Friday, November 24, 2017

Shoot Your Own Side First!

When Christians start feeding each other to the lions, we're in trouble.

If you want to read some discouraging stuff, check out the "comments" section on virtually any Adventist sermon posted on Youtube. Now Youtube is a wonderful communication tool for churches, Christian groups and evangelists for spreading the Gospel. At no other time in history has it been possible to physically spread the gospel to every kindred, tongue and people. There are more people alive today at one time than have lived in all the history of the world. Through television, radio and the Internet, the Word can reach anyone, anywhere. It is almost impossible to suppress the Word in the modern world thanks to these amazing communications tools.

And what do we do with these wonderful tools?

We turn it all into a spectacle of Christian on Christian violence. And it's not just atheists, Catholics or Apostate Protestants who are duking it out with us online!  There is plenty of Adventist on Adventist violence out there for your entertainment and edification. At one time the kind of church members, whom Ray Stevens in his hilarious song "Mississippi Squirrel Revival" referred to as "Sister Bertha Better-Than-You", used to foster gossip and church dissension largely within the walls of the local church or the immediate community. With the advent of the smartphone and the Internet, Sister Berthas everywhere can now spread their vitriole world-wide with breath-taking speed.

Adventist have long been a fighting people - stubborn, hard-headed and passionate. We often argue among ourselves over details of theology, hermaneutics (whatever that is), and Christian practice. The big issues, we hammer out in Bible Study Committees like the three iterations of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) which sought to resolve an issue that had been already discussed and resolved in 1861 by a General Conference meeting (they supported women's ordination by the way). The GC administration of the time ignored the resolution and swept the whole thing under a rug then as they've tried to do now.

Families have arguments. It happens. If families are smart, they keep these discussions within the family and present a unified front to the rest of the world. If they are not smart, they open up the windows so the neighbors can hear better and even move the "discussion" out into the yard so witnesses can see the conflict more clearly.

That's what you'll see on Youtube in the comments section. It's bad enough to see the heathen denouncing out pastors and evangelists and leaders, but when some of the nastiest comments come from our brothers and sisters in the faith, I rather wonder what Jesus thinks of the whole thing. Civil discussions are one thing and probably should be kept within the brethren until such controversies are resolved.

The late Andrews University professor, C. Mervyn Maxwell once lampooned our self-destructive tendencies as a people in a song he wrote that enjoyed a wave of popularity among theology graduate students back in the late 60s. The song, Shoot Your Own Side First, was wildly popular among the theology grad students as it was during the great Righteousness by Faith uprising that happened about the same time. It was even included on a folk song album Song, Soul and Six Strings by former King's Heralds member, Jim Ayers - an album which disappeared from the ABC shelves shortly after its debut and which you cannot find anywhere anymore.

The song lampooned the propensity for Christians to approach the battle to spread the Gospel of Christ by first taking potshots at those who are lined up beside them in the forefront of the battle. Well we're doing it again!  And with the advent of the Internet, we're doing a much more effective job of making ourselves ineffective as a church. Adventist of every legalistic stripe are lined up to take a swing at any preacher with whom they disagree. And I'm certain Lucifer is helping them write their copy.

The devil loves nothing better than to muddy the waters over any little point of doctrine so that he can divide and conquer the faithful, such that they be. The recent kerfuffle over women's ordination is a case in point. We've seen it before in 1888 when the servant of the Lord lost a battle with the titular head of the church over the promulgation of the message of Righteousness by Faith. Before the devil got through leading all the factions into a muddled power play, we saw Ellen White shipped off to Australia, but not before declaring that the she believed that the GC administration no longer spoke as the voice of God to His church. When she returned, she championed a General Conference in 1903 that divested the GC administration of much of its power over the local church conferences and created the Union Conferences, which, not so ironically were recently divested of power at the GC in San Antonio which was manipulated in precisely the same fashion that GI Butler did the 1888 GC.

While it's obvious I have certain opinions about the power struggle going on in the church right now, there is no way I'm going to come to the aid of Satan. He's doing fine all on his own. But when I see brethren with whom I partially agree making snide comments about evangelists like Doug Batchelor on Youtube simply because he is working with the GC on a recent evangelist series, I despair of having any kind of intelligent conversation over women's ordination or anything at all involving an attempt to increase our understanding of God's Will for us here on Earth.

When we resort to venal accusations and name-calling in public forums, we "Shoot Our Own Side First." And such attacks are not limited to the laity or to offshoot preachers. George Knight has done a series of talks on SDA history that are very enlightening as to the nature of this problem. Even in reviewing the text and speeches in support of the so-called "loyalty oath" that the GC administration placed before this year's Annual Council, much was revealed. I never knew HMS Richards Sr. was at one point considered by some of our leadership to be "in rebellion" and Richards himself a "problem". Elder Richards was listed in a speech by one of the GC execs at Annual Council alongside Robert Brimsmead and Desmond Ford as a threat to SDA unity successfully overcome by the GC administration.

Really? There is either something very wrong going on here or someone is very badly handling the situation. In either case, it is not time to start publicly executing our own people like communists do when their system starts breaking down. Shooting our own side first is a very very bad idea.

Could we please just keep it down folks and try not to disturb the neighbors?  With the Internet it's impossible to keep our disagreements out of the public eye, of course, but we could at least make the discussion a little less Mob Rule and a little more Golden Rule.

How about it?

I think Jesus would be pleased if we did.  I've included a video below of Maxwell's wonderful "Shoot Your Own Side First." It's not very good. I'm no singer, but I cannot find any extant version of the song. I think it's been suppressed. It wouldn't surprise me at any rate. 

© 2017 by Tom King

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