 2:25 pm

Meh. The SBC should have known better under the current circumstances. I don’t know when the invitation was proffered, but the SBC ought to have given some guidelines.

When you invite a politician to give a speech, there’s always a 50/50 shot it will self-serving claptrap.

Color me unsurprised.

#2 Comment By Michelle On June 13, 2018 @ 2:30 pm

Already campaigning for 2020 because campaigning is what this administration does best. Maybe next time the SBC should keep politicians off the invite list.

If you haven’t already, watch the video the NSC produced for Trump’s reality TV summit. Just make sure you have a barf bag ready.

#3 Comment By Larry in NC On June 13, 2018 @ 3:00 pm

Pence said some good things, but the speech was more about how great Trump is doing than it was about the Gospel.

#4 Comment By Larry in NC On June 13, 2018 @ 3:04 pm

He also spoke movingly about the Sutherland Springs shooting.

#5 Comment By Juan Guatemala On June 13, 2018 @ 3:04 pm

Well, Trevin is affiliated with TGC, a Calvinist organization. They believe God will bring about his will and doesn’t need us to do the work for him. They don’t understand that if Christians don’t WIN again (American Christians), God’s will won’t be accomplished. He NEEDS us to win the culture wars for him, he can’t do it on his own. Trump and Pence already have Christians WINNING again despite those SAD Calvinists refusing to jump on the MAGA train!!

Seriously though, I am interested to see the direction the SBC is taking in the future.

#6 Comment By Captain P On June 13, 2018 @ 3:19 pm

Charades like this are a big reason why most of the Christians of my generation I know who grew up Baptist no longer go to Southern Baptist churches. Many of them have moved to Presbyterian churches, and the ones who are still Baptist tend to go to churches with Baptist theology that are not affiliated with the SBC.

#7 Comment By ojc On June 13, 2018 @ 3:19 pm

There was a time that I preferred Trump to establishment Republicans because he was willing to tell some unvarnished truths (Iraq in particular). But now I would honestly prefer the soft B.S. and mild demagoguery of a Jeb or a Rubio to this nonsense. I mean, Mike Pence, really? Is he selling the Trumpista line because he believes it or is he cynical enough to fake it? I would actually prefer the latter.

It is depressing how thoroughly this administration has corrupted everyone in its orbit. They have no sense of measure or decorum. They operate on one principle only: divide and conquer. Why lay out a thought-out policy when inflammatory tweets or speeches will do the trick. It is awful, absolutely awful, to the point that I am willing to consider voting for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in my adult life. I would consider moving back to my native Poland, but the same dynamic is at play there.

#8 Comment By Bob Taylor On June 13, 2018 @ 3:22 pm

Pence has no class. The George Will “lickspittle” column said it perfectly.

#9 Comment By Andrew Alladin On June 13, 2018 @ 3:29 pm

“It was a repulsive speech, quite frankly, despite some good non-political material at the end, added almost as an afterthought.”

If he had spoken about “religious liberty” it would be seen as divisive and against LGBTQ rights. The culture wars are over so any talk of overturning Roe. v. Wade would have been seen as cynical pandering. And part of the War On Women as well. Had Rubio or Sasse been invited the speech would probably be marginally better but still safe enough so that neither man would be portrayed as “divisive.”

Perhaps Pence should have given a Gospel speech about Jesus being The Way, The Truth, and The Life. That would be also divisive and intolerant and proof that Pence hates Muslims and Jews. Perhaps he should have spoken about the Pence Rule – how unifying would that have been!

This “repulsive” speech was the safest speech that any Republican can give. Somehow I’ve missed Rubio and Sasse’s vigorous defense of religious liberty against the LGBT lobby. Any bills in the Senate that I’m overlooking?

With this ugliness behind them the SBC can now focus on the steady drift of younger Evangelicals into theological liberalism. The polling of younger Evangelicals on issues of sexuality suggests greater damage than the image of Republican Party at Prayer will ever be.

#10 Comment By Netherbury On June 13, 2018 @ 3:29 pm

This says it perfectly: [5]

#11 Comment By Noah172 On June 13, 2018 @ 3:51 pm

Many younger Southern Baptists — conservatives, not liberals — are tired of the denomination’s close association with the Republican Party.

That may or may not be true, but the CNN story to which you link just quotes a few people, some supportive of Pence’s appearance, but with no evidence (say, a survey) of what younger SBC members in general (versus a few self-appointed leaders and activists) think of this administration or the Republican Party.

