John the Baptist story hits locally

john mccainIn the aftermath of GOP presidential candidate John McCain's statement that he is a Baptist and not an Episcopalian, the Associated Press followed up and did something of a clarification story by getting some more comments from the always-media-accessible Arizona politician:

AIKEN, S.C. (AP) -- Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Monday that questions over whether he identifies himself as a Baptist or an Episcopalian are not as important as his overarching faith. "The most important thing is that I am a Christian," the Arizona senator told reporters following two campaign stops in this early voting state.

The comment came after a weekend during which McCain corrected an Associated Press reporter who asked him how his Episcopalian faith plays a role in his campaign and his life. While it's well-known that McCain and his family for years have attended the North Phoenix Baptist Church in his home state of Arizona, the senator had consistently referred to himself in media reports as Episcopalian.

OK, other than that first paragraph, there is nothing new in this story. But a more interesting story is coming out of The Charlotte Observer's columnist Dannye Romine Powell about Baptist identity and how this plays in the Bible belt:

I don't care whether Republican presidential candidate John McCain is an Episcopalian or a Baptist.

But the implication in Monday's paper that he'd been caught at something -- outed while trying to pass as an Episcopalian -- hit a nerve.

Why do we diss Baptists?

Powell's story is one of church social rankings, avoiding the term "Baptist" and whether one's church parking lot is filled with "Mercedes and BMWs" or "Fords and Chevys." It's a great local perspective that I missed when I first saw the McCain story roll out, but it is a question that should be asked and applied, at least regionally, if not nationally.

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