“Are those people in Kansas who picket soldiers’ funerals typical Baptists? If not, why don’t I hear ‘real Baptists” denouncing their actions?”—Dan
Good question. I can speak personally to this one because it hits close to home.
That this group calls itself “Baptist” is highly unfortunate because doing so casts a long shadow over good folks who share the name. This “fringe” group does not appear to practice much of anything that resembles historic Baptist beliefs.
Many “real Baptists,” as you say, have indeed denounced the unconscionable actions of this group. Their denunciation may not always be as loud or forceful as one might wish for several reasons: maintaining some regard for this group’s freedom of speech (admittedly through gritted teeth), not being in a position to judge their deepest motives or spiritual condition and finally, recognizing that engaging them in public debate will only feed their noxious craving for attention.
Baptists, rightly or wrongly, have a reputation for being fire-breathing, damnation-dispensing, against-everything, closed-minded bigots. Contrary to this stereotype, however, Christians of an authentic “baptistic” inclination are historically people who believe that every person is free before God to follow his conscience in matters of faith and worship. Genuine Baptists are genuine Christians—for most of them, their goal is to live their lives in such a way that Christ gets the glory and the appellation is a footnote.
True Christians, regardless of denominational label, theological disparities or ecclesiastical traditions, are not insensitive, bombastic publicity seekers. Christ-followers who wish to emulate Jesus will actually speak less and listen more. They may hold strong opinions and freely express them, but they will do so in a way that is not demeaning or condescending. They will affirm in practice that the best way for the world to know they are Christians is that they love God, love neighbors and love one another (Mt. 22:36-39; Jn. 13:35).