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Born May 18, 1953; got saved at Truett Memorial BC in Hayesville, NC 1959. On rigged ballot which I did not rig got Most Intellectual class of 71, Gaffney High School. Furman Grad, Sociology major but it was little tougher than Auburn football players had Had three dates with beautiful women the summer of 1978. Did not marry any of em. Never married anybody cause what was available was undesirable and what was desirable was unaffordable. Unlucky in love as they say and even still it is sometimes heartbreaking. Had a Pakistani Jr. Davis Cupper on the Ropes the summer of 84, City Courts, Rome Georgia I've a baby sitter, watched peoples homes while they were away on Vacation. Freelance writer, local consultant, screenwriter, and the best damn substitute teacher of Floyd County Georgia in mid 80's according to an anonymous kid passed me on main street a few years later when I went back to get a sandwich at Schroeders. Had some good moments in Collinsville as well. Ask Casey Mattox at if he will be honest about it. I try my best to make it to Bridges BBQ in Shelby NC at least four times a year.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Randall Balmer debates the Counterfeit Baptist Richard Land

Randall Balmer, author of Thy Kingdom Come, did not call Land a counterfeit in this very civil exchange, though in his Chapter Where Have All the Baptists Gone, Balmer nails Land as such, and I think Rightly so.
As you see from this online Newsweek exchange, there was the needle about SBC "braying" about abortion. Great word Randall, exact and honest.
Baylor's Barry Hankins has a book coming out about Francis Schaefer that will help Casey Mattox and Dr. John Morgan understand if they are at all willing.
Matthew and I are already there.
Don't mean this as meanly as some of you will take it, but here is a discussion forbidden in the Collinsville Baptist Sunday School. Even so I confess and concede it may not be the primary function of Sunday School to have such straightforward conversation. Even so, Timothy George's insinuations about Paul Simmons were unconscionable.

From Newsweek:

And, the link

See the link and click on Balmer's latest reply to Land.

David Waters12:32 PM
Welcome to On Faith's second online debate.

David Waters12:34 PM
Today we're pleased to have On Faith panelists Randall Balmer and Richard Land. We'll get started at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Stay tuned.

David Waters1:00 PM
Welcome to On Faith's live online discussion between Randall Balmer and Richard Land. I'm David Waters, producer for On Faith. Randall Balmer is the Ann Whitney Olin professor of American religious history at Barnard College, Columbia University, and a visiting professor at Yale Divinity School. The “On Faith” panelist has written ten books, including Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America, which was made into a three-part documentary for PBS.

David Waters1:01 PM
Dr. Richard Land has served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission since 1988. During his tenure as a spokesperson for the largest Protestant denomination in the country, Dr. Land has represented Southern Baptist and other evangelicals’ concerns inside the halls of Congress, before U.S. presidents, and as a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. In 2005, Land was named one of “The Twenty-five Most Influential Evangelicals in America” by Time magazine.

David Waters1:01 PM
Welcome, gentlemen. Let's get started. Both of you have felt compelled in recent years to define and defend evangelicals. Why are modern evangelicals so misunderstood -- by evangelicals and by others? Dr. Land, you go first.

Richard Land1:07 PM
The first reason that Evangelicals are misunderstood is that so many of the people attempting to interpret them to the general public are not themselves Evangelicals, often don't know very many, if any Evangelicals, or are ex-Evangelicals and are still dealing with issues which led to their leaving the fold, so to speak. I'm not sure that Evangelicals have a great deal of misunderstanding about themselves. I know in the case of Southern Baptists, they see themselves as an overwhelmingly Evangelical and conservative Protestant denomination. For example, exit polls tell us that approximately four out of five Southern Baptists who identified themselves as such voted for President Bush in 2000 and 2004. Most of them would describe an Evangelical as someone who believes in the basic tenets of the Christian faith, has a high view of the authority of Scripture, and believes that the core of Christianity is a personal experience of accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

Randall Balmer1:08 PM
Richard, I agree with your definitions of "evangelical," and, like you, I am proud to call myself an evangelical -- even though our politics are rather different. I think one of the principal reasons that evangelicals are misunderstood is that many Americans falsely equate the actions and policies of the Religious Right with evangelicalism. Many people don't understand that there is a fairly well defined political left wing within evangelicalism, one that is personified by people like Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren and (if I may) myself, among many others. Problem is, none of us has a media empire like the leaders of the Religious Right: Falwell, Dobson, Roberston, et al. One of my tasks, and one that prompted me to write "Thy Kingdom Come," is to reclaim evangelical Christianity from the distortions of the Religious Right.

