Saturday, October 28, 2006

A request

There's a new link on the righthand portion of the screen. It's the first one in the list, entitled "Loving Bellevue."

Please follow it.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Amendment 1

If you're one of those who's been tempted by the "I'll show 'em what I think of this election by sitting out!" mentality, think again. Particularly if you live in Tennessee. Mercurial columnist for the Memphis Commercial Appeal Wendi C. Thomas tapped out an article for today's edition regarding Amendment 1--you can read it in its entirety here.

One scintillating reader comment to her article reads thusly, and like so: "Where does 'all' stop, Wendi? Obviously not with homosexuality, in your eyes. Does 'all' mean polygamy, too? Polyandry? Pedophilia? Bestiality? Necrophilia? Since you don't like the line where it is, where do you propose we draw it?"

On November 7th, a vote for Amendment 1 will insulate current Tennessee law against the possibility of judges legislating from the bench with regard to the issue of so-called homosexual "marriage," such misuse having cropped up earlier this week in New Jersey.

Predictably, Shelby County Democrats have passed a resolution regarding Amendment 1. They characterize the amendment as one of "hate" and "discrimination," which is, of course, emotionally-charged nonsense; give the Shelby Dems credit, though, for attributing the source of their rhetoric as the DNC, and Howard Dean himself.

For no other reason than to vote for Amendment 1, please make it a priority to vote on November 7th.


EDITED TO ADD: Early voting in Tennessee runs through November 2. For a list of early voting location in your county, click here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

People of fact

A reply to my "21st Century malady" article was particularly interesting, so I thought it would be appropriate to reply to it in a more open fashion, rather than in a comment thread. Here is the reply, quoted thusly and like so:

"Those of us who are Christians are, by definition, people of fact."

You are wrong Mike. In fact, it's the exact opposite. "Those of use who are Christians are, by definition, people of FAITH.". The Darwist and the Humanist would say that he is the person of "fact".

Sounds right, doesn't it? The Bible is loaded to the brim with references to faith. Faith is a fundamental part of Christianity. So why in the world would I say that those of us who are Christians are people of "fact"?

Because every person is a "person of faith," even if that person chooses not to admit it.

To reference the above-quoted observation, the Darwinist is a person of faith. He or she invests his or her faith in the notion that, given enough time, amoeba can become accountants. The Darwinist has no facts to work with, no transitional forms that would give evidence of between-species evolution, nothing but the dogged belief that organic life, in defiance of a basic law of physics, gets more complex over time.

The Humanist has even less to work with. He or she invests his or her faith in the notion that human beings are basically wonderful. Did you know there's a Humanist Manifesto? Absolutely, and organized Humanism does Darwinism one better; the tail end of their Manifesto reads thusly: "We assert that humanism will: (a) affirm life rather than deny it; (b) seek to elicit the possibilities of life, not flee from them; and (c) endeavor to establish the conditions of a satisfactory life for all, not merely for the few. By this positive morale and intention humanism will be guided, and from this perspective and alignment the techniques and efforts of humanism will flow."

Does anyone know of any facts that would have motivated anyone to think that human beings, in and of themselves, are ever going to turn this planet into a Utopia?

Didn't think so. Me either.

Darwinists put their faith in random chance. Humanists put their faith in human goodness. Those of us who are Christians, to the contrary, put our faith in facts--in a set of undeniable truths. We are not merely "people of faith," because everyone possesses a faith which must be invested, either in something or someone. Or, in our case, Someone. We have put our faith in the fact that "God became flesh, and dwelt among us," and thus made a way for us to have an everlasting, saving relationship with Him.

Faith and facts are not polar opposites. As Adrian Rogers used to say, "Faith in faith is positive thinking." Faith in Christ leads to salvation.

And that is a fact.


Monday, October 23, 2006

A common 21st Century malady

As we delve further each day into the new century (which, as of this writing, is still, for some sad reason, personal-jet-pack free), we see more and more evidence of a trend that, in and of itself, isn't fond of evidence. It is the trend of emotionalism, where otherwise well-meaning people give their emotions--and anything attached to them, such as opinions, perceptions, and the like--equal footing with objective, verifiable, no-doubt-about-it facts.