I’ll keep saying it: Your personal friends who are #NeverTrump evangelicals don’t like Trump (and Trumpism) specifically, and are only against Republican partisanship among evangelicals insofar as the party has become Trumpified, but they had no problem whatsoever with partisanship during the Bush years (your buddy Gerson helped cultivate it), and would have no problem with partisanship if Marco Rubio were President.

#12 Comment By Noah172 On June 13, 2018 @ 3:59 pm

Did any of the people who object to Pence’s appearance object to President Bush’s address to the SBC in 2002? Was that OK because he was open-borders on immigration?

#13 Comment By TA On June 13, 2018 @ 4:01 pm

For Southern Baptists hoping to escape their “Republican Party At Prayer” image, and refocus their denomination on religious mission, the Pence speech was a huge setback.

It’s worse than that. They are escaping that image. They’re just replacing it with being “Trumpists in Adulation of their Dear Leader”. It’s not about party or platform now, it’s just cult of personality.

#14 Comment By Bungalow Bill On June 13, 2018 @ 4:04 pm

“Pence mentioned abortion and persecuted Christians abroad, but explicitly in context of how Christians have never had it so good as they do under Trump.”

Pretty much the entire Trump presidency has been selling people on the idea they have never had it so good as they do under Trump. When I am told that, Ronald Reagan comes to mind to counter that argument. I am amazed though how Reagan has fallen out of favor thanks to this cheap rhetoric. It is really true. You tell people something enough and it becomes fact despite no possible way of ever being proven.

#15 Comment By Steven On June 13, 2018 @ 4:09 pm

I’ve generally liked what I’ve seen of Pence, and though I haven’t followed him all that closely, from what I’ve seen, he has struck me as person with a mild manner and sensible demeanor. I would have thought he could have been a good figure to have at the Convention meeting (though, it’s probably not ideal to feature any public political figures so prominently)

This speech sounds like gross stumping and is very disappointing.

#16 Comment By Noah172 On June 13, 2018 @ 4:35 pm

Bungalow Bill wrote:

Pretty much the entire Trump presidency has been selling people on the idea they have never had it so good as they do under Trump. When I am told that, Ronald Reagan comes to mind to counter that argument

Not if you care about immigration and trade, Trump’s top two policy issues.

Reagan also put two people he knew to be pro-choice (O’Connor and Kennedy) on the Supreme Court.

Is Reagan part of your Boomer nostalgia, along with the Beatles?

#17 Comment By JonF On June 13, 2018 @ 4:49 pm

Re: Reagan also put two people he knew to be pro-choice (O’Connor and Kennedy) on the Supreme Court.

I think you need to document that Reagan knew either of them were pro-choice. O’Connor maybe– but Kennedy’s social liberalism appears to have been a surprise since he was solidly conservative on all other matters (and still is).

#18 Comment By JonF On June 13, 2018 @ 4:52 pm

Re: Any bills in the Senate that I’m overlooking?

What would be the point of such a bill, when the last such effort at defining religious freedoms was struck down by the Court afterward with Antonio Scalia writing the majority opinion?

#19 Comment By Tom On June 13, 2018 @ 5:37 pm

Whatever problems religious conservatives may have with Pence, they better make peace with them soon because the Vice President will be the next Republican front-runner. The general election will then come down to either Pence or some Leftist who has no respect for religious liberty.

#20 Comment By Kurt Gayle On June 13, 2018 @ 5:45 pm

Mr. Dreher: Since May 6th you’ve posted the following ten (10) articles about Southern Baptists:

• Pence Among The Southern Baptists–A ‘Republican Party At Prayer’ moment in Dallas
• Paige Patterson On Breaking Rape Victims Down–Southern Baptist seminary discloses ex-president’s monstrous misogyny
• The Corrupt Architects–A devastating possible truth at the core of the Southern Baptist crisis
• Paige Patterson Fired–Seminary trustees reverse themselves, expel former president entirely
• Southern Baptist Generational Warfare–The contours of ‘The Baptist Apocalypse’
• Policing The Christian Village–Paige Patterson, Southern Baptists, Catholics, and Christian accountability
• The Southern Baptist #MeToo Reckoning–Advice from someone battered by church scandal
• Al Mohler, Taking Command Of Church In Crisis–Seminary president preaches prophetic sermon to fellow Southern Baptists
• Paige Patterson’s Feast–A woman claims prominent Southern Baptist leader told her to be quiet about her rape. Another Southern Baptist pastor mocks her publicly
• Paige Patterson & Defending The Indefensible–Southern Baptists have a problem

