February 9, 2008

Just a Super Coincidence!

One of the attacks that was leveled against the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant for months was that it would be a partisan pep rally for Hillary Clinton. That did not happen. In fact, it was Republican Mike Huckabee who Bill Clinton actually praised in his speech. Despite the absence of campaigning, some critics still try to claim it was political. Richard Land, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, argued that it was no coincidence that the gathering was held the week before the "Super Tuesday" primaries. He added:
Anyone who thinks all of that amounts to coincidence, I've got beachfront property in Arizona I'd for you to look at.
Of course, he has no evidence to back up his claim, which responsible Christians would get before attacking their brothers and sisters. Had he actually gone to the source to find out about the timing of the gathering, he would have learned that elections were not part of the equation. Baptist historian Walter "Buddy" Shurden actually did the research (what a novel idea!). He explained at the Mainstream breakfast held during the Celebration that at a meeting in early 2006, former President Jimmy Carter said he wanted the Celebration as soon as possible. He tried to get it for later in 2006 or early in 2007 but was told by the other organizers that such a quick planning period would not work. He explained that he was in his 80s and wanted to have this event in his life so they had better hurry up. Once it was decided to have the Celebration in Atlanta, they took the first date that worked.

It is also important to realize that in addition to making up motivations for Carter and others (which clearly were disproven by the non-partisan messages at the Celebration), Land also committed a post hoc fallacy. That is when you say that because A happened before B that A caused B. He argued that since the Celebration occurred a week before "Super Tuesday" that it was held then to impact the primaries (which it did not seem to) even though he failed to prove causality and not just time order. Additionally, it is important to note that the Celebration was planned before "Super Tuesday" became so super. In fact, the host state of Georgia did not decide until after the Celebration was planned to move its primary up to that date. Thus, the argument shows poor understanding of causality and timelines. The fact is that coincidences do happen. After all, it was just a coincidence that the Celebration happened two weeks after my birthday. It turns out it was not a belated party like I thought it might be! But who cares about the facts when it gets in the way of your prejudice? Had Land actually attended the Celebration he would have found no support for his argument (and had he listened to Al Gore's prophetic call to confront the climate crisis, Land might not have joked about beachfront property in Arizona!) .


For some better perspectives on the Celebration by people who were actually there, check out the following pieces:

Robert Parham had an excellent column at Ethics Daily critiquing some very poor reporting by a Washington Post journalist (and deals with Land and partisanship in his piece).

Jim Evans had a great Ethics Daily piece offering his reflections on the Celebration.

David Currie of Texas Baptist Committed offered some good personal thoughts about the Celebration.

And David Freeman wrote in the Huntsville Times about his pride in the maturity of Baptists shown with the Celebration.

7 comments:

  1. Brian,

    Do you think it was really worth Parham's time and energy to refute and set straight this mis-reporting of facts about Baptists? Surely not, since there exist past reports which depict accurately the facts which the Post writer messed up or fabricated.

    This above logic would be consistent with your stance on the needlessness for President Carter to refute the 2007 reports of his pluralist-sounding statements.

    Ironically, it's Parham who alluded to the political opportunities NBC leaders and national politicians should consider taking. From his Dec. 5, 2007 editorial:

    "Now there is another dynamic at work that should motivate NBC leaders to reinvite Huckabee to speak on Wednesday night and for Huckabee to accept.

    Here it is: On the evening of Jan. 30, in the Georgia World Congress Center, two meetings are scheduled. First is the opening session of the NBC Celebration. Second is the 2008 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner of the Democratic Party of Georgia.

    The DPG Web site says the dinner 'is going to be an ambitious kick-off to a year of Democratic success in Georgia…. We've…extended invitations to all of the Democratic Presidential candidates. Response from the candidates has been positive, and we hope that they will all take this great opportunity to come to Georgia less than a week before our presidential primary.'

    Given the predicted attendance of 20,000 Baptists in the Georgia World Congress Center and the nature of politicians to find a crowd, does anyone really think that Democratic presidential candidates will not bleed over to the NBC meeting? Of course, they will. What a splendid opportunity for them to press the flesh."

