On the cusp of new ways of thinking about God … and perhaps most often not thinking of God at all … leading Southern intellectuals Ellin Jimmerson and Jeff Hood meet to discuss what it means to be a Baptist in their country. particular context and beyond.
Jeff Hood and I have been friends since we first discovered each other. He knew me as an immigrant rights advocate and filmmaker. I knew him as an idiosyncratic and unpredictable savage man of a Baptist minister, peacemaker and lgbtq ally. Over the years, our friendship has grown in large part because each of us is curious about each other’s ideas, especially the interaction of faith with politics. Or, maybe I should say about the wholeness of what it means to be a person of faith in a world that is both beautiful and terrifying. How to speak of life-oriented faith in the context of faith-sponsored bodily and spiritual deaths on so many fronts.
The following discussion is about how we understood what were called “distinct Baptists” in the past and how we understand them today. Jeff and I come from very different religious backgrounds. His family consisted of old school Baptists, comfortable with their church and culture. My family was the opposite – so uncomfortable that they came into obvious conflict with their church, their families and their culture. How we have both evolved in our thinking about what it means to be a Baptist here in the South and beyond is the subject of this book.
Reverend Dr Ellin Jimmerson
December 28, 2021
Reverend Ellin Jimmerson is a Baptist pastor (ordained in a Southern Baptist church), filmmaker, public theologian, and activist living and working in Huntsville, Alabama. Dr Jimmerson is Professor of Liberation Theology at the New Theology School. Dr Jimmerson wrote and directed the award-winning advocacy documentary, The Second Cooler, narrated by Martin Sheen. Dr. Jimmerson gained international attention when she officiated at the first same-sex marriage in Madison County, Alabama. After marriage, she was forced to resign from her post as community minister at her home church… after being kicked out by the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr Jimmerson is a brilliant activist and liberation strategist.
The Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood is a Baptist pastor (ordained in a Southern Baptist church), public theologian, and activist living and working in Little Rock, Arkansas. Trained at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv) among other institutions, Dr Hood is the founding dean of the New Theology School. Author of over 50 books, Dr Hood’s work has also been featured widely in the media, including the Dallas Morning News, The Huffington Post, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Los Angeles Times, the WIRED magazine and on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR among a host of other outlets. Dr. Hood is a radical mystical and prophetic voice of our closed society.
Extract (from the conclusion):
EJ: You know, Jeff, it’s so obvious to me that you’ve thought about these things a lot more than I have. You really do what I think is a good thing. We compliment each other. I mean, our experiences are similar in some ways, but very different in other ways. And I think that’s what creates the, the beauty of this text that we created. I grew up happily not knowing if I was going to Heaven or Hell or if I should be baptized, I did not have to be baptized. There was right at the bottom, like mom said, Jesus talks about freedom. And that was pretty much the end. But you grew up on the seriousness, even the life and death consequences of these things.
JH: I hope my children can grow up in a world where there is no Heaven or Hell, there is only Heaven. And whatever the hell he is here with us. If we conquer evil, then we conquer hell.
EJ: Amen, Jeff. Nice way to conclude.