Chilean Baptists and the State
Baptists have always existed and flourished—independent of the state—and therefore are natural libertarians; thus making the new Independence Party (Partido Independencia) in Chile appropriate for promoting their ideals. In the British colonies before the founding of the United States of America, Baptists opposed (1) paying taxes to build churches for Anglicans, Congregationalists, etc., (2) the obligation to request licenses to preach from other religious authorities, and (3) to pay fines or suffer enslavement (in the case of Virignia) for not attending the worship services of other religions established by law, for example Anglican services in Colonial Virginia.
In the face of such threats, Baptist pastors of the era Isaac Backus and John Leland fought to ratify a Bill of Rights, which was later transformed into the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution in 1789. Those Baptists were true libertarians.
The same thing happened in Chile where early American Baptist missionaries and a Scottish Baptist opposed the link between the state and the church, especially the prohibition of conducting public worship services or preaching the gospel in Spanish. It is not surprising that the first missionaries who arrived in Chile from the United States (1917-1926), advocated changes leading up to the 1925 Chilean Constitution or became active members of the Radical Party of the time. They wanted the freedom from the state and its bride, the Roman Catholic Church.
These Baptists brought many dollars to Chile (undoubtedly in the form of U.S. gold coins commonly circulating before 1933), investing the equivalent today of many hundreds of millions of pesos in: (1) paying salaries of more than ten full-time missionaries, largely with advanced degrees, (2) building many churches and pastoral residences between Santiago and Chiloé and also in Antofagasta, (3) launching a publishing house called El Lucero, a Christian radio broadcast, and a monthly magazine La Voz Bautista, (4) erecting a seminary on Miguel Claro street (Providencia, Santiago), and (5) building a main school in Temuco (initially for girls only) in 1921, led by Miss Agnes Graham, with branch or satellite schools around Temuco.
This last project was very successful, according to missionary Dr. William Earl Davidson, "Time proved the wisdom of co-educational venture, Miss Graham's school became the pilot co-educational school for all Chile." His Reminiscences of Our Mission to Chile 1917-1924, page 7. [Photo credit]
For Chilean Baptists, activism against the state—and its most egregious manifestations like communism—was necessary. This fact was evidenced in many articles they wrote on the subject, published in La Voz Bautista in 1922 and 1923. Baptists do not want to force anyone to attend church services or follow religious precepts. On the contrary, they want to live in a free society where they can preach the Gospel in peace, persuading others to join them by converting to Christ. The Baptist religion is simple and biblical, providing no place for the state—an institution that was (and often still is) repugnant for many Baptists, if not openly satanic.
The Chilean state was an annoyance to the early Baptist missionaries and first Chilean pastors like Honorio Espinoza, a law school graduate from the University of Chile and first Chilean president of the Baptist seminary in Santiago. All these men had graduate degrees—some of them holding doctorates (Davidson, 1928; Moore, 1944; McGavock, 1961; Maer, before 1941). Espinoza and Isaías Valdivia were examples of Chilean Baptist pastors who studied in prestigious seminars in the United States before 1940, returning to Chile to participate in the struggle against personal and social sins pervasive in Chile, being aided by their degrees and preparation. The intellectual Baptists of the time had a very high level of education, even by today's standards, and should be an example to follow for modern Baptists and other Evangelical, Protestant and Pentecostal Christians.
For example, the missionary Roberto Cecil Moore, who obtained his doctorate (Ph.D.) at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with his thesis The Economic Influence of Roman Catholicism in Chile, attributed mid-Twentieth Century Chilean poverty and backwardness to (1) useless dogma, (2) ecclesiastical corruption among the priests and other leaders, (3) the cruelty of the church to indigenous peoples, and (4) other abuses, such as the arbitrary extraction of money from ship captains arriving in Valparaíso under threat of excommunication.
After 25 years living in Chile, he wrote frankly in the same thesis:
Chile is infinitely behind other countries that have inferior resources, not because of inferior race, but because of a religion that gives inferior economic results. Is it too much to say that Chile is poor because it is Catholic? [p. 84]. Judged by the history of colonial Chile, Roman Catholicism is not conducive to intellectual liberty and exploration nor to inventiveness in any line. Catholicism is contrary to social change, and social change is essential to permanent economic well-being [p. 119].
