Laying Out a Simple Strategy for #the15
Where do we go from here?
1) We NEED to be more than what one well-meaning fellow called “reactionary tweeters.” Don’t get me wrong. We should be reactionary. Reacting to things is not bad, and I would argue, not reacting can be deadly (if you’re not agreeing at this point, please don’t get behind the wheel of a car). Furthermore, #the15 (as a whole) have reacted only after years and years of being ignored and years and years of heresy-peddling from Lifeway and condescension from evangelical leaders. We’ve reacted in a big way, but it was a very, very long fuse. It was, as they say, a long time coming. No, what I want to warn us about are being reduced in characterization to “reactionary tweeters.” And although we can’t help how people would characterize us, we should be careful not to be only reactionary tweeters. We don’t want to engage in mere hashtag slacktivism, which leads me to the next point.
2) We NEED to be focused. What are we upset about? Should we just put Rage Against the Machine into our headphones, shout “Down with the Man!” and start tearing stuff up? I’ve not seen much of this (or any) among #the15, but again, we don’t want to become caricatures of what our critics would accuse us of. What is our list of grievances? That’s hard to say, considering there is no central authority or head for #the15 as it truly is a grassroots movement. We’ve all been burned in our own way. Personally, I could not have cared less about corruption in the SBC until I saw the waste, mismanagement and corruption of NAMB with my own eyes. So, I care about that. Others have their own stories and things they’re upset about. Maybe it’s the ERLC’s social progressivism or ecumenism. Maybe it’s Patterson’s enrollment of Muslims at Southwestern. Maybe you’re someone who’s been thrown under the Mars Hill bus and you’re mad about that, too. These are all things (contrary to Ed Stetzer, I suppose) that it’s perfectly reasonable to be angry about. But let’s not forget that although there are way more than 15 of us, the evangelical industrial machine is a powerful engine that will not be changed easily.
So then, #the15 started from a tweet by a leading captain of the evangelical intelligentsia as an attempt to marginalize criticism in defense of a fellow evangelical celebrity, and the hashtag then became the rallying cry against – primarily, in the first few days – Lifeway’s (Stetzer’s employer) selling of heresy.
Might I be so bold as to suggest #the15 should stick primarily to the following:
A) Lifeway – a Southern Baptist owned and operated entity – and its bold, brash, unrelenting selling of Word-Faith, Prosperity Gospel, Mysticism, Heaven Tourism and Anti-Trinitarian heresy. Yes, there are other so-called Christian bookstores that do the same. This one is owned by an actual denomination, and more than that, a denomination that has much to say about the inerrancy of Scripture, while it sells books that purport to be direct, divine revelation from God. Aim small, miss small.
B) The snobbish and dismissive ignoring, marginalizing and attacking of all who question them, by evangelical leaders and the evangelical intelligentsia. This, no doubt, extends far beyond Lifeway. Southern Baptists see this from Russell Moore (who has been blocking every person with a #the15 hashtag in their feed – even when they haven’t tweeted to him or about him) at the ERLC and in many, many other corners of both the SBC and wider evangelicalism. When someone refuses to answer questions and instead ignores, ridicules or attacks, they’re due at least one #the15 sent in their direction.
That’s not to say that #the15 shouldn’t use the hashtag or the battle-cry to bring wider reform to their denomination or wider sphere of influence, which it seems that Pastor Randy White has done, but use #the15 to address these two primary issues (Lifeway’s peddling of heresy and the dismissive/arrogant treatment of ordinary Christians by our evangelical overlords) and branch out from there to address wider grievances. This will keep us on target. Aim small, miss small.
