My favorite blog logo on the web is Kevin Bussey's—partly because the picture truly does speak a thousand words, and partly because Matthew 7:1-5 is among my favorite passages in the Bible. The label of Pharisee is much abused, I think—the Pharisees were LOST, you know; and Jesus was no Libertine—but there is no segment of Christianity, either in any portion of Christian History or in our present state, that could not benefit from self examination in the enterprise to help others.
Southern Baptist bloggers are no exception.
What some people were so convinced would become the Southern Baptist "new media" has become instead the Southern Baptist "tabloid press." Throw up lies or half-truths in a sensationalistic manner, appeal to Populist themes, hope that one in twenty turns out to be right, and try to use your sometimes-accuracy to fuel your agenda and get people to follow you. Camps have formed, and as each side ratchets up its own version of yellow journalism, the other side faces a choice: Raise the level of rhetoric to meet the challenge, or walk away.
I genuinely pray that God will allow me to live long enough to be a part of a more honorable season of Southern Baptist life. I'm ashamed to have been involved in the events of the past two years, although I'm extremely proud and honored to have been associated with many of the God-called and devout men whom I've come to know and love through blogging. I'm proud to note for posterity the many ways that they have resisted the temptation to join the gutter along the way;
- Although Wade Burleson has repeatedly thrown around such labels as "Spooky Fundamentalists", "Crusading Conservatives", "Junior Pastor", "Neo-Landmarkers", and today's gem, "ideological, independent, Landmark Baptist"; the men who have become my blogging friends and brothers have restrained themselves at every turn from calling Wade Burleson the wild-eyed liberal that he either always was or has recently become. I believe that they can be proud of themselves for not going there.
- When Wade Burleson takes pot shots at those whom he regards as his enemies and seeks his own vengeance, these men do not do the same, and they should be proud of that. Prominent leaders on Wade's side of things have had profound problems in their churches too—have even found it expedient to move—but you haven't read about it at places like SBC Today.
- I've made mistakes in blogging. So have all of my blogging friends. Several have had to apologize at one point or another, and have done so. I have done so. It isn't fun to do, but integrity demands it when the occasion arises. Wade seems constitutionally incapable of admitting when he is wrong or saying that he is sorry. Usually his differences with other people amount to just a difference of opinion, but there have been a few occasions where he simply presented demonstrable factual error (like the latest figment of his imagination, refuted not by SWBTS administrators, but by one of the very people whom Wade's post purported to defend).
- Although several of us have received veiled or explicit threats of legal action against us (all of which proved to be bullies' bluffs), none of these men have responded in kind.
Conservative bloggers have plied their trade in a restrained manner in the midst of rampant yellow journalism. I'm proud of them. I don't know how they have kept their composure for so long, but I do have a suspicion. I think that they've been emboldened and inspired by the example of Dr. Patterson himself, who has exemplified restraint in the face of constant attack. He has no blog. There have been occasions when I would have LOVED to obtain ammunition for blogging wars and have requested it, but to no avail. Among those who have blogged in defense of Dr. Patterson against these attacks, I know of few who have labored harder than I have (OK, maybe not lately, but in the past). Yet I testify before you today that Dr. Patterson and his colleagues have not once given me any information to publish in derogation of anyone else, have not once put me up to any sort of attack, and have consistently been reluctant even to aid in their own defense. If anything, it has been the Pattersons and their colleagues who have urged me to have a thick skin, to let things pass, and not to dignify with response the constant slander against them.
A few years ago a movement in the SBC arose critiquing "slanderous, unsubstantiated accusations and malicious character assassination against our Christian brothers." (see here). The statement was directed against others in convention leadership, and the movement making the statement gave rise to the heyday (to date) of Southern Baptist blogging. The time has come—nay, has far passed—for an examination of the log in the blogosphere's eye before proceeding to try to save the convention from anything.
To a large degree, it is my reluctance about this entire tabloid forum and the yellow journalism that it spawns that led me to announce last year a dramatic change in format (beginning with a promised post on Catechisms) to strive for something higher. Then came our horrible accident, and with it my capacity for doing anything quite so grand. I reaffirm that vision today. The time has come to harness blogging to do something nobler by and for Southern Baptists. I see the need, even if I do not know fully the solution. But I hope to be a part of bringing it to be.