Wednesday, March 26, 2008

AJC Update

*Update: Apparently, I am not the only one at the AJC writing about my initiative. Check out the blog on Luke Boggs column, Baptist eco-activists are blowing hot air.*

**Interesting fact: Luke Boggs is the head of americansforwalmart.com**

27 comments:

josh said...

as much as it pains me . . . i couldn't agree with you more on this particular post. in that luke is a complete and total idiot in everything he wrote.

essentially that, "global warming helps the worlds poor"? it's a "boon to them"? What?!? i suppose he's never been to the niger delta and seen the corruption in the government, pirates siphoning oil off, and vigilantes offering "protection from rape and violence". and that god doesn't care about how we steward the environment with what we drive, and how we consume?

if your faith is not an economic, environmental, political, and spiritual act . . . then it's not christianity.

kudos to what you're doing jonathan. good luck with all the shit you've been getting. welcome to our world.

josh said...

dude . . . you didn't tell us he was the founder of americansforwalmart.org? that's just too good to not include. context, context, context. hahaha!

Jonathan Merritt said...

Josh-

Thanks for your post. I will add the update to the post.

Jm

eco101 said...

I like this: "believe they are overreaching in trying to transform a political question into one of morality"

How does a mind come to the conclusion that decisions that will effect the future of most life on earth (without their having a say in it), are "political", and not "moral"??

Anonymous said...

Josh -- You may want to take another look at what I actually wrote. In fact, I was merely pointing out that the modern global economy, largely powered by fossil fuels, has been a great boon to people all over the world over the last century, including poor people. Not absolutely everyone, certainly. But a lot of people. If we go down the road of hard caps on CO2, as some want to do, we will also put caps on economic growth. And that will not be a good thing for the economic well-being of any of us, with the poor likely to be hardest hit. Global warming is nothing but a theory at present, and I don't want to see us harm the future of millions for a theory. Just 30 years ago, the great threat, according to leading scientists, was supposedly global cooling. That should give anyone pause. All the best -- Luke Boggs

P. Duncan said...

From the outside looking in, I find it a bit curious that your detractors accuse you of trying to turn a political issue into a moral one. Indeed, I have heard people express the sentiment that it seems the Baptist Church is centered more on political issues than on religion. From the outside it's hard not to view the situation as the pot calling the kettle black in the church kitchen. However, the interchange has piqued my curiosity about the process by which the theologians of a church decide to call for public action or take certain stands on public policy.

I will admit that my understanding of Christian theology is probably much more influenced by interactions with Catholics than with Baptists, and at best is quite incomplete. Perhaps someone could correct me if I am too far off base on any of my basic understanding, which is... The experience of God is at it's core a personal experience. Organized religion is a structured path endeavoring to strengthen one's personal experience of God. There is nothing inherent in Christianity or the tenets of the Baptist Church that would restrict God's ability to reveal his Truth to some people in a different way than others. While tasked with teaching the Truth of God, churches are not intended to demand that anyone select a given church. Instead, one's own experience of God is what must inform their choice of which path is the correct one to build upon that experience. Once God has revealed the correct path for someone then they must strive to overcome their limitations and adhere to the path.

From that understanding, assuming it is somewhat correct, it would seem that the intersection of religion and politics is a rather thorny one, though one not entirely impassible with careful reflection. The three issues that seem to be tossed out together in some of the recent editorial exchanges... abortion, same-sex unions and the environment... would seem to pose different challenges with regard to the proper role of a church in public policy discourse. While my personal position on the public policy of abortion is far from the view of the Baptist Church, I can understand how this issue poses a very unique problem of policy given that the sanctity of life is regarded almost universally as such an important precept that morality might demand one to try to legislate their beliefs upon others. Though perhaps it is more valid to argue a secular basis for a pro-life stance in the legislative arena as arising from civil liberties or inalienable rights. The parallel problem of either interpretation is determining when the protected life actually comes into existence.

My understanding of the Baptists' position on same-sex unions certainly doesn't have that degree of clarity. I can respect the idea that if a person through their own experience of God determines that the Baptist Church is the correct one for them, a same-sex relationship is not consistent with that path. Just as drinking alcohol may be inconsistent with that path. If one understands that God intends them to travel a certain path and yet they transgress the requirements of that path willfully, they are damaging their relationship with God... a sin, requiring one to strive to mend their relationship with God in order to stay on the revealed path. That part seems quite simple. However, I believe I am not alone in lacking understanding of how it becomes a moral imperative to oppose same-sex relationships in the realm of public policy. Baptist churches not performing same-sex unions would be within their rights just as the Catholic Church not performing marriages after a divorce.

