Learning from the Wilsons or, Scanning Is Different from Reading

I am bracing myself. Jeff notified me SBC Voices would be running another guest post derived from my series, Ruled Out of Order. The stand alone post carries the title, Needed: Prophets Not Protectors. It is my renamed Part 2. It posted midday last Friday.

There were two reactions to my first post that left me looking for comparisons, of sorts, to the interweb buzz over Doug Wilson via Jared Wilson. What seems to have begun at the intersection of 50 Shades of Grey and Christian culture illustrates how strident we may become when simpler, less defensive options are available.

I read the point and counter-points. What I am still left with is one statement Scot McKnight made in a comment thread. His experience with editors makes the writer responsible for clarity. For comparisons between reactions to my first post at Voices, and my series in general by another blogger, and those to the Wilsons I would have to assume the two respondents I referenced actually read what I wrote.

Read it.

Rather than replay what you can surely Google and read on the Wilsons Affair, I want to offer some thoughts that have brewed since reactions to my series have percolated for a spell. First, one writer assumed the motion I made at the SBC intended to regale Dr. Land one more time. After all, as the blogger formerly from Oklahoma and now in Texas, public apologies had been made. He wrote,

First, there was the motion offered by a messenger from Oklahoma regarding the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). It was an attempt to go around the resolution process and force the convention to speak to the recent controversy surrounding said president.

He later opined,

My moment of discouragement during the reports came during the report delivered by the president of the ERLC. The discouragement has not to do with the content of the report, but with the time at the end rightly allotted for questions. I mentioned in the section on motions that a motion was offered by a messenger from Oklahoma attempting to get the convention on record opposing the recent actions of the ERLC president, actions for which he has apologized repeatedly and publicly. I was discouraged that this messenger did not display the courage to take advantage of the opportunity to question the president directly and openly on the floor of the convention. That the messenger continues to blog disparagingly about the ERLC president only heightens my disappointment that no questions were addressed to the president when he stood before the convention to receive them.

Clearly, the blogger now from Texas, drew conclusions after reading my series. Not so fast. I engaged the blogger now from Texas in the comment thread to explain, clarify, what my motion intended. He then offered this nugget, quite enlightening to be sure.

I confess to scanning more than reading most of what you put out concerning Dr. Land, for I confess that deconstructing language makes my thinker hurt.

If you are unwilling to read in order to understand, it might be best to put away the keyboard. That a pastor, seminary student, handler of the Scriptures would find deconstructing language cranially taxing should be both disheartening and a warning.

Consider this. Doug Wilson provocatively used egalitarian in one of the contentious quotes in the Wilsons Affair. Critics who read Doug Wilson’s, “egalitarian pleasure party,” read the word imbuing it with its meaning in gender role debates and as such wondered how it is that a husband and wife should not intend to experience mutual pleasure.

Wilson retorted by qualifying his use of egalitarian in the disputed phrase. He thought it silly anyone would think his well publicized words excluded mutual pleasure in intimacy. Wilson explained his use of egalitarian encompassed a pleasure party where the gender of the participants does not matter. Technically it may be hard to deny Wilson the explanation of his sense of egalitarian, but in Christian – Evangelical even – discussions, egalitarian hardly anticipates Wilson’s nuances. It more simply refers to mutuality in leadership and life. Yes, that is an oversimplification.

The point of reference in this illustration amplifies the necessity to work at understanding a writer’s vocabulary, even if you disagree with him or her. Naturally, we deconstruct the language game at work in order to understand. If it hurts your head to work at mutual understanding, then maybe it is time to find the off switch on your Internet connection.

Read it agin.

One of my friends recently remarked that people do not read what you write; they read what they want you to write. If he is correct, then maybe the second respondent illustrates this axiom.

I offered a motion on the floor of the SBC Annual Meeting to: 1) hope we would disagree with Dr. Land that his insensitive words reflected the majority of Southern Baptists as he had stated; and 2) that the Messengers would affirm the ERLC Trustee action and re-establish our aims toward racial reconciliation.

One respondent to the post retorted to the post this way,

Except, our new President never supported the sentiment of your motion. Our new President hosted Dr. Land at his church’s worship services, lionized him there, put him on the platform, and asked him to lead his congregation in prayer. Our new President in word and in deed led the convention to put the whole matter behind us.

And so, indeed and in deed, our convention actually DID stand with our new President…against your motion.

Read it again. My post did not indicate Dr. Luter should or would support the sentiment of my motion. That is an obfuscation. While Dr. Luter put the matter behind himself, the watching world had not. I don’t want to quibble with the description of the events at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. How Dr, Luter handled the matter was not the issue I raised. It was a question about how we would take part. My commenter preferred Dr. Luter do the heavy lifting. I preferred an opportunity to speak. I am guessing, as my commenter so quipp-ily put it, the Convention preferred not to either.

The only question I would raise is that my commenter should do a little research into the May 2 meeting that resulted in Dr. Land’s more formal apology. If he were interested, not that he would be though one would think a Baptist Historian might be inclined, he may learn the most pressing stipulation regarded how Dr. Land would be presented going forward. In other words, what had to be maintained was the history of 25 years of service. He may also be interested in what participating member of the meeting seemed only interested in that point. For me it is no surprise that someone with Dr. Luter’s integrity would abide the decision of that meeting and present Land as he did.

What makes for a better narrative for the winners is that we did the most chivalrous thing available. We let Dr. Luter act in our behalf. Good for us.

For me these two illustrations show how difficult it is to have productive conversations. I would have hoped both my respondents would have been interested in dialogue. I know them both though not extraordinarily well. I expected these two might be interested in the merits of the motion, that is the content, and not finding in my posts a means to prove more and more why some of us prefer the edge to the center.

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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.

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