Unfortunately, the word "Baptist" has been polluted by "neo-pharassical fundamentalists" over the past 20 years. For this reason alone, young Moderates such as myself need Baptist heroes to remind us of our true Heritage.
Many Moderates revere great Baptists such as Ralph Elliot, Will Campbell, Cecil Sherman, E.Y. Mullins, Clarence Jordan, J.M. Dawson, and Walter Rauschenbusch (to name a few). William H. Whitsitt is a favorite of my father. Many of my friends claim Tony Campolo, Molly Marshall, and Walter Shurden as heroes.
But let me introduce ya to MY Baptist Hero....Dr. James M. Dunn
James Dunn has been described by his friend, Grady Cothen, as a "church going, Christ honoring, evil bashing, separation of church and state enthusiast." Texas Congressman Chet Edwards has referred to Dunn as the "Rosa Parks of the Religious Liberty issue."
After earning degrees at
In 1981, James Dunn left
“You hear it called ‘putting God in schools.’ It is as if the Divine could be dumped into a wheelbarrow and carted out. The charge that everything went wrong because they threw prayer out of schools is patent poppycock.” He further argued that “to make public prayer a political football is to deny the meaning of prayer...The God whom I worship and serve has a perfect attendance record, never absent or even tardy."While James Dunn was kicking butt and taking names on Capitol Hill, Southern Baptist Fundamentalists had begun to wage a war against Dunn's Baptist Joint Committee. Dunn's focus on soul freedom was incompatible with these fundamentalist's focus on government favored religion and theological control expressed through creedalism. Dunn's firm affirmation of uncoerced faith is evidence that soul freedom was a threat to men such as Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler.
James Dunn fought the fundamentalists for nearly a decade. Finally, in 1991 the Southern Baptist Convention officially dissolved all financial ties with the Baptist Joint Committee and effectively ended a fifty-five year relationship. However, the SBC was unable to bring the religious liberty watchdog to her knees. In subsequent years, Dunn successfully found funding sources for the BJC. As we all know, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty continues its ministry today with the support of fourteen different Baptist groups.
James Dunn is one of the most colorful figures in recent Baptist history. He spoke (and still speaks) about important theological issues with down-home language in a way that any person could understand "in their innards." James Dunn refused to remain silent or capitulate when conscience was at stake. In 2000, upon receiving an award for his contributions to Baptist life, Dunn was still firing away...
I’ll be jiggered if a batch of neo-pharisaical, power-mad politicians, frazzling fundamentalists, trapped in a truncated theology were going to redefine religious liberty. Those limited lights were not about to destroy the witness of J. M. Dawson, take over the Baptist Joint Committee, and water down what it means to be a Baptist.
Without a doubt, James Dunn is a true Baptist Hero - MY Hero.
For a copy of my seminar paper on Dr. Dunn - please follow this LINK.
Note: This post was cross-posted at the new Mainstream Baptists Group Blog. Please check it out. I will highlight this new group blog and its contributors in a future post!