Monday, April 13, 2009

Accountability can be uncomfortable, for some

Late last week, an individual named Thomas A. Rich was pulled, unwillingly, from the tall grass into the sunshine.

He didn't take it well.

Rich, as noted here, has invested a great deal of time and effort since mid-2007 in attacking First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, and specifically her pastor, Mac Brunson.

To read Rich's side of things, he had "concerns." Were they justified? From what I know of the situation, some were very justified--so much that there might actually be a conflict within that church, one in need of resolution.

But where could a group of Christians go to find a template for conflict resolution within their church?

Here's an idea--why not try the Bible?

Nah, that wasn't for Rich. See, the Bible says that disagreements within a church are just that--disagreements within a church, and not for public consumption. As a matter of fact, with regard to FBC Jacksonville, another blogger who violated the Biblical template actually (gasp!) shuttered that blog. But Rich was determined to hide in the tall grass. In his own words, "I preferred to blog anonymously so as not to draw attention to myself, or make the discussion about me personally." With regard to Rich's success in that area, I quote the noted philosopher Ben Linus, who poignantly asked, "And how did that work out for everyone?"

Rich appeals to law when it suits him, insisting he has a Constitutional right to blog anonymously; the bottom line is this: He does, indeed, have one. The only problem is that when Rich makes his appeal a Constitutional one, he is preferring it to a Biblical appeal. Why? Simple--because the Bible speaks clearly against taking church issues outside the church, and speaks clearly for voicing one's concerns face-to-face.

As these events were happening in Florida, a great friend of mine told me of what was happening in my hometown of Memphis, with regard to fellow travelers of Rich's whose target is my long-time home church, Bellevue Baptist. My friend told me that while the anti-Bellevue propaganda has lost all but a sliver of its audience, a number of those who agitated at Bellevue have migrated from that church, only to descend upon another marvelous Memphis-area church, Germantown Baptist, and are agitating against that church's pastor.

Since some of those are no doubt caught up in what can only be called the oxymoronically-named "New BBC Open Forum," I reluctantly paid a visit there to see if their output was still set to "Bile."

Unfortunately, it is.

With the FBC Jacksonville blog in mind, I sent them this post. Since it was rejected (not surprisingly) there, I'll publish it here, in the hope that some of their participants will take it under advisement.


I will be marvelously surprised if you publish this--nevertheless, I want you to at least read it for yourself. Whoever you are.

Many of us have prayed for you for years; it is disappointing, frankly, to hear of this most recent response to some much-needed accountability for people such as your own selves, the "anti" folks who inhabit church pews.

If you really, honestly, seriously need Biblical instruction as to why there were Bible-based problems with the so-called "Watchdog" (and of you and your little kaffeeklatsch of anonymous nay-sayers), visit 2 Samuel 12. Then, let us know how Nathan used a pseudonym when he honestly wanted to confront David with his sin.

After you digest that bit of Scripture, move to the main course. The Biblical template for conflict resolution hinges on the testimony of witnesses, face to face, rather than whispers from the shadows (unless you think it'll raise your standing to attack fellow church members in public, in which case you'll sign your name to pretty much anything, regardless of its veracity).

And in case it escapes you, Jesus Himself articulated that template in Matthew 18. First, talk with the person individually; then, take someone with you; then, address the church as a whole.

Both Testaments reinforce the standard of face-to-face delivery of accusations and/or concerns. You and yours have treated that Biblical mandate as so much fertilizer--and yet you're (gasp!) shocked when someone else who uses your tactic actually has to come out from the shadows?

It is unfortunate that your collective mindset is stunted and immature. You do wrong, then wail to the heavens when there's a possibility you might be held accountable for treating God's Word with utter, habitual contempt.

Indeed, there has been no development or maturity in your anti-Bellevue dialectic; looking back, I warned you and yours of the problems with indulging your anger nearly two and a half years ago. You folks let this be a place where hate, character assaults, and even death threats were not only unchallenged, but indulged--and yet you seem surprised to find that such things have consequences. You have demonstrated the underlying truth of the quote I presented to you way back then, a quote from one of my favorite philosophers.

Quoting him 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."

You became comfortable in your sin. When it appeared you might be held accountable for it, you were apoplectic; your comfort had been disturbed. The only people you've damaged by your actions are your own selves.

Whoever you are.