Thursday, March 11, 2010

You Might Be a Fundamentalist If . . .

. . . you think it's a good idea for a fundamentalist college to send students to an Americans for Prosperity "Defending the American Dream Conference" to "share their faith" by singing the "National Anthem" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," but a bad idea for a fundamentalist college to give its students permission to attend Together for the Gospel.

24 comments:

d4v34x said...

Pure nosiness, but is this a school both you and I have firsthand experience with?

Paul said...

Yikes!! It is sad to see yet another example of how politics seems to so easily steer the ship at this particular fundamentalist institution.

ben said...

d4v34x,

The vagueness of my post is intended to keep things at a principial level. Given how I learned about the event, I'm guessing that those who should know will know.

Dave Marriott said...

Ben, perhaps you have mistakenly twisted what the newsletter says?

I quote:

"The Third Annual Defending the American Dream Summit will be March 12-13 at Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells. A men’s chorus from Maranatha will open Saturday’s session by singing the National Anthem as well as The Battle Hymn of the Republic. This is a unique opportunity for us to share our faith and showcase our college to thousands of politically and economically conservative people who might consider supporting an educational institution that promotes those ideals. Please pray that our men will have a powerful testimony there."

Your article says, "to share their faith by singing the National Anthem..." which makes it sound like the content of the faith is the same as the content of the Anthem or Battle Hymn. The singing of these songs at this event will allow the students an opportunity to be there at all, and thus share their faith with those there and in the organization. I have been to events like this where I was seated next to seemingly powerful people, and have had opportunity to open my mouth boldly and make known the gospel.

It's fine for you to disagree with their presence there (and I think you know the president well enough to send him an email), but it seems like your provocation was worded in such a way that it cast doubt upon this institution's understanding of the gospel.

Dave Marriott

ben said...

Dave,

My point was never about whether or not a school should sing at a conference like this. Clearly, there are matters of judgment involved, but we shouldn't stomp on people's liberty where Scripture does not speak directly. We have to work hard to apply principles of wisdom and prudence. We won't all agree, and that's fine.

My point, rather, is about the juxtaposition of these two events and how you and I both know that many fundamentalists will see one as great and the other as an abomination. I'm not arguing that participation in one is right and the other is wrong. Both could be right. Both could be wrong. But how you reach those conclusions reveals a great deal about what's dearest to your heart.

As for the statement itself, you quoted from it and identified the school, so I'll follow your lead and respond. I don't know who wrote the statement, but at the very least it leaves open the question of how exactly this sharing of faith takes place. Its immediate connection with "showcasing the college" in close conjunction with drumming up donors blurs the lines even more. Fundamentalists raise the issue of conservative evangelicals and separation and point out that their relationships blur lines. That knife cuts both ways. Care to disagree?

But that was not my point. My point was and is to highlight how fundamentalists think about student involvement in two events with strikingly different priorities and emphases.

Jeremy said...

Ben, I strongly dislike the fact that MBBC is sending a group to the AFP conference.

However, to my knowledge (I am currently enrolled in seminary at MBBC) there is no prohibition on attendance at T4G. I have certainly not heard of it. I don't think that Maranatha's failure to send a group to T4G warrants criticism (I don't think you are criticizing them for that either). I just think it is important to point out that Maranatha has not prohibited attendance at T4G.

ben said...

Jeremy, of course I'm not implying that there is such a prohibition in place. My point isn't even that such a prohibition would necessarily be bad if it were. (I do think it would. That's just not the point of my post.)

My point is that what we're inclined to promote and what we're inclined to prohibit exposes something about our hearts. The fundamentalism I have known would, for the most part, consistently demonstrate the unfortunate inversion of priorities that I've described. And I don't think I'm alone.

toddthekoreanboy said...

So...basically your point is that people favor what they favor and dislike what they dislike? Hardly a revolutionary concept here. :) But in all sincerity, this particular decision does not necessitate any particular heart attitude. Two very different circumstances with different motivations are not a true gauge of spiritual values. Your statement might ring true...you just have the wrong number.

d4v34x said...

As a grad of the institution (which I still hold dear to my heart) in question, this bothers me on a few levels, including (in no particular order):

1. The newsletter article devoted much more ink to the fundraising potential than to the evangelism possibilities. A(n unintended, I'll bet, but) bad signal.

2. The newsletter explicitly states that the college promotes economical and political conservatism. Sorry about your luck, liberal prospective students and donors.

3. Fundamentalism, it seems to me, has made it hard in recent years for those outside to decide if we are a movement of faith or a movement of civil action. This kind of move doesn't help at all.

4. As a consequence, it further seems to me, those young hearts and minds inside our camp get the strong impression that if you aren't a good conservative/republican, you aren't a good fundamentalist or (since fundamentalism is the only good iteration of Christianity) a good Christian.