Perhaps you or someone else could help compare/explain the theology and reasoning behind the religious positions on public policy debate for these three issues. Greater understanding almost always enables better resolutions of debate. I believe there is a vast lack of understanding of the Baptist faith by much of the rest of America.

josh said...

luke.
trust me. i've taken multiple looks at what you wrote. i had to read it multiple times to make sure that there were still christians out there who believed that type of stuff and then i had to reread it multiple times again as i showed all of my friends as we just shook our head in flabbergastion. and you should feel special because it's not everyday that i am literally without words after reading something.

i thought about putting it in my back pocket for a cheap party joke, but then i'm trying harder and harder not to do things in poor taste.

only someone who thinks walmart is pro-american could come to the conclusion that hyper-consumption is good for everybody, including the planet and the poor.

and it's a sad day when the "liberals" are the "conservative" ones and the "conservatives" are the "liberal" ones and for big business, big oil, and big government.

i really want to quit typing. and i swore i was only going to write one pithy jab and leave it at that, but i'm not sure when "the economic well-being" of "us" all became the gospel. i always thought it was about love for the least of these and being good stewards of creation, and living and walking justly with our god.

speaking of hot air.

Kim Roberts said...
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Kim Roberts said...
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Kim Roberts said...
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Kim Roberts said...
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Kim Robertson said...

Jonathan,

What was the real impetus behind the Environment and Climate Care Initiative? Why now? There hasn’t been any group or groups demanding that Southern Baptists take a public stand.

You didn't initiate any new discussion nor did you present any great revelation of science. Nothing in your document changed anything that we’ve been taught for years as Southern Baptists - namely that God gave us charge of the earth and that it's our duty to protect it. In other words, there really wasn’t any point in the whole brouhaha you created.

Or maybe there was. What you did, was to get your name out there in public associated with a popular and politically correct topic. I gotta hand it to you – that was a brilliant move.

Of course you’ve probably driven a wedge in the SBC by taking your case to the media instead of starting it inside the convention where it could have been dealt with properly and thoughtfully. Now that you’ve forced your opinion into the headlines, it’ll come up again in June and distract the convention from truly important business while the delegates try to deal with the liberals whom you’ve now emboldened.

Thankfully, Luke Boggs decided to remind you and the rest of the signatories that your job isn't to go out there taking up the liberal cause du jour but instead to make disciples of all nations.

I guess sharing the Gospel and making disciples won’t get you to the top as fast as jumping on board the Al Gore carbon-neutral express.

Anyway, congrats on getting your name out there. It’s very impressive how you roped all those signatories into supporting your cause and made yourself an ad hoc part of the Southern Baptist leadership. Dude, you’re somebody now!

Peace,

Kim

PS, I haven’t read your blog in months, but it appears from an recent post that you’re still trying to justify your taste for alcohol. Sorry you haven’t been able to get any peace about it yet.

Kim Robertson said...

My, my, still a little bit touchy about the alcohol thing aren’t you? Being the voracious reader that I am of every word that comes from your Mac, I fully realize that you wrote that article last year. You, my friend, reposted it just 10 days ago and thus started the conversation about it once again. Now you can take your feet out of your own mouth.

I seriously doubt that you’ve had a deluge of hate mail about your newfound environmental awareness. How could you have? Most people either don’t care or have actually bought the global warming garbage. You’re not a martyr if you’re going with the crowd. You have to actually be somebody before “having your head on the chopping block” has any value. It’s totally expected for a seminary student to have the liberal views that you have.

There’s no haphazard stone-throwing going on from my side. For you to say that I’m indicting the 200 signatories is baloney. The indictment is laser-guided for you and your motives, period. The signatories didn’t write the statement, you did. If they had thought it was important to write, one of them could have written it long before you had your epiphany. Are we to believe that they weren’t able or capable of taking a stand on this issue before you came along? It wasn’t a big deal for them to sign it because it didn’t say anything controversial or groundbreaking.

Surely you realize that the SBC addressed the environment last year in a way that the majority of the convention, including your 200 signatories, thought was appropriate. As I pointed out before, what you’ve done is to open the SBC to public scrutiny about an issue that didn’t need to be addressed any further. This wasn’t about the environment. It was about you.

AND, just for kicks, let’s expand your logic about indictment. If you’re saying that my questioning your motives indicts everyone associated with your movement then the converse has to be true; you’re indicting those who didn’t sign. Are you indeed indicting the thousands of soul-winners in the convention like me, who did not feel the need to sign on? I sure hope not.

Finally, the only thing messy in any post here is your understanding. My exact statement was, “nothing in your document changed anything that we’ve been taught for years as Southern Baptists -namely that God gave us charge of the earth and that it's our duty to protect it.” That means exactly what it says – we’ve always been taught to be good stewards of all we have including the environment. For you to suggest that I made any statement about any of the signatories being liberal is another one of your ridiculous stretches. I've been thinking that you were more intelligent than this kind of playground logic.

