Thursday, November 30, 2006

One more $25,000 Question

Were there more efficacious ways to help--ways that wouldn't have given an opportunity for some to treat Bellevue like a piƱata?



Sunday, November 26, 2006

Congratulations, Mr./Ms. Anonymous!

You've just posted the one millionth slur from someone with an anti-Bellevue mindset! Unfortunately, since you were anonymous, I can't award you your huge prize package--although I have a way of commemorating the event. For the record, here's the soon-to-be-famous brickbat:

Anonymous said...
mike since you support the 25k gift to a church thats supports that abortion .that makes you a supporter of abortion,thats a label you can live with

8:03 PM, November 25, 2006

And it serves so perfectly as an example of why such a mindset is undesirable!

Does it attack a person rather than discuss a position? Yes.

Does it attempt to confront, rather than debate? Yes.

Does it demonstrate hate? Yes.

Does it say things from the luxury of anonymity that the poster would, for a variety of reasons, never say in person? Yes.

It did all these things so well, it made me reconsider the fact that I've allowed total anonymity in comments since the inception of TBR. (Cool acronym, hmm?) Well, you totally-anonymous folks will have to step up to pseudonyms, because the hit-and-run anonymous post is a thing of the past. Enough of you have abused the privilege so that it has to go away.

And speaking of the one millionth slur, let me post something our friend Mrs. Wilmoth sent me regarding it, thusly and like so:

Faulty logic. That's like saying if I voted for Bush, I'm in favor of our soldiers dying in Iraq. The issues of the donation to First Methodist and being in favor of abortion are not mutually exclusive. There are those of us who see it from a totally different perspective than others. Why must there be judgment, "labels," and "dead babies in the offering plate" when that was NO ONE'S intent in sending the donation?

Don't tell me what I believe. I settled the issue of abortion in my heart and mind a long time ago, and I have not changed my opinion one whit. However, I do NOT see the donation to First Methodist as a mistake. And that does NOT make me a supporter of abortion.

At the risk of being accused of "demonizing," I will repeat what has been said by others in so many other venues (and perhaps more delicately): There are plenty of churches in this city where one can worship. If I couldn't live with the decisions made by the leaders and shepherds over me, I would not continue to worship under their leadership. I would find a church that matched my expectations and "shake the dust" off as I left one that did not. And I hope and pray I would not attempt (either explicitly or implicitly) to destroy any church or its members in the process.

All in my opinion, of course.

Now it's my turn.

The one millionth post was both gutless and clueless--what that says about the author, I'll leave to you people to decide. The anonymous author either doesn't know me or doesn't care that I'm probably more pro-life in word and deed than he/she is on his/her best day--which isn't a bragging point, but a statement of fact. I understand that you and yours label people in lieu of discussing ideas and points of view, but please understand that such personal attacks benefit no one, and only do further damage to you and yours.

And speaking of "labels," let me caution you and yours about something: The only label worth having is the label of Christian. Any other label--including the label of "pro-life"--that takes precedence over the one of Christian is an idol, purely and simply. There are people in this world who are 100% "pro-life," working tirelessly against the evil of abortion-on-demand, who are as lost as proverbial geese. If people worry that showing kindness to an individual or a group might damage their pro-life credentials, those people should re-examine their priorities.

When groups such as the coalition attacking the pastor, staff, and lay leadership continue to try to tar and feather individuals, rather than debate positions, they guarantee the persistence of the perception they're more about rousing the rabble than reforming the church.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Traveling like wildfire

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend of mine. He's been hearing little wafts of information regarding the happenings at Bellevue, and wanted to know if it was as nasty as he'd been hearing.
I asked "What have you been hearing?" His reply was accurate--that there are a group of people in the church membership that won't merely be happy if Pastor Gaines (and a number of other staff members) leave Bellevue, that these people are now in the mode to destroy careers and, yes, ruin lives.

Unfortunately, it seems many people have left "disagree without being disagreeable" in the rear view mirror a long time ago, and that's a shame. Oddly enough, the bad news had traveled to my friend complete with context, which was actually a pleasant surprise. But the fact that the bad news is traveling at all should stand as a convicting indictment against the people who attack the Bellevue staff and lay leadership. Words and actions, particularly in this age, reverberate past their intended audiences; we should all, therefore, choose them carefully.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The $25,000 Questions


Because that's what it boils down to.

Backstory: Recently, Bellevue Baptist Church donated $25,000 to First United Methodist Church, a church in downtown Memphis whose building and infrastructure was savaged in a fire. Pastor Gaines suggested the idea of a donation to the Bellevue Finance Committee, and the result was a contribution to First United.

Some individuals who harbor an anti-Bellevue sentiment (and, quite frankly, some who do not) have questioned the wisdom of such a donation. After a good deal of prayer, personal reflection, and consultation with friends, the only thing I can condemn about the donation is that it just might not have been enough.

For those up in arms about giving money to a church with a female pastor, to a church that refuses to call people to repent of certain Biblically-defined sins (particularly those of a sexual nature), here are some questions you must ask anyone to whom you offer help in the future:

1) Do you believe in everything I believe in?

2) And not just the "non-negotiables," such as how to be saved--do you share all my doctrines?

3) If I find out later that you don't completely agree with me on everything, would you mind terribly if I pull the rug out from under you?

Keep in mind, these questions have to extend to everything from financial assistance to changing a tire to giving directions.

When we see people in legitimate need--particularly brothers and sisters in Christ--our job is to help, not to run a background check. When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, it's worth noting in His story that the Samaritan didn't share all the wounded man's beliefs; he just did what was right.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Please pray

I have spent today with my family, watching football, at the paint store, and in prayer.

Over the past several days--well, more than that, actually--I have been burdened to the point of distraction for those who have chosen a "side" against the majority of the staff, deacon body, and congregation of Bellevue Baptist Church. I use the word "majority" because there is, according to what I have read, heard and seen over these past months, a minority who refuse to be satisfied until great damage is done to the church as a whole.

Now, that is not to say that these people wake up in the morning and say to themselves "Let's see what great damage I can do to Bellevue as a whole today!" Quite to the contrary, the vast majority of this minority is no doubt sincere--but also myopic. Their stated concern for Bellevue has led them to a Machiavellian focus on the end result, never mind the means used to achieve that end. They hide behind pseudonyms, generally, except for those in the forefront of the group who have chosen to wear their real names on the backs of the team jerseys for their "side." As a rule, they attack in writing in ways etiquette would forbid in conversation. When they are accommodated, it isn't enough; when their questions receive answers, either the answers are insufficient or else new questions magically appear.

To respond with skepticism regarding their validity of their actions or their ideas, as many have found out, is to be put in the crosshairs, figuratively speaking. And this, to me, is the most disappointing part of the whole sordid affair, even more disappointing than discovering I use far, far too many commas when I write. But seriously... when that "side" pushes, attacks, and defames pastors, deacons, and other church members in general without concern or apology, my heart breaks for everyone concerned--but mostly for the group carrying out such anti-Bellevue behavior.

Yes, "anti-Bellevue." Since the day the dissent moved from a private campaign of whispers within the church body to a public campaign of websites, news articles and forums, it has been attempted to be incredibly injurious to Bellevue as a whole. As most every person's grandmother has said, it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable, but those in the vanguard of the movement against Bellevue show precious little evidence of remembering the saying. Pastor Gaines is Hitler, so they say; the deacons who support him are Fascists, and the majority of the congregation is a group of ignorant sycophants. How, exactly, do these caricatures come across as constructive in nature? How do they bring benefit at this point in Bellevue's existence? Obviously, they do not.

Bellevue Baptist Church has been used of God for over a century in ministering the Gospel to those who need to hear it. I would suggest it is possible to be dissatisfied with the way the church has been, or is, operating without engaging in behavior that damages the church as a whole. Such behavior as we see is anti-Bellevue, though I seriously doubt the heart of anyone engaging in such behavior is.