5. Why would a Christ-centered institution spend their opportunity capital on "Defending the "American Dream" which, to most Americans (many believers included), has everything to do with comsumeristic materialism and little to do with godliness?

6. As Ben notes, any objection the college would have to not participating with T4G could also be (doubly) extended to a secular political group that is holding a book signing for the author of Justice My [Unmentionable Body Part] at the same conference.

*sigh*

ben said...

@toddthekoreanboy,

You're right. It's not a revolutionary concept to suggest that Christians reveal something about their hearts when they are gung-ho over a prosperity conference and critical of a gospel conference. It's actually quite fundamental.

Let me recast what I said to Dave Marriott:

Fundamentalists raise the issue of conservative evangelicals and separation and point out that their relationships and alliances can create confusion over the gospel. That knife cuts both ways.

terpstra4 said...

On a side note, in a college chapel service that I attended last year, at the afore unnamed, now named school, the former school president did indeed assail the gathering focused on the celebration and futherance of the primary thing of first importance. :)

Jeremy said...

Nothing of the sort has been said since the unnamed former president of the afore unnamed now named institution has left. Not that the sentiment is not present, but it is certainly less visible. A fact which I am certainly grateful for.

Jeremy said...

My point is that what we're inclined to promote and what we're inclined to prohibit exposes something about our hearts. The fundamentalism I have known would, for the most part, consistently demonstrate the unfortunate inversion of priorities that I've described. And I don't think I'm alone.

I agree.

Dave Marriott said...

Ben,

I am having a very busy day, but wanted to just clarify one thing in response to this:

"Fundamentalists raise the issue of conservative evangelicals and separation and point out that their relationships and alliances can create confusion over the gospel. That knife cuts both ways."

Singing some patriotic songs at a fiscally conservative political rally is hardly an alliance or partnership for spiritual enterprise. The school is not going there to worship with these folks, do evangelism with them, etc. The event is not couched in spiritual language at all, Ben.

At one level, perhaps it's an opportunity to be a witness to a group previously outside our sphere; at another level, it perhaps will open up opportunities for graduates to network with employers who may want conservative, morally upstanding employees in the future. Notice the emphasis on "opportunity" as this is hardly a mandatory event.

MBBC is part liberal arts college; as such, it has graduates who are seeking to enter all spheres, including ones like this. Our good friend, Ken B, is a living example of this. Connections like this one have allowed one recent student to get an internship with a state supreme court justice whom many of us were pleased to meet at an event like this. At an event I went to as a student, I was basically offered an internship on the spot.

I really do not think that the juxtaposition and intended implications of what you wrote are fair...but you knew that already.

I have broken my own rules already; I intended to stay out of the blogosphere as it relates to my Dad's ministry at MBBC. That being said, this will be my last post, and I'll give you guys the last blood, um, I mean, last word.

ben said...

Dave, I've been as clear about this as I possibly can be, but I'll say it again. This is not about MBBC and it's certainly not about your dad's ministry. You introduced that discussion.

I did not, have not, will not criticize MBBC kids singing at the conference on ecumenical grounds. You will search in vain for any suggestion on my part that this conference has anything to do with Christianity. If a god is worshiped there, it's the god of prosperity, not the God of the Bible.

My "cuts both ways" arguments are about how what we associate ourselves with can create confusion. If fundamentalists want to say conservative evangelicals do that, the fundamentalists need to consider whether the world thinks they're more about the gospel or the free market and the Republican Party.

Shayne McAllister said...

Ben,

Speaking from the perspective of the other unnamed school we've both had experience with. . .

I think we've learned from our political experiences the hard way, and BJU would be much more cautious with politics these days, especially with Stephen as President. If history is any guide, you've spoken wisely about the danger for your other schewl.

I would like to point out to Dave that the Battle Hymn of the Republic is just a bad song any time, anywhere. It's inherently and historically confusing about what the kingdom is.

If the subject of the dangers of civil religion is interesting to anyone, my uncle, a BJU grad, wrote a book about how liberal Christians abused the gospel in the way Ben is criticizing during WWI "The War for Righteousness: Progressive Christianity, the Great War, and the Rise of the Messianic Nation" Richard M. Gamble $10 on Amazon.

d4v34x said...

Dave, I don't know you. I don't know your father, and I really haven't heard anything positive or negative about his breif time so far at the college.

As for you, what little I have read at your blog, I have found encouraging and challenging (your From the Front Lines posts are really great).

This isn't personal. No one's drawn blood. What the school announces to alumni is open to comment/question in either a general way (as Ben's done) or a specific way (as others have).

I hope the Lord sees fit to continue giving your father wisdom and effectiveness in his position there for years to come.

