Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 1, 1952
NUMBER 1, PAGE 1,8,9b-10

Meditations On A Bird

James W. Adams, Longview, Texas

Some birds are funny. So are some men. All of which brings to mind an incident that occurred several years ago while I lived and preached in Paducah, Kentucky. I was sitting in our living room reading one gloomy winter afternoon when I became conscious of a regular tapping at one of the front windows accompanied by a fluttering sound. Looking up from my book I noticed a mockingbird acting very peculiarly. He would fly against the windowpane, peck on it excitedly with his beak, then beat it vigorously with his wings. This he continued to do for thirty or forty minutes until at last he had worn himself completely out. As he sat upon the limb of the shrubbery looking into the window, he was the most exhausted, dejected, and utterly frustrated creature I think I have ever seen. His mouth hung open; his tongue lolled out; his wings hung listlessly far below his feet; his feathers stood on end! and his eyes were dull and completely lifeless. As I had watched him my mind was busy seeking for a reason. Actually it was obvious, but it took me several minutes to determine what it was. The room was comparatively dark, hence the window became a mirror to the bird in which he saw his own reflection. Thinking it to be another bird — a bird of disreputable appearance and intentions unquestionably base — the bird of our story flew into a rage and attacked with vigor. The rest of the story, you already know.

An article in the Firm Foundation, April 15, 1952, entitled, "It Is To Laugh, Also To Weep," has reminded me of the frustrated mockingbird of years ago. Brother G. C. Brewer of Memphis, Tennessee, has recently had his attention called by some of his friends to one of a series of four articles written by me in the Gospel Guardian reviewing a tract of his which claimed to be a lecture delivered by the brother at Harding College last November. The matter was called to his attention at Abilene — he informs us that he was one of the lecturers out there — and he did not have opportunity to read the article until he returned to Memphis. Digging into his accumulated trash, he finally found a copy of the February 7th issue of the Gospel Guardian and read the article. Really, it was hardly necessary for him to read it for he had already made up his mind at Abilene before reading it, knowing who wrote it, or knowing what it was about that it was, "A Mardi Gras performance by some ballooning brother." When brother Brewer read the article, however, it had a worse effect than even he had anticipated. It caused him to become hysterical and threw him into one of the tantrums for which he is famous. He did not know whether to "laugh" or "weep." So, he did both and in addition raged over two full pages of the Firm Foundation to the extent of approximately three thousand words.

But, back to our bird. Poor frustrated creature! There he sits exhausted and dejected from fighting his own image in a windowpane. How like our brother from east of the Mississippi he is! After reading brother Brewer's rantings, I reread the four articles which I had contributed to the Gospel Guardian with the sincere intention of trying to see myself as brother Brewer saw me in them. However, I did so with little success. The only reprehensible matter which I could see was the bombastic, exaggerated style of expression characteristic of certain parts of one or two of the articles which I had studiously copied from brother G. C. Brewer himself — to a great extent using his very words — for the purpose of exposing his artificial, melodramatic performance. Brother Brewer imagines himself to possess an exceedingly acute sense of the dramatic. At heart, he is an actor. In reality, as he himself testifies in his criticism of my studied use of his style, he is a "ham." The "rhetorical flourishes," the "bombastic" approach, and the "exaggerated style" of certain portions of my article of which the brother is so critical are practically facsimile copies of his very own, and quite ridiculous I hasten to admit. That they are altogether unnatural as far as I am concerned, I willingly confess, and that in their use I was awkward in the extreme, I would not deny. The man who read my articles without prejudice, however, saw the point as attested by numerous commendations from men of superior ability and recognized standing among the churches. Those whose minds are so clouded by bias that they draw their conclusions before reading the articles would not be expected to see the point, "one of whom brother Brewer is which."

My article was written to accomplish three things, hence I had three purposes motivating all that was said. (1) It was my desire to expose brother Brewer's bombastic, exaggerated, melodramatic performance. (2) It was my purpose to point out the inconsistency of Harding College and brother Brewer in manifestly enjoying such a bitter tirade. (3) It was my object to answer the arguments of the speech and tract. That I succeeded in my endeavors is best proved by brother Brewer's Firm Foundation article.

