Run from public policy, pagan ideas prevail
Two events in Jefferson City the week of Jan. 15-19 are instructive for those among the state’s 650,000 Southern Baptists who think Christians should not be involved in shaping public policy.
The first event was the 17-hour filibuster by state Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit, and a member of Abundant Life Baptist Church, one of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s fastest-growing churches. Bartle’s filibuster was a heroic attempt to block Gov. Matt Blunt’s nomination of Warren Erdman, a Kansas City businessman, to the University of Missouri Board of Curators.
Bartle’s effort delayed the Senate’s confirmation of Eerdman and 22 other people Blunt had nominated for seats on various state boards and commissions. On the morning of Jan. 18, as soon as Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, asked colleagues to approve the nominees, Bartle objected to the customary approval of all nominees by unanimous consent and launched his filibuster. The time was 10:28 a.m. He did not stop talking until 3:23 a.m., Jan. 19.
Bartle’s action was not supported by one single fellow Republican. He was ridiculed by Democrats who tried to “spin” his action into an effort to embarrass the governor. At one point the criticism became so petty, that someone objected to Bartle removing his shoes (Bartle had to talk the entire 17 hours while standing and could only leave the podium if someone was willing to relieve him and continue to talk. That happened only once when a Democrat relieved him only long enough for him to run to the restroom late that night.)
Why would Bartle subject himself to such a thing?
Bartle, a staunch pro-life, pro-family conservative, opposed Eerdman’s nomination because Eerdman favors human cloning (embryonic stem cell research) and Bartle does not. Bartle has been steadfast in his belief that embryonic stem cell research requires the creation of life through cloning, only to kill it to harvest its stem cells. Bartle believes Eerdman would exert pressure for our tax dollars to be used to fund human cloning. Bartle was the target of the state’s clone-to-kill lobby in the November election, a move that proved expensive and unsuccessful for the cloners.
While Missouri Southern Baptists did not oppose the governor’s nominees, no one shed any tears over Bartle’s Herculean effort. There was never any chance that Bartle could stop Eerdman from being confirmed, but Bartle so deeply believes that human cloning is wrong and that you and I should not pay for it that he was willing to at least sound an alarm. When the barbarians are at the gate, you don’t unlock it, you scream like bloody murder.
Bartle should be admired for his consistent pro-life view and the courage he exhibited before, during and after his filibuster. Bartle may be ridiculed and shunned by his colleagues at the State Capitol, but he has emerged as a champion in Missouri’s formidable pro-life movement that Southern Baptists must continue to embrace. We would do well to match his conviction and action. Conviction must translate into action else pagan ideas prevail.
Meanwhile, a few blocks down High Street to the east of the State Capitol where Bartle “fought the good fight,” another drama over a moral issue unfolded at the Cole County Commission.
Late last year Mike Barnard, owner of Golden Touch Jewelers, just outside the western limits of Jefferson City, was granted a license to open a “juice bar.” The term “juice bar” typically refers to a business that features exotic dancers, but serves non-alcoholic beverages. Neighbors are concerned about such an establishment in the midst of their residences and within a short distance of schools and churches. Neighbors have said the items sold by Barnard out of his existing business are “exotic in nature” and labeled it a “sex shop.”
The county cannot stop Barnard from opening the bar because the county has no zoning to regulate where a business goes. The county thinks it has the right to regulate such business, but the uproar is far from subsiding.
The “juice bar” controversy in Jefferson City is another example of why Christians should get involved in forming public policy. If Christians do not take their values into the halls of government, then we will be subjugated by pagan ideas and laws. I do not advocate a theocracy, but I am encouraging Christians to bring their values to the public arena along with everyone else.
Our churches need to have strong Sunday Schools and discipleship programs that teach believers the value in developing, articulating and applying a Christian worldview to every facet of their lives. Missouri Southern Baptists – and Christendom in general – cannot abandon the public arena. We would do well to follow the example of Bartle, lest our hometowns become inundated with the same smut that now plagues one innocent Cole County neighborhood.