While I was at the University of Oklahoma, apparently I had a target on my face that only Mormons could see which said "witness to me, I look lost and don't have anything else better to do for the next hour". Every time I spotted them, they wouldn't molest the folks in front of me, yet something about me apparently fit their profile.
"Excuse me, can we speak to you about Jesus?"... "Nope, I already know Him, thanks".
Alas, the man turned out to be the pastor of a new church that's starting in the area. He mentioned the name "Truth Baptist" and very quickly a couple proverbial red flags started climbing their respective poles in my brain...
1st Red Flag
Just down the road a little ways in the "downtown" Mechanicsville, a church called "Anchor Baptist Church" moved into a funeral home last year (irony's great, isn't it?). Outside on the sign they made it a point to print "Member SBCV"... meaning, they're apart of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, a splinter group formed when the fundamentalists failed to takeover the state convention. That little sign tells me that I won't be visiting there anytime soon.
"Anchor" and "Truth" don't follow the trend I've noticed in naming Baptist churches. Most times they're named for their location or a location in the Bible. "Bethel"... "First Richmond"... "Hillcrest". "Anchor" and "Truth" make it seem that church has an axe to grind.
2nd Red Flag
I really can't describe it, yet something about the pastor's demeanor threw up another flag. I think the fact that he was young, almost too young, didn't help. I can't describe exactly what unsettled me, except that I think I'm constantly refining my "Fundy Radar". You have to look for certain words, certain actions, and even certain reactions to what is said during the conversation.
For instance, part of that unsettledness arose when we declined the invitation to his church mainly because my wife is on staff at another church. I would like to think that his response would have been a bit more cheerful. Not too many fundies like a woman minister... granted, some draw the line at pastor, while others draw the line at a woman standing at the pulpit. I've experienced both kinds. I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt - maybe he had a long day, maybe because I don't know him I mis-read him (entirely possible as my radar is still in Beta).
With this whole 'biblical inerrancy' crap that was nothing but a ploy to call dissenters heretics and achieve power, I've lately been wondering if some fundamentalists sub-consciously think the Bible is part of the Trinity. I for one think that the Holy Spirit can work through the Bible, but at least in the Southern Baptist world, they would rather usurp that privelege and interpret the Holy Book for you.
After taking the card they handed out, I looked up their site. They are an independent Baptist church... let's just say "Independent, Fundamentalist, King James Version church - All Visitors Welcome" isn't the most friendliest of signs.
Anyways, I was a bit unnerved when under "Our Beliefs" at their website, "The Scriptures" was listed above "God", "Christ", and "The Holy Spirit". One one level I can understand why they did this, yet at the same time others like me would be bothered by the fact that anything is above God.
I'm also uncomfortable with the statement "we would certainly love to grow and become a large Church". I think all churches have that desire (okay, only the ones that haven't turned into social cliques), yet I would be more comfortable with "we would love to have a large number of firm and committed believers worshipping together". Do you see the difference? The focus turns away from quantity to quality. There's been too much focus on numbers (*cough SBC cough*). I'd much rather be apart of a small church of committed Christians than a large church with flaky ones.
After the encounter my wife and I compared notes... I had to laugh when she said "I smell a Moral Contradictions post".
I didn't write this post to be mean or overly critical. The pastor seemed nice and I admire their faith and commitment to fulfilling what they believe is God's Will. Though I don't agree with a few aspects of their approach and faith, I respect them and wish them good luck.
I'm especially in no place to criticize their calling as our church is located in a booming suburbian area and is very visible, yet attendance has declined 7% over the last 6 years. We've got enough problems of our own...