I wish you really did believe what your slogan says – “Conversations Create The Change”. If all you’re going to do is brow-beat anyone who has a differing opinion from yours, then your blog isn’t about change it all. It’s just a grandstand for you and your WWF, smack-down mentality.

Why don’t you jump out of the ring and find a folding chair to use on me in round three? I’m ready.

Kim Robertson said...

It's impossible to teach the unteachable.

If you manage to stay in the public eye, as you appear to want, you're going to face much more vicious criticism than any of you've received here. Your adversaries, unlike me, won't give a rip about your core beliefs.

I sincerely hope that you learn how to respond in a more graceful manner than you have here, otherwise they'll tear you to shreds.

Non scholae sed vitae discimus

Jonathan Merritt said...

Animis opibusque parati

Blessings,

Jm

Charles H. said...

Jonathan, I want to thank you for writing all this. You have helped me to clarify my positions about Christianity and those who practice it. My girlfriend has been trying to get me to go with her to the 2nd Baptist church here in suburban Houston for a while, and I haven't wanted to. Until now I had no good reason, though. But the miracle of the net has led me to your blog, and now I've been able to show her why I won't go. You are typical, I suspect, of the ascerbic, rabid, leaders in these churches. When I showed your writings to Lisa, she finally understood what I've been trying to explain about my distaste for Christianity. With your help as an example I was able to show her clearly what I DON'T want to have to put up with. If you treat people who are of your kind like this, one can only imagine how I would be thought of and spoken about by the likes of you.
No, Jonathan, I don't need you and your ascerbic, biting, nasty attitude toward anyone who dares have the audacity to challenge you are even question you about something you say. Given your parentage, at least according to your blog and a recent news story that led me to find you, I suspect you are assuming you are destined to be a leader in your father's church, once you find your way. That doesn't matter to me, really, but it has served to make up my mind to give you and your somewhat bizarre thoughts wide berth by staying away from what you profess.

Thanks again, Bro!

Jonathan Merritt said...

Recently, there was some less than cordial discourse on this page. I deleted my comments because they were unkind. I should never engage those who comment on my site with unkind words, even if they engage me like that.

Charles h. is correct. I don't want my words to be a distraction from the Gospel. Moving forward, I will not engage those who comment with angry or emotional comments. In the words of my mother: If I can't say something nice, I shouldn't say anything at all.

Katie Corbett said...

I have been reading the conversations surrounding Jonathan for a couple of weeks now and for a couple of weeks I have had the same question running through my head. I am meaning this in the most respectful way, but what is everyone so mad about? Why show such open hostility to someone for asking us to take care of God's creation? If someone gave me a really great sweater as a gift, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't appreciate me tearing holes in it or throwing it on the ground and kicking it around for a while. I feel it is the same way with what Jonathan has published...He is only pointing out where we may have fallen short of taking care of this awesome gift of creation that God has given us. I am sure that God did not intend for us to openly polute his beauty and handiwork way back in creation. Whether or not global warmer exists, it is still our job as Christians to take care of what has entrusted to us...right???

Also, I feel like it was said over and over that Jonathan was only jumping on the environment train to get his name out there and because it is today's hot topic...I think that is wonderful! Why not meet the world where they are, on a topic that many unbelievers care so deeply about? Why not show the world that christians are a caring people... who care about each other and what God has given us? In many minds Christians are no more than backstabbing or money hungry people. Why not show them that we care about what is important to them?

I am fully aware that I do not have a ton of knowledge on the environment. I in no way meant for this post to be full of sarcastic wit. I really just want to know, what is so wrong with what he did, and why be so upset?

Anyone? Why be so mad?

Kim Robertson said...

Charles,

I should take my own advice here: Non scholae sed vitae discimus - we learn, not for school, but for life.

I am truly sorry for my part of what you've read here. Neither Jonathan nor I are typical Christian leaders. While most are equally passionate about their views of life, they season their discourse a little better and usually do it privately.

Our debate here was more like two brothers fighting over a bicycle. They'll try their best to win, but no matter how it comes out, they're still brothers and will still love each other with brotherly love.

The difference here was that this shouldn't have gone so far in a public forum where people like you, who are on the fence about Christianity, are reading what we’re writing. We were terrible examples for you and I ask and hope that you’ll forgive us.

I beg you to go to church with Lisa. When you're there, don't look at people – look at and listen to God and what He wants for you. Life is all about your relationship with Him. Where you'll spend eternity is more important than any silly debate over environmental posturing.

One thing for you to see from this, is that even though Jonathan and I are both Christians, we are still human with all the problems and frailties that go along with our being such. Thank God that He overlooks that through the sacrificial blood of Jesus and loves us anyway.

