Monday, January 29, 2007

Suspicion! Suspicion!

My favorite musical of all times is Fiddler on the Roof. I'm not sure exactly how many times I have seen it in theaters or on my own television. There are multiple reasons for enjoying it. The humor that envelopes the film is amazing. The characteristic cynicism of Tevya and Golda has me holding my sides. Quite honestly, they merely voice what most people think but are too afraid to ever say. The realization of three young ladies that marriage might not turn out the way they had always dreamt it would; and the resultant fear of the ever-moaning matchmaker. It is a story of love, family, hope, faith, struggle, revolution and much more.
At the very beginning of the movie, Tevya is speaking of the way in which balance is maintained between faith and life and his sole answer is tradition. This is the way it has always been and this is the way it should always be.
Tradition Vs. Suspicion
Now, before I am castigated about the need for tradition, let me say this; in no way should we simply cast restraint into the wind and forget where we have come from. There are some traditions that, to borrow Tevya's phrase, "if [we] bend that far, [we'll] break." But at the same time, is it not true that there are times in which things need to change? Are we to still read from the Latin Vulgate because tradition dictates it? Should we still use horse and buggy because there were Godly people who lived a long time ago that travelled in that fashion? Should we do away with chocolate because it feeds the lust of the flesh? (Or perhaps it just provides more flesh to feed...something like that.)
Granted, there are some pretty hotly debated topics these days in ministry. I'm not that naive. But what troubles me is that instead of simply singing the Tradition song of Tevya, and debating their merits, it seems that many in the convention are singing the Suspicion song and debating Christian character.
It's as if we don't know how to discuss issues rationally or logically, let alone Scripturally. Instead, every debate becomes a question of personal character. An attack against perceived liberalism. Now let me yet once again set the record straight, I am completely opposed to any view that detracts from Scriptural truth. I find no reason nor room to compromise on this conviction. The Bible Must be our final authority. Having said that, the obvious question to me is, "where is the love of Christ?" It's as if we have to keep it vailed like Moses' face for fear. Instead, it is suspicion that governs the hearts of many. Suspicion that we will somehow return to those awful days of rampant liberalism in the seminaries, the agencies and the convention as a whole. And those who see themselves as the protectors of holiness and tradition have set themselves juxtaposed to their brothers in Christ even to the degree that they plead their case before the secuar media. What a travesty!
For Example
We have within our state a church that has increasingly come into the light over questionable methods of outreach. My desire is not to justify nor condemn this body of believers, because frankly, I don't have enough information. Nevertheless, the "scandal" is not being addressed via the Credentials Committee behind closed doors, but through the secular media. Perhaps those granting interviews believe themselves to be helping to resolve the issue, but instead they are succeeding in perpetuating the problem and destroying the witness we have within our state, nation and even the world. Why? To borrow again from Tevya, "That I can tell you with one word . . ." Suspicion!
Suspicion that if they don't handle things themselves, it won't get done. Suspicion that brothers and sisters serving on the appropriate committees will have their view skewed. Now some may ask how I know these things to be so, because I was approached about serving in my current capacity because of suspicion. I was asked by an individual of extreme influence in our state if I would be willing to serve on our Executive Board because he said, "We need guys on there who have enough backbone not to be a 'yes-man' to our Executive Director." Funny, the first time I bucked this guy's leadership within the board, I was put on the "no-call" list.
It seems to me that suspicion was one of the first plagues to fall upon King Saul when he realized that God was taking his kingdom away. I believe the Bible says that he looked upon David with suspicion. It tormented him almost constantly. It is the same characteristic of an abusive spouse toward their mate. It is a poison that devours the person, relationships, and even conventions.
In our case, the result is even worse. Not only does a lost world laugh us to scorn and our critics maintain that they were right all along, but we give fuel to the fire that is building against the work of Southern Baptists. We give credibility to the foolish remarks of past presidents and their conferences. Why? Because we are more willing to maintain a cloud of suspicion than we are to communicate truth.
At least if the media is going to blast the work of the body, let's make them do their own research and stop spoon-feeding them because it serves our purpose or our side of an argument. It's time we move past suspicion and on to victory for the cause of Christ!


Rob Ayers said...

Excellent words and thoughts Tom. All IS not well when suspicion and lack of common Christian courtesy and grace are enabled at once.

I think Missouri Baptists need to evaluate what exactly is going on in Jefferson City - and that requires being given the totality of the situation unfiltered by the bias. It is obvious that leadership have been unable to work it out themselves. We can becomae a pariah, or we can live in God's grace. Thanks Tom.

Rob Ayers

Alycelee said...

Thank you for a great word!

Tom Willoughby said...


Sorry it has been so long since I posted. Things have been pretty crazy around here. You're absolutely right about needing to get to the bottom of things in Jeff City. I fear that the real issue is FAR, FAR greater than our Executive Director and whatever personality conflicts people have with him. I think that the real concern is whether or not those who have helped bring Missouri Baptists back to their conservative roots are willing now to let go of the reigns and trust Missouri Baptists with following the leadership of the Holy Spirit. I suppose only time will tell.