March 17, 2003
TEXAS BAPTIST FORUM:
___The recent report of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission concerning capital punishment has certainly brought about much-needed discussion about the role of the CLC (Jan. 20, March 10).
___It has been rightly pointed out that the role of the CLC is to speak to and not for Texas Baptists. This is an important role, because popular opinion has not always be
en the correct one (slavery comes to mind). I embrace the importance of having a CLC that may take unpopular stands.
___However, the CLC also has been given the role of lobbying our Legislature. It appears that speaking to and not for Texas Baptists and then lobbying the Legislature creates a conflict.
___At the last Executive Board meeting, CLC Executive Director Phil Strickland said, "It is not my job to take a poll and develop a consensus of Texas Baptists." I asked, "How do you introduce yourself when you lobby legislatures?" He replied, "I tell them that I speak to Baptists and not for Baptists."
___This would seem difficult given the fact he is an employee of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Truthfully, the CLC is pushing many legislative concerns I don't agree with, and I don't believe there is a consensus among Texas Baptists.
___It is time that the BGCT consider creating two separate entities: One that will speak to Baptists and not for Baptists and the other that will speak for Baptists to the Legislature on issues that Texas Baptists can reach some consensus.
___I was saddened to read of the decision to close the former Valley Baptist Academy in Harlingen, although it appeared to be only a matter of time before that move must be made.
___It was my privilege to serve VBA as its academic administrator during the 1996-97 school year, a position I chose to leave because the school's finances and future were waning rapidly (small student population, large administrative staff, reduced BGCT/State Missions Commission funding). However, the academy's trustees and faculty remained loyal, hard-working servants of the Lord. The staff and its family members, especially, are to be commended for their many personal sacrifices and for the Christian examples they continued to set for the students.
___Hundreds of teenagers became followers of Jesus as a result of the witness for Christ they heard and saw in employees and trustees while on campus. They themselves now are serving him in about 20 other countries.
___This is something Texas Baptists can rejoice in, though the school's closing saddens us today. May God continue to cause this work of faith and labor of love to bear fruit to his glory in the years to come.
No longer Baptist
___I am saddened by the state of affairs among Baptists.
___I came to Christ in a Baptist church when I was 8 years old, and I will always be grateful to the followers of Christ in that church who were instrumental in my salvation. In that same church, a few people pursued me, discipled me and began to show me what a life in Christ was all about.
___I eventually surrendered to the call to full-time ministry and ended up graduating from a Baptist university. Nevertheless, I'm not sure that I could work at a Baptist church again.
___I'm not sure if Baptists know it or not, but they generally do not have a good reputation among most non-Christians I know--and that has nothing to do with whether they find the gospel palatable or not. This is sad, because many Baptists lead fruitful lives for Christ.
___I am working at a community church. We are a Bible-believing Christian church, and we regularly have people from all walks of life coming to terms with the person of Jesus Christ. We also seem to have become a refuge for Protestants and Catholics who are hungering to know God, but who are fed up with church politics or have had negative experiences with previous churches.
___I'm sure there are some Baptist churches out there that have similar ministries, but every time I read the Standard and hear about the bickering among Baptists, I'm reminded of why I no longer identify myself as one.
___Regarding President Bush, the presidential preacher (Feb. 17): In January 2001, I visited several Southern Baptist churches. In the weeks leading up to the inauguration of George W. Bush, I was taken back by what I heard from the pulpit. Several times, the praises were raised about a man of God being "elected" our leader and in the very next breath condemning then-President Clinton.
___After weeks of listening to this rhetoric, I finally asked one preacher if he ever prayed or led his church in prayer for President Clinton. The answer was, "No! We prayed for the removal of President Clinton from office." I walked away, my thought being God did not answer that prayer.
___I do not condone or approve of the affair President Clinton had just as I do not condone the obscenities President Bush made on his campaign trail. I cannot judge the hearts of humans, and if they have asked for forgiveness, then that is between them and God.
___ In the uncertain days ahead with a war waiting to begin, the fragile economy and turmoil, we need to pull together and help those in need. It is a terrible time to be a poor person in Texas. The cuts will go deep and far.
___In all of this, I remain a Baptist.
___Congratulations on your recent editorials discerning what is happening in our Southern Baptist Convention in relation to the BGCT (Feb. 17, 24). The figures you gave delineating where our money will go if we follow the directions given by Morris Chapman to BGTC churches are quite alarming.
