Priorities

September 20, 2007

At the end of an Ethics Daily article today there is a troubling remark from a denominational official. The piece offers a very disturbing account from an abuse case involving a Baptist minister. Then Roger Oldham, vice president of convention relations for the Southern Baptist Convention, stated that they were for looking for a policy that would "first of all, protect autonomy of the local church, and second, protect the children, too."

So the children are second? Is this really the correct order for our priorities? What makes this worse is that not only are they putting the goal of protecting kids as second, but they are putting it second to something they don't even believe in. The claim of respecting local autonomy is just a smokescreen used to cover their inaction. As I have noted elsewhere, they have kicked out churches for supporting homosexuality so they do not always respect local church autonomy. Hopefully, Oldham will offer more caring words and deeds to help prevent future problems.

10 comments

  1. Wow. That's frightening.

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  2. That's for sure! Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. It was interesting to find your comments as I was searching for more information about that quote from Mr. Oldman. Some have made similar remarks as you have, and one has been posted on my blog. My response might be something for you to consider--quoting myself thusly, and like so:

    For example, let's say I make this remark: "First of all, I love my children, and second, I love my wife, too." Can anyone honestly presume from that statement that I love my wife less than I love my children?

    For the record, Mr. Oldham's quote, linked to in the Ethics Daily article, was truncated. The quote as it appearted in the WSMV website article, quoted thusly and like so: "'The database by itself would be an insufficient safeguard of our children. We're looking at a much broader, multi-prong approach of how we can best, first of all, protest (sic) autonomy of local church, and second, protect the children, too,' said vice president of Convention Relations Roger Oldham."

    Mr. Oldham, from the full quote, evidently isn't quite the Pharisee you make him out to be. Apparently, he's much more interested in safeguarding children than you suggested. I would encourage you to revise your observation, and to engage in more research before making future pronouncements.

    And isn't it interesting that someone from "Ethics Daily" would engage in quote mining? But, hey, at least he left a link to the actual quote.


    Interesting site you have here, by the way.

    --Mike

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  4. Brian,

    I must say Mike has a point.

    Ethics Daily may need to clean up a bit to not belie its name, as you suggested regarding the SBC ERLC containing the same word.

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  5. Mike: Thanks for the comment, but I disagree with your assessment.

    Your children and wife example does sound like you love your children more. It does not mean that you do, but the language chosen gives that impression. Why not just say you love your children and wife? The phrase "first of all" literally means that this item is first above all others. If Oldham did not mean to make the children sound like they were a lesser priority then he should have just said they were looking for a way to protect autonomy and children. He needs to be more careful with his words.

    Yes, the Ethics Daily quotation is truncated, but that is perfectly find for journalists to do as long as they do not take it out of context (which I do not think they did). And they do link to it, so it is not like they were trying to hide it.

    I do not claim that Oldham is a Pharisee, but that he needs to be more compassionate with his words. I think that is still true. As for doing more research, you make an incorrect assumption because I did follow the Ethics Daily link and so read his whole quotation before writing this post.

    What you miss in my post is the fact that Southern Baptists do not really respect church autonomy. Thus it seems like smokescreen. And he is making the children as less of a priority (or at the same level as you argue) than something they do not even follow. That makes the WSMV mistake of writing "protest" instead of "protect" so funny. Must have been a Freudian slip!


    Chuck: This is a completely different situation from ERLC with Land's comments. Ethics Daily did not state anything that was inaccurate and as Mike noted they provided a link with the full quotation. Land's comments were completely wrong. But with this situation we may disagree with what Oldham meant but they accurately reported what he said.

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  6. Mike: Thanks for the comment, but I disagree with your assessment.

    Your children and wife example does sound like you love your children more.


    Sorry, but it didn't, particularly if it's in direct answer to a remark such as "Well, I bet you don't love your kids, or anyone else in your family." Since we don't have the question which precipitated the response from Mr. Oldman, it is presumption to suggest you know why he phrased his answer the way he did.

    It does not mean that you do, but the language chosen gives that impression. Why not just say you love your children and wife? The phrase "first of all" literally means that this item is first above all others.

    No, it does not--literally. It literally means that the first item mentioned is first of all the items in a sequence, in order yet not necessarily (as my example really should've made clear) in importance.

    Let's try another example. If a Christian says "First of all, I have to get my car detailed today, and second, I'm hoping to share the Gospel with a few people," is getting the car detailed more important to the speaker than witnessing? Or are the two items merely mentioned in sequence?

    If Oldham did not mean to make the children sound like they were a lesser priority then he should have just said they were looking for a way to protect autonomy and children. He needs to be more careful with his words.

    If I may, neither you nor I have seen the context from which his quote was taken. It may be that he does need to choose his phraseology with a bit more care, or it may be that his quote made sense in response to the question or remark which precipitated it.

    Publishing such a condemnation as you have without the full story is something you really should reconsider.

    Yes, the Ethics Daily quotation is truncated, but that is perfectly find for journalists to do as long as they do not take it out of context (which I do not think they did). And they do link to it, so it is not like they were trying to hide it.

