Carlos Stouffer explains why he will be voting for Obama and why other white baptists should reflect upon Barack Obama's policies and vision:
I was born into Baptist life in Brazil where my parents were Southern Baptist missionaries. In the early 80's I moved to the US for college. It was disturbing to discover that the Southern Baptist Convention was then in the middle of an ugly struggle. Understanding this struggle is difficult and complex, but the political consequences have been clear. Today the vast majority of white Baptists in the South are expected to vote for John McCain.
Working against these expectations are five reasons based on Southern Baptist traditions that may help current white Baptists in the South consider Barack Obama.
1. Traditional Southern Baptists should be able to recognize the strength of Obama's political success because it very much mirrors the historical bottom-up organizational strategy of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The SBC grew because it wisely empowered ordinary people and gave them the tools to grow personally and to reach out into their communities to grow their churches. The SBC became strong because it developed a strong brand that people could believe in and be loyal to.
2. The strongest historical Baptist distinctive is its forceful advocacy for the separation of church and state. Even though this legacy has mostly been forgotten or minimized, it is a rich heritage that should be revived. Hopefully the Bush years have reminded Baptists of the perils of mixing religion with politics in a way that hurts both. Obama's deep understanding of constitutional law and the principle of church and state separation should be a welcome change for all, but especially to Baptists.
3. The Southern Baptist Convention was founded in 1845 so that slave owners could still be appointed as missionaries. Baptists in the South were also very slow to adjust to the law and spirit of the civil rights legislation passed in the 1950's and 60's. Embarrassed by their past sins, current Southern Baptist leaders are eager now to preach racial reconciliation, but what stronger message of reconciliation could be sent than by suggesting to Southern Baptists that a vote for Obama could be historically redemptive?
4. Southern Baptists put much emphasis on global missions. Electing a president who has family connections and has spent time in Africa and Southeast Asia should send a powerful signal to people around the world that the United States will be a willing global partner interested in peace and cooperation. This potentially positive international climate could really be beneficial to the work Southern Baptist missionaries are doing around the world.
5. Evangelism is another aspect of Baptist identity that is very important. It is no secret that most traditional protestant denominations are losing members. One possible reason that the SBC is losing members is because its leaders are too attached to rigid and negative approaches to Christianity. Obama represents a Christianity that is welcoming and engaged in positive social change. Young Baptists in the South are broadening their social interests beyond a focus on abortion and homosexuality. Perhaps these young people are showing the way for Baptists to grow again.
Perhaps the moment has come for Baptists in the South to remember and revive their best traditions. Would it be too unrealistic to imagine that Clarence Jordan would be proud to know that a majority of white Baptists in the South voted for the nation's first African-American president?