Sunday, March 04, 2012

Rick Santorum Attends Service at Bellevue

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, his wife, Karen, and three of their children attended the 9:20 a.m. service at Bellevue this morning. Santorum did not speak, but he and his wife were brought up onto the stage so that Steve Gaines could pray for "you guys." Gaines introduced Santorum as being from Pennsylvania, having attended Penn State, having served in the U.S. Senate for 12 years, and having served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 4 years; however, no mention was made of the elephant in the room (pun fully intended), Santorum's current bid for the presidency.

Watch the video montage from both Sunday morning services.

No sooner had the Santorums left the auditorium Steve took a swipe at the Catholics. If they still stream the services on all those flat-screen TVs throughout the building the Santorums probably heard him on their way out.

While I realize Catholics aren't the only ones who have "catechism" classes, in the U.S. that's what you think of. His little chuckle right after he said it indicated to me that he either thought he was being cute or it just slipped out (he surely had "Catholics" on the mind having just prayed over them) and he was embarrassed. Kind of hard to tell if it was his "aren't I funny!" heh heh or his "oops, didn't mean to let that slip" heh heh.

Of course, at Bellevue they don't have "catechism" classes. Instead they have Step Classes patterned after Rick Warren's S.T.E.P. classes. Prospective members must attend the first of now two four of these classes where they're indoctrinated in the ways of Bellevue before they're accepted for church membership. Used to be you could simply transfer your letter from another Baptist church or present yourself for baptism with your profession of faith and you were a member. Now you have to "do things." I've not heard of them forcing people to sign covenants to join the church, at least not yet, but that wouldn't surprise me.

Then having completed "Step 1," new members are "strongly encouraged" to attend the second subsequent classes where they're given "spiritual gifts" and "temperament" tests. Anyone who's interested can search the archives and comments here to see some in depth discussions about this New Agey practice.

Steve was very careful not to endorse Santorum. In the 11:00 service he made it clear that "we didn't pray he'd win." That's true, but when you say things like "God didn't come to take sides; He came to take over," and "We so desperately need for God to raise up godly leaders," and you're standing three feet away from a presidential candidate who's nodding in agreement... well... it's kind of a slippery slope.

Aside from jeopardizing the church's 501(c)(3) status, a non-endorsement is probably a good thing. If I were running for public office I think the last place I'd want to visit would be a Southern Baptist megachurch. Just look at the records of politicians who've visited Bellevue and FBC Jacksonville alone during the past four years.

1. Mike Huckabee "preached" at Bellevue in February 2008, and we all know how his bid for the presidential nomination ended.

2. Tennessee gubernatorial candidate, Zach Wamp, accompanied by Ricky Skaggs, visited Bellevue on a Wednesday night in August 2010. In spite of a very enthusiastic reception by many in attendance, Wamp lost in the Republican primary.

3. Tennessee gubernatorial candidate, Ron Ramsey, visited the prior Sunday. He received a somewhat more tepid welcome than Wamp and went on to lose in the Republican primary.

4. Myron Lowery, then mayor pro tem of Memphis, visited Bellevue in August 2009. He lost in the mayoral election two months later.

5. Willie Herenton, then Memphis mayor, visited one Sunday a few years ago. Well, let's face it. Herenton has always been a loser even when he garnered the most votes in elections. However, he lost by a landslide to Steve Cohen in the U.S. House of Representatives Democratic primary in 2010.

6. Jacksonville mayoral candidate, Mike Hogan, is a longtime FBC Jax member. In May 2011 Mac Brunson called Hogan and his wife to the front to pray over them. In spite of what came to within an inch of being a formal endorsement by Brunson, Hogan lost the race to a little-known Democrat.

7. Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate, Rick Scott, visited FBC Jacksonville in 2010. He went on to win the general election but just barely.

8. Scott's Republican opponent in the primary for the governor's race, Bill McCollum, was accompanied by Mike Huckabee the Sunday he dropped by FBC Jacksonville.

9. Newt Gingrich visited FBC Jacksonville recently. He's steadily dropped in the polls since.

Based upon the track records of other politicians who've appeared in Southern Baptist megachurches, I predict Santorum will lose in the primary. Okay, I realize at this point that's kind of a given, but if you're Santorum do you really want to accelerate the process?

Oh, and Bellevue? I have a request. Would you please invite Barack Obama to visit sometime before November? He needs your "touch"!

Local news coverage:

Commercial Appeal >> Santorum visits Memphis to shore up support; polls show state now a toss up

WMC-TV >> Bellevue, barbecue on Santorum's plate in Memphis

WREG-TV >> Republican presidential hopeful spends the day in Memphis

ABC24 >> Rick Santorum Makes Pit Stop in Memphis