Faith, politics and confusion

My old campus ministry colleagues have long recalled and embellished stories from a national gathering of Baptist campus ministers at Ouachita University in Arkansas in the early ’80s. The two-day trips out and back for our Georgia group were particularly memorable.
At a Holiday Inn in Tupelo, Miss., about a dozen of us had just settled into the poolside hot tub when a rather assertive, female sales rep approached with the subtle request: “Move your buns over!”
Soon after entering the warm water, she began questioning us about where we were from and what we did. Our early evasive answers like: “We work with college students in Georgia” didn’t satisfy. So finally we confessed to being Baptist campus ministers.
“BAPTIST?” she responded, as if it tasted foul in her mouth. “Are you all like Jimmy Falwell?”
On behalf of our well-soaked and somewhat startled group I replied: “It’s Jerry Falwell, and no.”
Soon most of my bold colleagues and I moved on to the larger, cooler pool on that sticky summer night leaving our ever-reflective and gentle friend Bobby Evans to carry on the conversation from there.
Years later we still jokingly listed him as an expert on “whirlpool evangelism” whenever possible.
Falwell’s “Moral Majority” was on the rise back then. The perception that all evangelical Christians shared the same political perspectives was growing.
Those of us, especially Baptists, who did not view faith and politics in that manner had a lot of explaining to do.
The year 2007 sure is different. Falwell and D. James Kennedy, two of the more significant shapers of the Religious Right, went on to glory this year.
The remaining leaders are now facing a presidential primary with looks of confusion on their faces about whether to support a Mormon with whom they agree on social issues, a war hero who has said less than nice things about them in the past, an anti-terrorist Roman Catholic who marched in Gay Pride parades or a Southern Baptist preacher they had written off until recently.
My, how times change.


  1. Hot tub evangelism? Really?

    Reminds me of an old Wittenburg Door cover shot on an issue that focused on evangelism. Two nerdy guys have approached two hot women in bikinis on the beach to witness to them. They’re holding their Bibles and a handful of evangelism tracks. Open the cover and the inside cover shows the two of them have tossed their tracks and Bibles and are walking hand in hand down the beach with the babes.

    Was it Jimmy or Jerry?


  2. Keith-
    I would think a fellow recovering campus minister could relate especially well to such recollections.

  3. Hot tub evangelism had strong precedents in the 60’s.
    My Dad told the story of traveling from Western North Carolina to the state Baptist convention in Raleigh.
    In the hotel one evening midway about Statesboro or somewhere there was a knock on the door during Prayertime and a call girl asked one of the preachers if there was anything she could do for him and he said: My heaven No Woman, I’m a Baptist preacher.

    Cohen had a great oped piece in the WashPost Tuesday on the occasion Huckabee has provided Romney in Iowa. In the context of Garry Wills concluding chapters in Head and Heart–must reading for framing what is and what is to come in the Huckabee/FrankPage/Richard Land matrix to come–big teachable moment for savvies like ourselves in the next few months.
    One interesting factor the weight of which I haven’t calibrated yet is fact New President of Samford Andy Westmoreland; Westmoreland’s wife was a high level education appointee of Huckabee in Arkansas.
    I doubt she would sign the BFM 2000; a matter, like Creationism, Huckabee is sure to be tested further on in his jousts with Romney et. al.
    Even so he has a heart on immigration and the Dream Act; and to that end I join Robert Parham in reinviting him to Covenant in Atlanta and let us break bread together on our knees.


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