Points Of Contact

“You`re a Baptist?” she said, with no small amount of surprise and distaste: “But… you`re, like, smart; and, uh, really compassionate!”

“Huh?!” was all I could sputter in response. Just what does she mean by that?

…but I know all too well, because I used to hold such untoward prejudices myself. Baptists were a bunch of humorless no drinkin` or dancin` fundie troglodytes – some of whom decried the wantonness of the times but were always, themselves, getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar (to my unending amusement).

Yep… growing up as a “devout” secular humanist, I could tolerate just about any variety of religious adherent… except for those dad-gummed Baptists.

Now… I am one. As such, I all-too often encounter exchanges as this one of late. O, the pervasive stench of prejudice and clich.

However, today I read something that made me smile, a certain categorization of Baptists that has more in common with what I know of my dear fellow “people of the Book” and less to do with certain pass stereotypes. A people who are sincere enough in their faith that it cannot help but manifest itself in service towards others.

Concerning the ongoing recovery efforts from Hurricane Katrina in the city of New Orleans, John L. Yates (in an article titled Should Have Called The Baptists) writes :

“…Southern Baptists know they are to demonstrate the love of Christ for people. Their presence is making a profound difference.

Although one of Southern Baptists` six seminaries is located in New Orleans, previously the community never gave Southern Baptists a second thought. But because of the acts of kindness demonstrated through Southern Baptist volunteers, we have gained the attention of the community as people who get things done, who genuinely care and who want to offer hope to anyone experiencing the backwaters of lost dreams and lost hope…”

…and now for something completely different.

Martin G. Selbrede writes (in a review of Jeff Sharlet`s recent essay Through A Glass, Darkly: How The Christian Right Is Reimagining US History) about an interesting irony that he has observed:

“…modern society is manipulated against the rich by inculcating envy against them: what makes them think they`re better than everybody else? Let`s equalize everything: soak the rich, the financial elite, and cut them down to size. But when cultural elitists are confronted with egalitarianism such as is unleashed among Christians who take the priesthood of all believers seriously, it`s suddenly a bad, disorderly idea…”

Now I do not mean to extract a single line from a long essay to make a specific point… no, wait, that`s precisely what I mean to do. Or do I? Uh… I think I just like the way he said something that I can identify with in a different sense. Ugh. I am not sure what point I wanted to make at the outset of this meander, but I`ve only got about a minute or two to wrap this up.

The point I would wish to make is that I notice the achingly common occurrence of hypocrisy in how one would tout an all-encompassing pluralistic and utterly subjective ethos – until some contrary perspective forces them to make an absolute stand. As if to say: “All beliefs/opinions are valid, but some are more valid than others.” or “People should be free to just do what they want, unless they`re Nazis or something.”

A peer or colleague might argue with me that there are no rigid absolutes or objective truth about reality, themselves making an absolute and objective appraisal based upon certain values and beliefs which they would consider to be non-negotiable.

In the end, I think, the only thing that prevents one from succumbing to the madness of this incoherence is humanity`s keen gift for rationalization.

On that note, and since I`m both exhausted and delirious, I will draw this absurd tirade to a merciful close.

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