Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Disappointing Lack of Accountability in Christian Apologetics

I’m amazed at the technology that we now have available and how difficult it is to erase history from the internet.

A Google web alert notified me of a comment by John Morehead, an apologist with a special interest in new religious movements. In a past blog post, he alludes to the writings of Douglas Cowan and his criticisms of what Morehead describes as “form of reality maintenance” in counter-cult apologetics movements.

It seems that certain members of the counter-cult apologetics efforts within Evangelical Christianity continue to prove the thesis of Cowan, author of “Bearing False Witness” and Religious Studies Professor at Renison College through their ongoing efforts to “expunge troubling ideas from the past.” At my prima facie glance, it seems that both Cowan and Morehead agree with my husband who observed “an unprofessional and unbecoming manner with an underlying tone of deception and manipulation” in his open letter to the same organization about which Morehead also voices concerns.

So it seems that my recent experience with the [unnamed apologetics organization] that invited me to speak on the patriarchy movement proves not so unique. I had no idea that I was in such excellent company that includes Mr. Morehead, one of their organization’s own former president and vice president. He might be out there “on the theological edge” (like I supposedly am?) as I have not reviewed all of his writings and am not intimately familiar with his beliefs aside from his writings on special purpose religions and neo-tribal trends, but I find his comments curious.

From Morehead’s Musings:
(Note: Post altered to remove the name of the apologetics organization that requested that I remove all traces of their name from my website)
To my surprise my papers have been removed from the Research Papers section of [the unnamed apologetics organization's] website. In addition, the papers from my colleagues that used to be available in the past, such as those by Jon Trott and Philip Johnson, have been removed as well. (Note the hole now present elsewhere on their website in a 2001 e-mail newsletter to members which mentions my presentation but the link to the paper is now dead.)
I find the removal of these documents troubling. On the one hand, [the unnamed apologetics organization] can choose to include or not include any papers it wishes. Since I am no longer a member of [the unnamed apologetics organization] I can understand how the decision might have been made to only include papers by current members. On the other hand, when I wrote the papers I was a member in good standing in [the unnamed apologetics organization], and served on the board, including holding the positions of vice president and president in various years.
So why the removal? It seems on the surface that unfortunately two things have happened. First, [the unnamed apologetics organization] appears to have sanitized its history by removing traces of a previous member and board member who's present views they find distasteful. This is curious since counter-cult methodology critiques some of the new religions for cleaning up their history and revising their sacred writings…

I hate to see these well-meaning folks continue to marginalize themselves within evangelicalism and beyond.

John Morehead is a researcher, writer, and speaker in intercultural studies, new religious movements, theology and popular culture. He holds an M.A. degree in intercultural studies from Salt Lake Theological Seminary which included a thesis on Burning Man Festival. He is also, apparently, both a former president and vice president of an unnamed apologetics organization.