[NFR: It’s so refreshing to have someone other than Catholics complaining that I take a disproportionate interest in the travails of their communion! Having said that, let me point out that the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest non-Catholic denomination in the United States. Whatever it does is newsworthy. More to the point, for conservative Christians concerned about the public square, what happens with Southern Baptists, as well as with Catholics, is very important. They are the two big dogs on the block. As an Orthodox Christian, I believe the general health of small-o orthodox Christianity in America depends on the general health of both the Southern Baptists and the Catholics way more than on any of the rest of us. — RD]

#21 Comment By Hound of Ulster On June 13, 2018 @ 5:56 pm

I like your Christ…I do not like your Christians, for they are so unlike your Christ

MK Gandhi

The reason, Rod, Pence didn’t talk about Religious Liberty and instead talked about the Johnson Amendment is because the forces that he is pandering to within the SBC are not interested in liberty but in restoring the country’s pre-1960s Protestant hegemony. Read anything written in the last 20 years by Tony Perkins et al…they want power to impose their heresies on the rest of the country by the force of the state if needs be. And Trump promises them a bid for hegemony by his destruction of the government through his cronyism and self-dealing.

You will need the BenOp even more with these heretics than any liberal regime.

[NFR: For the record, I really like Southern Baptists. — RD]

#22 Comment By Uncle Billy On June 13, 2018 @ 6:07 pm

Any religion, be it Southern Baptist, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or whatever should be very careful about getting in bed with a political party. While the Trump Administration may be against abortion, they stick it to the poor and immigrants. I seem to remember in the Gospels, Jesus talking about helping the poor, the foreigner, the widow and orphan, etc.

The relationship between various religions and political parties should be arms length. Put not your trust in princes.

#23 Comment By Noah172 On June 13, 2018 @ 6:13 pm

JonF,

O’Connor was in the Arizona legislature before she was on the high court. She supported legalizing abortion while there. When Reagan announced his nomination of her, Jerry Falwell, Sr., among others, objected to her for this very reason. Reagan wrote about it in his diary. Her view was not a secret at the time.

As for Kennedy, at his confirmation hearings he expressed strong support for Constitutional protection of privacy and a libertarian view of individual rights, which the choicers interpreted (correctly) as acceptance of legal abortion (hence no Democratic nay votes in the Senate — remember, these were the people who had just rejected Robert Bork). The Reagan team were either fools or liars if they thought a judge with no record of anti-abortion rulings (which Kennedy did not have at his nomination) but these views was a safe vote for overturning Roe v. Wade.

#24 Comment By March Hare On June 13, 2018 @ 6:39 pm

Yet another reason you should have voted for Hillary last time around.

Nobody could have built a cult of personality around her.

[NFR: This is not about a Trump cult of personality. This is about the vice president using that particular platform to make a campaign speech. It was in bad taste. — RD]

#25 Comment By Intelliwriter On June 13, 2018 @ 7:43 pm

Two thoughts: If the Johnson Amendment is overturned, religious entities should be taxed. We either have separation of church and state or we don’t. The fact that the so-called “religious right” is in bed with the GOP may already be cause to revoke their tax-exempt status.

Second: Patterson may not have physically abused any women, but he counseled a woman who was raped to go back to her rapist, pray for him, and leave law enforcement out of it. That’s abuse in my book.

#26 Comment By Norm On June 13, 2018 @ 7:52 pm

I agree with this guy:

[5]

And I’m a life-long Southern Baptist and consider myself pretty conservative.

#27 Comment By George On June 13, 2018 @ 7:56 pm

This is not what I joined the Southern Baptists for. Fortunately the other bit of news from the convention is the election of J.D. Greear. I promise you that nonsense like this will not be at the convention next year. We have a lot to turn around after the mess some in my denomination made this year with stuff like this. It is the hope for that future which allows me to maintain my identity as a Southern Baptist.

#28 Comment By charles cosimano On June 13, 2018 @ 8:43 pm

Politician speaks at religious convention about politics. In other news, the Mayor fell off his tricycle again…

Yawn.

The big difference between the SBC annual meeting and the Conference of Catholic Bishops is that the Baptists dress better and are rarely as funny. Both are equally megalomaniacal in that they both think that they somehow matter.

There is no greater breeding ground for delusions of grandeur than gatherings of clergy. Politicians are wise if they avoid them.

