One of the more interesting accusations brought against Southern Baptists is that we have become too chummy with the Republican Party. I realize there are still some LBJ “Great Society” Democrats in Southern Baptist life, but by and large our conservative theology has driven us toward the more conservative policies espoused by Republicans. Republicans have generally been pro-life, pro-family and advocated tax and economic policies that most Southern Baptists believe promote personal responsibility and freedom.
Many Southern Baptists began supporting Republicans at the dawn of the Reagan Revolution. Many were involved with the Moral Majority, founded by the late Southern Baptist Pastor Jerry Falwell. I have voted Republican in every presidential race since 1980 when I voted for Ronald Reagan over fellow Southern Baptist and Democrat Jimmy Carter. When Reagan famously told Christian leaders, “You cannot endorse me, but I endorse you,” he won our support.
The perception that Southern Baptists are tied to the GOP is pushed by the news media, which poll after poll shows are liberal and overwhelmingly support Democrat candidates. It has been somewhat re-enforced by books like Oran P. Smith’s The Rise of Baptist Republicanism published in 1997. I know a lot of Southern Baptists deeply involved in the Republican Party. There seems to be more and more Southern Baptist Republicans getting elected to office – and they are a blessing. These developments no doubt feed into the perception of close ties between Southern Baptists and Republicans. So is the perception reality?
I suspect most Southern Baptists are independents. We are known as “The People of the Book,” and our belief in the inerrancy, infallibility and sufficiency of Scripture naturally leads us to candidates who hold views consistent with what the Bible says. Our faith is in Christ and our battle cry, like the Founding Fathers, is “No king, but King Jesus!” Everything we do, whether it be in politics or some other discipline, is guided by our allegiance to Christ and His Word.
Do we desire a theocracy? No. Not until the literal return of our Lord. Southern Baptists are too grounded in religious liberty and freedom of conscience to support a present-day theocracy. When it comes to public policy, Southern Baptists must be motivated by love for our fellow citizens, believing that God’s way is the best way. We want government leaders who are righteous and who will pass righteous laws that serve the common good and bring glory to Jehovah God who established government and is Sovereign. This is why I personally support candidates like U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, a Republican who wants to challenge Democrat Claire McCaskill for her U.S. Senate seat, and Republican Ed Martin, the St. Louis attorney who is running for state attorney general. I support them because they view many of the critical issues the same way I do and in a way that is consistent with God’s Word. (I might add that it is possible to vote for an unbeliever if they are competent and hold views that are consistent with Scripture.)
Being a Republican should not automatically mean support for a candidate. The Republican Party has, on occasion, betrayed Christians (I feel like the Democrats reject us). For example, Republicans have made unwise judicial appointments. New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie recently appointed a pro-homosexual to that state’s Supreme Court. President George H.W. Bush appointed pro-abortion David Souter to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Closer to home, former U. S. Sen. John Danforth of Missouri has supported cloning, an issue that Missouri Southern Baptists staunchly oppose. At present we have Missouri Republicans lollygagging with good legislation – like the religious liberty bill – in the General Assembly. We learned recently that one Republican lawmaker, Rep. Zachary Wyatt of Kirksville, is a homosexual. We know because he felt so strongly about his sexuality that he felt compelled to hold a press conference on taxpayer time to tell us about it and how people who oppose homosexuality are bigots.
As Americans we are blessed by God to be free citizens in a country where we can have a say in the making of our laws. I believe it is a sin when we fail to grasp the issues, learn where the candidates stand and then exercise poor citizenship by not voting. We are called to obedience and faithfulness to God. We are to be advocates for righteousness and policies that benefit the greater good while restraining evil and bringing honor and glory to God.