Considered separately from other Protestant denominations, the Southern Baptist Convention is currently the fifth largest religion in the world. In the U.S. alone Southern Baptists claim 16.2 million members. As part of their missionary work, they build churches and hospitals around the world. Though charity and service are tenets of the Baptist faith, publicly Baptists are most vocal regarding their strong beliefs about abortion and opposition to government-backed programs offering contraception. Because of the sheer numbers of their membership, they have the ability to influence politics and often step into the political arena.
The Baptist Mission to Serve
Missionary work and evangelism are staples of the Southern Baptist faith. According to the mission statement on the Southern Baptist Convention website, Baptists should “work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.” As part of their missionary work, Baptists have built churches and hospitals all over the United States and the world. Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis was once the largest private hospital in the world. Having a presence worldwide allows Baptists to spread the word of Christ and confirm more disciples to their faith.
The Pro-Life Movement
Baptists have long been a leading voice in the pro-life movement, and are in opposition to any type of abortion, as well as any contraceptive method that would occur after contraception. As stated on the Southern Baptist Convention website, “Procreation is a gift from God, a precious trust reserved for marriage. At the moment of conception, a new being enters the universe, a human being, a being created in God's image. This human being deserves our protection, whatever the circumstances of conception.” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said in an interview with the Baptist Press that he would not feel satisfied until “every Southern Baptist is pro-life and honors the Baptist Faith and Message commitment to defend 'the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.'"
Religion and Contraception
Baptists accept the Bible as the inerrant word of God. They adhere to scripture as written and as interpreted through their belief system. According to scripture, the purpose for marriage is procreation. Baptists do not object to the use of contraception within a marriage, but are strictly against any post-coital contraception, such as the Plan B pill. Baptists believe life begins at the moment of conception, and because the Plan B pill prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, they consider this equal to abortion and are strictly against its use. They are also opposed to the use of contraception outside of marriage, because they do not condone premarital or extramarital sexual activity.
Church and State Collide
In response to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as Obamacare – which goes into effect in 2014, America’s Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention issued a joint statement voicing support for The Health Care Conscience Rights Act, a bill filed by Republicans in June of 2013. The statement read, “While Catholics and Southern Baptists espouse different theological views, we are united by the belief that Congress must act to help preserve our freedom of religion and conscience.” The bill seeks to protect the religious freedom of certain nonprofits and business owners by exempting them from covering contraception in their employees’ health care coverage. Baptists feel that mandatory coverage of abortion procedures and contraception is a violation of their morals and a threat to their religious freedom. Because Catholics and Southern Baptists together comprise 37 percent of the American population, they are advantaged in influencing politics.
- Southern Baptist Convention: The Baptist Faith and Message
- Baptist Press: Roe, Legalizing Abortion in 1973, Caused Baptists to Embrace Life
- Washington Times: Holy Alliance: Catholics, Southern Baptists Unite against Obamacare Contraception Mandate
- Southern Baptist Convention letter to Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services
- ABC News Poll: Most Americans Say They're Christian
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