These are not run-of-the-mill, live and let live Christians – they are evangelical Protestants, fundamentalists who believe – literally – what Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” And, more significantly, who act accordingly. Nonbelievers, who, in their opinion, encompass most of humanity, including Yours truly (I’m neither a fundamentalist Christian nor a Southern Baptist), are going to hell in a handbasket. We desperately need their help. We are lost, wandering aimlessly, in darkness, and without hope. They, the enlightened ones, the saved, God’s favored, can help us find our way, to salvation and eternal life. All we have to do is accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. In case you’re unclear about this particular dimension of “The Baptist Faith and Message,” check out their view of salvation in English or any one of 9 other languages, including Vietnamese (my bold).
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t I? Southern Baptists aren’t just focused on helping the spiritually poor Vietnamese and other lost souls “fill an emptiness and assurance of salvation only found in Jesus Christ,” but are closely aligned with US nationalism and all the nastiness that entails, meaning it’s not just about Jesus Christ but also about US politics. This connection will only confirm the official suspicion of Protestant groups in Vietnam. Think of them as Southern Baptists bearing gifts and their efforts as a religious Trojan horse.
In fact, there are striking parallels between Christian fundamentalism and nationalism, defined as “loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.” There is a shared assumption of superiority. Just replace nation with religion.
It’s all we about making “them” like “us” because we want to save “them” and we want “them” to enjoy and treasure the truth, the grace and the salvation that “we” have discovered. In the months leading up to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, I remember a pastor from one of those megachurches in the Deep South licking his chops and smiling like a hungry hyena at the prospect of participating in US-government-sponsored “faith-based” initiatives there and in Afghanistan that could include winning Muslim souls for Christ.
Dear Reader: Pray that these zealots stop interfering in Vietnam’s affairs like the French colonialists and others before them. Pray that they spend more time trying to live the basic tenets of their faith than they do trying to bring others into the fold. Christians in general and Southern Baptists in particular do not have a monopoly on the Truth and God’s Salvation. May the holier-than-thou types from the United States and elsewhere free themselves from the belief that “Daddy (or Mommy) Knows Best.” In the name of the god(s) of the world’s great religions, of tolerance, openness and mutual understanding. Amen!