Are Independent Baptists the only group in Christianity with an embarrassing fringe group? Certainly not. There is always that element that you wish would go away, at least publicly, that never easily can be silenced. If that is so, and it is, why do I write a series such as I do here? Someone asked me, one of the good guys actually, that very thing, as well as a few others. It is in the context of the dichotomy between our fringe and mainstream that the answer to why I write this series will be found. Our mainstream has some wonderful people who are kind and dearly love our Lord. At the same time, we have a rather wacky fringe group who do great damage to the cause of Christ. These two facts were never meant to be in an easy harmony!
Points To Consider In The Conflict Between Our Fringe And Mainstream
1. We Are Most Responsible For Our Fringe Group.
I might have some insight into the fringe elements of, say, the Presbyterians. Do you think that someone outside the group, though, would be taken as seriously as someone inside the group? Have I experienced the issues that plague them? Have I lived where they live? So I turn back to my own. In the same way it makes sense for a pastor to look to the issues of his church, or a parent to look after his own children, or a worker to address the issues of the organization he or she is part of, so it makes sense for Independent Baptists to address our own issues. It is, in fact, a dereliction of duty just as it would be in any of the above examples. To most people looking on, our silence appears as denial. It actually silences critics when we deal with a problem before they scream about it.
2. It Does Not Damage The Mainstream To Call Out The Fringe.
Actually, the opposite is true. Nothing lumps the mainstream and fringe together like never speaking out against the fringe. To never say anything is tacit approval of the fringe. If you met someone from a foreign country who mentioned that our country supports abortion, would you not as a Christian explain that some of us absolutely find it appalling that some who share the name “American” with us support such a position? There are some positions held by the fringe of the Independent Baptist world that I want to be far distanced from and say that I find appalling. I will use my influence too, such as it is, to fight abortion. I feel the same way about issues I have been battling against in 23 previous articles.
3. The Fringe Have Hurt Innocent People.
At what point does right trump public relations? I think the moment people are hurt, driven away, or abused is the time to throw the PR out the window. I could see Jesus doing that. Jesus did a number on the PR of the religious hierarchy when He overthrew the money changer’s tables. There are greater issues at times.
4. When You Call Out The Fringe You May Attract The Fringe On The Other Side.
I admit that there are people on the more liberal side who are equally of the fringe. They would hurt others to advance themselves in the same way. Of course there are, for example, church members who are working a personal agenda as much as some pastors (though that has not been my theme in this series). Some feel calling out the fringe makes the mainstream look guilty by association. I, for one, have never thought our wonderful mainstream could fairly be made equal to the fringe. In the interest of fairness, let’s not lump everyone who is exposing the wrongs they have experienced at the hands of our fringe as trouble-making, heartless compromisers either. The charge is not true. I know of too many stories where they have gone far out of the way to limit the consequences for others.
5. The Mainstream is Guilty Of Allowing The Fringe To Define Them.
Our fringe is particularly noisy. For decades they have had the microphone and used it like a billy stick. Our silence has been equivalent to shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot. I remember years ago when I wasn’t so disillusioned with politics that I heard this statement: ” ‘Do not speak against other Republicans’ is the Eleventh Commandment.” How did that work out?
6. Calling Out The Fringe Will Not Turn Away Non-Christians.
Again, I think the opposite is true. I have heard this from a few people, but upon reflection I do not believe it is true. In the first place, it is quite a stretch to assume an unsaved person would even read an article about Independent Baptists. In the event they did, or they saw a Facebook thread about it, I think it would actually encourage them. Many have suffered abuse from religion, so when they see Christians holding Christians accountable, they better can believe our sincerity.
So how long will I write? Until the victory is won! As in the aforementioned example, I will never stop speaking out against abortion until it stops. Nor will I stop speaking out against the abuses perpetrated by our fringe until they are dramatically changed. I encourage others to join me until our voices drown out theirs. Let’s be the morally responsible mainstream who holds the fringe to account.
Find all articles in the series here.