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Columnist Evans says he is 'not your grandmother's Baptist preacher'

By Melanie B. Smith
msmith@decaturdaily.com 340-2468

America is not a chosen nation, the GOP doesn't stand for God's Own Party and there doesn't have be a war between Christians and science, according to the Rev. James Evans.

The pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church, speaking Monday at the Rotary Club of Decatur, said he's "not your grandmother's Baptist preacher." Evans is also a syndicated columnist whose writing appears in The Decatur Daily and in seven other newspapers.

Evans said that he is a Baptist but more in the historic "Anabaptist" tradition. Baptists, Mennonites and others today drew from the 16th century Christians who believed in separation of church and state, among other beliefs.

Anabaptists were for freedom of religion, Evans said.

"They believed, 'The only way for my faith to be free is to make sure that everyone's faith is free,' " he said.

He joked that when he said at a family reunion that he was an "Anabaptist," an uncle retorted, "You sure ain't a Baptist."

Evans told listeners that the United States has the best of available forms of government, but founding fathers did not set it up to be a theocracy, a country governed by God. No earthly government can fully express God's will, he said.

Evans said it concerns him how politicized faith has become. He said that candidates, including Democrats in recent months, seem to be trying to "out-Jesus" each other.

People of faith should be in the middle of politics but in a nonpart-isan way, encouraging civil debates about issues, not battling personalities, according to Evans.

He said that the so-called religious right cannot seem to get a presidential candidate and will be interesting to watch. They may back an independent candidate but are not going away, he said.

Churches should not be pushing for the state to express religious ideas but "must do what God commissioned churches to do," Evans said. To want government to advance faith is to admit that the church is irrelevant, he said.

God also is too big to confine to a literal interpretation of Genesis' creation accounts, the pastor said. The Hubble Space Telescope's images show that the universe is still expanding. God is Creator, Evans said, but he isn't through creating.

Tom Wright, executive editor of The Decatur Daily, introduced Evans. Wright noted that Evans "takes it on the chin" from writers of letters to the editor.

Evans said that among Alabama Baptists, he's probably on the liberal side. He said his congregation ordains women.

But within broader traditions of Christianity, he is somewhere to the right, Evans said, because he believes Jesus is God incarnate and the Son of God.

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