The bad news is that I am a Baptist. Born and bred, with Sunday school attendance pins to prove it.
The good news is that I am a Baptist, with the inherent right that the denomination gives me to make up my mind about what I believe to be the proper interpretation of Scripture and how I apply it to my own life.
That latter part was very good news when my denomination succeeded in embarrassing many Baptists just like me by deciding to boycott the Walt Disney Co.
I’m not a staunch defender of Disney.
It owned the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a brief time, and while the newsroom blossomed with mouse ears, Mickey statues and stuff like that, many in the editorial department were uncomfortable at being owned by what is primarily an entertainment company.
But it is just an entertainment company, and a very good one at that.
In my brief association with Disney, I was impressed at the lengths to which it will go to protect its public image.
For example: a lengthy list of what is and what is not proper to wear if you work on actual Disney property. Thank goodness those rules did not apply to the newsroom or the fashion police would have dragged us all, kicking and screaming, off to prison. Maybe even to a lethal injection.
But more impressive were the rules regarding name badges. Disney “cast members,” as they call them, wear badges when on Disney property such as theme parks. But they take them off when they are off campus. The reason: If they are engaged in some activity that might prove negative to the corporate image - like having a cocktail - they are not supposed to be easily identifiable as Disney workers.
The issue, of course, to the Baptists is that Disney permits benefits to same-sex partners.
If you don’t know, a brief description of how the Southern Baptist Convention works is in order.
First, there now are two major Baptist groups: the SBC and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The start-up CBF was headed by Cecil Sherman, a former pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth. CBF was born out of the conservative takeover of the SBC that was a decade or more in the making. Some Baptist churches participate in both the CBF and SBC. At my church, we give members a choice of where that percentage of their money goes.
Second, Baptist churches are autonomous. Only the local body of believers can make decisions affecting that church. But those decisions affect no other churches.
The conventions - both of them - are cooperative efforts through which Baptist groups contribute money for mission work, consolidated supplies such as publishing, and other efforts.
But decisions made by the convention are binding on local congregations only if the local congregations want them to be.
At the heart of the denomination is the biblical concept of the priesthood of the believer. Believers are expected to interpret Scripture on their own - with study, through prayer and assisted by preaching - and they are responsible for their own relationship with God.
So some will abide by the suggestion to boycott Disney and some will ignore it. It’s a messy way to run a religion, but it’s the way Baptists do it, and it’s not going to change.
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