Matt said...

Ben,
Do you know of a fundamentalist school that actually has forbidden its student from attending T4G? (I am not asking for a name)

John said...

The "a-fore-named school :)", can hardly be considered as a serious representative of fundamentalism, as it is part of a dying breed of "Bible colleges" stuck in the 20th century. The president has probably not said anything about T4G, because I doubt if he has any knowledge of it. Let's face it, there's not much on that campus that carries much sway in any part of fundamentalism that I'm aware of.

Dave Marriott said...

d4v34x,

Thanks for the encouraging words. I have a whole list of From the Front Lines that I need to post -- busy life of a church-planter!

Dave

Mark said...

As one of the students actually at the conference who sang and as one who also alttended the Gospel Coalition last year in Chicago while attending, I can speak from personal experience. While the freedom day was greatly promoted, I had to keep my existence at the Coalition very hush hush because there was Opposition to my attendence there. Thankfully the opposition has left, however I have thought much about the seeming parodox, especially since there was some objectionable content from the speakers here that definatley was worse than anything at the Coalition.
Now let me say that I love my school and think it the best in it's circle and when I graduate from it in May I will be proud to be a graduate of this school. This doesn't prevent me from questioning some of the attitudes of the school as we all know no institution is perfect. I don't object to the participation here (obviosly) but I would like to see some more encouragement in the attendence to t4g especially like the support currently given to the Lafayette counseling conference.

ben said...

Shayne, well, this was also not part of my original point, but I agree fully with you on "Battle Hymn." It's a bad song for Christians in general to sing, but particularly odd for folks who consider themselves strong Dispensationalists.

Dan Steinbach said...

Why are these arguments even happening? As a student enrolled at MBBC and an attendant in the Maranatha Liberty Team, I stand behind my president and his choice to send the group to the Defending the American Dreams Summit. As a Christian Conservative, I believe that Marriott's choice was best for the college right now. Marriott has a strong understanding (as do I) that Christians need to be involved in politics. Part of the reason why America is in the predicament it is in. There is a saying that "evil triumphs when good men do nothing." This is what has happened in American today. Christians don't care. The second commandment is summed up as "love thy neighbor as thyself." If Christians aren't involved, then wrong happens to the country and the American citizens. The purpose of Marriott's choice was he saw this as an opportunity to get Christians involved in politics. Although the conference had mostly "Republican" speakers, it was a conservative rally. We were NOT associating with any political parties! Although we didn't go with the supreme goal of witnessing to everyone and getting them saved, we went to be a light in a dark world. Although you may not verbally be witnessing, the testimony of the men was outstanding. We may never know the lasting impact that our testimony had from someone seeing our actions and reading the literature that was handed out. Why do we as Christians have to be judgmental of others when they see an opportunity to further the cause of Christ??? If anything we should be rejoicing when we see someone else have the opportunity to spread the gospel!! Although we may not necessarily have witnessed the way someone else did, does not make it wrong. I think that when we get to heaven the Lord will be more concerned with how many we lead to Him (whether it be with preaching, testimony, or words) then the technique with which we used. ( I am in no ways saying that all witnessing techniques are correct i.e. going to bars and drinking w/ the guys to witness to them). We need to stop arguing amongst ourselves because it ruins our testimony in the world. The arguing ruins our testimony more than "going to a convention" that we may not agree with. As president of MBBC, Marriott saw a door that the Lord had opened for the school and took it. As a student of MBBC, I am so grateful for his testimony and his desire to get involved in politics.

Shayne McAllister said...

Hey Dan,

I understand your frustration with the discussion. I am a political science graduate of BJU. I once worked in the Christian conservative groups in DC on Capitol Hill. Both Ben and I have been around some great people who get involved in politics as Christians. In my time with those groups, I found there was a lot of confusion regarding what was conservative, and what was "the cause of Christ." The true cause of Christ trumps conservatism.

The way we get involved in politics is as important as whether we get involved. I agree with you that Christians need to be involved. I would also tend to say that Christian values have more in common with present day conservatism, than liberalism. But the cause of Christ, and the cause of conservatism are simply not the same thing.

The potential for confusion here is important because it can potentially confuse what the gospel really is. I respectfully submit that there can be an unhealthy way in which Christians can make conservatism and Christianity so indistinct, that harm is done to the true cause of Christ, that is, that he has come primarily to save sinners, not countries, or America.

That's the spirit in which I was commenting, though I can't speak for everyone else. This is one of those things where on the surface it seems that it is good to sing songs as Christians at a venue like this, but I think we have to really look at the non-verbal messages we could be sending to non-Christians.

Does that make sense? I really understand your concerns. I was once much like you.

Best,

Shayne