If brother Brewer will forgive me for one detour into the realm of absurdity that heretofore has been his exclusive habitat, I shall be careful not to make myself so ridiculous again. I think the brother will almost have to admit that I did well for an amateur. With age and experience comparable to his own and with the quality of genius and depth of learning which characterize our accomplished brother, there is no telling how ludicrous I could become. How peculiar it is that an exaggerated style of writing, the use of derogatory adjectives, and bombastic harangues are quite proper when brother Brewer is their author, but it is vile, odious, and utterly reprehensible if a Gospel Guardian writer presumes to say anything that remotely resembles such. Consistency and logic truly vie with one another for supremacy in such an attitude!

A Hasty Generalization

Brother Brewer has reached some conclusions in his article concerning me which were rather hastily conceived on far too little evidence. (1) He made up his mind about me and my criticisms of his Harding speech before he knew who I was or what I had said. In this he copies the attitude of infidel objectors to the Bible who consign it to the infernal regions before examining it. (2) He read only one of four articles according to his own testimony. (3) Not knowing me or anything about my personal character and the motives of my heart, he charges me with being a person of no character to speak of, guilty of pretended dignity and make believe martyrdom, dishonest, vulgar, a monte bank, and vile. To such obviously wicked judgments and insinuations I have no answer to make whatsoever. May the Lord forgive him. I hold no personal feelings of ill will in my heart toward him. As mean as he has pictured Yater Tant and Roy Cogdill to be in times past, he thinks I am worse and holds out a sugar-stick to them (or is he just whistling through that "grinning graveyard"). He thinks even they will not endorse my articles. Strange reasoning indeed is such a conclusion when the articles were published on the front page of the Gospel Guardian. Suppose you write them, brother Brewer. The venerable editor of the Firm Foundation does know me brother Brewer. I wonder if he endorses your estimate of my personal character?

I am happy to have provided the brother with the occasion for laughing (something many have thought impossible in his case). Now, if "seeing himself as others see him" will but enable him to laugh at himself, a cure for his troubles may be in sight. He charges me with taking myself too seriously. This charge is the basis of our hope for him. Being conscious of this foible of human character, perhaps he will at last realize what multitudes have known for many years.

Honesty, Scholarship, Or Age, Which?

The brother would have Firm Foundation readers believe that my article was almost entirely made up of a criticism of his use of the word "caterwauling." I did chide the dignified doctor who has always championed "ethical journalism" etc., concerning this epithet which he applied to brethren who differ from him on the "institutional orphan home" question, but only a very insignificant portion of the article was used in so doing. The brother should state facts or read more. He spends much space trying to prove that I am "uncandid" in my use of the dictionary. The meaning of the word "caterwauling" has very little to do with the things about which I wrote in the body of my articles, but we shall see who is "candid" in his use of the dictionary. In Funk and Wagnall's New Standard Dictionary of the English Language, "caterwaul" is defined as follows: "1. To utter the hideous cry peculiar to cats at rutting time." Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary gives this as its only definition and suggests that is probably from the word "cat" and the English "wawl" meaning "to cry or howl." Merriam Webster's Unabridged Dictionary gives as its first definition: "1. Of cats, to make a harsh cry at rutting time." Concerning the derivation of the word, regarding which brother Brewer has much to say, the following is given: "[ME - E caterrawe, - wrawl, - waul, perh. of LG origin; cf. LG dial. katterwaulen to cry and howl like fighting cats (said of children) MLG - kater, MD cater, male cat, and wauwelen to tattle, blab, Flem. wauwelen, to mumble. The forms in - wr - were appar. influenced by E wraw, wrawl, wrawling.]" From these definitions and the etymology and origin of the terms as given, it is easy to see that the meaning of the word as suggested in my first article is eminently correct. The only point brother Brewer has is the parenthetical statement that the word is used with reference to children. I fail to see that such changes in the least the meaning of the term. Webster says that the word is "perhaps of Low German origin" and cites the word katterwaulen for comparison. Even so, he clearly shows that the word is taken from the crying and howling of fighting cats. That it was "said of children" makes not the slightest difference. Funk and Wagnall's German Dictionary gives as the meaning of the word "kater" the familiar English word "tom-cat." Brother Brewer, just wherein was I "uncandid"?