    As someone who was a journalist for a brief while, the quote in the article was taken out of context from the quote in the link. And since there's no guarantee that even a significant fraction of readers will follow any given link, it is the responsibility of the folks at Ethics Daily, and of folks such as yourself who deride Mr. Oldman, to provide sufficient context from the outset.

    Neither you nor they have yet to do so.

    I do not claim that Oldham is a Pharisee, but that he needs to be more compassionate with his words. I think that is still true. As for doing more research, you make an incorrect assumption because I did follow the Ethics Daily link and so read his whole quotation before writing this post.

    The Ethics Daily folks, as I mentioned, haven't even given substantive context to his quote. Have you attempted to contact Mr. Oldman directly, or even the interviewer?

    As for the Pharisee reference, that was from my original post on my blog. Though I must say, it's bad enough to characterize Mr. Oldman as someone who cares more for church polity than for children--"Pharisee" might even be a step up.

    What you miss in my post is the fact that Southern Baptists do not really respect church autonomy. Thus it seems like smokescreen.

    Your opinion, which hinges a great deal on just how one defines autonomy.

    And he is making the children as less of a priority (or at the same level as you argue) than something they do not even follow. That makes the WSMV mistake of writing "protest" instead of "protect" so funny. Must have been a Freudian slip!

    Or not.

    And for whatever reason, you've missed the point of my previous post. The second item in a list can be the most important--"last but not least," and such as that.

    Chuck: This is a completely different situation from ERLC with Land's comments. Ethics Daily did not state anything that was inaccurate and as Mike noted they provided a link with the full quotation. Land's comments were completely wrong. But with this situation we may disagree with what Oldham meant but they accurately reported what he said.

    As previously stated: No, they did not, and neither have you. Leaping to conclusions hardly equates to substantive, accurate reportage. And I don't mean to belabor the point, but you really need to lay off Mr. Oldman--or at least attempt a follow-up interview yourself.

    --Mike

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  7. Mike: Whether he meant it or not, Oldham used language that denotes a priority. It can be "first of all" as in more important (as it sounds in his statement and the children/wife example) or "first of all" as in order of completing tasks (as in your new car/witnessing example). If he did not want to suggest a priority (in value or time order) then he should not use that phrase. The time order sequence does not make sense in Oldham's remarks because they are not going to first set up a policy that protects (protests?) autonomy and then set up a policy that protects children. Instead they are going to set up a policy that protects both children and autonomy (which is more like how he should have said it). I don't doubt that he genuinely cares for children, but he needs to communicate that more clearly.

    You are correct that the last item in a list is not always least important, such as when using the phrase "last but not least." But he didn't use that phrase. And the very existence of that phrase suggests that people assume that latter items are of lesser value unless the speaker adds that phrase! Your top post on your blog right now is entitled "Words mean things." That is absolutely correct! Thus, I cannot figure out why you try to strip away any meaning from the phrase "first of all."

    Your attempt to pass blame onto the reporter (without any evidence) seems like a stretch and is ironic. You are claiming I do not have the full story and then offer a scenario out of thin air. At least my comments are based on printed statements and not pure conjecture. Additionally, if Oldham was misquoted or misled why has he not spoken out about it yet? If he is going to be the Convention's spokesperson on this issue then he needs to be clear enough to avoid trick questions (which has not been demonstrated in this case).

    I don't see how his comments were taken out of context in the Ethics Daily article. You should not just claim they are out of context but instead provide some justification for that claim.

    You still miss the point on the autonomy issue. Southern Baptists kick out churches for accepting homosexuals but then say they cannot do anything about churches with people who prey on children. If their argument about autonomy in the child predators example was true, then they would not kick out any churches for homosexuality. And if we are going to kick out churches shouldn't it be for covering up for a child predator?

    Finally, you wrote that I "really need to lay off Mr. Oldman." Are you his blogger bodyguard? If I feel he is getting in the way of a policy that could help stop child predators--which I do as he fights the idea of a database--then it is my moral obligation to speak out about it.

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  8. Chuck6:31 PM

    Brian,

    You said ". . . if Oldham was misquoted or misled why has he not spoken out about it yet? If he is going to be the Convention's spokesperson on this issue then he needs to be . . ."

    I say again, borrowing you rationale, ". . . if President Carter was misquoted or misled (by Newsweek or Rabbi Lerner) why has he not spoken out about it yet? If he is going to be the New Baptist Covenant's convener and keynote spokesperson on this issue of a 'new prophetic voice' and 'authentic Baptist witness,' then he needs to be clearly Baptist in his soteriology."

    If you're going to presume, due to his silence, that Oldham was accurately quoted, then you must presume, do to his silence, that Carter was accurately represented as well.

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  9. Thanks for speaking out Brian.

    I too was dismayed by Mr. Oldham's statement. It's particularly surprising given that he is a professional spokesperson - or at least I presume he is. In other words, it's hard to imagine that it was just an off-hand statement.

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  10. Chuck: I wish Carter had issued a statement, but his record of writings makes it quite clear that he believes that belief in Jesus is necessary for salvation.

    Christa: Thanks for the comment and all you have done on this issue!

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