Conspiracy Theories & Wackadoodles in the SBC!

What do the Gospel Project and the Great Commission Resurgence have in common with Roswell Aliens, JFK’s assassination, Area 51, 9/11 Truthers, and Obama Birthers?  If you guessed that each has at least one conspiracy theory attached to it, then you probably know more about conspiracy theories than you should.  You see, someone who believes in that many conspiracy theories could probably be classified as a wackadoodle.  I like that word.  I’d never heard of the word wackadoodle (aka nut jobs, lunatics, crazies, etc.) until my Student Pastor, Jon, used it to describe a man he once worked with in ministry.  I’ve heard of some strange teachings and doctrines — although usually not in Southern Baptist churches — but this man’s teachings would qualify him to be known as a certifiable wackadoodle.  And believe me.  No one wants to be known as a wackadoodle. 

Once that label attaches — rightly or wrongly — your credibility goes out the window, usually never to return.  Sometimes, as in the case with Jon’s co-worker, the wackadoodle label is self-inflicted, either through one’s own actions or outlandish beliefs.  Those who bring it on themselves have only themselves to blame.

However, all of us, from time to time, could be accused of thinking wackadoodlish thoughts or expressing wackadoodlish beliefs.  No matter how smart we think we are, we are simply not immune from our inner wackadoodle.  Ask my wife and she is bound to share examples of my own wackadoodlish behavior.  Of course, if you asked me, I would tell you that in our almost 20 years of marriage she has never once acted like a wackadoodle or expressed wackadoodlish thoughts.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  

Thankfully, real-life, certifiable wackadoodles are not the norm.  Most people — including most Southern Baptist pastors — could not legitimately be labeled wackadoodles.  Perhaps labeled as overweight and out-of-shape (I speak from personal experience), but not wackadoodles.  Be that as it may, there are always others who will attempt to put a label on you.  Labels, in and of themselves, are not necessarily a bad thing.  They can be shorthand for describing a person’s beliefs — conservative or liberal — or characteristics — short or tall — or theology —  Reformed or Baptist Identity. 

Problems arise when labels are intentionally misapplied.  This happens all the time within our political culture.  Those who believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman are often labeled as homophobes.  (It certainly doesn’t help when some Southern Baptist leaders misapply that liberal-inspired label, but I digress).  It occurs when conservatives who oppose affirmative action or amnesty for illegals are labeled racists.  And, it even happens when those who question the current direction of the Southern Baptist Convention are labeled as conspiracy theorists — otherwise known as wackadoodles.  Some will even misapply certain labels to me simply because I published a guest post on SBC Tomorrow.  Go figure.

For some within the SBC, the charge that one believes in a grand Calvinist conspiracy to take-over the entities of the Convention or a conspiracy to secretly indoctrinate non-suspecting churches in Reformed theology through The Gospel Project somehow becomes a political weapon used to marginalize your opponents (much like misusing Scripture to stifle legitimate debate).  If you can successfully label your theological opponent as a wackadoodle who believes in such outlandish conspiracy theories, then you can effectively destroy any credibility that they might otherwise have. 

It is often easier to label our opponents as crazy than to engage in a spirited debate of ideas and ideologies.  Perhaps this can be attributed to a “yes man” mentality which not only refuses to ask any questions, but castigates others who have the temerity to think critically and to ask the hard questions.  One of the reasons that our nation is in the mess that it is in stems from the fact that most of the media refused to ask any penetrating questions of then-candidate Obama during the 2008 Presidential campaign.  Perhaps we would not be headed for more heartache in New Orleans if more folks (including so-called Baptist Press) were unafraid to be labeled wackadoodles just for asking questions that held our leaders accountable to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Why should Southern Baptists have to turn to Associated Baptist Press to read about alleged financial irregularities at one of our seminaries?  Where is Baptist Press?  On second thought, don’t answer that question.

In the run-up to New Orleans, especially once the Name Change Task Force announces its recommendations at the SBC Executive Committee meeting later this month, hard ball politics will be on full display.  However, there will be nothing about the great Name Change — just as there was nothing about the GCR — which was conspiratorial.  No one that I know thinks that there is any type of conspiracy (Calvinist or otherwise) to take over the SBC.  A conspiracy, by its very nature, is something that is secret.  What has happened in the last few years, with both the GCR movement and the Name Change Task Force, is open and far from secret (the sealing of the GCRTF records notwithstanding).  This is simply hardball politics at its best and worst.

