Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Freakonomics of the Missouri Baptist Convention's Board of Directors

Dr. Steven Levitt is a Harvard and MIT Ph.D. educated economist who teaches economics at the University of Chicago. Last year he won the prestigious John Bates Clark Medal, an award given every two years to the best economist in America under the age of forty.

Dr. Levitt is a rogue economist who explores the 'hidden side' of everything. He has the uncanny ability to use information to peel back the layers of what is going on around us to get to the heart of what is happening under the surface of everyday life.

His newest book, entitled Freakonomics, explores the hidden side of every day life in America. His chapter titles are controversial, but his conclusions are hard to ignore.

In one chapter entitled "How Is The Ku Klux Clan Like a Group of Real Estate Agents?" Dr Levitt shows how information obtained in the 1940's by an activist named Stetson Kennedy helped break up the power and influence of the Ku Klux Klan. Kennedy secretly infiltrated the Klan and turned all the secret codes, greetings, passords and agendas of that organization to the producers of "Superman," the number one rated radio show of the day.

The producers of "Superman," sympathetic with Stetson Kennedy's desire to break up the Klan, wrote a four part series where Superman himself took on the greatest villain in America --- the Ku Klux Klan. The producers used all the real 'super secrets' of the Klan in the "Superman" show. Once America knew the 'secrets' of the Klan, people began to be able to 'identify' Klansman (who habitually wore hoods to not be identified) by the way they talked and acted in public when they were not wearing the hoods.

All the kids of America began using the code words of the Ku Klux Klan as they play acted out what they had heard the night before on "Superman." Soon the dads and gradndads of those kids decided it might be best if they no longer showed up at the Klan meetings, lest they ended up being identified by their own family as a Klansman.

Economist Levitt says, "Of all the ideas that Kennedy had thought up --- and would think up in the future --- to fight bigotry, his "Superman" campaign was easily the cleverest and most productive. It had the precise effect he hoped: turning the Klan's secrecy against itself, converting precious knowledge into ammunition for mockery" (Freakonomics, page 65).

What Do Klansman Have in Common with Real Estate Agents?

Before anyone who is a real estate agent gets upset with the above question, including my cousin in California who is the number one real estate agent in America, I remind you this is the title of one of Dr. Levitt's chapters in Freakonomics. Further, before you jump to any false conclusions, Dr. Levitt's does not say in the chapter that there is a commonality in the 'character' of Klansman and real estate agents.

He is, however, saying that there is a commonality in what he calls "the assymetry of information" between Klansman in the early 1940's and real estate agents in the early 1990's. Both groups had information that the masses of people had no way to obtain for themselves.

Klansman had secret codes, passwords and agendas that kept people outside the Klan in the dark regarding their activities.

Real estate agents had secret graphs, home prices, statistics and other facts and information about the housing market that was unavailable to the common layman. As a result, real estate agents developed a 'code' language among themselves. For instance, Dr. Levitt gives ten common real estate words associated with real estate advertisements placed by realtors in the early 1990's.

Ten Common Real Estate Ad Terms

Great Neighborhood

Dr. Levitt says that five of these words are 'code' words by real estate agents used to describe houses that have few attributes worth describing. He says 'fantastic' and 'charming' are dangerously ambigious adjectives. 'Spacious' is often code for decrepit or impractical. 'Great neighborhood' is code for 'the other houses are great, but this house leaves something to be desired.' Finally, the ! is a very dangerous sign that something is being covered up by displaying inordinate enthusiasm. Real estate agents often used these code words when selling other houses.

However, when selling their own homes, agents used words like 'maple', 'gourmet,' 'corian,' 'granite,' etc . . . to describe, in concrete terms the houses' good qualities and avoids empty adjectives and ambigious words. The real estate agents would also hold out for a higher price when selling his own home, rather than taking the first good offer that came along, earning at least three percentage points more in selling their own homes than the average American.

But just like the Klan in the 1940's, the secrets of real estate agents were revealed in the mid-1990's by all things --- the Internet.

Dr. Levitt said, "As a medium, the Internet is brilliantly effecient at shifting information from the hands of those who have it into the hands of those who don't. The Internet has vastly shrunk the gap between the experts and the public."

