I didn’t post on this before because I thought it was kinda stupid and I didn’t want to post about stupidity, but reading Steve McCoy’s blog tonight I found a statement on this. But first let me tell you what happened.
Apparently, Alabama Baptist volunteers were in Clewiston, Florida handing out supplies to hurricane victims. A local NBC news crew came to tape, and “discovered” that the volunteers were “refusing” to hand out bottled watter becuase it had Budweiser beer logos on the bottles. Now, this story didn’t make a big fuss; indeed it went sort of unnoticed. But those of us in Baptist circles got all indignated and stuff.
Most of us thought our beliefs about alcohol had nothing to do with passing out water. In fact, we thought these guys were being stupid. Me, I thought it was just another example of the stupidity of Alabama rednecks (spoken with tongue firmly in cheek).
However, as Paul Harvey loves to say, there is the rest of the story. While on Steve’s blog tonight I found a release by Keith Hinson of the Alabama Baptist Convention. I’ll reproduce it here.
Volunteers working with the Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief Unit honored the request of the host pastor to set aside canned water with an Anheuser-Busch logo. At no time was anyone deprived of water. In fact, there was a huge surplus of bottled and canned water available at the Clewiston relief site. There was never any disruption in the supply of water being given out to members of the public who continued to receive food, water and other types of assistance from Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief workers.
It is an absolute falsehood to suggest — as many irresponsible bloggers have — that the Baptist volunteers withheld the basic needs of life from Floridians impacted by the hurricane. Contrary to misinterpretations of news reports, no one was denied access to water.
One may disagree with the strong stand that many Southern Baptists take against the consumption of alcohol. One may even regard such opposition to alcohol as offensive.
But it’s impossible to say truthfully that this conviction caused any inconvenience or shortage for victims of Hurricane Wilma. The facts are exactly the opposite.
The fact is that virtually all of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers serve selflessly — taking time away from employment and family to minister in the name of Jesus Christ. Churches such as First Baptist Church, Clewiston, graciously serve as host sites — providing a place where food, water and other necessities of life may be obtained by anyone in need — without regard to religion or any other demographic consideration.
— Keith Hinson, public relations associate
Alabama Baptist Convention State Board of Missions
Now, if what Mr. Hinson says is true, once again the media has gone about to make Southern Baptists–and Christians in general–look bad. On another blog (Mainstream Baptist) the station that reported it even issued a release saying their story was 100% true, and that furthermore no one got any water until Hinson’s “surplus water” arrived.
I don’t know what really happened, but this whole thing is getting sillier and sillier. That’s because the station has out-and-out lied in this release. Here’s a quote from Steve’s blog by one D.R. Randle:
Steve, maybe we are reading two different articles and two different responses by Keith. Here is what the reporters said:
“Hurricane victims who wanted water had some difficultly finding it at a relief station in Clewiston Friday. . . Resident lined up for miles to receive food and water at the distribution point. But the water was left on the sidelines by the Alabama-based group . . . The water has been available all along, but the SBC volunteers set it aside and few people knew it was available.”
It sounds like the people were not given any water whatsoever — as if it was not made available to the people who needed it. However, this is what Keith said,
“There was never any disruption in the supply of water being given out to members of the public who continued to receive food, water and other types of assistance from Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief workers . . . Contrary to misinterpretations of news reports, no one was denied access to water.”
Now, I admit that Keith did not come right out and say that the reporters created a falsehood (and honestly, it could be contended that the reporter didn’t say anything untrue), but isn’t it obvious that if what Keith is saying is true then don’t you see this report as misleading and thus not what many have made it out to be.
The fact is that this is not an SBC incident — or even an Alabama Baptist convention incident. It comes down to a few workers who was asked by one pastor not to distribute certain cans of water because he had the conviction (rightly or wrongly) that it shouldn’t be done. That’s it! To portray this as an act of the SBC or of the ABC is untrue. And like I said to Doug, shouldn’t we be angry at a reporter who possibly wrote a report which lead people to believe that SBC’ers denied water to people who needed it because it bore a beer label. I am not trying to defend the actions of the few Baptists who chose not to give out the water (though I do want to defend them against false reports about people not getting water at all), but it seems that because I don’t walk lock-step with the non-teetolers on this issue, then I am somehow on par with the stereotypical teetoler that has been perpetuated by some commenters both here and elsewhere who have discussed the drinking issue over the last few weeks. Isn’t that being close-minded?
Notice the part where the reporters said there was water available but declined to find out if it was Hinson’s “surplus water.”
This guy speaks my mind on this subject. Far from defending the Florida pastor who, I guess, “ordered” this behavior, I’m much more inclined to be indignated about yet another media twisting of our faith. But I’ll leave you with one last comment from Steve’s blog that really put this whole issue in perspective for me:
There’s a bit of irony in the fact that they were down there refusing to serve water, while we’re up here complaining about it.