Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Shock Doctrine and the SBC


Joe Alain, pastor of Hebron Baptist Church in Denham Springs, Louisiana sent me a noteworthy comment regarding the use of "shock and awe" doctrines within the Southern Baptist Convention. Here's Alain's analysis:

I am about half through a book that I think you would find insightful and interesting. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) by Naomi Klein is a fascinating work. The basic premise of the book is that many economists in the Chicago School tradition of Milton Friedman have employed shock doctrine tactics around the world by bringing their particular brand of capitalism to countries in the midst of crisis. As countries and economies are reeling, policies are able to be enacted that under ordinary circumstances (i.e., by being honest with the people) would have never been tolerated. Stated another way, people in countries that are undergoing crises (real or imagined) are willing to give up their voice and personal rights to the so-called experts (enter Friedmanian economists) no matter what the costs.

"From Chile in 1973 to Iraq today, Klein shows how Friedman and his followers have repeatedly harnessed terrible shocks and violence to implement their radical policies" (book jacket). Joseph Stiglitz of the New York Times Book Review states, "Klein provides a rich description of the political machinations required to force unsavory economic policies on resisting countries and of the human toll. She paints a disturbing portrait of hubris, not only on the part of Friedman but also of those who adopted his doctrines, sometimes to pursue more corporatist objectives."

Come to think about it, many leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention have been using shock doctrine tactics for some time, creating imagined crises and enemies, then supposedly supplying the authoritative (doctrinally correct) magic fix. Usually the solution that is authoritatively mandated down from the top involves the rank and file church members ceding more cherished Baptist doctrines, such as the freedom to interpret Scripture, have a differing view on a non-essential doctrine, or vote on a matter of church polity. Unfortunately, most Southern Baptists are not aware just how much they have lost because they either never appreciated what they had or they themselves are still reeling from the "awe." Sadly, the average Southern Baptist member today has little knowledge of the fundamental and philosophical shifts that have been made in the SBC. Even as a pastor, busy working my parish, I did not realize until recently just how far things had gone. Something akin to Rip Van Winkle waking up after a twenty-year nap, I too have been awakened and dismayed.
I heartily agree with Alain. Fundamentalism has been as disastrous to Baptist life as Friedman's economics has been to capitalism.

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