Monday, April 07, 2008

I Feel A Disturbance in the Force

So, let's get this straight shall we:

1. It's okay for the civil government to ban particular religious practices in the geographical limits of Dallas/Tarrant County, TX.

2. It's okay for the authorities to interfere with the FLDS' ecclesiastical beliefs and practices.

3. But it's also okay for Paige Patterson and SWBTS to fire Sherri Klouda based on their ecclesiastical beliefs. (Note, the same judge who ruled against the Santeria priest is the one who ruled in favor of Dr. Patterson).

If you're familiar with Star Wars, you'll know the story:

Palpatine/Darth Sidious uses the Trade Federation to blockade Naboo. Consequently, he comes to power as Chancellor. Later, he manipulates the Trade Federation and it's allies to foment an Separatist rebellion against the considated power of the Republic while on the other using the Jedi to create a Clone Army to fight for the Republic, playing both sides against each other while he tightens his grip on the Republic. In Episode 3, he destroys the Separatist leaders after manipulating Anakin Skywalker to betray the Jedi Order, destroying the Jedi in the process. When he announces the end of the Republic and the beginning of the First Galactic Empire, Amidala says, "So this is how democracy ends, to the sound of thunderous applause."

John Leland and my Baptist forefathers fought to end state churches. Today, the buses and facilities belonging to First Baptist Church of Eldorado, TX were used to help the authorities round up the FLDS' women. Is this really what we want?

The churches have lost the Gospel. On the one hand, men and women sit under the thrall of the teachings of Joel Osteen and Rev. Jeremiah Wright, with but only a hairsbreath of difference between their versions of the Gospel. On the other, they claim it's okay to use "ecclesiastical authority" to fire women for teaching Hebrew at SWBTS, while the same civil authority prohibit Santeria rituals and findsways to get at the FLDS. Meanwhile, they increasingly can't agree on the nature of justification, it's place in the hierarchy of fundamental articles of faith, our rule of faith - I could go on and on here, but the common thread is this: When the Church loses sight of the Gospel, it inevitably resorts to the civil authority to do it's bidding, to accomplish what it fails to do by force of argument in the public square of ideas. The end result can be terrifiying, for the end result of a Gospel-lite/less Church is tyranny, and that can cut both ways. One day, theologically conservative Christians may find ourselves on the other side of the argument, facing the civil authority which we ourselves arm with legal precedents to which we approved which are then used against us.

Emperor Palpatine must be proud.


  1. Gene,

    What is your opinion of Klouda case?

  2. Carrie,

    I'm glad you asked.

    I think Dr. Patterson's decision is one of the most ill-conceived, poorly documented, and badly argued in the history of the SBC. It shall go down, ultimately, in infamy.

    I reject the idea that SWBTS is a "church." I believe it is self-contradictory to claim that the seminary is a church for "legal" purposes and then claim that your "ecclesiastical interpretation" of the BFM is enough to allow you to terminate an employ. It would be more consistent to argue that
    it is your "ecclesiastical" belief that the seminary is a "church" and then argue that this licenses your ecclesiastical actions. So, on the one hand, he says the state can determine what is and is not a "church" but then the state cannot interfere in the ecclesiastical decisions he makes. Marvelous.

    Have you read the transcripts posted at SBC Outpost? Patterson's mental gymnastics are astounding. He says he was responding to student concerns. Where are they documented? He doesn't recall. Did he listen to her lectures? No. Did he send a representative to do so? No.

    So, he terminated her for allegedly violating the BFM parameters - without documenting it. Good job. No wonder nobody has tried to defend him.

    If you read his "rationale"if you can call it that, if he was remotely consistent, he would say that women shouldn't be SBC messengers or trustees.

    I've also responded to his "exegetical foundation" elsewhere on the blog - on his contention that women rulers are the sign of a crumbling society/church.

    Dr. Klouda was teaching Hebrew. She was granted the Ph.D by SWBTS. Did they think she wasn't going to use it? Why did they employ her at all? Did they think she wouldn't comment on the biblical text in her classes? Maybe she might do that in elementary Hebrew,where students are learning how to do basic transliteration and translation. But what about intermediate or advanced courses where exegesis is the name of the game? Are females not going to be allowed to take theology classes at all at SWBTS? If not, will they be disallowed from making a public presentation in class because that means they are teaching men if men are also present? Where exactly does one draw the line over women teaching men?

    Dr. Patterson has, in my mind, placed himself on a long list of once distinguished ecclesiastical figures in the American church who have, as they near the end of their careers, lost their proverbial minds - just like Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and a few others.

  3. So you watched Spike last weekend too? The political intrigue in the first trilogy is creative.

    Good parallel with the current events.

  4. Thanks Gene.

    I wasn't aware of the case until you brought it up on TF's blog. I'm not interested enough to read the transcripts, I just was surprised that teaching Hebrew in a seminary is a problem for women.

    I had to laugh at the story b/c it's just funny where some people will make a stand.