Why I Devote Little Time to “Calling Out” Left Wing People and Groups

I hear it all the time.

During the election, when I expressed my angst or my disgust about the actions of my former political party, the GOP (technically, due to laziness, I haven’t taken the time to officially change my registration), I would immediately and consistently be met with a chorus of, “but what about Hillary?” responses. I was asked why I didn’t confront her and condemn her more regularly. That has continued in several different forms but has come to a head recently in the Alt-right, KKK, White supremacist issues that have arisen in our land, especially the one that happened in Charlottesville’s “Unite the Right” rally a couple of weeks ago.

I have been challenged repeatedly for refusing to accept the moral equivalence of the Antifa or BLM with the Nazi/KKK/White supremacist groups that instigated the showdown.

  • Why can’t we just condemn ALL racism? Why just focus on one side, one group?
  • It has been asserted by more than one commenter here (sometimes in comments that have not seen the light of day) that the reason for this must be my sympathy with or support of BLM or Antifa. I’ve been called the “second most liberal man in the SBC.” Not sure who #1 was.
  • I have been accused of not really being against racism, of having a warped value system, and several other warm, fuzzy things.

I am not writing this to fight back, to answer those people, or to settle scores. I’ve been doing this for a decade now and have reached the point where things like that kind of roll off my back (depending on the source, I suppose). But I do think it is wise for me to explain why it is that I do what I do.

1. I admit to the fact that I tend to “call out” conservative, right-wing, GOP, and even white groups more than I do Democrats, leftists, or groups rooted in other races. I don’t much enjoy “call ’em out” posts anyway, but if I do write one, it will be about Baptists, conservatives, the GOP, or what is wrong in right-wing politics – with only a few exceptions.

2. This is not because I despise these groups or disdain them, but because I am PART of them. I be conservative. My personal politics are pretty far to the right on most issues. Theologically, I am an inerrantist, complementarian, YEC, dispensational-leaning, antinomist (middle-ground on Calvinism), who voted Republican in every presidential race since 1976 until this year, when I voted for a 3rd party candidate. I call out my own.

I am much more likely to call out Southern Baptists than the CBF, conservatives than liberals, the GOP than the Dems, racial issues from MY side than those from other races. There are reasons for that which I will try to briefly explain. I realize my reasons will not satisfy the critics or convince everyone else that I am right, but this is my moral choice, based on my convictions.

So, here it is.

1. I only disciplined my kids. 

Every once in a while, when we are out for a meal, I will tell my wife that I am going to go over to a family that is letting a child run roughshod in the restaurant and offer my services as a disciplinarian. Of course, that is nothing more than a joke. There are 4 people in the world against whom I have not “spared the rod” to spoil the child. Four. Only four. No more. They have my DNA in common. I only disciplined my own kids. I didn’t go around with a wooden spoon dealing with other family’s miscreants.

If I am going to call anyone out, it is likely to be “us” not “them.” I could stand up on Sunday at my church and preach against a host of sins, get applauded, and likely be called “courageous” for standing against evil. But in my church, it takes no courage to preach against homosexuality or adultery or spitting in the sink or any of those heinous evils in the world. As long as I focus on “other people’s sins” I am golden. When I turn my focus to the heart issues that may be affecting people in our fellowship, well sometimes that is less well received. “Us People’s Sins” are far less popular!

I believe that we ought to hold our own accountable. That’s why I dealt with the failings of the GOP far more than I ever have or ever will that of the Democratic Party. I don’t expect anything from the Democrats – their platform is pro-death, pro-perversion, pretty much pro-everything I’m against and anti-everything I’m for. But I once expected more from the GOP and therefore am more likely to call out their failures.

  • It offends me more when my side messes up.
  • I have more invested in my side getting it right.
  • I think I have a moral obligation to “remove the log from my own eye before I start removing the speck from others.”

I am more likely to call out white racism for reasons that are obvious if you look at a picture of me. I am white. Is it okay for me to opine about Black issues? Sure, I have a Bible and it speaks to all things. But in my blogging, my focus is going to be on me and mine more than them and theirs.

2. I do not accept the equivalence of evil. 

I am no fan of Antifa, BLM, or other left wing groups. The political ones seem to be made up of people who draw dangerously silly conclusions from misread evidence. And there are parts of these groups that use and promote violence. They should be prosecuted vigorously. I do not advocate for leniency for BLM or Antifa groups that break the law. If they do, they should be arrested and the full weight of justice brought to bear on them.

