In light of a great deal of angst expressed over unsigned posts and comments on the blogs, the following anonymous comment, posted last Monday at 1:24 pm, clearly articulated some things for all of us to think about when it comes to anonymity.
"All of this talk about anonymity has got me thinking. The term “coward” is sure getting thrown around a lot, and that is unfortunate. I wonder if anyone here has ever read or heard about the Marprelate tracts? They were written by (anonymous) Puritans in 1588-89 criticizing the abuses of Anglican bishops and clergy. They knew the consequences if they were discovered, but they could not remain silent. In fact, two men (both ministers) died (1 executed, 1 died in prison) because they were linked to the printing of the tracts. The printer, Waldegrave, had his press confiscated and was financially ruined. It is debatable whether or not the authors were ever really discovered. When the Anglican Star Chamber issued an edict in 1586 declaring that the Anglican church had the power to license and/or forbid all printing in the country, these men knew that they must speak out, but they didn’t necessarily want to die for it. After all, when a “trouble-maker” is discovered and dealt with (i.e. ruined by those in power that he critiques), then the criticism is silenced and people remain in the dark about the issues.
Please note, there’s a stark difference between a willingness to die for the testimony of the gospel, which I would do, and a willingness to die criticizing an institution. Most of us would rather live and go on criticizing the institution, seeking to make reform than to die and have our voices for reform snuffed out. I love the SBC and want to see it reformed for instance, but I will not die for it. That’s a privilege reserved only for my sweet Savior and family.
Add to that list of contemptible cowards names like John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, men who published anonymously (OK…they used the pseudonym Publius) the Federalist Papers, called by many the most important political documents outside the Constitution and Declaration of Independence in our nation’s history. Cowards they were… discard their ideas.
Also add to the mix more contemptible cowards like Thomas Paine (Common Sense was anonymous upon publication) and the dozens and dozens of revolutionary war era and anti-slavery tracts published anonymously (see Gutenberg.org for a list). Also discredit the information of historical figures like the anonymous (until his death) “Deep-throat” who let the nation in on major political scandal and corruption in Washington D.C. Guess he was a coward too. Also there have been numerous corporate whistleblowers who have anonymously helped bring justice to out-of-control corrupt companies. Cowards each one...
Incidentally, just this morning in the latest issue of Discipleship Journal, I read a touching testimony about a man ministering to his son in the midst of a drunk-driving incident. The article was signed “Clive Wellington” with the note that this was a pseudonym for an unknown author, probably in order to protect the reputation of his son and his son’s ability to heal and move on with life. I should have been enraged by the article, questioned its truthfulness, and immediately ripped it out of DJ, calling upon them to either print the name or retract the story! Puhleeaze!
A few years ago, I attended a Voice of the Martyrs event where a former Pakistani Muslim who was now a Christian spoke against the evils of Islam. He had to travel, write, and speak under a made-up name to protect himself and his family. I guess without knowing his real name, I should be suspect about his claims. I cannot call his Imam in Pakistan and verify his claims, so he should be discredited…right?
Basically, the history of anonymity in writing is long and rich. Usually (almost always) anonymous writing is done by those NOT in power rightly criticizing those IN POWER who are in a position to shut-up and shut-down the anonymous source, thus putting an end to the public’s knowledge of the corruption. Those of you who are so quick to call others cowards can do so precisely because you support those in power or have nothing to lose (i.e. you’re not in ministry at a SB church or institution!). It’s OK to put your name on your criticism of Wade or Watchdog, because if some of the “higher-ups” look you up or run into you at the state or national convention (and believe me, they do!), they’ll thank you and pat your back! NOT take you to task or blacklist you like they have others!
I personally know a student at one of our seminaries working on his dissertation who was told (off the record) by more than one prof that he had better stay away from blogging or commenting or signing his name to anything critical that could be used later against him if he hoped to have a future at all in the SBC! At times, he has been scared of being kicked out of his program because of being critical of leaders, pastors, etc… during open discussions. Now he just sits quietly and withholds any criticism until he graduates.
Wade is in a unique situation…and I thank God for him. He has the strong support of his congregation and the knowledge that he will continue to be employed in the face of what he writes. They know and trust his character and integrity because of many years of ministry. He knows he will not lose his job by speaking out. He also knows (from experience) that he is not on anyone in the SBC’s list of “up and comers” for future leadership in SBC life. He walked those halls for a while and found out what happens when you refuse to “play the game.”
Many others are not in the same position, and thus, remain anonymous. In itself, that is no reason to discard what they write. Staffers at a mega-church led by a superstar are powerless. Speak out and lose your job, plain and simple. Lose your benefits, pack your bags, and plan to relocate…IF you can find anyone else to employ you after being fired by one of “the boys.” Likewise with seminary employees, agency employees, etc… SBC life is a very small, tight-knit community with lots of nepotism and inside-talk. Many of the mega-church leaders and inner-circle guys preach for each other regularly, defend one another publicly, speak at all the seminary chapels, serve on the same boards, room their kids together at the same schools, and on and on it goes. If you are critical and you make yourself known publicly, you will be shut out from future impact in the SBC.
Those of you who want to throw the term “coward” around, open your eyes to the reality of what’s happening. Look at what happened to Wade. Read the reports at fbcjaxwatchdog. Look at the facts. This man (whoever he is) was a loyal member of the church for MANY years under Lindsey/ Vines; why would he just “snap” when Dr. Brunson came on board? Could there be some substance to his accusations? You’ll never know because you don’t want to.
If you don’t want to believe what an anonymous author is saying, it wouldn’t matter if there was a name attached to it or not. Even if their identity was known, you still wouldn’t believe it. If there’s truth to what they are saying, then who cares if you know their name or not? Will those being criticized answer the criticisms with substance? I hope Dr. Brunson calls Wade back and clears the air, but I don’t foresee that happening.
It’s easy to sit on the winning side and take pot-shots at the whistle-blowers. It’s easy to call them cowards and discredit their work so readily. It’s much tougher to admit that these MIGHT just be honest Christian people telling the truth. It’s much tougher for many in the SBC today to admit that their heroes might be flawed."