Battle blogging – that describes a lot of what we do, doesn’t it?
Battle blogging is the us vs. them, good guys and bad guys, we-have-to-win mentality. “They” are the enemies of truth, justice and the American Way, and I am Superdave, avenger of justice, able to leap tall blogs in a single bound as I defend the Baptist world from those who would destroy it!
I’m through with it.
A Little Introspection
You may get tired of my self-reflective blogs about blogging. But for me, blogging a big deal. It’s not a past-time, it is a significant ministry. So I think about it a lot. Is this thing that I’ve devoted so much of my life to a valid ministry or is it a distraction from the real work of God? Is the way I blog honoring the Lord? Is the way we communicate here honoring to our Savior and Lord? I ruminate on these things, and sometimes the answers the form in my spirit do not taste sweet. I take what I do here seriously – it’s not a lark for me.
And I just do not want any more to do with battle blogging.
It is so easy to fall back into this. I feel like Michael Corleone sometimes. “Just when I thought I was out, (it) pulls me back in.” Battle blogging come more naturally to me than I like to admit. So does sin! Coincidence? I’ll let you make that call.
Battle blogging was the natural outflow of the ten to fifteen years we fought against the spread of liberalism in our seminaries and other institutions. I thought that fight was necessary and I would do it again. There are some battles that have to be fought and the consequences of not fighting are worse than the effects of the war. But the decades of the conservative resurgence probably affect the DNA of modern Southern Baptists.
We are most comfortable when we are standing in opposition to something we perceive as a threat.
I have developing a growing conviction that for me, battle blogging is no longer something I want to participate in.
That’s what started the Baptist blogging boom back in 2005 and 2006. A small group was beginning to impose parameters of fellowship that many of us thought were too narrow (yep, I’m talking about those infamous IMB policies!), and we saw shenanigans going on behind the scenes in SBC life that needed to be opposed. And oppose we did! Those who complain about the boisterousness of this blog today should go back and read some of the blog discussions of 2006 and 2007. Those were some battling Baptists back then. It was high noon at the OK Corral and guns were blazing.
I had an odd experience at the Orlando Convention. There were two men (I won’t name them) whom I considered to be enemies during the battle blogging days. One was a chief promoter of the IMB policies and one of those who had (at least according to what sources told us – sources I’ve come to trust less as time has gone on) tried to squelch debate and enforce conformity. The other was on the opposition side (the “reform movement” – I wore that uniform myself during those years), whose personal attacks on some SBC leaders went way over the line. As I walked out one night, I ran into the IMB policy guy whom I had considered the enemy, and I chatted with him for a few minutes. Then, I rode the escalator down to the lobby and ran into the other guy and chatted with him for a few minutes.
Interestingly, neither had horns or a pitchfork. They were pleasant men who were both committed to the cause of Christ in spite of their differences.
Something began to dawn on me that day. Blogging gives a perception of enmity that is deceptive. We can magnify our differences to the point of producing unnecessary division. And we often take our fights too far. We have some differences of opinion, but these are family quarrels.
The focus of my battles was what came to be known as the Baptist Identity movement – not an easy movement to define. I am Baptist by conviction, but I did not agree with many of the definitions of “Baptist” advocated by some BI adherents. The IMB policies actually flowed out of this thinking. And I fought against these guys.
Again, I came to realize something. Many of the adherents of the BI philosophy which I did not like were men I would invite to preach in my pulpit. They were not the enemy. They shared ALL the foundational elements of my theology and almost all of the rest of it. The areas of our disagreements, though major in blogging, were minor in the overall theological scheme of things.
The Danger of Battle Blogging
Baptist Battle Blogging is really a form of deadly, friendly fire. We treat our fellow believers, fellow soldiers, fellow laborers as if they were enemies.
- Those anti-Calvinists are so filled with hate, all they want to do is to destroy Calvinists and drive them from the convention.
- The Calvinists are trying to take over and run the whole convention.
- The anti-GCR folks just don’t care about reaching the next generation for Jesus.
- The GCR was all about top-down control, not really about the Great Commission.
- The teetotalers are just legalists who want human rules to replace Christ and the gospel.
- The moderationists are against moral standards and want everyone to just do as they please – they are licentious antinomians.
- Traditionalists are trying to drive into the future looking only in the rear-view mirror.
- Those young guys care more about being popular and accepted than being biblical.
- Those who oppose the name change love being Southern more than they love Jesus.
- Those who want to change the name have ulterior motives that they are hiding and which need to be exposed.
- All those complementarians want is to oppress and control women.
Each of these shares a common root: there is a pejorative “they” who are enemies, if not of the gospel, at least of the future of the SBC. “They are out to get us, to drag us down. We have to stop them.”
The core value of battle blogging is threat-response. There is a threat to our future and we need to fight it. Well, I’ve “evolved” (sorry to curse on SBC Voices) to the point where I now consider battle blogging to be one of our greatest threats.
Let me be clear about a couple of things.
1) I am not saying none of the issues matter. There are some real issues concerning Calvinism (pro or con), traditionalism vs relevance, the GCR and the GCB that matter. We need to talk about them. We need to discuss them, even disagree about them. But we need to leave behind the petty back and forth, the name-calling, the ostracism and the tendency to paint those with whom we disagree as a threat.
