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Civic duty. Since the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in response to the issue of slavery and other sectional conflicts that had definite political ramifications, its members have been involved from its beginnings in political maneuvering. As Baptists, however, they have prided themselves on their allegiance to the principle of the separation of church and state, so they have distinguished between the entanglement of the church and the participation of individual Christians in civil affairs. Baptists were not expected to shun politics entirely in favor of spiritual matters, but to bring Christian standards to bear on the affairs of the state by voting and expressing their views. In keeping with their theological emphases on progress through the regeneration of the individual and on the realization of ultimate goals in a supernatural realm, they were most involved in political causes that related to morality rather than to economics or foreign policy. And to keep the church—the local congregation—and government separated, Baptists usually voiced their concerns through extra-church bodies ("conventions" and "associations"), denominational newspapers, and non-ecclesiastical organizations rather than through sermons or local church activities.

In Texas, Baptist men were encouraged to vote and Baptist newspapers reported on elections and candidates throughout this study's span. Except for the prohibition cause, however, Texas Baptist women demonstrated virtually no political interest or involvement until the United States had entered World War I. Their concerns were centered in family and church life, with the exception of their interest in mission work, and that focused on the same elements in a foreign setting. Women's speeches, articles, and letters made minimal reference to politics or current events at home or abroad. From long tradition, the realm of politics was a "man's world." As long as women's interests were being served by the men in their family casting votes, running for office, and keeping abreast of political affairs, they remained apolitical or involved only in the background.

The primary issue that stimulated Baptists' participation in social and political action was the prohibition of the manufacture, sale, and consumption of intoxicating beverages. Even though they had moved from merely a temperate stance toward alcohol to the advocation of abstention by the 1880s,

Rufus B. Spain, At Ease in Zion: Social History of Southern Baptists, 1865-1900 (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1967), p. 179.

they were late joining the national movement because of its association with causes unfavorable in the South--specifically, abolition and women's rights. By the late nineteenth century, however, several Texas Baptists got involved in the thick of the fray. J. B. Cranfill, editor of the Baptist Standard , was active in the Prohibition Party and became its vice-presidential candidate in 1892 when he was only thirty-three. He remained a leading spokesman for that party's restricting itself to the single issue of prohibition instead of loading its platform with other "isms" before the Anti-Saloon League took over the cause and pursued that strategy.

Jack S. Blocker, Jr., Retreat from Reform: The Prohibition Movement in the United States, 1890-1913 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1976), p. 110. See also pp. 19-25 for Blocker's discussion of Cranfill as typifying the prohibitionists' attempt to bring morality to bear on the social order.

Cranfill, of course, had an excellent forum in his paper for keeping the temperance issue foremost in Texas Baptists' minds even though he never convinced many of them to forsake the Democratic Party. J. B. Gambrell was another popular leader associated with the cause—his son Rhoderic was killed in Mississippi in a struggle with saloon forces, "the first victim in our fair southland to the cause of prohibition"

BS , November 29, 1894, p. 1.

—and Gambrell kept up the fight.

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Source:  OpenStax, Patricia martin's phd thesis. OpenStax CNX. Dec 12, 2012 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11462/1.1
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