___Our missionaries have been placed in an impossible position to decide between the unmistakable call of God and the signing of a creed against their conscience in order to continue serving. Lottie Moon never would have signed this creed that omits the individual priesthood of believers.
___The 2000 Baptist Faith & Message originally omitted this basic tenet of Baptists. The uproar from those objecting to this omission resulted in the inclusion of "We believe in the priesthood of the believers." This subtle change means we can approach God as a corporate body of other believers, but we cannot approach God as an individual believer.
___Herschel Hobbs also would never have signed this creed.
___Our forebears fought and many died for the right of every soul before God--the competency of the individual soul. America's first settlers came for religious freedom, yet they denied it to those who differed with them. Virginia Baptists were placed in stocks because they refused to baptize infants.
___Let's guard our freedom!
___Thanks for the kind words about our son Alan in your recent article about the Cowtown Marathon (March 10).
___Sorry you didn't get the opportunity to talk to Alan and Shayne (his wife, who also set a race record that day), because you would have learned they share your faith in Jesus Christ.
___Yes, they run for the Lord and know they have been blessed by their abilities and want to use those talents to serve him. Unfortunately, the mainstream media seldom prints their comments about their faith.
___Jack MacGorman can no longer teach at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, but he is the best (Feb. 10).
___Fortunately for Baptists everywhere, he has been setting the example for church members, students and serious Bible scholars for generations. May his example continue to influence true Christians everywhere.
___We have known him for more than 50 years, and we love him. May God continue to bless him and his family.
Joe & Rynell Novak
___Texas Baptist Men helped construct three buildings for our congregation, Cedar Valley Baptist Church.
___I understand that they also helped construct places of worship for an Evangelical Free Church and an African-American congregation near us.
___Some of our men travel with them. They have helped win the hearts of thousands of Christians through their evident love for our Lord and his word.
Staggs misappropriates history
___It was with a great deal of interest that I began reading Al Staggs' commentary (online, March 3) concerning Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Iraqi crisis. Unfortunately it did not take me long to begin to mentally catalogue the misunderstandings, misinterpretations and abuses of history. As my Baptist grandad used to say, "Facts are stubborn things." In at least a half a dozen instances, Staggs has gotten it seriously wrong.
___First, his comparison of the German church in the 1930s with our churches today misses a very important point: The German church was a state church that included governmental control at the cabinet level. The Confessing Church, of which Bonhoeffer was a part, demonstrated remarkable moral courage and clarity in public opposition. Today, thanks to our Baptist ancestors, we are a free church in a free nation.
___Secondly, I believe Staggs has misinterpreted the response of the vast majority of our churches since the horrific events of Sept. 11. In my ministry among our churches, I have not witnessed the garish and idolatrous behavior Staggs alleges to have witnessed. However, since Sept. 11, I have seen churches respond in biblical and appropriate ways by helping our nation deal with the grief and shock we all shared. Our churches also have responded with prayer support for our leaders, and I have heard more than a few prayers for our enemies. I have seen churches all over the country mobilize support for our troops and their families. Just recently, I spent time with a pastor who had just a few days ago babysat for a young mother and wife in his church whose husband's reserve unit had been sent overseas. My experience with Baptist churches suggests this is the norm rather than the over-enthusiastic parades of nationalism Staggs is so concerned about.
___ Third, Staggs' comparisons between Hitler and President Bush and our possible campaign against Iraq with Hitler's Polish campaign are not just unfortunate but downright odious. I know Staggs states that he is not comparing President Bush to Hitler, but he spends four paragraphs and about a quarter of his article doing it just the same. In late August 1939, Hitler gave written orders to his forces to show no mercy toward the Poles, including authorizing the strafing of refugees, bombing of civilian targets, shooting of hostages and murder of Jews. All these actions were documented at Nuremburg after the war. Does Staggs truly believe our armed forces working together with over 40 other nations compare to Hitler's goose-stepping storm troopers? I for one certainly hope not.
___Next, Staggs writes, "Labeling ourselves as a Christian nation gives us no special privilege to make war at will." The Baptist preachers I know understand we are not a "Christian nation." In fact, most are overworked precisely because we are not a Christian nation: They faithfully serve the people in their churches and community, preaching the word and sharing the gospel.
___Finally, Staggs' last sentence betrays the intellectual bankruptcy of his argument against a possible war in Iraqi. He believes this is just a gas station holdup for Iraqi oil and an attempt to satisfy President Bush's "lust for world dominance." Even serious opponents of the Bush administration policy concede this is not the case.
