Introducing Bobby and Othello Baptist
“Bobby Baptist” is a term that I recently encountered in an article written by Brad Reynolds, who serves as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Christian Studies at Truett McConnell University in Cleveland, GA. His article is entitled “Bobby Baptist and the ERLC.” The ERLC—Ethics and Religion Liberty Commission—an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, is headed by Dr. Russell Moore who according to one news article was required to apologize to seven SBC pastors in order to retain his job. The “offense” Russell Moore allegedly committed was to criticize Donald Trump and SBC voters who supported him.
According to Reynolds, “Dr. Jerry Vines [in yester years] introduced Southern Baptists to a hypothetical character in his Sermon ‘A Baptist and his Bible.’ The character, Billy Baptist, represented the typical Baptist in Southern Baptist churches.” Reynolds now presents to us “Bobby”—Billy’s younger brother—who is “a twenty-first century hypothetical typical member of a Southern Baptist rural church.” Reynolds further reveals that Bobby Baptist “is really not concerned that leaders within the SBC are seeking unity in their differences.” Apathy with regard to unity makes Bobby an agenda-driven Baptist-believing that his agenda should TRUMP unity. Bobby Baptist is a feisty fellow when it comes to driving his agenda.
Take serious note of the fact that Reynolds describes “Bobby Baptist” as a twenty-first century, rural, “typical” Southern Baptist. Reynolds’ profile of “Bobby Baptist” gets even more interesting. Bobby does not get his news from “CNN” or “NY TIMES.” “Bobby and Bonnie” get their news from their Facebook, whereby they interact with family. It goes further: Bobby is not interested in issues addressed by the President of the ERLC: “1) what it means to be “an evangelical;” 2) the importance of sexual immorality; and 3) racial divisiveness. Rather, what disturbed Bobby was that these concerns seemed of more importance to Dr. Moore than the murderous torture of infants and real religious liberty…”
Bobby Baptist’s objective is not to remove Russell Moore as President of the ERLC, but rather to ask Dr. Moore “to either represent ‘us’ or remove himself for ‘we’ do not desire to pay someone who doesn’t represent ‘us.’” That representation would begin by an admission that abortion, Supreme Court Justices and the judicial system is rightly our main focus.” Bobby Baptist’s final conclusion is, “we… do not shirk our responsibility to vote to protect LIFE because Ethics demands such.” Translation: Bobby Baptist wants the ERLC to encourage Southern Baptists to vote for Donald Trump—under the guise—“to vote to protect LIFE”—because “Ethics demand such.”
WOW!! Ethics demand that you vote for Donald Trump—who said about women—put Tic Tacs in your mouth and “grab ‘em by the crotch.” Ethics demand that you vote for Donald Trump who called women “pigs and slobs.” WOW! Ethics demand that you vote for Donald Trump who settled two lawsuits out of court for racial housing discrimination.
WOW!!! Ethics demand that you vote for Donald Trump who insisted five young Black men exonerated for rape in New York, by DNA evidence, were guilty and should be retried. Ethics demand that we vote for Donald Trump although he willfully failed to pay scores of vendors and subcontractors, is thrice married and filed bankruptcy four times. Wow! That is absolutely astounding that a Baptist professor would argue that “Ethics demand” that Southern Baptist should vote for such an unethical man, and the ERLC should push such an agenda.
Professor Reynolds identified Bobby Baptist as a “rural” Southern Baptist, and it was in the rural areas where Trump received the votes that helped him cross the finish line. Professor Reynolds serves in a rural area of Georgia. Reynolds described Bobby Baptist as “typical” Southern Baptists. It’s that description of “Bobby Baptist” that really triggered my drive to write this article. What does a “typical” Southern Baptist look like?
I’ve been affiliated with the SBC from my college days at Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas, since 1974 through today—non-stop. I consider myself just as much a Southern Baptist as Bobby. Unlike Bobby, though, I’ve never lived or pastored in a rural area. I get my news from CNN, NY TIMES, Fox News and MSNBC, not just Facebook. I celebrate and appreciate Russell Moore’s critique of “what it means to be “an evangelical,” “the importance of sexual immorality,” and “racial divisiveness.” I find it interesting and disturbing that Bobby Baptist does not share my appreciation for these three concerns and emphasis of the ERLC and Russell Moore. I’m even more concerned that Bobby Baptist is not concerned about unity. The price Bobby Baptist believes that must be paid for unity is the President of the ERLC being exclusively focused on abortion and SCOTUS appointments. I strongly stand against abortion and voted for Republican candidates for the past 42 years, with the hope that they would outlaw abortion, but they’ve failed me. I voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election because she is by far a more ethical person than Trump—even with all her baggage—and certainly much more committed to racial justice and equality. Therefore, given those two choices, if my vote boils down to the more ethical of the two—hands down, I vote for Hillary, especially when I consider my twelve grandchildren and who will best protect them from the International Association of Chiefs of Police admitted historic problem of police discrimination and brutality.