This malady afflicts, to varying degrees, both major political parties in the United States; it is pervasive in the Democrat Party (with the prime example being their core pro-abortion position), and is making inroads in the Republican Party (with the prime example being those in their party who don't address illegal immigration as both a law-enforcement and a national-security problem). It is ever-present in the larger society, where litigation is the weapon of first choice from those who make careers out of being aggrieved. And it is even rearing its ugly, maniacal head in Christian churches, where the old campfire song "They'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love" is being reworked as "They'll know it's a church fuss when they see our laundry."

Those of us who are Christians are, by definition, people of fact. If it is not a fact that God is Who He says He is, if it is not a fact that Jesus stepped out of a grave one Sunday morning, if it is not a fact that the Bible is accurate and authoritative, if it is not a fact that the only way to spend one's eternity in Heaven is through a salvific relationship with Jesus Christ, then we Christians are wasting our collective time. If the Bible is not factual, then it is not credible, and we are no better off than followers of any human-constructed religion; to coin a phrase, "we are of all men most miserable." Thankfully, those are all objective facts: Our choice to accept them as such gives them no more credibility than rejection of those facts gives them less.

The recent brouhaha at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis (sounds like a pay-per-view event, doesn't it? "The Brouhaha At Bellevue!!"), where a small group of members has bypassed the Biblical mandate to keep church disagreements within the church, is an example of emotionalism being the sole fuel for a viewpoint. Just as in the legal concept of the "fruit of the poisonous tree," the entire group is contaminated by the emotional choice (still ongoing) to broadcast their personal disapproval of just about every aspect of what goes on under the leadership of Bellevue's pastor, Dr. Steve Gaines. Using a website orbited by several satellite blogs, the group publicly disagrees with everything from salaries to song services, with lurid headlines billboarding stories of each new imagined transgression.

The headlines are a key to the lack of restraint which is a key element of emotional appeals--desperate times calling for desperate measures, and such. Since officially violating Biblical dispute-resolution principles by going online in August 2006, this anti-Bellevue group (their viewpoint being "anti-Bellevue" because of a refusal of responsibility for the consequences of their behavior) has used personal disparagement as a calling card. Bellevue members who do not share their view, and Bellevue's senior staff have been defamed in various media as "cowards," "the Mafia," Stepford robots, and supposdly employing a "Hitler style of management," among other libelous appellations. This anti-Bellevue activity has even gone to the extent of publishing the e-mail addresses (and, until they had to good sense to remove the information from their main site, the home addresses and telephone numbers) of the deacon body--which, at Bellevue, is composed of more than 180 deacons.

When emotionalism drives people to engage in behaviors that are counterproductive to the larger cause of Christ, it should be a reminder to us all not to fall prey to the same temptations in our own lives. The blogging site I use has as a positioning statement the phrase "Push-Button Publishing." Just because something is suddenly easy to do, such as publishing your opinion when something at church doesn't please you, does not mean it is automatically right to do. The advent of this century has not brought with it jet-packs (though we must not give up hope), but it has brought with it a new ease in indulging one's own subjective emotions. We must guard against pushing buttons in an emotional reflex; after all, the Christian church is a place where Jesus is glorified and saints are equipped, not a place where every whim and opinion must be sated.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Bears

No, I'm not writing about the Chicago Bears, who (as of this moment) are 6-0, with a two-and-a-half game lead over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC "Norris" Division. I'm writing about something a friend of mine reminded me of recently with respect to the disappointing bombast directed at senior Bellevue leadership.

As we were conversing, I expressed concern and compassion for those in the so-called "saving Bellevue" group; with a furrowed brow, he nodded and said to me "Mike, I love them--I just pray the bears don't run out of the woods on 'em." That remark stuck with me, and has been an additional reminder to me that any conversation should be about ideas and viewpoints, and should studiously avoid self-inflated opinions and personal potshots.

