Just a Super Coincidence!

February 09, 2008

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.