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Baptist Newspaper Takes BCE to Task

A Baptist state newspaper has attacked the Baptist Center for Ethics over a story on EthicsDaily.com related to coverage of the recent Southern Baptist Convention.

A June 26 editorial in the Florida Baptist Witness accused BCEof “trumping up” charges of anti-Semitism by reporting that an SBC leader compared the Jewish religion to a “deadly tumor” in an analogy illustrating a point in a speech calling for Jewish evangelism.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Reporting on a June 16 speech by Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, to the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship, EthicsDaily.com on June 18 said: “While Jewish evangelism is controversial today, Mohler said Christians do Jewish people a disservice by failing to confront them with the gospel. He compared it to a person with a potentially deadly tumor, who would rather have a doctor give a truthful diagnosis than say all is well to avoid offending him.
 
“In the same way, telling a Jewish person she is in danger of hell ‘is the ultimate act of Christian love,’ Mohler said.”
 
In a signed editorial, which also appeared July 1 as a “first-person” article in Baptist Press, Florida Editor James Smith charged BCE with a “smear” and “slamming” of Mohler’s speech, and of “lifting and distorting” material from near the end of a Baptist Press article into the headline and lead of the EthicsDaily story.
 
(EthicsDaily.com did base the story on on-site coverage of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Phoenix meeting by Baptist Press, and properly credited BP as a source when the story appeared.)
 
Specifically, Smith pointed to a reference in the BP report to Mohler saying “Christians must tell unsaved Jews and all non-Christians the truth of the eternal danger they face and steer them to salvation in Christ.”
 
By omitting the reference to other non-Christians, Smith said BCE made it appear “Mohler was guilty of some kind of anti-Semitic slur.”
 
Smith said other media did not pick up on negative connotations of Mohler’s comment and called BCE’s coverage a “bald attempt for attention.”
 
Smith described the BCE as “an obscure ministry funded by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, two state Baptist conventions and churches” and chided a pledge in BCE’s mission statement to promote ethics in “positive” and “constructive” ways.
 
“Got it? BCE is ‘positive’ and ‘constructive,'” the editorial mused. “Perhaps ‘unethical’ and ‘pro-anti-SBC’ should be added.”
 
“Its innovation in reporting this story earns BCE the distinction of being the first recipient of The Jayson Blair/New York Times Award for Creative Journalism, an honor I’ve decided to bestow, now and then, for particularly horrendous examples of biased and harmful reporting,” Smith wrote. “No cash prize or plaque comes with the award; just the recognition BCE so desperately seeks.”
 
The lead editor responsible for BCE’s Web site defended coverage of Mohler’s remarks.
 
“I am surprised anyone would defend the use of such a reckless and offensive analogy,” said Bob Allen, managing editor of EthicsDaily.com and writer of the story.
 
“I didn’t twist Al Mohler’s words; I took them literally. In his analogy, the surgeon is the witnessing Christian; the patient is the Jewish person; and the deadly tumor is his religion that by implication must be removed.”
 
“I’m sure he would say the same about any other non-Christian religion, but to use this type of comparison when speaking specifically about a religious group that has been through the Holocaust and today is a target of terrorism is particularly insensitive.”
 
Smith said the Jewish Anti-Defamation League “predictably” picked up on the BCE report to condemn Mohler’s remarks as anti-Semitic.
 
“We continue to say that his analogy is indefensible,” Eugene Korn, director of interfaith affairs for the Anti-Defamation League said after reading the editorial defending Mohler. “No amount of parsing of words is going to overshadow the fact that the analogy is patronizing and offensive to Jews. Jews are obviously the ones depicted as having a deadly tumor.”
 
A Baptist Press story posted June 16 in a “newsroom” section on a Web site devoted to coverage of this year’s SBC annual meeting described a portion of Mohler’s speech to the messianic group this way: “He illustrated Jewish evangelism by comparing it to a medical doctor. A person with a potentially deadly tumor would want a doctor who would give them a truthful diagnosis, not one who would, in an effort to avoid offending them, tell them that all is well.”
 
A Mohler spokesman declined in an e-mail to say the BP story, written by a seminary news writer, was inaccurate, but an edited version of the same article dated June 30 in an online version of the Southern Seminary campus newspaper didn’t include the section containing the doctor analogy.
 
Mohler’s view that Jews must accept Christ to be saved isn’t news. He said last August on “Donahue” on MSNBC that Jews, like all persons, “are sinners in need of a savior.”
 
In a chapel address in 2001, not long after that year’s Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Mohler said not only is it a mistake to say Muslims worship the same God as Jews and Christians, but that Christians and Jews don’t worship the same deity, either.
 
In addition to his comments about the Jewish religion, Mohler has also described Catholicism as “a false church” teaching “a false gospel.” He says liberal Protestants have abandoned the Christian faith.
 
He implied that moderate Baptists, like those in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, believe the Bible “is just a book,” and termed President Clinton’s moral failure “a direct result” of moderate leadership of the SBC during his formative years.
 
Mohler isn’t the only Southern Baptist leader holding such views. Strained relationships between Southern Baptist and Jewish leaders date back decades to SBC president Bailey Smith’s infamous 1980 quote, “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.”
 
Former SBC president Jerry Vines provoked outrage from Muslims last summer when he called Islam’s founding Prophet Muhammad a “demon-possessed pedophile” and a terrorist. “NBC Nightly News” reported on the controversy in February with a reference by anchor Tom Brokaw to “preaching hate.”
 
See also “SBC Leader Compares Judaism to ‘Deadly Tumor’” and “Jewish Group Condemns Mohler’s Comments