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Worldviews clash on ABC segment on Southern Baptists & evangelism

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–A segment of ABC television’s news program “20/20” demonstrates the continuing clash between worldviews in American culture, noted a Southern Baptist missionary interviewed for the program which aired across the country Friday evening, May 12.

“It’s evident our society does not want to hear that the Bible says there is only one way to God,” said Jim Sibley, an interfaith evangelism missionary for the North American Mission Board. “The Jewish rabbi on the program said, ‘It is our view that there are many paths to God.’ And another person said, referring to our evangelical beliefs, ‘That kind of religious exclusivity just doesn’t belong in today’s society anymore.'”

The segment, by ABC News religion correspondent Peggy Wehmeyer, centered on a 12-year-old Jewish boy in the Dallas area who made a profession of faith in Christ last year at a Southern Baptist church youth rally and subsequently declined to proceed with his planned bar mitzvah. After his parents and Hebrew school principal counseled with him, the youth recanted the conversion and, according to the program, plans to proceed with the ceremony later this year.

NAMB President Robert E. Reccord, who was interviewed with Sibley, said May 15, “The [ABC] story, I believe, demonstrates the noose that is tightening around the neck of religious freedom in America. In a country founded on religious freedom principles, in which Jewish people have had the greatest freedom of anywhere in the world, it’s ironic the response would be so negative.”

Reccord and Sibley were interviewed for three hours in March for the program which included less than 90 seconds of their interview.

“Some people who saw the broadcast thought that although we were given an opportunity to present out beliefs about evangelism, the program seemed heavily weighted to those critical of those beliefs,” Sibley said. “Some have also questioned ABC’s motivation for doing this type of story when their parent company, Disney, has been a target of a Southern Baptist boycott for two years.”

ABC News posted a brief synopsis of the program on its Internet website following the program’s airing and included a reader poll asking if it is “acceptable for evangelicals to try to convert children under the age of 13?”. By mid-day Monday, May 15, 60 percent of more than 5,300 respondents said yes, and 40 percent answered no.

While a number of messages posted on the ABC website’s message boards were critical of the program, Sibley encouraged Christians to not shy away from opportunities to share their faith, even with news reporters.

“The Scripture tells us we must always be ready to share the hope that is within us,” Sibley said. “We must be sure we do it in a loving way, but we must always be ready to share without regard to the reaction or consequences.”

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