"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.V No.IV Pg.1-3a
November 1942

Who Is Doing The Agitating?

Cled E. Wallace

Sometimes things take a peculiar if not unexpected turn. The effort we have made to set forth the Christian's proper relationship to lawful government has brought forth one reaction that needs a little attention and it is going to get it right here. We have received a deluge of endorsement which is unmistakable in its implications, but in addition to that we have received some criticism that runs the gamut from mildness to personal insult. We do not resent honest criticism but decline to be drawn into personal controversy with some who loudly and boisterously insist on a literal compliance with the terms of the Sermon on the Mount while they rudely violate them in their manner of speaking and writing. We have the word of the editor for it that "they may pass." Nor do we have an idea of asking for any sympathy on the ground that we are being persecuted. We feel abundantly able to take care of ourselves in this controversy as we have done in others we have engaged in. We are interested only in the truth and if we ever take the wrong side of an issue we shall in all probability get the threshing we deserve for such a blunder.

We have been accused of agitating "the war question" at an inopportune time. We invite our critics to review the facts and refresh their memories a bit. Who started this agitation? We admit that it should never have been started. We did not start it. We have defended the right of our sons to answer the call of their country and enter its armed forces only after they were attacked for so doing. Some preachers among us were preaching sermons, even before Pearl Harbor, designed to classify our boys in the armed forces of the country as potential murderers. It was creating some confusion. I have never preached on the question even since Pearl Harbor. When we finally with some reluctance expressed our honest convictions, which incidentally are those of a majority of the brethren, we were called "war-mongers" yearning to shed somebody's blood and blah! blah! blah! ad infinitum. We intended to state our views in an article or so and let the matter rest there. It did not rest there. The conscientious objector group who started the agitation kept right on agitating, are still at it, and everybody ought to know by now that we do not quit in the middle of a fight, especially when we are winning it. There is a good deal of weeping and wailing going on, but it is not in the Bible Banner. We are quite well pleased with the manner in which we have handled the situation. We decline to accept the implied stigma of guilt as agitators of a ticklish question at the wrong time. We have received at least half a dozen challenges to debate the question from more or less respectable sources, and the threat that more will be forthcoming when the war is over. It is quite a compliment to the effectiveness of what we have thus far had to say. Our purpose has been to eliminate some of the confusion that others have caused and we believe we have done a good job of it.

It must have been confusing indeed to some of the brethren to be called upon to contribute about thirty dollars per month each to able-bodied young men with sick consciences who had to go out of circulation during the war because they could not find anything they could afford to do to support their government in a crisis which entitled them to food and clothing. Such an appeal came out in several of our papers. The readers were actually invited to consider such extremists as heroes of faith. We are willing for any who wish to criticize us for declining to pass the hat in such cases to get all the comfort they can out of their poor opinions. We are not inclined to insist on anybody flying a plane, driving a tank, or firing a gun if he even thinks he ought not to. There are other things he can do besides taking up a collection. There is no reason whatever why we should feel compelled to join a club to make bandages for fanatical consciences. We prefer to try to teach such pitiful innocents the way of the Lord more perfectly. One of my good preacher friends is shedding buckets of tears in the Firm Foundation over the "shame" of "the congregations over the country refusing to support and care for these men." The congregations are under no obligation whatever to support them. They are able-bodied and able to support themselves. But we are tearfully told that they are "conscientious objectors to combatant service"! Indeed! There are thousands of conscientious objectors in this fair land who have put on uniforms on orders from the government and are doing the non-combatant duties assigned them. They are not calling on the churches to support them. According to Paul, even widows are not to be made charges of the churches unless they have arrived at an advanced age and meet specified qualifications otherwise. These "fourteen boys in the camp at Magnolia who are members of the church of Christ" are not widows, are not aged, nor are they otherwise qualified to demand support from the churches. If I understand the matter, they are so "conscientious" they refuse to perform any sort of service, even noncombatant, that gives them army status. Some few preachers are writhing in printed agony over the persecutions they are suffering. Well, of all things! The government has allowed them to enter a sort of detention camp, if somebody will feed them, to keep from sending them to the penitentiary. They are not quite crazy enough to send to an asylum to be fed by taxes, which other conscientious objectors help to pay. Persecution indeed! They are neither being starved nor shot at. They are in no physical danger. But my preacher friend all but breaks down and sobs that they are being frowned upon and ridiculed, What does he think we ought to do! Pin a service medal on them? I trow (sic) not! We are told that these young men have been trained right. That is a reflection on every Christian in uniform who is doing either combatant or non-combatant service. It will be widely and properly resented. They have not been trained right. They are fanatics and to be pitied. Some of the preachers who are crying over them and quoting and misapplying scriptures to support them are the ones who ought to ridiculed, and I do not claim to be too good to point some of it at them. If they do not like to be ridiculed they should quit being so ridiculous. Nobody is even inclined to charge these poor misguided boys with seeking popularity. It is a compliment to the church that there are only fourteen of them. This is rather remarkable in view of the fact that some rather prominent preachers have even declared publicly that it is a sin to even buy bonds, lend money to the government on request, to carry on the work of defending this great country against aggression. Ridicule is about the only weapon that will do justice to such extremes.

