Many of us, who identify ourselves as moderate Baptists of Southern Baptist heritage, felt a kinship with novelist John Grisham who spoke last night at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.
Unlike many politicians and other guest speakers at various Baptist functions, Grisham clearly speaks our language and shares our common journey.
Except for the fact he has some 225 million books in print and the related fame, Grisham is one of us.
He told of being raised and nurtured in a Southern Baptist church in Mississippi. He is grateful for the good gifts of that upbringing.
However, he noted that the church of his childhood affirmed a strong commitment to biblical literalism that was used to justify racial and gender exclusion.
Today he has found a new home in a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship-related congregation that is open to racial and gender equality.
As a result of past Baptist blind spots, however, he (and we) are cautious. We can’t assume we see clearly now rather than through some degree of dark glass.
Our rigidity, our dogmatism, has not served us well in the past. Therefore, we will strongly affirm our faith in Christ and seek to follow him and his teachings. But we will not put every doctrinal point or social position in concrete.
And we will not equate the narrow creedal conclusions of some other Baptists with indisputable divine revelation.
Grisham said he sometimes gets frustrated and defensive when trying to explain that he is Baptist, yet does not embrace the exclusive and judgmental attitudes that often define Baptists.
Many, like myself, can relate to this rarely-told personal story from a great storyteller. He is one of us. That is good to know.