Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Our poll on "What Should First Baptist Church of Dallas do with its Criswell College?" turned up some surprising results. Before posting the poll, I didn't think the answer that topped the final results—independence for the school—would draw more than a few votes. Actually, I thought that option was too Baylor-like for the Criswellians.
Of course, a poll is a poll is a poll. You conduct a poll to find out that which is not always obvious. This poll surely did turn up the non-obvious.
This poll carried no weight whatsoever except for the opinion of the people who regularly read this blog. Anybody who wanted to do so could vote in it. I set no preconditions, except that a person could only vote once. Through the technological wonder of Google, those who tried to vote twice were ignored and their second votes went into outer space.
I also don't expect First Baptist Church of Dallas to pay much attention to the results, though a few members may.
I also don't have a clue who voted or how they voted in this poll. I really don't care to know either. I just wanted to know how my readers generically feel about the issue. Google's report showed my earlier column on Criswell College was the highest-read entry to date on this blog. That surprised me not a little. I would have expected thoughtful columns on more weighty and important matters such as America's changing religious landscape and the troubles in the Republic of Georgia to have attracted the most attention. Even what I said about the firing of John Lilley as Baylor's president seemed a much more likely candidate for blog traffic than the Criswell College column. But then, I do know from my newspaper days that though church people decry controversy and try to act like they are above it, they always run toward it when it occurs within their midst.
The Criswell College poll, however, attracted an unusually high number of new visitors--far more than the original Criswell College column did. Within an hour of its posting, the number of visitors to this blog shot up dramatically. How so many people found out about the poll I'll probably never know. Some 56 people voted in the poll, but nearly 10 times that many dropped by to stare at it. I guess that's what they did, since they didn't bother to cast a ballot. Google's sleuths only recorded their silent stares. I wonder who the visitors thought I might report them to if they voted? The Dallas Police? My blog monitor shows these unnamed visitors mostly arrived from the Dallas area. No influx of Wacoans that I can tell! I suspect the visitors set sail from either Criswell College, First Baptist Church of Dallas, Southwestern Seminary, The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention—all mentioned in the poll—or a combination of all four.
While the poll carries no official weight, it does tell me something about my readers. For one thing, many of you are independent thinkers—like I am. I abhor herd mentality either among journalists who practice pack journalism or among church folks who march lockstep together or demand that others do that, too.
Apparently you, my friends and readers, reflect my drift, too. Four of you (7% who voted) said the First Baptist-Dallas should close the school; three of you (5% of those who voted) said the church should sell it to the highest bidder; another three of you (again 5% who voted) said the status quo ought to be preserved. Surprisingly only eight of you (14% of those who voted) said the church ought to give the school to the SBTC; the day I launched the poll I thought this option would be the immediate favorite, but it was never in the running for a top spot.
The option that managed to squeak out a distant second is the one some people are adamantly convinced will ultimately be the solution: give it to Southwestern Seminary. Those who are convinced of this are also the ones who seem to attribute every thing evil in the world to Paige Patterson, too. I just don't buy their line. He walked away from the school years ago and is now president of the world's largest theological seminary, so why would he be itching to get the smaller Criswell College back? Something about that doesn't add up. I see him more as the default player: take it in rather than see it closed or sold to the highest bidder.
Topping the poll were those who said the church should grant the school its independence. Now that's truly a novel idea! Twenty four (44% of the poll) liked this idea. That's more than the next three ideas combined! This option wasn't the majority, but it moved close to it.
Will independence occur? Don't count on it! Knowledgeable sources have explained the issue to me. It's called money. I'm aware that the college, not the church, owns KCBI radio station. Sources note that KCBI radio is worth somewhere around $25 million. Selling the radio station would reap a nice cash reward for either the college or the church. And when big money, such as this, is involved, church groups tend to behave in strange ways. Taking a Solomonic approach is often not in the formula.
Beyond money, another reason independence for the college isn't likely to happen is that it would be too much like what Baylor did several years ago. Remember when Herb Reynolds got his regents to vote to change the school's charter, then whisked the paperwork to Austin for recording before anyone at the BGCT or other Baptist entities knew what was happening? Criswell College graduates and staff screamed loudly about Reynolds' actions and Baylor's independence.
Though I think the idea of independence is worth serious consideration, I can't imagine the church seriously pursuing that idea.
Polls are fun. They give us something to think about. They give readers something to do beyond just reading others' opinions. The Criswell College poll was our first for this blog. From time to time on this blog we'll be conducting more polls on different topics. In fact, we've got another one under way already. Enjoy these as fun expression of opinion! Don't worry about my knowing who you are or how you vote. I'll only know if you tell me directly. But remember these are only polls—just a random sampling of people's opinions. And differing opinions are what make the world go around!