If I may synopsize for you the true story my friend referenced, thusly and like so:

A long time ago, there was a man of God who was anointed to be a leader. He had been the apprentice of a well-known, Godly, much-loved figure--one could even call him a prophet. This prophet was someone who received adulation not just in his immediate vicinity, but throughout their nation. After this well-known, Godly, much-loved figure had completed his ministry (and immediately before he went on to be with the Lord), he passed his mantle on to his apprentice, this man of God who was chosen to be the successor to the prophet's ministry.

The man of God had barely picked up his mentor's mantle when some of his mentor's followers began pining for the mentor. Ignoring the apprentice's appeals, they badgered him until they were allowed to search the countryside, a search which came up empty. After that, most of the congregants began to settle in with their new leader, taking their concerns to this man of God--even concerns they hadn't taken to his predecessor.

Not everyone, though, was so warm and receptive. As he was out one day, on his way to meet with other believers and share what heady things God had been doing in his life, he was accosted by a mob, dozens of young people. Their taunts had nothing to do with how this man of God was doing his job--these were people who made a habit of mocking others, and they repeated their jeers so this man of God couldn't help but hear them. Your mentor is dead, right? Why don't you join him, you bald-headed idiot? Yeah, you heard us! Why don't you die and go up to heaven, too, bald-head?

This was crossing a line. They were mature enough to know better, but that didn't matter. These young people weren't disagreeing with how the new leader was doing his job, but rather ganging up on this man, attacking the new leader personally, publicly, and repeatedly. Their attacks were at once insubstantial and vindictive.

The man of God turned around, and stared at them for what must have been a long moment. It was God's prompting that caused him to utter the curse--what a horrible thing it must be to be legitimately cursed in the Lord's name!--and then, it happened.

Meeting up with one wild bear would be bad enough. Two of them would be a multiplied danger, particularly when God has given them their marching orders. The entire mob, all 42 of them, died in the divinely-ordered bear attack. They weren't just killed, they were shredded, torn by two she-bears. And why? Not for debating policy or doctrine, but for verbally attacking people. Verbally, mind you.

And the man of God? He went about his business.


If you will...

...please take the time to visit the "Faux rescues" post on this site, located in the September 3 archive. After receiving a friendly e-mail from someone who disagreed with a portion of that post, I have updated it as a result of his observations.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

For everyone's edification

Here's another comment that warrants response in a post, rather than in a comment thread:

I am the anonymous writer who requested that the label anti-Bellevue not be continued.

Pleasure to meet you.

Please don’t take the time to educate me on the English language as I am fairly proficient in this area. You may be a great voice person but I do have a functioning knowledge of our language.

I'm quite flattered, actually. And I'd love to return the compliment, but I know so little about you. However, I don't recall questioning your knowledge of English...

Just for your edification ‘anti’ is a term meaning ‘against or opposed to something’ therefore your use of anti-Bellevue would mean that someone is against or opposed to Bellevue.

You, however, feel free to question mine?

For the record, though, I completely agree with your observation. "Anti" does, indeed, mean "against or opposed to something." Which is why the term is employed (and not just by my own self, mind you) with reference to those associated with the so-called "Saving Bellevue" group.

And that is not the case.

But of course it is. It became the case the day set up shop, and was only accentuated when some affiliated with it began to give interviews to the local media.

Additionally Dr. Rogers’s comments were in the context of a pastor’s style of preaching and leadership. I don’t think anyone who sat under Dr. Rogers believes that he would have approved with the methods being used to stifle and intimidate fellow members.

As I've written more than once, it's the anti-Bellevue cadre that stifles dissenting opinion on their website and blogs (refusing as a rule to print such opinions), pins pejoratives such as "coward" or "Mafia" on those who disagree, and attacks individuals instead of discussing ideas.

Someone, please, show us all a single, documented, factual example of a senior staff member at Bellevue Baptist Church putting the screws to a Bellevue member.

