I grew up in a liberal family in Southern California. I belonged to the Bahá’í faith and was raised by two hippies. My grandfather was the first civil rights writer for the L.A. Times and was offered the position of press secretary for Bobby Kennedy. My mom participated in Freedom Summer in Jackson, Mississippi when she was 18 to help with voting rights for all people. So when you look up “bleeding heart liberals” in the dictionary you will see a picture of my extended family. (Probably eating tofu and picketing segregated housing.) I still cherish my dad’s favorite button which said; “Reggae not Reagan.” We worshipped the donkey!
Like any good Democratic family, I believed government could help more than it could hurt, if it was led by the correct people. I made fun of Christians, especially the ones on television with their slicked back hair and multiple forms of bling as they pleaded with their viewers to send more money. Christians were dumb. Even when I left the Bahá’í faith and became agnostic, making fun of Christians was a bit of a past time.
That all changed as a 16-year-old when a friend in my punk band, Tim, asked if we could write some Christian lyrics. He had recently given his life to Jesus and was starting to annoy the crap out of me. My response, “F$&# NO!” But something began to gnaw on me as I watched the way he lived his life. He read the Bible, he prayed and he was still in a punk band with me. He was generous, he was kind, and he was not on a TV show with slicked back hair asking me in a Southern accent to give him money. He just loved Jesus.
With the Holy Spirit softening my heart and kind Baptists sharing the gospel with me, I came to faith in Jesus. I repented from my sins, gave my surprised parents my beers, threw my Playboys in the recycle bin (save the earth!) and set out to live my life for Jesus. My parents didn’t know how to process it. At first they considered it a phase, but God grabbed my heart and I was never going back. The whole family had much to think about and discuss. Dale was going to Christian church and they needed to deal with it. I’m pretty sure if I came out as gay my mom would have been much happier, instead I came out as a Christian. They began to debate me. Eventually they learned to live with it. It wasn’t perfect. When my grandfather was dying, he didn’t want me to visit for fear of me trying to “convert him.” Over time, the family saw fruit in my life and the life of my church family. My dad accepted Jesus at sixty-three years old and lived four years as my brother in Christ. I was electrified. I still pray daily for my mom who is now Buddhist and has a life size cutout of Bernie Sanders in her home.
But a few things still haven’t changed. While not a Democrat, I’ve never become a Republican like many of my Christian friends hoped. As a Southern Baptist, I’ve embraced the gospel. I believe in Biblical inerrancy, abhor abortion, but I’m anything but Southern.
Matter of fact, I still believe a government should pool resources through taxes to help care for the less fortunate. I advocate using our taxes for free college, medical care, housing, day care and food. I also believe there are racist systems which exist today with the intent of keeping certain races and ethnicities down in our country. Some say that makes me a Marxist, communist or socialist, but I am certain it does not make me an unbeliever. I love Jesus with every fiber of my being.
And while I believe government should have a role in care for the hurting, our church also runs food pantries, vaccination clinics and tutoring programs in our poor urban community. If the Church did our job there would be no need for large government programs. I’d love that.
I say all this because I need my Southern Baptist brothers to understand something. If you preach the gospel to Democrats, you may get Christian Democrats who look and talk differently from you. I only wear suits to funerals and weddings. I say “dude” an annoying amount of times. I have tattoos and piercings. I wear my hat to the side, because of the culture I grew up in. Can you handle me? I mean, I’ve come to love you, your food, your accents and at the 2021 SBC, my wife and I loved seeing all the Southern belles!
If you preach the gospel San Diegans like me, you’ll get Christian San Diegans who will have a different taste and culture than you. I behoove you to do whatever you can to focus on things that matter as much as possible. We want to be your brothers. We may approach government and race in different ways from you, but we absolutely love God and his word. I have learned to love many things about Southern culture, I hope you can accept mine. If you preach to different people, you will have a different SBC. I pray it is one who believes in the sufficiency and authority of the Bible, but it will never stay the same.
I once heard of a sophist who said you could never step foot in the same river twice.
In the same vein, I believe you can never step foot in the same SBC and I hope that can be a good thing. Just don’t make me wear a suit!
Dale Huntington is lead pastor of City Life Church, a multiethnic church, which serves the urban poor of San Diego, California. He also helped to plant city life church in Wichita, Kansas.
Dale has recorded and toured with many bands including the worship band Shine Like Stars.
He and his wife Ashley have two children. Dale loves to read, surf and cheer for the San Diego Padres. You can follow him on Twitter at @Dalehuntington.