A Response to William F. Harrell's article “Is It Time to Call It a Day?”
IT IS TIME TO BEGIN A NEW DAY
When I was young my grandfather used to tell me something that has stuck with me over the years. Whenever I encountered a situation where I may have been enticed to attack someone he would tell me, “Deal with the faults of others as gently as your own.” His response caused me to pump the breaks, sometimes take a night’s rest, and re-examine the situation the next day. My hope with this article is to examine what was said and offer a gentle rebuke to the article, “Is It Time to Call It a Day?”
(Click the title of the article to view the original article)
First of I am thankful for your history of the formation of the ERLC. I found this very informative and fruitful. After you explained the brief history of the ERLC’s formation, this is where the article began down a path of being unhelpful. I hate that cannot offer more words of encouragement here, but there was not much more that we agree upon. This is where I want to begin a gentle correction.
The Daily Planet
Every good narrative has a hero. As soon as Adam and Eve sin in the Garden, God promised a future seed (hero) would come, who would provide man’s ultimate rescue. The very next story in the Bible tells how Cain killed his brother Abel and it seemed like all hope in the promised seed (hero) was all but lost. God then provided Seth (hero) to continue on the line of the messiah. Later in the OT narrative God raised up Moses (hero) to rescue Israel out of slavery in Egypt. When the people of Israel were held captive by the Philistines, because of the giant Goliath, God provided David (hero) to rescue them out of bondage. Over and over again throughout the narrative of scripture God provides a hero to rescue and care for His people. The reason people love movies with hero plotlines is because they are part of a greater narrative, one which God has written. All humanity is looking for a hero, but sometimes people apply that narrative to a false redeemer.
The first thing that stands out in your article is the hero narrative you have written into your article. I love a good hero, but I don’t like it whenever the writer is always the hero of his own story. I was let down when you broadcast this via the “Daily Planet”, but then you stepped out of the phone booth and couldn’t fly.
You began your historic narrative by saying,
At the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans in 1990, I, as Chairman of the Program and Budget Subcommittee of the Executive Committee, made a motion which was roundly accepted and carried by a huge margin in the ensuing vote. That motion had to do with separating ourselves from the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs and forming our own lobbying group in Washington.
Only a few paragraphs later you go on to say,
The complaints have been heard from far and wide but no one wants to say much about it for fear of being labeled a “troublemaker.” Well, it’s time for people to be willing to be so labeled if the problem is going to be addressed. Since I am the one who made the motion to create our lobbying office in Washington and also the motion to fund it, many have asked that I write such an article as this one.
Rather than trying to be the hero of your own story, take the cape off and go for a humbler approach. Recognize the fact that this election offered two cups of poison, one which would kill you quickly and one which would possibly delay the inevitable. Moore’s comments never seemed to indicate that he was looking for a “Pastor in Chief”, but only a person with a little moral integrity. Moore has been given a difficult task of showing how the gospel speaks to the issue of politics. Not everyone will agree with his applications of the gospel. Rather that you trying to save the SBC from Dr. Moore, how about you use your position as a means of making much of Christ.
Next, I found irony in your article in that your primary critique of Moore was because of his negative comments toward Donald Trump, yet it seems that your negative comments toward Moore and “his minions” are ok? You caricature attacks begin with you saying,
That’s what happens when leaders start living in a bubble and thinking that their opinions and actions in that bubble are applicable to everyone outside of their little intellectual world populated by only those who agree with them. The opinions of their “groupies” become the standard by which they operate and they lose touch in the process.
Quite frankly, Moore and those who have supported and encouraged his position (Al Mohler, Danny Akin and David Dockery and others) are either avowed Calvinists or are sympathetic to it. I am sure the minions who follow them without question will not like for that to be pointed out but it is true.
I can assume by your statements that this form of attack is “ok” as long as the attack is pointed toward someone or something you are against. What happens though when your magnifying glass is replaced with a mirror? Generally when this is done, character attacks are replaced with phone calls rather than bulletin board posts. Once bulletin board posts have been made, the fire has to be put in out in public rather than in private. Let me offer this suggestion, rather than attacking a person and encouraging a mutiny, try reaching out to the person individually to resolve your conflict. This brings me to my last point, your passive aggressive promotion of mutiny.
Rage against the Machine
The reason I believe your article has gone viral is because of your encouragement of others to withhold cooperative program funds until Moore is forced out of his position (You never directly said not to but twice you allude to it).
“In fact, it has been reported to me that there are a number of pastors, particularly from larger churches, who are seriously considering escrowing their Cooperative Program funds until something is done about this entity of ours.”
“They must remember that the people in the SBC are volunteers. They don’t have to give their monies to fund such thinking.”
The SBC has had a rich history of unity in the midst of diversity. Even in the midst of this diversity the SBC has historically been one of the largest sending agencies of missionaries in the world. The Cooperative Program dollars that you are recommending withholding, because of your political disagreement with Russell Moore, over who he should or should not have voted for, would take funds away that are currently being used for the purpose of advancing the gospel. These dollars help fund seminaries, national and international mission funds, and etc. A new day has certainly come, but this new day calls for grace, a heart for the nations, and gospel unity.