Like Backus, modern Baptists must simultaneously be patriots and Christians, advocates for individual freedom of conscience while appealing to the souls of men to seek reconciliation with God. In this dual role, Baptists recognize that man’s ultimate good is union with Christ, that man is personally responsible before God, and that government is ordained by God. Everyone, including Muslims, is made in the image of God, possessing inherent dignity that is expressed in and through human capacity to hold sincere religious beliefs. This was clearly evident to Backus, and should be more evident to modern Baptists who have enjoyed living in a pluralistic society in existence for centuries.
The hypocrisy of those who criticize interfaith alliances for common purposes, like the alliance in the New Jersey mosque case, is that while they accuse such coalitions of putting politics before God, their underlying motive is to use the government to bolster and secure the faith of their choice. In reality, they are dishonoring the Baptist tradition of religious liberty established by those before them. What’s more, their position is short-sighted. Given the present shift in American demographics, it might not be too long before the Baptists are once again a powerless minority. And this time, it might be Muslims before whom they are pleading for “soul freedom.”
As the foundation of all our civil liberties, religious freedom is not and cannot be a Christian privilege only. We should eagerly work with our fellow citizens of other faiths to preserve this liberty, not because we agree on who God is, but because we do agree that the government does not get to answer that question for us. The type of coalition-building employed in the New Jersey mosque case mirrors the strange partnership that arguably established religious freedom itself in America (for instance, with Jefferson and the Danbury Baptists).