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I’m reminded of Jim Croce’s song “Don’t Mess with Big Jim” when asked to mediate disputes with fellow Christians and their ministries: “ You don’t pull on Superman’s cape/You don’t spit into the wind/You don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and you don’t mess around with Jim.” The Bible was ahead of the song’s wisdom when it warned not to take a dog by the ears when it’s fighting with another dog. You’ll probably lose a couple of fingers: “Like one who takes a dog by the ears is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him” (Prov. 26:17).
American Vision works with lots of Christian ministries, authors, and speakers. This brings out the guardians of all that is holy and good to attack any association where there is the rumor of impropriety. One supporter of American Vision complained that one of our donors makes too much money. AV published a book by Douglas Wilson. Some people are upset over some of Wilson’s theological beliefs. I should say that they were upset over what they heard were some of his beliefs. Like so much of what I encounter, there are two sides to every story. A number of people have sent me long epistles about some controversy regarding Doug Phillips. Others have forwarded criticisms my way regarding Hank Hanegraaff.
The president of a major Christian publishing company phoned to warn me that a battle between two creation ministries was about to ensue, and American Vision should be careful with its associations with one of them or we might be caught in the wake of an ugly dispute. He is a board member of one of the ministries and publishes many of their books. He was offering the warning because he said that he had my best interests in mind. I had to laugh. I sent him a list of all the controversial people and ministries I’ve been associated with over the years. He’s an amateur in the controversy business. He needs to go on the internet to see how controversial I am all by myself!
If American Vision listened to every critic who wrote to us, we wouldn’t be able to work with anyone. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not naïve enough to believe that there might not be some truth in the accusations. Another Proverb comes to mind: “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him” (Prov. 18:17). Experience has taught me the truth of these wise words since the first time I got in the center of a dispute between warring factions. My first encounter was when I was a student in seminary. The student-body president and I confronted the person we were told was the trouble maker. Boy did we get an earful. After hearing his side of the story, we confronted his accusers. Then we went back to the accused. Then it was back to the accuser. Back and forth . . . back and forth. We had encountered the proverbial Tar-Baby with no resolution in sight.
American Vision does its best to deal honestly with all of its associations, but we refuse to get in the middle of disputes or pass judgment on accusations made by others. I am not a spiritual dermatologist looking for warts to examine. We are not a dispute reconciliation ministry. There are ministries that are. We are not an ecclesiastical court. If you have a legitimate argument with someone, go to their church elders and make your case. If I’m accused of being a heretic (like I am at least twice a week), I tell the accuser to take the dispute to the elders of my church. Independent churches are a problem in this regard. There’s no hierarchy of authority. No court or appeal. The problem with non-profit organizations is that they are not churches.
No one is perfect. In most cases, wrong doing is habitual. In time, if there is any truth to the accusations, they will be found out, just don’t ask me to take sides.