___I want to thank Staggs for his and his son's service to our country. I do not question his patriotism or his allegiance to our Lord, only his misappropriation of history.
___ Ten days after Hitler came to power, on Feb. 9, 1933, the Oxford Union voted overwhelmingly "that this House will in no circumstances fight for King or country." Those students hated war. They were sick of it. They did not want it, nor did they seek it. Many no doubt many agreed with philosopher Bertrand Russell's statement in 1937 that British citizens should greet any German invaders as tourists. Yet when evil had to be faced and defeated, many of those same Oxford students rejected Russell's advice and served faithfully and fought tenaciously, and many died bravely. In his own way, so did Bonhoeffer. That is the lesson they have taught us and the legacy they have left for us.
___ Mike Tucker
Staggs' false assumptions
___In a commentary entitled "Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Iraq crisis" (online, March 3), Al Staggs did his best to malign the character and motives of the American people, the government, and the president of the United States. He equated American patriotism to Nazi nationalism; and although he said it was not his intention, he equated George W. Bush with Adolf Hitler. He said that the patriotism of American people of faith at their churches was "disturbing." He said that the parallels between America and Hitler's Germany are abundantly clear.
___I, for one, have been comforted and encouraged by the resurgence of patriotism all across America and especially in our people of faith. These people are the pillars of our communities. This has not been an irrational, foaming-at-the-mouth nationalism, but instead a deep and true love of country and respect for the founding principles on which this nation stands. Our love of country has shown proudly and purely in the care, sacrifice and courage of the American people who arose to the challenges brought on by this crisis and every one that has come before.
___Staggs said that our nation's policy of war is grossly unjust and that the reasons for it are our lust for oil and our lust for world dominance. Those false assumptions mirror the Marxist propaganda coming from recent anti-war protests organized by communist organizations like the Workers World Party and from left-over '60's radicals who are now professors preaching hate of America in universities all across the nation.
___America does not seek war, but when it is thrust upon us, we stand up to the task. We have world influence, but we do not seek world dominance. That is not the American way. We do not dominate; we help.
___Staggs says that if and when we enter Iraq, we will be making a pre-emptive attack against the citizens of Iraq and that they will be our victims. First of all, there is nothing pre-emptive about it. This is a continuation in the war against terrorists and those who enable them and give them sanctuary. Second, we do not target the Iraqi people. Our focus is the repressive regime of Saddam Hussein that funds and shields terrorists, tortures and kills its own citizens, and threatens the Middle East and the world with instability and violence. If anything, we will liberate the people of Iraq.
___Staggs says that Christian leaders and the American people lack the moral courage to protest the war. He also says, "God and the world will hold us much more responsible for our willful ignorance, our national arrogance and our despicable deeds should we go to war."
___I find myself with quite a different opinion. The Christian leaders and Americans that I know have more than enough moral courage and fortitude to make the hard choices to do what is right. Sometimes the right choice might not be the most popular, but Christians and Americans still know that it must be done. Our people are not willful, ignorant or arrogant, and it is not our deeds that are despicable.
___Staggs says that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who fought against the Nazis and was killed for his resistance, "was convinced that if one called oneself a follower of Christ then that person was bound by the responsibility for those who became victims of an oppressive state. To be a follower of Christ meant to act with courage and faith in opposing the forces of injustice and violence." These are sound words. However, to Staggs, the oppressive state and the forces of injustice and violence are the United States of America. I know him to be dead wrong. America is the greatest beacon of liberty and freedom in the world. The oppressors are those terrorist organizations and countries which would without blinking kill, maim and torture their own citizens or selected enemies in their unending quest for power, wealth and the fanatical adherence to their godless ideologies.
___If it is our responsibility as Christians and Americans to help the helpless and oppose the proud, then we must gird ourselves and be about the business to which we have been called and not be distracted or diverted. The Bible in James 4:17 says: "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."
___No one wants war, but if it must come, we will meet it with courage and determination as Christians and Americans always have. We have always been the first to give, to help, to rebuild, to sacrifice and to stand in the gap. What do we do nowstand or turn away and appease those who would bring chaos and terror throughout the world? To me, the choice is clear.
___ Richard V. Wallace
___What do you think? Submit letters for Texas Baptist Forum via e-mail to email@example.com or regular mail at Box 660267, Dallas 75266-0267. Letters must be no longer than 250 words. They may be edited to accommodate space. Published letters reflect a cross-section of letters received.
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