The Camel's Nose
In the "Unity Song," flyleaf of "Great Songs of the Church, No. 2," by Kurfees and Hopkins, I find words to express the yearnings of my heart:
"How blest and how joyous will be the glad day, When heart beats to heart in the work of the Lord;
When Christians united shall swell the grand day,
Devisions all ended, triumphant His Word!
"0 shout the glad word, 0 hasten the day,
When all of God's people are one."
But I fear that the fulfillment is farther away now than in Kurfees' time. Perhaps, the lack of wisdom and vigilance on the part of leaders in his time, and since, may be responsible for the hopelessly divided church of today. Yes, I fear that "hopelessly divided" is the accurate term. I think they and we were somewhat like the man who compassion caused him to put the frozen snake in his bosom to warm the poor thing. Do I need to tell you what happened when the reptile was warmed?
And then there's the story of the Arab and the camel. At first the camel meekly pleaded that only his nose be permitted inside the tent. Then was it asking too much for his shivering shoulders also to be warmed inside the tent, where there really was that much room? And was it unreasonable to ask to warm his hump too? And then there was no room left for the Arab. He was crowded out into the night:
"Through the open window's space
Behold a camel thrust his face.
'My nose is cold,' he meekly cried,
'Oh, let me warm it by thy side.'
And so the author, Lydia Huntley Sigourney, concludes her poem this way, with a "moral":
"To evil habit's earliest wile
Lend neither ear, nor glance, nor smile —
Choke the dark fountain ere it flows,
Nor even admit the camel's nose!"
We admitted the "camel's nose," when we first enthusiastically endorsed the building and establishing of so-called Christian, or Bible schools, and called them "our schools;" when we built or endorsed institutional orphan and other homes, and called them "our homes". Then we began talking about "church of Christ preachers " "church of Christ programs," etc., always speaking in terms universal, which is the language or "speech of Ashdod". Of course, you must be very careful to use a small "c" in spelling "church," even if you are talking about a particular congregation, or speaking of a particular group of people and distinguishing them from other religious bodies — if you don't want to be sectarian in speech! Imagine that!
And then after we had tasted the carnal pleasures of being recognized by the world, after we knew the pride of compelling the world to recognize us by our strength of numbers and our prestige in worldly wisdom, we longed for the Plain of Shinar (Gen. 11), where we could "build US a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven, and let US make US a name"!
Yes, I suppose that in the years gone by, when "through the window's open space, Behold a camel thrust his face," I helped some in finally getting his "hump" through. I would ridicule the expressed fears and warnings of brethren of wisdom, who warned that these things would be a "step toward Rome, not Jerusalem". I would say, "Do you suppose that we should not wear clothes and live in houses like those of the sectarians?" And I thought that was smart. So did many brethren. Now I know how wrong I was. It was then that J. D. Tant said, repeatedly (through the Gospel Advocate!!!), "Brethren, we are drifting!"
But notwithstanding all my doubts about the Scripturalness of the organizations the brethren have set up, I will listen carefully if any of them will attempt to give me a clear Scriptural reason for their right to exist. I know what the organization of Childhaven, Cullman, Alabama, is. It has a board of trustees, president, vice president, secretary-treasurer, and superintendent, select e d by SOMEBODY (?) from many different congregations over the country. Please stop talking about methods, ways, manners, means, etc., and grapple "like men" with the question: show me scripture that permits churches of Christ to establish and maintain such a religious organization as described above. I owe nothing to Roy Cogdill or Yater Tant more than I owe to any other brother or group of brethren. Give me the Scripture, and I will immediately send in my confession of error to the Gospel Advocate, and to some individuals. Just prove that the ORGANIZATION of Childhaven is in the same class with our Sunday morning Bible school, or Wednesday evening Bible school. That's all I'm asking for. This is not a challenge. This is an urgent appeal — an invitation. A call to you to convert a brother from the error of his ways, and save a soul from death. I do wish with all my heart that I could go along with the brethren by whom I am almost surrounded geographically. But brethren, I think we have drifted!