At its just concluded annual meeting in Indianapolis, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution that at first glance seems utterly un-noteworthy. All but one of the nine “resolved” paragraphs encourage the kind of political engagement that has been a normal part of the evangelical world for nearly three decades. But buried two-thirds of the way down there’s this:
RESOLVED, That we ask all Christians, and particularly those in leadership positions, to prayerfully seek God’s mind and will and strongly to consider the potential problems of politicizing the church and the pulpit before endorsing candidates;
Which seems to have been the point of the exercise. Certainly Baptist Press, the SBC’s house news service, lifted out the caveat as the thing to quote. (Reuters, by contrast, took the resolution simply as “signaling [the SBC’s] intention to flex its muscles in the November presidential election.”)
Maybe the SBC is merely being prudential, quietly warning pastors to go light on politics at a time when the IRS is doing more serious policing of churches’ tax exemptions than ever before. Or maybe Richard Land and company really think the politicization of American evangelicalism has gone a bit too far.