And to save someone the effort: Secondhand information, or information that's your anonymous word against someone else's, doesn't meet the criteria.

My last point to you Mike is that you seem to demean people who don’t post their names.

As I've said before, I'm not sanguine about antagonistic remarks made by people from the shadows of anonymity. This is one of the primary problems with the "Saving Bellevue" group: With the exception of a few, they conduct their unfortunate activity without signing their names.

Some of us may not be in a situation whereby we can post our names due to our position within the church.

If you value your "position within the church" so much that you are unwilling to sign your names to what you write--particularly when it's in opposition to something you believe to be wrong, I really don't know what to tell you.

Except to suggest you might want to re-evaluate your positions, both on this "saving Bellevue" business and within the church.

I recall Dr. Roger’s (sic) asking if a man was in search of the truth or just searching to fortify his stated position. Mike, I ask you directly “Are you seeking the truth or just looking to support the stand which you have taken?”.

And I'll answer directly: Seeking the truth.

I expect to meet this week with a friend and brother in Christ who disagrees with my viewpoint on this issue. If he presents me with facts that change my viewpoint, I will not hesitate to say so. However, I didn't come to my present position via emotion, opinion, half-truth, rumor, or esteem for another individual, but by facts.

And one incontrovertible fact is that the conduct and content at has been divisive, personality-driven, and a vigorous violation of the Biblical template.

Way back when, there was the concept in U.S. politics of the "loyal opposition." Were you an elected federal official who disagreed with the President? By all means, disagree with him--even work to unseat him in the next election. But never, never denigrate him to the United States' enemies, or otherwise work to undermine the country's status in the eyes of the world.

Is this the first time a congregant's disagreed with a pastor? Of course not. Unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly common to run "attack ads" against one's pastor, campaigning against him publicly.

And that only serves to undermine the church's status in the eyes of the world.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Here, let me hold up this mirror...

If you anti-Bellevue folks genuinely like the way you look in it, well, I don't know what else to say--except to encourage you to look a little harder. This anonymous comment is a prime example of what you (and all of us) should seek to avoid:

You guys just don't get it. Do you not see that you are amateurs compared to Josh Manning

Again, it's about personalities, not issues. The Sheehan Syndrome is alive and well, as noted previously.

and he has gained more respect after Weatherwax letters than he ever had.

Respect from whom, exactly? From those who write anonymously, throwing rocks and then hiding their hands? How, exactly, does throwing long-distance verbal Molotovs engender respect--much less "more respect"--from anyone?

Do you have a problem with the truth?

Good Tom Cruise impression. I'll refrain from playing the Jack Nicholson role here, if you don't mind...

Looks like to me PW lied in his first letter and admitted it in the next.

Your opinion is irrelevant, as is mine. The fact of the matter is that Bro. Phil Weatherwax's second letter didn't apologize for anything. In it, he did state that he loves young Mr. Manning, and is concerned about the level of contentiousness.

You and are now following the pattern that our Paster (sic) started. You better watch out

Nebulous, veiled threats are part of that contentiousness.

or people will start holding the tithes for God until SG and Jamie are fully exposed.

As are more pointed threats.

Its all about the money now and Steve caused it. Yeah he knows the Bible but so do you and so do I.

Thank you for the compliment, but honestly, I have no idea what you know and what you don't know. Behind your anonymity, you could be an eighty-year-old Buddhist.

Or a forty-year-old atheist.

Or a twenty-something grad student.

Please, people--if you feel there are issues to discuss, discuss the issues. Leave personalities out of it. When you attack others, you do no favors to the name of Christ.

I'm going to leave this mirror propped up for awhile. Let's all make good use of it.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Something has recently dawned on me.

And by "recently," I mean about ten seconds ago.

Does anyone passing through this little corner of the Internet think, for a moment, that President George W. Bush needs to sit down for a serious one-on-one with Cindy Sheehan? Mrs. Sheehan, who lost her son Casey in Iraq, actually received personal condolences from the President; after their meeting, she had nothing but nice things to say about Mr. Bush. Fast-forward a bit, and she's camping out in a ditch near the President's Texas home, "protesting" the war effort and opining about virtually anything and everything else. Fast-forward a bit more, and she's purchasing property in Crawford under false pretenses so she can more easily hector President Bush, still using her son's coffin as a soapbox.

