In a ludicrous and highly offensive article recently published by Associated Baptist Press, Mike Greer likens Southern Baptists to one of the most brutal, murdersome terror cells in the world. Greer writes:
“Boko Haram and Southern Baptists have some things in common. Both are seeking to counteract or derail what is perceived by them to be a demonic movement of Western liberalism that is relentlessly egalitarian in its agenda. Both are on a mission designed to rescue their respective societies from a perceived depravity and warn of the consequential destruction by a wrathful God. Both male-dominated groups have made the status and role of women the vanguard issue in their wars with the cultures they deem to be depraved and corrupt. Both believe their cause is a righteous one.”
Growing up Southern Baptist in the 1970s and 1980s, and sitting in classrooms at Southern Seminary in the early 1990s, I thought I had been desensitized to the emotional and often outlandish rhetoric of those who rejected the return to our Bible-believing roots. But Mike Greer has taken bitterness and vitriol to a new, insulting low.
To fully appreciate the wicked intent of Greer’s comparison requires an understanding of Boko Haram. As a jihadist Islamic sect, Boko Haram’s ultimate agenda far surpasses their concern over the roles of women in society. They espouse a doctrine of extreme totalitarian Islamic rule that leaves no room for resistance let alone disagreement. Infidels have no right to survival and must be wiped from the face of the earth. Their brutal and ongoing slaughter of Christians in Nigeria is well documented. Their attacks on local villagers leave behind piles of decapitated bodies and dismembered limbs including children and the elderly who are unable to flee or defend themselves. The recent mass kidnapping of schoolgirls leaves those children vulnerable to a brutality we do not want to imagine.
Contrast that wickedness to the lifestyles of conservative evangelical believers in Nigeria, the victims, many of whom came to faith through the witness of Southern Baptist missionaries who have poured their lives out in West Africa loving the Nigerian people. Most of those missionaries and the Nigerian believers embrace biblical complementarianism.
For those unfamiliar with the term, biblical complementarianism teaches that God’s order for the family includes male headship. Ephesians 5 is instructive: “…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (vv21-25).
After calling all members of the church to relate to one another by “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (v19), Paul emphasizes mutual submission. He then specifies the submission of a wife to her husband and the need of the husband to sacrificially love his wife even to the point of death. When lived out in a marriage, this ethic proves to be a beautiful expression of an intimate relationship in which two people are constantly outdoing one another in acts of love and respect. When carried over into the church, God’s order for the body of Christ as described in passages like 1Corinthians 11 and 1Timothy 2 becomes a beautiful expression of relationship that includes Christ’s undershepherd, the pastor, sacrificially loving, teaching, and serving the members of Christ’s body even to the point of death.
A complementarian interpretation of Scripture requires that the role of the undershepherd be reserved for males. God’s design for the family nor the church is intended to devalue any female. To the contrary, Ephesians 5 clearly places a greater burden of sacrifice upon the husband than the wife. She is called to willingly set herself under her husband’s leadership in exchange for a love that balks at no sacrifice, including that of life itself.
Those of us who embrace a high view of Scripture find ourselves unable to escape the directives of any passage if, when viewed through the lens of the Gospel, those directives are clearly intended for God’s people. That would include the directives establishing God’s order for the family and the church. Does that make the status and role of women our “vanguard” issue? Absolutely not. Is it the agenda of Southern Baptists to convert the world to this line of reasoning? Our agenda is the Gospel. Shall Bible-believing Christians kill in defense of complementarianism? No, but we have been called upon to love even to the point of sacrificing our own lives. A jihad of love is a far cry from the horrific malice that terrorizes African children.
As preposterous as Greer’s accusations seem to me, I cannot even imagine how they would fall upon the ears of Nigerian believers who are complementarians and are spending their days and nights weeping and praying for their captive daughters.
Greer suggests they have only themselves to blame for they, as I, are Boko Haram. And ABP joyfully becomes the megaphone from which he spews his nonsense, albeit with the qualifier, “Views expressed in ABPnews/Herald columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.” As are mine.