I never have liked the phrase “speak truth to power,” but that is exactly what needs to happen over the next several months.  The SBC establishment will not like it, but if they are not held accountable by and to their constituency — the churches of the SBC — then they (like any of us) might find themselves tempted by that other maxim which says, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  And, you don’t have to be a certifiable wackadoodle to believe that!

  

 

 

 

14 comments for “Conspiracy Theories & Wackadoodles in the SBC!

  1. Bill Mac
    February 9, 2012 at 6:45 AM

    Howell: I agree with you that labeling someone a conspiracy theory nut is an ad hominem way of stifling debate. So a lot of these issues, when taken on their own raise some legitimate questions. But if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So if someone is already convinced that there is a grand Calvinist conspiracy (or agenda) to “take over” the SBC, then everything untoward (in their opinion) is likely to become part of the conspiracy. The GCR was not really on my radar, but I can see that people who were for it in theory are not necessarily happy with it now. The sealing of the records is shameful in my opinion. I can also understand the dissatisfaction of the way the name change process is going forward and I think criticism in legitimate. But I think the Lifeway project mess is pretty much anti-Calvinist paranoia. I think it is a mistake to conflate the 3 issues into a grand conspiracy.

    I do think the folks in power in the SBC are perhaps a little too autocratic, but that is the nature of power.

    • February 9, 2012 at 7:51 AM

      Bill,

      Good morning. As I stated in the post, sometimes the conspiracy-nut/wackadoodle label is self-inflicted. I have not commented at Voices on the kerfuffle over The Gospel Project, but some of the comments certainly could be seen as at least bordering on “paranoia.” Of course, I think that may stem from the heavy-handed approach by some within leadership which has exacerbated a distrust that may have already been present. That being said, I can see how labels have been and will continue to be used — I use “elites” and “establishment” all the time and will probably continue to use those labels. Some might view my use of those labels as out-of-bounds, but I think that when someone basically calls someone crazy (i.e., a conspiracy theorist), one is trying to discredit any arguments that person has. I’m not offended by the labels. I just think that we need to see the reality of what is happening in the SBC at the highest levels, which is hardball politics at its best and worst. Thanks for the comment. Have a great day and God bless,

      Howell

      • Bill Mac
        February 9, 2012 at 8:56 AM

        I will confess that although I have heard the term “wackadoodle” I don’t think it was used synonymously with conspiracy theorist. I think I prefer “the tin foil hat crowd.”

        • February 9, 2012 at 9:28 AM

          Bill,

          I had never heard of the term “wackadoodle” either. My Student Pastor introduced me to the word and gave some wonderful examples of wackadoodles in action. From what he described, wackadoodles and “the tin foil hat crowd” could indeed be used interchangeably. I just like the sound of wackadoodle. It has a nice ring :-)

  2. February 9, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    When you say that those (like me) who have decried the excessive rhetoric of anti-Calvinists and have seen some ridiculous assertions made about Calvinists and about the GCR and about leaders in the SBC,that we say what we say as, “a political weapon used to marginalize your opponents (much like misusing Scripture to stifle legitimate debate)” – are you not engaging in exactly what you decry.

    Instead of dealing with my viewpoints, you are marginalizing them as a political weapon used to stifle debate. You are guilty of exactly what you decry.

    My hope is that we will engage in debate in the SBC – respectful and godly debate. But when we attack the motives and intent of those who differ from us, we actually move the SBC in the wrong direction.

    Are you not precisely guilty of that which you decry?

    • February 9, 2012 at 3:03 PM

      Dave,

      It should not surprise you that I will answer your last question with a resounding NO! 😉 Just to be clear, I think that it is within the bounds of Christian debate and dialogue to “decry the excessive rhetoric of anti-Calvinists.” But, as I have stated before, what one views as excessive others may view as entirely legitimate and not nearly as excessive. I suppose it all depends on whose ox is being gored (and that includes me). I do think there is a line that is crossed when we begin to label our opponents (not enemies) as conspiracy nuts or wackadoodles. There are always fringe people who say and do things that would give them automatic entrance into the “tin foil hat brigade.” Thankfully, those are few and far between, even in the SBC.

