My Unlikely Alliance with an Independent Baptist

By Graham Glover

On the surface we don’t appear to have much in common. He, an Independent Baptist. Me, a Missouri Synod Lutheran. He, a conservative Republican. Me, not so much. He, a teetotaler. Me, well, let’s just say I like to imbibe in a good bourbon, or two, or…

Our personal, political, and theological backgrounds aren’t really conducive for a strong alliance. When we first met, I’m pretty sure neither one of us thought there would ever be a strong bond formed between us. But, somehow, someway, this conservative, teetotaling, Independent Baptist (let’s call him, Mike) and I have become good friends and at times, political and theological allies. Go figure.

How is it that the two of us formed such an alliance? What possible things could we agree on that allows us to transcend our very different backgrounds and perspectives?

It could have been our passion of lifting weights and running that found us in the gym and on the pavement countless times. Perhaps it was our love of country that drove us both to become Army Chaplains in January of 2008, serving together a few years later in Iraq. We both appreciate a good cup of coffee, no matter the time of day. Or maybe it was the fact that we both served congregations in the great state of Florida! I know it’s not our understanding of what Christian worship is and how it should look. It clearly isn’t the people we vote for or the political policies we support. Our families, while collegial, don’t really run in similar social circles. So, what is it? What is it that unites us?

I think it is our mutual desire to more fully understand and live out the truth. To be clear, what that truth is, how it is practiced, and to what extent is should be shared, is not something we always agree on. Like I said, Mike and I have some very different understandings of things temporal and things eternal. Our theology is different. Our politics are different. Even the sports teams we root for are different. We are different.

But we are both passionate about our beliefs. A passion that I think is evident in our preaching, our teaching, our writing, and our interaction with those we serve. We are passionate not just about extolling our individual beliefs, but discerning how our theology and our politics shape and inform the world in which we live. And although we don’t always do it well, this discernment allows us to constantly question one another, which in turn allows us to understand one another.

Ironic, isn’t it? We allow our passion about what we think is true, to be regularly called into question. What we proclaim to be good and right is oftentimes rebuked by the other, sometimes in very public forums. And yet it works. Somehow, someway, I am edified by his preaching, even when it is contrary to my own. Somehow, someway, I am sympathetic to his politics, even when I want them to fail.

I think we have both changed, or at least, nuanced, the other’s beliefs. I also think we have both made one another stronger in our beliefs. Strange, I know, but true. Just don’t ask me how.

I’m certain I’ll never become an Independent Baptist, nor he a Missouri Synod Lutheran. Our votes at the ballot box will continue to cancel the other out (although not all of the time). Stylistically, we don’t live out our vocation in similar ways. If we worked closely together, our different personalities might not create the most ideal working environment. And yet I wouldn’t have it any other way. For these differences are what unite us. They are what make our alliance strong.

Me and an Independent Baptist. Who would have thought…