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Thursday, December 15, 2005 

Taking Advantage of Death: Inappropriate Blogging

I have recently seen several websites that have articles or blogs up that, in essence, have taken advantage of someone's death in order to push their own religious/political/social agenda. I am sick of it. Didn't these guys' parents teach them anything about reverence and respect. Many will remember articles on the internet regarding Kyle Lake's and Adrian Rogers' deaths. Also we all heard Chuck Schumer's ridiculous rant on the Supreme Court using Rosa Parks' death to push his viewpoint. Now we can add Addie Davis to the mix. Bruce Prescott, a blogger that I have tangled with quite a few times in the past and who recently turned off his comments on his blog because he no longer wanted to defend his absolutely asinine positions and statements, has used this poor woman's death to once again try to kick not only Southern Baptists for their position on women in ministry, but Adrian Rogers (another person whose death he is exploiting), for his role in bringing the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 to fruition.

Read his words below. They really do reflect poor taste and inappropriate behavior in blogging.
Addie Davis, the first Southern Baptist woman to be ordained as a pastor, recently died. Associated Baptist Press and Ethics Daily have printed stories about her. Adrian Rogers, first president in the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC -- a movement that creedally [sic] prohibited Southern Baptists from ordaining women to serve as pastors, preceeded [sic] her in death by a short time. Now that the two of them have met their maker, I am confident that they both clearly see what their Lord meant when he said, "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first."
Since Bruce took down his comments, let me challenge you to email him, as well as Ethics Daily (which you can do by clicking on their "Byte Back" tab), who advertises his blog on their site, and let them know how exploitative and unChristlike this is. As bloggers we have a responsibility to hold one another accountable for such despicable behavior.

And for the future, if you are thinking of using someone's death to make a point, just don't. Realize that the families of their loved ones deserve more respect.

I really do think that people have crossed the line with the exploitation of the dead. You're right, this is ridiculous.

I am not sure how I got to his site yesterday but I was also somewhat disturbed by the use of this for personal gain. Thought about blogging it... glad you did!

Right before I read your post, I had just finished writing about the very same thing. I was horribly bothered by some of the things said about Kyle Lake. Prescott's comments were just as bad.

It seems to me that yesterday found Prescott in rare form. In addition to exploiting death, that same comment shows him presuming to know how Jesus Christ has greeted them both. The arrogance is galling.

(Though I suppose we should be grateful for the assumption that Rogers did indeed meet his Maker -- that Bruce doesn't go so far as to suggest that he's now burning in Hell.)

Mere moments before, he posted this:

"Ethics Daily has published a report that 'Baptist Leaders Call Walmart to Higher Standard.' Moderate Baptists, all of them.

"Southern Baptists, on the other hand, have a history of defending plantation economics."

The emphasis is mine. Read that last sentence and just try to fathom the unrelenting contempt the man clearly has for Southern Baptists. Directed toward atheists or Jews, Muslims or Hindus, blacks or Hispanics, this sort of hatred would rightly be called bigotry.

He completes the trifecta of obscenity with what is (I believe) a concerted effort to smear Christian conservatives as Jew-hating Nazis. He's not so dumb as to say that in so many words, but there's the title of that entry:

"Rhetoric of Religious Right Threatening to Jews"

This is of a piece with another blogger's entry that he praised, titled "Anti-Semitism and the Christmas warriors." And, he's apparently had "Church and State in Nazi Germany" on his mind, noting that the Nazis abandoned the Weimar Republic's policy of church-state separation, making a connection (I suspect) to the theocratic boogeymen he imagines to be lurking in every corner of the political right.

(Never mind the glaring illogic of the argument that stares us in the face in the form of the Church of England. Logic and Prescott are hardly close companions, and the man admits that he is "not impressed with propositional truth, syllogistic logic and rigid applications of the law of non-contradiction.")

Am I guilty of overreach in suggesting that Prescott wants to compare Christian conservatives to Nazis? Consider this entry from about this time last year:

"The truth is, one of the biggest reasons why Europe is so much more secular than America today is because the church failed so dismally in facing the Nazi menace. It's not hard to project the same result for this nation once people perceive the tragic effects of the unholy alliance between the evangelical theocrats and the neo-conservative empire builders who are forming our current foreign policy."

And there is this:

"I'm sure that the Christians whose silence is deafening on torture will be quick to label McGovern's analogy to Nazi Germany extreme.

"So would the German church leaders in the 1930s and early 1940s."

Ignore the incoherence of the comment -- the anachronistic and nonsensical suggestion that German church leaders in the 30's and 40's would label comparisons to Nazi Germany extreme. Prescott uses a truly dispicable rhetorical device, suggesting that outrage at comparisons to Naziism is prima facie proof that the comparison is true.

