JOHN McCAIN, SEMI-BAPTIST….The latest weirdness from the traveling carnival that is the Republican presidential campaign is John McCain’s sudden assertion that he’s not an Episcopalian, as he’s always identified himself before, but a Baptist. In fact, he’s been attending a Baptist church for 15 years. Only one problem: he’s never been, um, baptized. “I didn’t find it necessary to do so for my spiritual needs,” he told McClatchy a couple of months ago. Georgia cracker Ed Kilgore comments:

Well, you’d think anyone who’s been attending a Baptist Church for 15 years might have caught wind of the fact that the denomination, as its name suggests, believes rather adamantly that baptism is necessary for salvation, a reasonably important “spiritual need” by most measurements.

And no, it wouldn’t cut any ice with his fellow-Baptists if it turns out that McCain, like most Episcopalians, was baptized via sprinkling as an infant. Any kind of Baptist I’ve ever heard of holds that only a “believer’s baptism” (i.e., at an age of consent) through full bodily immersion is valid. That’s why their theological ancestors in Europe were contemptuously dubbed “Re-baptizers,” or “Anabaptists.”

I don’t know why McCain has chosen to wander into this particular thicket. But the only way out I can imagine is if he asks Huckabee to baptize him during the next candidate debate.

The June McClatchy story is here:

McCain still calls himself an Episcopalian, but he said he began attending North Phoenix Baptist because he found “the message and fundamental nature more fulfilling than I did in the Episcopal church. … They’re great believers in redemption, and so am I.”

I dunno. McCain may be a Baptist, but he sure doesn’t sound especially convinced about it. Still, it’d be a shame to waste all that pandering he did to Jerry Falwell last year. Baptist it is!

UPDATE: Several commenters and emailers have written to correct Ed’s theology. For example, gemini in comments:

I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church and can tell you that Baptists — at least Southern Baptists — do not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation. Rather, they consider baptism an outward sign of an inward conversion. They baptize — and yes, only by immersion — anyone who “accepts Christ.” But that acceptance is the only thing necessary for salvation.

And this via email:

Southern Baptists, the largest and most representative strain of evangelical Baptist denominations, believe that baptism is the second ordinance of the church (communion being the other), but while both are essential parts of the Christian’s life after conversion, they do not save. Rather they are sanctifying activities that perfect the saint’s redemption. Instead of asking if McCain has been baptized, most Baptists and/or evangelicals watching McCain in all this are going to ask: has he been saved? That is, has he had a personal experience with the Lord Jesus Christ, during which he prayed a sinner’s prayer, asked forgiveness for his sin(s), and invited Christ into his heart for eternity?

Right. Faith, not works. Faith, not works. Faith…..

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