Professor Reynolds used words like “we” and “us” referring to the majority of Southern Baptists represented by Bobby as “typical.” Professor Reynolds was by and large describing Southern Baptists yesterday, which were largely rural, White, Republican, Suburban and now aging. Southern Baptists today are broad, diverse, free thinkers, independent voters, people of color, and sometimes, young, restless and reformed—not just the Bobby Baptist type. The bond that hold Southern Baptists together today is a common experience of having been “born again into the Kingdom of God,” a common belief in the BF&M 2000, and a common commitment to International Missions, Evangelism, Disciple Making and Church Planting.
Bobby Baptist’s commitment to “vote to protect LIFE” is a noble one and a commitment that I share. But my definition of “Life” is more expansive than Bobby’s. “LIFE” to me includes the three issues the ERLC addressed so ably and adequately, that Bobby has dismissed as being priority issues. Bobby reduces “LIFE” to life in the womb. Voting for Trump will not overturn abortion laws. If I were assured of that, I would have voted for Trump. Therefore, we can’t allow Bobby to be considered a “typical,” average, or representative Southern Baptist. Or else, we reduce what it means to be Southern Baptist to “rural,” White, Republicans and a single-issue voter—exclusively. And yes, Dr. Reynolds, “it is more complicated than” looking myopically at one issue—that has proven time and time again to not result in a legislative abolishment. Some of us will no longer vote exclusively on one issue. That may be what typical, average, rural Southern Baptists would do; but that’s fool hardy from my perspective giving equally as important “LIFE” issues to give consideration to regarding voting.
The Republican Party may be just using this one issue to garner evangelical votes with no real intent to ever outlaw abortions. The purpose and point of this article is to simply highlight the fact that there is no longer a typical, average, Southern Baptist. Bobby Baptist is too non-descriptive of current SBC demographic reality, to represent “typical” reality. Therefore, Dr. Reynolds, I plead with you to allow Bobby Baptist and “Othello Baptist” to dwell together in unity, bonded by a common commitment to God’s Kingdom and the BF&M 2000. Failure to do so marginalizes a multitude of Southern Baptists or reduces them to non-typical and below average and sets in place a “them” vs. “us” mentality.
Many “typical” Bobby Baptists feel exactly as the sentiments expressed by Bobby Baptist/Joe Blackmon in a “Baptist Identity” Blog—edited by Rick Patrick—regarding Baptists who vote Democrat:
“And as anyone know, good Christians don’t vote or support democrats.”
Many Bobby Baptists share Joe Blackmon’s erroneous, shallow, myopic, and unbiblical viewpoint. But may I introduce you to Othello Baptist, who may be an independent voter, or vote Republican or Democrat, depending on the candidate?
Who is “Othello Baptist”? “Othello Baptists” may support affirmative action, affordable health care, police brutality accountability, adequate safety net for the poor, racial equality and justice, equal rights and pay for women, unity and full inclusion/empowerment in the SBC for all persons. Othello wants SCOTUS justices appointed favorable to his positions on the above issues. Othello Baptist may be White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, older, younger, rural, suburban, urban, or inner city. Billy and Bobby Baptist have little to no regard for any of Othello Baptist’s issues. Bobby Baptist is concerned only about abortion and Supreme Court Justices. Othello Baptist values all people’s lives from the womb to the tomb.
Currently, Bobby does not want Othello to express his opinion about President Trump without repercussions. Yet Bobby can rip anyone he chooses with no repercussions. Bobby and Othello need to figure out how both of them can sit at the same SBC table and both are welcomed and equal. Their different political views should not be political litmus tests for membership, leadership, or exclusion in the SBC. Bobby Baptist currently excludes Othello Baptist or forces apologies if he voices his views.
Barry Cook loves the Confederate Flag and sees it as a symbol of heritage, not hate. I deplore the Confederate Flag and see it as a symbol of treason against the United States and a celebration of White Supremacy. Nevertheless, Barry and I have genuine respect, appreciation and brotherly affirmation for each other as gospel-centered, genuine born-again believers, and fellow Southern Baptists. We will never agree on the Confederate Flag. But we do agree on the Gospel. And that’s the beauty and hope of the SBC that Barry Cook and I can belong to the same Convention, and cooperate for the advancement of the Kingdom. Barry may be Bobby Baptist, and I may be Othello Baptist, but together we are Kingdom Baptists. And that ought to be our focus, rather than Republican Politics, abortion, or Donald Trump. Let’s focus on the Kingdom. Let Russell Moore be Russell Moore. And let the ERLC carry out her mission without undue interference and distractions with baseless and unbiblical criticisms.
Bobby Baptist is typical of many Southern Baptists. He’s singularly focused on abortion with tunnel vision, but has little or no regard for providing a safety net for the poor; Affirmative Action for descendants of the slavery and the Jim Crow Era, who were economically and physically raped by the slave owners and their descendants; affordable health care for the masses; equal rights for women; and to aggressively investigate and hold accountable police persons who abuse and brutalize citizens. Bobby Baptist does not represent me; neither does he represent countless others.