A Baptist pastor speaks of a woman who approached him with an unusual request. She asked the pastor if she could have her baby crucified. Though she was obviously asking that the child be ‘christened,’ the pastor didn’t correct the mix-up in words but rather pointed out that “we don’t do that as Baptists.”
There is often much discussion as to what Baptists do and do not do. For example some people assume that Baptists don’t dance. While it is true that I don’t dance, that has more to do with awkwardness and a belly that keeps moving long after I’ve stopped than with Baptist thought. There tends to be such an “impression” of what Baptists are, that we at Fourth Avenue Baptist had discussions in our church some time ago about dropping the word “Baptist” from our name. The term Baptist has stuck though and now that we are in the process of putting up new signs we are sticking with it.
Speaking of signs, the current debate about certain signs proclaiming that “God probably doesn’t exist” brings to light a little known fact about Baptists. While some might think that Baptists will be at the forefront of demanding the banning of such signs, as Baptists we have a strong history of standing for freedom.
The Baptist movement was founded in a time and place which demanded that a Christian believe and behave a certain way. Our founding members stood up for the right to practice faith freely without interference, especially from the government. King James was the king at that time and it wouldn’t surprise me if the translation of the Bible that he authorised has, in an ironic turn of events, found more support from Baptists than anyone else. He was certainly no supporter of Baptists! Baptists were not a people of conformity, or the “religious right” as is often thought now, but were rather known as non-conformists. I tend to think that some of us still are.
So as the pastor of Fourth Avenue Baptist, I’d like to say; “Let the buses carry the signs!” The signs, even without the go-ahead at the time I write this, have already generated discussion. And discussion is an area in which I believe we as Canadians need a wee bit more freedom. We do well to discuss things like hockey, weather, politics, weather and hockey, but when it comes to faith we clam up and declare, “that’s personal.” Yes it is personal, but why do we stifle ourselves from talking about it? Let’s enjoy some freedom please!
So let there be signs! As for whether or not God does exist, all I will say at this point is “watch for the signs!” Not the controversial signs on a bus, or the new signs in front of our church, but the signs in your life.
(written for the Glebe Report, March 2009)