Former President Bill Clinton will speak this Friday evening during the closing session of the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant. He is one of those lightning-rod personalities who seems to draw either love or disdain.
Pastors across the nation, who have promoted the historic gathering to their congregations, can testify to that fact. Some church members have overreacted so negatively to Clinton’s participation that they have dismissed the whole conference as having no a valid purpose.
Bruce Prescott of Norman, Okla., who maintains the unofficial New Baptist Covenant blog site, posted an excellent piece last week about how the former president’s address will come at a time when the political stakes are so high for his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Bruce told how impressed he was after hearing Pres. Clinton speak at the press conference last April promoting the Baptist celebration. He passionately and clearly talked about his own faith, the biblical mandate to care for the poor, and the treasured principles of religious liberty.
I heard the same things and was impressed as well. Pres. Clinton’s biblically grounded message was brief, but superb. He out-preached some big-time preachers that day.
But as Bruce notes in his recent blog: “Last April, however, no one suspected that an African American would be the chief rival standing between Bill Clinton’s wife and the presidency. Then, no one suspected that the African-American community would be severely divided about who they would support for president.”
So on the Friday night before Super Tuesday, a day that may well determine the Democratic nominee for president, the husband of one vying for the office will have a platform.
Thousands of Baptists will be present, including many African Americans headed to the ballot box next Tuesday.
Like Bruce, I hope the message is similar to the one heard at the press conference in April. But the political temptation will be great.
Just how that address will go, nobody knows yet. But one thing is certain, it will be the most dissected message given at the historic Baptist gathering.
And, likely, not everyone will hear the same things. What one hears is often determined by what one is listening for.
Over 80 media representatives have been credentialed. Hundreds of others who write, blog or speak will be listening in. I can hear the pencils being sharpened now.