In a couple of months the NCAA selection committee will release its results and we will know which teams will participate in March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament. My team, the Iowa Hawkeyes, after a slow start, is playing better now. The Big 10 does not seem to be as good as it has been in recent years, so maybe the Black and Gold can garner enough wins to secure a place in the tourney. We have a lot of young players – three freshmen start and by the end of the season they might have matured.
Let’s say that they are a 7 seed, so their first game will be against a 10 seed. They will take that game in a narrow win then benefit in the second round from a shocking upset. Last year, Syracuse got to play #15 seed Middle Tennessee after they knocked off the #2 seed, the Fighting Izzos. Same thing. The Hawks beat the #15 team, then meet (again, like Syracuse) the #11 team in the Sweet 16 and knock them off. In the Elite 8, they face the #4 seeded team who knocked off the top seed, and the Hawkeyes play the game of their lives and find themselves in the Final Four as a 7 seed. There is a #1 seed, two 3s, and the good guys. The Hawks play one of the #3 teams and have one of those games where Peter Jok can’t miss a 3. He hits one from the corner at the buzzer and we are in the national championship game – against the other #3 which upset a #1. That team lost its best player to injury in the last minute of the semifinal and the Hawkeyes again play way over their heads, and I sit with tears streaming down my face while the band plays “Beer Barrel Polka” (yeah, that’s our song) and we celebrate “One Shining Moment.”
It could happen.
It could also happen that Dr. Russell Moore will lose his position at the ERLC in 2017.
You say, “Your Hawkeyes will never win the NCAA.” You are right. But I say that is about as likely as any effort to fire Russell Moore succeeding.
I have been involved in several conversations online in which the prevailing sense is that games are afoot designed to get Dr. Moore fired. There is a genuine fear that it is going to happen. No way,
The Real Reality of Realness
The vast majority of Southern Baptists do not understand how we operate as a denomination, which is why there has been such panic among some of the supporters of Dr. Moore.
The convention is set up so that our entities have a large degree of autonomy. The Annual Meeting of the SBC is not authorized to micromanage the inner workings of the entities.
- We elect trustees to oversee them.
- We decide on their doctrinal parameters.
- We vote a budget for them.
- We ask questions of their leaders.
Have you ever noticed how many motions get ruled out of order or referred to Trustees? Why? Because the convention is not supposed to put itself in the place of the Trustees and when a motion tries to that it is ruled out of order. My eyes were opened years ago when the Garner motion passed and we all (on my side of the blogging wars of the day) thought we’d won a great battle. Lo and behold we found that our motion made very little difference in the long run. You can ask the good Dr. Bart Barber to explain the ins and outs of this as he did to a miffed Iowa pastor back then, but the convention doesn’t dictate details to the entities.
The common complaint is that this is evidence of the convention not being accountable to the churches. Nonsense. This is the way the SBC was designed and it is good that it was set up that way. Do we really want our entities to be ruled by the whims of the moment? When a group of people gets upset and organizes a majority at a convention, should they be able to change the course of the denomination in a fit of anger? Our denomination is designed to balance stability and accountability.
Want to fire Dr. Moore? Want to fire Dr. Mohler, or Dr. Patterson, or anyone else? It can be done. You simply have to convince the convention that it is necessary and then elect a president at the next annual meeting. That president must appoint a Committee on Committees who the next year will nominate a Committee on Nominations (that order may be reversed – I can never keep that straight). They will then present a slate of nominees who support your position to the convention. When you get a majority of Trustees supporting your position, they can vote to fire the president. It will only take most of a decade to get it done.
Should it be easy?
Of course, you can also convince the current Trustees that you are right and the entity president is wrong. If you just want to cause trouble, you can make a motion to cut funding. That might actually be in order, though it is highly unlikely to pass.
Are the Hawkeyes going to win the NCAA basketball tournament? It’s not likely. But it’s about as likely as the idea that the talk about getting rid of Dr. Moore will come to pass.
The tendency to overreact is common among bloggers, and among Baptists. It is time that we tone down the talk and take a reality check here folks. There is a small group of anti-Moore devotees out there and they are not going to be satisfied with anything less than the John the Baptist outcome. They want his head on a platter. Need I name names? Who these people are is hardly a secret. They’ve been hammering at Dr. Moore since he was elected.
- He’s a Calvinist.
- He’s a liberal.
- He’s a Democrat.
- He once worked for a Democrat who (gasp) voted for Pelosi for Speaker.
There is little that can ever be done about this group – they will oppose Moore to the bitter end. But this group is only a tiny fraction not only of the SBC but even of those who have complaints about Dr. Moore. I’ve talked with several people recently who were not part of the knee-jerk anti-Moore contingent, but they had issues with either his words or his tone during the election. Just because someone disagrees with or criticizes Dr. Moore does not mean he has joined the hit squads.
We must get away from the binary extremes. One does not have to choose between being a passionate devotee of Moore, hanging on every word and believing his BO should be bottled as a perfume or being one who seeks his removal from office. There are those who believe Dr. Moore hung the moon and those who would like to see him hung, but many (most?) fall somewhere in between.
