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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tabachnick was Right, I was Wrong and Why it Matters

It is late on a Saturday night, but I have to write up this blog because Rachel Tabachnick has an important new post up that deserves my immediate response as it directly challenges things Rev. Rodriguez said to me and it refutes questionsI have raised about Truth to Action's reporting.

If you are a regular reader of this blog and my other writings you will by now have read my praise for Tabachnick and the Talk to Action website team that she reports with. More than any other single source, they have shaped the national conversation on the Religious Right over the last two months. At a crucial point this summer, when important questions about the troubling links between Governor Perry, Michelle Bachmann and the New Apostolic Reformation threatened to be derailed by shallow reporting in the mainstream media and a defensive posture from conservative and Christian journalists, Tabachnick gave an extraordinary interview with Tery Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air. Suddenly to any one who had ears to hear it became clear that Perry and Bachmann did not represent “more of the same” evangelical conservatism, and criticism of them was not “more of the same” secular paranoia. Gross’s interview with Tabachnick led me and countless others to the mountain of solid research that Tabachnick, Frederick Clarkson and Bruce Wilson have been doing for years on the New Apostolic Reformation’s frightening ideology and growing influence.

In the course of my reading I was particularly struck by Tabachnick’s reporting on Rev. Samuel Rodriguez. This led to a series of conversations and emails that I reported on in my Patheos article on Rev. Rodriguez’s decision to resign from the controversial Oak Initiative. In the course of that reporting I became troubled by Tabachnick’s assertions that Rodriguez was also a member of the New Apostolic Reformation. My discussions with him, and phone calls that I made to the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA) had led me to the conclusion that although Rodriguez had at one time been a part of the ICA that involvement was peripheral to his ministry and was, at any rate, not the same as being a part of the New Apostolic Reformation. To be honest, I felt like Talk to Action was overstating the case in a way that was unfairly damaging to Rodriguez. In a blog piece I did at this blog, I went so far as to say that I felt like there was a touch of MacCarthyism in these charges.

This is where I was wrong. I underestimated Tabachnick’s reporting and she and her colleagues have now made a clear and compelling case that Rev. Rodriguez had, to be perfectly blunt, been deceiving me in two significant ways: 1) He was much more involved in the Oak Initiative then his statements to me indicated and 2) He has, in substantive and demonstrable ways, spoken and acted in ways that make the charge of his embrace of New Apostolic Reformation practices and ideology legitimate.

Why should you care? Well, first of all because I did something that I regularly criticize others for doing—I used language to describe someone when I had not done the homework necessary to justify the charge. Before accusing someone of McCarthyism, I should have been more certain of Rodriguez’s claims and my own suspicions. In fairness to myself, some of the facts had not been as clearly stated when I wrote the charge as they have been now, but truthful witness is vital to a healthy citizenry and Church, and I now see that my accusation was wrong. But you should also care because what Tabachnick is saying about Rodriguez is significant. It challenges the assumption held by many in the evangelical community that the New Apostolic Reformation is a fringe group with little genuine appeal and success. When you read her most recent reports you can’t help but conclude that the evidence of radicalization of the evangelical movement is stronger than even I have been reporting.

All of which is to say: 

“Rachel, you are an even stronger reporter than I realized and your determined reporting deserves even greater respect than I had shown. You have opened my eyes and expanded my vision. I’m sure I will have my disagreements with you and Talk to Action in the future, but I will be more thorough in my own reporting even when challenging you all to do the same. I hope more and more people encounter your work and call individuals and institutions to account for their words and actions.”

“Rev. Rodriguez, I still hope that you are committed to the ideals that I quoted you saying at the start of my Patheos article. You are a gifted man with much good to share. But you have to be honest and transparent about your associations and alliances, and you have to stop saying one thing to one audience and another thing to another audience. I appreciate your decision to resign from the Oak Initiative, but there is much more to be done if you are to justify the trust and praise that so many have given you.”

1 comment:

  1. Finding out that I was possibly duped by an acquaintance is an uncomfortable adjustment to make, but in the case of Rev. Rodriquez, it's important to see him outside the image he constantly cultivates, and smart people like you know that and make the proper adjustments.