But I do not accept the argument that they are “just as bad.”

These are Nazis, KKK, white supremacists. Measuring evil is a difficult thing to do, I know, and so this is an argument I won’t win with anyone not inclined to agree with me already, but the evil of the protagonists here (the white supremacists) seem to far outweigh the evil of the reactionaries (Antifa, etc).

No one’s evil should be excused, but neither should it all be equated.

3. There is a danger is the equivalence of evil.

It is a phenomenon I have seen since my first foray into a blogpost comment section. It bothered me then and continues to bother me today. When someone brings up a problem in something Rev X has said or done, those on “his side” retort, “but what about what Rev Y did?” If you chastise X for his unkind words, you are reminded that Y said some first. If you call out the tactics of X, well, Y did the same – and worse.

It is certainly not the intent of every person who highlights the misdeeds of BLM or Antifa, but the danger is there that by doing that we can be either tacitly or intentionally giving cover to the “Unite the Right” evil-doers. Again, I am not accusing everyone of intending that, but it is a danger. Better to just condemn the instigators of the evil and deal with the reactionaries another time.

4. There’s history there. 

Imagine, for the sake of illustration, that two men are fighting. One is beating the other senseless, for hours – a cruel, violent act. Towards the end, the second man rallies his strength and fights back, landing two or three blows. The police come along and arrest both men, saying, “We cannot excuse either of you for committing assault. To hit another person is wrong. Just wrong. You both were guilty of assault and you both have to pay.” Justice cries out for the man who gave the beating for hours to pay a higher price than the one who fought back for a minute or so.

For more than 400 years, white America has treated minorities horribly. Whites enslaved Blacks, brutalized them, subjugated them, tore down their family structures, discriminated against them and denied their basic civil rights. Our nation’s treatment of the Native peoples is a shameful story as well. The internment of Japanese was not a proud moment. There is much that is good about America and its history, but the besetting sin has been the fact that White America has treated this land as our land and people of color as guests on it. I love my nation, but I am not proud of our history of treatment of minorities.

Now, in recent years, as they have gained civil rights, some Black groups have gone too far. They have. There is no justification for acts of violence or other things that have been done. I have no sympathy for them. But history makes me wonder if we really want to be equating the suffering and abuse of minorities in America and the sufferings inflicted by BLM. This is not to excuse what they have done, but they have a long way to go to come close to matching the centuries of mistreatment that has happened – as is still happening today is some circles.

5. Clean your optics. 

My camera was taking bad pictures and I wondered if something had gone wrong with it. Then I noticed what the problem was – the lens was smudged. It was gunky and so the pictures were smeared.

Sometimes our hearts can be good but our optics can be bad. I think there are a lot of good-intentioned, well-meaning Christians who really truly think they are defending “truth, justice, and the American Way” when they say things like “I am against ALL forms of racism.” Of course, you are. We all are – hopefully. But when read the great article that Kyle Howard wrote. The optics on that are not good. It looks to many of our Black brothers and sisters like we are wafflings, making excuses, and defending the indefensible when we do that.

We need to keep our optics clean – because of history and our commitment to gospel purposes!

In Conclusion

Again, I don’t expect that any of this will convince those disposed to disagree. But it is not that I think that everything one side does is right and everything another does is wrong. That kind of thinking is foolish. But I believe my job is to clean MY house. I think we, White Christians, should be leading out in dealing with racism – exposing it, fighting it, and doing whatever we can to eliminate every trace of it from the church. Obviously, that will never happen till Christ returns, but it is a noble goal. We ought to stop doing anything that could even look like we are standing on the wrong side.

Christ is on the side of gospel unity, of races coming together as one. He is working to make “One New Man” by breaking down the walls that divide and establish a people from every tribe and language on earth. That is our destiny – we might as well get busy on that now.

Frustration, Irritation, and the Race Issue: Confessions from the SBC Voices “Brain Trust”

We had a discussion today on our private “editorial board forum.”  That’s a fancy term for our private Facebook group that started out as our Pastors’ Conference advisory board. Now it’s where we gather to solve the world’s problems, talk about sports, and discuss issues related to this blog. “Brain trust” might be a generous term at times, but it’s the closest thing SBC Voices has.