      For the record, I don’t think that you personally are guilty of using the conspiracy theory to try to stifle debate (which is why I sent you a personal email giving you a heads-up of what I was posting). However, on any given post at Voices (and other sites) dealing with SBC politics and/or the Calvinist issues, this type of argument (as well as misusing Scripture — saw that one today in a comment over at Voices dealing with 1 Cor. 13) rears its ugly head. I have no problem using strong language to debate issues. I do that quite often. And, yes, there are even times when it is proper to discuss motives and intent because the words and actions of individuals makes their motives and intent reasonably clear (although we can never have 100% accuracy). Like it or not, all of this is part of the hardball politics that surrounds us in the SBC and in our culture. I still think that we can trade some good barbs on issues we disagree on even as we remain brothers-in-Christ and fellow Southern Baptists. Things get heated at times because we become passionate about what we perceive as the right (you) direction or wrong (me) direction of the SBC. If you want to declare me guilty as charged, I’ll fight the charges, but I won’t fight you :-) Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  3. Jenn
    February 9, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    Dave Miller, I had to help Madame Irony off the floor she’s busting a gut laughing at you for playing the victim and claiming Howell is not dealing with your viewpoints. You NEVER deal with anyone’s actual words, but just declare that they are wrong without actually addressing the arguments presented. Like when you posted the stupidity about Driscoll and completely ignored his “I see things” video – you just wanted to call people names without dealing with the real issues of Mark Driscoll.

    Instead of calling names and allowing all the attacks against everybody not towing the party line at SBC Voices why don’t you deal with REAL facts in the SBC.

    SBC Voices is a joke because they continue to claim to be a place where “voices” are allowed, but the fact is the comment streams become a place for Calvinist vultures to attack and belittle anyone who dares point out the blatent agenda of the Calvinist.

    The reason why such vitriol and hatred is directed at Peter Lumpkins and others from SBC Voices is because you cannot deal with the very real FACTS that he and his commentors keep presenting.

    You Dave Miller do not want dialogue you want everyone who disagrees with you to shut up and stop raising issues that you cannot defend.

  4. February 10, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    Dave,

    One of the difficulties you’re going to continually experience is, you make incredible proposals without a reasonable demonstration of how you arrived at your conclusions. What Jenn says above may be more blunt and jagged than perhaps necessary, nonetheless there is truth to what she suggests.

    You openly concede you decry the “excessive rhetoric of anti-Calvinists” as well as the “ridiculous assertions” made about Calvinists, the GCR, and leaders in the SBC but you definitively do so without the least argumentation as to why it is reasonable to judge certain rhetoric “excessive” or someone’s assertions “ridiculous” without also giving us examples where readers may scrutinize your reasoning. Perhaps, after all, the examples you cite are hardly indicative of either excess or ridicule. And, it may be after all, that the folk you have in mind who are “anti-Calvinists” may turn out to be vocally critical of aggressive forms of Calvinism and hence not necessarily “anti” Calvinist at all.

    But, of course, no one can really challenge your assertions because no one can examine your reasoning about the issue under discussion. In the end, about all you managed to do was publicly state your feelings or subjective thoughts about a matter not your sober, reasoned conclusions about a matter.

    We’ve had this discussion before so I’m not really confident I’m going to change your mind. I love you as a brother in Christ. But your constant bugle calls to “stop the excessive rhetoric” and the “ridiculous assertions” and the “attacks” on leaders in our convention remain nothing more than what Paul dubbed elsewhere and on a different subject “sounding brass” and “tinkling cymbals.” Your public challenges will remain fairly well gutted of any real persuasion unless you tell us and show us what you’re so concerned about.

    Grace, brother.

    With that, I am…
    Peter

  5. Lydia
    February 10, 2012 at 7:09 PM

    Methinks that Calvinists and the non Calvinists are predestined to talk past one another. About the only defense I have seen from Calvinists is to claim non Calvinist are “doing the same thing” they accuse us of. It really is a variation of :You did. no, YOU did,

    It really has come down to the doctrine of ‘sinning by questioning’. It is the same old story. That is how many seeker churches became mega’s. Make it a sin to ask any question that some leader thinks is negative or inappropriate. one is shamed or rebuked for asking the question! They even put such things in their membership agreements! So any concern or questions that are deemed negative are out of bounds are sinful, accusing someone of lying, impuning motives, etc. Therefore they get to frame all discussion the way they want it. I saw the anti intellectualism literally take over and the priesthood became sheeple robots.