There are humorous angles to all this. The particular brother who is weeping over the persecutions suffered by a few boys over in Magnolia makes some rather ugly charges against some churches and preachers because they do not support the fanaticism of these misguided boys. Is he trying to "persecute" us? He is certainly criticizing us and some of his remarks dangerously approach the border of ridicule. He is certainly not blessing us according to the text he points at us. He calls us "popularity loving preachers . . . who have poked fun at these young men." I am not unduly fond of popularity but he presents a most tempting target for me to poke some fun at.

The brother commends Brother Showalter, editor of the Firm Foundation, for "giving space on his page" to the pitiful drivel that does not deserve anything more serious than ridicule. Why should he commend Brother Showalter? If I understand that busy and worthy gentleman, he is with us on the general principles involved. He has recently stated editorially that men who cannot put on a uniform and do non-combatant service certainly have "poorly educated" consciences. Incidentally he has a son, a very fine man and a friend of mine, in uniform. He talked to me a number of times about how he could best serve his country in this crisis. Has he been taught right? The inference is clear that even Brother Showalter has not been taught right, according to the brother who hastens to "commend" him. He supports the government. Neither he nor any of his boys would go into a detention camp and ask the churches to feed them rather than wear a uniform and do non-combatant service. I recommend that our extremists read again what Brother Showalter had to say about a Christian's duty to support his government in time of war.

I would feed an enemy if he were hungry. That does not mean that I would butter a biscuit and hand it at him while he was trying to stick a knife in me. In that case I would probably try to outrun him, or disarm him in case I couldn't run. Now, I do not think these Magnolia freaks of conscience-ridden delusion are in any danger of starving or getting hurt, but since they have been dragged out to public gaze and been made the occasion of some remarks about "shame," I have a suggestion that I think is better than any I have seen even in the good old Firm Foundation. I do not believe that even Brother Showalter could print anything on "his page" from anybody that can improve on it. The men who are responsible for teaching these boys the kind of impractical idealism that put them where they are, and are shuddering themselves into chills over the terrible persecutions they are suffering, ought to feed them. There are only fourteen of them, I understand, and they ought not to have to look to "worldly, political, office-loving and office-holding members" for their bread and meat. Since they are un-patriotic, let the unpatriotic members who have also been "taught" right support them! I think they should not evade their responsibility. The churches right now have more worthy obligations of their own. Since some men seem inclined to accuse us of improper agitation at an inopportune time, we might be pardoned if it is suggested that it appears to us that these fourteen boys and the terrible persecutions they are suffering for conscience's sake have been made the pretext for some agitating. They were dragged out of detention for public observation and sympathy before we ever said a word on the government question. Some extreme statements in behalf of them which reflected on others better than they are really got us started. Marching them on parade is no adequate reply to what we have said. Who is doing the agitating anyway? We did not start it.