2) I am going to continue to advocate issues I think are important. I want a positive vote this summer for “Great Commission Baptists.” I will continue to tell people why I think that is a good idea. But one of our contributors here has written several posts as to why he thinks the GCB is a bad idea. I hope that the overwhelming flow of wisdom and logic from my pen will help Rick Patrick to see the error of his ways and a miracle will occur. Realistically, he is from Alabama, which tends to lower expectations and we must make allowances!
We should discuss the (non) name-change proposal. But what I’m not going to do is treat those who see the issue differently as enemies of the gospel. They aren’t. There is a difference between battle blogging and issue advocacy. It’s a thin line and I often cross it. I’m going to try to stay on the right side of line in the future.
There is a great example of the difference, a blog with which I often disagree. I commend Dr. Steve Lemke and the work of SBC Today. They stand consistently in opposition to Calvinism as a doctrine. But in the last year or so, there has been an absence (in the posts – I know how hard managing comments can be!) of rancor. Dr. Lemke’s series about the two alternatives for the future of the SBC (The “in Adam” solution and the “in Christ” solution) is still one of the most important blogging series I’ve seen. The articles at SBC Today advocate an issue (why Calvinism is not the best way to go) but they do it without treating Calvinists as people who kick kittens and eat puppies. Issue advocacy without battle blogging – that is what I hope more of us will strive for. I can disagree with their articles, but I do not find myself feeling insulted by them.
An Evolution of Thought
My trek from passionate battle blogger to one who no longer desires to be involved in it was based on several factors.
1) A sense that significant progress has been made.
I think the SBC leadership is more open, less “top-down” and more responsive than it was in years gone by. Some of the stuff that was going on six or seven years ago just wouldn’t be done today. We can argue about the records being sealed, but that is just a small thing. Contrary to what a lot of people say, I think the leadership of the SBC has moved away from the regal leaders model to servant leaders. The kinds of things that were going on behind the scenes between entities back in 2005 just aren’t going on now (to my knowledge.)
If I see the kind of power plays and moves to oppress dissent that I saw back then, maybe I will go back to war.
2) The issues we are fighting over are not “battle” issues.
There are things to fight over. If someone begins to undermine the Word, the Trinity, the gospel, or the substitutionary atonement of Christ, I’ll fight alongside the soldiers of the Cross. But our issues just aren’t that. I would guess that a majority of my interaction with Bart Barber on blogging has involved disagreements over issues. He just has not attained the spiritual maturity necessary to see everything from my perspective yet. (Okay, everyone realizes the sarcasm, right? Maybe I should use one of those smiley faces. NO! Never!) If I found out Bart was going to be in the Sioux City area, I would beg him to preach for me. There is nothing that I disagree with Bart Barber about that is worth battling over. Discussing? Disagreeing? Arguing? Fine. But as soon as I see someone with whom I disagree over such issues as the enemy, I’ve stepped over the line.
I thought the CR was a battle-worthy issue. But whether a baptism performed by a church that believes that one can lose salvation is valid – that is not a battle issue. That’s a discussion. They are two different things.
3) We have GREAT leaders in the SBC
There are a few I’m not crazy about, but there are some gems. Good men doing good work the right way. I voted against Bryant Wright twice at the Orlando convention. I’ve never been more glad to lose an election in my life. He’s been a great president. We were honored to have Frank Page in our church Saturday leading an evangelism rally. Say anything bad about Dr Page and I’ll sit on you (you may not know me, but trust me, you don’t want that). And LifeWay has some great leaders. I think very highly of Dr. Tom Elliff at the IMB. We’ve got some great people in charge.
There may be some issues we can bring to the attention of the convention. We can certainly disagree with our leaders. But I no longer view the leadership of the convention with distrust as I once did.
4) An observation about battle bloggers.
Battle blogging seems to lead one of two directions. Either people come to the point where they no longer want to engage in battle blogging, or they get overwhelmed with bitterness, anger and their keyboards spit venom. I do not want to be a bitter blogger, biting and beating up brothers in Christ.
A Better Way
I had a conversation with someone who was under attack from battle bloggers recently. I’m going to be vague because I don’t have his permission to share his story. But he is involved in a ministry that came under intense fire from the battle bloggers’ special forces! I asked him about it. “How do you deal with all that?” He told me they were just ignoring it and serving God. They were moving forward in faith, in ministry, in service and not worrying about the battle bloggers who were firing at them.
That’s when it hit me. The future of the SBC is not going to be won by the snipers who shoot from their safe places. It is going to be forged by those who extend themselves in ministry regardless of the opposition. It is going to be won by those who move forward in faith, who die to self and live to Christ, who worry not about what a few say about them, but whether the Savior is honored by their actions. We will do better to stand together instead of picking one another apart.
That’s how I want to be. Maybe you see a real threat in the SBC right now. I did back in the 70s and 80s and I was willing to stand and fight against what I perceived as a real threat. I do not believe that what we are seeing now is the same kind of thing. These are minor family squabbles. We have to talk them out and continue to sharpen each other spiritually, theologically and missionally.
If you think that the Calvinists are out to destroy everything, perhaps you need to battle. I just don’t think it warrants that. If you see some kind of grand cooperation to impose an ungodly agenda, then be my guest to be a battle blogger.
That’s not the direction I want to go.
So, I’m declaring my retirement from battle-blogging.