MARK TOOLEY — Institute of Religion & Democracy —
Baptists demanding pacifism, trashing Israel and hosting a “drag” prom? These Baptists definitely are not from your grandmother’s church! They are instead The Baptist Peace Fellowship, which is hosting its annual “Peace Camp” July 4-9 of several hundred activists at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Radical retired history college professor Irving Wesley Hall, who’s been angrily demonstrating in the streets since the 1950’s, excited the Baptist event with his searing denunciation of Israel. “Now the Israelis are the Nazis and the Palestinians are Jews,” he carefully explained. Hall was protesting the House Un-American Activities Committee more than 50 years ago and boasts of personal confrontations with Ronald Reagan and William Buckley during the 1960’s. More recently he’s been denouncing the Tea Party. Of course, he’s also a 9-11 “truther” who thinks the Bush Administration exploded the World Trade Center.
As a member of the Baptist Peace Fellowship, Hall perhaps disrupted the typical tranquility of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley with his biting expose of the conspiracy of Israeli agents, Christian Zionists and U.S. corporate interests that ensure America’s tilt toward Israel. (I’m indebted to the onsite reporting of my assistant Bart Gingerich) Dismissing the “absurdity of Obama,” ostensibly for the President’s excessive sympathy towards Israel, Hall cited 1967 as the pivotal year when America solidified its support for “radically right-wing Jewish fascism.” After all, the U.S. military industrial complex was impressed by Israel’s military prowess in that year’s war. Also in 1967 was the publication of Hal Lindsey’s infamously popular The Late Great Planet Earth, which fueled Christian Zionism by describing Israel’s reputed role in the End Times.
Hall denounced the “deadly myth of the Promised Land,” where “God is the Divine real estate agent.” And he denounced Evangelicals, especially Southern Baptists, for an eschatology requiring “unconditional support of Israel.” He further denounced Orthodox Jews in the Israeli military who have become a “very dangerous Fifth Column in the military.” Naturally he also denounced America’s “Islamaphobia” as the new McCarthyism, while “Israel’s terrorists are our terrorists,” Americans supposedly believe. Hall concluded by bemoaning the “theft of the Florida election” in 2000 and darkly recalled the 9/11 internal demolition of the World Trade Center.
For left-wing Baptist pacifists, such paranoid, heated rhetoric must have seemed like revival. Hall also introduced the documentary Soldiers of Conscience about U.S. military personnel who refused service in the Iraq War, about which Hall remarked: “We now know was based on lies.” The audience hissed and laughed when a U.S. Army ethicist in the film asserted: “You can’t say you support human dignity or human rights if you’re not willing to defend it.” The aroused crowd later heard from Camilo Mejía, the Nicaraguan-American and son of a former Sandinista songwriter who as a Florida National Guardsmen was convicted of desertion for refusing further service in Iraq. Inevitably, one of his attorneys was gadfly former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who helped Mejía argue that service in Iraq was immoral because of U.S. war crimes.
Also speaking to the Baptists was Kim Phuc, who was famously photographed when a girl during the Vietnam War as a naked, escaping victim of a U.S. napalm strike. Her terrifying ordeal iconically portrayed the supposed injustice of U.S. efforts to resist North Vietnamese communist aggression. Now commendably helping other child victims of war, Kim Phuc was more dignified than most of the Baptists’ featured polemicists. It’s no fault of hers that her terror 40 years ago was exploited by North Vietnam to expedite its own totalitarian conquest and greater terror. And she perhaps was unaware of how the Baptist Peace Fellowship would exploit her pleas for peace for its own radical, utopian agenda whose ultimate bitter fruit is greater conflict.
The Baptist Peace Fellowship is concluding their “Peace Camp” with a visit from a homosexual Baptist caucus, which is organizing a prom for ALL as a “way to forgive ourselves for not measuring up in those ‘golden’ day of high school.” Invitees are urged: “Come as you are or as you want to be. Come in drag or come in your PJ’s!” Traditionally, Baptists don’t even believe in dancing, much less cross dressing. But the Baptist Peace Fellowship and its allies offer a new and supposedly more bracing future for fellow religionists.
And the Baptist Peace Fellowship, ironically meeting at a rather staid Mennonite school, was able to combine in its own program virtually all the major bugaboos and obsessions of the extreme Religious Left. Thankfully the vast majority of Baptists will not listen. Professor Irving Wesley Hall ominously and unhappily portrayed the conservative resurgence in the 16 million member Southern Baptist Convention as a virtual Zionist conquest. In other words, most Baptists won’t be inviting Professor Hall into their pulpits.