Monday, February 12, 2007

Conspiracy Theories

A person who regularly posts comments on this blog has made a couple of accusations against me that I think are typical of how progressives view orthodox Christians. He read things in my blog that are not even there.
But what really scares me is the kind of stuff I read on blogs like this: the threat of conservative extremists in lockstep to "take back" the country "for Jesus".
Conservative Christians are out to “take the country back for Jesus.” This is a common conspiracy theory some progressives make against people of orthodox faith. What orthodox Christians believe is that Biblical teaching is healthy for all people, and we long to let people hear the Good News. Orthodox Christians cannot seem to express an opinion about morality or the nation without being accused of being reconstructionist.

Reconstructionists are a tiny fringe-group of Christians who propose turning the USA into a Christian theocracy. This is something I find to be unbiblical (read Romans 13) and frightening. I believe in the separation of Church and State. As I told this commenter, I frequently have to remind my liberal friends that the separation of Church and State doesn’t mean that I cannot express opinions. I should be able to express my opinions without being classified with a fringe group.

The US print and airwave media are particularly guilty as they propagate and promote suspicion of orthodox Christians (fundamentalists, in their terms). While liberal Christians have organized politically for decades, when evangelicals do the same, it becomes an issue of separation of Church and State.

The next conspiratorial accusation has an element of truth in it. I hadn’t realized that I was part of such a conspiracy as I participated in the New Wineskins (NWAC).
I should also point out that Tom is a leading member of a group that has been criticized for attempting manipulation through secrecy (the NWAC).
“Are you now, or were you ever a member of the NWAC?” is the kind of McCarthy-esque question I can hear progressives in the PCUSA asking. My answer to both questions, proudly, is “yes.”

NWAC wasn’t and isn’t a conspiracy. We weren’t meeting to take over the denomination. Originally, we wanted to influence the denomination through its existing structure. Eventually, we just wanted to leave in peace without persecution or penalty. I cannot remember us manipulating anyone, since we never pressed churches, pastors, or elders to join with us.

We’ve published all of our papers (the results of our “conspiratorial” conversations) in a timely fashion. We’ve invited denominational people and the press to our planning meetings.

Other meetings were public. Denominational officials—including the PCUSA legal officers—were at the convocation held at the Kirk last summer. We spoke openly about what we wished for and advocated. We spoke so openly that my former general presbyter informed me that he had at least seven justifications to have me removed from the pastorate.

I am, though, aware of some behind-the-doors meetings amongst PCUSA leaders. One such meeting resulted in secret legal filings against our property. Another such meeting produced the PCUSA take-no-prisoners legal game plan. That “secret” is still being kept. Ask your denominational officials if they’ve read the paper. The current moderator of the General Assembly told the Montreat church that she hadn’t. The phrase “plausible deniability” comes to mind when I hear such responses.

Oh—there is one secret the NWAC has kept throughout. That is the list of churches belonging to us. Why is this secret? Because, at the time of our planning, presbyteries like Kiskiminetas were making plans to thwart churches from even talking about the possibility of leaving. Pastors of such churches were—and are—particularly vulnerable if they simply say what’s on their minds.

Conspiracy theories are always grist for the gossip mill. NWAC is no conspiracy—it is an up-front movement to help orthodox Presbyterian pastors and congregations find an alternative to a future in the theological wasteland and mean spirit of the PCUSA.
Keep praying—keep the faith,
Tom

14 comments:

Arthur said...

Tom,

The first time you actually mentioned my handy work in an article on your blog, you botched it.

I’m not at all responsible for the first statement you attributed to me. Stephen made that one, and I don’t appreciate you lumping me together with him. He paid me a complement once, that doesn’t mean we agree with each other. The second statement you chalked up as just some “conspiracy theory” and gave a lame excuse for your group’s secrecy.

The Rev. Dean Weaver’s statement that I quoted in response to Jim Loughlin’s query, on your “The Truth Shall Set You Free – But You’ll Have A Hard Time Finding It” article, completely debunks the excuse you gave for the group’s secrecy. I would expect that a statement made by your group’s vice moderator would carry a bit of authority. Also, as one of the leaders of that group, you bare some of the responsibility for it.

It’s a little funny. The title of that other article (“The Truth…”) is more appropriate than maybe even you realized. The first things a reader sees when they come to your blog are the articles you wrote, so your words are trivially easy to find. Our words (the comments) require more effort to find.

Arthur

David Fischler said...

There seems to have sprung up an entire industry of conspiracy mongers who are just convinced that we're right around the corner from burning gays at the stake and making the New York Times apologize for advocating abortion rights. Search for "Religious Right" at Amazon.com and look what you get:

Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament by Randall Balmer

Why the Christian Right Is Wrong: A Minister's Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, Your Future by Robin Meyers

The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right's Plans for the Rest of Us by Rabbi James Rudin

Close Encounters With the Religious Right: Journeys into the Twilight Zone of Religion and Politics by Rob Boston

Jesus Is Not a Republican: The Religious Right's War on America by Clint Willis

With God On Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America by William Martin

With God on Their Side: How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy, and Democracy in George W. Bush's White House by Esther Kaplan

Why the Religious Right Is Wrong About Separation of Church and State by Rob Boston

Fighting Words: A Toolkit for Combating the Religious Right by Robin Morgan

And that's only a sample of the books that are out there, virtually all of which seem (just from their synopses) to have a few things in common:

1) The demonize conservative Christians, and assume evil motives for what we do.

2) They distort our positions on all kinds of issues, from abortion and gay rights to the war in Iraq and seaparation of church and state.

