Both Bauder and Smith use an anecdote in the beginning of their articles. An anecdote is a short story used for illustrative purposes. It may be true or fiction, but if properly used it does not have to be defended and footnoted because it is short and illustrative. However, the way Smith uses the anecdote and the way Bauder used his are worlds apart and one more reason why I grew to be suspicious of the kind of fundamentalism that marked the beginning stages of my life and also why I began to suspect the weakness of the KJVO issue (although I was never KJVO).
Here are some guidelines about how an anecdote should be used.
1. It should be short. Stories are interesting, but if they are too long they tend to obscure the salient points.
2. They should be able to stand unsubstantiated. If the anecdote is presented as truth then it should be inconsequential if it can be substantiated or not. However, if there are elements of the anecdote that undermine a person’s reputation or present an institution in a bad light or claim to prove the facts of an issue, then anecdote (if used at all) should be laced with caveats (“This was my personal impression”) and generous qualifiers (“I’m sure this doesn’t represent all of them”) and hard evidence (“Here are the witnesses and sources”).
Now notice how the evangelist uses his anecdote versus the professor. The evangelist begins his long answer with a very long personal anecdote that impugns a group of people in addition to the youth pastor. The youth pastor may or may not be a liberal (I do not know, but simple research could figure out who Dwight Smith is talking about), but to castigate the entire institution in the light of a personal experience with one individual is something that no fundamentalist appreciates when it is done to them. Many fundamentalists hate the site www.stufffundieslike.com because they rightly feel that the personal anecdotes of the contributors often unfairly castigate anyone and everyone who calls himself a fundamentalist. But among the stuff that fundies like is a profligate and careless use of anecdotes by their preacher man about compromisers and New Evangelicals. By way of personal anecdote, I cut my teeth on Jack Hyles anecdotes about all the compromisers out there in the New Evangelical world and grew up with an almost-cultic paranoia about the motives of anyone that was not a fundamental Baptist like Jack Hyles. (And as evidence I refer you to the thousands of recorded messages by Jack Hyles).
Certainly, Smith’s former youth pastor was immature and maybe even ungodly, assuming that we can trust a ninth-grader’s analysis of the whole conversation in the first place. Possibly the man was and is a theological liberal, but does Smith want his favorite institution and the movement as a whole (Ambassador Baptist College and KJVO Baptist Fundamentalism) to be characterized by choice anecdotes?
On the other hand, Bauder’s anecdote was short and to the point and since he was guarding the identity of the individual (who wrote pseudepigraphically anyway) whether it is true or not is irrelevant because it serves as an illustration without harming the individual who wrote it.
I find it fascinating that Smith uses over 300 words in his 2,700 word missive to give a personal anecdote that is not only unethical but requires the listener to take his representation of the story at face value without any possibility of substantiating it and then states it to be one of the reasons why
I have chosen to hold to the Received Text and the King James Bible, and to reject the Westcott & Hort Text and all modern translations.
Furthermore, he implies that the one action of the youth pastor indicates the convictions of the entire institution by saying,
This happened in the 1980’s. Apparently at Central, not much has changed.
Smith claims that he has a “myriad of biblical reasons” for his position but he does not give 300 words to explaining any of his proof texts and, indeed, in most parts of fundamentalism this is not even to be expected. Fundamentalists of this kind are guilty of an arrogance that is worse than the arrogance of intellectualism. By lacing message after message and missive after missive with long, unsubstantiated personal anecdotes that color the opposition in whatever light they so choose and requiring the listener to suspend critical thinking they are demanding that their hearers swallow hook, line, and sinker their personal authority. At least the arrogance of intellectualism claims the authority of universally obtainable knowledge. This sad kind of arrogance, repeated so often in fundamental baptist churches, demands dependence on the authority of the preacher man.
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