Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Excluded by a Hobby: Voddie's Story

Voddie Bachaum writes:

I recently became aware of the fact that I am ineligible for leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention. I have not lost my eligibility due to personal sin, inadequate training, insufficient education, or lack of skill (all of which are routinely ignored). Nor have I gone off the deep end into theological liberalism. No, I have been rendered ineligible by my hobby! I fancy myself an amateur chef. As such, I regularly engage in practices that, as of June 14, 2006, render me (and thousands of others like me) persona non grata. Ironically, I have been rendered ineligible by many of the foods I enjoy. This may sound ridiculous, but a close look at the Greensboro resolution tells the tale.

RESOLVED, That we urge that no one be elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that is a user of alcoholic beverages.

While it looks harmless at first glance, this resolution is a powder keg. The resolution is fraught with careless wording, factual errors and saber rattling. In an attempt to uphold ‘righteousness’ the SBC may have slipped into legalism and irrelevancy. Moreover, it has disqualified many of us who don’t even drink!

Careless Wording

According to this wording, the SBC has rendered ineligible for leadership, any minister who “is a user of alcoholic beverages.” The wording of this line of the resolution is unfortunate. At best, this excludes anyone who has ever cooked (or eaten) Beer-battered shrimp, Shrimp scampi, Chicken or Veal saltimbocca, Chicken or Veal Marsala, risotto, and a number of soups and stews that are cooked with wine. Not to mention some of the very dishes served at the cafeteria during the convention in Greensboro. Why? because all of these dishes contain alcoholic beverages. Of course, by the time they are eaten almost all of the alcohol has been cooked off, nevertheless, those who cook the dishes, as well as those who eat them are guilty of ‘using alcoholic beverages.’

Factual Errors

According to the Greensboro resolution, “Years of research confirm biblical warnings that alcohol use leads to physical, mental, and emotional damage.” It is this kind of carelessness that has the rest of the world pointing and laughing. That is like saying, “Years of research confirm the biblical warnings that sex leads to physical, mental, and emotional damage.” While it is true that abusing alcohol (or sex) leads to physical, mental and emotional damage, research has shown that drinking in moderation may actually have health benefits (and sex actually makes babies). This fact is not lost on the writers of the Bible. In fact, Paul told Timothy “Don’t continue drinking only water, but use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” (1Tim. 5:23, HCSB) Thus, Timothy would have been disqualified from SBC leadership for obeying the Apostle’s teaching (but I digress). Had the resolution substituted ‘abuse’ for the word ‘use,’ the first whereas clause would have been accurate. As it stands, sex may be next.

Saber Rattling

My biggest problem with this resolution is the fact that it is a paper tiger. Not a single person at the Greensboro convention believes that SBC has a problem with alcoholism among its leaders. In fact, abstinence from alcohol is a given among Southern Baptist pastors. The few who do drink know that it would be professional suicide to do it in the open. But what about other requirements for leadership?

I would love to have seen the Convention debate a resolution on pastors with rebellious children, or dysfunctional homes. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 both mention the abuse of alcohol. However, the same passages clearly state that a man with rebellious children, or a household that is not managed well is disqualified from leadership. I bet you $1 that any resolution promoting these clear, biblical mandates would die a quick death on the floor of the Convention… But that would be gambling. I’m already in enough trouble for my cooking. No worries, though, the resolution on actually practicing church discipline and removing members from our rolls didn’t even make it out of committee.

No comments: