Some say politics and religion don’t mix, but I decided to break that rule tonight and blog about the Baptists while some of you may still be watching the Super Tuesday results trickle in.

Speaking of religion and politics, anyone who read the DMN on Saturday may have seen our religion columnist, the Rev. George Mason, quoted in a story about last week’s Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta, Ga. The celebration brought together racially, geographically and theologically diverse Baptists, and made headlines because of some of its own headliners — Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and Bill Clinton. This resulted in an essential boycott of the event from the more conservative Southern Baptist Convention, which was not included in the planning and whose leaders criticized the event as left-wing and partisan.

Mason was a speaker at the celebration, and when I asked him whether he had received any feedback from the story, he told me most of it had been concerning his comment: "I wish all Baptists had been there."

Mason is the senior pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church, which identifies itself with the more moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. "It aggravates me that everything today is framed by political ideology more than gospel or spiritual identification," he told me. "Because some big name Democrats were organizers, people jumped to the conclusion that they were trying to rally Baptists to their political causes. Conservatives were invited, both Southern Baptists and Republicans, but most declined; and then they had the gall to criticize us for excluding them." Turns out that the big-wig Democratic organizers stuck to spiritual, and not political, messages — including Bill Clinton, who could have given into the temptation to go into campaign mode so close to today’s elections, with his wife on the ballot.

I was impressed with the covenant’s mission to reaffirm the church’s obligation to "fulfill the biblical mandate to promote peace with justice, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and the marginalized, and promote religious liberty and respect for religious diversity." It seems like that should be a cause that all Baptists — and all Christians, for that matter — can rally around. In the words of singer-songwriter Derek Webb, member of Houston-based band Caedmon’s Call, Christians’ first allegiance is not to a flag and a country, but a king and a kingdom. Perhaps the disparity between that truth and the reality of the church in America is part of what frustrates Mason.

But to the pastor’s credit, he expressed hope beyond what our nation’s broken political system can fix: "Oh well. God knows and will sort it all out someday."



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