Insight on the News
Southern Baptist “Showdown”
Excitement ran high at a religious gathering in the Dallas Convention Center in June. Over 45,000 Baptist delegates met for what The New York Times Magazine called “a showdown between the fundamentalists and the more moderate factions for control of the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention,” the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. In the end, the fundamentalist incumbent, Charles Stanley, was elected over his more moderate rival, Winfred Moore. But the convention did little to quell the discord between church members.
While Southern Baptists believe that the Bible is inspired, the more moderate among them, whom fundamentalists call liberals, do not believe that the Scriptures are necessarily inerrant. The fundamentalists fear that the moderates are compromising traditional Baptist theology. On the other hand, the moderates resent the fact that their fundamentalist brothers do not adhere to a strict separation of Church and State but involve themselves in politics, as in lobbying for school prayer and for a ban on abortions. The differences between these factions are nowhere near being resolved. Thus the situation does not harmonize with the apostle Paul’s exhortation that true Christians “speak in agreement” and “be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.”—1 Corinthians 1:10.
“Europe’s soccer stadiums are increasingly coming to resemble gladiator pits.” So observed Time magazine in a report on the tragic violence involving British and Italian soccer fans that resulted in 38 deaths at the European Cup finals in Brussels last May. Violence by fans is a growing problem in other parts of the world too. During May, Chinese fans in Peking rioted—smashing buses, overturning cars, and menacing foreigners—when their soccer team was eliminated from World Cup contention by Hong Kong.
Why do sports fans lose control? Authorities say it is because many sports enthusiasts are poor, bored, and ill-equipped to deal with defeat or humiliation. “But social class or economic considerations are not the main roots,” says Dr. Jeffrey H. Goldstein, an expert on sports-related violence. “It’s nationalism pure and simple. In an era of instant communications, people increasingly are making nationalist issues of international sporting events, and the people are abetted by the actions of the press, sports officials, politicians and the athletes themselves.” Goldstein adds that to fans “international sporting events have become tests of the rightness or wrongness of ideology.”
Although nationalism may spur many sports fans to violence, true Christians are neutral, peace-loving advocates of God’s Kingdom. Moreover, they avoid getting caught up in the worldly competitive spirit.—John 17:16; Romans 12:18; Galatians 5:26.
Not ‘Sticking to Their Role’
“One of the curious things about our very verbal political bishops is that they appear to have absolutely no sense of Christian priorities,” writes columnist Paul Johnson in The Daily Telegraph of London. Church bishops spend too much time with political matters, he says, and ignore a far more significant problem. Says Johnson: “In both the United States and Britain, the biggest single cause of poverty is the one-parent family,” often resulting from teenage immorality. “Yet oddly enough it is a long time since I have heard any clergyman, let alone a bishop, preach a sermon on the evils of fornication.” If bishops “would only stick to their fundamental and traditional role as custodians of morality,” he concludes, they could “have an important part to play in reducing economic hardship.”
Johnson’s comments bring to mind a situation in ancient Israel. Religious leaders at that time also failed to teach God’s Word so that the people might “turn back from their bad way.” Of such men, God said: “I am against the prophets, . . . the ones who are stealing away my words, each one from his companion.” (Jeremiah 23:22, 30) Likewise, modern-day clergymen who fail to teach proper Christian morals, perhaps even misapplying Bible texts for political or other reasons, can expect to earn God’s disfavor.—Compare Luke 11:52.