"Voice Of The Turtle"
In the early years of The Gospel Guardian, when it was apparently the only major publication carrying on a significant campaign "to warn and caution against certain trends and tendencies within the church," one of editor Tant's editorials appeared under the title "Voice of The Turtle" (Volume 2, No. 49, April 1951). He gave something of a "weather report" on conditions in the church in which he saw "light breaking through and the skies are clearing." (See his reference to the "Voice of The Turtle" in Song of Solomon 2:11-13). The light he saw was a clarification of issues in the minds of the brethren. The article sounded a note of optimism.
Some writers "on the other side of things" saw in the editorial a presumptuous claim of victory, though the editor wrote in no way to warrant such a conclusion. It was purely a matter of reference to clarification of issues. But "Voice of The Turtle" precipitated considerable reaction. Articles on "Congregational Cooperation" by Cecil N. Wright were printed in The Gospel Guardian, running through several issues in volume 3. These articles, which came in response to the "Voice of The Turtle," received widespread circulation in other journals and in booklet form. The effort to destroy The Gospel Guardian's influence was stepped up.
While there were signs aplenty to justify the editor's note of optimism, the light of clarification did not shine very long. It became obscured by the clouds of dust and pollution created by a religio-politico effort to destroy the paper. Today brethren who openly oppose various brotherhood projects labor under a prejudicial, preconceived, stereotyped image created by the journalistic and polemic "atrocities" of those who sought to "waste us," to use rather severe military terms. We read somewhere that when undercover agents are assigned to eliminate a person they are told to "remove the person with all prejudice." There was an attempt to remove The Gospel Guardian "with all prejudice."
But as we see it, such attitudes and efforts were limited to but few, relatively speaking, mostly among those in high places. Many others picked up their tune and naively or ignorantly sang it everywhere they went. A good many others waged an honest and worthy attack on our positions, arguments and apparent inconsistencies. Theirs was a commendable engagement.
We must hasten to say that all the misdemeanor and polemic injustice has not been limited to the "other side." The cause represented by The Gospel Guardian has often been soiled by the misconduct of extremists, or by the imprudent deportment of controversialists, or by ill-advised behaviour of many among us.
Today we note but relatively few among those on the "other side" who would throw fairness and integrity to the wind. There are some among them who revel in some sort of fantasy as to the supposed destruction of the so-called "anti-movement," which they picture as being all but dead. These characters seem to relish the stereotyping of all of us with a few of us and they continue to sing a song of victory over the "anti" monster.
We note a growing ironic disposition among those on the other side. Many of those on "our side of things" interpret this to mean they are trying to kill us with kindness or woo us with sweetness. I think not. I believe there is a growing and maturing process, though slow it be. Brethren are more concerned now than they were in the past to demonstrate Christian principles in their relationships with embattled brethren. This is not to say that either they or we are intertwining a spirit of compromise or softness. It is to say that unfairness, injustice and meanness in controversy is less attractive today than it was 20 years ago. A good many brethren "on our side" are imbibing the same good things too, some others are not.
If the "voice of the turtle" is being heard in the land today, it is in the tendency, perhaps in a trend, toward fair play and better understanding. It may be that those on either side of things, who cannot find reason to employ a little more brotherly kindness will find fewer opportunities to get a hearing.
What of editor Tant's 1951 "Voice of The Turtle?" Today we can list 2000 congregations which can be counted on to morally support the fight against the things The Gospel Guardian has been opposing since its beginning. They do not constitute a party. They merely share a common opposition to certain innovations. We figure there are 2000 other churches which do not want to get involved, and are wary of being stereotyped, but who are quite sympathetic with the positions we hold regarding institutionalism, and sponsoring churches. A good many of these are in remote areas, removed from the currents which carry news of brotherhood affairs.
We await with keen interest the result of the growing tension between non-conformists and conformists among those "on the other side." The non-conformists are those who are drifting away from old fundamental convictions to embrace more modern positions. The conformists are trying to hold to the biblically-based traditions which brought the church of the New Testament to this country. We wonder how many of the conformists will be consistent enough to come back to those biblically-based traditions regarding the work and organization of the church? Who knows what the final third of this century will bring? Perhaps this is a just reason to listen for the "voice of the turtle."