I read the Associated Press piece by Travis Loller about Southern Baptists being disillusioned by what they gave to America with a sense of history in mind. That is, “Baptists introduced pluralism to America,” said Loller. “Now they are feeling like victims of that pluralism.”
Our deistic Protestant founding leaders gave us the largely Locksian Constitution of 1789 where human beings are not defined in terms of religious belief, race, class or gender. But our most orthodox Christians among the founders fought to make “Christians” the favored ones in our secular Constitution. This was not acceptable to the majority who perceived the orthodox as too heterodox, fairly or not, and that all individuals would eventually be liberated from the inessential baggage of religion, race, class and gender.
Now that women and gays, not to mention atheists, are making real progress in ridding themselves of inessential baggage, Baptists are disillusioned by the world they helped to create.
The new egalitarian society of the early 19th century that founders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson helped create was not what they wanted or expected. They had lived long enough into the next century to experience its full democratic force and were “disillusioned by what they had wrought” (Gordon Wood). Specifically, they were disillusioned by the success of evangelical Baptists.
In a real sense, both the founders and the Baptists contributed to their own demise.
But the verdict of history has had no effect on Republican thinking. Regardless, women, gays and atheists will continue toward freedom that the founders promised in the Constitution, aka “all individuals.”
B.J. Paschal, Ph.D.