Tuesday, February 27, 2007

With a banjo on my knee

That's my whimsical response to the question "Are y'all still going to Alabama?" Indeed we are, and with alacrity.

My family and I will relocate to the Birmingham metro before mid-April, and rather than waiting until the night before the moving vans pull up, I wanted to impose upon you now. If you are one of those in the Birmingham area who frequent TBR (sounds official, doesn't it?), we need your help. Even if you're not there now, but know about the area, we could use your input as well. While my wife is more familiar with the area than I am, neither of us knows nearly enough about, for lack of a better term, "the best of Birmingham."

Is Hoover High School all it's cracked up to be? Where do you get good barbeque? What are some good Southern Baptist churches to visit, and how do they celebrate Easter and Christmas? (For the record, we've had friends recommend Gardendale's First Baptist--which we've visited, really enjoyed, and plan to visit again--along with Brook Hills, Hunter Street, and Valleydale.) Where's a good dry cleaner? Know any good babysitters? What's the best grocery store chain? How much more fun are Birmingham's golf courses than those in Memphis? Does anyone down there really use the abbreviation "B'ham"? Auburn, Alabama, or UAB? Oh, yes, and this one... Do you folks really still refer to it as "The War of Northern Aggression," or is someone just yanking my chain?

As you can tell, we're loaded down with questions--most of which I haven't listed, and probably don't even know to ask. Whether you'd like to respond in the Comments section or via e-mail, please respond. We're making our final house-hunting trip very soon, so Moving Day can come at virtually any time the Lord sees fit to orchestrate, and He's already made it clear we'll be there by Tax Day.

One other matter, of a very personal nature: I need a gig down there; freelancing's been interesting, but I could do without it. Networking has, to date, been slow yet productive; if you're connected to anyone in radio broadcasting or commercial production work, that's been my bread-and-butter since 1989, and I'd appreciate an opportunity to hook up. Or if you know anyone who could use a snarky blogger to do some writing, just let me know. Additionally, I act, teach Christian theater, and write plays; if you know of a Southern Baptist church (perhaps even one of the ones I listed earlier) that could keep me busy in those areas, I'd be obliged.

Cast a broad net, so the saying goes.

The broth for the "Bratton family stew" has been percolating for awhile, and it's now at a rolling, noisy boil. If you can toss some ingredients into the pot, to make the stew a bit more tasty--

Sorry. That analogy got away from me. Let's try that again.

We're ready for the next chapter in our lives, and if you can pass along any suggestions to make the transition easier, we would appreciate it.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Break glass in case of deletion

It's gotten downright funny.

A representative from the group oxymoronically named "Integrity Does Count" (You down with IDC?) made some statements last night regarding the mysterious nature of their organization. My response on the oxymoronically-named "Open Forum" lasted only a matter of minutes. Thankfully, I didn't un-learn the previously-learned lesson, so here's the post in question, which addresses a key point in the way the IDC sub-group does its business:

Mike Bratton said...
Tim said...

There is no fear involved in the Board of IDC. There is a matter of effectiveness and right now they may have more effect anonymously.

Because, of course, non-profit organizations do some of their best work from the shadows?

Could you explain the rationale there, Tim?

Since when has releasing names become an issue in your eyes. The church has a legal responsibility to do so and gain your support in refusing to do so.

Actually, the church has no legal, or moral, responsibility to release much of anything to a group whose raison d'etre is to work at cross purposes with the church. Or was Mr. Coombs' response not factual?

IDC has no legal or other responsibility to you and you take issue with them because of it.

You do, on the other hand, have a moral responsibility to let those you disagree with know your identities.

Imagine the scene. It's a clear, beautiful July day in Philadelphia, the year is 1776, and the Colonies are moving to assert themselves. John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, strides up to the Declaration of Independence and with a bold stroke, signs it thusly and like so:


Doesn't have the same ring to it, does it? I mean, centuries later, who'd want to do business with the Anonymous Life Insurance Company?

