Randall Ballmer: Says Baptists have been seduced by religious right

Historians in the News

One of the most prominent historians of American evangelicalism called on “true Baptists” to re-assert their prophetic role “as watchmen on the wall of separation between church and state.”

Randall Ballmer, a history professor at Columbia University, told more than 550 supporters of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty that many of America’s Baptists, in recent decades, have “lost their way.”

“They have been seduced by leaders of the Religious Right into thinking that the way to advance the gospel in this country is to abandon Baptist principles,” he said.

Among the examples he listed were former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, a Southern Baptist. Moore’s controversial decision to place a massive monument to the Protestant translation of the Ten Commandments at the center of the rotunda in the Alabama Supreme Court building ultimately cost him his job, but it also made him a folk hero among many of the nation’s conservative Christians.

Moore argued that his oath to defend the United States and Alabama constitutions required him to “acknowledge God” as “the source of law” by creating the monument.

“Why not post the Decalogue in public places? Because, quite simply, it trivializes the faith and makes the Ten Commandments into a fetish,” Ballmer said. “What Roy Moore was peddling was idolatry, pure and simple—a conflation of the gospel with the American political order.”

Ballmer also assailed Baptists who have, he argued, so aligned themselves with political movements, they have diminished their ability to call the very officials they helped elect to moral account....

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