Faith, Politics, and the Misguided Mission of the Southern Baptist Convention
MetadataShow full item record
The Southern Baptist Convention has experienced both tremendous growth and intense turmoil in its relatively short history. After experiencing increasing internal conflicts throughout the late twentieth-century, a decade-long battle over the direction of the denomination resulted in a permanent schism within the Convention. The Shift, as I name it, forever altered the landscape of the Southern Baptist Convention. Notably, The Shift witnessed an apparent replacement of traditional Southern Baptist church-state separationism in favor of overt involvement in partisan politics. In this dissertation, I provide a historical sketch of the Southern Baptist Convention and explore the denomination‘s evolving positions on church and state by analyzing the Southern Baptist political rhetoric at the individual, agency, and Convention levels after The Shift. Considering the work of H. Richard Niebuhr, I argue that Southern Baptist participation in politics can be understood as an attempt to transform culture to a biblical worldview. However, drawing from the work of Richard Hofstadter and Kenneth Burke, I argue that the Convention struggles to achieve its goal because its political rhetoric is characteristic of the paranoid style and employs scapegoating to blame others for society‘s ills. This dissertation reveals that the Southern Baptist Convention suffers from a rhetorical problem of audience. I argue that while the denomination‘s political rhetoric galvanizes its conservative base, it alienates non-religious individuals, members of other religious faiths, and even some within the Southern Baptist Convention. I conclude that in order to be a transformative agent in society, the Southern Baptist Convention‘s political rhetoric must undergo a shift in topoi that has more universal appeal. Namely, I argue that the denomination needs to return to its ―Old Rhetoric‖ and, in doing so, appeal to choice, freedom, religious liberty, free exercise, and free expression.
Wood, Dustin Alan (2013). Faith, Politics, and the Misguided Mission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from