|Over this past weekend, the most read article on Foxnews.com was entitled "Magazines Featuring Female Pastors Pulled From Shelves, 'Treated Like Pornography.'"
The online article revealed that LifeWay Christian Bookstores, bookstores overseen by trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention's publishing agency, pulled this month's Gospel Today magazine from its shelves. Gospel Today, published for nearly 20 years, is a conservative, evangelical magazine devoted to discussing current events and issues within evangelical Christianity. The magazine is the most widely distributed urban Christian publication in the country, with a circulation of 240,000. What would cause LifeWay to pull the magazine from its shelves and treat it, according to Gospel Today's Editor Teresa Hairston, "like it was pornography"?
It seems this month's cover featured five women, dressed in black and smiling, whom the magazine's editors profiled as the most influential women pastors in America. A spokesman for Lifeway Christian Resources said the cover was not the reason the magazine was pulled from Lifeway's shelves. He gave the rationale: "The buyers said the statements that were in it took positions that were contrary to what we would say," Chris Turner said. "It wasn't so much that there were women on the cover."
I don't know the spokesperson for LifeWay, and I'm sure he is a fine Christian gentleman. But his statement should send a chill up the spine of every Christian in the Southern Baptist Convention who loves our convention and desires us to not act as if we are a cult.
Now before my Baptist Identity friends burst a blood vessel, let me remind you that there is a difference between being a cult and acting like we are a cult. We are not a cult, but sometimes we act like one. Let me show you what I mean.
(1). A cult has "leaders" who determine what everybody else in the group can and cannot read; what they can and cannot do; what they can and cannot think.
Our LifeWay spokesperson said, "The buyers (of the magazine) said the statements that were in (the magazine) took positions that were contrary to what we would say"
What? Surely, he can't be serious? Does he (or anybody who told him to say this) really believe that Southern Baptists are incapable of determining for ourselves what is truth? Do we need guardians of truth to protect our senstitive eyes and ears from possibly viewing things contrary to the truth? Who are these "buyers?" Who are these people concerned that Southern Baptists might "read" something that contradicts what we believe? Is it possible that the word "buyers" is in fact code for certain SBC leaders who called and complained? If so, just tell us. Then, we can make clear to those who desire to control what we read that Southern Baptists are mature, adult evangelicals who can think for themselves. We do not need leaders who act like cult leaders in an attempt to protect us.
(2). A cult is a place of peculiar standards of "morality," where leaders are afraid that members will be "corrupted" by simply being "exposed" to the "immoral" through reading about them, or having unintentional contact with them, or heaven forbid, actually associating with them.
Our SBC LifeWay spokesperson said, "The buyers said the statements that were in (the magazine) took positions that were contrary to what we would say."
Good night. Does anyone else so the absurdity of this statement? I take Newsweek, Time, USA Today and other liberal weekly magazines and read them all from cover to cover. I remain a conservative, both political and religiously, not because I "shield" my eyes, but because of my convictions.
Further, the idea that a conservative, evangelical magazine might actually say something about women pastors that will cause Southern Baptists to stumble morally if we were to read it is actually laughable. I personally agree with the Baptist Faith & Message prohibition regarding women pastors, but we are acting like a "cult" if we think we need to shield ourselves (and others) from this "immorality." I am not even going to talk about the incredible illogic required to treat a gospel magazine as if it "were pornography."
Frankly, I wonder if those who made the decision to pull the magazine may somehow be related to those Southern Baptist International Mission Board trustees who told me that blogging was like Internet pornography. One of these days some of our well-intentioned Southern Baptist leaders might actually understand the definition of pornography. The stupidity of comparing women who preach the gospel to those women who expose their bodies to the world (by hiding the magazine) will one day dawn upon us who are Southern Baptists.
(3). A cult takes an "us vs. them" mentality, and views everyone who is "not one of us" as the enemy.
Our SBC LifeWay spokesperson said, "The buyers (of the magazine) said the statements that were in (the magazine) took positions that were contrary to what we would say"
"They" say--"we" say. "They" believe--"we" believe. "They"--"we."
Come on folks. We who are Southern Baptists need to say "enough is enough."
We are not a cult, and we should not silently stand by while some SBC leaders give others in the Christian kingdom the impression that we are.
Wade Burleson is senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid,Okla. He blogs at Grace and Truth to You.