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A “buzzard Baptist” is someone who identifies as a member of the Baptist faith, but only attends funerals, not regular religious services. Some members of many other religious denominations could also be considered “buzzards,” but Baptists are particularly famous for coining entertaining terms to describe their approach to religion, so the idea is most closely associated with the Baptist community.
A typical buzzard Baptist knows where the church is, and is certainly aware of when religious services are held, but chooses only to attend funerals to mark the passing of community members. He or she typically also refrains from engaging in church activities like socials, fund raising events, and so forth, and could be considered a less active member of the congregation.
Funerals are an important part of life, so if one is only going to pick one type of religious service to attend, the logic in focusing on funerals is understandable. Funerals also tend to draw out more members of the community, allowing people to connect with each other, discuss community issues, and catch up on missed news and events. For a buzzard Baptist, being present at a funeral may also be a mark of respect to the deceased and a nod to his or her professed faith.
The term is also sometimes used to describe people who only show up at church events which are likely to include food, a reference to the food-seeking habits of the buzzard. This type of buzzard Baptist may be reluctant to provide or cook food for church events, but takes delight in eating it, and may also take these events as a chance to meet up with other people in the community.
This term could be considered disparaging, suggesting that a buzzard Baptist lacks a deep sense of religious conviction and commitment to the church. Certainly only showing up at funerals would give one a rather skewed view of one's religion, and church officials usually know who the buzzards in their congregations are. A buzzard Baptist may also come in for some teasing from members of the community who note his or her churchgoing habits, especially in areas where religious faith is viewed as an extremely important part of personal identity.