Charlottesville Racist Rally

Today our attention turned to our recent discussions of race. Our contributors here have a wide range of view on many subjects, but on issues related to racial reconciliation, we tend to operate from the same playbook. We believe that tearing down the walls of division between races and working to unite under the banner of Christ is an imperative of the gospel and we also think it is one of the chief issues facing the SBC today. That is obvious from the fact that we have made this a focus of many of our recent posts.

No doubt the discussions on these posts have become tense and frustrating. We have been annoyed at the responses of some of our readers and some of you have felt that we were unfairly painting you as racists for not agreeing with our views. We disagree with the characterization, but as we looked at the discussions we understood why people felt that way. Our goal is to bring people over to our side, not to drive them into an intransigent defense of positions we believe are unhelpful and in some cases harmful. We want to convince people not coerce them. Of course, we also recognize that some people will not be convinced and confronting them in their wrong views is the only option. We want that to be the last resort, not a first response.

So, we are working through how to keep doing what we are doing; how to convince people that racial reconciliation is a gospel priority, and how to convince people that some of their rhetoric is harmful, unwise, and misguided, without unnecessarily putting people on the defensive.

I like to categorize. Here are some of the characters I’ve observed in this discussion.

The Cast of Characters

1. There are racists in the SBC. Make no mistake about it. They are here. I do not believe they exist among our denominational structure and there are very few pastors who fall into this category, but there are members of SBC churches who hold to despicable, dark, even Satanic views on racial issues. There were probably Southern Baptists in Charlottesville. I believe they are a minority among us, but they are here.

2. There are system defenders in the SBC. This is a much larger group. They do not actively harbor hatred toward Black people, but they love their way of life and do not want the “system” to change. They are true conservatives – wanting to “conserve” what exists. Some love the culture of the South and so resisted on the Confederate Flag issue. They don’t mind people of other races taking part in our denomination as long as they don’t change the way we do things. Culturally, politically, ecclesiologically – they just don’t want things to change.

System defenders resist most efforts toward racial reconciliation because they bring change. Black believers often don’t share our political outlook and many of our cultural assumptions. They don’t accept our system as right and good and best. They see things from a completely different perspective and system defenders do not like their rigid world view threatened.

3. The ‘whatabouters” abound. When someone brings up racism, they respond with a “whatabout” statement. “Whatabout. BLM?” Whatabout this? Whatabout that? They refuse to deal with racism unless every form of hatred out there is also condemned. We cannot condemn white supremacy unless we also condemn the Antifa and BLM and you name it. They specialize in moral equivalence arguments.

They do not deny that racism exists and protest loudly that they are not racists, but insist that white supremacy and racism only be dealt with as a part of the spectrum of evil, not as a unique or separate thing. If you don’t deal with ALL sin you can’t deal with any sin.

4. There are “gospel issue” folks like most of us here at Voices, who believe from Revelation 7, Ephesians 2, and other passages that the formation of One Body out of many nations on earth is a key purpose of the death of Christ – therefore a “gospel issue.” We cannot ignore it. The racially divided church is not fulfilling the purpose of God. We believe that it is incumbent on the church to address the effects of 400 years of racism and do better than we have been doing.

Of course, there are more than these four categories, but these are the main groupings I’ve seen in our discussions here. And, unfortunately, there’s plenty of the “works of the flesh” in all our discussions!

Going Forward

Our views and approaches are not identical – we have had some disagreements among the Brain Trust about approaches and such. But in general, we agree that racial reconciliation is a core gospel issue for the church. Many of you do not see it that way. Of course, that is going to lead to some tension and conflict. Discussions of race are always fraught with tension and full of land mines. We understand that. Discussions of race are not going to be easy – ever. But we want to make our agenda plain and clear and share our heart about tactics.

But we want to make our agenda and purposes as plain as we can. It is not our purpose to be disrespectful or disdainful, but we are passionate. We are constantly trying to figure out how to do this better, but make no mistake, we are going to continue to do this!  So, here are some of the things we have discussed.

1. Alan Cross uses the term “tell a better story.” That’s what we want to challenge the SBC to do. For most of 200 years we’ve told a story to the world about race that has not been the greatest. We want to challenge our beloved denomination to “tell a better story.” Speak love. Speak unity. Speak reconciliation. Condemn racism in every form. Sorry, but we are not planning to back down on this issue.