Richard Land1:16 PM
Randall, perspective is everything in this discussion, as in much else in life. Evangelicals are far more diverse and complex than they are portrayed by the media. It does Evangelicals a disservice to describe them as the Religious Right and the "left wing" of Evangelicalism. Evangelicals come in all gradations of the political spectrum with like people like Ron Sider, as well as the ones you mention, who lean to the left, many in the middle, and others who would lean to varying degress to the right. The media (present company excepted, of course) often get the most strident voices they can get on each side of an issue to yell at each other, and call that balanced journalism. One reason I have written my new book, The Divided States of America? What Liberals and Conservatives are Missing in the God-and-Country Shouting Match, is to help people understand that there's far less division in the country and among Evangelicals than in commonly assumed in media portrayals of them. My book is an equal-opportunity offender. For example, Jim Wallis and I are working together on the Evangelicals for Darfur campaign and I have worked with many "left-wing" Evangelicals on issues such as sex and human trafficking and human rights overseas.

Randall Balmer1:25 PM
Congratulations on the new book, Richard. I look forward to reading it. I'd probably agree that there is less division than is often represented, but still there are areas of real disagreement. While the leaders of the Religious Right insist that the defining moral issues of the day are abortion and same-sex unions, I happen to believe that the defining issues of our day are the morality of the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's use of torture against those it designates as "enemy combatants." Regarding the former, as you well know, there are centuries of thought and writing that go into defining what is or is not a just war: Is it a defensive war? Is the use of military force the last resort? Is there a reasonable chance of success? Is the amount of force used roughly proportional to the provocation? Have provisions been made, as much as possible, to protect civilians? No one has yet persuaded me that the war in Iraq meets any of these criteria? As for the use of torture, as I was writing "Thy Kingdom Come," I contacted eight Religious Right organizations with a simple query. Please send me, I asked, a copy of your organization's position on torture. I heard from only two -- both of whom defended the Bush administration's policies on torture. That's morally bankrupt, in my judgment.

Richard Land1:40 PM
Randall, I hope you enjoy my new book, which will be out the first week of April. You will find my criticism and deconstruction of Christian Reconstructionism quite interesting. One major reason the so-called Religious Right is characterized as being all about abortion and same-sex unions is because that's all the media often asks about or all they report on even when Evangelicals spend a good deal of time talking about many other issues. For instance, I wrote a book in 1992 called "The Earth is the Lord's," which lays out the biblical mandate for Christians to be involved in creation care, both individually and societally. I've also mentioned it more than casually in two of my last three books and yet, secular reporters seem endlessly surprised and want to know how come it took us so long to "discover" creation care. It's the media that's just discovered that we've been talking about it. Just yesterday, I gave testimony before Senator Kennedy's Health, Education, Labor & Pensions committee in support of the legislation co-sponored by Senators Kennedy and Cornyn that would put tobacco under the FDA and give the FDA authority to regulate it with the aim of protecting consumers, particularly minors. A correspondent from one of the three major networks wanted to know "when Evangelicals changed their views on tobacco and supported government regulation of it." Southern Baptist Convention has passed nearly two dozen resolutions against tobacco, calling for various measures to inhibit its use, beginning in 1932. In a 1984 resolution, we called upon Southern Baptist tobacco farmers to switch to other crops and called for an end to all goverment subsidies of tobacco. She was simply astounded. As you know, I supported the liberation of Iraq and I believe that the goals and purposes met just war standards, as did Michael Novak, among others. I'm also aware there were others who felt that it did not meet those agreed upon criteria. I have been extremely disappointed in many aspects of the prosecution of the war. We have made many mistakes with tragic consequences, both for our country and the Iraqis. Randall, I don't think you contacted us concerning our position on torture. If you did, I didn't receive that query. We adamently oppose torture and denounce it. However, I must add the caveat that terrorists who are not in uniform and are observing none of the rules of the Geneva Convention are not accorded all the protections of the Geneva Convention, which would entitle us to only ask for name, rank and serial number. We ought to at least to be able to interrogate terrorists as vigourously as we would interrogate a murder suspect in a New York or Chicago police station where we will certainly seek to ask for more than name, rank and serial number. However, lest I be misunderstood, I condemn torture and physical abuse of prisoners, no matter how heinous their crimes. We must never sink to the level of our enemies often barbarous behavior.

David Waters1:41 PM
One final question: This discussion really began several months ago in the pages of Newsweek, where both of you responded to Lisa Miller's article on "An Evangelical Identity Crisis." Is the crisis theological or merely political? Professor Balmer, you first.