We should, we must be prayerful in our approach to this time of testing. Whatever your opinion of any given matter in your church, do not use your opinion as justification for assaulting those with whom you disagree--rather, use it as a opportunity to draw closer to God.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

And curiouser

The "Lie Headline" might have been removed from, but the information it advertised was not. My thanks to a sharp-eyed friend who noticed a cursor change whenever the cursor got close to the two spinning rings on the "saving Bellevue" home page. And when one clicks the rings (orbiting the word "Truth," ironically), the same article exists in its entirety. While the headline was removed, the accusations--including the allegation that, where Pastor Gaines is concerned, "TRUTH IS A MOVING TARGET"--still reside on the site.

Again, such sites must be shuttered by those that operate them; they were a bad idea that has only gotten worse.


EDITED TO ADD: I'm pleased to note that the "hidden link" no longer works. Why it was there in the first place will, no doubt, remain a mystery that only Internet archeologists of the far-distant future will be able to solve.

However, I'm not so pleased to note a "saving Bellevue" invitation for members of Pastor Gaines' former church in Gardendale, Alabama to e-mail the site. Why, there's even a special inbox set up just for them. Wonder why?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Curiouser and curiouser

"Saving Bellevue"

"Never sacrifice truth for unity"

"The Lie Headline has been removed. After talking to Jim Barnwell there appears there is a logical explanation and a communication problem that caused this. One of the parties involved will be back from Chicago tomorrow to set the record straight. This is very damaging to Steve and it is only right that this web site give you the truth where it falls even if this information was wrong on our part. This will be addressed in the next few days."

"Jim Haywood"

Reads like an apology at first glance, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it falls into the "mistakes were made" category of political-speak in lieu of an actual "I made a mistake" apology.

And what were the ramifications of the "Lie Headline"? How many people saw that who won't see a retraction, modification, or apology? For a number of weeks, truth has been getting sacrificed for an agenda of hate and confrontation by the anti-Bellevue coalition. However, I don't want my pragmatism to devolve into pessimism; if Mr. Haywood and those with a similar mindset can take this first step, there may yet be hope.

Consequently, I prayerfully hope for further apologies, particularly with regard to painting the worship services coming up Sunday morning as a confrontational "Showdown," and for depicting deacons supportive of Pastor Gaines as masked Fascists.

To the principals: Please stop using websites and forums to foment dissent. You only injure yourselves and those who get caught up with you in the anti-Bellevue wave of belligerency and negativity. We have a Commission that the so-called "saving Bellevue" business does nothing to fulfill.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Beyond the pale

The mentality of the so-called "saving Bellevue" mindset was put on full display this morning--if only briefly. A friend e-mailed me about a disturbing image he found on their website, an image meant as commentary for a resolution which members of the Bellevue deacon body will be able to sign showing support for Pastor Gaines.

The attached, nonsensical, straw-man article about "preacher rule" would've been bad enough by itself; it's still there, if you choose to peruse it. But the page detailing the resolution also contained a vile image on it, an image that puts to rest any notions that "saving Bellevue" is interested in "saving" much of anything. Yes, they yanked it down, but not quickly enough; the mere fact that they used it in the first place is, undeniably, beyond the pale.

You determine for yourself whether or not you want to be part of a group that views others in such a hate-filled way. The image in question:

I pray that it is, indeed, possible to dialogue with such people. I also pray that they will, first, openly repent of such a mindset. We will see what the coming days have in store, and how God will work in the situation.


EDITED TO ADD: The November 19th worship service in which the deacon body is scheduled to show support for Pastor Gaines has now been labeled by the anti-Bellevue faction euphemistically known as "saving Bellevue" as the day for a "Showdown." I have no words to describe the sadness I feel, waking up to such bile from those who say they want to "save" Bellevue Baptist Church.

EDITED TO ADD SOME MORE: Just for clarity's sake, let me say that I viewed the image directly on (and captured it directly from) that site, not from the e-mail I received. And with regard to the "Oh, they took it down, now you take it down" crowd, that's not the point. The point is that, whether it was up for five minutes or five months, that is how they view people who disagree with them.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Quote for the day

As I slogged through the anti-Bellevue texts today, I was reminded of this quote, from one of my favorite philosophers. I shared it on one of those sites, but I wanted to share it with you, as well. I quote it thusly, and like so:

"I think, when one has been angry for a very long time, one gets used to it. Then it becomes comfortable, like old leather. And finally, it is so familiar one can't remember feeling any other way. But in the long run, we are the ones who are damaged by that kind of behavior. We are. Not them."

