A series of commercials touting Southern Baptists’ ministries to “the least of these” blanketed much of the Bible belt during prime-time college football bowl games this week.
An ad developed by the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee highlighted ways Southern Baptists are “making a difference” through the SBC’s unified budget, the Cooperative Program, focusing on human need.
Airing in Atlanta, Dallas, Nashville, Raleigh, Richmond and Washington during the Orange, Fiesta and Rose Bowl games, the spots are part of a campaign to repair Southern Baptists’ image from years of news reports positioning them as against women, homosexuals and people of other faiths.
“Just about everybody in the world knows what we’re against,” SBC president Bobby Welch has said. “The overriding thing that has to happen now is the world needs to be reminded in no uncertain terms of what we’re for.”
The TV spot features Southern Baptists’ involvement in disaster relief, home repair and prison ministry.
Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics dismissed the TV ad as “a peppy attempt to mask the SBC’s well-known anti-everything agenda–anti-women, anti-public schools, anti-gays, anti-Jews, anti-Catholics.”
The ad also boasts that Southern Baptist missionaries have been “ministering to AIDS patients in Africa since the mid-1980s.”
A former Southern Baptist missionary doctor in Uganda is credited with being one of the first to preach biblical morality as a way to prevent HIV/AIDS in the 1980s. Today Southern Baptists credit abstinence-based AIDS education in Uganda with dramatically reducing the rate of HIV infection in Uganda, including introduction of True Love Waits, a Southern Baptist-produced abstinence-only program aimed at teenagers.
President Bush recognized Southern Baptists’ work against AIDS in Africa in remarks to this year’s convention in Nashville. Bush has promised the United States will spend $15 billion to fight AIDS over the next five years, including increased funding for anti-viral drugs.
The Southern Baptist Convention has adopted resolutions on AIDS. The first, in 1987, encouraged compassion for victims of AIDS, while opposing “mass and indiscriminate distribution of condoms or other sexual devices which seems to encourage an acceptance of immorality or deviant behavior.”
A 1988 resolution denounced homosexuality as “the primary cause of the introduction and spread of AIDS in the United States, which has not only affected those of the homosexual community, but also many innocent victims.”
A 1994 resolution recognized that while “many persons have contracted HIV through irresponsible and immoral behavior, many others are innocent victims who have been subjected to unfair condemnation and alienation.” It called for compassionate ministry to AIDS victims, regardless of how they contracted the disease.
A 2003 resolution advocated an abstinence-based approach to combating global AIDS.
Along with the television spots, the SBC launched a new Web site offering more information about the featured Southern Baptist ministries. Baptist Press did not report how much it cost to produce or air the ads.
The BCE’s Parham said while the ad portrays “a denomination with a central focus of caring for those who suffer,” that image “has no substance” in a Cooperative Program budget that allocates about five cents of every dollar for human needs.
“The ad masks the real nature of the SBC and misdirects viewers about the denomination’s priorities,” Parham said.
Bob Allen is managing editor at EthicsDaily.com.
Full text of statement by Robert Parham:
“The TV ad is a peppy attempt to mask the SBC’s well-known anti-everything agenda-anti-women, anti-public schools, anti-gays, anti-Jews, anti-Catholics. The ad portrays a denomination with a central focus of caring for those who suffer-Katrina victims, Africans with AIDS, Americans in need of housing and prisoners. That portrait has little substance in the SBC’s cooperative program budget which allocates roughly five cents of every dollar to the meeting human needs. The ad masks the real nature of the SBC and misdirects viewers about the denomination’s priorities.”