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  2. Chuck: Thanks for the comment. I am glad he set the record straight and I hope the reporter will work harder to get her facts straight (this is a good reminder about not believing everything that is reported). His response fits the response to Carter--a writer (Parham or me) taking the time to refute the nonsense instead of an organizer (Jimmy Allen or Jimmy Carter). Frankly, I find it funny you would compare your baseless claims to the shoddy reporting!

    As far as previous piece you mentioned by Parham, it is important to note that his prediction did not come true (Hillary turned out to be the only one who attended the fundraiser in person as most other candidates had already dropped out). Additionally, he was saying that politicians would take the opportunity, which is significantly different than the Celebration being planned for such partisan actions (which it was not).

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  3. Brian,

    I don't know why you would find it funny for me to compare the Carter reports to the Washington Post shoddy reporting.

    I've repeatedly said that I'm not claiming anything except that exist unrefuted reports of Carter's pluralist statements. I'd be relieved and happy to hear him call out the reports and reporters, as Parham has done on behalf of a denomination.

    But if you're trying to equate or parallel your self-described "refutation" of the Carter reports with what Parham has done, your case falls apart.

    The Post reports deal with a factual set of relationships among denominational entities. The Carter reports deal with what an individual reportedly said or expressed at a particular time and place.

    You, or Parham, or someone could facilitate a real refutation by interviewing Carter, asking him to explain or refute the reports. You might even confront Newsweek's reporter and Rabbi Lerner, extracting a contraction of their claims.

    As of now, though, no one has done anything to address what may well be shoddy journalism at Carter's expense.

    As for the Parham article, he encouraged the NBC organizers to consider the political opportunities of having Huckabee speak while all the Democrats were in the vicinity. I agree there's no other evidence I know of to say the NBC was politically motivated--probably only Parham was.

    Love,

    Chuck ("nickname" no longer appears as an identity choice, but it's really me!)

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  4. Oops, I meant "retraction", not "contraction."

    Many babies being born to church members lately must have me thinking in delivery terms like "contraction."

    :)

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  5. Congrats on the name change!

    I find it funny because the WP piece is so horribly inaccurate. Thus, it is ironic (and appropriate) that you would compare your inaccurate attacks to the inaccurate ones from the WP.

    I do not know how you can honestly claim that "As of now, though, no one has done anything to address what may well be shoddy journalism at Carter's expense." I thought you have been reading what I wrote here. I have explained the poor journalism (a point you once accepted before reneging on your promise). Since I have clearly refuted your inaccurate and unsubstantiated claims, quit bearing false witness against your brother.

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  6. Brian,

    Sorry to be so delayed--I didn't know you had commented back.

    I wonder if you will ever understand that concern, not condemnation, has been my motive all these months.

    You've judged, accused, and condemned me, but you won't share my concern and face it head-on.

    I'm claiming nothing except that the reports of alleged pluralist statements exist, and that Carter needs to refute the reports and the reporters. He's the only one who can refute them factually! You can't do it unless you talk to him and report it!

    Carter's a person who speaks to reporters, not a denomination with organizational by-laws, working agreements, etc. That's why Parham, or you, or I, could address the Washington Post inaccuracies about Baptist polity.

    I hope you see the difference, and will act like a journalist.

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  7. Cat's dad: Your "concern" became an attack when you claimed that Carter should not be considered the leader of a Baptist movement. That is an attack. Please at least be honest.

    It is not true that only Carter can refute them. We can all look at the evidence and evaluate if there is even any reason to consider it. Carter can refute it better but he's not the only one. If you really believe that you might want to rip 2 Peter 3 out of your Bible since Peter defends Paul. What?! I thought only Paul could refute those charges against him.

    I do not need you to lecture me about journalistic principles. You are the one holding to unreliable evidence that would get laughed out of court or a failing grade in a freshman college course. Until you learn how to deal with evidence and source credibility, I'll skip your lectures on journalism.

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