This is actually far beyond a double standard.

No, actually, it's right-smack-dab in double-standard territory.

Releasing names for one is a legal requirement

You and yours had your collective hat handed to you on that one, didn't you? Why, then, do you still pursue it?

and the other is to satisfy your curiousity.

If you were smuggling Bibles to China, I could understand the need for a certain level of secrecy.

Wait--you're not smuggling Bibles to China, are you?

There is a moral responsibility to identify one's self to those with whom one disagrees. The propensity to avoid doing so, combined with the convenient dismissal of inconvenient facts, is increasingly eroding the base upon which the IDC and Mostly Closed Forum claim to operate; when that base is gone, it cannot be reclaimed.

And folks, it's just about gone.


Friday, February 16, 2007

As I suspected

Our friends at what used to be legitimately known as an "Open Forum" have taken up an interesting... well, for lack of a better word, tactic. When someone such as my own self asks them to be a little less incendiary in their behavior, the remarks just get (poof!) removed. Well, I might be slow on the uptake sometimes, but not today. Normally, there's no need to make copies of what one posts on an "Open Forum," but I've taken up the habit. Let me pull back the curtain and show you the horrible, horrible things I had to say--parental guidance suggested, and such. For ease of comprehension, the remarks of other posters are italicized. I quote thusly, and like so:

Trollcakes said...
Sorry to repost this comment from the last thread, but Bratton still hasn't replied to the following response to his assigning equivalence to anonymity on BBC Open Forum and the lack of transparency and accountability by the church leadership.

Since I've done nothing of the sort, your comment doesn't exactly compute.

I won't hold my breath that he'll answer.

Thankfully, God gave us an autonomic reflex that keeps us from holding our breaths to the point of damage.

I find it ironic that the "personal responsibity" crowd now fall into the pit (or uncharted waters) of moral relativism and situational ethics.

I find it fascinating that that's all you have.

"Bratton, why do you harp on these peoples anonymity so much?

Because it's wrong.

A "reporter" should know that anonymity is as old as the age, and has been employed for many purposes--yet usually to veil the identity of one whom would otherwise feel coerced, badgered and subject to backlash by the wealthy, powerful or simply the impetuous--haha(not naming names).

Since I actually (gasp!) was a newspaper reporter for a brief while (thankfully, it didn't take), you might be surprised to know I'm familiar with the use of unnamed sources. Unnamed sources, however, have never had free rein to spew bile about people with whom they have a disagreement.

Nobody here wants a bevy of deacons, dressed like morticians, jumping their (little) fence for a smattering of spontaneous "fellowship."

My Sunday School... er, Bible Fellowship teacher nicely summed up the incident to which your friend and your own self continue to refer. I can't quote him precisely, but the thought went along this line: "Personally, I'd be flattered to know that my pastor loved me enough to hop my fence and come to my door if he knew there was a problem between us."

You don't think people here have any call to fear some downward pressure from the big guns at BBC, eh?


Not in the slightest.

No, I cannot really think of anybody who ever experienced a negative consequence to their life stemming from the expression of dissent to the leadership of Bellevue."

Can you?

Should I wait for another Nazi or Mafia allusion? Or even a specific example?

Oh, and before I forget, I did notice something to which I wanted to respond:

New BBC Open Forum said...
mike bratton wrote:

"Just for the record, a number of you "regulars" here agree that God hates David Coombs, Larry Ray, Phil Weatherwax, Steve Marcum, Mark Dougharty, Steve Tucker, and Steve Gaines"

How stupid do you think we are? To quote someone from days gone by, don't put words in my mouth.

Then when no one refutes a poster who equates something God hates with a particular individual, what conclusion should a reader come away with--both from the original post, and from the lack of outrage and/or censorship?

"Why can't you simply discuss something or just present your views without trying to pick a fight with everyone here?"

Nass, if you can find a single instance of where I have tried to "pick a fight" with anyone around here, please let me know.