Some of our critics are pretty mad at us, and we can understand why, but they should cool down a bit so as not to make the weakness in their agitation too obvious. They appear to be over-anxious to saddle on us the odium of blood-thirsty motives of vengeance because we published a statement of our views to the effect that a Christian had a right to accept service in the armed forces of the country in our present crisis if he wanted to. That has been perverted into the charge that we are urging it as the duty of a Christian to join up and march out to murder the husbands and fathers of women and children. It reveals a dismal lack of understanding of the principles involved. Although these critics by no means agree among themselves, some of them at least admit that it is all right to enter the army for non-combatant service. Why? Does that mean it is the duty of all of them to join up before they are called upon by the government to do so? I trow not. Then let our critics talk more sensibly and less hysterically. Since they are so concerned about motives, when a Christian exercises his right to perform non-combatant service in the army, does he do so with the deliberate motive of helping the combatant branches of the service commit murder and make widows and orphans? It seems that nearly everybody but a few preachers can answer that one. Our critics for the most part have been superficial and have by-passed the main issue involved in a Christian's relation to the government. When the country calls, it is the citizen's duty to do all that he can conscientiously do. If his conscience is so "poorly educated" that it will allow him to do nothing of any practical benefit to anybody, anywhere, it makes a pitiful situation. Some seem to have overlooked the point that the government doesn't want everybody in its armed forces and has made ample exceptions in favor of physical, mental and conscientious handicaps. Our critics, including a half dozen or so who want to debate with us, are anxious for us to win the war. I give them credit for hoping that the totalitarian powers will be crushed. If this does them an injustice, we will publish their signed disavowal in the Bible Banner, with appropriate comments. Should we charge them with being vengeful and bloodthirsty and yearning to see more widows and orphans in the world? As our canny editor has observed, what is sauce for the goose is salad-dressing for the gander. We advise them to lay off of motives for prudence's sake.

Brother R. L. Whiteside felt the urge some weeks ago to address "a few questions" to some agitating and agitated editors. If any attempt had been made to answer the questions, he was not aware of it at the time he sent them to me for my perusal. You may look them over with our compliments.

"Dear Brethren: In the matter of a Christian's participating in wars and other government affairs, I want to refrain from being dogmatic and radical. I would, however, like to have your answers to a few questions.

1. Do you consider yourselves to be citizens of these United States? Is it possible that you claim citizenship in a government which, you say, is owned and controlled by the devil? How can a man be a faithful citizen of the government of Christ, a government owned and controlled by Christ, and at the same time be a loyal citizen of a government owned and controlled by the devil?

2. If a Christian cannot do anything through the government that he cannot do as an individual Christian, will you not have to refrain from officiating at marriages? You cannot perform a marriage ceremony as an individual Christian—not all Christians can officiate at marriages. Christ did not give the preacher any official dignity above other Christians; the government does that, and you accept that government rating or distinction when you act as a government official in executing a legal document. In this matter you are acting as a government agent or official. If not, why not? Then you make proper returns, informing his Satanic majesty that you have properly executed his document. Marriage is divine, but Christ did not issue that marriage license. Can you reconcile your teaching with what you do?

3. You certainly would advocate the withdrawal of fellowship from all murderers. Do you think all churches of Jesus Christ should withdraw fellowship from soldiers and everyone else who is doing anything to help soldiers to fight? If not, why not?

4. Is it a sin for men who are not Christians to fight in wars? If not, why not?"

These questions reach right down into the heart of the real issue and should help to educate the consciences of a good many of the brethren. Government is ordained of God to perform certain necessary functions. If such activities are wrong, sinful, God would not authorize anybody to perform them. When a sinner sins he does it without the authority of God. He is an outlaw in God's sight. The lawful functions of government are right. Significant questions of morality are involved in this. Some brethren seem to think that it is morally right for a sinner to perform certain acts of government, necessary acts, but that it would be wrong, sinful, even immoral, for a Christian to perform the same acts. Does God have one moral law for sinners and another moral law for Christians? How then did a sinner become such? He was not born that way! The execution of law may incidentally make a widow and some orphans. Is the officer who executes the law and is forced to take the life of a criminal in the performance of his duties to be charged with vengeful motives and the desire to make widows and orphans? If the functions of government are morally sinful, then there should be no government. If they are not sinful, then they are right and a Christian may participate in them. This does not mean that he must do so. There are circumstances to be weighed. But it is now about time to sit back and listen to some of the brethren agitate. I just hope they do a little cogitating first.