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Baptist Resistance

In preparation for an upcoming heritage tour to England and Scotland, I have been doing a lot of reading on Baptist history. In the 16th century, the Church of England was fully a part of the English monarchy and government. To be a good subject, you would be a member of the Anglican Church until the Non-Conformist groups emerged. There were quite a few including the Puritans. But since the Puritans practiced infant baptism, Anabaptists came about to re-baptize people when they understood the meaning of believers baptism. When these early non-conforming separatist resisted the status quo, some were arrested, imprisoned and martyred. Baptists in America resisted against the Congregationalists who were the Puritans or Pilgrims on the Mayflower and were then banished to places like Rhode Island.

Early Baptists resisted and did not conform to the established church because of conscience. They trusted their own reading of Scripture, discerned God’s calling, and practiced their faith according to their understanding of discipleship in their day. It’s called religious liberty. They spoke out and provided a moral compass in the society in which they lived.

Today we are enriched by the Baptist’s contribution in our Bill of Rights for the “freedom of religion” where one can practice his/her faith without the fear of persecution. As one of the Judaic-Christian tradition, I bring to the table the tradition of a compassionate and just world like other religions do as well from their particular worldviews. But today we are struck by the incongruences of a national political picture from our faith picture. When we blatantly see and hear our leaders lie, we may think about how the disciple Peter lied and denied that he knew Jesus. When good public education may be compromised for the many, we think about how the boy Jesus was able to come to the synagogue to learn from the rabbis. When we see refugees and immigrants whose homes have been ransacked as the result of war and conflicts, we think about how Mary and Joseph found a safe haven to have their baby. And when we hear about the plan to invest in more military power and think that with all of the might that the ancient Romans had, it only took a Suffering Servant to bring it all down.

As a Baptist, my heritage is that I come from a persecuted band of brave souls who decided that they would not conform to the power in place. And as the result, their conscience of religious freedom is still giving us a much-needed conscience of love and peace, justice and equality, welcome and inclusion, and care and commonwealth for our country and our world today. Like our Baptist fore-bearers, I resist today’s political picture and insist that our Creator’s picture of this world is to be.

Read Related Sermon  Chinatown Parables

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