de mortuis nil nisi bonum

Robert C. Byrd, the longest-serving United States Senator, died earlier today. A classic liberal, in the FDR-LBJ mode, he was first and foremost a decent and upstanding human being. While he supported the Obama-Reid-Pelosi agenda, it was far from clear that his heart was in it.

But, politics was what he was about, and he started, and remained, a partisan Democrat. From his obituary at Politico:

Byrd was 92 — the longest-serving U.S. senator ever — and his life was a kaleidoscope of images that reflect his unique place in American history.

He belonged to the Klan in the 1940s and filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but he went on to endorse the nation’s first black president. An orphan child who rose from West Virginia poverty, he became a master of pork-barrel politics, and his name graces federal buildings throughout his home state.

Byrd attended our church for a few years here in Virginia, and in person you would not have found a more gracious man. Being conservative (by and large) Baptists, we leave politics outside the sanctuary, and so did the Senator.

Why does it matter that we are Baptists? Because our history is fraught with the dangers of bringing politics into church. Nothing good comes of this, and Baptists have had more than their fair share of abuse at the hands of establishment churches. The point is that Byrd was a life-long Baptist, and knew that while faith may inform your politics, your politics must never inform your faith.

May he rest in peace.

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