The concerted antics of men like Patterson, Bailey Smith, Adrian Rogers and W.A. Criswell may appear glorious, bold and compelling to the good people within the fundamentalist wing of Southern Baptist life. But to virtually anyone outside that particular tribe, the conservative resurgence looks like a ruthless power-play accomplished by manipulating fear and ignorance.
No one outside the tribe is going to celebrate these men, so they might as well celebrate themselves.
Moreover, Patterson, et al, were right to move quickly. The verdict of history will not be kind. It is hard to imagine Baptists fifty years hence remembering these folks or rejoicing in their strong-arm tactics.
Indeed, Bruce Prescott who opposed the takeover, wrote a multipart series
at Talk to Action
which may help history reach the verdict that Bean predicts. Prescott presented excerpts
from the transcript of an eye-opening radio interview between theocratic strategist Gary North and SBC takeover architect, Paul Pressler. Prescott noted that despite denials, it is clear that "the goal of influencing secular politics was one of the primary motives for the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC."
As Prescott reports, the SBC immediately passed resolutions opposing abortion and the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Gary North saw the takeover campaign as a model for how to take over other institutions that might be vulnerable.
There is much more that could be and has been written about the consequences of the fundamentalist takeover of the nation's largest Protestant denomination. But I don't want to add anything here except to note the forthcoming portraits of vanity in stained glass that will forever illustrate the stories of journalists and historians who come to see the ruling cliques of the modern SBC in ways not unlike those of Alan Bean and Bruce Prescott.
Crossposted from Talk to Action
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