2. We at Voices are not infallible (duh?). We understand that disagreeing with us doesn’t make you a racist. We really do.

Because we are passionate in stating our views we get that a lot. “You are calling everyone who disagrees a racist.” Actually, we haven’t done that. Because we say we don’t think the way you respond is good does not mean we are calling you racist.

  • If we believe a comment is RACIST – it gets deleted. BOOM! We do not tolerate racist comments. You would receive either a private or public rebuke and would go on moderation. No tolerance. If you are commenting here, it’s because we HAVEN’T labeled you a racist.
  • We have a couple of our regulars who push that line from time to time but don’t cross it. They make comments that horrify us but don’t quite cross the line into racism.
  • We have a few folks who seem to resist EVERYTHING that the SBC ever does to promote racial harmony and reconciliation – I mean everything. Every resolution, every action, every effort – they loudly claim not to be racist but oppose every effort we do against racism. We form some opinions about these folks – I won’t lie to you.

All of that to say, we do not believe the vast majority of you are racist. If we did, your comments would be BLOCKED!

3. However, we do believe some of you hold views that hinder the process of racial reconciliation. The system defenders and whatabouters may not have racism in their hearts but are often defending an unhealthy status quo and hindering necessary changes. We ask you to understand that in our view, defending the status quo, being a “system defender” or a “Whatabouter” is harmful to the godly work of racial reconciliation. That doesn’t make you a racist, but it makes you a hindrance!

So, we can say, “What you are doing is hindering the process of reconciliation” without believing that you are a racist.  We believe that some of you do things that “tell the wrong story” and that hurt our Black brothers and sisters, damaging our witness in this world. So, we confront your words, your tactics, and your logic, because we believe they have effects we hope you don’t intend, hurting the divinely commanded process of building One Body from many nations.

4. We also realize that stridency can be counterproductive.  We cannot back off or compromise, but there comes a point when our frustration and irritation rises to a level where our rhetoric escalates. People dig into positions we don’t want them to hold on to and would like to convince them to abandon. We want to convince you to join the racial reconciliation movement if you have not already. We want to convince you to stop whatabouting and system defending. We cannot just “agree to disagree” because the issues at stake, for us, are rooted in the gospel. Some of you just won’t be convinced, no matter what, but we want to be productive and redemptive where we can be.

So, we are working on “telling a better story” and telling our story a better way. Ultimately, though, we believe it is the truth of God and we trust that the Spirit of God will convince you. We just don’t want to hinder that with anything we would do. It is tricky and we will never get it perfectly right.

We will never stop trying.

Scriptures to Ponder

Revelation 7:9-10 After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

Salvation belongs to our God,
who is seated on the throne,
and to the Lamb!

Ephesians 2:13-18 But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In his flesh, 15 he made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that he might create in himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. 16 He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death. 17 He came and proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father. 

Robert Jeffress and Romans 13: Troubling Comments

We Southern Baptists are back in the news this week, and it isn’t for our gospel efforts.

A few days ago, in a statement to the Brody File, Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, made this statement.

When it comes to how we should deal with evil doers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un. I’m heartened to see that our president — contrary to what we’ve seen with past administrations who have taken, at best, a sheepish stance toward dictators and oppressors — will not tolerate any threat against the American people. When President Trump draws a red line, he will not erase it, move it, or back away from it. Thank God for a President who is serious about protecting our country.

A story at Dallas News by Sarah Pulliam Bailey contained some follow-up quotes from Pastor Jeffress.

He made it clear that he sees Romans 13 as authorizing Trump’s administration to undertake almost unlimited actions against Kim from North Korea.

That gives the government to the authority to do whatever, whether it’s assassination, capital punishment or evil punishment to quell the actions of evildoers like Kim Jong Un.

Did he say that the government has the authority to do evil (evil punishment) to quell evildoers? Am I reading him right there?

Of course, he also denigrated anyone who did not see this passage as he does.

Some Christians, perhaps younger Christians, have to think this through. It’s antithetical to some of the mushy rhetoric you hear from some circles today. Frankly, it’s because they are not well taught in the scriptures.

One need never wonder where Robert Jeffress stands – that is squarely behind President Trump. But is he right that his view of Romans 13 is the only view, and that anyone who doesn’t agree with him is theologically ignorant? Does Romans 13 grant our government unfettered right to destroy the clearly unhinged ruler of North Korea?

