Rules for Radicals, Pt. 2.

“Whenever we think about social change, the question of means and ends arises. the man of action views the issue of means and ends in pragmatic and strategic terms. He has no other problem; he thinks only of his actual resources and the possibilities of various choices of action. He asks of ends only whether they are achievable and worth the cost; of means, only whether they will work. To say that corrupt means corrupt the end is to believe in the immaculate conception of ends and principles. The real arena is bloody…

The means-and-ends moralists, constantly obsessed with the ethics of the means used by the Have-Nots against the Haves, should search themselves as to their real political position. In fact, they are passive — but real — allies of the Haves. They are the ones Jacques Maritain referred to in his statement, ‘The fear of soiling ourselves by entering the context of history is not virtue, but a way of escaping virtue.’ These non-doers were the ones who chose not to fight the Nazis in th eonly way they could have been fought; they were the ones who drew their window blinds to shut out the shameful spectacle of Jews and political prisoners being dragged through the streets; they were the ones who privately deplored the horror of it all — and did nothing. This is the nadir of immorality.

The most unethical of all means is the non-use of any means.”

With these words Saul Alinsky has captured the crisis of conscience faced by every reformer/revolutionary engaged in efforts to achieve the ends of justice for which they have united themselves in strategic collaboration.

The Southern Baptist Convention is populated by insurrectionist revolutionaries who despise authority wherever they find it, as well as protectionist sycophants who have made a habit of telling the emperor that his new clothes are sublime. In between these two poles, are the rest of the convention’s activists who tend toward one extreme or the other.

Or put another way, there are those who would beatify the Texas tyrant with an endless barrage of feshcrifts, and there are others who would just as soon march Paige Patterson to the guillotine like Louis XVI. I’m not sure what they’d do with Madam Marie Antoinette, but that’s for another post.

Perusing the Baptist blogs will give you a good survey of these different approaches — the one always questioning the ethic of means, the other questioning the justice of ends. For the reformer, however, Alinsky offers a series of rules pertaining to the questions of means and ends. I offer them here, enumerated, with elaboration and contextualization for the Southern Baptist Convention.

1. One’s concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with one’s personal interest in the issue and distance from the scene of conflict.

In other words, when the injustice is perpetrated against our neighbor, we become exceedingly profound moralists of means. We sit by quietly and armchair quarterback his response, thinking to ourselves — or blogging — that he should have responded like this or that, not as he did. This is why it is an exercise in futility for Southern Baptists to sit to mightily in judgment of Wade Burleson’s response to the IMB’s attempts to remove him. Never in the history of the SBC has such an action been taken. Wade had no precedent, no ruts in the road to follow.

There is a cannibalistic core to fundamentalism. The only satisfying fare for men like Paige Patterson are the delicacies of other mens’ tribulations. The Germans have a word for it: schadenfreude. Patterson, in particular, is skilled in the art of creating disruptions in other SBC agencies, then presenting himself as the healer/savior able to calm the seas with one word spoken. This is why he could “provide counsel” to Ken Hemphill, all the while he was orchestrating Hemphill’s ouster. Or why he could work the NAMB trustees over Bob Reccord, then extend to Reccord the first invitation to preach for an SBC institution after his demise.

Paige plays God to some SBC leaders like B.F. Skinner did to his caged pigeons. A certain behavior will warrant a certain reward. Before long, his little pigeons learn how to behave themselves in order to keep getting their reward. Take away Patterson’s box of goodies, i.e. trusteeships, faculty positions, recommendations to this or that pulpit, and watch how quickly his little pigeons fly the coop.

But back to the main point.

This principle is also illustrated by the way that some people are questioning the way that the Sheri Klouda incident has been brought to light, rather than examining the source of the problem, which is an irresponsible board of trustees overseeing a reckless and pigheaded administration. More later on how Paige Patterson has violated the bylaws of SWBTS in this latest administrative blunder.

