Shake Them Out

June 18, 2007

Jim White, editor of The Virginia Herald, has an excellent column entitled "Sounds like competition to me." He responds to the work of Bobby Welch, who is trying to help the Southern Baptist Convention start its alternative to the Baptist World Alliance (see my previous posts here and here). Here are a couple of excerpts from White's piece:

Welch will be doing on a global scale exactly what others have done here in the U.S. He will be going to Baptists telling them that the group they are a part of is liberal. He will introduce suspicion among brothers and cause divisions among them.

If you like what has happened to the SBC on a national scale, you will love what Welch is up to globally.

Why not be honest enough to say, "Yes, we are setting up an organization which will mirror many of the same purposes of the BWA?" Obviously, it would not be good PR. Such an admission would expose an indifference to the welfare of brother Baptists around the world who will be devastated by what is about to happen. We are already beginning to see the consequences in Romania, where SBC influence has been at work. Romanian Baptists are experiencing conflict there between moderates and conservatives.
Amen! White does an excellent job of pointing out what is happening despite the protestations to the contrary by Welch (thanks to Gary Snowden for pointing out the column). Meanwhile, the Baptist Press reported today on Welch's comments during last week's meeting of the Fellowship of Baptist World Ministries. Welch stated:
As soon as I accepted this calling, I went straightaway to a store and bought a fold-up, global map -- one I could carry with me. And the habit I am forming is to unfold that map, get on my knees, put my hands on that map and pray. Then I get up and shake that map like a rug, and I say, 'God, you must shake them out. I can't find them. If you depend on me to find them, we'll never get them. You know where they are. You shake them out.'
The phrase "shake them out" jumped out. At first I thought maybe he was admitting that he was having trouble finding people to join the effort (which might be why he is apparently heading to Antarctica!). This reading could also be viewed as putting his allies down. After all, when one shakes a towel or rug it is dust that one is trying to shake out.

If Welch was not talking about the lack of support or putting down his allies, what might the phrase mean? It might show that White was correct in his assessment. Here are a couple of definitions for "shake out":

Steal: "Both shake and shake out of in the sense 'to steal' are clearly related to shake down, which is first recorded in 1872, shake down being glossed 'to extort money from individuals.'"

Competition: "The elimination of competing businesses or products in a particular field."

Welch probably did not intend these meanings, but his word choice is pretty interesting nonetheless. Unfortunately, this will probably not be the last time we hear odd rhetoric from Welch on this issue.