Now, let us note brother Brewer's handling of the word "masochism" and see who is "uncandid" in his use of the dictionary. He says, "Masochism is another word for sadism and is defined as 'abnormal sexual passion in which one finds pleasure in abuse and cruelty from his or her sexual partner.' This is THE definition — not just one of many." The Merriam Webster Unabridged Dictionary gives the following as its definition of the word "masochism": "Med. Abnormal sexual passion in which one finds pleasure in abuse and cruelty from his or her associate; hence, any pleasure in being abused or dominated. Opp. - to sadism." Brother Brewer says that masochism is another word for sadism. This is, like some of his logic, completely false. Did he not read the authority which he cited? Sadism is the very opposite of masochism. A sadist enjoys the suffering which he inflicts upon others. The masochist enjoys the pain which is inflicted upon himself. It is not true that the definition given by brother Brewer of masochism is "THE definition — not just one of many." All brother Brewer had to do to know otherwise was to finish the sentence a part of which he quoted from Merriam Webster. Read it, brother! Read it! "Any pleasure in being abused or dominated." The fact is that the word "sadism" has reference to abnormal sexual passion also but is applied to any pleasure derived from inflicting suffering upon another. The word "masochism" has reference to abnormal sexual passion but is correctly applied to "any pleasure in being abused or dominated." This was the sense in which I used it in my article. Right before the eyes of our scholarly brother was the definition of the lexicographer. How could he have made the mistake of saying, "This is THE definition — not one of many"? I shall be more charitable with him than he was with me. I shall not call him "uncandid," nor will I unkindly (as he did with me) insinuate that he is ignorant and thus indict his vaunted scholarship. But, if he is neither uncandid nor ignorant, to what shall we ascribe his mistake? Let us just attribute it to presbyopia. Since we are discussing medical terminology, this would be a good place to prescribe for the brother. For his disposition, I suggest a package of "Tums," and for his eyesight a new pair of bifocals. In this connection also, the brother becomes almost obscene in saying that my article accused him of charging me with "rutting," and making the vulgar observation, "rutting is a function of the female of the species." My article did nothing of the kind. This is but another example of the brother's failing eyesight.

Harding College Exonerated

Brother Brewer labors diligently to absolve Harding College from the charge that they enjoyed his castigation of his brethren with derogatory epithets. If they did not enjoy his speech, no one has heard otherwise, so we may conclude that they did. Does brother Brewer have evidence to show that his speech was not appreciated? If he did, I doubt that his well-known self-esteem would permit him to produce it. But, he does not deny that they enjoyed his masterpiece. To the contrary, he attempts to show that his speech in all its parts was perfectly proper. He does this by showing:

(1) That he did not deliver the speech at Harding which was printed in the tract. What difference does that make? He distributed the tract at the meeting. Harding College has neither repudiated nor apologized for any part of it, and on the inside of the front cover is the statement, "A lecture delivered at Harding College during the 1951 Lectureship Nov. 11-15." If this is not the lecture which the brother delivered, he is guilty of stating that which is not true. He admits that he is and offers to prove it by a thousand people. I am quite willing to take his word for the fact that he has not told the truth about the matter, so it will not be necessary for him to offer the testimony of his witnesses. All I had was the tract. It says that its content is a lecture delivered at Harding College. Please do not blame me for brother Brewer's misstatement of facts.

(2) That his descriptive adjectives and nouns were "abstractly" employed. Hear him: "He cites such words as 'sophistry,' fallacy,' quibbling,' and 'caterwauling'. Any man who could be expected to read and understand that manuscript would know that those are abstract words and are not epithets, personal nouns or designations. They refer to qualities or characteristics in argumentation — to behavior in controversy."

