Well its that time of year again when the Southern Baptist Convention (or more specifically one of its agencies) has made it into the national news. Now you may be saying to yourself; surely its for the phenomenal disaster relief efforts by the SBC in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav. No. Perhaps the equally impressive relief efforts of the destruction caused by Hurricane Ike. No. Perhaps our continued work in highlighting abuses of Religious Freedom in China and other dark areas of the world. No.
This time our denomination has hit the national press because of a magazine cover. Here is the story. I want to focus particularly on the comments of Roland S. Martin in his editorial at CNN.com. Here is the article. The short version of the story is that this months issue of Gospel Today magazine has a feature cover on the most influential female pastors in America. Because of this, Lifeway has decided to pull the magazine from the shelves and place them behind the counter. The magazine adminsitration got wind of the decision and felt obliged to inform the national media.
Here are a few highlights from Mr. Martin’s commentary (bold print mine):
But what is a greater issue is that Lifeway clearly has no respect for freedom of the press. Here is arguably the top Christian bookstore in the country making a decision based on their teachings and applying it to a magazine. A spokesman for Lifeway Resources, which runs the stores, was quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week as saying of female pastors, “It is contrary to what we believe.”
Let me make something clear for those of you (like it seems the author of the commentary) who fell asleep during their 10th grade civics class. Freedom of the press does not imply that everything that is printed must be available everywhere. Freedom of the Press is a restriction on the government, not on private businesses. While Mr. Martin seems to ridicule the reasoning, anyone that has bothered to read the Bill of Rights knows that Lifeway’s reason is a perfectly valid reason not to sell the magazines.
So does Lifeway and, by extension, the Southern Baptist Convention, fight vigorously for freedom of religion, but it doesn’t give a hoot about the other freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution?
Again, here is the central problem with Mr. Martin’s (and other editorials and blogs I have read) argument and where it falls flat. The Bill of Rights puts limits on the federal government. If a local, state, or federal government agency banned the magazine because “It is contrary to what we believe” then there would be a violation of the US Constitution.
This is the kind of nonsense that drives more people away from religion. I suppose it’s fitting that this story would come out the same time as Bill Maher releases his religious documentary, “Religulous,” which skewers all the major religions for their dogma. I’m sure he feasted on positions of the Southern Baptist Convention.
This is really where I get grumpy. Making a decision based upon our Biblical conventions is not what drives people away from church. Its sin. And last time I checked we should not base our beliefs and actions on what Bill Maher may make fun of in a movie.
This is where common sense and the free markets can encourage freedom. Lifeway has the freedom to sell and not sell what they wish. This particular decision was based on the Biblical values of the organization. If the customer does not agree with the decision of Lifeway, then don’t shop at Lifeway. Buy the magazine from Wal-Mart. The freedom of Lifeway to sell what they wish is part of their broader freedom to be able to sell Bibles, Systematic Theologies, and books on gender roles in ministry. The freedom of a consumer to have choice in where they buy things allows them the freedom to buy the above mentioned materials without great cost or persecution.
Lifeway made the right decision. Lifeway has the freedom to make the decision. Gospel Today magazine is wrong in their interpretation of gender roles in ministry. Gospel Today has the freedom to print what they wish. You have the freedom to buy the magazine or not buy the magazine. This is how Free Speech, Freedom of Religion, and Free Markets are linked and can not function properly without one another.
Peace be with you,
Joe Garner III from uberconservative.wordpress.com/
At the end of each post on SBC Voices, we suggest related posts from other Southern Baptist websites and blogs. These will often include contrary points of view and should not be understood as endorsements.
What Other SBC Voices Are Saying
- The Southern Baptist Convention Is Not a Cult: We Just Sometimes Act Like We Are from Wade Burleson
- Christian Magazine Banned by Christian Bookstore Chain from Kevin Bussey
- Campolo: Opposition to women preachers evidence of demonic influence from Baptist Press 2003
- Lifeway Placing Warning Labels On Certain Books? from Alan Cross
- LifeWay’s Faux Pas in Banning Magazine from Peter Lumpkins