There are serious issues at Bellevue that need addressing by sober, serious-minded people. When people who want to be involved in the discussion behave, as you and yours do, in a way that cannot be mistaken as being either sober or serious-minded, why is it so horrible to encourage you to reconsider your own behavior?

Either cut the c*** (there, I didn't censor it this time) (However, I did.) or I will delete your comments. It's up to you.

Will you be punishing yourself for consciously refusing to follow your own guidelines? Or are references to excrement (as you and at least one other poster have recently made) considered around here to reflect "a respectful, Christian spirit"?

Again, please, either take the high road or don't make the trip.

In recent weeks, I've spent far less time overall reading that site, much less posting there. Will I bellow an "I Quit!" and never visit there again? Of course not; matter of fact, you'll notice that this site still links to them--as with the so-called "saving Bellevue" site, it's important that people have access to different perspectives regarding the issues facing Bellevue Baptist Church.

The point's self-evident: When people can say what they wish without regard for responsibility, what they say is often unflattering and counterproductive. It produces the same kind of opportunism that is found in those few who use the Bellevue situation to make names for themselves--two sides of the same contrarian coin.

We must, as a church body, work together to address the issues before us, or face the real possibility of lasting damage to the church's ability to share the Gospel both locally and globally.

Or, as that noted philosopher Dr. Jack Shephard has said: "Live together, die alone."


EDITED TO ADD: Now it's getting even more humorous--I understand that posts of mine from that anything-but-Open Forum are being retroactively deleted.

Heh heh heh...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Some serious "anti" comments

Perhaps you are aware--and if not, you will be--that the United States nurtures, at present, the seeds of wholesale Christian persecution. In no way do we as Christians in the United States have the level of persecution present in places such as China or Saudia Arabia, but the soil for growing such persecution is being prepared.

Earlier this week, The Catholic League called for Democrat presidential aspirant John "The Breck Girl" Edwards (and if Mr. Edwards didn't have such a documented fascination with his hair, the nickname wouldn't have as much traction) to dismiss two of his staffers, both of whom have made stridently and unrepentantly anti-Christian public statements. Not just "We don't like Christianity because of" x, y, or z, but... well, my ability to analogize comes up short in this instance. The Catholic League's website is listing more details, but I cannot bring myself to directly link to the quoted comments. Suffice it to say they are some of the most disgusting statements I've ever seen directed at Christians and Christianity, and particularly at the Catholic denomination.

Perhaps, at my age, I should be surprised by such things, but Mr. Edwards has refused to fire his employees, after he had indicated that's precisely what he would do. (I thought it was too cold outside for flip-flops??) The events surrounding these two Edwards campaign staffers serve to illustrate, again, why Mr. Edwards is patently unqualified to run for President--even as the Democrat nominee. Does anyone really think that Mr. Edwards would've even gotten a single hair in his coiffure out of place in firing his two staffers had they made similar statements against, oh, say, Muslims and Islam?

Open contempt for those of us who are Christians and for Christianity in general is getting more and more fashionable. Combine that with individuals, such as Mr. Edwards, whose "leadership skills" are summed up as following the fashionable, (rather than leading through what is perhaps unpopular to what is right) and one phrase comes to mind: It's going to get worse before it gets better.

But we knew that already, didn't we?


EDITED TO ADD: As of yesterday (February 14), both of Edwards' staffers have resigned. Did they leave of their own accord, or were they "encouraged to depart"? It really doesn't matter. The point is that blatantly anti-Christian screeds are not firing offenses in at least one Democrat's presidential campaign.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


One of the links in the list below is to what is oxymoronically called an "Open Forum."

Currently, it is not.

It used to be, to its anonymous moderator's credit, but the over-the-top behavior of a poster who didn't share the predominant mindset was excuse enough to restrict input. As a result, the invective flows in a much more uncontested manner--including remarks directed at your friendly reporter.

Don't share the mindset of the "regulars"? Why, then they can question your salvation, and do so with barely a word of protest! Then, they can use your support of Pastor Gaines and blame him for someone else's poor behavior.