3) We need to be clear that #the15 has nothing to do with Calvinism or Arminianism. Yes, Stetzer’s quote referenced “the same 15 angry Calvinists,” but just as we must reject his ridicule that there are only 15 of us, we must reject his ridicule that we are only Calvinists. Yes, Calvinists are by nature a discerning bunch, but even our Synergist friends know outright Word-of-Faith or Prosperity Gospel when they see it on the front display at Lifeway. Even the Arminian knows denominational corruption when the smell wafts in his direction. Just as not all contributors to the P&P are Reformed, not all of #the15 are Reformed. And, like Randy White, they fit in just fine. Let’s cooperate to get the obvious and outright heresy off the shelves so Calvinists and Arminians can go back to fighting each other like God intended (tongue in cheek). Let’s cooperate to get our leaders to listen, or they’ll be deaf to us both. Remember that when Stetzer tweeted his now-infamous “angry 15 Calvinists” line, Russell Moore chimed in and mentioned the “angry 15 non-Calvinists.” This is how the intellegentsia views us, both Synergist and Monergist. They marginalize us together, so let’s resist them together.
So then, a clear call to action.
- First, call or write to the Lifeway Trustees (or whoever you want to listen). Our detractors always misapply Matthew 18 and ask if we have contacted them first (their public error can be addressed publicly), but let’s be able to answer their question with an emphatic “Yes!” Here is the list of trustees, with contact information.
- Ask them, “Do you believe the material in these books (be specific)?”
- “If these books do not conform to Lifeway’s statement of faith or Christian mission, why do you sell the books?
- “Would you please repent for not being stewards of Lifeway and not exercising your fiduciary duty as a trustee?”
- Second, walk into a Lifeway store and take photos of their heretical books. Be sure to note the prominence in which they are displayed compared to the Bible and books of theology, which are typically on a back wall in a corner somewhere. Pose by the Beth Moore display, the Jesus Calling rack, the John Hagee prophetic utterance section. Smile. Wave. Then, upload to social media. Be sure to include #the15 hashtag so we can make it go around the world.
- Third, for the more outgoing person, take a sample of the more heretical titles and ask to speak to the manager. If they are not available, speak to the clerk. Ask questions as to why Lifeway sells these books, while explaining what makes them heretical. Capture it on video or audio on your smartphone (for your own protection, because they will report that you were being mean and abrasive and probably, threatening). Be as polite as you possibly can. Stand back several feet so as to not come across as threatening and do not raise your voice. Offer to put up the books when you’re done so the clerk doesn’t have to – don’t just leave them sitting there. Avoid the urge to putting them in the fiction section. When you’re done conversing, upload to social media.
- Fourth, have your church issue a statement that they will not be purchasing any more material from Lifeway until they affirm by their actions that they are, indeed, a fundamentally Christian bookstore. Put this statement on the church’s website or email it to the trustees and post in social media.
- Fifth, if you employ the hashtag #the15 toward the second primary goal (highlighting the dismissive attitudes of the intelligentsia), make sure you follow the same guidelines as what I wrote above.
- Communicate in writing – and save the correspondence. Even their lack of response speaks volumes.
- Approach them personally through either in-person encounters (this may require driving to their nearby speaking gig) and inquiring as to why they’re not listening (again, record it for your own safety).
- Approach them in social media and ask simple questions and do not relent until they answer.
ACTION: I have two books published through Lifeway’s division, CrossBooks. I have sent them an email asking that they no longer carry my books. Even though I give my royalty checks to my local church and don’t personally profit, I don’t want to cash a check from Lifeway or be yoked with darkness any longer. And although we don’t regularly purchase curriculum through Lifeway, we do make a purchase every single week to the Lifeway Worship Project for sheet music (being conscientious of copyright infringement, this means no copying of sheet music and a different purchase for each band member), lyrics, and PowerPoint for songs our worship team performs. We will no longer purchase through Lifeway Worship Project, a method we’ve used for years now. And although it’s not much money, it’s not about money (to us, anyway). To #the15, it’s about the truth.
Will you work with me to act in these ways to maximize the impact of this awesome movement called #the15?
Listen, the last thing I want to do is tell people who are rightly righteously indignant and understandably outraged how to control their outrage. But, I think if we follow these strategies we’ll have for more long-term, lasting results.