On Wednesday, March 20, 1991, Wall Street Journal readers were greeted with the following headline: "Tennessee Baptists Turn to Judaism For New Inspiration: Christian Fundamentalists Seek Roots of Their Faith; There Goes the Steeple." The steeple in question was that of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Athens, Tenessee, in the heart of the Bible belt, and its minister, the Rev. J. David Davis. He and his worshippers had decided that the steeple was a pagan symbol and they took it down. This steeple removal was a long time in coming. Growing up in the rural South during the fifties, Rev. Davis notes that "there was never a time in my life that I was not aware of G-d." At age five he felt G-d's presence while lying on his back in a field of clover; but he did not feel that Presence in Church. More than fifteen years later, married with a family, Davis joined a Baptist church in Covington, Georgia. His questions about religion and the origins of Christianity only intensfied, and he began a lifelong study of the Bible and of religion. Eventually he began formal study at an evangelical seminary and eventually became a highly successful preacher and minister. But the questions continued. Over time he and a core of his congregation concluded that in issue after the early Christian church had adopted pagan rituals and beliefs. They began to do away with them, one by one. In the end, he and his remaining congregants realized that they were called upon to be Noachides followers of the laws which Jewish teaching ascribes to G-d's revelation to Noah. These include most of the Ten Commandments, with the exception of the Sabbath, but also other prohibitions, some thirty commandments as interpreted by Jewish thinkers through the ages. Now, some six years later, Mr. Davis' congregation is the largest Noachide group in the United States, and he has become one of the spokesmen for a growing number of non-Jews who follow the Jewish laws applicable to Gentiles, as interpreted by Jewish teaching. In Finding the G-d of Noah, a memoir of his religious life, Mr. Davis tells of the doubts and perplexities which first led to deepening of his commitment to Southern Baptist theology, his progressive estrangement from it and from Christianity. It is also the story of a congregation which shared in Davis' religious quest.
by J. David Davis