In the late 1990's real estate agents began to deal with a much better informed public, and as a result, 'the assymetry" (or imbalance) of information was corrected. People began to 'crack' the code language of real estate agents, and as a result, the average percentage difference between the prices of houses owned and sold by real estate agents compared to those not owned but sold by real estate agents shrunk significantly.

Information balances the playing field and gives to the have nots the same power and abilities of the haves.

In other words, the gap between 'experts' and 'laypeople' shrinks dramatically with the availability and easy accessibility of information.

What the Missouri Baptist Convention, the Ku Klux Klan, and Real Estate Agents Have in Common

Before anyone gets upset with the analogy, let me say, again, that the commonality is not character --- it is code breaking and making public what used to be done in secret.

The Missouri Baptist Convention's Board of Directors attempted to go behind closed doors last week to launch an investigation against Executive Director David Clippard, and according to this Baptist Press article, were unsuccessful in shutting out the public, so they dealt with a recommendation in 'plenary' or 'open' session to form an investigation committee to probe several issues related to David Clippard.

Like other groups profiled in Dr. Levitt's Freakonomics, Southern Baptists on the far right of the SBC political spectrum who seek to disparage their fellow evangelical Christian brothers is a group that must be exposed. Generic words like 'moderate' or 'liberal' and phrases like 'character problems' or 'a lack of integrity' are completely off base in a discussion about any fellow evangelical Bible believing Baptists. Specificity is a sign of truth. General, hollow adjectives is a sign that there is a hidden, underlying meaning behind events.

Code phrases used like "issues of misconduct," and "lack of overall effectiveness," and "varous concerns," and "questionable integrity," and "questionable character," have all been public allegations leveled at Dr. David Clippard, the Executive Director of the Baptist Convention of Missouri. This is a travesty.

I am not, nor would I ever, call into question a recommendation for an investigation into a board or agency. Calls for investigations of agencies are always appropriate when there is evidence of specific, concrete problems and a willingness to share the specific nature of those problems publicly (just ask the Baptist General Convention of Texas who ignored such calls for too long regarding their Valley Mission fiasco).

However, to call for an investigation of an individual for "questionable character," "questionable integrity," or "various concerns" without having the wherewithal to present specific, concrete examples of such concerns, sounds a lot like "informational assymetry" by 'denominational experts' who hope that the average SBC layperson will simply "trust" their rationale.

The tired old explanation "We don't wish to tell you what the problem is, but trust us on this," will no longer work. Southern Baptists are becoming too tech savy, too denominationally astute, and too interested in the future of our convention to let good people be railroaded any more.

I know Dave Clippard. I have known him for nearly twenty five years. I have worked with him in Oklahoma when he was our Associate Executive-Director.

I don't agree with everything Dave believes or says, but . . .

Dave Clippard has no character problem. He has no integrity problem. He is a godly, compassionate, gentle man who loves the lost. He is a Southern Baptist and I desire to cooperate with him in ministry and SBC leadership.

Just a little heads up to the Missouri Baptist Convention.

The days of secret codes for "We don't like you" are now over. No more closed door meetings. No more attempts at discrediting godly men or women with the dangerously ambigious words or phrases used in the Baptist Press article.

Look up in the air . . . It's a bird . . . No, it's a plane . . . No, it's . . .

Southern Baptist bloggers.

It's time for Southern Baptists to explore the hidden side of SBC politics.

It's time to examine the Freakonomics of the politics of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

In His Grace,



Jonathan K. said...

Rev. Burelson,

Does this have any connection with the "Journey" church scandal written up in Art Rogers' blog?


Nomad said...

A really gormet maple post.

jasonk said...

You forgot the word "cozy," which in secret realtor code, means "small."

I am going to get this book. Sounds good. And he is right. Everyone's business has changed, for the good, as a result of the openness brought on by the internet. As a stock broker, I have seen the changes. I have tried to maintain honesty and integrity in my profession, and the internet acts as an accountability partner, because I know that many of my clients know as much or more than I do about the vehicles in which they invest. I have seen some very dishonest brokers suddenly turn good as a result of this "freakonomics" of which you speak.