    Thinking and interacting on issues is hard work. But worth it. But impossible when we are working from different definitions. For example, I was told that a leader thought of me as Reformed because I am in the SBC. Therefore, the definition of Reformed was changed and I did not know it. Now, I am the stupid one for not knowing that. After all, a scholar thinks it so it must be.

    We are constantly told that people did not say what they said. Or a post goes up and we are told how we can interact with it. Therefore I cannot really question the person without being accused of calling them a liar or being told I twisted their words with no explanation of why or how.

    I feel like I am hanging out with liberals because this is exactly how they interact!

    • February 10, 2012 at 11:39 PM

      Lydia,

      You always have insightful things to add to the discussion. At lunch, one of my church members — who serves on a search committee with me — mentioned your positive contributions to my blog. Thanks for taking the time to read and share. I think we continue to witness mega-church/ceo principles (“don’t question”, signing “loyalty” oaths, etc.) being employed on a broader scale within the SBC. As you rightly point out, ANY question asked of leadership that is perceived as the slightest bit non-friendly (not even hostile) is seen as somehow sinful and out-of-bounds. Just yesterday on SBC Voices I read a comment that tried to use “love always trusts” from 1 Corinthians 13 as a support for not questioning anything having to do with The Gospel Project. As I commented on Peter’s blog, I am seriously considering using The Gospel Project when it comes out. The sample that is available online looks pretty good. But, the pushback from Lifeway and others (as quoted in the BP story) raises more questions than it answers. Of course, asking any follow-up questions — no matter how legitimate they may be — will be seen as some sort of attack. Your last sentence hits closer to the target than you could imagine. It is perplexing (the nicest way I could characterize it) to see so many similarities in political philisophy (i.e., transparency, questioning leaders) between the Obama Administration and some within leadership of the SBC. From appearances (and perhaps reality), some of the tactics used within the current SBC political climate are similar to those of liberals in Washington, D.C. We live in interesting times. Thanks again and have a great weekend. God bless,

      Howell

  6. Lydia
    February 10, 2012 at 10:01 PM

    Jenn, I do give Dave credit for allowing me to link to the I See Things video in comments and for allowing me to post the transcript which is important to make sure we get it right. He was also open to allowing a link that was so risque from Driscoll, he had to change the name of it. But he did and put it up.

    I want to always give credit where credit is due. I know I rub him the wrong way with my comments and I have been deleted a time or two…but it is his blog and he allows me to comment. I know what I am stepping into and do not expect any special considerations.

  7. Lydia
    February 11, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    Howell, thanks for passing that along about your church member, that means a lot to me.

    “Just yesterday on SBC Voices I read a comment that tried to use “love always trusts” from 1 Corinthians 13 as a support for not questioning anything having to do with The Gospel Project. ”

    I think one of my problems is that I know the play book since I spent so much time consulting in the mega world. This is an old one. We used to say,

    “Trust positive intentions”.

    Think about that one for a while. See, I am guilty myself of many of the strategies I see being used which is why I recognize it for what it is. But when you unpack such things as “trust positive intentions’ or “Love always trusts” applied in such situations, you see a horrible misapplication that can enable sin or even be a party to evil or deception in some cases. (not suggesting that is going with the issues we are discussing just pointing out how serious these misapplications can be)

    What is astonishing to me is that I am seeing the same playbook from the seeker megas played out in the Reformed world.And I totally agree with you this is less about Calvinism than it is about power. I think Reformed/Calvinism is simply the rallying issue.

    We are also to be as wise as serpents but as gentle as doves.

  8. February 25, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    As a certified whackadoodle, I get all bipolar between trying to be “nice” enough to fit in, and not caring at all what anyone thinks of me. But part of the problem is what was mentioned above, about non-specific judgments. How can any of us whackadoodles ever learn if none of the definers of standards can ever show specific points of infraction? In all my years of online discussions, I’ve never seen anyone who made vague, blanket judgments actually cite specific evidence to back up the claims, beyond personal definitions and preferences. And so it goes on, year after year, people talking but never learning.

    But I think people just need to talk, whether it’s to each other or past each other. People are funny.

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