Saturday, June 2, 2018

Baptist church in South Carolina removes statue of Jesus because of concerns it was "too Catholic"

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Exodus 20:4

Why a Baptist church would have a statue of Jesus in the first place is beyond me. We don't know what the Lord Jesus Christ looks like; the most recent physical description of Him is in Revelation 1:13-16, which led John to fall at His feet as dead (Rev. 1:17). No man-made image of Him can come close to capturing the reality. Idolatry is not only the worship of false gods, but the use of images as an aid in worshipping the true God, and should have no place in a true Christian church.

The removal of the statue is a move in the right direction, but there's something wrong when people associated with a Baptist church not only tolerate a statue purporting to be of the Lord Jesus Christ, but are so ignorant as to believe that the Roman Catholic Church is actually a Christian denomination. Bert Baker and Rhonda Davis, mentioned in the article below, apparently haven't read enough of the New Testament to know, for instance, that the apostle Paul singled out pseudo-Christian Judaizers in Galatia for criticism, and that he and John both named names of people to beware of. The leaders of Red Bank Baptist Church would do well to "declare unto you all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).

As reported by Noah Feit of the Columbia, South Carolina newspaper The State, May 29, 2018 (links in original):

In this 2007 file photo, Bert Baker, an amateur artist, had recently finished a 7-foot-tall sculpture of Christ at Red Bank Baptist Church. The piece, which also depicts multiple scenes from Christ's life, was installed on Easter Sunday.

Jesus Christ is being removed from a South Carolina church.

A statue of Jesus Christ and accompanying artwork that has been displayed at Red Bank Baptist Church for more than a decade will be taken down by Thursday, according to church officials.

The art will be removed because a majority of the congregation voted that the 7-foot-tall statue and sculpted reliefs were "causing some confusion."

According to the church, many people think the sculptures are Catholic and not representative of a Baptist church.

"We have discovered that there are people that view the art as Catholic in nature. We understand that this is not a Catholic icon, however, people perceive it in these terms," said a letter that was signed by Dr. Jeff Wright, Red Bank's senior pastor, and Mike Dennis, the church's Chairman of Deacons.

The letter was sent to Bert Baker Jr., the Midlands artist who hand carved the statue for the church in 2007. Baker is a former member of the Red Bank Baptist Church congregation.

"I'm not interested in stirring the pot, but people not liking it because it looked too Catholic is crazy, man. It's been up there for 11 years," Baker told The State on Tuesday. "I don't agree with the letter, it bothers me."

Both the church's letter and a two-page response from Baker were shared on Facebook by Rhonda Davis. Like Baker, Davis is unhappy with the church's decision to remove the art.

In her Facebook post, Baker called the art "a wordless story of Christ’s life, death and resurrection." She said its removal is sad and regretful because it "insults and prejudices" another denomination, which she described as "totally unbecoming of anyone who calls themselves a representative of Christ."

"It is both disturbing and sad that in a time when we are all needing to come together as brothers and sisters in Christ to project and reflect His love to a lost and dying world, Red Bank has decided to single out another denomination as the reason behind the decision to avoid any real or imagined fear that they would somehow be associated with them," Davis wrote in her Facebook post.

In his letter, Baker echoed those sentiments.

"These sculptures have been gracing the front of RBBC for 11 years and at no time then or now has anyone ever been 'confused' as to who Red Bank Baptist is nor has anyone ever suggested that they are 'Catholic' in nature," Baker wrote. "I am stunned that your letter both insults the intelligence of the Red Bank Community (as not intelligent enough to know that Red Bank Baptist Church is a Baptist church despite having a large sign stating as much); and, more disturbing, singling out the Catholic church in such a manner as to suggest that their denomination is deficient in theology and lacking in Christian core values."

In the church's letter, it offered Baker the opportunity to remove the sculptures if he desired to keep them, adding: "The art needs to be removed by May 31, 2018."

Baker said he hopes the statue and artwork are not destroyed — but instead given to another church or sold, with money raised to support missionary work.

"I was commissioned to make the sculpture, and whatever they choose to do with it is their prerogative," Baker told The State. "I just didn't want it destroyed. I don't want to take it down personally, but I hope they find another place for it."

Baker said he knows there are other churches that have reached out about acquiring the art, but he has not heard from the church beyond the original letter.

Messages left with the church were not answered.
As reported by David Travis Bland in The State, May 31, 2018:

RED BANK, SC--Jesus will have a new home.

Pastor Jeff Wright of Red Bank Baptist Church says the Jesus statue on the front of the church is being donated to another church.

"We are working with a local church that wants to take it," Wright says. "They will remove it when they decide to. But I don’t know when that might be."

The statue has lived on Red Bank Baptist's facade for 11 years, since a women's Sunday school class voted to have the art commissioned. The class was part of the process of that allowed the sculpture to be removed.

Some concerns persist about how the statue is attached to the Red Bank church. If it's attached by an adhesive, the sculpture may crumble when it's removed, according to Wright.

But Wright said the church won't change its mind about having the statue removed. The removal was approved by church leadership, those who originally commissioned the art, and the congregation, which voted 131 to 40 to take it down.

‘This is not a social justice issue," Wright says. "It’s a church governance issue. It has nothing to do with the community. We’re not being unjust to anyone. ... We just want to be able to worship the way our doctrine asks and let others worship the way their doctrine asks.”

The pending removal became public after a letter from Wright to the statue's artist was posted on social media. The letter told the artist, Bert Baker, about the church's intent to take down the statue and informed Baker he could get the statue if he'd like.

The pastor's letter said "the art is causing some confusion in the community," going on to say that people view the Jesus statue as Catholic.

"As a result, it is bringing into question the theology and core values of Red Bank Baptist Church," Wright's letter said.

The artist responded that the Red Bank community was never confused about the denomination of Red Bank Baptist Church and that the pastor's letter also singled out the Catholic church, wrongly presenting the denomination as "deficient in theology and lacking in Christian core values."

Baker said he didn't want the statue destroyed.

"I'm not interested in stirring the pot, but people not liking it because it looked too Catholic is crazy, man," Baker told The State.

Wright says he's comfortable with the removal decision.

"The Jesus I serve is not on the front of the building. He lives in my heart," Wright says.

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