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A Plea to Name Names (sort of)

Monday, June 12, 2006

One of the things that sometimes gets to me with the internet (as well as with other ways of conversation) is when people make statements against something and use nebulous examples to support their points.

So that I do not commit the same thing that I am complaining about, I will give a couple examples of what I mean. Please DO NOT take this as an attack on these individuals (I have areas of disagreement with these individuals, but those disagreements are not the point of this article), as I am sure that I myself have probably done the same thing.

Recently, Dr. Dan Burrell wrote a couple of articles for Sharper Iron (which I may comment on later). In the last article, he makes the following statement.

This author could type the name of an extremely well-known, nationally influential (retired) pastor who is legendary for swearing in private and in the pulpit. (We’re not talking about saying “gosh” or “darn” but words that used to get people’s mouths washed out with soap.) BUT . . . he’s been a major fundamentalist leader for nearly 80 years. So we just roll our eyes and mutter excuses. But if Franklin Graham or John Hagee or Bill Gaither were to use such language, the same eye-rollers would roundly and soundly condemn him as a foul-mouthed reprobate."


Now, I do not know of whom he is speaking. In fact, when someone on SI mentioned that it sounded like Dr. John Rawlings, I still did not if 1) the accusation was true, 2) who John Rawlings is, or 3) whether people knew about this and were covering it up - other than the one publicly commenting about it and 4) whether the person in question really fit the description(s) given. (I have a hard time identifying a person I have not heard of as "extremely well-known" and a "major fundamentalist leader", but I admit that I have not heard of everyone who is considered by others to be a "major fundamentalist leader".)

Another example of this situation was demonstrated on Bob Bixby's blog, Pensees, in his article entitled, Rise Up O Men of God. In that post, Pastor Bixby commented:
I have personal experience with fundamentalist leaders (many more than five) who are/were liars, adulterers, child molesters, and/or cheaters. This does not figure the ones who have been disgraced formerly, but who are currently held in high esteem.


My concern is this:

When we make comments about "a major fundamentalist leader" and then the kind of comments that Dr. Burrell makes, or when we make comments about "fundamentalist leaders" and the type of comments that Pastor Bixby makes, in our attempt to be general, we slander all others who may fit the general description. We would be much better off to state publicly who we are talking about (and if the accusation is true, they deserve all the shame and ridicule that comes with such public indentification) rather than leaving the accusation as a possible indictment against any who happen to fit the description.

So, I wonder if it would not be better for us to just go ahead and name the person we are using as these negative examples in the discussions rather than given descriptions that may lead people to think what is being said is true of someone of whom it is not true.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

4 comments:

Don said...

Hey, Frank, watch your back. I was crucified on SI for raising the same issue regarding Bob's post. You see, when you act like a nasty fundamentalist and name names, the YF/NF crowd cannot tolerate that.

Smear tactics are more their style.

Should I name names on that one?

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Frank Sansone said...

Don,

I think we both got crushed on that original thread when it first came up on SI, albeit I think you got it worse than I did.

Note here, however, I am not really addressing that particular post, but merely using it as an illustration of my concern about making descriptions that limit enough to make people wonder who you are talking about without going ahead and naming the names.

I also think we need to be careful in using expressions like "leader in Fundamentalism" to describe someone and then making negative comments, as generally the person being so described is often not one who many of us would consider to be a "leader of fundamentalism" any way.

Andy Efting said...

The other thing about generalities is that you never really know what the person is talking about, especially regarding something as broad as fundamentalism. I'll hear people complaining about excesses and problems and I think they are referring to one segment of fundamentalism when really they were thinking about another group. Naming names and referring to specific groups helps people understand exactly what you are talking about, rather than letting them fill in the blanks themselves, perhaps incorrectly.

Derek Makri said...

Great article. I agree. Should we not know who these "foul mouthed fundamentalist leaders" are so we can be sure not to send our church kids to their schools, etc.? I do think they should be called out on it. That is one good way to use the blogosphere. It creates greater accountability. Of course, these accusations need to be proven true before posted, and really should be brought to their church first as Jesus said after the person himself has been confronted with 2 or 3 witnesses. After that, they should be mentioned by name on these sites, especially if, as the SI post stated, it is an ongoing common practice for this "leader" to be using profanity.