A laurel and a hearty handshake if you know the name of the philosopher--and no fair Googling.


Why he retired

Some prescient comments from Pastor Rogers as to why he chose to retire. Your comments, as always, are welcome.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Sniper fatigue

The recent (ongoing?) unpleasantness precipitated by some members of Bellevue Baptist Church seems to be subsiding; at least, the shrillness of the personal animosity has been toned down.

In any organizational disagreement, and sometimes when an organization is running smoothly, there are those who engage in what can be called rock-tossing, bomb-throwing, or sniping. These are the people who, for whatever reason, anonymously attack those with whom they disagree on an issue under the pretense of speaking to the issue. People who snipe generally run on raw emotions. Thankfully, over time, those emotions can wind down, and most people who play the role of "sniper" do not take the time to groom understudies. As Pastor Rogers used to observe, if an individual doesn't sign a complaint, that complaint cannot be taken seriously.

No doubt this subsiding is the direct answer to prayer--the prayers of both the people who are aligned with the unfortunate, anachronistically-named "saving Bellevue" group, as well as by the church body as a whole. When the disagreements contract back within the church walls, it will be far more difficult for the snipers to lock in on a target, and virtually impossible for them to express themselves anonymously. And when people take ownership of their remarks, those remarks are almost always tempered. At that point, we may begin to see resolution.

Occasionally, those of us who don't believe Bellevue to be in dire straits are accused of "marching in lockstep," "drinking the Kool-Aid," or other such nonsense meant to imply unquestioning compliance. Personally, such is not the case; as a matter of fact, I don't know that I've met anyone at church who would fall into that category. I do know that when most people have questions or concerns about something at church, they ask them as directly as possible, rather than sprinting to the nearest website or reporter.

If your concern regarding Bellevue has been addressed, but you're not fond of the answer you've received, you do have the choice of going elsewhere, but I would advise against it. I've been at Bellevue since the Midtown days (though not consecutively), so I have personally had more than one occasion where (gasp!) I disagreed with something going on, either with an individual, a class, or church-wide. Is that motivation to leave? Not in the slightest, or at least it shouldn't be. As Christians, if our church affiliation isn't motivated by where we need to be, rather than where we need to leave, perhaps we should revisit just why it is we are where we are.

One of my favorite playwrights put it this way: "Don't think of it as leaving here... think of it as going there." If you need to go there, go there--but if you aren't led to go, you must stay. God has a marvelous way of working things out.


EDITED TO ADD: Or, perhaps it was all the calm before an unnecessary storm.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

No stop left un-pulled

Harold Ford Jr. came to Memphis today, but that wasn't the big news. The big news was that Bill Clinton came to town to campaign for him.

At a church.

This is news why, exactly?

Oh, and we must remember the words that should follow young Mr. Ford the rest of his political life (though he attributes them to Lincoln Davis): "Republicans fear the Lord. Democrats fear and love the Lord."

Must be why Democrats have abortion-on-demand as a central plank in their party's platform, right? Mr. Ford Jr., when you get that plank removed, and turn the party of Jim Webb and Barney Frank and Ted Kennedy and John Kerry into something resembling what it was thirty years ago, you might then be able to make the second half of Mr. Davis' statement into something other than a punch line.

Ever since Mr. Ford Jr. tried and failed to pull a "gotcha!" by showing up at a Bob Corker press conference and whining that the two of them just didn't get to spend enough time together ("I can never find you!"), there has been evidence of desperation in Mr. Ford Jr.'s campaign. As of today, I think he has, officially, pulled out all the stops.

Votes of this magnitude are not always between the candidate you love and the candidate you loathe--sometimes it's just a question of who the better candidate is of the two. If Bob Corker were a pro-abortion Republican, or someone who made irresponsibly divisive and questionable statements about faith, or someone who (let's face it) has historically given the appearance of being a political puppet, I might end up voting for Mr. Ford Jr., not Mr. Corker.

Before I close, there are two articles I'd like you to read, from the candidates' own websites (there's your warning): One from Mr. Ford Jr., and one from Mr. Corker.

I'm interested in hearing what you take away from both those articles.