If only every Southern Baptist Elite were as gracious as Dr. Jason K. Allen. Allen’s response to an error this website made is an exemplar of graciousness. He engaged with real problems in the Southern Baptist Convention in a kind, gentle manner. His essay on Southern Baptist discourse cited Prince Metternich, Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) and terrorism—and included advice on how to engage with SBC leaders. It was a tour de force of softhearted openness. Let’s examine Dr. Allen’s wise advice and apply it to the modern problems in Big Evangelicalism.
Dr. Allen advises Southern Baptists to write letters to our entity heads. He writes,
“For inquirers, the best way to express concerns, especially if you don’t personally know the leader, is by writing them a letter. A letter arrives with a certain degree of formality, which prompts a response. A letter has a name associated with it, a return address and, hopefully, a cogent statement of the question or concern.
“If you write a letter to a ministry leader, especially a Southern Baptist leader, I’m confident you’ll receive an answer from them or their office. If not, you’ll have a legitimate complaint, and perhaps legitimate cause to escalate by writing the entity’s chairman of the board or even drawing public attention to the matter.”
If only this were true of every Southern Baptist leader!
In the experience of many Southern Baptist churches, Elite Southern Baptist leaders ignored legitimate requests. For example,
“In September 2016, Cadwell Baptist Church (Cadwell, Georgia) pastor J.T. Taylor penned hand-written letters to the heads of the ERLC, IMB, NAMB, the Georgia Baptist Convention, and both Steve Gaines and J.D. Greear. There were no responses from the ERLC, IMB or NAMB. Dr. J. Robert White, Executive Director and CEO of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board responded by letter and forwarded Taylor’s letter to Southern Baptist seminaries. This prompted a telephone call from Paige Patterson.”
Not every leader would be as forthcoming as Dr. Patterson, or no doubt, Dr. Allen would be. The example of the SBC proves this advice to be gracious naïveté. And just in case you don’t want to believe something from the Capstone Report—here’s the info on Cadwell Baptist Church from Religion News Service.
And lest you think we have only one example of the ERLC’s aloofness. Here’s another:
“Jesse Lott, senior teaching pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church (Hickory, NC) and members of his church penned letters to ERLC trustee chairman Kenneth Barbic. The letters of concern were mailed and so far, the church has only heard silence.
“We have received no type of response,” Lott said of their attempts to reach out to the ERLC trustees.
Accountability and the Southern Baptist Convention Elite
So, how do concerned Southern Baptists hold denominational leaders accountable? Not everyone and not every church can afford a trip to the exotic, big city locations where the Southern Baptist Convention holds its Annual Meeting.
And, it is not like Baptist Press will do anything to hold the SBC Elite to account. In fact, they even publish demonstrably false statements using Planned Parenthood logic to defend the Soros-funded Evangelical Immigration Table.
So, where does a conservative Southern Baptist turn?
The alternative media.
And this is where Dr. Allen graciously recognizes the power of the Internet’s disintermediation of information flow. He writes,
“With terrorism, there often is no state sponsor, thus, no identifiable nation-state against which to retaliate. The loss is imbalanced. A nation, like the United States, has everything to lose while an extremist, in a cave plotting an attack, has next-to-nothing to lose.
“With the arrival of the internet and, in particular blogging and social media, a similar scenario has developed in the online world. There’s an imbalance of loss when public accusations are made. The one who leads a public ministry has everything to lose, while an anonymous blogger has nothing to lose.
“This new reality is causing chaos in the Southern Baptist Convention. False accusations are circulated online daily. Ironically, some of these instigators aren’t even Southern Baptist. Nonetheless, they malign SBC ministries and sully the reputations of those who lead them. And, for Southern Baptists, our cooperative work is being threatened.”
Blogging is like terrorism in the SBC Elite view. One can only wonder what they think of Twitter and Facebook then.
But, Dr. Allen’s gracious response is instructive. SBC Elites fear alternative media. Why? It threatens the cooperative work.
Translation: It threatens the flow of dollars.
Why does it threaten the flow of dollars? Because people know more about Russell Moore and the political aims he and his ERLC pursue. And, the rank-and-file Southern Baptist doesn’t like it.
But, for the cooperative work to flourish, the dollars must flow.
And online critics threaten that flow. So, they are analogous to terrorists—not legitimate Southern Baptists concerned about the direction of the SBC.
We must assume the worst about anyone online. Error could not be bad information and a mistake. No, it is a Hitler-like lie. Seriously, the essay even cited Hitler’s dictum, “And, as Adolf Hitler famously reflected, ‘If you tell a big enough lie, and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.’”
Fortunately, the SBC Elites are this gracious when dealing with critics. This entire situation shows it, and Dr. Allen models the way forward in SBC discourse. He gives practical advice and we should all give it the consideration it requires.
The Southern Baptist Convention and Realpolitik
Bonus points for any essay that launches into contemporary issues with talk of Prince Metternich—the diplomat who kept a declining Austria as a Great Power for another century. It was a masterwork that kept the multi-ethnic Austria together until it was dismembered into smaller, less stable states by the hands of Wilsonian idealists at Versailles.
Of course, what is perplexing is this paragraph:
“Metternich observed that nation-states are motivated to act in their own best interest. That principle outlasted the man himself and, during the Cold War, it informed the United States’ posture toward the Soviet Union.”
Certainly, Metternich subscribed to raison d’état or what would later be known as realpolitik. However, this contradicts American foreign policy after Woodrow Wilson. Through FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan, America denied it had interests. As Henry Kissinger in his magnum opus, Diplomacy observed,
“In his only inaugural address, Kennedy carried the theme of America’s selflessness and duty to the world even further. Proclaiming his generation to be the linear descendant of the world’s first democratic revolution, he pledged his Administration, in soaring language, ‘Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.’ The sweeping American global commitment was not related to any specific national-security interest and exempted no country or region of the world.”
Or put another way, Kissinger explained: “America, in the pursuit of liberty, had no interests, only friends.” This is a minor point, but an important one. If the US pursued national interest instead of idealism, it would have avoided the Vietnam War and George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
From here, Dr. Allen’s essay takes a fascinating turn by pointing to Mutually Assured Destruction as the opposite form of World Order to what we experience in the Age of Terrorism—where threats are asymmetrical.
There is much to commend this analysis. Certainly, the world is different than the Cold War. States, corporations and celebrities (even celebrity pastors and seminary presidents) deal with asymmetrical threats to their image and power.
Of course, it is a strain to analogize online critics to political terrorists—but that’s just one element of the gracious reply. A key point—Dr. Allen recognizes a shift in the balance of power in the SBC.
The elites have lost control of the flow of information. For example, Breitbart or Todd Starnes or The Gateway Pundit or Pulpit & Pen or Reformation Charlotte or Enemies Within the Church or Sovereign Nations have 500x the reach of denominational Pravda. So, when Baptist Press decides to lie about the Evangelical Immigration Table’s relationship with George Soros, these other outlets can expose the truth.
And that’s what really troubles Evangelical Elites. They are losing power.
That’s the most revealing part of Dr. Allen’s gracious and illuminating essay on denominational discourse.