So remember, you who profess to be followers of the Lord Jesus, that to you indifference is impossible! You must bless the church and the world by your holiness, or you will curse them both by your hypocrisy and inconsistency. In the visible church it is most true that "no man liveth unto himself, and no man dieth unto himself."
A few days ago, Wade Burleson, author of Hardball Religion, Feeling the Fury of Fundamentalism, announced that he will abstain from the discussion of politics for the next year. His wonderful blog will now be a site to discuss theology.
I posted a comment on his site asking the following question. What constitutes theology and spiritual issues and what constitutes politics? The SBC is not a secular government; it is supposed to be a part of the church of our Lord.
For example, let’s assume the U.S. government votes to raise taxes in order to benefit the ecology. A political debate ensues to determine if that is the best use of our citizens’ money and whether or not there is an actual, ecological need. Except for some vague discussion on “caring for God’s green earth” the discussion, for the most part, is not spiritual.
On the other hand, suppose the SBC votes to ask all member churches to increase their donations to the headquarters in order to fund frequent trips to and from South Africa for the International Mission Board members. This request raises questions about the way to use money donated by local churches to benefit missions. If the money is used for personal gain, such as a safari trip, (theoretically speaking, of course), isn’t that a spiritual issue?
I am having trouble coming up with any discussion that is simply “politics.” In fact, I contend (with apologies to C S Lewis) that there is no such thing as “mere politics” when it involves any church or church agency. Here’s a mundane example. Let’s say a church is having difficulty deciding on the color of the walls in the new (and very expensive) sanctuary. The “ivory” faction has long ceased talking to the “blue” faction. Isn’t this really a spiritual issue? God could care less about the walls. He cares about how we treat one another.
Here is a recent news story item entitled, “ Inside America’s Biggest Megachurches.
“Second Baptist's "21st Century Worship Center" is being refurbished since Hurricane Ike hit last year. Originally built in 1986 for $34 million, the church is spending $8 million for repairs and upgrades, not including what insurance covered. An electronic projection system will display scripture verses around the cavernous, octagonal, balconied room, which will seat about 6,500 people under a dome that reaches six stories high. There are towering columns and larger-than-life faceted glass windows depicting the Biblical stories of the beginning and ending of mankind.
"You won't find anything in here that is ostentatious. You'll find beauty," says Pastor Young. "God's house ought to be beautiful." Their budget is $58 million per year.
Obviously, Young’s comment, notwithstanding, this church and the amount of money that this church spends has nothing at all to do with politics. It is a heart issue. For example, look at his last comment: “God’s house ought to be beautiful.” What in the world is “God’s house?” The usual comment is that the beautiful cathedrals of Europe are an example of “real” churches. How many of those churches were built on the backs of peasants who were threatened with hell/purgatory if they didn’t contribute? How many Christians today are aware of the sad legacy associated with the building of some of these cathedrals?
What about the beauty part? Does this mean a mud and sticks hut in Africa doesn’t qualify as “God’s house” because it isn’t beautiful by Houston, Texas (home of Second Baptist) rich, Christian standards? In fact, exactly where is God’s house? It used to be in a tabernacle crossing the desert, it used to be in a temple, and now, the last I checked the dwelling place of God is through His Holy Spirit within the hearts of all believers. Oh yeah, isn’t it said that the Son of Man had no place to lay His head? Last I checked, He did not reside in some “ostentatious” mansion while on earth. Speaking of mansions, while I lived in Texas, Ed Young’s personal home was featured in a parade of homes in Houston. It was very expensive. Guess pastors’ homes have to be big and beautiful; just like God’s house.
He mentions that there is nothing ostentatious about his building. Guess he and I have very different definitions of that word. Here are the synonyms listed from the thesaurus embedded on my Mac. They include: “showy, pretentious, conspicuous, flamboyant, gaudy, brash, vulgar, loud, extravagant, fancy, ornate, overelaborate; informal flash, flashy, splashy, over the top, glitzy, ritzy, superfly”. Please note: the antonym is “restrained.”
So, here is a list of concerns outlined in Burleson’s book. I leave it to you to decide if they are spiritual issues or “mere” politics. All page numbers refer to pages in Burleson’s book, Hardball Religion.
-Is it the right thing to stack the International Mission Board been with Patterson’s and Pressler’s family and close friends? (P.5)
-Was it kind and Christ honoring not to inform Burleson of the decision to make a motion to sack him? (P.6)
-Is it Biblical to ignore Matthew 18? Starting in verse 15 of the ESV it says 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
-Why did members of the IMB lie about and slander Jerry Rankin (President of the IMB) accusing him of misappropriating funds? (P.7, 36) Is it all right for a Christian to lie and slander if he gets what he wants? Is it OK to misappropriate funds if it will benefit someone Patterson likes?
-Is it Christian to ignore bylaws and hold “secret meetings?” so long as they are plotting the ouster of a man not well liked by Patterson (such a manly man)? (P.7)
-Is it OK to lie about Burleson, accusing him of gossip, arrogance, divisiveness, slander and lack of accountability so long as the leaders get their way? (P.11, 96).)
-Is it Christian to maintain peace at all costs when there is sin?
-Is it Christian to lie about a vote so long as the “right” person gets elected? (P.58)
-Is it Christian to listen to hours and hours of audio-recordings of a man and then cull them for suspicious theology without telling him? P.67)
-Is it Christian to make an accusation about heresy in order to get rid of people someone doesn’t like? (P.82).
-Is it Christian to attempt to ruin a man’s reputation and ministry because he simply disagrees with the power brokers? (P.88).
-Is it Christian to accuse a thoughtful, well-researched blog as “internet pornography just because supposed leaders don’t like what it says about their shenanigans?”(P.9)
-Is it Christian to greet a man using “How you doing, brother?” when said person doesn’t treat him as a brother? (P.91)
-Is it Christian to tell the Baptist press exactly what to print so that it will show the leaders in a good light ? (P.92)
-What verse in the Bible says it is OK to call your brother a “weirdo.”?(P.99)
-Does the Bible say it is good to pull a knife out during a meeting in order to intimidate a fellow board member? (P.103).
-Is it hypocritical to write a book called The Most Excellent Way, which instructs Christians on how to love one another, if you are consistently mean, derogatory and angry towards a fellow Christian? (P.126).
-Do the SBC trustees think that God is pleased when they rewrite trustee guidelines to hurt Burleson and say that it was “ordered by God? (P.130)
-Do any of you leaders ever think about Martin Luther who was ordered by the Pope to essentially, “Shut up” when you say that freedom of expression must be curtailed?” (P.132) Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t our very name “Protestant” derive from the word, “protest?”
Are you getting sick and tired of these examples? I know that I am. These are further reasons why I am leaving the SBC. You see, I believe that all of the examples are a sign of spiritual decay and have nothing to do with politics. I believe the SBC is sick because many in leadership are spiritually dead.
Shame on all of you for what you did to this good and decent man! We wish Wade God’s blessings on his blog and ministry.
I want to end with a quote by Burleson. “God ultimately brings about his purposes, and it does not require either our manipulations or our conniving for his will to occur.” (P.21). However, unlike Wade Burleson, we will continue to elucidate and highlight the unbiblical behavior and spiritual abuse that we believe is rampant in evangelical Christianity.