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wMonday, April 01, 2002

LONG WALK, SHORT PIER: A letter to The American Prowler in response to my recent piece on Andrew Sullivan perfectly illustrates why I'm not wild about getting letters from readers. One Pastor James Barker of Bible Baptist Church writes:

"I do not know what kind of Baptist Jeremy Lott is but no born again, Bible-believing Baptist would ever consider joining the Roman Catholic Church. Rather than 'dipping his toes' in the filthy polluted waters of Romanism Mr. Lott should read the Bible more thoroughly. It will show him how to get saved as well as how to locate the right kind of church. Furthermore, it will show him how the doctrines and practices of the idolatrous RCC contradict the Word of God."

Where to start? First, you gotta love that Baptist insistence on calling other people's salvation into question. It reminds me of that old joke about a group of people being welcomed into the gates of heaven. The guide makes them all duck when they come to a low wall and cautions them to be quiet as they creep along. Eventually, they get past it and one of the new entrants, justifiably curious, asks the "What that was all about?" Answer: "Oh, that was the Baptist section. They think they're the only ones who get into heaven."

I am - or was, in Barker's parlance - just about the born-againdest Bible-believingest son of a Baptist minister that you're ever likely to meet. And yet... reading the same Bible that Barker reads (plus a few extra books tacked onto the Old Testament but let's not get into that here), and looking at the history of that book's interpretation, I'm led to different conclusions regarding what Church - sorry "church" - I should belong to. This makes me a soon-to-be member of an idolatrous cult...

The letter neatly points up nearly everything that I can't stand about the Baptist variant of Christianity: 1) An insecure need to be right about every... little... damn... thing... and condemn opponents not only as misguided, but evil; 2) a completely ahistoric approach to the faith, as if the Church fathers, who, after all, helped to determine what went into the Bible, didn't matter; 3) an assumption that your individual reading of the Bible is beyond question and that anyone who would insist otherwise doesn't know that the hell he she or it is talking about.

Perhaps the most troubling thing to me is that Barker and company are supposed to be in the business of extending the Grace and love of God and instead come off sounding like uncharitable assholes. I think he owes Catholics, who after all believe in and pray to the same God that he does, a most heartfelt apology.

posted by Jeremy at 1:38 AM