God loves you Charles. Give Him a chance and forget about us - please.

Peace to you.

Kim

Kim Robertson said...

Jonathan,

I suggest you delete this whole post. There's really nothing redeeming about it, especially in light of what Charles has said.

Kim

Kim Robertson said...

On second thought, why don't you leave it until Charles has a chance to read the apology.

Josh said...

first of all . . . i would recommend that most of you take a lesson in learning how the blogging medium is different. you don't take stuff down when you get called on it kim. and while i more than understand the position of charles as it's in the very same position i am in, jonathan is well within is his rights to defend himself when somebody comes in looking for a fight. the blog is a medium for conversation. and when people don't want to have a conversation, but instead want to talk to you and tell you where you're wrong, then jonathan can respond in whatever way he wants to in order to neutralize the situation. i happen to be in agreement with him that ignoring is the best possible option, but there are times when it's well within a blogger's rite to use witty sarcasm to expose the attacker's fundamentalist position which is not looking for a conversation but looking to convert.

if you think of a blog like someone's living room, i wouldn't come into your house and start going off on you just because i can. while i can, it doesn't mean that i should. i understand it's difficult for conversation in the medium of a blog and it's always better to sit down face to face with someone so that you can see them and treat them like a human, you can still respect someone's space and ideas without ever having to meet them in person.

the key to this though is to commit to getting to know the "other" before you start attacking. if you read someone's site on a daily basis and you email and correspond back and forth with them as friend, you won't jump to conclusions and try and pick fights. as you said yourself kim, you don't even read jonathan half the time. you just showed back up after a couple of months. that would be like me coming to your house 1 time as a dinner guest. then not seeing you for a couple of months and then just showing back up unannounced 2 months later and start bitching about all of the stuff that you didn't like about the dinner the first time. that's rude, in bad taste, and not very generous at all. it's bad manners.

so unless you know somebody, read their blog on a daily base, and are ready to engage in conversation, it's better to not comment at all. there's some etiquette involved. this isn't the wild west. it's a living room.

Josh said...

just in addition, do you not see how bossy you are? telling jonathan he needs to delete the post. then changing your mind 2 seconds later and telling him to leave it. its his blog. not yours. it's not hard to see why your position is what it is. that right there is pretty bossy, rigid, and controlling. certainly not conversational.

Garet Robinson said...

The sad thing about the rampant criticism of the SBECI is that it is misreading (or not reading) the actual document before posting their thoughts in public forums.

Our proper stewardship of God's creation (i.e. the environment) is a moral issue.

It is not political but moral. Beyond that our response to God's clear commands to be proper stewards of His creation which we have been granted is a biblical issue. To castigate the signatories of this document as being a political lot seeking to indoctrinate some leftist agenda fails to give an honest read to the document one is critiquing.

Have fossil fuels helped expand the economies, innovation, and production of our world? Of course they have. Yet we cannot deny that fossil fuels are limited in nature and are (honestly) a very poor source of true energy supply. Is there an intellectually honest person who wouldn't suggest we should champion any effort to find renewable or alternative sources of energy in our lifetime? I would shudder to think that there are such people.

It is our Christian duty to be at the forefront of the battle preserve God's creation which we have been given the management (i.e. stewardship.) How much more credible is the Gospel to those who need to hear it and believe when it is accompanied by actions of honesty and biblical fidelity? This initiative is part of us a movement.

(Additionally, I wonder how many of the very public Christian detractors of this initiative have actually followed the biblical guidelines for confronting someone who they might believe is out of step with biblical guidelines? Maybe the architect of the initiative could share with us how many of his detractors have follow biblical guidelines in approaching him privately, then with a couple of witnesses, before approaching the assembly? Maybe this is all just grasping at air, but I suspect a line of spurious reasoning has again confronted a brave movement of the Holy Spirit amongst us.)

Commentaries, such as the one linked to in the above post, seem to be more concerned with a “hidden leftist agenda” in spite of all of the evidence to contrary. It leaves me one question to ask all of the public detractors of this initiative…have you actually read the initiative you are critiquing. I don’t see language supporting the radical fringe of the global warming base. Rather is see specific language calling for prayer and careful contemplation while following the biblical guidelines of stewardship while evaluating the different positions.

Perhaps it would do our detractors well to heed the calling of Augustine of Hippo and “Take up and read!” this document before falling back to Republican default and accusing its author and signatories of such heinous behavior as driving hybrid cars and cutting back on our personal carbon footprint.

Kim Robertson said...
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Kim Robertson said...

Garet,

I worked up a good post in response to yours. If you got to read it - great. If not, sorry but I decided to delete it because this really isn't a good place to have this discussion anymore.

Have a nice life.

Kim

Christin said...

kim roberston seems not to be a friend of yours. weird...