Better relations between Baptists and Jews will be achieved not by denominational leaders but from person-to-person and congregational relationships built on wisdom, balance, courage and justice, according to the newest DVD study resource now available from the Baptist Center for Ethics.
“Good Will for the Common Good: Nurturing Baptists’ Relationship With Jews” begins with an overview of Southern Baptists’ often-rocky relationship with the Jewish faith, summarized famously in Bailey Smith’s 1980 remark that God does not hear the prayers of a Jew.
It contrasts that history with examples of moderate Baptist individuals and congregations who model overcoming theological differences to unite Jewish people and Baptist Christians on themes like civility, respect and the separation of church and state.
“During the past quarter century the relationship between Southern Baptists and Jews has hit rock bottom,” Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics says in the DVD. “Of course goodwill Baptists have sought to advance the common good with their Jewish neighbors.”
“But we must do much more,” Parham continues. “In an era of rising religious conflict goodwill Baptists would do well to remember the best of our tradition, advocating the separation of church and state, articulating the need for democracy over theocracy, asserting civility over ideology, and acting for the poor.”
“We would also do well to reclaim the centrality of Jesus, who taught us to love our neighbors,” Parham continues, “not as a means toward conversion, but because it’s the right thing to do.”
Cliff Vaughn, culture editor for EthicsDaily.com, shot eight interviews in three states for the 31-minute video. It can be used either for a one-time viewing or in a four-week Sunday school or Wednesday night study with chapters exploring the four cardinal virtues–wisdom, balance, courage and justice–applied to how Baptists ought to relate to their Jewish neighbors. Each DVD comes with a pass code to unlock an online study guide.
Among those featured in the DVD are Immanuel Baptist Church in Nashville, which each Thanksgiving sponsors a fun run called the Boulevard Bolt with a nearby Episcopal church and Jewish temple. Proceeds from the run go toward helping the homeless.
Rabbi Jonathan Miller of Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, Ala., and Steve Jones, pastor of Southside Baptist Church, describe how Southside’s opening its doors to the temple during a major building renovation bound the two congregations together.
Mike Smith of First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Rabbi Rami Shapiro, head of the One River Foundation, reflect on their experience of co-writing a groundbreaking book yet controversial 2005 book, Let Us Break Bread Together: A Passover Haggadah for Christians, aimed at engaging Christians and Jews around a common venue of the Passover.
Other interviews include Suzii Paynter, director of the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and Carol Ann Vaughn of the Christian Women’s Leadership Center at Samford University.
“Baptists have been defined by what they’re against rather than what they’re for,” Vaughn says in the DVD. “And it’s time for Baptists, I think, to be more proactive, and for good will to be something that we are known for building.”
“We are at a point where Baptists and Jews would do well to accept our differences and enrich our common lives and advance the common good,” Parham says in the DVD’s closing comment. “Like the story of Esau and Jacob, we have had our conflict. Now we need to bless one another.”
The video also includes clips of Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss, director of adult Jewish educational outreach at Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, Ala., and Jonathan Levine, director of community services at the American Jewish Committee in New York. Hausman-Weiss and Levine spoke at a 2004 Baptist-Jewish goodwill luncheon sponsored by the Baptist Center for Ethics.
“Good Will for the Common Good” is the fourth educational DVD produced by the Baptist Center for Ethics since 2006. Founded in 1991, the Nashville-based BCE launched its flagship Web site, EthicsDaily.com, in 2002. The DVD sells for $40 to individuals and churches, and $150 to libraries and academic institutions. The purchase price comes with a license for public viewings.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Other DVDs from the Baptist Center for Ethics:
“Golden Rule Politics: Reclaiming the Rightful Role of Faith and Politics”
“The Nazareth Manifesto”
“Always … Therefore: The Church’s Challenge of Global Poverty”
Fostering Good Will for the Common Good