Rules for Radicals, Pt. 9.

“In the field of action, the first question that arises in the determination of means to be empoyed for particular ends is what means are available. This requires an assessment of whatever strengths or resources are present and can be used. It involves sifting the multiple factors which combine in creating the circumstances at any given time, and an adjustment to the popular views and the popular climate. Questions such as how much time is necessary or available must be considered. Who, and how many, will support the action? Does the opposition possess the power to the degree that it can suspend or change the laws? Does its control of police power extend to the point where legal and orderly change is impossible? If weapons are needed, then are appropriate weapons available? Availability of means determines whether you will be underground or above ground; whether you will move quickly or slowly; whether you will move for extensive changes or limited adjustments; whether you will move by passive resistance or active resistance; or whether you will move at all. The absense of any means might drive one to martyrdom in the hope that this would be a catalyst, starting a chain reaction that would culminate in a mass movement. Here a simple ethical statement is used as a means to power.”

10. The tenth rule of the ethics of means and ends is that you do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral arguments.

In this, the longest exposition of his rules on means and ends, Saul Alinsky goes to great lengths to assess the variety of means employed by various revolutionary groups. From the Bolsheviks to Mahatma Gandhi, and from Samuel Adams to Martin Luther King, Alinsky exposes the way that availability of means is a key determinant in the ethical evaluation of those means. Or as Lenin would have put it:

The task of the Bolsheviks is to overthrown the Imperialist Government. But this government rests upon the support of the Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, who in turn are supported by the trustfulness of the masses of the people. We are in the minority. In these circumstances there can be no talk of violence on our side. They have the guns and therefore we are for peace and for reformation through the ballot. When we have the guns then it will be through the bullet.

Gandhi, Alinsky suggests, has been “viewed by the world as the epitome of moral behavior,” so much so that “history, and religious and moral opinion, have so enshrined Gandhi in this sacred matrix that in many quarters it is blasphemous to question whether this entire procedure of passive resistance was not simply the only intelligent, realistic, expedient program which Gandhi had at his disposal.”

In many ways Gandhi was fighting the same fight in India that the American revolutionaries had faced. The wealth of the British Empire was exacted at tremendous cost to the colonies, and the burden of taxation without representation had grown unbearable. The swelling crowds of hungry peasants had pressed into ghettos while the fattened palaces of Great Britain’s viceregent expanded like a seminary’s presidential manse. The gulf of economic and political power between the Haves and the Have-nots was widening.

In the American colonies, however, the peasants and printers and plowmen had rifles. In the Indian colonies, all the armories were occupied by British soldiers. The fact that the Indian people seemed repeatedly unable to organize for an effective violent resistance frustrated both Gandhi and his associates. In fact, the fourth article of Gandhi’s bill of particulars issued on Jan 26, 1930, reads:

Spiritually, compulsory, disarmament has made us unmanly, and the presence of an alien army of occupation, employed with deadly effect to crush in us the spirit of resistance, has made us think we cannot look after ourselves or put up a defense against foreign aggression, or even defend our homes and families.

In other words, if Gandhi had owned a gun, he might have used it.

The way that the British Imperialists managed to suppress the threat of revolution, however, is a classic lesson in fraud. It is true, they took the people’s weapons, thus limiting their access to otherwise available means of redress. But they also seduced the revolutionaries themselves with honors and accolades.

You could say they invited them to speak in chapel and negotiated for them trusteeships. Sometimes they hired them to teach or administer certain offices within their institutional organization. So long as the British monarch’s loyalists were able to dole out the goodies to the “uppincomers,” the threat of revolution was a distant possibility.

Gandhi realized that his limitation of means — not having guns and an army of eager sycophants on the other side — necessitated a different strategy. In order to defeat the British imperialists, Gandhi had to rouse the concern of the watching world. He needed the only available means he had: photos and films of the plight of the Indian people led by a half-naked Hindu lawyer, broadcast around the globe to stir the hearts of would-be sympathizers to pressure the British government from all sides.

That there had remained in India a measure of the freedom of the press made all the difference for Gandhi’s revolution of passive resistance. Had he faced a totalitarian state willing to use the police force to silence all dissent, India might still be under the boot of British occupation. In this regard, Alinsky quotes George Orwell’s Reflections on Gandhi:

He believed in ‘arousing the world,’ which is only possible if the world gets a chance to hear what you are doing. It is difficult to see how Gandhi’s methods would be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. Without a free press and the right of assembly it is impossible, not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to you adversary.