(And it wouldn't be the only time he's used the device. Apparently any attempt to correct the record is proof that he's right.)

Bruce Prescott is so extreme in his political fanaticism that he is literally beyond parody. It never occurred to me that he would see a conspiracy even behind the support some Christian conservatives have for phonics, but he's written, "I think fundamentalists promote extensive phonics because it is the most likely method to produce minds that will automatically accept a literal interpretation of scripture. They fear that a mind that actively searches for meaning, as whole language encourages, might see beyond the letter of the law to its spirit."

This is, in a word, lunacy.

I sincerely believe Bruce Prescott cares about very little other than his cause. He will abandon principles for his cause, taking whatever position is politically convenient regardless of the hypocrisy that position demonstrates. He will shade and twist logic and the truth to further his cause, linking only to those op-ed's that portray the United States under a Republican president to be in the midst of a virtual depression at home and to be spreading terror and torture abroad. He will abandon the Christian command of charity to further his cause, showing a willingness to call his enemies the most vile things he thinks he can get away with.

If he were forced to choose between his politics and God Almighty, I doubt he would choose wisely. Given that his apparent conception of God bears so little resemblance to Scripture (and, shockingly, fits perfectly with and reinforces his radical political views), I would not be surprised if he has already made his choice.


He's not going to listen to anyone's emails. Those who disagreed with him on his blog, however politely, were labelled insolent graffiti artists; he probably also believes that we are sexist, racist, homophobic sadists who rejoice in the suffering of the downtrodden and who want to make blasphemy a capital offense.

Do you think he's going to take others' criticism seriously?

And does anyone think that "EthicsDaily" does not know the sort of person they promote?

I've become convinced that, while some of their filth may need to be rebutted (which is generally easy to do but has the undesirable side-effect of giving them both publicity and legitimacy), their minds cannot be changed.

In closing his own comments and posting in a group blog that very actively suppresses any view from the opposition (as I can personally attest), Bruce Prescott has chosen to isolate himself in an echo chamber of extreme ideaology and utter contempt for those on the outside. In so far as his ideas about the opposition do not match reality, he is practically in another universe.

He has chosen to take a running leap off the cliff, and I've concluded that only God alone can save him from himself.

Even so, the same sun that melts ice hardens clay. No one is more blind than he who refuses to see. If God -- the true living God who I believe does not long suffer being used as a political billy club --- knocks at the door of his heart and he refuses to put down his causes long enough to answer, what hope is there for him?

man, we need to get bubba a blog...

Sorry, I ramble. :)

I actually have a blog -- a genuinely semi-private blog, devoted so much so to my personal life that only my closest friends know where to find it.

I don't think the issue of Prescott's, um, extremism is worth creating another blog or making my extant blog truly public. I (apparently) just needed to vent.

well, you know, some things just make ya mad... been there plenty

I've often considered dedicating a blog to the logical fallacies, incoherencies, and just general bad taste that Prescott routinely dishes up as insightful social commentary. In the end, it just doesn't seem worth it.

Now I have another reason. Bubba could do a much better job of it. I find myself in complete agreement with what you've written here. Especially the part about the impossibility of genuinely interacting with Prescott as a rational being. Not gonna happen. I've even stopped visiting his site. What's the point? He's like a really, really PO'ed horse with blinders on, on a deadend, one-way street, at night. During a lunar eclipse. And a storm.

I surely don't wanna go in there.

But I'm glad Bubba has braved the terror that is Bruce's World to bring back to the light this insightful post. As Bruce is fond of writing, "Kudos."

CKS, I was actually considering the same thing -- a blog serving as a rebuttal.

It wouldn't be my first choice for how to address the deep political and theological divide between Prescott and me, to say nothing of what I believe to be a zealotry that has corrupted his sight and perhaps even his soul. It would be nice if he allowed comments without deleting those he found inconvenient. And it would be really nice to debate him on truly neutral ground, as I think it would not be much of a contest.

But a rebuttal blog has a couple things going against it. It would give the man more legitimacy and publicity than I believe he is due, but it would also raise the question, to whom is the blog addressed? The people who are in the abyss of fanaticism with him would reject it out of hand, and everyone else would probably see many of the complaints as obvious.

(For a while I was thinking about a satire blog, but entries like yesterday's show how hard a task that would be. How could one satirize someone who sees phonics as a conspiracy to brainwash kids into accepting Scripture as literal truth? He is his own best parody.)

I think a better idea might be a wiki-style primer of the most egregious of Bruce Prescott's public statements, organized by topic rather than addressed chronologically. It could document his words so that they do not conveniently disappear, and it could let people trace the thread of his conspiracy theories.

We should let his own words condemn him and his ridiculous claim to be mainstream.


This particular idea would also allow a person to avoid the difficult question: in addressing a post like this one, where in the world would you begin?