3) They make little effort to actually understand their subject, preferring vitriol and fear-mongering to scholarship and dialogue.

4) They have almost no grasp of evangelical Christian theology or political thought, and repeatedly seek to make the fringe (i.e., R.J. Rushdoony and the Reconstructionists) into the mainstream.

5) Just like most fundamentalists, they tend to take anything they see in print at face value, without consideration to literary, political, social, or theological context.

Other than that, they're right on target. Joe McCarthy would be proud to see his tactics utilized by so many on the left.

Great post, Tom. Thank you for it, and the opportunity to vent a little.

Praire Chick said...

Tom, about the AP article, you wrote: "I blithely accepted this until I found out that the statistics did not include 401k plans[...]" How did you find out this information? And re: the NYT article, how did you know the census details -- was that also listed in the article? Lastly, how do you define "orthodox" and "fundamentalist"? (From what I understand, the latter has changed meanings in the last 50 years.)

TomGray said...

Arthur,
You need to lighten up a bit. I don't really study the comments to my blogs, especially those from the habitual comment column. I do, admittedly, use some of it as grist for my blog mill.
So, I have no idea of what you're talking about re. Dean Weaver's statement. I still stand by everything I wrote.
Tom

mike said...

arthur.... were you always picked last as a kid in those pick up games. you have the biggest block on your shoulder i've ever seen. you belittle people that you disagree with, and then pretend to take the high road. please tell me your purpose for all of your posts...after all, you must spend hours on this blog. i don't even think you are from Tulsa? thanks

Bill said...

That's it Mike. Attack away. You prove the point Aurthur is trying to make.

Tom, if you studied the responses a little more closely, you would see that Arthur is correct. But it sure makes it easier for you to stick with untenable positions if you just proclaim, "I don't study responses." Kind of like a president who doesn't read newspapers.

Bill

mike said...

i'm sorry bill....which of the 1000 points am i making for arthur.
and what am i attacking. are any of my observations incorrect? if i have made an untrue statement, i forgive, but i don't think i have.

willow said...

We would like to hear about the Florida Conference. What major decisions were made? Thank you.

jwbicycle said...

I heartily endorse Tom and his position frequently posted herein. I do have one deep concern that those on all sides of the conservative/liberal elements need to remember. Since retirement 13 years ago I have returned to my first love before my working years, which is dealing with teens and pre teens. I will not say in what capacity, most of you would scoff, but it does put me into contact for many hours in very informal settings with this group. The thing I find troublesome is that the children of very conservative families, if they hold those tendencies rather than rebelling, tend to have very antagonistic feelings toward such groups as homosexuals, gays and lesbians. Not to the extreme extent published by that wonderful? church in Kansas, but nevertheless prevalent. I even observe this in Sunday School. All of us as fundementalists or conservatives or whatever we call ourselves must have a very good understanding of the position of every group with whom we dissagree. Beyond this, we must love those individuals and groups as we love ourselves, pray for them, and welcome them into our churches. This last item does not mean that we ordain them, or put pedophiles into childrens teaching positions, or any thing like that. It simply means that we love them as Jesus loved the whore and the tax collector, that we work with them, and work and pray for the healing power that Jesus has. Above all else we need to demonstrate and understanding attitude, a loving attitude, and an attitude of hoped change or healing to our own children and those around us. John West, Hillsdale ks.

Cameron Mott said...

Hear, hear Brother John.

mike said...

something a bit off the subject....but big kudos to the chefs and staff for a wonderful Valentine's dinner.

Ted D Rossier said...

John,

You forget one thing, and it's a thing that is often forgotten in these days of "tolerance" and "acceptance". The word is REPENTANCE.

Whenever Jesus "accepted" (I don't think that's a very accurate term) a person with an overtly sinful lifestyle, it was always in the context of that person's repentance, i.e., turning from their sin (repentance is really more than that, but that's a discussion for another time). When people refused to repent (like the rich young ruler, for example), then Jesus usually said something about the way to heaven being narrow, or told a parable to illustrate his point, etc.

If you believe, and rightly so, that persons in the groups you describe are living a sinful lifestyle, then the proper response of the church is to a) be a witness to them of God's healing love, of course, and b) welcome them into the church if they repent and state their desire to trust and follow Christ.

It is not loving to tell a person that they are okay when they are not. People in a church I used to attend would tell me things like, "you're okay, God will take you just the way you are." But they left out the rest of the story, namely, that God does not want me to stay how I am, he wants to make me holy, into the image of Christ, through the operation of the Holy Spirit and my own compatible desire to do so (which is God's gift, anyway).

It is not okay to let people become members of a congregation who do not evidence at least a small amount of "the faith once and for all delivered to the saints." Membership examinations (and I think, new believer education classes) as well as church discipline are Biblical principles which are too often neglected because many evangelicals today (as well as most of the secular world) equate love with "being nice". They are not the same.

May I recommend that you read "9 Marks of a Healthy Church" by Mark Dever. I think it's available on line for free.

Ted

Bill said...

Mike,

You asked him whether or not he was always picked last last in pick-up games. The question, besides being sophomoric, was attacking, belittling, and condescending.

Bill

mike said...

bill...yes, the question was sophmoric. and i was wrong to use it since arthur has bragged so much about how smart he is. i guess i should have used more of a doctoral question.
however, i think it got across my point very well. he picks apart every little statement anyone writes. in fact...over and over again.
and bill, you stood up for arthur because someone attacked him, but you don't stand up for Tom or others when arthur attacks them. why not?