As for the Missouri Baptists, I guess "show me" does not hold much water for them. I know Dave Clippard as well. Like you, we have not always seen eye to eye, but I have the utmost respect for him personally and spiritually, and this call for an investigation is nothing but a witch hunt.

Thank you for standing up for him, and for what is right. The Missouri Baptist Conventions xcomm has a big responsibility, and if some of them were looking for secrecy, they will have anything but.

WTJeff said...


Once again, thank you for posting something we would have never known about. These techniques of excluding and intimidating non-comformists has to end. Many have questioned how this relates to a local level. Believe it or not, I've seen young pastors take their cue from the national leaders and practically go hunting for any hint of impropriety or theological belief among associational leadership that may be remotely construed as even slightly moderate. It has been implied that I don't believe in evangelism because I prefer relational evanagelism over confrontational. I have a friend who serves on staff of a dually aligned church. (supporting both SBTC and BGCT)One former pastor in our area expressed his concern that my friend could hurt his pastor's reputation because he was amillennial. This is where the conformist mentality will take us if not confronted in a Christ like manner.

Thank you for being one of many voices that insist those in leadership conduct their business out in the open, where these issues can be dealt with in a manner that honors Christ rather than furthers the stereotype that much of the lost have of us already.



Kurt Strassner said...


I respect you very much. I read your blog almost everyday. And I am VERY grateful for the light you have cast on the happenings at the IMB.

But I think that you really miss the point. This post sounds like a rant intended to protect a friend.

I read the linked article. It seems to me that the whole reason that the MBC wanted to first address this behind closed doors is to avoid having to throw phrases like "questionable character" out to the public.

You really don't expect them, without doing any investigation, to make a detailed list of charges, do you? Right then and there? Talk about defaming a man's character!

I really don't see the problem with the five man committee doing some research and then reporting their exact findings. If they remain vague after the research, then there may be a problem.

But to rail against the MBC beforehand when, given the benefit of the doubt, it seems as if they have been trying to protect CLippard's character as much as possible, seems a bit like politics to me.

And as for all of us being too tech savvy to let this go by unresearched...maybe we are. And maybe that is one reason why it is so easy for false accusations to come up against men like Dr. Clippard.

Perhaps we should accept the fact that there are some a man's sin problems...that need to be discussed, not over the WWW, but by responsible people who are capable of holding the person accountable. said...

Jonathan K.

Your question will be the subject of another post. I do not yet have enough information or knowledge of "Journey" Church or her pastor to comment.

I do on Executive Director Dave Clippard.


wade said...


You're funny. said...

Arkansas Razorbaptist,

I sent in my nomination for Time's Man of the Year four weeks ago.

It was 'you.'

And 'you' won!



P.S. It might be time for you to get back in the game. :)

volfan007 said...


what is the big problem that the mbc has with david clippard? what is the issue here?

volfan007 said...


You make a good point --- which I have already made.

I DO appreciate the fact that the parliamentarian and others fought to keep it public and open! My post complimented them for this action.

However, I respectfully submit you may have missed the point of my post.

This recommendation should never have been brought against an individual using such awful adjectives with no concrete substance.

It is hallow, baseless and full of 'freakonomics.' It will ultimately be ruled out of order via the spread of information, real, solid, behind the scenes information that exposes the informational assymetry present in the MBC at this time.

My post, upon reflection, stands as written.

Anonymous said...

The Internet is a good way to get information out to clear the air – it is also a good way to get gossip out – and muddy up the waters.
Thank you Wade for airing our laundry so publicly, and muddying the waters.

Let me ask, did you talk to Dr. Clippard before posting this?
Did you speak to anyone on the MBC executive board about this?
Did you look for any first hand accounts at all – or did you just read about it in BP and decide to vent about it?
Because if you only read about it in BP then there is a problem.

First, your post would be considered hearsay.
Second, your post is flawed because the BP article had significant errors in it in describing the situation.

If you have facts to contribute to this situation, I would be very interested in hearing them. But until the facts come out writing things like this amounts to gossip and should be avoided.

Ben S.

BTW – Be careful where you drop the F-bomb. It seems a code is developing, if I don’t like you I call you a Fundamentalist.

Bob Cleveland said...