Mrs. Sheehan's tactic (and the tactic of those surrounding her) is to make her own self the issue.

Unfortunately, that same tactic is being employed by Mark Sharpe And Friends.

Let me quote Mr. Sharpe, thusly and like so:

I feel compelled

The question asked was in reference to Mark Sharpe's request

(There's that talking-about-oneself-in-the-third-person business again. Mike Bratton just hates that...)

I'm not sure how much he knows about the situation because I've not talked to Jim Barnwell and Jim Barnwell has not talked with me.

Unless someone who knows has told him, he has no idea of the efforts I and many other deacons and members have done to discuss these issues in a private manner instead of openly before the church in this public setting.

(A church, just for the record, is a private setting--not a public one like, oh, say, the Internet.)

That doesn't sound like reconciliation to me.

My heart is grieved

I plead with the administration

I plead with the laymen who are in leadership

This is the most disturbing part of the whole anti-Bellevue business: The issues raised are playing a weak second fiddle to the individuals doing the issue-raising. See for yourself, the next time you visit, how their own page titles look to you (emphasis mine):

Deacon David Bishop Letter to Pastor

What steps has Steve Gaines taken to reconcile with Mark Sharpe?

Mark Sharpe asks Steve Gaines to resign.

Honestly, there are no legitimate "sides" to this business. The idea is that those of us who are Christians are, or should be, on the Lord's side; if we have disputes, then someone (or everyone) involved is out of alignment with God's will for that situation.

When the people took to the Internet, the newspapers, and the television, actually "saving Bellevue" got lost in the shuffle of interviews and pronouncements. It was taking a figurative stick, and drawing a figurative line in the figurative sand; publicly calling those at Bellevue who disagree with your viewpoint "cowards" and "the Mafia," among other things, are polarizing, line-in-the-sand statements.

Only with a real sadness can such a viewpoint be identified not as a desire to save Bellevue, but as anti-Bellevue. Pardon me for getting personal, but I'm sick of seeing it. The "Saving 'Saving Bellevue'" blog has, for whatever reason, shut down; it would be nice to see follow suit. I'd much rather report and/or opine about any of the thousand other stories zipping through the air these days--but as long as that site keeps churning along, this one will offer alternatives.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006


I'm still around, folks--just taking a few days of vacation in a part of the United States where the Internet isn't pervasively available.

I must say that I'm heartened and blessed by the responses to my lack of activity. And while I'm thinking about it: For the person, whoever you were, who suggested that I was so, so in the wrong for blogging, let me refer you to the very first posts I put here. I'd love to be writing about other things (and I plan to), but the current Bellevue situation has prompted me to respond with an alternative point of view.

Thank you for your interest. Give me a bit of travel time to get back in front of my HP keyboard, and we'll see where it goes.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

This deserves the light of day

So often, comments to posts can get lost in the shuffle. This one (which came in moments ago) was just too special to leave in the stack:

Anonymous said...


You are a bully, and damaged at Bellevue. You need to check what your saying with God. If you have a relationship with him, listen.

9:39 AM, October 05, 2006

I have a few requests for you, whoever you are:

1) Please quote specific things I've said, written, or done that qualify me, in your mind, as a "bully." I know that since the anti-Bellevue crowd started this nonsense, I've prayed for--and publicly hoped for--an amenable resolution to it. I have invited those involved with to post here, since their associated sites do not allow for discussion, or even permit the posting of comments that are critical of their efforts.

2) Please define the term "damaged at Bellevue." In whose opinion? In what areas? To what extent? If you have some double-super-secret insider information, please share it.

