Some would say that Baptists are always in conflict, but hostilities have been especially fierce and widespread over the last couple of decades, ever since right-wing fundamentalists decided to turn the Southern Baptist Convention into an auxiliary of the Republican Party. The partisans largely succeeded, and in doing so, they drove out the denomination's moderates, the old-fashioned Baptists who believed in separation of church and state. These are now building their own Baptist church, a freer, bigger-hearted but no less godly group than the SBC, and Arkansans are prominent in the movement.
Hal Bass, a political science professor and dean of the school of social sciences at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, has been chosen as the next leader of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a national group of moderate Baptists, 730,000 strong, with which a number of Arkansas Baptist churches have affiliated. He'll take over in 2009.
Older Arkansans can remember when OBU was a rich source of moderate leaders in Arkansas public affairs. Political science professors like Jim Ranchino and Bob Riley influenced young, public-spirited Arkansans; Dr. Ralph Phelps, an OBU president, regularly argued for worthy causes, and led the successful resistance to casino gamblers in the '60s. Bass's eminence suggests that the extremists who purged Baptist seminaries have not yet had their way with Ouachita.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is much smaller than the SBC, but those Baptists who still celebrate religious liberty, who felt more kinship with Billy Graham and Jimmy Carter than with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, now have a platform from which to speak. They'll use it prudently, we expect. No CBF minister will pray for the death of those who disagree with him.
Keepers of the flame
With the mainstream media immersed in sentimentality and outright lies, one had to turn to the Internet to find what Tim Russert was really like, to sites such as Bartcop and The Daily Howler.
“In fairness, Russert got almost everything wrong,” The Howler wrote. “Almost surely, this helps explain why his colleagues all loved him so much.”
He hated the Clintons, for reasons he never divulged publicly, but he knuckled under to Bush and Cheney as they led this country into war without cause. On the greatest issue of the day, Timid Tim did none of that tough questioning that his journalistic colleagues attributed to him. (They didn't do any either, of course.) To the contrary, he promoted the war. Don't rock the boat was Russert's guiding principle. There was no honor in it, but the money was good.