From what I've seen, I'd guess your standards of corporate openness and disclosure apply to everyone, without discrimination, including yourself. Thus, there's a great risk in advocating transparency, universally (of course I know about missionaries in sensitive areas .. that's not the topic here), in that personal transparency is thereby mandated, in your own life.

I think it's a reflection that we all have dirty little secrets we don't want known, that we mostly "draw lines" about openness and the light of day.

I also think you're as well equipped to address this issue as anyone, in light of what all was baselessly alleged about you over the last year.

Of course, there are aspects of SBC life that rub us the wrong way. Most families are like that. But the real problem is our humanity, and that applies across all of Christianity.

Thankfully, I don't hear many people saying the problems in the SBC make them want to check out of THAT family.

Nathan Finn said...

Anonymous Ben S. said:

"BTW – Be careful where you drop the F-bomb. It seems a code is developing, if I don’t like you I call you a Fundamentalist."

Well said. said...

Mr. Anonymous Ben S.

You are free not to read my posts.

Here is my contribution to the fiasco developing in Missouri.

"Before you accuse any Southern Baptist Christian leader of 'questionable character' or 'questionable integrity,' you better think through having to answer to grass roots Southern Baptists who will not, any longer, put up with the character assassination of Southern Baptists simply because they do not agree with you.".

That's all I'm saying. And if it is too much for you to hear, I understand. :)

In His Grace,

wade said...


You are correct. It's no longer code. You've broken it. :)

Your fellow Fundamentalist,


paolievan said...

Wade: I too know Dave Clippard. We travel all the northern half of Malawi together. We were together for a week. I also knew him in Oklahoma. I served as 2nd Vice President of the BGCO while Dave was there. I know Dave to be as honest and trustworthy as they come. The Missouri bunch had problems BEFORE Dave and I don't think ANYONE can lead that bunch. They need to get on their knees before the Lord for a long time before they try to do anything else.
Your fellow Okie.

Anonymous said...

You said:

Southern Baptists who will not, any longer, put up with the character assassination of Southern Baptists simply because they do not agree with you.".

Therein lies our problem. Everyone that I know of, including board members, thinks Dr. Clippard is doing a fantastic job (myself included). Whatever the investigation is looking for is probably not related to a lot of people simply not liking him.
But I don’t know, I don’t have the facts, do you?

Your comment to me is eye opening, it shows me why so many don’t like bloggers. It’s not because you are giving info to the public – its because you are giving gossip to the public. Like the yellow journalists of days gone by, there’s no need for facts, just a story.

You want to hold others accountable without accepting any accountability yourself.

I asked you a simple question, did you do any fact checking whatsoever before posting your article?

Your reply:

“You are free not to read my posts.”

I’ll take that as a no.

Mr. Anonymous Ben S.

Alycelee said...

I find myself in total agreement with my fellow trio of Arkansans-SBC seems to be in the attack mode.
Some of these comments I just don't get and I appreciate you bringing this to the light. After all, all we had to do is read BP.

This same convention/association just threw out a church who has a female associate pastor. Now I know that most just "hate" that. But is that heresy?
Is it universalism? I thought local churches were automous? Are we going to boot the next church that accepts alien immersion? Where does the power and control stop?

The sin problem we have in the SBC isn't accepting females in ministry or being liberal about alcohol, or even about PPL. Let's be real-It's always about POWER and CONTROL.

davidinflorida said...

Pastor Wade,
This smells like December 05, all over again.

Jack Maddox said...


Is "Spooky" a code word?

Never is described it very well!

(just kidding a little...evetbody lighten up : ) )

By the all of my fellow 'spooky' is a message


You guys know what to do.

Spooky Jack

Jack Maddox said...


Another thing...the pulpit committee where I serve told me that I would be provided a "Charming" Parsonage in a "Great Neighborhood"

Wish I would have read this post before they told me that!

Jack said...

Mr. Anonymous Ben S.

Any private conversations with David Clippard are not part of your perview.

Your statement "Everyone that I know of, including board members, thinks Dr. Clippard is doing a fantastic job (myself included)" is amazing to me.

Why in the world is there a need for an investigation into 'questionable character' and 'questionable integrity' of the man 'who is doing a fantastic job?'

If that is what you get for doing a fantastic job I would hate to see what happens when board members think you are doing a poor job.


