Public Relations or History?

Steve Whigham has written a piece entitled “Could this Be the Beginning of the End of Christian Fundamentalism?” which got posted at SharperIron. Is this PR or a serious piece? The author acknowledges in his bio that he served in the admin of NIU, but he fails to inform his readers that he was a central player in the market re-positioning of NIU, something that really is pertinent given the point of view he expresses in the article.

My inclination is to think it is a PR piece because:
(1) It makes the incredible argument that the conflict at NIU possibly portends the end of Christian fundamentalism–this could only be the viewpoint of someone buried deeply within a very narrow segment of Christian fundamentalism with an agenda. I’ve argued this point before, so I’ll not do it here, but (a) there is no single fundamentalism at this point in the game and (b) the amount of people who fit Steve’s description is a very small portion of the pie. The fact is that Steve seems not to know much about fundamentalism apart from his experiences at BJU and NIU, and since this is huge thing in that orbit, it must be the end of the the whole solar system. It does not make me happy to say it, but the tempest over NIU has been inside a teapot.

(2) The history of fundamentalism is very carelessly laid out and clearly done so in order to substantiate the author’s point. Let me be less careful in saying that–he retells history conveniently in support of his point. The story of fundamentalism and evangelicalism has been very well-covered, so those who have read the history should be able to spot this quite easily. If you haven’t read any real histories of the movements, please don’t take this as one. This was advocate history.

(3) To paint the conflict over NIU as being about music is a tactical move which stigmatizes the critics while attempting to make this seem like only one issue is at play. But it distorts the truth to say that the whole debate hinges on music. Is it a part? Yes. Major part? Possibly. But even that answer is too simplistic. Is it the music itself or the alleged misrepresentations about what was happening musically? Is it the Big Daddy Weave concert or the alleged misrepresentations about the concert? (I’m using the word alleged here because I don’t care to litigate the point as much as acknowledge it.)

I’ll quickly concede that for some people music seems to be the only issue that matters, but that is only one segment of those who are not happy about the changes at NIU. I’ll also concede that there is a real tactical advantage gained by NIU’s defenders if they can make it seem like the sole reason people are unhappy with NIU is music. That’s what Steve is doing here. It works great for PR to use this tactic, but it is not accurate and it is very unproductive over the long-term.

I’ve tried hard to stay out of the fights about NIU because I’ve found them very unhelpful and quite frustrating. I have very strong views on it all, but, in large part, I think the ground has been polluted by attitudes and arguments which often seem like the opposing parties aren’t after truth, they are after defending their own point of view. Most of it has ranged from worthless to ugly. I guess the part I agree with Whigham on is that the future doesn’t look bright if we practice discernment, engage in debate, and make leadership decisions the way this whole NIU debacle has been handled.

And I mean that regarding both sides of it. Let’s not be blind to our own problems simply because we think we are on the right side of the debate.

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