This isn't 2006.
As we did in Greensboro, Southern Baptists find before them a SBC presidential election spread to the four winds. Some of the candidates are serious contenders, while others are also-rans. The chance of a second-ballot election for president is high. Dissident support is aligning behind Avery Willis, with some portion going to Les Puryear. Conservative support is falling behind Frank Cox and Johnny Hunt. I have not yet made my selection.
I have heard people draw comparisons to 2006, the last contested election, suggesting that the outcome in 2006 offers some prediction of the outcome this year—the first-ballot victory of an unexpected candidate. Certainly there are some parallels between 2006 and 2008, but I believe that there are more important differences.
Primary among them is the blog fatigue that has gradually spread across the Internet. WIthout authoring a history of the blogging dropouts of the past two years, I'll direct your attention to the difference in tone on blogs this year. In 2006 Johnny Hunt was the focus of heated blogging conversation. This year the same candidate has experienced hardly any criticism at all online. In 2006 Ronnie Floyd was vivisected by various blogs in the months leading up to the election. Has any candidate experienced anything similar this year? Not that I can tell. Apparently the worst that any candidate has endured has been my premature outing of Les Puryear's candidacy.
It isn't that the blogosphere is fawning over the presidential candidates with glowing praise. The evidence suggests rather that Southern Baptist bloggers and blog readers just aren't that interested in the presidential election. The prominent group-blog SBC Today has conducted interviews of all of the announced presidential candidates to date. The latest, of candidate Les Puryear, has generated only twenty-nine comments, only three of which mention candidate Puryear at all. An interview with candidate Avery Willis resulted in the revelation that Willis's daughter is the ordained co-pastor of a church in Kansas City, yet even that stunning bit of news generated a paltry eighteen comments. The interview with Johnny Hunt elicited nine comments. Bill Wagner was able to provoke forty-two comments by insulting SBC Calvinists. Leading the pack was the Frank Cox interview, where the pseudonymous "Bill Kiffin" took it upon himself to denigrate in his comments all of those with D.Min degrees or with degrees from Luther Rice.
Perhaps the national presidential election is sucking some of the oxygen out of SBC presidential politics. I think that the departure from blogging of some voices and the maturation of others has led to greater civility in the medium. The impending failure of some of the more extreme leftward campaigns for SBC change has alternately provoked spikes in blogging ferocity and taken the wind out of more than a few sails. Furthermore, blogging is an intense business. It wears me out. And the longer I do it, the less it takes to wear me out. I blog less frequently, and when I do blog, I blog with less intensity.
I predict that things will pick up between now and the Convention—I expect at least two major controversies between now and June 10—but any issues that arise between now and Indianapolis will serve only to push the presidential election even further into the background.
So, it isn't 2006. History is ultimately linear rather than cyclical, even if the past is sometimes a clue to the future. I am confident that the author of history's end can control it all even throughout our fits of passion and apathy. It will be interesting to see how we choose to attempt to follow Him this year.