Also, since it would be helpful if you plan to continue to comment to identify yourself, your occupation, and your relationship to David Clippard and Missouri Baptists to allow for maximum transparency and 'accountability.'

You obviously seem to think you know a great deal about me, my motives, and my desires. :)

In His Grace,

wade said...


That's funny!

Thanks for the humor.


Kaylor said...


You are correct in your call for caution and the need to handle issues in the open and in an ethical manner.

However, I must disagree with your defense of Mr. Clippard (it should be noted that he has not actually earned a doctorate degree). He does have some problems with character issues.

As has been widely reported, he was accused of misconduct concerning his sexual harassment of a woman who worked for him at the MBC. The MBC and Clippard later settled her complaint that dealt with gender discrimination, retaliation, slander, and libel. After being accused by her of inappropriate action, he fired her and then lied about her in his address to the MBC annual meeting. There is a problem here!

And yes I know what I’m talking about, because that woman is my mother. said...

Nope. Spooky is not a code word because I defined it for you.

Spooky Fundamentalism is the uncanny or eerie practice of speaking on behalf of God to other people, identifying what God desires, says or feels, without reliable, exegetical support from the all sufficient Word of God, and then being unpredictably excitable (angry, bitter, and intentionally slanderous) when someone challenges what is said.

People who speak in code don't give you the definitions.

:) said...


Thank you for posting your comment.

Unfortunately, that which you say has been 'widely' reported has not been reported widely enough for me to hear about it.

This is the first time I have heard of such alleged 'behavior' regarding David Clippard.

Please hear me clearly.

You are proving my point.

Had the recommendation simply been, "We recommend a committee of five members to be formed to determine if the Executive Leader is leading our convention according to the established policies and procedures of the Missouri Baptist Convention," you would have not heard from me in this post --- I would have had no complaint.

But the recommendation was worded with phrases like 'questionable character' and 'questionable integrity.'

How do you unring that bell?

You and your mother have brought specific charges against a denominational official.

I would ask you two things:

(1). Have those charges been investigated?
(2). What was the outcome of the investigation?

I realize you said this matter was 'settled.'

I am not referring to a settlement, I am referring to the outcome of the investigation into the matters you allege, what was it?

There are three possibilities:

(1). David Clippard is guilty of the charges you bring -- if he is, he ought to be terminated for it violates policies of the MBC.
(2). Your mother was upset because she was fired and brought unjust charges against David Clippard for being fired, and if so, then an investigation would determine the unjust nature of the charges.
(3). Sometimes settlement is simply a way in which matters can be addressed outside of the courts, but if so, there is usually a confidentiality statement.

Regardless, you are proving my point.

An investigation into these matters is very appropriate, but I would be surprised if an investigation has not already been performed.

You don't launch 'another' investigation with words that attack a man's character and integrity "before" the investigation even begins.

I stand by my statements regarding Dave Clippard. It sounds to me that there are number of things that are being done that are politically motivated, and I sure hope your mother is not involved.

If the allegations turn out to be unfounded by your mother, I hope you both will apologize.

In His Grace,


Anonymous said...

identify yourself, your occupation, and your relationship to David Clippard and Missouri Baptists

Your blog requires more info than you have to give when captured by an enemy.
But OK - Ben Simons, a mere layman from Mid Missouri. SBC/MBC all my life, and yes we had big problems before Dr. Clippard got here. But there are some who should walk in our shoes before they tell us to get on our knees.
Admittedly, I have only spoken to Dr. Clippard once - which is why I don't claim to have the facts.
Any private conversations with Board Members are not part of your perview. :)
Do you ask these questions to all of your commenters? I don't think that "arkansas razorbaptist" "nomad" and "davidinflorida" are birth names - but I could be wrong.
I stand by my opinion that Dr. Clippard is doing a good job. He's the type of person that will do a revival in even small country churches and has led our state to plant many many churches.
His job performance in not in question. The questions surround 'questionable character' and 'questionable integrity' - not job performance.


Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...

Not all things that appear to be politics, are?

I think we bloggers need to be cautioned as well. We too jump the gun to back up a pet peeve or idea.

Jack Maddox said...


