Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber has condemned the idea that the church should be running government and warned advocates of Christian nationalism that pursuing such an agenda will result in the persecution of Christians.
“It stands contrary to 400 years of Baptist history and everything I believe about religious liberty. I’m opposed to the idea of Christian dominion, churchly dominion over the operations of government,” Barber insisted in a wide-ranging interview with Anderson Cooper on CBS’ "60 Minutes" on Sunday.
“I object to it because Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world. I object to it because every time it’s been adopted it wound up persecuting people like me. It doesn’t stop at persecuting people who are not Christians,” he said. “It eventually winds up persecuting people who are Christians for whom the flavor of their Christianity is different from that of the government.”
According to Article 15 of the Baptist Faith and Message, which was adopted by messengers at the denomination's Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, in 2000, and from which professors at all six Southern Baptist seminaries teach, it is made clear that Christ is supreme.
It states: "All Christians are under the obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. ... In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. ... We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth and brotherly love."
Barber’s comments come in the wake of statements from high-profile Christians such as born-again Christian Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who insisted this summer that the Church should be running the government.
"The Church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the Church. That is not how our Founding Fathers intended it," the born-again, first-term congresswoman said during a speech at Cornerstone Christian Center in Basalt in her home state in June.
She said that she is "tired of this separation of Church and state junk," and noted that the separation of Church and state is not in the U.S. Constitution. Boebert added it was only in a letter that "means nothing like they say it does," likely referencing an 1802 letter from President Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Church Association in Connecticut stating that the First Amendment has "a wall of separation between Church and State."
The Baptist Faith and Message adds in Article 17 on religious liberty that "Church and state should be separate."
It adds: "The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. ... The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. ... A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, ..."
Barber, who was elected to the helm of America’s largest Protestant denomination in June, also addressed other controversial issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and politics, but the interview mostly focused on an internal investigation into instances of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches, which is believed to be the impetus for the Department of Justice launching an investigation into SBC entities.
The DOJ announced its investigation after the May 22 Guidepost Solutions report found that leaders in the SBC intimidated whistleblowers and exonerated churches with credible claims of negligence of sexual abuse victims.
The SBC’s newly elected president revealed leaders “didn’t just ignore” victims, but also “attacked” them.
“Sometimes we impugned their motives. Sometimes we attacked them. The reason why I’m president of the Southern Baptist Convention is because our churches do not agree with that, and have taken action to correct those things,” said Barber, who leads the 320-member First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas. “I’m not doing this to try to accomplish some PR objective for us. I’m doing this because I want to serve God well.”
Barber, who leads an average size church, not a megachurch, was elected by Southern Baptists to shepherd them through the sexual abuse crisis, an unnamed pastor told CP.
And Barber agreed to take on the mantle of leadership at the SBC because he “felt like God was calling me to try to give leadership at this moment, to help Southern Baptists move forward,” he told Cooper.
The SBC leader further noted that even though he voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020, he condemns the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots that endangered the lives of lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
He also said he prays for President Joe Biden “consistently.”
“I want to be driven by the principles of Jesus Christ,” Barber said. “And that does not involve mob violence.”
Standing firmly by his biblical values, Barber made it clear to Cooper, who is gay, that practicing homosexuality, like all other sins, is incompatible with being a biblically faithful Christian or Southern Baptist.