Jim Smith, editor of The Florida Baptist Witness and an unbridled advocate of all things fundamentalist, has amazing gifts beyond the rest of us in this narrow field of Christian journalism.
He can even see into the hearts and souls of the thousands of diverse fellow Baptists — black, white, brown, northern, southern, Canadian, American, conservative, moderate, liberal, none of the above — who gathered in Atlanta earlier this year for the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.
In an editorial on the largest gathering ever of North American Baptists across racial and convention lines, Smith concluded: “For the sake of true unity, let’s pray these Baptists can find their way back to the Gospel, for only then will their efforts matter for the Kingdom.”
While certainly any event is imperfect and open to criticism, it is amazing (unless you’ve been around fundamentalism for awhile) that one would conclude that such a large and diverse gathering of faithful Baptist Christians needs the true Gospel.
The entire event was focused on the compelling words of Jesus that defined the Lord’s own ministry and the one to which he calls his followers: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19 NIV)
As we well know, however, the “true gospel” for Bro. Smith and his ilk requires various forms of exclusion based on things Jesus didn’t talk about, but James Dobson and Russ Limbaugh often do.
Pardon us, but we thought the Gospel According to Luke was the true Gospel.
As I think about the vibrant worship with tear-streamed faces and the clasp of black and white hands, and fervent prayer — I’m pretty sure Jesus was happily involved.
I don’t believe Brother Smith was present at the Celebration, however. Fortunately neither was the pompous, condescending attitude he exhibits toward those who were.
If that is part of the “true gospel” he calls us to get back to, I’ll stick with the one recorded by Luke.