Ed Young: "Dear Mr. President ... "

Bill Clinton Jimmy CarterHere's a quick follow-up note on that post I offered about the disputed quotes between former President Bill Clinton and the Rev. Ed Young of the giant Second Baptist Church in Houston. It seems that, after my interview with him, Young decided to express his views directly to Clinton who, of course, is a Southern Baptist himself. The text of this letter has now been released through the official Baptist Press, the voice of the conservative Southern Baptist establishment (as opposed to the "moderate" Baptist represented by the Associated Baptist Press. There are no major surprises, for those who have read my Scripps Howard News Service column on this, but here is a chunk of the text that offers the flavor:

After receiving a copy of the address you delivered at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta, I have asked for divine wisdom as to how I should respond. Initially, I was stunned. Your comments concerning our visit together were not just taken out of context; the conversation you described never took place. Certainly we did not agree on many issues. You were gracious, patient, and transparent. I was impressed with you as a person and with your willingness to allow others to share with you. I certainly was not confrontational, and on several occasions we simply politely agreed to disagree. ...

The most important thing I wish to correct is that I have never asked you nor anyone else the question, "Do you believe the Bible is literally true?" I do not believe the Bible is literally, in the normal definition of the word, true. Jesus said, "I am the door." No one takes that "literally." As you know, Sir, in the Bible there are metaphors, parables, hyperbole, poetry, apocalyptic language, etc., and the Bible cannot be understood by anyone who would be foolish enough to think that you can take the Word of God literally. Also, at no time during our visit did I use the pejorative phrase, "slick political answer."

Perhaps on some other occasion you got into a quid pro quo with another clergyman or group visiting the White House. But let me assure you that the verbiage you attributed to me was never spoken. Again, we talked about issues, and I remember clearly that all parties were exceedingly civil and respectful. Incidentally, this is not a case of, "this is what you remember and this is what I remember." If you doubt what I am saying, I encourage you to call other individuals who were present, as I have done. When I read to them the section of your speech pertaining to our meeting, they said that conversation never happened.

And so forth. And the ripples of the great Southern Baptist Convention war go on and on.

I will check and see if Clinton answers.

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