And when is it unwise to “think this through?” Isn’t thoughtful exegesis a good thing?

I would offer the following thoughts.

1. Kim is undoubtedly a cruel and evil dictator who has caused great harm to this world. He appears to be detached from reality, vicious, and violent. He ignores basic human rights, abuses his own people, persecutes Christians, and makes wild threats against other nations. He claims to have nuclear weapons. An evil madman with nuclear weapons – yes, our government has legitimate interests in dealing with him. The question is not whether we should deal with him, but how. More importantly, the question is what kinds of violence are justified in that effort.

2. Evangelical Christians have generally followed the theory of Just War since Augustine first began to develop these principles. They are not spelled out biblically or universally adhered to, and some pacifists reject them entirely. But one site gives a fair summary. 

  • A just war must be undertaken as a last resort after peaceful options are considered and exhausted.
  • A just war is waged by a legitimate governmental authority, not by individuals or groups.
  • A just war must have a just cause. It must be a response to a wrong suffered. Either it should be self-defense or the pursuit of a noble and just goal.
  • A just war should have a rational probability of success. Entering into hopeless causes is not just.
  • A just war must be undertaken with the right intentions – to establish peace and to enforce justice.
  • A just war must engage only in violence proportional to the casualties suffered. Only that amount of force necessary to accomplish the just goal should be used.
  • A just war must distinguish between military and civilians. Civilians must never be the target of military action. Civilian deaths are unavoidable in war, but they should be avoided as much as is possible.

Is military action against North Korea and Kim Jong Un justified? He seems to be dangerous and is threatening peaceful nations around him. Have all peaceful options been exhausted? I am not an expert in geo-political affairs, but it seems like nothing has worked so far. Military action may well be our only option.

The question is whether the force of some of Jeffress’ words is in the spirit of just war. Perhaps he is engaging in hyperbole for effect, but the tone of his words is troubling. Are there limits to how far we can go in destroying Kim and his regime? Does anything go? Does Romans 13 authorize a no-holds-barred destruction of North Korea?

3. Romans 13 is not just for America.

Ultimately, this is my quarrel with the tone of many “God and country” homilies – they seem to imply a special place for America in the heart of God. Romans 13 was written in the Roman Empire. The authority given power there was Nero – if he was an improvement on Kim, it was not by much.

Bart Barber tweeted an interesting thought, which I assume was in response to this kerfuffle.

Kim Jong Un is a murderous dictator, but Romans 13 gives him just as much authority as it does to President Trump. #Exegesis.

He followed that up with a Facebook comment.

Apart from the politics, I think the meaning of Romans 13 is lost if we think that it applies only to leaders we favor of our own country in those decisions with which we agree. It applied, you know, to a dictatorial, anti-Christian, foreign oppressor named Nero.

Romans 13 does not just apply to America – we are not God’s special chosen.

4. No government’s authority is unlimited.

The statement that causes me the greatest angst is his statement, “That gives the government to the authority to do whatever…” Following that statement, he included assassinations, something most civilized governments frown on as a tactic of war, and “evil punishment.” I don’t know what that means, but it sounds ominous.

No, we do not have the right to do evil in the pursuit of good. The ends do not justify the means. Civilized nations put limits on the extent of warfare and a prominent pastor encouraging war without moral limits is troubling.

5. As pastors, we ought to remember what team we play for.

Yes, Kim is nuts. Military action against him may be necessary, just, and wise. As an American, I would cheer for the removal of Kim from power. But my highest calling is not as an American, but as an ambassador of Christ. As such, I must remember that the North Koreans are not our enemy, they are the battleground. We don’t fight AGAINST them, we fight FOR them. We wrestle against principalities and powers for people who are enslaved in the darkness. We are here FOR Muslims and FOR North Koreans and FOR Chinese and FOR…well, people of every tribe and language.

Our citizenship is in heaven.

Our loyalties will always be divided. As Americans, we will rejoice when an evil dictator is confronted and brought low. History has not supported the idea that good results when evil is allowed to fester. But our hearts, our focus, AND OUR PUBLIC WORDS should be focused on gospel concerns. Is it really best for a Baptist preacher to be cheerleading for war? Is that the message we want to send to the world? Does that further the cause of the Great Commission?

