Posts Tagged With: freedom

A Jimmy Carter Kind of Baptist

After the positive Facebook and Blog responses to my experiences this past week in Plains, Georgia, with President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter, I’d like to say something about their Baptist-ness!

When Southern Baptists decided to alter their theology from conservative-moderate to conservative-fundamentalist about three decades ago, the Carters and I were among hundreds of thousands who decided to reclaim our Baptist heritage of freedom. We formed a new organization called the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The “elevator speech” is that while the Southern Baptist denomination had previously allowed theological and ethical flexibility to individuals, churches, and seminaries in interpreting the Bible, the convention slammed that door shut and demanded a stricter adherence to a new party line. The new reality was a Bob Jones and Jerry Falwell fundamentalism: “This is the Truth and all other beliefs are False Doctrine.”

For example, seminary and theology professors were required to agree to the submissive role of females in families and society.

For example, science teachers at Baptist universities (Furman, Mercer, Baylor, etc.) were going to be required to teach graduate courses in geology and biology according to a seven-day creationist, anti-evolution, theory. The Grand Canyon was not formed over millions of years but as the result of a single giant flood. Dinosaurs and humans lived on the earth at the same time, regardless of the evidence of fossils. Don’t argue about this. The Authorities have spoken. The Authorities began to confuse themselves with God.

New documents were drawn up. Missionaries, professors, and denominational employees had to agree that they would adhere to these new mandates, no matter what either science or their consciences said. Men and women of integrity refused to sign on the dotted line. Some female professors were fired just because they were female. According to the new rules, women should never be in a position of authority over a man, and seminaries were full of male students.

It was a surreal few decades and the implosion of Southern Baptists is well documented.

The good news was the emergence of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. CBF became a home to many of us who had been disenfranchised. New seminaries and schools of divinity sprang up which retained the traditional freedoms that had been claimed by Baptists since their earliest days:

  • “Priesthood of the believer” is a biblical phrase Baptists use to declare that no one stands between an individual and God—no priest, no pope, no pastor, no denominational executive.
  • Autonomy of the local church. The term “Independent Baptist” church is redundant. No denomination can tell a Baptist congregation what to believe and enforce it. A Baptist congregation can call a woman pastor or sell its building. The permission of no denominational authority is needed.
  • Separation of church and state. The state cannot tell the church what to believe and the church cannot tell the state how to behave.

That’s it. My church or my denomination certainly has the right to fire me or kick me out, or create a witch-hunting climate that encourages good people to leave. That’s their freedom.

So, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, as well as a lot of friends I dearly love, and I stepped out in faith and began a new thing—the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. That was twenty-five years ago. We don’t always agree on doctrine or a particular interpretation of the Bible, or a favorite political candidate, but we rally around Jesus, as revealed in scripture, as best we understand him.

A different “elevator speech” many people understand is, “I’m a Jimmy Carter kind of Baptist.” People know and appreciate the kindhearted, caring, intelligent, honest, peacemaking, hardworking, idealistic, and humanitarian nature of our former President.

When people ask, I’m pleased to say, “I’m a Jimmy Carter kind of Baptist.”

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Quotations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Enjoying New Hampshire during the Presidential Primary Season

Don’t say America is weak, or not a great nation, or that we are no longer free. You would be wrong. America is not weak. We are a great nation. We are free.

Welcome to New Hampshire, January and early February 2016

Don’t treat me like I’m not an American because I vote differently than you, that I have different values than you. What makes America great is not that you or I get our way every four years, but that we don’t get our way, and there is still room in this magnificent country for both of us.

  • I worship where I choose.
  • I shop where I choose.
  • I can travel anywhere in America I choose.
  • I read the books I choose.
  • I write what I choose.
  • I will vote for whom I choose.

But I digress.

Before I arrived in New Hampshire on January 5, 2016, I knew as little about this state as I knew about Wyoming or Madagascar, which is to say, not much.

Still, it‘s hard not to know about the first-in-the-nation Presidential Primary held here every four years. For whatever reasons, I have politics in my blood. Being a born peacemaker, I tend to be moderate, a consensus builder—up to a point. I have thought about running for political office a few times, but I’m not sure I could pass the morality tests.

  • I jaywalk occasionally.
  • I say that I have read software agreements when I haven’t.
  • I have gone through the express lane at the grocery store with eleven items.
  • I have driven 50 miles per hour in a 45 zone.
  • I have torn the “Do Not Tear” tags off furniture.

Again, I digress.

Grassroots citizenship makes a difference. That seems to happen, by some alchemy and magic, in New Hampshire.

Before I left SC, I found this website, telling anyone and everyone where the candidates for President would be speaking:

Just show up.

Almost as soon as I got here, in early January, I had coffee with Carly Fiorina, in New London, along with about fifty other people on a college campus there.

I stood in line in sub-freezing weather for an hour waiting to hear Bernie Sanders, but didn’t get into the auditorium.

