“When we dropped the atomic bomb the United States was assured of victory. In the Pacific, Japan had suffered an unbroken succession of defeats. now we were in Okinawa with an air base from which we could bomb the enemy around the clock. The Japanese air force was decimated, as was their navy. Victory had come in Europe, and the entire European air force, navy, and army were released for use in the Pacific. Russia was moving in for a cut of the spoils. Defeat for Japan was an absolute certainty and the only question was how and when the coup de grâce would be administered. For familiar reasons we debate on the morality of the use of this means for the end of finishing the war.
I submit that if the atomic bomb had been developed shortly after Pearl Harbor when we stood defenseless; when most of our Pacific fleet was at the bottom of the sea; when the nation was fearful of invasion on the Pacific coast; when we were committed as well to the war in Europe, that then the use of the bomb at that time on Japan would have been universally heralded as a just retribution of hail, fire, and brimstone. Then the use of the bomb would have been hailed as proof that good inevitably triumphs over evil. The question of thie ethics of the use of th bomb would never have arisen at that time and the character of the present debate would have been very difficult. Those who would disagree with this assertion have no memory of the state of the world at that time. They are either fools or liars or both.
6. The sixth rule of the ethics of means and ends is that generally success or failure is a mighty determination of ethics.
Saul Alinsky observes the indisputable fact of history: the victors get to write it. Or as Alinsky put it, “there can be no such thing as a successful traitor, for if one succeeds he becomes a founding father.”
When the conservative resurgence/takeover cranked up in the late 1970s, the success of the movement was uncertain. Adrian Rogers was elected by a slim majority over a crowded field of candidates. The next year, Bailey Smith was elected on a strong baptism record, but didn’t do himself any favors by announcing the inability of an ominipotent God to hear the petitions of his chosen people. After that, Jimmy Draper was elected on his immense popularity as an irenic conservative; then Charles Stanley faced immense opposition because of his church’s thin giving record. The first year of Stanley’s candidacy, his own state convention president, Nelson Price, declined to nominate him because FBC Atlanta hadn’t demonstrated a commitment to convention ministries through the Cooperative Program. The second year, convention messenger registration swelled to 45,000, sending popular Texas pastor Winfred Moore home to Amarillo having lost with more votes than any winning candidate in SBC history. Adrian Rogers sailed to victory for two more terms, followed by Jerry Vines who squeaked elections out in San Antonio and Las Vegas. Once Morris Chapman defeated Dan Vestal in New Orleans, the moderates lost hope and stopped coming to conventions.
Of course, Ed Young was elected in 1992 with little opposition, and then again in his own hometown of Houston, TX in 1993. The next year, in 1994, the conservatives faced the first split when Texas pastor Jack Graham nominated Jim Henry against Fred Wolfe. Graham’s nomination called for an opening of the conservative powerbase to new, younger leadership. Jim Henry’s election was the last contested election until Bobby Welch was challenged by a unknown pastor from North Carolina at the 2004 annual meeting.
Only after a series of unbroken victories for the Patterson-Pressler coalition, save only the Jim Henry presidency, could A Hill on Which to Die have been published with a modicum of sales potential. Had the moderates won, Pressler’s memoirs would have been replaced by those of Grady Cauthen or Walter Shurden or Cecil Sherman. Jerry Sutton’s Baptist Reformation would have been more appropriately titled Baptist Aspiration. Paige Patterson wouldn’t preside at Southwestern Seminary, and Karen Bullock would still have a job.
Alinsky’s analysis of means-and-ends ethics explains why the “histories” of the conservative movement in the Southern Baptist Convention were published. It also explains why they were published so early, and why the definitive histories have yet to be written. For the time being, Pressler’s and Sutton’s histories are limited in their perspective. Pressler’s book, however, makes no pretense of offering an authoritative analysis of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1979. To his credit, the Judge has offered his own memoirs and reflections so that more distant and objective historians can benefit from his work. Sutton’s history found its publishing peak several years ago, and his academic usefulness will be replaced before long by Nathan Finn or John Nixon or Greg Thornbury or some other young scholar who was weaned after the takeover.
Later this afternoon….Part 7.