“A bunker mentality is a slang phrase for a phenomenon that occurs when a group or individual stops taking new, pertinent information into account, and begins viewing outsiders as enemies, due to an isolation resulting from being under attack. Political campaigns and figures are often accused of having this mentality, particularly when a leader, administration or party has become unpopular or is in some sort of trouble.” (Wikipedia)
“Obama’s Bunker Mentality Sank Him on Tuesday” read the headline of Kirsten Powers’ article in last Wednesday’s New York Post. Powers, a likeable liberal who is a Fox News contributor, avoided the spin in her analysis of last Tuesday’s devastating losses for the Democrats in general and President Obama specifically. Powers attributes the loss to Obama and the Democrats misreading of the supposed mandate that voters handed them two years ago:
“When will both parties start listening to voters? They keep misreading elections to mean that somehow the country has suddenly shifted to believe that one party’s ideology is sacrosanct. Guess what? In 2006 voters didn’t suddenly become liberal ideologues. Not in 2008, either.”
In her concluding paragraph, Powers says what most tuned-in American voters already knew:
“A series of decisions by the White House sealed the Democrats’ fate. And it all grew out of an oversized sense of support from the American people and a dangerous belief that President Obama could overcome any difficulties with speeches and persuasion.”
When politicians and leaders — whether in the federal government or in the Southern Baptist Convention — begin to misread mandates and wrongly think that they have more public support than they really do, then they begin to think that any difficulties can be overcome with speeches, rhetoric, persuasion and sometimes even good, old fashioned power plays. As President Obama and the Democrats learned the hard way last week, this way of governing will lead to failure.
Which brings us to the bunker mentality that appears to be happening within the Southern Baptist Convention. After having received a “mandate” from less than 10% of all Southern Baptists, the SBC establishment has proceeded apace in reshaping the convention in their own image. There’s just one (well many, really) problem with that: the vast majority of churches that comprise the SBC do not look anything like the image that has become the public face of Southern Baptists.
In times past, especially during the Conservative Resurgence, grassroots Southern Baptists willingly followed established leaders, most of whom were from large churches within the convention. Because the focus was on Biblical inerrancy and theological issues, the overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists, at both the leadership and grassroots levels, were playing on the same team and were playing from the same playbook. You had the star quarterbacks and running backs, but without the linemen blocking, there would have been no major victories.
Fast forward to today’s climate within the SBC. We have become a convention populated by stars — celebrities if you will — who not only carry the ball, but wield an enormous amount of power. Unlike the CR, which was a grassroots movement that went up against the power-brokers within the convention, the GCR is a top-down agenda that has been crafted (mainly behind closed doors) by those in power to be
forced upon accepted by the grassroots.
And, when those in power — whether in Washington or Nashville or Alpharetta — start being questioned by those they are supposed to serve, instead of answering the tough questions (which is what leaders do), they either retreat into the bunkers or only go on softball shows like Larry King Live where they know that they will not be challenged. Of course, today’s SBC establishment have their own Larry King-like blogs where they can sit for pro-GCR friendly interviews without ever having a hardball tossed their way.
We saw this same mentality beginning with the Town Hall meetings in the summer of 2009 where constituents were fed up with their elected representatives. Many of those so-called “leaders” cancelled their public meetings for fear of having to face a hostile and questioning public. They thought that if they went into hiding, that the pesky no-nothing, ill-informed rabble would just go away. Well, guess what? The opposite happened and the Tea Party was born! The riff-raff did not go away and, in fact, they made their voices heard loud and clear last Tuesday.
The opposition to the radical elements with the GCR is not going away. And, for those who think that this is just some disgruntled minority with a case of sour grapes, you may need to think again. But, then again, I don’ expect many pro-GCR folks to learn the lessons from the shellacking that the Democrats and President Obama received on November 2.
When a broad coalition of voices, who have heretofore not been on the same page, begin to coalesce in their opposition to the GCR, the powers-that-be might want to take notice. When Baptist state convention executive directors openly oppose nominees to mission boards, the SBC establishment better start listening. When Baptist state conventions pass resolutions in support of the Cooperative Program, maybe the ruling class should stop and ponder that before rushing to make major changes.
But, just like President Obama and the Democrats did when they focused on their wins in special House races while all the while ignoring Republican victories in Virginia, New Jersey, and MASSACHUSETTS, the SBC establishment will highlight GCR wins in states like Florida and Kentucky, but miss the obvious warning signs in states like Louisiana, Alabama, New Mexico, Nebraska/Kansas, etc.
And, when this happens, instead of reality setting in, the retreat into the bunker will be that much greater. Instead of trying to listen, which is what NAMB President Kevin Ezell promised he would do for the first 90 days of his tenure, he and others will move forward rapidly with the radical agenda that has become the essence of the GCR.
Instead of listening to opponents of the GCR, its most vociferous supporters will tell opponents “that the vote is over, the GCR passed, move on, and stop complaining.” Instead of handling criticism well, paid employees of entities will come on blogs to make what could be perceived by some as snarky comments against those who dare question the ruling establishment. And, when things start to really unravel, those in the bunker will blame their
enemies opponents for all of their troubles, never once acknowledging that much of the trouble is a direct result of their own making.
So here’s the thing. Is there no one in leadership in Nashville, Alpharetta, or Richmond who understands that there is great discontent among rank and file Southern Baptists about the GCR? Is there anyone at all in the establishment that recognizes that the GCR process has been highly politicized from the beginning, up to an including the Orlando Pastors’ Conference and the Anual Meeting? Is there anyone at all who thinks that there is a huge disconnect between calls by the Task Force for “openness and transpency” and then moving to unilaterally seal all their records for 15 years? Are there any convention statesmen, in addition to Morris Chapman, who will speak out against the division that the GCR is causing within the SBC and within the state conventions?
I am a blogger. I do not hide the fact that I am opposed to the GCR and voted against the recommendations in Orlando. I have written and will continue to write my opinions and analysis of issues affecting the Southern Baptist Convention.
The SBC establishment can retreat deeper into the bunker by ignoring the warning signs coming from a diverse contingent of bloggers. But maybe, just maybe, there might be one former pastor turned entity employee who can remind the powers-that-be that many of these “pajama-wearing” bloggers also happen to be pastors. You can choose to ignore the blogs, but when you do that, you also choose to ignore the pastors. I’m just saying . . .