To understand what's happening at the top of the Southern Baptist Convention these days, you really have to be willing to believe that, in the end, many religious believers truly believe that religious doctrine matters more than partisan politics.
Yes, I know. The headlines insist otherwise. Headlines tend to increase a few picas in size the minute the word "evangelicals" gets connected to the words "Donald Trump."
Here's a case in point. This past week, The New York Times basically ignored the dramatic national meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention -- with lots of developments linked to women and Baptists of color -- until it was possible to write a story with this headline: "Pence Reaches Out to Evangelicals. Not All of Them Reach Back."
But, hey, at least that one story did make an important point: One of the crucial tensions inside this particular SBC gathering was between clashing camps of solid "evangelicals." Actually, lots of people on both sides of that SBC debate about the Pence appearance would, under other circumstances, be called "fundamentalists" in the sacred pages of the Times.
This brings me to this weekend's think piece, which was written by Jonathan Leeman, editorial director of the 9Marks Journal and an active leader at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. He is also the author of a new book entitled, "How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age."
The headline: "Truth, Power, and Pence at the SBC." Here's how this essay opens:
I’m sitting here at the Southern Baptist Convention. Earlier today Vice President Mike Pence addressed the convention. We were told he initiated the offer to speak. I wish we had not accepted.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m grateful to God for our nation. I want him to bless it. But here’s a question for my fellow Southern Baptists and evangelicals more broadly: can you name a place in the Bible where God sends a ruler of a (non-Israelite) nation to speak to God’s people? Is the pattern not just the opposite?
Now, what's this all about? Is it a missive from a "moderate" (which means "liberal," in current SBC speak) at an urban church in a blue-zip DC zip code within shouting distance of the Capitol dome?