Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: Dissension

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dissension

People are going to disagree. So are Christians. Difference of opinion is not only a reality of life incapable of being avoided, but it is also a healthy means by which our own beliefs, philosophies, and interpretations are kept in check. The question we ask ourselves, especially as Christians, is how do we disagree? And more to the point of this article, by what manner do we display and publish our varying opinion?

I remember shopping in "Moody Christian Bookstore" in Kingsport, TN one late evening when I was 14 years old. I was with my dad. As I was flipping through the hanger of shirts they had for sale, I came across a shirt that I thought was the most powerful and downright cool shirt I had ever seen. It was a white shirt with a picture of a small newborn baby on the front. Coming down toward the baby was a razor edge knife. The caption on the shirt said "Call abortion what it is: MURDER." The word "murder" was written with dripping blood. On the back of the shirt was a Bible verse, alerting all who see my shirt that I am a Christian who is opposed to abortion. I took the shirt to my dad and asked him to buy it for me. The conversation that ensued in Moody Bible Bookstore is one of many with my dad in which I understood a little more what it meant to be a Christian. He explained that although it was fine to hold strong convictions about an issue such as abortion, sometimes the way we go about displaying those convictions can actually damage the very message we want to convey. It is a lesson I use everyday in my life and ministry. Regardless of my stance on abortion, to try and "convince" others of my view by using tasteless imagery not only weakens my position on the abortion issue, but also damages the reputation of Christians who are honestly and with integrity discussing the issue, trying to make changes.

We didn't buy the shirt.

There is an event coming up in Baptist life that is controversial. I have written a few articles on the event already. It is called the "New Baptist Covenant" and on January 30th, 2008, a meeting in Atlanta, GA will officially kick things off. According to their website, the leaders of the new covenant "affirmed their desire to speak and work together to create an authentic and genuine prophetic Baptist voice in these complex times. They reaffirmed their commitment to traditional Baptist values, including sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and its implications for public and private morality. They specifically committed themselves to their obligation as Christians to promote peace with justice, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and the marginalized, welcome the strangers among us, and promote religious liberty and respect for religious diversity." Luke 4:18-19 is the key text for the meeting.

I don't particularly like labels, but sometimes there is just no other way to really get across a meaning without using them. In this case, the New Baptist Covenant has leadership who are typically considered to be "moderate Baptists."

So, people are going to disagree. We know that, and it is ok. But I have recently come across one blog that just simply isn't doing it right. I am not going to link to it here for several reasons, not the least of which centers around the fact that the owner of the blog is not identifying himself. Now, pay attention to this next part, it is very important. . . .

I agree with much of what he is saying. I'm not particularly thrilled about some of the leaders and speakers with whom the New Covenant is unifying. There are issues at stake that New Covenant folks seem to be more "flexible" on than I am comfortable with.

Unfortunately, the image he is painting on the shirt is primarily tasteless. We are back in Moody Bible Bookstore. To advertise his blog, he has been "spamming" other Christian based blogs, most of which support the CBF and New Covenant. The blog is set up in a fashion that comes across as a "National Enquirer" to "expose" the truth of the New Baptist Covenant. He is throwing words around like "Marxist" and singling out religion programs across the area, such as Belmont and Baylor, calling it "sad" what is happening there. His replies to those who have commented comes across as arrogant, such as saying "people who matter are still awake." But the real kicker is that this person just will not identify themself, claiming "good reasons" for not doing so.

Look, maybe they do have a good reason. But that good reason must also keep them from setting up a blog that makes these kinds of assertions. Second, if you really have a passion about getting the word out, do it with respect and integrity so that not only will his message have more appeal, but also for the sake of those who don't agree with New Covenant and are trying to dialogue in respectable ways. This discredits those people, just like "Christian" abortion clinic bombers discredit the voice of those Christians who peacefully and respectably voice their opposition.

I am certainly not suggesting that we should not sometimes make some noise and do what it takes to be heard. But even then, we should never jeopardize our first and foremost obligation to be people of God, people who will refuse to join in the game of malicious behavior to get a point across.

I wish my brother in the faith would take down this current blog and establish another. This second blog should have a profile about who he is and what he does. The very first article should be an introduction to his passion for God and the things of God and then introduce legitimate concern for what is coming up in 2008. He should make a noise, and still leave the shirt on the rack.

10 Comments:

Blogger Mike Ruffin said...

Philip,

This post is right on target.

I let myself get involved in some discussions on the blog that you reference. Silly me--I thought that the person running the blog wanted to have a real discussion. And, to be fair, he and I had a couple of civil exchanges. I did, though, question him as to why he would not i.d. himself. He said that he had good reasons. He also said that he was a member of a CBF church.

