On Friday of last week, Joe Carter, Southern Baptists' new ERLC1 Director of Communications posted a piece entitled "Stop Slandering Christ's Bride" which sparked considerable fire in the comments section of Carter's post. Overwhelmingly, Carter's post logged negative responses toward his piece. In it Carter basically argued that since no one knows whether a particular issue is being addressed or not in the 350,000+ congregations in America, they need to stop suggesting they do by claiming the issue does matter and the church should speak up about it. Apparently according to Carter, since these Christians claim something they can't possibly know as a motivation to speak up, it follows they are slandering Christ's Bride the church.
To tell you the truth, the piece is not what one would expect coming from the newly appointed Director of Communications at our ERLC. It's hard to find justification for Carter's piece. What prompted this piece? Who is he complaining about? Why is this issue so alarming that Carter posts it on perhaps the most visible, well-trafficked website for Young, Restless and Reformed types? For my part, it has a cryptic aura about the post. That is, Carter seems to have had a specific incident on his mind that prompted the post but he veils it in vague language. Again, not the type of penmanship one expects from a communications expert.
Nor am I the only one who makes a claim of this sort.
In addition to the numerous complaints on the post thread itself, longtime journalist Janet Mefferd, of The Janet Mefferd Show, hit Carter's piece hard on her latest blog post. In "Why speaking truth in love is not 'slandering Christ's Bride," she says Joe Carter "starts by misrepresenting the claim and then attempts to refute a claim that he’s failed to prove actually exists" what Mefferd identifies as "straw man fallacy." In addition, Mefferd queries:
"What’s more troubling, however, is how nonspecific Carter is in making his accusations. What’s the purpose of the article? Who, exactly, is out there “slandering Christ’s Bride” by saying that “no one” in the church is talking about a particular issue? “Slandering Christ’s Bride” is a very serious charge, one that shouldn’t be leveled carelessly. So if Carter believes that a Christian out there is actually slandering other Christians — that is, intentionally making damaging remarks against their character for the purpose of defaming them — doesn’t he have the biblical and journalistic responsibility to name names and cite issues?"
Taking issue with Carter's curious claim that the sure way to know something is being talked about in the church is to listen to some of the claims some Christians make that no one is talking about it, Mefferd applies Carter's reasoning the the Reformation:
"Apply this reasoning to the Protestant Reformation itself. When Martin Luther took on the power of Rome, first by objecting to the indulgence system and then by proclaiming the true gospel of Jesus Christ at his own great personal peril, would Carter have told Luther: “While there may be a need for more Roman Catholics to become informed and motivated to address the situation of a false gospel, the mere fact that you’re driven to make claims about the church’s false gospel shows that there is already a nucleus of concern within the Roman church?” Would Carter have accused Luther of “slandering Christ’s Bride” for noting that “no one” was preaching the gospel in the Roman Catholic Church? I would hope not!" (emphasis original)
I have to say, given Mefferd's thorough critical reasoning in her critique of Carter's confusing piece, one wonders if Russell Moore may now have second thoughts about hiring Joe Carter at Southern Baptists' commission for ethics and religious liberty. Perhaps he now wishes he'd had Janet Mefferd on his short list to consider.
READ THE ENTIRE PIECE: Why speaking the truth in love is not 'slandering Christ's Bride'
1ERLC stands for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, one of several entities funded by the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention. Russell Moore is President of the ERLC.