Thursday, August 17, 2006

Baptist Joint Committee II

Continuing the discussion of the vote at the next General Conference on disaffiliation from the Baptist Joint Committee [see "Baptist Joint Committee I" below]:

A group with which the BJC has had a long and close association is Americans United for Separation of Church and State. When founded, in 1947, its offices were in the BJC's garage.* The BJC's current General Council, K. Hollyn Hollman, is a member of Americans United's Board of Trustees. James Dunn, Brent Walker, Stan Hastey and others associated with the BJC have either served as trustees or been on the AU staff. American's United is an extreme proponent of the "wall of separation" doctrine and has challenged [unlike the BJC, which took no stand] the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in the public schools as a violation of the religious freedom of schoolchildren. In other words, although more extreme than the BJC, and inclined to take on more issues, it inhabits a similar place in the ideological spectrum. Needless to say, a member of the Board of Trustees of an organization will not necessarily agree with everything that organization does, but continued presence probably indicates general agreement. Moreover, Hollman is lead lawyer for the BJC, with important responsibility for its legal direction.

The Baptist Joint Committee's former Executive Director, and primary spokesman for decades, was James M. Dunn. His political inclinations are easily discovered:
"I’m convinced that good people of every spiritual hue, precisely for their decency, cannot comprehend how profoundly outrageous the goals, evil the methods and pervasive the influence of religio-political extremists. Many see those so labeled as merely religious and political conservatives. How dangerous our naivete! How frightening our ignorance! Thank God for the Anti-Defamation League’s publication of The Religious Right: The assault on Tolerance and Pluralism in America." [Report from the Capital, Sept. 20, 1994]
A Missouri Baptist Layman's Association website identifies the groups Dunn describes as "religio-political extremists":
"The groups...the ADL book deals separate chapters are: Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition; David Barton’s Wallbuilders; James Dobson’s Focus on the Family; Don Wildmon’s American Family Association; Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation; Robert Simonds’ Citizens for Excellence in Education; Beverly LaHaye’s Concerned Women for America; Lou Sheldon’s Traditional Values Coalition; Randall Terry’s Operation Rescue; Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schlafly."
Although I would choose not to identify with some of these organizations, others are well within my boundaries of political acceptability.

According to an article in Focus on the Family's Citizen magazine, Dunn's distaste for his political opponents was frequently extreme:
Dunn railed frequently against the "radical religious right," which he described as "a bunch of crazies-people like Gary Bauer, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority types." In one of his more memorable rhetorical flourishes, he compared Christian conservatives to the Crusaders (circa 1000 A.D.): "Full of hate, killing people in order to save them, dehumanizing and bloody."
One of my own encounters with James Dunn occurred at a General Conference he attended at which an anti-abortion resolution was being considered. In our conversation he was strongly [vehemently] pro-choice and very critical of those who would outlaw abortion.

James Dunn is personally charming and his down-home folksy manner and mastery of the evangelical idiom disarmed many potential critics of BJC among Seventh Day Baptists. But it is clear that if there is a "religious right" [and there is], he is on the "religious left," and further, that an organization which employed him for two decades as its executive, and which he still serves as President of the BJC Endowment, must be quite comfortable with that fact.

* 1/17/2007 - Revised to remove "...and until the last few years, I'm told, the BJC provided them (AU) with offices." These words do not appear to have been accurate.

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