2. The judgment of the ethics of means and ends is dependent upon the political position of those sitting in judgment.

The means of our enemies are always to us immoral, which of course explains why Paige Patterson is miffed at bloggers, and even why bloggers are furious at Paige Patterson. In other words, I’m willing to admit that my “means” of addressing concerns about narrowing parameters, etc., are exonerated in my own mind as “for the greater good” in the same way that Paige Patterson can run roughshod over a woman’s career for the cause of preserving the institution from egalitarianism. Alinsky illustrates this point:

Jefferson, Franklin, and others were honorable men, but they knew that the Declaration of Independence was a call to war. They also knew that a list of man of the constructive benefits of the British Empire to the colonists would have so diluted the urgency of the call to arms for the Revolution as to have been self-defeating. The result might have well been a document attesting to the fact that justice weighed down the scale at least 60 percent on our side, and only 40 percent on their side; and that only because of that 20 percent difference we were going to have a Revolution. To expect a man to leave his wife, his children, his home, to leave his crops standing in the field and pick up a gun and join the Revolutionary Army for a 20 percent difference in the balance of human justice was to defy common sense.

The Declaration of Independence, as a declaration of war, had to be what it was, a 100 percent statement of the justice of the cause of the colonists and a 100 percent denunciation of the role of the British government as evil and unjust. Our cause had to be all shining justice, allied with the angels; theirs had to be all evil, tied to the Devil; in no war has the enemy or the cause ever been gray. Therefore, from one point of view the omission was justified; from the other, it was deliberate deceit.

Another example could be Luther’s Ninety Five Theses, which hardly would have spawned a necessary Reformation had he said nice things in calm, pleasant tones about the Roman pontiff. It also explains why Patterson/Pressler had to talk about the chilling specter of “higher criticism” and “enlightenment liberalism” as completely infecting the SBC. In fact, Patterson has been hunting down “liberals” and holding witchtrials for so long, he hardly thinks about the danger that he might — in his zeal for doctrinal purity — mischaracterize a person’s theology. There were never as many liberals in the SBC as Patterson/Pressler alleged, but telling people that Russell Dilday believes in a literal Adam and Eve or that Randall Lolley refused to use Cooperative Program dollars to hire cleaning staff at the Southeastern president’s home won’t mobilize as many messengers to annual meetings.

You cannot both praise and criticize your enemies in a political conflict if you would prevail against them. Scholarly journals and book reviews have the privileged luxury of balance and temperance. Pamphlets of propaganda (i.e., the Southern Baptist Advocate and/or blogs) meet abysmal circulation and readership if they weigh with even scales.

Just ask yourself reading this blog how many of you devoured a recent copy of the Journal for the Society of Biblical Literature before perusing the internet for gossipy tidbits of the Southern Baptist blogosphere. It also explains why Paul Pressler’s book, A Hill on Which to Die, has sold many more copies than has Barry Hankins’ book, Uneasy in Babylon. Southern Baptists, and I mean all Southern Baptists, prefer to read tabloids over scholarly publications any day. Paige Patterson realizes this, which explains why he publishes little pamphlets like “Anatomy of a Reformation” rather than a comprehensive history of the SBC before 1979.
To be continued…

6 thoughts on “Rules for Radicals, Pt. 2.

  1. Have you read Barhhart’s “Southern Baptist Holy War”? I read from it in SS today. One of my pastors stopped by before class and he had not heard of it before.


    Ps. Maybe SBCers should read the Reformed Baptist Theological Review. It’s only put out couple of times a year so it’s not that big of a committment.

  2. Isn’t it true that the SBC executive committee sent Pressler’s book to every SBC pastor whether they wanted it or not. Wouldn’t that tend to boost sales? I have read both books. Uneasy in Babylon was much more helpful in understanding the so called resurgence.

  3. John Mark,

    Don’t read Barnhart in SS. He’s a critic from way outside the faith with a bitter axe to grind, and his work is filled with inaccuracies. Don’t waste your time. Even avowed atheists have acknowledged, “If this is the best our side can do, we’re in trouble.”


    This kind of analysis if 1st rate. Can’t wait for further installments. I wonder if this kind of work would ever be appreciated in a seminary church history class, or a seminar on “Denominational Life.” Nah.
    One can only imagine what really goes on in such classes…..

    Which goes back to the fundamental question of what is the purpose of Seminary Higher Education. Is there a contain any room for a search for truth? Or is it mere vocational training, like law or medicine?

    It is interesting that the Moderates said they had to retreat to the Universities for safe inquiry. Faithful Conservatives insurgents might just have to do the same….

    See you in Jackson.

  4. Lifelongsbcr,

    I know about Barnhart. I was teaching SS and used him merely to show the other side and qualified him as such. I do appreciate the warning though. Last I heard Barnhart was agnostic.

    It was also interesting to let the SS class know of the current ppl and baptism debates. They had no idea.


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