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FIRST-PERSON SBC family statement is case study of secular media getting it wrong

SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–When messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in Salt Lake City voted in favor of amending the Baptist Faith and Message for the first time in 35 years to include a section on family, some folks liked it and some folks were dead set against it. That’s acceptable, since everyone has a right to be for or against anything they please. When the voting was over, however, the amendment passed and is now an official part of the unofficial document that defines the essence of what it means to be Southern Baptist.
Taken as a whole, the document is at the least an attempt to document how Southern Baptists feel about the issue of family in a culture that is “dumbing down” the definition as rapidly as possible.
However, the most incredible — and instructive — part of the amendment story is how the secular media reported it. Incredible, because they got it so wrong. Instructive, because the single-issue reporting betrayed the biased and politically correct atmosphere in which the secular media function.
Despite language that included such phrases as, “The husband and wife are of equal worth before God,” and “A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church,” news media focused on one tiny portion of the amendment and did their best to interpret it out of context with a secular spin.
The lone portion that received the overwhelming majority of media attention was, “A wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband.”
Even allowing for the argument that usage of the word “graciously” was unfortunate and possibly extra-biblical, most Christians understand the role of the wife in concert with the role of the husband (Ephesians 5).
As a Mississippi woman observed in a telephone call to the offices of The Baptist Record after the amendment passed, “I don’t know a Christian wife who would not ‘submit’ to the godly leadership of a Christian husband who really walked the walk and not just talked the talk.”
That’s an excellent point and an object lesson for us Christian husbands, but for the news media the whole point of the amendment seemed to be centered around the wild assertion that the amendment would lead to the subjugation and abuse of women.
That was all the pack journalists needed. Media outlets from The New York Times to “Larry King Live” picked up the story, as faulty as was the premise. With little research and virtually no attempt at understanding, the media informed the country that Southern Baptists were in favor of domineering, violently patriarchal relationships.
To be sure, there are violent and abusive relationships which no person should be required to endure, and some spouses have likely received poor advice from their pastors regarding such relationships, but nothing could be farther from the truth in terms of the intent of the amendment.
Whether one was for or against the amendment, it is obvious that Southern Baptists were mischaracterized and cast in a pejorative light. That should upset all of us.
Southern Baptists now have their own parochial example of why news media are consistently ranked at the bottom of surveys listing the most trustworthy professions in America.
The next time you see or read a negative news media portrayal of a group — any group, in any media — you might want to remember your recent experience as a Southern Baptist.
Then go out and get the real story.

    About the Author

  • William H. Perkins Jr.