#29 Comment By TA On June 13, 2018 @ 8:52 pm

[NFR: This is not about a Trump cult of personality. This is about the vice president using that particular platform to make a campaign speech. It was in bad taste. — RD]

I think you seriously underestimate the extent to which the Republican party has been completely subsumed by Trumpism.

If you don’t believe me, take the word of the man who was until recently the highest ranking Republican in government:

“There is no Republican Party, there’s a Trump party.” John Boehner, May 31, 2018

#30 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 13, 2018 @ 10:09 pm

Rod said it well. I can’t find anything in subsequent comments that motivates me to rethink that observation.

#31 Comment By Gary On June 13, 2018 @ 10:26 pm

Two years ago, weren’t evangelicals freaking out about the prospect of religious freedom being shredded and the forced of secularism routing churches? But then Trump appoints Gorsuch and conservative circuit court judges and now Southern Baptists want to shun the VP?

I get that people are repulsed by Trump and want to raise immigration and race relations. But to shun the VP after they’ve protected religious liberty, that’s bad politics at best and ingratitude at worst. If I’m Trump and Pence was deplatformed, why would I stick my neck out for religious liberty again?

#32 Comment By Cavin On June 14, 2018 @ 12:16 am

Again, this kind of nonsense is Exhibit A as to why this evangelical Christian doesn’t bother with organized religion any longer.

#33 Comment By EngineerScotty On June 14, 2018 @ 2:46 am

Did any of the people who object to Pence’s appearance object to President Bush’s address to the SBC in 2002? Was that OK because he was open-borders on immigration?

Bush’s address wasn’t any where near as campaign-y. Bush may have been many things (and neither of us much care for him, albeit for different reasons), but he knew how to tone it down when an occasion called for more decorum than a stump speech.

The Southern Baptist Convention may be highly conservative, and even has a well-documented racist past, but the removal of brown people from the United States is not a motivating factor for the leadership thereof.

#34 Comment By Mont D. Law On June 14, 2018 @ 7:54 am

“They don’t understand that if Christians don’t WIN again (American Christians), God’s will won’t be accomplished. He NEEDS us to win the culture wars for him, he can’t do it on his own.”

Dude,this is hysterical.

#35 Comment By BD On June 14, 2018 @ 9:33 am

The Bible warns us of fake piety from the likes of the Mike Pence’s of the world. He is a disgrace and I cannot call him a “Christian” without using quotes.

As for the GOP, it’s clear that they are not really a party anymore but a Trumpian cult of personality. The only issue they care about is “if Trump does it, it is good, even if it contradicts what Trump did yesterday.” So if Trump tomorrow came out in favor of abortion, you can bet the Republicans would decide that maybe abortion is a good thing.

#36 Comment By balconesfault On June 14, 2018 @ 11:48 am

From the Boy Scouts of America, to the SBC.

It’s always about Trump.

Pence was smart enough to know his obligations, if he wants to still be in the VP position if and when Trump gets impeached.

Because even Mike Pence might be smart enough to realize he’ll never get elected President on his own.

#37 Comment By balconesfault On June 14, 2018 @ 11:53 am

@TA “There is no Republican Party, there’s a Trump party.” John Boehner, May 31, 2018

Katie Arrington, after defeating Mark Sanford in their South Carolina GOP primary:

“We are the party of President Donald J. Trump”.

#38 Comment By Ellimist000 On June 15, 2018 @ 1:11 am

“@TA “There is no Republican Party, there’s a Trump party.” John Boehner, May 31, 2018

Katie Arrington, after defeating Mark Sanford in their South Carolina GOP primary:

“We are the party of President Donald J. Trump”.”

I just realized that I can not recall a single instance where any Democratic politician, bureaucrat, media figure, or voter said: “We are the party of Barak Obama”.

#39 Comment By Ellimist000 On June 15, 2018 @ 1:21 am

Noah172,

“Not if you care about immigration and trade, Trump’s top two policy issues.”

Noah, We actually may not disagree on trade that much, but unfortunately, the ideas are being implemented by idiots, and it may blow up in our faces very soon. Sanders would have done a better and much more lasting job on the trade and job issues.

As for immigration, think about Obamacare, a flawed but popular policy. Now think about how the GOP has shredded it up. Now think about President Trump’s immigration, immigration policy so divisive that even Candidate Trump thought it was inhumane. Now think about whats going to happen when Democrats inevitably take power.

This is why presidents, especially unpopular presidents that didn’t actually win the vote, need to build their policies around consensus and not extremes that even Franklin Graham finds detestable.

