What Does Africa Have to Do with Forth Worth?

Dave Miller remarked in the comment thread of a recent post at SBC Voices, “Blogging attracts the most strident voices. The SBC is never as divided as blogging.” Herding the cats, which has at times included me, at SBC Voices gives Dave a peculiar perspective. Prior to this comment, he noted that conversation had been quite good until the tone and tenor changed with the infusion of personalities, grudges, and the like. Maybe the SBC is as divided as blogging.

You may be sure it is nearing SBC Annual Meeting time. Someone exerts an undo amount of power. Sensibilities, convictions, and principles suffer a breach. Blog hits and comment threads lengthen proportionate to the reputation of the offender. Baltimore may prove to be more than a yawner yet.

The perception is that unlike in some other parts [omitted for effect], peaceful paths to power are blocked, so violence becomes the only viable way to gain office and all its benefits; in some places it is perceived to be the only viable way to ensure survival of the identity group, especially where identity groups have been targeted for discrimination, displacement, or in some extreme cases elimination.

John Pendergast is not talking about the SBC. But, one only need to peruse our past to see the quote fits. Sad. Because we yet play along these lines while others like Pendergast engage a matter much more threatening than contests for denominational power.

We battle for a Hill in Forth Worth. We curse the power be it Presidential or prosaic. Meanwhile we pay scant attention to the computer screens that may be manufactured via materials from dirty markets. We light up the blogosphere and prepare for battle over who does what with CP dollars. Yet, we will rent automobiles while in Baltimore that may contain materials secured for manufacturers by supporting those we publicly declare as enemies or assume to be allies but are on the take. We claim the matter is about the lost and have not a faint idea of the millions who have lost life so that we might enjoy our amenities.

Ours is an odd world, this thing we call the first world.

Pendergast’s original quote describe the path(s), even those that are blocked, and the ever present pursuit of power,

The perception is that unlike in some other parts of Africa, peaceful paths to power are blocked, so violence becomes the only viable way to gain office and all its benefits; in some places it is perceived to be the only viable way to ensure survival of the identity group, especially where identity groups have been targeted for discrimination, displacement, or in some extreme cases elimination.

We may overlay Pendergast’s observations over our own experiences with the quest(s) for power we witness around us. And while I find it an interesting parallel, that is to see the current SBC squabble through the lens of Pendergast’s observations about African power struggles, to leave it there risks trivializing the atmosphere in Africa that makes for atrocity events. I simply wonder how lathered up my SBC friends get over death by genocide and infanticide as compared to concern over who gets admitted to my seminary alma mater. (’88, ’93)

Last month I listened to Andrea Stephenson talk about the way power works to maintain oppression. Even what we often do that contributes to our own participation in our oppression or the oppression of others. Here is her list:

  1. Dismiss the other by trivializing.
  2. Dismiss the other by particularizing.
  3. Dismiss the other by spiritualizing.
  4. Dismiss the other by universalizing.

We are left to answer the questions that inevitably come. How does my lack of involvement in working toward justice trivialize the experiences of those who suffer deeply the consequences of the thirst for power? In what ways do I cast oppression as something that happens over there, a consequence of living in that place? How do I perceive the issues, do I minimize the real experiences by suggesting these are really just spiritual battles? What does it mean when I suggest that these events happen everywhere?

These are questions I am asking myself as I learn more about the situation in Africa. I am not sure I have as much energy for worrying about who gets educated. I am becoming more interested that we get educated.

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About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.