6. Jeffress’ statement that he didn’t want Trump to obey the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount is baffling.

The Dallas news article has this quote.

A Christian writer asked me, ‘Don’t you want the president to embody the Sermon on the Mount? I said absolutely not.

Why would he instruct the President not to live out the teachings of Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 5-7. I was bothered when his inaugural message left out the gospel entirely, but actively instructing the President not to conform his life to the teachings of God’s word? I don’t get it. I am not going to read an explanation into it, but I sure wish he’d explain his comments.

Ought we ever to encourage people not to obey Scripture?

7. Robert Jeffress is NOT a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention. 

I say this for the many secular and non-SBC readers who have begun to follow our blogposts here. Southern Baptist churches are autonomous and no Southern Baptist speaks for all Southern Baptists. FBC, Dallas, is certainly one of our most famous pulpits, but the pastor of that church speaks for himself, perhaps his church, and not for the convention. Yes, many agree with him, but many do not.

I speak for myself. I don’t represent the SBC. I don’t even speak for my church on this blog. Robert Jeffress does not speak for me, or for Southern Baptists. Whether his opinions are a majority or not, I don’t know. Yes, most evangelicals voted for Trump, but most I talked to did so with much less enthusiasm than Jeffress did.

Simply put, in Southern Baptist life, no individual speaks for all of us.

Wrapping It Up

I do not anathematize Jeffress’ comments, but they disturb me. I agree with some of his points but he goes too far and his excesses nullify the value of the truths he shares, in my view.

  1. I agree with him that Romans 13 authorizes governments to deal with evildoers. I do not believe it applies to America in any way over other nations. I do not believe it gives the government of our nation or any other unchecked authority to do whatever it wants. I do not think that Robert Jeffress is giving a full and accurate exposition of Romans 13 in his comments.
  2. I agree with him that our government should be concerned about Kim and North Korea but I do not believe that Jeffress’ rhetoric is helpful. As pastors, we ought to serve as the conscience of the land, not as cheerleaders for the war machine. We ought to be examining Scripture and applying just war principles, not encouraging assassinations and “evil punishment” in other lands. Our hearts ought to be focused on gospel efforts more than military ones. Yes, it is true that the removal of Kim would, in the long run, open doors in Korea (depending on what follows), but we are always courting disaster when we become the rooting section for a politician or for an administration.
  3. I agree with him that we want a president with backbone willing to stand up against those who would do evil in the world. However, his rhetoric drifts into dangerous waters. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Our system is designed to make sure no one has unhindered power.
  4. I am not sure what he meant when he encouraged the president not to live out the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, but that statement baffles me, befuddles me, and bothers me. (Got 3 alliterated words in there!)
  5. Perhaps most disturbing is Jeffress’ tone, obviously a subjective thing. He seems combative and aggressive. Dr. Mohler had a comment on Facebook last night that captured what I believe is a much more biblical attitude in a situation like this.

With heavy hearts, thoughtful and biblical Christians recognize that military action is sometimes absolutely called for; but it’s never called for for Christians to be bellicose, in any way to celebrate war.

While Dr. Jeffress has a nugget of truth, his erroneous statements and false applications of those truths, coupled with his bellicose tone and indiscriminate support of war are red flags. Was he just being hyperbolic? Unguarded? Maybe. But he usually seems to know what he’s saying.

Yes, I believe there is still reason to “think this through” not to be mushy, but to come to greater clarity than his words offer.

 

NOTE: An excellent article by Christianity Today’s Mark Galli explored some of these topics, especially the subject of nuclear war and also Jeffress’ use of Romans 13. It is not Scripture and not inerrant, but it makes some interesting points and is worth reading. 

DISCUSSION NOTES: I realize this is a “trigger” post. Criticizing Jeffress has become an SBC taboo. I am not denigrating him, but I do question his statements – whether they are wise. So, if you wish to discuss this, you will NOT insult Jeffress personally nor will you insult personally anyone who questions Jeffress. Deal with the IDEAS.

And, I may be a little more heavy-handed with moderation to keep us on topic. Rabbit trails here are fraught with land mines!

We’re Flattered, But…

I read a few tweets on the SBC Voices Twitter feed last night and I realized that there is a misperception out there among some about who we are. I know you regular SBCers know this, but there are some things I need to make clear.

