The October 21 forced resignation of North Carolina Biblical Recorder editor Norman Jameson continues to ripple throughout North Carolina Baptist life: on Thursday, a member of the Recorder’s board of directors resigned in protest of Jameson’s mistreatment.
Pushed out of his position because of threats from an angry Baptist minister in the state, Jameson, accused of not being conservative enough, is the latest victim of religious fundamentalism’s opposition to the foundational Baptist principle of freedom of conscience.
In short, fundamentalism and a free press are not compatible: in the hands of fundamentalists, newspapers and news services become outlets for religious propaganda.
Nonetheless, the purveyors of theological and political correctness that characterize today’s Southern Baptist news landscape are more civilized than some of their predecessors.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Texas remained the Wild West. In May 1904, on an east-bound train from Dallas to Nashville, two Baptists from Dallas got into an altercation in the lavatory. Their bathroom brawl was no ordinary affair, and the two men were no ordinary Baptists.
James Britton Cranfill, Baptist preacher and long-time newspaper editor, was at the time the editor of the Texas Baptist Standard. His opponent, Samuel Augustus Hayden, also a Baptist preacher and long-time newspaper man, was editor of the Texas Baptist and Herald. The best known Baptist ministers in Texas by virtue of their news outlets, Cranfill and Hayden had been bitter enemies for years, their feud playing out in print.
However, newsprint could not contain their disagreements this May day. As the train chugged toward Nashville, Tennessee, where the two Baptists were to attend the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, shots rang out in the lavatory. Cranfill tried to shoot Hayden but his aim was ineffectual, as the two struggled over control of the pistol.
Cranfill was arraigned on charges of attempted murder when the train stopped in Texarkana, but posted bond and was released to continue his trip to Nashville … on a separate train than Hayden.
(Baptist historian Joseph Early, Jr. authored an account of the long-running feud between Cranfill and Hayden, entitled A Texas Baptist Power Struggle: The Hayden Controversy.