Yesterday, I heard John Kasich (in Claremont) and Jeb Bush (in Hanover), and this morning, Chris Christie at a local pub (in Lebanon)—at nine a.m. I liked Kasich the best of the four with whom I have been up close and personal.

I’ve gone to the events nearby without regard to party affiliation. I discovered in yesterday’s paper that I missed Gloria Steinem stumping for Hillary Clinton right here in Hanover, but I didn’t know about it. Dang. I would have liked to see Gloria Steinem, now age 81.

Talking politics at church is not something I do, nor is it something I recommend. That doesn’t mean I’m not interested. I love this occasional immersion in American democracy. I wish we could disagree without being prickly. The primary here is February 9. I will vote absentee in the South Carolina primary before February 20. I’m waiting on my ballot to arrive in the mail.

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the New Hampshire Presidential Primary. Welcome to Freedom and Democracy.

Marion D. Aldridge

363 Dartmouth College Highway

Lebanon, New Hampshire 03766





Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

First Blog on Baltic Sea Cruise: Politics



I grew up during the Cold War. I believed what we were told in America about the imprisonment of dissidents behind the Iron Curtain. When the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, and the truth was even more fully told, we had proof of the “menace of communism.” Russia may have participated in the liberation of many countries after World War II, but go to Buchenwald Concentration Camp some day and visit the mass graves there from the Soviet Era.

Recently, Sally and I joined friends Randy and Diana Wright on a tour of most of the countries bordering the Baltic Sea, including many former “satellite” nations of the Soviet Union. In addition to very traditional tours in some cities, we were intentional about taking a “Solidarity Movement” tour in Poland, seeing the Gdansk Shipyard where Lech Walesa led a workers revolt against the repressive Communist regime. Even on a pleasure trip, I want to do something more than see pretty sights!

The best sightseeing outing ever was a retro “Soviet Era Tour” in Tallinn, Estonia, where we were greeted by a uniformed comrade who required that we answer questions justifying our existence and credentials before we were allowed to get on the Soviet Era conveyance. I was allowed to board the bus because, as a writer, I could be helpful as a propagandist to the KGB. Others “tourists” (who had paid good money for this privilege) weren’t so lucky and had to march in circles until they demonstrated they could be obedient servants who did as told and asked no questions.

Our tour guide claimed the bus had no brakes: “Soviets need no brakes. We only go forward.” That turned out not to be true, in more ways than one. The bus did stall and passengers had to get out and push. Funny.

This excursion, which was an option less than ten percent of our small ship’s passengers chose, was billed as “The Tallinn other tours don’t show you.”

Our first stop was at a huge prison where political prisoners were housed, including our tour guide’s grandfather, for being too capitalistic (owning too many cows). His next-door neighbor was also imprisoned there for flying a flag from the pre-Soviet Estonia for fifteen minutes. His neighbor was jailed for five years and his grandfather was eventually shipped to Siberia, and died there. “Our family was nothing special,” he said. “Every family has similar stories.”

Treasure your freedoms, Americans!

We were also taken to a sad, decrepit, run-down “cultural center,” the Great Guild Hall. Behind it statues of Lenin and Stalin had been discarded, now ignored and surrounded by woods and weeds.

Estonia is beautiful, a thriving country with a robust economy. Would you rather live there or in Siberia? During the Soviet Era, Russians poured into Warsaw Pact and Baltic Sea territories and many stayed. So Estonians are very worried about what is happening in Ukraine. They fear it could happen all over again in their homeland.

On a tour of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, the tour guide took us through the former “Throne Room” of the Tsar. She mentioned that it had been used recently for an important governmental function. Someone asked if Putin had sat on the throne. Her answer: “ No. Not yet.”

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Health, Holiday, Humor, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments



Exposure can change us. 

 If you are exposed to a group that is smiling and laughing, you are more inclined to smile and laugh. 

 Lack of exposure to our large and fascinating world is, by definition, limiting, making a person narrower.   Constricted.  Bound.  Trapped.  The opposite of those words is free.  A friend, Julie Pennington Russell, a Baptist minister, once told me, “I’ve been bound and I’ve been free, and I like free much better.”  Lack of contact with anything or anybody other than the already familiar is restrictive of personal growth.  That is why we go to school.  In the sixth grade we are exposed to ideas that we knew nothing about in the third grade.

 One of my favorite jokes is about the student who learned her “times tables” up through twelve.  When her granddad asked her what 13 times 13 equaled, she said, “Oh, Grandpa, there’s no such thing.”

 Exposure via travel, going to other places, visiting other cultures and hearing other ideas can also change a person. 

 We don’t know what we have never been exposed to.

I attended a Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast a year ago.  I visited briefly with a friend I hadn’t seen in years.  We made casual conversation until she said, conspiratorially, “You know, we won’t be able to gather like this soon.”  I did not understand what she was saying.  She clarified, “Americans won’t be able to meet to pray like this.”  

