Service Interrupted: A Political Memoir-Chapter Eleven (Continued)

   Institutions live on long after the thrill is gone.

   One cannot expect institutions or organizations to approximate the ethical/religious/moral progress of their individual members. Education, religious transformation and unique individual experiences convert individuals. Single persons or persons in small clumps can grow. Institutions and organizations do not undergo educative, religious or life epiphanies.

   Once codified, the mission of the institution or organization  does not change voluntarily. Texas Baptists Committed, for instance, has as its Mission Statement the support of the BGCT and the promotion of traditional baptist principles. The founder and head of TBC, Dr. David Currie, has a simpler explanation, more akin to the actual mission of the TBC.

   "I fight fundamentalism," Dr. Currie will tell you. Each of those three words should be taken exactly as they sound, singly and in a row.

   Any comment about TBC not accompanied with copious notes of thanks will be taken as criticism. The Church may be the Sacred Monster as I have called it but many of its offspring have earned that sobriquet as well.

   When I first got involved with baptist politics in Texas, after years of being a pastor/evangelist and staying at home to help a church grow, I began to hear of being "Pinsonized." The reference was to the fellow then Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Dr. William (Bill) Pinson. To be "Pinsonized" meant to try to hold on to all the churches, Fundamentalist, Moderate, Liberal, Accepting and Affirming, to give this whole Battle for the Bible time to run its course.

   As outrage piled on atrocity, people began to awake to the fact the Fundamentalist Takeover was not a virus but a chronic, recurring condition. We had a malignant tumor, not a broken bone.

   We had to have a War Leader, not an Appeaser. Statesmanship gave way to alley fighting, with predictable results.

   Many times since those days, I have been told, "Well, in the beginning of it all, if the BGCT had just been conciliatory, taken the high road, the other group would have been satisfied to be heard and all this would not have happened."

   People who feel this way should hop the next UFO to Mars, or attend an SBC annual convention. They do not live in reality, anyway.

   "I hate CBF," I have been told. "They started all these problems."

   This is like blaming the victim of a car-jacking because he has a nice car.

   So, why did a straight thinker like Bill Pinson, a conservative-moderate statesman, become the focus of so much criticism? Simply put, he led an organization under massive stress from outside and incapable of major internal transformation.

   He could rearrange the deck chairs but the great ship of state must plow its course. Unfortunately, enmity now powered the obstacles in its way. The dangers to the ship were not benign, floating icebergs. They became warships, flying the Jolly Roger, bristling with guns and panting for a showdown. They would take the ship if they could, sink it if they could not take it and drink the blood of their foes with howling glee.

   Sometimes, from my perspective as an external exile, I think Christians fight each other so hard because it is so much safer than fighting the Devil.

   Once set in place, organizations/institutions maintain their position until external stress or internal rot cause the house to crumble. We might hold off burning the house to kill the termites but, untreated, the termites will trash the house anyway.

   "Human collectives have brutal character," to paraphrase Reinhold Niebuhr, "and few understand the power of self-interest and egoism in all inter-group relations" (Rienhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society, p. xxx).

   Simply put, Bill Pinson, the Christian Educator/Pastor/Statesman/Historian was caught between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. If he embraced the Devil, his organization would die from external pressures. If he stepped into the Deep Blue Sea, his organization would drown in a wash of its "saviors."

   The only thing that could have possibly saved the organization in that circumstance would have been a massive transformation in its character, possibly reflected in a charter change. We will never know if that would have been salvific because it was not tried and has not yet been tried seriously.

   In the years since the Open Wars, the institution has changed. It has gotten smaller and poorer to the detriment of all its beneficiaries.

   So, why is it still here? I do not know.


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