Randall Balmer1:50 PM
Oh, it's absolutely a theological matter. The leaders of the Religious Right, in my judgment, have taken the gospel, the "good news" of Jesus, something I find lovely and redemptive and turned it into something ugly and punitive. The have defaulted on the noble legacy of 19th-century evangelical activism, which invariably took the part of those on the margins of society. I want to reclaim that prophetic voice for evangelicalism. I also think the leaders of the Religious Right are inconsistent. If you oppose abortion (as I do, in most instances), then it seems to me that your "pro-life" stand would carry a lot more moral authority if you were consistently "pro-life." I'm pleased to hear Richard talk about tobacco, which I regard as a "pro-life" matter, and I wish he were a bit less equivocal in his opposition to torture. But capital punishment also has to be on the table if you call yourself "pro-life" as well as the issue of poverty. I think the Religious Right would have a lot more moral authority if they were consistently "pro-life." One final point about abortion. By my reckoning, since February 1, 2006, with the swearing in of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court, until January 3, 2007, when the Democratic majorities took control of Congress, the Republican-Religious Right coalition had firm control of all three branches of the federal government. The chief executive, the majority leader in the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives all claimed to be evangelical Christians and implacably opposed to abortion. And yet – and yet! – this coalition, which has been braying about abortion since the late 1970s made no attempt whatsoever to outlaw abortion. Congress did, however, manage to pass a bill authorizing the use of torture against those the president designates as “enemy combatants,” but no attempt to outlaw abortion, their stated goal. I find that a bit curious, don’t you, Richard?

Richard Land2:10 PM
It always theological with Evangelicals. They are people of faith and they take their faith seriously. The modern Evangelical political movement, which is so often derided as the Religious Right, is a product of the abortion issue. I was a foot soldier and non-commissioned officer in the pro-life movement from the early 1970s onward. Most Evangelicals who were more pietistic than activist were driven into the political process, not so much by Roe v. Wade, as they were by the millions of abortions that began to take place almost immediately in Roe's wake. It was literally the flood tide of the blood of the innocence that drove them into a political process, most of them deeply mistrusted and viewed as worldly. Is it more complicated than that? Of course. It's always more complicated than that, but without the flood tide of abortions as the driving force, the Evangelical entry into politics on a massive scale would never have taken place. And, if the Republican party had not adopted a pro-life plank in its platform in 1980, Evangelicals and traditional pro-life Catholics, I believe, would have started a new pro-life party. I'll ignore the provocative and unfair description of "braying about abortion" and just say its disengenuous of you to say that pro-lifers had firm control of all three branches of the federal goverment from Feb. 1, 2006, to Jan 3, 2007. Even with Roberts and Alito, who would not be on the Supreme Court if it were not for pro-life involvement over the last two decades, with Kennedy still as the swing vote, about the best the pro-lifers can hope for is a decision upholding the ban on partial birth abortions, which is a start. It took the abolitionists a long time and pro-lifers are in this for the long haul. And speaking of defending those on the "margins of society," can anyone be more marginalized than being legally defined out of the human race, i.e. the approximately 49 million babies that have been aborted since 1973. Concerning capital punishment, I, like most Evangelicals, believe that human beings can do things to other human beings that are so heinous that they deserve to forfeit their lives when they are found guily beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of their peers. Romans 13:4 authorizes the use of lethal force by the divinely ordained civil magistrate to punish evil. If a society chooses to apply this option, then it must be as equally committed to its fair and equitable application. In our society, tragicallly, it has not been fairly and equitably applied. I will continue to support the fair and equitable punishment of heinous crimes with capital punishment. If the man in Florida is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of having abducted, raped, and buried alive the little 10-year-old girl in Florida, then he deserves to die. And that is pro-life. The vast majority of Evangelicals agree with my position on this issue. Being the majority doesn't make it right -- or wrong! But it is the majority. Randall, I'm sure you will continue to argue your position on these issues and I'll continue to argue mine, and the people will decide the nation's public policy since it is government of the people, by the people and for the people.

David Waters2:10 PM
We began with Dr. Land. Professor Balmer, you have the last word.

Randall Balmer2:20 PM
C'mon, Richard, you're a better historian than that. The Religious Right did not coalesce as a political movement in response to the 1973 Roe decision. The catalyst was a lower-court decision, Green v. Connally, which upheld the attempt on the part of the Internal Revenue Service to rescind the tax-exempt status of institutions that engaged in racial discrimination. Bob Jones University of South Carolina stood in the crosshairs of that decision, and that is what motivated evangelical leaders to become politically active; abortion was cobbled into the political agenda in the late 1970s, in preparation for the 1980 presidential campaign, and not in direct response to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Despite the labored efforts of the leaders of the Religious Right to style themselves as the "new abolitionists" in order to draw a moral parallel with the 19th-century evangelical opponents of slavery, the Religious Right organized as a political movement effectively to defend racial segregation. I've enjoyed this exchange, Richard, which lasted far longer than we'd planned. Today is my anniversary, and I'm going hiking with my wife!

David Waters2:21 PM
Thank you, gentlemen. Be sure to look for regular posts from Richard Land and Randall Balmer at On Faith at You can continue the discussion by posting your own comments. Thanks for joining us.


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