“Are you serious?” I asked.  She was.  I suspect she doesn’t get out much, that she hears only to one worldview on her radio and at her church.  She lives within a culture of fear of the unknown.

America is freer than it has ever been.  Of course, freedom in the 21st century is not just for educated white Protestants.  America insures freedom nowadays for blacks, women, Muslims, Hispanics, Hindus and for every other citizen, including (but no longer limited to) educated white Protestants.  We need to get out of our narrow world and meet some people who don’t look or think the same as we do.  We live in a big, beautiful, wonderful and diverse world.

 Some people are taught just the opposite—that it is a scary and hostile world.

 Recently, I read a book about Mormon Fundamentalism, The Witness Wore Read, by Rebecca Musser.  Since the FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints) members of her world lived in a literal compound, a walled camp, they knew little to nothing about the outside world—except what they had been taught since birth.  When 12-16 year old girls were being forced to marry older men with 30 and more wives, the young brides did not have the words to describe their experience.  When arrests began to be made of these “human traffickers,” the young girls were asked if they had sex with these older men.  They answered “No.”  Eventually, the officers discovered the girls knew the word “sex” only as something harlots did.  Even though these girls already had babies at age 15, they claimed they had never had sex.  When the officers learned the insider terminology, “marital relations” and “heavenly unions,” they got a different answer:  “Yes. “  Other euphemisms within the FLDS, such as “Celestial Marriage,” were used to disguise criminal sexual conduct against minors.

Exposure to other worlds inevitably stretches us.  “Better the devil we know than the devil we don’t know,” expresses the anxieties of billions of people. 

Believing that America is on the verge of losing its freedom of assembly and its freedom of religion is paranoia and naiveté born of very limited experience.

Get out.  Travel.  Listen.  Learn.  Pay attention.  Expose yourself to other points of view.  Your life will be enriched, and we will live in a healthier, wiser and more humane culture.


Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Humor, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Am a Patriot!


I love the United States of America.  We live in a great country.  I am not objective about our nation any more than I am objective about my mother and dad.  I have visited other countries, and each has assets and liabilities, as does ours.  But I wouldn’t trade my country for anybody else’s any more than I would trade my family for your family.  I am a loyal and faithful American.  I vote.  I serve as a Poll Manager.  I serve on juries without complaining when I am asked to do so.  I pay taxes and am glad to do so.  I enjoy the benefits of being an American and do not resent the price of being a dues paying citizen.


There are only about a half-dozen states I have not visited, including Hawaii and Alaska.  The others are in the Northwest.  I hope to remedy those travel deficiencies within the next few years.  I have been to all the others.  What’s not to like about our diversity?  People who want everyone else to be like them, to think like they think, to act like they act, are sad, even tragic, individuals, limited emotionally, intellectually and patriotically.  We are enriched by variety. 


This may be the dumbest sentence you have ever read, but here it is:  I already know what I already know.  I know grits and collard greens and the South Carolina coast.  But there is a huge world out there I do not know. 


The first time I saw the rocky California coast, I marveled at its beauty, very different from our extensive sandy Southern beaches. 


The first time I ate fresh raspberries in Idaho, I thought I had never tasted anything so good.  South Carolina is too hot to grow raspberries.


From Fenway Park to Bourbon Street to the St. Louis Arch to Alcatraz Island, America is bursting with variety and personality.  There are lessons to be learned at the Alamo, and there are lessons to be learned at Wounded Knee and there are lessons to be learned at Gettysburg.  I have been to each of these places and am humbled by these iconic symbols of the growth of our nation, shrines to human folly and to human courage.


I am sure you have been to events at Disneyworld or at your church where someone has all of those who have served in our U.S. armed forces to stand and be recognized.  It is a humbling act and we are all grateful for the service of dedicated soldiers and sailors.


After 9/11, there was a sudden appreciation for fire fighters and police officers.  Would they please stand, also?


After the massacre at Stony Hook Elementary School where 26 students and teachers were slaughtered, we experienced an outpouring of appreciation for the heroism of schoolteachers.  Would they please stand, too, so we can honor them?


What I keep wondering is when we will have all the other folks stand who are faithful, loyal, and patriotic Americans, who, for example, risk their money and their time to open a small business or a non-profit organization?  What about those who work for a big business, a steel company, and show up at work faithfully for forty years, pay their taxes, go to church, and serve on a committee to make their community a better place?  Would they please stand?


I want the Democrats and the Republicans to stand!  I want the Independents and the Green Party and the Libertarians to stand!  I want black and white and Hispanic and Native American and Asian American and every other shade of color within these 50 great states to stand. 


I want to honor as Americans those who eat lobster and those who eat crayfish.  I want to honor those who eat grits, those who eat tamales, those who eat Challah bread, and those who eat fried Snicker bars at the state fair.


Do not put restrictions on what it means to be an American. 


Let Freedom Ring for everyone!



Marion Aldridge

Columbia, South Carolina

July 4, 2013


Categories: Family, Holiday, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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