He also wrote the book Men and Acts: Baptists of Chile (in Spanish, 1965), in which he recounts some difficulties that the missionaries had with the Chilean state. A famous example in his time, but almost forgotten today, is the case of the Baptist School located in Temuco, funded 100% by Southern Baptist churches in the United States, in order to eliminate illiteracy in the region and raise the academic level for girls. and (later) boys. Moore tells us on pages 101-102:
Another problem for the Baptists, and perhaps of greater danger, was their relationship with the state. As they became more well-known and their influence increased, so did the problems pertaining to their relationship with the state.
Years ago, a well-meaning Chilean congressmen managed to apportion a considerable sum for the Baptist School's budget, without first consulting with Agnes Graham. The provincial treasurer called her on the phone and said:
—"Miss Graham, your money is waiting for you."
—"What money? What are you talking about?"
—"Well, it is the government's subsidy for the Baptist School."
Agnes Graham could hardly convince the kind treasurer that the school was not going to accept tax money to teach the Baptist creed. And the problem has yet to be resolved. The solution is not easy.
On the one hand, Baptists are citizens and they want to be able to participate in government and public affairs such as this one. And they must have the same privileges and guarantees as any other person. On the other hand, the government needs all the support and moral guidance that the believer in Christ can bring.
Nevertheless, the Chilean state afflicted the Baptist School in Temuco, placing obstacles in its way and, apparently, compelling the closure of some satellites for being so "rebellious" by its refusal to accept state money [Moore, p. 85]. Like Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul, Baptists are often considered "rebels" in the eyes of the state.
Espinoza was the most prominent member of the first generation of Chilean Baptists who were trained by Baptist missionaries in the southern United States. He wrote: "Again and again formal means of social control such as government and law, with all their machinery and technique, fail to realize their purpose because they cannot deal with the spring of human action itself. Religion proves to be the force in that realm for social order [page 282]." (Source: "The Place of Religion in Social Control" (1940), Review & Expositor 37:3, pp. 282-285.) This reality is one of the reasons why state authorities are constantly looking for a way to control or manipulate religion—along with their private schools—in a way that furthers the state's ends.
The idea that the church and its institutions might have been controlled or manipulated by the state was repugnant to the early Chilean Baptists. As true libertarians, receiving state funds for such ends is just as bad—for a consistent Baptist—as paying taxes to accomplish religious ends. This idea was still underscored nearly four decades later, in La Voz Bautista of July 1961 (53:7, page 6), where the opposition of the Baptist churches to subsidize religious schools was affirmed under the principle of separation of church and state.
According to Moore, "in 1920 illiteracy in Chile was almost 50%" [page 50]. Could Chileans understand the word of God without having being able to read? Hardly! Thus, a school was necessary, but one without influence or connection with the state [page 84]. Moore recounted, "Some—especially the missionaries and some others—thought that accepting such government assistance to subsidize a Baptist school violated the principle of separation of state and church" [page 85]. This position caused some discord among them, since some Chileans were (mistakenly) willing to accept this form of state financing. They did not understand their own doctrine well, just like many modern Chilean Baptists whose biblical formation is not good.
The Bible teaches how Christians should act before authorities, normally submisively (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13), but not always (Acts 5:29; 2 Kings 1:9-11; Judges 3:17-23): "lest we offend them" unnecessarily (Matthew 17:27), try to "live peaceably with all men" (Romans 12:18), and also seek out an adequate public policy prescription so "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence" (1 Timothy 2:2), yet "if you can be made free, rather use it...You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men" (1 Corinthians 7:21,23). The Chilean Baptists of the first part of the Twentieth Century—such as Davidson, Moore, Graham, Espinoza and Valdivia—fulfilled this mandate.
It is high time for Chilean Baptists to recognize their biblical and historical roots and to act as "rebellious" libertarians instead of statists. Their faith should not depend on the state, nor should greater moral behavior in Chilean society. Their duty is to preach the Gospel and be political activists in the struggle to achieve freedom from the state and its most nefarious, vile and atheist manifestations—e.g., communism, radical ecology, radical feminism, gender identity or homosexuality, abortion rights, and the modern secular dogma of being politically correct. Like the Baptists, the Independence Party, without being a religious party, shares this same struggle against the state and its evil proactive policies.
I am certain that many consistent or dedicated Baptist activists in Chile, along with some of their counterparts in Presbyterian, Lutheran, Anglican, Opus Dei-style Catholic, etc. circles, will find this party to be the one that promotes their ideals and convictions.