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FIRST-PERSON: The gauntlet thrown

JACKSON, Miss. (BP) — Knights, gauntlets and duels may be relics of the past, but Mississippi Baptists figuratively received just such a challenge in a more modern context when the Human Rights Campaign threw down a virtual gauntlet by announcing that people of faith — and Baptists in particular — will be the targets of a $310,000 multimedia project to convince us that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) citizens of the state are deserving of “equal rights.”

Will Baptists pick up the gauntlet?

According to a press release from the Human Rights Campaign on Nov. 10, “All God’s Children [the name of the HRC project] was built to test a replicable model that can be used to move people of faith on LGBT issues throughout the South. According to Gallup, Mississippi is the most religious state in America, and it’s believed that an estimated 55% of its population is Baptist.”

Baptists in other states should take note of the phrase “replicable model” for potential use across the South. You have been warned.

Over the course of four weeks, All God’s Children will utilize television advertisements, direct mail, phone bank operations, telephone town halls, billboards, online advertising and door-to-door canvassing to get their message across, the press release stated.

The advertising blitz features Stan Wilson, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Clinton, and Mary Jane Kennedy of Florence, who is identified as a Baptist.

HRC promotional material says of Wilson, “For his congregation, all LGBT people are welcomed into his church. Pastor Wilson knows that his faith encourages him to speak up for the dignity of all people and that no one should deny LGBT people a place at God’s table.”

The same promotional material describes Kennedy as a Southern Baptist who “has taught Bible study and Sunday School at her church. She’s also a stay-at-home mother who has lived in Mississippi for most of her life. Through deep personal prayer and reflection, she believes that her faith compels her to love her fellow human beings and value the worth of all.”

Media-savvy and well-funded, HRC has challenged Mississippi Baptists to a duel over the values and principles of our state including even the very definitions of morality and marriage — a battle likely to extend well into the future.

There is at least one fact that cannot be ignored: The vast majority of the 2,149 cooperating churches in the Mississippi Baptist Convention would fall within the parameters of the Baptist Faith and Message of the Southern Baptist Convention which states, “In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose … all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography” (Section XV). The Baptist Faith and Message also states, “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime” (Section XVIII).

It would be difficult for anyone to misinterpret those passages to depict most Mississippi Baptists as anything but fully opposed to the HRC’s efforts in this state. $310,000 is a lot of money to spend. Their goal is clear. What should our response be?

Contained within the militant overtones of the beloved hymn of old, “Onward Christian Soldiers,” there is the line, “Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.” Whenever we are called into battle, as we have been in this instance, we must keep the cross of Jesus in front of us so we don’t lose our way.

We will likely be baited, mischaracterized, insulted, ignored, offended, marginalized and possibly threatened. Even so, we must conduct ourselves as Christians in the midst of the battle. That’s one of the meanings of the line from the hymn.

May they know us by our love and unshakable concern for their eternal souls (Matthew 28:18-20). After what our Savior did for us, it’s the least we can do for Him.

    About the Author

  • William Perkins