Wednesday, November 28, 2007

If you don't have a catchphrase, let me suggest one

"Live for nothing, or die for something. Your call."

As a Christian, such a statement has a very specific connotation to me, but it's certainly a conversation-starter at the very least. You might have to Google the source (other than the Biblical overtones, obviously), and when you find it, you'll know one movie you might want to go see in January.


Friday, November 02, 2007

When enough really is enough

For those of you who aren't geeks (like me), I wrote this past July of the small anti-Bellevue virulence reaching "critical mass."

In physics, the term is used to describe achieving a necessary amount of nuclear material for the purpose of sustaining a fission reaction. In argumentation and debate, the term can be used to describe the assembly of sufficient information to come to a reasonable conclusion in a given area. Since so many of the regular posters here at TBR (I love the smell of an official acronym, don't you?) are observers of the events surrounding Bellevue Baptist Church in recent months, my attention is periodically drawn back to those who self-identify as "truthseekers," but are in point of fact naysayers.

Is that all, however? After over a year of nay-saying, are those who still participate in the attacks against a Christian church, her pastor, and her staff still deserving of the benefit of the doubt? Or have they, finally, reached a "critical mass" of evidence and vended that benefit away?

The only available conclusions are these: As general rules, they've spent all the considerations extended to them, done nothing to seek reconciliation, and done everything to injure those with whom they disagree. I am no less convinced that God can do a work in their lives, but I am persuaded by the evidence that it is no longer (and probably hasn't been for awhile) legitimate differences of opinion that fuel the anti-Bellevue cadre, but wrong attitudes of the heart.

In a word, sin.

"Oh, you're gonna get it now, Mike! You're judging! Judging, judging, judging!"

My best Gomer Pyle impression aside, it is responsible to encourage people to re-evaluate their behavior. However, it becomes irresponsible to just encourage, and not challenge people with regard to their behavior. And with regard to judging, I've not suggested (nor will I) that Christians cannot sin, that sin invalidates our salvation, or that people who sin cannot be Christians.

The so-called "Saving Bellevue" site, still published by Jim Haywood, has as its latest indictment the fact that Bellevue hosts (gasp!) a Fall Festival as a safe, non-occult alternative to traditional Halloween parties and trick-or-treating. This is something Bellevue has done for a number of years, yet only now is it worthy of the "Saving Bellevue" scorn. Haywood writes in his National Enquirer-esque headline style, "Tonight Oct 31st 2007 Bellevue hosted a carnival. Thousands came and rode rides. It was in the parking lot and on the ball fields. I am not aware of the Gospel being presented." To be blunt, it's obvious that the reason Haywood wasn't "aware of the Gospel being presented" was because he was too busy surreptitiously photographing the setup on the church grounds. Think it's possible that the Gospel might have been demonstrated in the lives of those serving the children and parents who attended? Having been a part of Fall Festivals in years past, I know as fact that many people who attend don't otherwise visit Bellevue--which is quite the point. It's an opportunity to show that Christian deeds can match Christian verbiage.

But if Christian verbiage is the sticking point, there are a few things Haywood would've known had he bothered to check. My friend on the ground (and working one of the admissions tables) Daniel McCrosky tells me that among the crowd were a number of Bellevue members whose job was to actively share the Gospel as they had opportunity, as well as the presence of an EE table setup and the presence of Christian music, plus the very mechanism for getting a wristband, which required filling out a card with information that will be used for follow-up visitation at a later date. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was actively, unashamedly shared during the festivities--and will continue to be shared in the near future with many of the over 8,000 who attended.

Jim, part of your so-called "Mission Statement" reads thusly, and like so: "Our sincere desire is to honor Jesus Christ, Truth Himself, through an improved measure of accountability within His church." Sneaking around and taking photographs of children's rides on church grounds honors no one, and particularly not Christ. This is not the first time you've posted scurrilous photography and inaccurate, baseless accusations on your website, and I fear it won't be the last. I ask you to remove that nonsense from your site, along with the vapid suggestion that local mission projects are somehow an unworthy goal of the 2007 Love Offering.

The critical mass, Jim, illustrates that you use your site to do as much damage as you think you can, rather than to attempt to "save" much of anything. In the name of Christ, I call you to repent. Delete your files, Jim, and shutter your site permanently. It serves no useful purpose except to bring notoriety to yourself.

Enough's enough.

