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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Gloating When You Win Is ALWAYS a Bad Idea

A lot of my readers are Seventh Day Adventists. There was a major vote at the church's General Conference Meeting in San Antonio last week on the subject of who decides whether it is permissible to ordain women to the ministry. Before your eyes glaze over, this isn't about that.

Stuff like the picture above has been popping up on SDA Facebook member sites since the big vote last week went "NO". Nothing actually changed with regard to women in the ministry. The vote merely said that the General Conference President and his aids will decide, not the local conferences and churches. The president of the General Conference is one Ted Wilson, who, like George W. Bush, is the son of a previous General Conference president, Neal Wilson. Adventists as a group are rebellious Protestant with a long history of ignoring popular opinion and going with Scripture for their source of authority. We even demand that our church's resident prophet conform to the Bible - something she, herself, recommended.

But, if you are an SDA and saw the picture above, your mind probably went immediately to last week's contentious vote on women's ordination? I kow mine did. 

The controversy reminds me of the kerfuffle over the Confederate battle flag of recent weeks. As the flags are being torn down one by one from monuments and government property throughout the South in response to a massive media campaign to eradicate the flag from display, Southern folk have felt compelled to hoist the Confederate Battle Flag in their homes, at NASCAR events and everywhere else you can imagine over the last couple of weeks. 

Many, especially liberals and Yankees assume that flying the Confederate battle flag is racist. They really don't understand the situation. Stuff like this is an expression of rebellion, something Americans have done since before 1776. You will note that neither group, pro-ordination Adventists nor the children of the soldiers who lost the Civil war have gone out blowing things up or occupying some city park to raise "awareness". They've just raised their banner here and there. It's more about tweaking the noses of the victors - in essence saying I'm not going away just because you say so. Most Southerners care not a fig for racism, but do care about being from the South and resent people trying to crush what they see as their heritage. In the same way, I find a majority of Adventists who voted "yes" last week, or would have if they'd had a vote, are more angry that the power to decide that issue was held in the hands of Ted Wilson and his confederates.

This flag is the actual racist Confederate
Flag - Southerners abandoned it long ago.
It is, therefore, not useful for fomenting racial
unrest if you're looking to promote a meme that
all white people (at least Southerners) are racist.
For most Southerners, the Confederate battle flag is a symbol of rebellion, fried chicken and potato salad, peach pie and watermelon. Most of their fathers who fought in the War Between the States thought it was about states rights and few of the men in the battle lines standing under THAT flag owned slaves. If there was another flag that was an easily recognizable symbol of the South, most Southerners would fly it.

Besides, the battle flag was actually NOT the flag of the Confederacy, but the flag of the troops and so is far less racist than the flag shown to the left.
If you want to ban the real "racist" flag, this is the one chosen by the high-born plantation owners and slave-holders who wrote the entirely racist Confederate constitution? This is the flag you ought to be getting hacked off about if someone flies it. The battle flag was flown by armies that thought they were fighting for their rights.The battle flag flew over men who thought they were fighting against government overreach. For instance, I fly my Texas flag and my Texas Navy flag up here in very liberal Washington State as a symbol of pride and my resistance to current government overreach. I fly it alongside the Stars and Stripes. I do so because my home state has resisted progressive socialism successfully and we're kind of proud of that.

Adventists, meanwhile, at least those who felt the vote on women's ordination was more about the centralization of power in the hands of a few high up administrators than it was about women in the ministry, are searching for ways to express their frustration. They are not rebelling against the church, but against the kind of high-handed strong-arming that can take place if too much power is settled in the hands of a few. Even the GC said it wasn't about whether women could preach but about who, as President Bush once colorfully described it, is the "decider".

Ironically, both the battle flag and pictures like the one above are more about who's going to tell who what to do than they are about the issues they purport to be about. 
It will be interesting to see whether the church cracks down on the rebellious murmerings of the members who had hoped last week's vote would affirm the 1903 GC's move to decentralize the power and authority of the church's world leaders. It won't help if they do crack down on expressions of discontent by Adventist members, anymore than ordering Southerners not to display the Battle Flag did anything other than to stimulate sales of the flags. If the church leadership truly wants unity, it should look around for ways to put more decision-making authority in the hands of the unions and the conferences and divest itself very publicly of the mantle of authority they wear. That authoritarian leadership style looks more and more like another top-heavy church organization we all know and fear. This is not the time for sermons on the headship doctrine. It is time to reaffirm that Jesus is our Lord and it is to him we are directly responsible.

Just one man's opinion

© 2015 by Tom King


Mark Milliorn said...

In the 1970's, the Ku Klux Klan suddenly had a resurgence in part of Texas after the US Government relocated Vietnamese shrimpers along the Gulf Coast. At the time, the shrimping industry was near collapse due to an aging fleet of boats, limited permits, and rising fuel costs. When the Vietnamese shrimpers showed up, they got help securing permits and loans for new, more energy efficient boats.

Some of the animosity just came from cultural differences. It wasn't just the language and religious differences. The Vietnamese dragged their nets north to south, and gulf coast shrimpers dragged their impossibly long nets east to west.

All of this exacerbated economic conditions, and since poverty is the soil where prejudice grows, I guess we shouldn't have been surprised when the Klan came back to life in Galveston.

While I had read about this in the local paper, I was shocked one day when the KKK showed up at my business to discuss my hiring practices. Two men waited patiently in the lobby of the hotel while the desk clerk paged me. As I walked up, there was absolutely nothing to indicate who these men were. They, and I, were all dressed exactly the same way in Texas business casual: white shirts, blue jeans, and boots. If we had been a little further inland, we might have worn ties, but neckties were all but illegal on the island.

I was in the dark as to who they were until one of them handed me his business card. The older of the two men was a grand wizard or something. The meeting lasted about 30 seconds and did not end politely.

My point, is that racism, prejudice, and intolerance does not come packaged in easily to recognized forms. These men were not carrying flags, were not wearing their mother's bedsheets, and had no shoulder patches advertising their stupidity.

Fighting bigotry is not as easy as simply attacking their symbols.

Tom King said...

Yeah, you know that and I know that, but the people who keep telling us what smart guys they are, would rather do the easy thing and go after the symbols than do the hard work that's needed to overcome stupid prejudice. The idea that you can make superficial changes and that real change will follow is a pleasant fantasy, but then so is Marxism when you get right down to it.

I remember the issues with the Vietnamese shrimpers. When you transplant hundreds of new shrimpers onto the shrimping grounds, you screw up the ecology of both the local economy and of the shrimp populations that economy depends on. It sounded like a great idea to the central planners. We've got shrimp grounds. They're shrimpers. Just move the shrimpers to the shrimp grounds. They just forgot to talk to the local shrimpers about the capacity of the shrimp grounds to carry that many new boats.

Again, Central Planning's fundamental weakness - oversimplification. Same with the progressive movement's attempts to do large scale social engineering. If what you know is how to use a hammer, everything looks like a nail.