Obamacare, Campaigning from the Pulpit, and the Cowboy Church Will Be Topics at Oct. 10 Lecture Hosted by Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion

Oct. 2, 2013

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WACO, Texas (Oct. 2, 2013) -- Obamacare, pulpit electioneering and public faith initiatives -- issues that challenge traditional Baptist commitments to the separation of church and state-- will be examined by Blake Ellis, Ph.D., associate professor of history at Lone Star College-CyFair, in an Oct. 10 lecture at Baylor University.

His address, "Texas Baptists and the Separation of State, or Not?" is the second in a three-part series sponsored by Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR).

The program also will include "Corralling Faith: The Cowboy Church in Texas," a lecture by Marie Dallam, Ph.D., an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma Honors College.

The free event will be 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Congregation Agudath Jacob, 4925 Hillcrest Dr., Waco. Attendees are requested to register here.

Ellis noted that Texas Baptists are the largest state association of Southern Baptists and have followed "a somewhat counter-intuitive course in balancing strongly-held beliefs on, for example, abortion and homosexuality, while protecting the churches from interference with personal faith commitments and religious life."

J. Gordon Melton, Ph.D., who guides the Faith and Freedom program for ISR, said that Baptists have become the largest Protestant church in the United States, and "they have begun to question their traditional stance on church-state issues."

In some states -- but to a lesser extent in Texas -- Baptists have begun to associate with the Christian Right to bring about legislation and benefit from government initiatives to use religious groups to carry out government programs, such as feeding the poor, he said.

In her lecture, Dallam will explore whom cowboy church churches target and why. The cowboy church -- a branch of the larger Evangelical movement in the western United States -- began in the decade after the Civil War.

Melton, a Distinguished Professor of American Religious Freedom at Baylor, said that the cowboy church is "far from being just a church with a gimmick. It seems to be a vital growing fellowship that crosses denominational lines and is experiencing continued growth as it meets a real need, especially in rural Texas."

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

ABOUT THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDIES OF RELIGION

Launched in August 2004, the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) exists to initiate, support and conduct research on religion, involving scholars and projects spanning the intellectual spectrum: history, psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, political science, epidemiology, theology and religious studies. The institute's mandate extends to all religions, everywhere, and throughout history, and embraces the study of religious effects on prosocial behavior, family life, population health, economic development and social conflict. While always striving for appropriate scientific objectivity, ISR scholars treat religion with the respect that sacred matters require and deserve.

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