I have concluded that he cannot and should not be taken seriously for these reasons. First, he still refuses to identify himself. Second, because he refuses to identify himself, it is impossible to verify the veracity of some of his claims, such as his supposed membership in a CBF church and his alleged ties to Belmont and Baylor. On that point, in one post, now changed, he said "find out how many Belmont Religion professors are members of Glendale Baptist Church." I checked. The answer is zero. Third, he began taking down comments left by someone who called his hand on a few things. Fourth, as of this morning at 10:15 a.m. Eastern, he has apparently stopped allowing comments at all.

Now, as you say, one should say what one needs to say. But how we say it is important. This person should identify himself. He should do more than engage in character assassination and attempts to establish guilt by association. He should, in short, display some Christian grace and love.

As you know, I am in support of the meeting next year. I hope/trust/believe/pray that some positive things for the Kingdom of God will come out of it. I am especially excited about the broad range of Baptists, especially from a racial and regional perspective, that will be involved. Are there some things about it that should give us pause? Certainly. But that's life in the real world. And those who have such concerns should say so, and if those concerns outweigh their belief that something positive could come out of the meeting, they should not participate.

Philip, I appreciate the fact that you state your convictions and that you do so with Christian grace. Our brother on that other blog could learn a lot from you.

Blessings.

July 14, 2007 10:28 AM  
Blogger Mike Ruffin said...

I need to adjust one thing from my previous comment. As of 10:45 a.m. Eastern, the comments are back on the blog in question.

July 14, 2007 10:45 AM  
Blogger Mike Ruffin said...

Not the comments from the person who called his hand--those are still gone. But he is allowing comments to be left again.

July 14, 2007 10:46 AM  
Blogger Bennett Willis said...

I have visited the blog in question a few times and have complained about the general approach and lack of information about the "author." I was reassured when Mike said he was not going back and even more reassured when my computer managed to lose the address. :) I'm not "finding" it again even if I run across some of his/her "ads" in other blog comments.

My impression is that he/she is young and has learned to be indignant about things but has no sense of history and the evils of wearing a "hood." Many of his/her defenders are also anonymous--or maybe they are just his/her responses to comments.

While I don't have a lot of hope for general help from the conference, it may show some that all Baptists don't think quite the same way.

I talked with a Baptist friend who is currently looking for a new church this week. She said (without any hinting from me) that a number of churches in the area are Baptist churches but unless you ask you won't find this out. It is really depressing when new churches are not willing to "fly our flag," but I understand why.

Bennett Willis

July 14, 2007 3:56 PM  
Blogger Tom Wilkinson said...

Beast,

I agree with Mike, your post has hit the nail on the head. I have not visited the site you mention but your remarks are worthy to be read by any who desire to voice their opinion.

I have also been following with interest your concerns about the KY Choir. The way you have been handling that issue is a testimony to what you have written here.

Many blessings on your ministry!

July 14, 2007 4:25 PM  
Blogger Bennett Willis said...

One thing to remember is that because you agree with a speaker (or even an organization) on some point, you don't necessarily support the person's or the organization's entire agenda or program. You may feel that it is important to support something--even if it is associated with something that you don't approve of.

Some people take the exactly opposite approach on anyone that they disagree with. The common phrase for this is "guilt by association." If you are seen in public with a person that they disagree with (for what ever reason, even reasons that are totally unrelated to the controversy) you clearly deserve to be "tarred" with the same enthusiasm as the other person--should the need arise.

We have seen this tactic used for 30+ years in SBC circles so it is not surprising that the "poster" in question has taken this approach. He/she is following a sad model.

Bennett Willis

July 16, 2007 1:01 PM  
Blogger Mike Ruffin said...

The blog in question has apparently been taken down. It's been unavailable for a couple of days now. Perhaps he will take your advice if he re-launches.

July 16, 2007 1:08 PM  
Anonymous Paul, in Bethel Park said...

I agree with you that graphic depictions of what abortion really is probably does some harm.

However, I believe it is important to speak the truth even when painful.

I have always said that we who are pro-life are missing a golden opportunity. Those who do not think like us should not be allowed to avoid the truth of what they defend. It should not be called pro-CHOICE, but pro-DEATH. That is what it is, pure and simple.

I assure you, I have never gotten in someone's face about the issue. But, whenever I referred to it as pro-death, I know the individual(s) appeared to actually think about it.

July 16, 2007 5:59 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

Glad to hear you didn't purchase the shirt. :)

By the way, I'm in the same Baylor/Belmont circle, and also a member of a CBF church...and I also have some concerns about the New Baptist Covenant meeting. My hope is that it becomes as ecumenical as they are advertising. My fear is that it becomes polemical and partisan.

This much is true...all eyes in the Baptist world (and beyond) will be upon them.

July 16, 2007 11:30 PM  
Blogger The Beast said...

Thanks everyone for the comments, sorry I have not been around to join in on the conversation, I have been away all week on a mission trip.

July 22, 2007 9:39 PM  

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