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Don't blame the messenger


It's hard to watch two Christian organizations that you care about scrapping with each other.

Christianity Today (a publication for which I write freelance, and where I have friends) recently took on Family Research Council (an organization where I worked for more than four years, and where I have friends). CT's editorial board suggested that FRC head Tony Perkins demonstrated "poor judgment" when he connected the shooting of security guard Leo Johnson with the smears of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Thus far, I'm with CT. The shooting of Leo was a horrible thing, and it's no wonder that everyone at FRC, including Perkins, was deeply upset. And it's true that the shooter made it very clear that his motivation was political. I mean, he actually stood there and spelled it out for us. But to my mind, to cast blame on an organization with which the shooter was not explicitly connected smacks too strongly of the "guilt by association" that conservatives are always complaining about when it's done to us. Tit for tat is not a wise, fair, ethical, or useful tactic.

But then we come to this:
We believe most of the FRC's positions, policy statements, and goals are on target. But we have major reservations about FRC's methods for public engagement. Too often, its leaders traffic in flatly untrue statements. (Among FRC president Tony Perkins's claims: President Obama hates Christianity; his administration excludes Christians; and the military, under his command, bans Bibles and embraces bestiality.)
Let's take these charges one at a time.

  • CT's link on "hates Christianity" leads to a radio broadcast where Dr. James Dobson talks with Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer, and Alan Sears. I listened to the entire interview, and never once heard Perkins -- or anyone else -- say that President Obama "hates Christianity." Perkins suggests that, judging by his actions, Obama has a "disdain" for and a "hostility" toward Christianity, but that's not the same thing. And based on the actions described, it seems fair to suggest that there's some disdain there. Or, at the very least, to ask what other possible reason there could be for these actions. At any rate, "flatly untrue" seems far too strong.
  • The link on "excludes Christians" goes to an article about the Obama administration's decision not to add FDR's D-Day prayer to the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. The article includes this quote from Perkins: "Any president, any official in history that has embraced Christianity, is no longer welcome in this administration. That's the environment they are creating." That, I think, we can go ahead and classify as an untruth. At the same time, Perkins's use of the words "in history" makes it a very specific statement -- he's talking about remembering and honoring past Christians, not including or excluding Christians in the present -- and so CT's "excludes Christians" is hardly fair, either. Call it a draw, because neither Perkins nor CT comes off terribly well here.
  • "Bans Bibles and embraces bestiality" takes us here, which in turn takes us here. On both pages, we see documentation of specific actions taken by the Obama administration. "Embraces bestiality" is too strong a description for the repeal of a ban. But the fact remains that the ban on bestiality was repealed, for whatever reason, so "flatly untrue" just doesn't work.

One may not enjoy talking about the subjects that FRC raises, or think that they've been effectively or fairly raised, but to lump all these statements together as "flatly untrue" comes across to me more as a case of blaming the messenger than anything else. I may be mistaken about that; I'm just telling you the impression it left on me.

I've engaged in this little exercise to make this point: We need to do our best to hold fellow Christians accountable for their words and actions, but while we're doing that, we need to make just as much of an effort not to get careless with our own words and actions. Especially as the drumbeat of hatred -- genuine, obvious hatred -- against all of us grows ever louder.

Comments:

Thanks, you guys. Your support means more than I can say.
Well done, Gina. Your struggle with this is palpable and appropriate.

Christians need to (lovingly) call each other out when necessary. CT is nothing less than indispensable, but, as you've illustrated, not perfect. I trust they will take your words to heart.
Amen and amen, Rolley - our Gina always shows me that I can do far, far better at speaking the truth *in love* while still having the courage and strength to speak the truth at all. Not only that, but whenever we praise her, she's an exemplar of humility, too.

Gina, my heart goes out to you over this situation, but I agree completely with Rolley that your take on it is perfectly thought through and expertly expressed. We're to be in the world, with all its hatred of us (because they hated Him first), but not of the world by adopting its tactics - or its hatred. I'm willing to cut Tony Perkins a lot of slack for all he's been through, and I applaud CT for trying to be (as my best friend recently quoted) the iron that sharpens iron, but these are such perilous times that often it becomes more important to be supportive than to be right. May both FRC and CT come to that conclusion, and reconcile to each other, and I pray that God will sustain you, Gina, in the meantime. And again, bravo.
I Can See Why it Was Very, Very Hard. Wow.
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You handled it masterfully, Gina. My jaw dropped in admiration (no kidding). Thanks for setting the bar. Our Master deserves only the best, and you provided us an example of it.

Note to self: Write like THAT, Rolley.
That's kind of you, Rolley. This was a very, very hard piece to write, so I'm glad you think it came across well.
Very Well Said, Gina
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Thank you for reminding me, compellingly, of one of the reasons I hold you in such extremely high regard.

ONE of the reasons. They are MANY.

:)