Son of a Preacher Man: a Rock & Roll Cowboy Grows Up Southern Baptist
Ch 3: Once in Grace
A piece by Ellis Millsaps
Whenever there's a blank on a form for religious affiliation I always say Zen Baptist, and indeed I am a member of the Lebanon Baptist Church in Fannin County Georgia where at fourteen I transferred my membership along with my parents from the Holly Springs Baptist Church. Granted I've only attended that church for a few funerals since I left High School, but I will be a member until I die.
In fact, except for weddings, funerals & special events, I rarely visit any church. Church largely bores me and I'm not excited about rubbing shoulders with many of the congregants, but there are certain aspects of the Baptist Church of which I approve wholeheartedly as opposed to other denominations.
First, Baptists have no church hierarchy. This appeals to my libertarian instincts. Churches may contribute to the Southern Baptist convention for educational and missionary causes (Southern Baptists used to be commonly called Missionary Baptist), but the convention has no say so over how individual churches conduct their business. Each congregation hires and fires its own minister, i.e., they hold auditions for a new one or make the old one want to leave.
Baptists believe in full immersion baptism. About this I say hell yeah. Why do something halfway? It's a beautiful ritual, and one entered into voluntarily as opposed to shaking water on an unwitting baby's head. Also, although this point is debated by sprinkling apologists, the New Testament tells us that’s how it's done. Look it up. It represents symbolically Christ's descent into the grave and resurrection.
Finally, and most importantly, Baptists believe ”once in Grace, always in Grace.” This, I learned at an early age, is the primary difference between Baptists and Methodists and most other denominations which believe in “falling from grace,” that you've got one foot in heaven after your sprinkling, but you have to toe the line to stay in the flock.
Baptists believe that until one reaches the “age of conviction” you're cool on that score, but once you reach that point you're in danger of hellfire until you publicly confess your faith. (Romans 10:9) This means that from that point in my life at the age of seven my name is in the Lamb's Book of Life no matter what.
That's a really liberating proposition.
Ellis is a recovering Attorney but has worn many hats over the years: father, bus boy, stand-up comedian, novelist, wiffle ball player, rock'n'roll band manager, and at one time wrote a popular and funny column for The Covington News. A Fannin Co. mountain boy originally, Mr. Millsaps now stays at the mill village of Porterdale by way of 20 years in Mansfield. Usually funny and at times irreverent and subversive, he leans left in his political philosophy but can always be counted on for a pretty darn good write-up. The Chronicles are proud to have him involved...
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