Reprise: Learning to be Patient Revolutionaries
Here's how North put it:
It's my opinion that, while the focus of the fight was theological, that the techniques that Pressler and his associates adopted can be used to capture other kinds of organizations. I don't think that this approach that they used, that he will describe, is limited strictly to churches. I think similar tactics can be used in other kinds of organizations. But, the key is -- the laity or your average supporter of the organization has got to share your viewpoints. Conservatives are very inefficient at being able to capture any kind of organization. I can see no way, or almost no way, that the conservatives could expect to go out and capture an institution where the support -- the financial support would be coming from people who don't like conservative ideas. But, if we can find those institutions that are financially supported by people who are in essential agreement with us about the way the world works, . . . that it is still possible to go in and take the institutional power away from our opponents who have very quietly and very successfully gained the seats of power in those organizations -- despite the fact that the money and the support is coming from people who share our views.
[To hear a 2.17 minute podcast (mp3 file) of North's introduction to his interview with Pressler, click here and give it time to download]
Throughout the interview, North drew parallels between the actions of SBC takeover leaders and the actions of the political "New Right" and he commented on relationships between the leaders of the two movements. Pressler was clearly uncomfortable about his highlighting the connections between SBC denominational politics and secular politics. Here's an excerpt from their discussion:
Pressler: We did not enter this in a vacuum. It was something that tried to paper over the problems in the past. And there was rumbling tide of discontent, but a frustration on the part of the majority element in the Convention because they had no direction for rectifying the problems towards which their frustrations was developed.
[To hear a 4.12 minute podcast (mp3 file) of the dialogue between North and Pressler about the "New Right," click here and give it time to download]
When the interview began to get bogged down by the details of how the fundamentalists were able to put their own men in control of all the institutions of the SBC, North identified the key ingredient of their successful strategy - leadership with the patience and persistence to pursue a long term project. Here's another excerpt:
North: Now, Adrian Rogers comes in in general sympathy with your efforts.
[To hear a 1.49 minute podcast (mp3 file) of North talking to Pressler about having a long term perspective, click here and wait for it to download]
Significantly, when Pressler describes the effects that the new fundamentalist appointees had on the SBC Resolutions Committee, they were all about the secular politics that he was so uncomfortable talking about just minutes before. Here's how he put it:
And then we had a Resolutions Committee that was conservative for the first time. And we passed the first pro-life resolution -- strongly pro-life resolution -- ever passed by the Southern Baptist Convention. And we passed an anti-ERA resolution which just infuriated the liberals because they had been utilizing the powers of the Southern Baptist Convention both for the abortion movement and for ERA. And so here we clipped their wings by opposing both at the National Convention.
[To hear a 3.44 minute podcast (mp3 file) in which Pressler makes the above quote, click here and give it time to download. Note this file also contains the next quote]
North follows up with an observation about his sitting on the platform next to Adrian Rogers at the National Briefing Conference in Dallas in 1980 when Bailey Smith made his infamous "God does not hear the prayer of a Jew" statement. He said,
To reinforce your point on the politics issue, that was a "New Right" . . . "New Christian Right" operation . . . there is just no question about that meeting. But, Bailey said afterwards to the press, he said, "I'm here because Adrian Rogers invited me here and I am really not interested in the political-ideological fight that's going on." And so again, he was there, but his point was not to be in politics.
[To hear a 3.44 minute podcast (mp3 file) in which North describes the 1980 National Briefing Conference, click here and give it time to download. Note this file is identical to the one under the previous quote by Paul Pressler.]
Despite the denials, listening to that interview confirmed my suspicion that the goal of influencing secular politics was one of the primary motives for the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC. I decided that I needed to learn more about Gary North, the principles that he stood for, and the kind of changes he was interested in seeing effected. Particularly since Pressler's last words in North's interview were, "I appreciate all that you are doing and the privilege to stand for the same basic principles."
[To hear a 1.44 minute podcast (mp3 file) of the conclusion of North's interview with Pressler, click here and give it time to download.]
Next week, I'll discuss what I learned about Gary North's theology and politics.
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