The statement just quoted from the brother makes innocuous indeed the speech under consideration, but it so happens that that is not true. Any person possessing the tract who has advanced beyond the fifth reader knows that it is not true. In the first place, the words cited by the brother are but a few of those used. He describes those who differ from him on the question of "institutionalism" (and everybody knew and knows to whom he referred) as: "Pharisees"; those "who make void the word of God"; those who "make a mockery of Christianity"; those who are guilty of "Pharisaic caviling and caterwauling"; those who "divide churches, destroy fellowship and stab love dead at our feet"; "factionists"; fulminators; not converted; not Christians; "causists"; "squint-eyed scribes"; "cranks"; "critics." With reference to those to whom he referred, there can be no doubt for he uses the expression "deadly parallel," placing it in quotation marks, and mentions the fact that he has charged those who declare Missionary Societies and orphan homes under institutional boards to be deadly parallels with being "factionists," and "seeking to divide the churches." The expression "deadly parallel" was used by brother Yater Tant in a Gospel Guardian article, as both brother Brewer and his audience knew. This establishes the identity of those to whom brother Brewer referred. His description of those to whom he referred was in no sense "abstract" as he contends, but rather, it was personal, false and contemptible. Harding College has always claimed to abhor this sort of thing. The Harding brethren enjoyed brother Brewer's speech and tract, hence my charge must have been correct. They did enjoy that which pained their sensitive spirits. However, that my article sought to inflame people to violent action against the school is another of brother Brewer's misconceptions. There is nothing in my articles remotely suggestive of such a thing.

Another fact which makes the brother's contention concerning his epithets ridiculous is the fact that he is known everywhere for calling denominational preachers "Brother" when he meets them in debate and for being offensively sweet to them. When he describes his own brethren, he uses the terms of his Harding lecture. Why the difference, dear brother?

I am also criticized by brother Brewer with regard to my calling the lectureship "A Thanksgiving Lectureship." For my terrible mistake, I am duly sorry and abjectly apologize. Such a bad impression must have been made. Of course this Fall Lectureship at Harding College has for years been known and advertised as a "Thanksgiving Lectureship," but it was simply unpardonable of me not to have noted that it was held a week or ten days before Thanksgiving Day.

Harding Lectures Vs Florida Lectures

Brother Brewer belittles me for introducing this matter. He accuses me of wanting to let everybody know that I spoke on the Florida Lectureship. If so, I suppose that is why he introduced the Abilene Lectures in his article. My name has been used in connection with what has been written about the Florida Lectures both in the Gospel Advocate and the Firm Foundation; brother Brewer's speech was on the same subject upon which I spoke with the exception that my subject was more general; the contrast between the two lectureships was great; James D. Bales of Harding College flew to Florida in time to hear me and Yater Tent; Otis Gatewood practically demanded that brother Bales be given opportunity to speak in answer; brother Gatewood's demand was cheerfully complied with; brother Bales did speak for at least forty-five minutes in addition to what he had opportunity to say in round table discussion; after my speech, brother Bales confronted me with a proposition for debate which he said he had obtained a few days before from brother Brewer to bring to Florida; it was written in brother Brewer's own hand and signed by him (I remember it so well because it had a common English word misspelled in it); the proposition for debate was declined because, like all of his propositions, it did not express the issue. These, brother Brewer, are the reasons why I mentioned the Florida Lectures.

It seems from what brother Brewer says that brother George Benson really wanted an impartial study of the question discussed by brother Brewer. I want to commend brother Benson for his desire to be fair, but deplore his judgment in taking brother Brewer's advice that it not be done.


I believe that most of brother Brewer's article has been covered, so I bid it farewell. It remains only for me to say that before last week, I was a non-entity. Now, forsooth, I am known by all. The mighty oracle of Memphis, Tennessee, has deigned to notice me and I am now — should I say "famous" or "notorious"? I feel much like a poor little, social-climbing debutante must feel who has been openly rebuked by the dignified social matron who rules with iron hand the doors of admittance to the cloistered "400." Yet, it is an exhilarating thought that I have at least been saved from anonymity and that my name has been immortalized by the attention which my capers have elicited. In this fact, I must find solace. It will have to suffice to fill the aching void left by thwarted ambition. Oh! the vicissitudes of life, how hard they are to bear!