Oh, and speaking of Bellevue's Halloween alternative, Haywood's nonsense isn't the only ugly upshot of the festivities. What is, only as a joke, referred to as the BBC "Open Forum"--the home of the anti-Bellevue faithful--has begun to indulge an element of bigotry, not to mention an element of inanity, into the mix. The disingenuous remarks expressing outrage at a Fall Festival ("How CARNAL! To have a carnival!") when Bellevue has done just that for as long as I can remember is pathetic. But what really is a scorcher is the bigotry, both subtle and overt--and not just of the racial variety: Thusly, and like so:

"The other lady Said: 'I hope they can help the neighborhood deal with all those people they are bringing in on Halloween night!' I kind of bet those 2 aren't the only ones..."

"What next.....Entertainment for Adults......Bingo, Strip Bars, or maybe even Slot machines...Gee....We could make lots of money for Missions...."

"I wonder if the meth-addicted carnies that run the rides were a part of the package?!"

"When I looked at the pictures from the BBC 'campus' and saw the carnival activity, it was very depressing...for what I saw was something that was once so beautiful and holy destroyed to something so ugly, degrading, and demonic."

"If you think the dress code at BBC is in bad shape now, just wait till the inner city crowd arrives with the baggy pants, boom boxes and the $500.00 sneakers. Oh by the way, this same crowd will really help the offering. If BBC wants to retain this crowd, they will have to serve breakfast and lunch. Also, don't forget metal detectors at all the doors. Way to go BBC."

(Oh, and on another matter where the truth suffers at the "Open Forum" for the sake of the group, their moderator writes this, containing a lie: "Colleges and Universities already have this. It's called the 'Baptist Student Union.' I know it's at the U of M, because that's where I was saved 18 years ago. Perhaps the BSU would accept a financial donation from BBC, but they are already doing this job. Next?" This is either a result of ignorance or willful misrepresentation, but the statement regarding Bellevue's U of M ministry and BSU/BCM activities is a lie. As a former president of the University of Memphis Baptist Student Union, I can tell you that Bellevue had a separate college-campus ministry there way back into the 1980s. If the Love Offering wants to extend and/or expand that ministry, people involved with the BSU/BCM work can only cheer. Implying that Bellevue is horning in on some other organization's "turf" is untruthful.)

And to the Forum's anonymous moderator, I say what I said to Haywood: Enough's enough. You help no one, and you go out of your way to hurt a great many. I call on you, in the holy name of Christ, to repent of your sins regarding your "Forum" and its activities, and to shutter it permanently.

Because I love you, I have to say this: You and yours, along with Haywood and his, have allowed disagreement to fester and mutate. As it stands, you are indulging--dare I say "harboring"?--hate.

Enough is enough.


EDITED TO ADD: One more example of hate, written by someone I thought was a friend:

"9/11/05 was Steve's 1st day in the pulpit - coincidence or providence?

"God leaves nothing to chance - if 9/11/01 is deemed as a bad day in Amercian history, there is no way 9/11/05 will not be viewed (if it's not already) as a bad day in Bellevue history."

Comparing Pastor Gaines' first sermon to a terrorist attack has to be one of the most hateful things I've read in this entire saga, and one of the most irresponsible things I've read in my entire life.

I am crushingly disappointed, and genuinely hurt. I've asked the author of that statement to recant, and warned that author numerous times over the past year that associating with those who hate will precipitate hate in you.

For the individual who wrote that: In Jesus' name, you must repent of such hatemongering.




EDITED TO ADD SOMETHING EVEN MORE DISGUSTING (IF POSSIBLE): This time it's Jim Haywood's turn to publish bile--from the mind of someone I used to respect, a man named Riad "Ray" Saba. Periodically, and for some unknown reason, Haywood lets Saba have a little column space on his vile "Saving Bellevue" site. There's a new article from Saba, innocuously titled "A Worthy Lesson to Learn," comparing Bellevue to Memphis' Temple of Deliverance Church, where G. E. Patterson preached until his death. The article purports to compare the status of Patterson's legacy at his church with Adrian Rogers' at Bellevue, and contains an astounding piece of hatred. Thusly, and like so:

"Many thoughts went through my mind as I considered and compared the situation of both these two wonderful churches. One thought blatantly stood out: One church honored her prophet; the other church killed her prophet! The result is certainly obvious!"

Don't pass that over: Bellevue Baptist Church "killed" Adrian Rogers.

Ray, that's a sick, demented thing to say--and Jim, that's a sick, demented thing to publish. You both must repent.