Thursday, January 01, 2009

Paleoevangelical of the Year 2008

I've previously argued that ethnic discrimination propagated by professing Christians, churches, or Christian organizations is antithetical to the gospel.

For that reason, I want to recognize the organizers of pleasereconcile.org as the 2009 Paleoevangelicals of the Year.

I can't entirely explain the cocktail of cultural and religious pressure that affects so many BJU alumni, leading them to tolerate and even defend the intolerable and indefensible. I know that it affected me for far too long. The fear of man brings a snare.

What I appreciate so much about the pleasereconcile.org organizers is that they not only broke free from that pressure, but did so in a gracious, humble, gospel-centered fashion. I have much to learn from them.

Not to be overlooked in this conversation is the fact that BJU released an apology. Though I have no way of knowing who all was behind that decision, it seems inescapable to me that Stephen Jones deserves public acknowledgement and thanks for his leadership. Although my initial reaction to the BJU statement focused on its obvious deficiencies, further reflection and other perspective shared with me in subsequent days led me to focus on the positive. For the University that stands without apology to apologize may have seemed like a small step, but it was more like a giant leap.

BJU is not simply a school; it's a culture. The people who created that culture—former administrators, influential constituent pastors, major donors, and perhaps most significantly, long-time members of the Board of Trustees—may well remain personally invested in the mindset that created discriminatory policies. Stephen Jones' decision to apologize was made in the midst of that culture, and any deficiencies in the wording are more than offset, in my opinion, by the sincerity and courage it took to say what was said.

Finally, it seems that the reactions from the kind of people who were discriminated against have been largely forgiving and grateful. This suggests to me that through an apology, a faithful picture of the gospel has been put on display to a watching world. That many haters of the gospel find another opportunity to mock BJU is finally a credit to the school since that mockery now arises from Christlike humility rather than, well, ugly things. Thanks to the men and women who served as catalysts in eliciting that apology.

3 comments:

Jim Peet said...

I agree (and also commend) pleasereconcile.org!

What don't understand is why BJU wouldn't preempt pleasereconcile.org by issuing the statement / apology prior to the petition being delivered.

david Morris said...

I'm with you on the encouraging words for the folks who originated PleaseReconcile. I was a bit disheartened by Sharper Iron's mention that the petition was labeled "unbiblical" and "unprofitable" at a faculty/staff meeting, as well as stating that the petition had nothing to do with the public statement. One step forward...Sort of.

Ben said...

Whoops, a reader alerted me that I posted the wrong date. This shoulda been 2008, not 2009. Fixed now.

David,

Not knowing how reliable that report was or who is supposed to have made the statements makes me assume the best--even if it's true, I trust the comments came from someone else. At least I hope.