We’ve been “blessed” recently to have some of our articles referenced in major news articles – pro and con.  It is gratifying to get noticed outside the Baptist world, but folks, we must admit it – we Southern Baptists are weird. People don’t understand our structure, our ecclesiology, our autonomy. These links draw people to this site from the secular world, from the non-SBC evangelical world, and from the mainline, liberal world. Let’s face it, most Southern Baptists really don’t know how the SBC works. People are used to hierarchical denominations where power and authority rests with the home office. People have no idea who we are and when I try to explain it they act like I am trying to dodge responsibility.

Robert Jeffress has infuriated a lot of people with his comments about North Korea. I’m not going to comment on that here (and we aren’t going to discuss it here). But there were several calls demanding that we do something about Robert Jeffress. “What are you going to do about this, SBC Voices?”

I asked one of the more belligerent of those making demands, “What exactly would you have us do?” The answers came back.

SBC Voices was expected to:

  • Disfellowship FBC Dallas from the SBC, and
  • Revoke Robert Jeffress’ ordination.

Unless there have been some changes to the bylaws of the SBC that no one informed me about, we here at SBC Voices do NOT hold that kind of power.

I tried to explain to this man that even the Executive Committee of the SBC did not have that power. My youngest son just received pastoral credentials from another denomination (he went out from us because he was not of us?). They were issued by the denomination and they can be revoked by the denomination. In our world, ordination is performed by a local church and can only be revoked by that church.

Frank Page and the Executive Committee have no more power to defrock a pastor (even if they wanted to – I’m not saying they do in this case) than I do. They have the limited ability to recommend we disfellowship a church based on established constitutional grounds, but those are limited. We are an association of independent churches and we do not have an authoritarian hierarchy. The man I talked to simply refused to believe it, but it is true.

Here are the facts for our non-SBC visitors: 

1. SBC Voices is a blog run by a group of SBC pastors. On this blog, we express our opinions. We seek to have a range of views on most issues that face the SBC, and the opinions expressed in the blog are those of the author of the post. We have a few rules and loose editorial guidelines, but mostly we just try to do what we think is right. I have struggled for seven years to come up with rules for blogging. There are none. You just have to try to do the right thing, and start over when you don’t.

2. SBC Voices has NO official affiliation with the structure of the SBC. I consider just about everyone at the SBC Executive Committee a friend, but we are not under their authority. We are not an SBC entity, but a group of SBC pastors with opinions.

3. SBC Voices has very few editorial opinions. There are a couple. We are pretty uniform in our commitment to racial reconciliation and intolerant of anything that smacks of racism. But on most issues, we have contributors on all sides and are willing to post well-written counterpoints to any point we make. But, asking us to “do something about x” is pretty pointless. If we have strong convictions about it, we will write on it, but we are not people of power, we are pastors with keyboards.

4. I realize that the SBC is odd to most who are not part of our group. We are odd to many and even our own people don’t understand how things run. Let me give you a brief synopsis.

  • The SBC’s denominational officers hold NO authority over local churches. Frank Page, our “CEO” cannot tell any pastor or church what to do, cannot discipline pastors or churches, has only the most limited authority. He organizes, strategizes, encourages, administrates, promotes, but he does not rule.
  • The authority in the SBC rests in autonomous local churches. Churches run themselves, ordain pastors, discipline members (theoretically), and choose to fellowship and partner together in our combined missions work.
  • No Southern Baptist speaks on behalf of all Southern Baptists.
  • If you are upset about something a Southern Baptist pastor or leader says or does, your recourse is to complain to the church that person is a member of or the entity at which the person works. Asking the “SBC” to take action against someone you don’t like is pointless. We are independent churches. It’s like going into Target to complain about how messy things are at Walmart.
  • We believe that our highest authority is God’s word, though we are horrendously imperfect at following that. If you look under the Southern Baptist hood, you will find a lot of problems, but we are also a people who love Jesus, love the Bible, and want the world to know the gospel.

If you are going to rail at us, it would help to have a rudimentary understanding of us.

Now, to respond to the tweets. No, I am not going to revoke Robert Jeffress’ ordination because no one in the world gave me that right and I am not going to disfellowship FBC, Dallas because guess what – I’m a pastor in Iowa and no-can-do.

Besides, if I could defrock pastors and disfellowship churches, I’d be working through a long list of candidates before I got to YOUR complaints!