Sychophant to Colleague: How the Southern Baptist Bureaucracy Works

New York Senator, William L. Marcy, coined the phrase “to the victor goes the spoils” in 1828 and this phrase, in turn, was used to characterize the corrupt “spoils system” that plagued the United States government until sweeping reforms ended the practice. In essence, this was a system of patronage in which corrupt elected officials would stack bureaucratic offices with sycophantic supporters. Most evident in the tenure of President Andrew Jackson, officials would promise appointments in exchange for the currency of undying – and often unreasonable – loyal support in the face criticism. In Jackson’s case, over 400 postmasters were fired from their non-partisan positions to make room for supporters. This corrupt system ended (officially) in 1883 by the creation of the Civil Service Commission, which mandated mid-level positions be filled by merit rather than political loyalty. Sadly, the spoils system took a blow, but was not thwarted entirely. To circumvent the law to this day, corrupt officials create new positions to payback the faithful, rather than taking the more-overt path of firing civil servants from their existing positions.

The spoils system is alive and well in the Southern Baptist Convention. Those who can actually stop the Downgrade in the Convention in entities like Lifeway, NAMB and the ERLC – trustees – are chosen by their perceived likelihood to support the status quo, and are then flown in twice a year to be wined (grape juice, of course) and dined and told what the entity heads have done and will do, after which they give their thoughtless stamp of approval. In return, the trustees not only get a few free trips and Facebook status updates about how they’re really helping the Great Commission, but a new line on their resume’, trustee of such-and-such entity and a glowing letter of recommendation from the entity head for their next denominational job pursuit.

Appointments for employment operate in the same fashion. Consider, for example, the hiring of one of Russell Moore’s most rabid blogging sychophants, Samuel James. James has been very vocal about each and every post the Pulpit & Pen has done to alert Southern Baptists as to Moore’s social progressive priorities that are directly and adamantly opposed by the majority of Southern Baptists (for example, his push for amnesty for illegal aliens and claim that Jesus was an illegal alien, his “creation care” environmentalism, his softened tone and breaking bread with homosexuals and approval of supporting gay wedding celebrations, and his moral obfuscation in regards to the criminal behavior present within the Ferguson riots).

Samuel James, like a doting-eyed, love-struck adolescent, has doted upon his man-crush over and again. Consider his post defending Moore from charges of social progressivism…

J.D. Hall’s latest hit piece on Russell Moore might be one of the dumber things you will have read in 2014. It’s petty and silly, proves exactly nothing and is unintentionally hilarious in its false dichotimies [sic] and needless presumptions.

Of course, you’ll have to read the article for yourself to see if it’s really one of the “dumber things you will have read in 2014.” Remember back when Pulpit & Pen was calling Moore a social liberal a few years ago and people laughed? No longer, of course. And indeed, it’s happening regularly and on both sides of the Calvinsim-Arminianism aisle. It’s hard to deny that if something walks like a social progressive liberal and talks like a social progressive liberal, it’s probably a social progressive liberal. But James continues with his bro-love.

Hall’s outrage is aimed not at Moore’s activism (since Moore avoids putting forth a government policy to facilitate reconciliation, something an actual progressive would not fail to do), it is aimed at Moore’s tone. Hall believes Moore is a liberal because he doesn’t sound like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, who admonish Christians to flee any church that talks about “social justice.”

Well, talk of social justice is, you know, kind of a red flag. But not for James. Moore is a Southern Baptist, therefore, he can’t possibly be a social progressive. James continues…

Calling Moore a liberal is a cheap, baseless tactic, particularly when accompanied with zero effort at persuasion. If Hall and his cohorts believe that conservative talk radio is vanguard of traditional principles, that’s on them.

Giving a “what’s the big deal” about social justice and attacking talk radio while asserting Russ’ conservative credentials? Okaaay. Interesting tactic. But, it looks like this type of mindless hero-worship has paid off.

James has now been hired by the ERLC. That’s all it takes to get a job at the organization, apparently. Have a poorly-read blog linked off of Patheos and endlessly defend Russell Moore against all obvious perceptions of social liberalism. Bam. Job. One wonders how many supremely qualified, faithful Southern Baptists were overlooked for this job, who just weren’t insightful enough to play blog-footsie with Russell Moore.

In a post entitled, “Why I’m Joining the ERLC,” James lays out why he is “thrilled, grateful and excited” to be paid Cooperative Program funds to support the ERLC’s continuing and obvious slide into Jim Wallis-style progressivism (the latter is our paraphrase). He begins with glowing accolades of his budding bromance…

President Russell Moore is no mere ideologue or pundit. His is the heart of a minister…

Ah, how sweet. Oh, and then he goes on to explain why the ERLC is totally not becoming socially progressive and speaks of “errors” the rest of us demonstrate that Russell Moore is trying to fix…

The first error is outrage culture, characterized by cultural arrogance, lack of empathy, and poverty of the imagination. Think of this as fundamentalism’s wild haymakers. The second error is a non-confessional, non-evangelical capitulation to the spirit of the age. Forgive the uncouth word picture here, but I almost think of this as the sweat of fundamentalism. It’s a cultural mood meant to correct the hot headed and heavy handed “clobber” of fundamentalism but without giving a biblically responsible alternative. The ERLC has consistently rose above these traps and spoken with a “convictional kindness,” the warm orthodoxy of the New Testament and Christian history.

Moore is certainly not outraged about much. Well, except for supposed racism by law enforcement. He’s really enraged about that. Not so much about gay marriage, for which he would attend gay wedding celebrations. And, you know, he’s totally against the “clobbering” of fundamentalism (which is surely defined a peculiar way by someone who thinks the term “social justice” doesn’t imply anything nefarious). And then, back to the “convictional kindness.” I think we all know what that means, and we know what it means when people like James and Moore use the term. The press calls it a “softer tone.” We call it “obvious and demonstrable capitulation.” James ends by a final accolade…

Lastly, the people running the show at the ERLC are top-shelf. This is not only true of Dr. Moore but of his staff.

And now we have one more person at the ERLC who is a social progressive “top shelf.” When leaders in the SBC hand out such appointments as gratitude for cover of criticism and undying, unthinking loyalty to under-qualified people, there’s little chance for reform in the SBC.

This is how positions are filled in our convention entities. This is why reform is needed.

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