Baptist Intramurals and Best Reads
Subscribe to get the Weekly Speak in your inbox every Monday morning.
Schism Is a Habit
There’s trouble in the Southern Baptist ranks. America’s biggest Protestant denomination is experiencing some turbulence heading into the convention this summer. The executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention opened an investigation into Russell Moore’s leadership of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the policy branch of the SBC. Prior to Trump’s election in 2016, Moore, like so many other religious leaders, had been critical of his personal morality and character, questioning if he was fit to occupy the Oval Office. After the election, Moore has been relatively quiet about Trump personally, but has continued the work of advocating for laws and policies that reflect Baptist commitments. But those comments never left the minds of pastors in the pro-Trump side of the convention.
The Southern Baptists probably showcase the clearest picture of the evangelical divide over Trump. Some of the strongest Christian Trump supporters in the nation are in the SBC; Robert Jeffress, Jack Graham, and Ronnie Floyd are all notable Southern Baptists and on the President’s Evangelical advisory committee. Jeffress specifically has been critical of Moore’s leadership at the ERLC and his church, First Baptist Dallas, has stopped giving to the Cooperative Program in protest. Now, leading up to 2020 other churches in the pro-Trump wing of the convention have begun to put pressure on SBC leadership to make sure Moore will not hurt Trump’s chances of reelection.
It’s hard to believe the pushback Moore is experiencing from his own convention. He has been a needed dose of political wisdom in the Evangelical world, and a pillar of integrity. During his tenure at the ERLC he has fought for pro-life and religious freedom legislation on dozens of issues on the state and federal level, has offered guidance to the Supreme Court, and has navigated the relationship between the church and the state with dignity and courage. The ERLC Exec Committee sent a letter back to the SBC Exec Committee defending Moore and reprimanding the investigation.
The SBC meets for their annual convention this summer where they will elect a new president to succeed J.D. Greear. Albert Mohler, the president of Southern Seminary, is poised to run for the presidency, and H.B. Charles has already pledged to nominate him, a move that might unite the convention. The cooperative model provides a lot of flexibility for Baptists; their unity is based on agreeing to the Baptist Faith and Message and cooperating together on international missions. In theory, this gives the almost 50,000 churches the opportunity to agree on the essentials and disagree on everything else, but even this arrangement may be strained to the point of breaking.
We’ve come to a time in history when division is the norm, even among Christians. The sexual revolution has absolutely ravaged the church in the last 25 years and politics is threatening to continue the job. These times, and these issues, should remind us of our core commitments. We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom. We have been tasked with bringing the whole work to the knowledge of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our primary purpose is to make disciples. And we are to be known by love. If we can’t unite around our core commitments then nothing will do. In Philippians 2:1-2, Paul writes, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” In the midst of these divisive issues, this is wisdom to keep in mind. It’s not just convenient to be united, it’s commanded.
State legislators in Utah are considering a bill that would decrease the penalty for polygamy. Historically associated with the Mormon faith, polygamy was a decisive issue when Utah became a state in 1896. The Mormon church outlawed polygamy nearly a century ago, but there are some in the state who still practice it. This bill wouldn’t outlaw polygamy, but it would reduce the penalty for it, with the hope that women in polygamous marriages will come forward in cases of abuse without fear of jail time because of their marriage.
The U.S. and India are working on a trade agreement that would quell some of the unease between the two countries. President Trump is in India this week meeting with President Modi and his advisors and has received a warm welcome from the Indian people. The trade deal would be a significant step to curb Chinese influence in Asia and to engage one of the world’s most important developing economies.
“Why Is My Theology Not Changing My Life” - John Piper, Desiring God
This is one of the most common and most important questions in ministry. Just because you believe the right things doesn’t mean you’ll live like it. After all, the devil and his demons know a good deal of Scripture, but it’s not changing them, and they don’t believe it. Piper reminds us that change can be a slow process. Over time what we believe - through the work of the Holy Spirit - actually changes everything about us, not just by taking our sinful tendencies away, but by replacing our old sinful desires with new holy desires.
“What We, the Taliban, Want” - Sirajuddin Haqqani, The New York Times
Should American newspapers publish articles from terrorist groups? After they published an op-ed from Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Taliban, the NYT faced pushback over giving a voice to a terrorist organization, and a leader responsible for taking American lives. But that’s not it. Haqqani is the leader of the Haqqani network in Afghanistan, commands a guerilla force of 5,000 men, and has a $5 million bounty on his head. It’s hard to believe that he’s the peacemaker he plays in his column. The Trump administration is currently negotiating a peace agreement with the Taliban. In the article, Haqqani says he wants the war with the U.S. - which he claims the Taliban never wanted - to stop and for foreign powers to withdraw from Afghanistan so that everyone can live with dignity and peace. While I’m sure the Taliban would like for American troops to leave the region, I don’t think dignity and peace would follow. The question for the NYT is not whether or not to publish different views, but whether or not to publish terrorist propaganda.
“Mapping Wikipedia” - Michael Mandiberg, The Atlantic
Now this is really interesting data. Mandiberg investigated who’s editing Wikipedia and found some surprising trends. First, most of the editing is done by a very small amount of people and they’re located mostly along the coasts and in major urban centers. Second, and this follows the first point, their locations are inversely related to religion; a larger share of the editors live in the least religious counties in the U.S. There are some interesting connections here that Mandiberg makes between Wikipedia and the original french encyclopedia, also undertaken by the non-religious. But the editors don’t typically come from the most liberal counties in the country either. They are typically urban, moderate, upper middle class, white men. I think that’s significant. As much as this group is blamed for problems in American life, this might be an instructive bright spot, and a helpful look at one of the information age’s most important advancements.
“Research: It Pays to Be Yourself” - Francesca Gino, Harvard Business Review
It’s always nice when the research reinforces what we know from Scripture: it’s always best to be yourself. Appealing facades and fake likeability strategies rarely work in the long-run. A recent study of entrepreneurs showed that those who tried to cater their approach to investors actually hurt their chances of landing a deal. Putting up a front for other people seems good at the moment, but doesn’t lead to the best results.