- There are people in the SBC who think that Dr. Moore is a courageous voice of truth who overstepped a bit in his rhetoric during the 2016 election. They appreciate his principled stands and prophetic voice but wish he would dial back the stridency at times.
- There are people who disagree with a lot of what Dr. Moore says on a lot of issues but still respect him for his character and courage. They have no desire to join the death squads but they wish he’d be a little more affirming to them on some of their issues of disagreement.
All of that is to say, calm down, folks. Yes, there are some hostiles out there who would love to find a way to end Dr. Moore’s tenure at the ERLC or bring down the ERLC altogether. They are taking advantage of this opportunity to advance their hostile intent. But they will fail and it is best if we just ignore them – that is usually the best course. Too often we let a small band of extremist breaking pitchers and blowing trumpets create the sense they are more than they are.
Baptists Face the Music
A few years ago one of the least Baptist things I’ve seen happened at the annual meeting. Some bloggers heard that an entity leader they liked was facing some potentially tough questioning, so they flooded the mics and asked him softball questions during his presentation. “What is it about puppies and kittens that you love so much?” They made sure that there was no time to ask difficult questions. It was shameful. That leader should have said, “Thank you, but I wonder if anyone has any tough questions?”
Baptist leaders are supposed to be accountable, to answer questions, to hear the complaints of those who are not their biggest fans. A leader who surrounds himself with yes-men who fawn over him and tell him he is right about everything, who will never disagree with him or challenge him when he is wrong – that is not a true Baptist leader. We do not have popes or bishops. I wish we would increase the amount of time at the SBC annual meeting given over to Q&A with entity leaders. It can lead to uncomfortable encounters, but it is essential.
That is why I appreciated Dr. Moore’s apology from a few days ago. He did not back down from the convictions which I have appreciated, but he showed a willingness to reconsider the tone of his rhetoric which I know has rubbed some people wrong – people who share a lot of his views.
It is a good thing when a Baptist leader hears his critics and responds to them. It is always tricky. You cannot enslave yourself trying to please those who only seek to undermine and destroy you. But it is easy to assume that every critic is trying to undermine you. Most are not. They may love you, support you, desire the best for you, but simply see something in you that they believe needs to change.
Just because someone is a critic does not mean he is an enemy.
1. Any one of us should feel free to respectfully express a disagreement with Dr. Moore, or even to criticize his statements or the way he made them. This should be true of any one of our leaders (except Frank Page – don’t criticize Frank Page around me or I’ll poke you in the eye). Those disagreements and criticisms should be carried out with integrity and honesty and should avoid caricature, false accusation, and twisting of arguments. But criticizing a leader is as Baptist as immersion.
2. We need to avoid consigning all critics to the ranks of the death squads. A person can be unhappy with some part of Dr. Moore’s positions or tone without desiring his dismissal. Those who support Moore need to learn subtlety at times. Do not paint every critic of Moore as part of those who seek his ouster. Do not overreact to every criticism of Dr. Moore. It doesn’t help.
3. Ignore the Gideon squad. Gideon was used of God to defeat the Midianites. He and his 300 soldiers broke pitchers and blew trumpets and raised such a ruckus that the enemy believed they were a much bigger group than they were. They panicked and killed one another. Those who are seeking Dr. Moore’s hide are a modern day Gideon squad – without the blessing of God, I am convinced. They are raising a ruckus that makes people believe they are a bigger group than they are. They are aided by panicky supporters who paint everyone who criticizes Moore as part of the death squad.
But this is small group of people and the healthiest thing to do is simply ignore them. Don’t answer them. Don’t fight them. Don’t argue with them. Just let them blow their trumpets and break their pitchers but do not add to the din. They may have the right to raise a ruckus but we have an equal right to ignore it.
4. There is a clear path to peace in this for everyone but the Gideon squad, and they do not want peace anyway. Listen to each other. Critics, try to understand why people are so passionate about Dr. Moore. He is saying some things that Southern Baptists need to be saying, opening our eyes to some truths we’ve closed them to as we gave ourselves over to the GOP lock, stock, and barrel. On some issues, many of us believe that we often followed traditions instead of scripture. You may not agree, but at least try to understand. Moore supporters, (and Dr. Moore, if you happen to be listening), try to understand why people are a little bit piqued with us.
Critics, try to understand why people are so passionate about Dr. Moore. He is saying some things that Southern Baptists need to be saying, opening our eyes to some truths we’ve closed them to as we gave ourselves over to the GOP lock, stock, and barrel. On some issues, many of us believe that we often followed traditions instead of scripture. You may not agree, but at least try to understand. Moore supporters, (and Dr. Moore, if you happen to be listening), try to understand why people are a little bit piqued with us.
Moore supporters, (and Dr. Moore, if you happen to be listening), try to understand why people are a little bit piqued with us. We are upsetting the apple cart and telling them that what they’ve always believed and done is wrong. Is it possible that we’ve been a little overbearing at times? (NO! Never!) Is it possible we’ve come across as judgmental? Isn’t that something fairly easy to work on? Presenting the same truths in a slightly less harsh package? That isn’t that hard.
We can do this. The Moore supporters and critics can find rapprochement. The ghost of election 2016 doesn’t have to haunt us forever – not for those of good will and godly desire. Obviously, not everyone is going to come along, but most will.