Magazine article Church & State , Vol. 61, No. 3
Best-selling author John Grisham has warned fellow Baptists that the church's reputation is harmed when it gets too close to partisan politics.
Grisham, author of best-selling novels like The Firm, The Pelican Brief and The Appeal, is a long-time Baptist who was born in Arkansas and lived much of his life in Mississippi. fie spoke Jan. 31 at a national gathering of Baptists in Georgia.
"Evangelical politics has become a big business, and the results are disastrous," Grisham said. "When the church gets involved in politics, it alienates many people it is supposed to serve."
Grisham reminded attendees, "As a church, our mission is to serve God through teaching, preaching and serving others. Our business should be that of the church and not the state." Grisham spoke at the "Celebration Of A New Baptist Covenant" in Atlanta, a three-day event that drew more than 15,000 Baptists from about 30 different denominations and associations. The event was organized in part by former President Jimmy Carter, who said he wants to see Baptists focus more on service to those in need and less on politics and theological bickering.
The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Baptist body in America, did not participate in the event. Since the early 1980s, the Convention has been under the control of fundamentalists who have aligned the denomination with the Republican Party.
Grisham, a member of University Baptist Church in Charlottesville, Va., urged Baptists to reject literalist interpretations of the Bible and said congregations should be open to diversity. …