#40 Comment By JonF On June 15, 2018 @ 7:59 am

Re: The Reagan team were either fools or liars if they thought a judge with no record of anti-abortion rulings (which Kennedy did not have at his nomination) but these views was a safe vote for overturning Roe v. Wade.

I think they considered Kennedy “safe” because of his overall conservative record. And I do not consider people foolish because they fail to predict the future accurately in cases where there is no good evidence to go on. I was already an adult when Kennedy’s libertarian jurisprudence on social issues became noteworthy– it surprised plenty of people on the left as well who had thought, given his resume, he would be every bit as SoCon as Scalia. There were also expectations for a while he would move left on other issues, but he did not and is still a reliable rightwing vote on just about everything else.

#41 Comment By sara On June 15, 2018 @ 10:35 am

Sessions uses the Bible to defend the practice of separating kids from their families at the border:

[6]

This administration is doing more to damage Christianity than all the gay and transgender people in the world.

#42 Comment By Concerned Citizen On June 15, 2018 @ 12:00 pm

@Noah172 says:
June 13, 2018 at 3:51 pm

“I’ll keep saying it: Your personal friends who are #NeverTrump evangelicals don’t like Trump (and Trumpism) specifically, and are only against Republican partisanship among evangelicals insofar as the party has become Trumpified, but they had no problem whatsoever with partisanship during the Bush years (your buddy Gerson helped cultivate it), and would have no problem with partisanship if Marco Rubio were President.”
***********************
I myself am a Never-Trumper from an evangelical background, and I have been feeling like “a voice crying in the wilderness” since the Jerry Falwell / Moral Majority days trying to warn Christians about the folly of aligning so thoroughly with one political party. Evangelicals have surrendered their moral authority by being so completely identified with Republicanism (now Trumpism) that they are creating more atheists than they can imagine and are, in effect, inoculating unbelievers against the message of Christ.

I applaud the attempt of some who are advocating a return to the roots of the good news of the Gospel; however, multi-generational damage has already been done from selling the birthright of proclaiming the Gospel for a bowl of political power porridge.

#43 Comment By Noah172 On June 15, 2018 @ 6:15 pm

Ellimist000 wrote:

Sanders would have done a better and much more lasting job on the trade and job issues

Putting aside how very debatable this opinion is, I was responding to a comment, presumably from someone who considers himself a conservative, praising Ronald Reagan.

#44 Comment By Noah172 On June 15, 2018 @ 6:18 pm

Concerned Citizen wrote:

I myself am a Never-Trumper from an evangelical background, and I have been feeling like “a voice crying in the wilderness” since the Jerry Falwell / Moral Majority days trying to warn Christians about the folly of aligning so thoroughly with one political party…

I applaud the attempt of some who are advocating a return to the roots of the good news of the Gospel

You seem to be missing the point. Some of the people “who are advocating a return to the roots of the good news of the Gospel” were Bush or general Republican partisans, or had no objection to Bush-worship, during the 2000s and early 2010s. They are not sincere.

#45 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 15, 2018 @ 8:14 pm

Kennedy was the result of the senate rejecting a president’s preferred first nominee. The senate’s role is to “advise and consent,” so when the senate refuses consent, a president is wise to take some advice about his next pick. Of course the president doesn’t have to be supine and give the senate everything they want. It is the president’s role to nominate. So Kennedy was a fairly predictable compromise. This is also with the background that the senate had dared to reject TWO unqualified nominees within the previous twelve years or so.

#46 Comment By JonF On June 16, 2018 @ 8:03 am

Re: t. Some of the people “who are advocating a return to the roots of the good news of the Gospel” were Bush or general Republican partisans, or had no objection to Bush-worship, during the 2000s and early 2010s. They are not sincere.’

Noah, you omit the possibility that some of these folks may have learned the lesson the hard way.

#47 Comment By Noah172 On June 16, 2018 @ 1:09 pm

Noah, you omit the possibility that some of these folks may have learned the lesson the hard way

Many prominent conservative Christian #NeverTrumpers, such as Rod’s pal Russell Moore of the SBC, were Rubio boosters during the 2016 nomination contest (and another Baptist, Eric Teetsel, was on Rubio’s staff), so, no, they learned nothing.

#48 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 17, 2018 @ 2:45 pm

Many prominent conservative Christian #NeverTrumpers, such as Rod’s pal Russell Moore of the SBC, were Rubio boosters during the 2016 nomination contest (and another Baptist, Eric Teetsel, was on Rubio’s staff), so, no, they learned nothing.

Too true. When Noah172 hits a nail at all, he hits it right on the head.