The other evening I was asked to participate in a conference call of concerned pastors and laymen who wished to seek my perspective on the coming annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, TX. In recent weeks, I have been on more calls than I can count concerning the SBC and its present leadership crisis.
Mostly, I’ve been listening to various leaders think aloud about the parliamentary mechanisms available to them in Dallas. In each of these calls, I offered what I’ve come to believe is the most apt analogy for the conflicts stirring in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Southern Baptist battles are like the battles J.R.R. Tolkien described in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit series.
First, you have the dwarves. These are the men and women of good faith and honest integrity who will fight the right battles, and they fight them valiantly and most of the time, effectively. They’re an odd little bunch, and they don’t always have the best personal hygiene, but they have hearts of gold and the courage of giants.
Though they tend to squabble among themselves from time to time, they will always show up prepared for battle. When you’re under attack or the cause is just, they will give it their all and never shy away from the fight. In fact, they would rather die in battle beside you than ever run away. Their stubborn will is mitigated by their passion for truth and their willingness to sacrifice greatly for the greater good of Middle Earth.
The Southern Baptist Convention has lots of dwarves.
And then, there are the hobbits. Like the dwarves, hobbits can be very courageous when the situation becomes dire, but they also have a tendency to disappear at the hottest moment in battle. In the end, all they really want to do is live a quiet, bucolic life in the shire, raising their children and farming the earth. These are the average Southern Baptist pastors. Their heart is in the right place. Their desire for adventure beyond their little churches is part of what gets them to the annual SBC meeting every June. But when it comes time for votes on the convention floor or an issue needs to be addressed from a floor microphone, they too often perform a vanishing act.
And then there are the elves. These mythical creatures are very much a part of Middle Earth, but as the years have passed they are largely removed from the day-to-day concerns of both the SBC and their churches. They are, in truth, the megachurch pastors. They fought battles in Middle Earth a long time ago, and they don’t feel as passionately about what Sauron and Saruman are up to. They just want to live among the elves and not be bothered with the little squabbles that crop up down where the dwarves and the hobbits dwell. And they aren’t particularly trusting of men.
But elves do have a sense of justice, and they are skilled in battle. While they finally show up late to the battle, their arrival usually means the battle is almost over. The coalition of hobbits, elves, men, and dwarves — though never a permanent confederacy — is a powerful alliance that can set Middle Earth back on a healthy, solid footing.
The most frustrating thing for the hobbits and dwarves and fairies and men who are fighting to save the Southern Baptist Convention is the reality that their cause has scant chance of success. At every turn in battle, just when they think the tide is turning in their favor, another orc horde rises over a cliff and comes rumbling into the battle, knuckles dragging, clubs swinging, grunting and hissing and spitting in their Fundamentalist rage.
These are the armies that Paige Patterson deploys in every conflict great and small. Under siege last week in Fort Worth, he convened another orc horde and rallied his troops with promises of “man flesh.” Hungry, because he hasn’t really been feeding them much lately, they will enter the fight a little disoriented and dumb, but ready to fight because it’s all they really know anymore. They will also cannibalize their own.
Wave after wave of them will come. A never ending horde of Pattersonian agitators, former students and current, and more than a handful of professors and security goons whose deficient IQs, famously crude manners, and single-minded focus on carrying out Paige’s orders fill the trustee boards, convention agencies, entities and committees. And they’ve been doing it so long, they don’t really even need the Orc leaders to tell them what to do anymore. By instinct since 1979, the earth rips open and belches the orcs from the slime and mud and sorcery where they were made deep under the volcanic mountains of Mordor.
So this newest Baptist battle is going to play out just as they always do. There is an alliance forming already — albeit unstructured and not without tension or clear leaders and strategists — to deal with the problems presented by Paige and Dorothy Patterson’s continued position in the Southern Baptist Convention. And as irony would have it, their work must be done in Dallas.
Through some combination of the dwarfs and elves and men and hobbits — all of whom are exhausted in the midst of this fight — the way forward will become clear. Paige Patterson will no longer be at Southwestern Seminary, and he and Dorothy won’t be playing midwife for more new orcs in the hatcheries of Melkor.
Of course, many are left wondering if the White Wizard will make an appearance in Dallas this summer. He’s been away for a long time, but we understand he’s considering a timely return.
One thought on “The horde of orcs . . .”
You nailed the date this FUNDAMENTALIST train wreck began to pick up steam lead by the two PP’S–1979. Bold Mission Thrust surely got lost in the shuffle when this madness began.