The banned poster, Cary Sidhom, indeed made numerous mistakes, including duplicitous behavior with a family friend he knew frequented the Forum. Cary was condemned by one poster for--and I quote thusly, and like so--"collecting info on [someone else], like a spy, (to use against [that someone else] in public)." Yet notice that Josh Manning, another young man who is also guilty of making numerous mistakes in this situation, is lauded for surreptitiously recording a conversation with Bellevue's Administrative Pastor, David Coombs. Collecting info, if you will. Like a spy. To use against Mr. Coombs. In public.

Double standard, anyone?

When I attempted to reply to Mr. Manning's defense of his poor behavior, my observations don't make it past the moderator's mouse-clicks. And when I attempt to respond to lies specifically told and retold about my own self on that forum? Same song, second verse. It's nice to see the occasional rebuttal to the insubstantial accusations, rebuttals such as this (again, I quote thusly, and like so):

"I wouldn't group Mike Bratton in the same group with Ace. Unlike Ace, Mike Bratton has, to my knowledge, been honest and has not tried to cause problems. Bratton on numerous occasions in my opinion has brought forth solid and legit points. And when there has been a disagreement, instead of attacking, he's had good arguements (sic) for and against various things."

That's from a young man using the fine Klingon pseudonym of "Koragg." Q'apla, honorable brother! (It's a Star Trek thing; you might not understand.) But I digress.

Unlike the anti-Bellevue cadre--and with each passing day, they illustrate their growing antipathy for healing, mutuality, and sober discussion--this site cites divergent viewpoints, so readers can make their own decisions. However, I must strongly caution you that the "Open Forum" is, by and large, "open" to those who just cannot abide opposing viewpoints. Which is to say that, nowadays, the Forum is hardly Open at all. Visit it at your own risk.


Monday, February 05, 2007

The waiting is the hardest part

So, that was it?

Months of Sturm und Drang about what might or might not have gone on at Bellevue Baptist Church with regard to the presence of a sexual predator on staff result in reports from the Personnel Committee and the Investigative Team--reports which used to be on Bellevue's website, but don't appear to be anymore. If I hadn't picked up a hard copy, I wouldn't have access to it; even attempting to Google it in a cached state trips a request for a password.

In a nutshell, we received a "Mistakes Were Made" report, something that was already obvious. Other than the dismissal of Paul Williams from the staff, there were no reported censures of those who erred in their handling of the matter. From my perspective, and after hearing the thoughts of a great number of people, we must be missing something.

Be clear--I'm calling for no one's job, no heads on pikes. Were I in the position of being one of those named as being at fault, that in itself would be censure enough, mortifying as it would be to me. However, I find myself still waiting. Waiting for the substantive consequences. Waiting for the "new Bellevue," if I may use such a term. Waiting for the Bellevue that holds two-way, open business meetings so that members can voice concerns directly and freely. Waiting for something more than a reference to "uncharted waters" and training which should be unnecessary, if not downright offensive. (Again, if I may, the "waters" were "charted" by the Catholic denomination quite awhile ago, if not properly navigated. Uncharted? No. Unfamiliar? Very much so.) Waiting for the Bellevue that goes further than one- or two-deep on its bench, distributing responsibility in a less-concentrated manner among more brothers and sisters in the congregation.

The fact that none of this appears to be happening gives fuel to the small group of people who do want to see careers destroyed--since they can continue to veil their bad behavior behind a presumed Quest For The Truth. Pastor Gaines, and Bellevue staff and leadership, I urge you to take the wind from the sails of those people, by responding to the legitimate complaints which tend to be obscured by their hyperbole and misguided actions.

Please, don't make us wait.


EDITED TO ADD: New information has come my way, that the church did not plan to leave the Report on its website as indefinitely accessible, only until it did what it perceived as "its due diligence." This was not a decision which would show the church staff as working to be more transparent in operation.