The irony of revolution highlighted by Alinsky’s treatment is almost universally observed. Today’s successful revolutionaries become tomorrow’s deposed tyrants. Whether it is a communist like Lenin or Castro, or a capitalist like Pinochet or Hussein; whether it’s Sam Adams demanding the execution of the Shays’ Rebellion conspirators, or the Indian National Congress outlawing passive resistance a few months after securing independence from the British crown, all revolutions tend to subvert their own cause.

When I first got to Southeastern Seminary, it was common knowledge that the seminary’s former president and “first lady,” Dr. and Mrs. Lewis Drummond, had made improvements to the presidential home that were outlandish. Special closets had been installed to house the lady’s fur coats, just to name one popular rumor about the alleged excesses of the Drummond administration.

Soon after arriving there, Patterson began a drive to increase funding to the seminaries for professors’ salary raises. At the time, starting faculty members at Southeastern Seminary could expect to make in the low-to-mid 30s. The retirement plan at Southeastern, coupled with the subsidized cost of seminary land to seminary professors for building homes, were the equalizers. Until the last year of his presidency, Patterson was making a little under $100K a year.

The fact that Patterson’s salary was among the lowest of denominational executives gave him leverage to push for salary raises to seminary professors. Using the henchman he had placed on the Executive Committee during his first presidential term, Dean Nichols, Patterson began raising questions about the salaries of Executive Committee employees and calling for disclosures. Patterson thought he could embarrass Morris Chapman into allowing a special offering for the seminaries, which Patterson hoped to name after the late W.A. Criswell, and thus squeeze more money out of the Cooperative Program to give his faculty a much-needed raise.

By the time Patterson left Southeastern, the seminary trustees had voted to give him a raise to just over $100K a year. When he did leave to go to Southwestern Seminary, he drove away with furnishings that had been bought for the presidential home as “gifts.” Whether or not the seminary issued 1099s for the value of the flat-screen televisions and dining room amenitites is a question still unanswered.

Southwestern Seminary, to that point, had been paying Ken Hemphill over $200K a year, plus the benefit of the house and expenses. Many trustees had been frustrated at the presidential salary package, and saw Hemphill’s departure as the opportunity to bring the salary back in line within a more reasonable range. One member of the search committee who called Patterson told me of a conversation he had with another SBC entity president about the salary they were offering at Southwestern.

“Why would you pay a guy who can do the job less than the guy who couldn’t do the job,” my friend was told.

So the presidential search committee brought Patterson to Southwestern at a salary range similar to that of Hemphill’s, and more than $100K a year over his previous salary at Southeastern. The only wrinkle is that Southwestern had also agreed to pay Ken Hemphill one additional year of salary upon his departure from the school, meaning that Southwestern paid two presidential salaries during Patterson’s first year in office.

Now that Patterson is among the highest paid denominational employees, and perhaps the highest paid by the time you count the expense of his home (newly remodeled and refurnished to the tune of a few hundred thousand dollars), autos, travel, servants, and expense accounts, he’s grown amazingly silent about the plight of those underpaid faculty members back at Southeastern. In fact, if you read last year’s book of reports to the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention, you will discover that operating revenues for the past few years at Southwestern Seminary have plumeted, faculty numbers have dropped, student enrollment has decreased, but the seminary’s expenses have increased by several million dollars.

It was all there, last year, in black-and-white.

Why do I go into all of this?

Simply to demonstrate a point. When the peasant revolutionary gets the keys to the imperial palace, he often forgets the butchers and bakers and candlestick makers upon whose shoulders he was carried into Versailles. When he was a revolutionary, he was concerned about bureaucratic abuse and the inequity between the Haves and the Have-nots. When he became king, he learned that the lavish luxuries of leadership suited his style.

When the revolution was hot, inerrancy was a cry to mobilize the masses. Now that the masses have enthroned the inerrantists, they had the audacity to expect that their leaders would resist the temptation to rule the Southern Baptist Zion with the same iron tyranny of their predecessors. Now that “moral arguments” are being made against them, the revolutionary-turned-regent can’t understand why those dreadful gallows are being built again.

To be continued…