Monday, March 17, 2014

Lenten Project: Day Eleven

In the late 1990s, the Independent Baptist community in Grenada, West Indies, suffered a terrible split over the KJV Only issue.  And it was partially my fault.

In the States, Pensacola Christian College, my parents' alma mater, and Bob Jones University, where Dad went to seminary, were bitterly butting heads over the KJV issue.  In the islands, we IFB missionaries pretty much all used and loved the KJV, but didn't waste much time calling down hellfire on other versions (that is to say, we didn't have any Bible burning services for NIVs).

Dad, in his role as teacher at the Bible school we had connected to our church, wrote a paper on the issue for a student who started asking difficult questions about translations and inerrancy.  That student copied the paper and passed it around to his friends, who passed it around to their pastors, and all of a sudden, the country was embroiled in a fight.

Only, I didn't know about that student's stupid move at the time.  I only knew that Dad had written a paper, and, when overhearing my parents talking about it, asked for a copy and read it myself.  A lot of it went over my head, but the main points I gleaned were that the KJV had mistakes in translation, and that anyone who claimed that the English translation was re-inspired was an idiot.

I was pretty shocked that the Bible translation I used and memorised had errors in it.  I looked up the verses that appeared contradictory and problematic, and got more and more concerned.  If the KJV had mistakes in it, why were we using it?!

I tried talking to an MK best friend about it, but she didn't seem interested.  So I called my other MK best friend and spilled my guts and read verses and generally freaked out to her.  I made her promise not to tell her dad, because I was worried everybody's ministry would collapse if we didn't have an error-free KJV as our foundation.

As a side note, it's really interesting that Fundamentalist elevate Scripture to almost an idolatry.  It's always placed first in their lists of beliefs, before anything about God or Christ or the Gospel.  So it isn't that far out of the realm of possibility that Fundamentalism would collapse without the Bible, as though God's very existence is tied to a book.  That's the way we viewed the Bible, anyhow.

Well, my friend couldn't give me the reassurance I needed to shore up my shaken faith in the KJV, and instead got scared by my being scared. She went to her dad and asked him the same questions I'd asked her.  He figured out the source and called MY dad to berate him for letting me corrupt his daughter with anti-KJV propaganda.

I was even more scared after that, because I thought I was the cause and reason for the "discord between brethren."  Amazingly, I wasn't punished, but Dad admonished me to not say anything else about the issue.  He didn't bother to reassure me.  Maybe there was no reassurance to be had.

After a special evening meeting at a fellow pastor's church, people were gathered and chatting in the church courtyard when another national pastor came up and started yelling at my dad.  I was standing right beside him as this man ranted and raved and shook his finger under my dad's nose, accusing him of crazy things like dad's supposedly encouraging his students to quit using the KJV, and not preaching from the KJV anymore, etc.  Dad just stood there with a fixed smile on his face and didn't say much.  Meanwhile, my breathing was accelerating and a panic attack was imminent.  I couldn't understand why Dad didn't say something, anything!  He was letting this other pastor say hateful untruths about him, and he wasn't even defending himself, or, at the very least, moving the discussion to a private place.  I heard, "Get thee behind me, Satan," at one point, but little else.

Finally, I couldn't hold back my own fear-induced anger, and shouted at the pastor, "Who told you that?!" when he paused for breath.

I wasn't really looking for an answer, and I remember I said it at a point in the diatribe that didn't really match my question. But that's all I could think at the moment.  Who had told this pastor all these lies about my dad?  I knew it had been my best friend's father, and that he'd gotten his information indirectly from me, and somehow, it had all gotten twisted up and changed in the retelling, because now none of the accusations resembled anything I'd said.  I just knew it was all my fault, and that really, this pastor should have been yelling at me.

The pastor stopped yelling for a moment, and our fellow pastor's wife came and dragged me away.  I suppose it was obvious to her that this sort of fight shouldn't be taking place in front of children.  I was never more thankful for her in my life.  She recognised my fear and flew to the rescue, assuring me that my dad would be okay and that everything was all right.  I so desperately needed to hear those words.

The result of that confrontation was that a clear divide emerged among the island's IFB congregations and pastors.  Those with my dad, and those who remained KJV-Only.  Of course, Dad was still using and clearly preferring the KJV as well, but that didn't matter to these folks.  One had to be KJV-Only to count.

One way to identify KJV-Only churches is to notice if they refer to their Bible as the 1611 version.

After that, our missionary friends had to choose: were they with us or against us.  One fellow missionary's mission board instructed him to to have nothing to do with our family, to cease participating in joint church services and ministries (like my baptism), to go to the other side of the street if he saw my dad, to urge others to shun us.  But he refused, because he knew we'd done nothing wrong.  (To illustrate in how small a world the Fundamentalists live, that same mission board chairman later officiated my first wedding, not remembering the sordid past associated with my last name.)

The furor eventually died down, but when the dust settled, I'd lost my two best friends to the KJV-Only split. Their families were on the opposite side of the line in the sand.  The father of one of those former friends wrote to my parents' alma mater and told them we were wickedly burning KJVs or something, and the Campus Church dropped our support. That really devastated my mom.  She wrote a long tearful letter to the Hortons, but as far as I know they didn't deign to reply.

As a result, another missionary family became a lot closer and dearer to us, since we really had no one else. We kids needed our MK friends, and this family had seven kids!  Thus, my two best friends were now boys, because that's all that was available.  Good thing they were pretty awesome.  To this day I still think of them as brothers.

Michael and Daniel are a lot less weird than they appear.

As for me, me trust in Fundamentalists and their Bible remained shaky, and I'd lost all respect for the national pastors and other missionaries.  I realised that questioning discrepancies in the Bible was as off limits as questioning ridiculous unBiblical rules, and that the safest policy was keeping one's head down in compliance.