Can I offer a suggestion? Does there not come a point that we say that this may be to sensitive and to 'in house' for the MBC for us to banter about here on the Blog. I am not at all questioning your right to publish what you did and I understand your point...I am just saying when it gets to the point that people who are personally involved begin to respond and we are challenging the veracity of ones position in regards to family members involvement in this. Perhaps you can leave the post up but close the comments on this one.

Jack said...

Ben my friend,

Thanks for the personal information.

Now, a gentle lesson in gossip.

You don't launch an investigation into 'character' or 'integrity.'

You launch an investigation into conduct and performance --- to see if they are consistent with job description and company policy.

Yet, you say David Clippard is doing a fantastic job --- check!

If the 'questions' of character and integrity are those brought up by the specific allegations of conduct brought by Kaylor's mom against David Clippard, then I would expect, having served as President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma for two years, that those allegations were thoroughly investigated already, though today is the first day I personally have heard about them.

Since the convention officers and the Executive Committee of Missiouri would have been the ones to conduct a thorough and exhaustive investion at the time, then I am convinced they would have conducted a lengthy and exhaustive investigation with appropriate conclusions.

At least that is what we would have done in Oklahoma.

Missouri Baptists should know the outcome and conclusions of that investigation, if it occurred.

Do you know why?

If Dave were guilty of the charges, he should have been dismissed. He has not been dismissed, so either the investigation has not been done, or, more likely, any investigation of 'alleged' misconduct, as detailed by Kaylor, totally and completely cleared him.

Either way, secrecy about such matters, or an unwillingness to deal with them in open transparency allows for political enemies to use these 'questions' of integrity and character as political hay in order to remove Dr. Clippard from office.

To form an investigation into 'questionable character' and 'questionable integrity' is painting a man black in public with no possible defense.

This, my friend, is the heighth of gossip and slander.

And it is the tactics used by people who sense they may be losing power or control.

And it is what must stop. said...

I respect Jack's comment and believe him to be on target on this one.

I look forward to the outcome of this 'investigation,' and if it is determined that unfounded charges have been made against David Clippard in attempts to ruin his character and slander his good name, then you can rest assured that we will do all we can to disseminate that information, including seeking apologies.

And next time 'an investigation' is requested, leave questions of character and integrity out of the wording.

My post, as always, stands.

Comments on this post are now closed. said...

After a day of emails, phone calls and a flurry of discussions, all initiated by people who were contacting me, I have spoken with people who are directly involved with the Missouri Baptist Convention's Board of Directors.

I stand by my post.

In fact, I stand by it stronger than ever.

It seems that a small group of Fundamentalists who are in control of the appointment process in Missouri, who have desired to control David Clippard, and have been disappointed in their inability to do so, have sought to malign the character of David by taking a four year old allegation by a terminated employee and use it against David.

A full and thorough investigation occurred four years ago when the allegations were first made --- after the termination had occurred --- and the results of the investigation should be understood by simple logic --- David Clippard remains Executive Director of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

I have expressed my firm and deep belief that all relevant information regarding the matter be made available immediately, and publicly, particularly since Mr. Kaylor has chosen to make his allegations public in this comment section.

I have been assured that this will happen, but the timing of it will be determined by people other than me, possibly the committee that is being formed to 'investigate' allegations of questionable character and integrity in David.

Regarding Mr. Kaylor's comments in this comment section, I am allowing them to stand, only because it may be the very thing that allows those with the authority and ability to make all the relevant facts public to do so --- quickly.

When that time comes, I trust that those who have sought to impugn the character and integrity of David Clippard will be held accountable.

I cannot speak to Dave Clippard's job performance.

I can only speak to his character, and the ungodly, unjustified, and malicious attempts to attack a man's character WITHOUT evidentiary support should be an indication that more is taking place than meets the eye.

David has his supporters and advocates on the Board, but frankly, this is not about Dave, his friends, or those who are his enemies.

This is about a principle of right and wrong.

You don't unjustly and publicly attack the character and integrity of a man without being prepared to defend the accusations.

I am glad that there will be an attmept to correct the wrong that has been done.

Comments will remain closed in this section until the appropriate time when apologies from the appropriate individuals will be requested on this blog.

In His Grace,