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?
SBC Tomorrow welcomes Howell Scott as guest contributor*
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!
*Howell Scott is a lifelong Southern Baptist who grew up in Florida and ultimately began practicing law in his home state after graduating with a J.D. from FSU’s College of Law (1991). Sensing a call from God to focus on preaching grace rather than practicing law, Howell and his family moved to Louisville, Kentucky in 1994 to attend Southern Baptists’ historic flagship seminary, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Both he and his wife, Brenda, received Master of Divinity degrees in 1997. Howell presently serves as Senior Pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Alamogordo, NM. Find Howell on the web here