Vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin stirred up a lot of noise last night. Yet this highly-talked-about story during this most unusual political season seems to be getting the silent treatment from most Southern Baptists who typically weigh in on such issues.
Google up “sarah palin southern baptist” and one name dominates the screen. Richard Land, who purports to represent some 16 million fellow Southern Baptists before the Washington machinery, has expressed great glee since the Alaska governor was picked as Sen. John McCain’s running mate a few days ago.
Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, is “ecstatic” according to Christianity Today and other sources.
His single measuring stick for politicians has always been a strict anti-abortion platform while ignoring, if necessary, other concerns that apply only to candidates who do not favor his narrow “family values” definition.
On the other extreme is Voddie Baucham, an African-American pastor and a popular speaker among Southern Baptists. Bob Allen, at ethicsdaily.com, reports that Baucham has called Gov. Palin the “anti-family pick.”
Baucham, pastor of Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, charged that “Mrs. Palin is not even supposed to be the head of her own household.” It is a position that resonates with many current Southern Baptists, but is rejected as sexism by others — especially those outside the fundamentalist stream.
But where are the voices in between the full embrace (endorsement?) from Land and the sexist dismissal by Baucham? Why is Baptist Press, the SBC public relations arm disguised as news service, not carrying stories about Gov. Palin’s reception by key Southern Baptists?
Clearly the reason is that the Republican candidate for vice president creates a dilemma for most Southern Baptist leaders who embrace her ideology (her anti-abortion stance) but can’t imagine her assuming much more demanding professional responsibilities at this stage in life.
Of course, that “stage in life” is being the mother of five — including a special-needs child born in April and an unwed teen daughter who will deliver a baby in December. Such ambition doesn’t square with the definitions of “biblical manhood and womanhood” being heavily promoted within the SBC.
Yet for Southern Baptist leaders to publicly criticize the choices of Sen. McCain or Gov. Palin would be tantamount to promoting the candidacy of a Democratic ticket that is not aligned with Southern Baptist ideology and theology.
So, for once, and with few exceptions, the SBC leadership is strangely silent. Holding one’s tongue may be the only response to a real dilemma.