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Don't Stop Believing, Texas Observer, July 13, 2007

My Texas Observer piece on the Southern Baptists is up. It was an interesting, challenging story to write and report, but I’m grateful to TO editors for giving me the space. I’ve promised myself to do more actual reporting, not just phone conversations, and this is a good example of what that can be.

The bartender may well be the loneliest person in this hotel on San Antonio’s Riverwalk. Just feet away from the darkened bar, people mill around the lobby with plastic glasses of lemonade in hand. “Oh, they’re all Baptists,” says Ben Cole, a 31-year-old pastor from Arlington, Texas. Or as he pronounces it, Babdists. Cole points out the dean of a Baptist seminary, then a man in a dark suit who Cole says is the armed bodyguard of a prominent seminary president. We’ve crowded into chairs with another pastor, Wade Burleson from Oklahoma, his wife Rachelle, and a pastor from Alabama, C.B. Scott, who knows hired muscle when he sees it. That used to be Scott’s line of work. It’s Sunday afternoon, June 10, and talk turns to what to watch on television tonight: the first game of the NBA finals or the last episode of “The Sopranos.”

“Actually, I’ve learned a lot about how to be a Southern Baptist from ‘The Sopranos,’” Cole says. “Hold your friends close but your enemies closer. The person who sets up the meeting between you and your enemy is working for your enemy. You know, the whole ‘Godfather’ thing.”

To read the rest of this, go here.