3) Please highlight the things I've said, written, or done that give you the notion that I don't "check" what I'm saying with God. For your edification, there hasn't been any post or comment I've written regarding this entire situation that hasn't been prayed over; more than once, the Lord has prompted me to use the "Backspace" key and either rephrase or delete sections of posts and comments. And, sometimes, whole posts and comments.

4) Please give me the Biblical support for feeling comfortable in questioning my salvation. To my knowledge, no one who is critical of the anti-Bellevue group has made the nauseating leap you just made.

Whoever you are--if you've ever heard Adrian Rogers speak about nasty, venomous letters he had received, you've heard him make the astute observation that whenever people lack the fortitude to at least sign their names to their criticisms, those criticisms mean nothing.

If you cannot respond to those requests (either in a comment or to my e-mail) without clearly and plainly identifying yourself, there's no need to bother. And if you do choose to identify yourself, keep in mind you'll be claiming ownership of your above-quoted unfortunate remarks.

Your call.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

An open letter to Mark Sharpe


Since there is no other way you've made available to get in touch with you, this is going to have to do. I'm aware that you and yours stop by from time to time, but rarely, if ever, leave responses. Perhaps that will change.

The so-called "Saving Bellevue" site has a new entry: "Mark Sharpe asks Steve Gaines to resign." Such a National Enquirer-esque advertisement brings to mind the danger of believing one's own press clippings. You've been quoted in the paper, and mentioned on a few websites, so now it's news that you are asking Pastor Gaines to resign?

Not hardly. Your pastor and three others cared enough about you to come to your house and try to talk with you. That's something to be blessed by, not complain about. Yet you wear it as a "red badge of courage," talking about how you've been intimidated and harassed.

But let me examine a few choice quotes from your "epistle." Speaking of fences, I quote you thusly, and like so:

Steve Gaines, you mentioned Sunday evening that you and the others “were so desperate to try to protect Bellevue – we were so desperate”. What were you desperate about protecting?

The answer, which should be obvious even to your own group, is to protect Bellevue--"saving" it, if you will--from the type of gossip and antagonism you and yours dispense.

You misled the church by inferring that the website had stated that the Bellevue 4 jumped over the gate. Nobody has ever stated that you or others jumped over the gate.

(I must say, referring to the "Bellevue 4" is absolutely hilarious... in a pitiful way...)

Mark, let me be blunt here: You are representing part of the truth as all of the truth. How did Pastor Gaines begin his remarks regarding the vaulting of fences? Why, you can read it in the transcript used to have posted, and which this site still does. I quote it thusly, and like so:

We've already talked about the fence, and I want to join Brother Chuck and we're representing the others that were involved- the four of us- we absolutely.. that was a mistake obviously, we shouldn't have done it.

In case you've had trouble finding that quote, it directly precedes your referenced quote regarding Pastor Gaines desiring to protect Bellevue from the bile your group dispenses.

By the way, Mark, have you called the sheriff's department yet? Trespassing is something they're interested in. No? You haven't reported this heinous trangression of county law by that gang of scofflaws, the "Bellevue 4"?


After reading your missive--which, apart from the rumor-mongering, reads as self-aggrandizement and resumé-touting--there really isn't much else to comment on. Except, of course, to note that the analogy you and yours inspired with your opinion-laden accusations, "more 'I's' than a sack of potatoes," is the new catchphrase for the 21st century.

Please, post a comment or three here, Mark. Your opinion is just as important as anyone else's.

Not more, though.


EDITED TO ADD: A commenter made an excellent point, Mark. Your proclamation calling for Pastor Gaines to slink away into the night mists is from you.

It wasn't even from the prestigious law firm of Sharpe, Saba, McClerkin, Benson, Bobbitt, Haywood, and Manning. Just from you.

Why is that?

EDITED TO ADD SOME MORE: Once again, Mark, you've made it into the Commercial Appeal. Do you have James Dowd on speed-dial?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

You might have noticed...

...and even if you haven't, I have chosen to remove my post containing Pastor Rogers' sermon quotes which were germane to the current situation. It is my prayer that they have served their purpose, and encouraged reflection in the hearts of everyone concerned.