I am from Maine. Born, bred, and steeped in Vacationland, as our license plates so eloquently sum up the homeland. I grew up in a Conservative Baptist church with little affiliation to outside bodies, and have since become a Southern Baptist. All of which is very interesting.
Things that make being a Southern Baptist a strange affair
1) The whole Disneyland boycott. I feel as though my more intellectual friends will simply laugh at me for it. Thankfully, most people my age didn’t seem to even notice it.
2) The Southern Baptist way of life. As one would expect them to be, many Southern Baptists carry with them a distinctly Southern flair. They are friendly, outgoing, not afraid to speak their mind, and less immediately concerned with the way others view them. All this in contradistinction to Northernism, which is reserved, polite, internal, and concerned with appearances.
3) The traditions. For example, Southern Baptists hold a massive Convention every year, a gathering that is part religious festival, part Christian Congress, part homecoming, and part potluck. An interesting combination, one in which I have yet to feel at home.
Things that make being a Southern Baptist a decidedly good thing
1) The seminary program. Southern Baptists originally pooled their money in part to set up seminaries at which young men could inexpensively prepare for the ministry. This was a brilliant, if simple, step. Now, lots of young guys who are somewhat like me can receive quality training for the cost of three weeks at a high-level secular institution.
2) The missions program. Southern Baptists currently have about 5,000 missionaries on the field. That’s an awesome number. I love the heart Southern Baptists have for missions.
3) The rising generation of young and able leaders. Dr. Mark Dever, Dr. Al Mohler, Dr. Russ Moore and others are emerging as leaders in the broader evangelical culture and teaching Christians how to think about themselves and others. This is a good thing. The church kind of fell silent in the mid-twentieth century on the broader culture and also failed to critique itself. That is now happening.
Those are some thoughts. I can’t say that I now listen to the Gaithers, and I may not ever hold an office, but for several key reasons I’m now happy to be a Southern Baptist. Just don’t ask me not to go to Disneyland.