A series of booklets issued by the Southern Baptist Convention has drawn unprecedented reaction from the liberal media, mainline religious leaders and members of congress. The booklets are issued as prayer guides urging Southern Baptists to pray for and reach out to non-Christians such as Jews, Muslims and Hindus.
The booklets use the customary evangelism language pointing out that Hindus are "lost in the hopeless darkness of Hinduism" and calls for Christians to bring them to the light of Christ.
Reactions have been surprisingly strong and from unexpected quarters. Major Jewish organizations, Liberal Christian groups, and U.S. Hindu leaders accused the Baptists of "spiritual intolerance" and "theological genocide."
The Washington Post claimed that the SBC was launching "a new, aggressive campaign aimed at converting Jews to Christianity."
A spokesman for the Jewish Anti-Defamation League accused the Southern Baptists of "A spiritual narrowness that invites theological hatred."
"It is pure arrogance for any religion to assume that they hold 'the truth,'" he added. "It is permissible for any religion to claim truth but none can claim 'the truth.'"
Taking up the cause of the Hindus, a U.S. congressman, Jim McDermott, wrote a "dear colleague" letter on official congressional stationery to all 434 fellow congressmen asking their help in urging Southern Baptists to "end your conversion campaign directed to members of the Hindu faith."
McDermott and six other congressmen followed up with a letter to Morris Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee. "We cannot understand how men and women, raised and educated in the world's bastion of religious freedom and tolerance can characterize another religion as spiritually dark and false," they wrote.
Chapman responded, pointing out that using a government office to pressure Christians to stop obeying the great commission was "improper and reprehensible." "Your letter presents us with a real dilemma," he wrote. "Do we attempt to obey God, or do we take our signals...from persons such as you who counsel 'a more tolerant and enlightened' approach?"
On another front the SBC is also being accused by Chicago religious leaders of contributing to a "climate conducive to hate crimes" by calling for a large evangelistic campaign there next summer.
As America becomes increasingly "post Christian," the gospel becomes an offense and preaching Christ gets labeled as a "hate crime." But Christians have been there before. When Peter and John were commanded by the "religious leaders" in Jerusalem not to preach Christ they could only respond: "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye."
Soul winners, the shadows are lengthening. We have much work to do while it is day for the night is coming.