- The fact that torture is already banned?

- The fact that Prescott has been a sensationalist hack this entire time, referring to Cheney (for instance) as "the vice president of torture"?

- The fact that Prescott has not done an ounce of the intellectual heavy lifting required to explain what treatment should and should not be allowed and why?

- The fact that Prescott clearly wants to believe that the U.S. military tortures people, accepting damning allegations at face value, regardless of the soruce, and not even acknowledging when the administration denies the allegations?

- The fact that we do not extend Geneva Convention protections to those who break that convention for a very good reason -- namely to discourage things like hiding among civilians?

- Or the fact that, particular in a war such as this, there are likely consequences for essentially extending the Bill of Rights to terrorists who want to slaughter us by the million? The fact that the position Prescott takes may come at the price of American lives, either abroad or (God forbid) at home?

Or maybe we should start with the fact that Prescott is on record for saying that faith-based initiatives are a bigger threat to this country than terrorism, a statement which completely undermines his credibility as a thoughtful observer on issues of war and foreign policy.

There's an embarassment of riches, so many ways in which Bruce Prescott invites the strongest criticism that a reasonable man could level, that no one criticism seems like a proper starting point.


In all seriousness, I would love to help construct a primer documenting Prescott's extremism. If you're interested, CKS (or anyone else), let me know here.

Bubba--

Sounds interesting. And, sadly, necessary. Feel free to contact me at ksalmon@umi.org.

Like you, I'm sure, I harbor no ill will toward Prescott personally. But a concerted response, I think, is warranted in this case.

I am amazed when I read what he (Bruce) comes up with next. Just when I think he has hit bottom, he sinks even lower.
For so much bitterness to come from a man calling himself a minister, I keep wondering what may happen next. I do not believe that as Christians we can hold onto bitterness and unforgiveness for over 20 years without some sad consequences.
I pray for him, but leave him in God's hands. As someone just said, no one can change him or even have a dialog with him.

cks, I have limited internet access on the weekends, so I'll email you early next week.

Infuriating as his words can (very) often be, I too don't personally hate the guy. I'm deeply concerned about the effect his fanaticism has on his psyche and his soul, but I'm not sure there's anything any of us Christians to his theological and political right can do about that.

The most we can do is mitigate the impact he can have on those who do not have a comprehensive view of his radical, often unfathomable, often hypocritical statements.

Let us catalog and preserve for the record his most egregious statements, and let everyone else judge for themselves.

I write this as one who doesn't read Bruce Prescott so as to avoid severe stomach cramps and a bad case of vertigo. But I also have to say that it seems rather odd for one of Bubba's comments to express thankfulness that at least Bruce acknowledges Adrian Rogers went to heaven and in another post question Bruce's own ability to hear from God and imply that it may be to the peril of his soul.

Paul, I think I feel like Bubba, in that I am thankful Bruce did not imply that he thinks Adrain might have gone to hell. After reading as many of Bruce's comments as I have, it was at least surprising that he offered that much grace toward Adrain. As for Bruce hearing from God, it seems he is ignoring what he hears.
I don't hate Bruce, but I worry that his statements might influence someone that does not know all facts or sides to issues.
The fact that he has shut off comments on his site indicates to me that he is unwilling to allow another side to be heard. It would appear that his mind is set and how dare anyone to disagree.

i agree with Mom2 and Bubba on this one, Paul. I think Bubba's point was that it was unlike Prescott's extremist self to admit Rogers into heaven. I think his point was more rhetorical than theological. I, too, question Prescott's devotion to Christ, not because I wish him to be a reprobate, but because his fruit is so bitter, vindictive, and false. I think Bubba's point was that it was strange that Bruce even identified the deceased as deserving of the name Christian. Is Bruce's circle larger than Bubba's? Undoubtedly. That doesn't argue, to my mind, for the legitimacy of Bruce's stance anent any number of issues. Including the salvation of dedicated evangelicals.

Paul,

But I also have to say that it seems rather odd for one of Bubba's comments to express thankfulness that at least Bruce acknowledges Adrian Rogers went to heaven and in another post question Bruce's own ability to hear from God and imply that it may be to the peril of his soul.

I don't understand your complaint, unless you're suggesting that if someone believes/assumes/asserts someone else is in heaven, that's prima facie proof that he's hearing God's will loud and clear.

Among other things, Bruce Prescott has shown himself capable of taking very cheap shots at political adversaries. He has quite clearly implied that Christian conservatives are comparable to Nazis and/or their apologists. He sees a theocratic conspiracy behind the support for phonics, of all things. And I could go on and on.

Should I ignore all that because he assumes that Adrian Rogers went to heaven -- even if that assumption was simply a set-up to impugn him? C'mon.

CKS, check your email. :)

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Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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