BILL MOYERS KEYNOTE ADDRESS
CALL TO RENEWAL
MAY 24, 2004
I was honored by your invitation to share this day with you. Call to Renewal is an inspiration to me and so is Jim Wallis – for his witness of faith, his generous heart, his way of life, his engagement with politics, and his magazine: I could not do without Sojourners. I also appreciate Jim because he knows there are different kinds of Baptists in America. Not everyone knows this, and it can be confusing when a young reporter, learning you are a Baptist, asks: "Oh, like Jerry Falwell?" I reminded her that there are more than two dozen varieties of Baptist in this country. Pat Robertson is a Baptist. So is Bill Clinton. Al Gore is a Baptist. So is Trent Lott. Jesse Jackson is a Baptist. So is Jesse Helms. Richard Gephardt is a Baptist. So is Newt Gingrich. Small wonder Baptists have been compared to jalapeno peppers: one or two makes for a tasty dish, but a whole bunch of them together in one place brings tears to your eyes.
So I thank Jim Wallis for discerning the difference. I trace my own spiritual lineage back to a radical Baptist in England named Thomas Helwys who believed that God, and not the King, was Lord of conscience. In 1612 Roman Catholics were the embattled target of the Crown and Thomas Helwys, the Baptist, came to their defense with the first tract in English demanding full religious liberty. Here's what he said:
"Our Lord the King has no more power over their [Catholic] consciences than ours, and that is none at all. …For men's religion is betwixt God and themselves; the King shall not answer it; neither may the King be judge betwixt God and man. Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews or whatever. It appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure."