John Q, Public
Some of the counts in the alleged "findings" of "Judge John Q. Public," as recently interpreted, or maybe more accurately interpolated, by Judge R. O. Kenley, need some touching up. My high personal regard for Brother Kenley is a sufficient guarantee that any criticisms I direct at him will be free from any bitterness. In fact I'm not after him. It is very charitable and very true to merely remark that he knows little about the mind of "John Q. Public" in this case. These "findings" may be found in a late issue of the paper devoted to smearing the character of the editor of the Bible Banner. If you like that sort of thing and would like to get hold of a copy of the paper on the sly, so to speak, I understand that they are being delivered in "bundles" at the Broadway church in Lubbock, Texas in care of Brother G. C. Brewer. Brother Brewer might slip you one as he seems to be quite interested in its circulation, in fact he is a contributor of some of the hottest stuff in it. Here is one "finding."
"We suggest, in the future when a preacher determines to invade the territory of some other preacher for the purpose of destroying him, that he first sit down and read an account of Napoleon's invasion of Russia-in 1812."
It is assumed that we "invaded the territory of some other preacher for the purpose of destroying him" in the Rio Grande Valley, got a thorough threshing and staged a Napoleonic retreat. The truth is that the editor of the Bible Banner toured the Valley and gathered in a long list of subscribers for the paper. I did the preaching in two meetings down there and took in a few more which a few people were anxious to hand me. Since when did "some other preacher" become the Czar of a "territory" that we must stay out of when we have proper invitations to go there? We did not retreat from a fight. We left after we finished the work we went there to do. We suggest to our friend Judge Kenley, since he is taking a lively interest in the case, that he go down and interview "John Q. Public" in the Valley. He should not fail to see such preachers as Brethren Davis, Adams, Leamons, Wolfrum, Fikes, Williams, Jeffcoat, Casada and others. They preach for churches in Harlingen, San Benito, Mission, McAllen, Raymondville, Edcouch, Brownsville, Weslaco and some other points. He might compare our standing down that-away with that of "some other preacher" and the "Irish" from Houston who went down to help him conduct his defense against a threatened annihilation. He might find some “Irish” on our side of his so-called invasion. Should Brother Brewer decide to go down and scout around a little, he might find things as one-sided as he did in Oklahoma City. He would at least get the inspiration to write a sequel to "That Makes Me Sick."
Other "Findings" In "The Record"
Here is another count in the "findings."
"From the record before us we find Eugene S: Smith not guilty of wrong, the only complaint against him, being that he preaches the ‘true gospel’ over the radio, and asks his listeners to contribute toward the expense thereof. This party has shown the true Christian spirit 'when smitten on one cheek, he has turned the other."
There is nothing in "the record before us." upon which to base a charge that we have ever complained against anybody, anywhere, anytime, preaching the gospel over, the radio, or anywhere else. We think it ought to be preached there and everywhere else. We have complained, and shall continue to complain, when anybody, regardless of his name, assumes to speak for "the churches of Christ" and carries on a begging campaign that can be, and probably will be, interpreted widely as "a church of Christ" racket. Where does a man get his authority to speak for "the churches of Christ"? Who invited Brother Smith to do so? We still believe that Brother Smith was guilty of what we complained about, nor do we believe that "John Q. Public" has rendered the verdict that Brother Kenley says he has. We have nothing personal against Brother Smith, nor have we attacked his personal character. If we smote him on the cheek, it was a mistake on our part, for that was not the place we were aiming at. We give him all due credit for "the true Christian spirit" to the extent that he has not retaliated with a vicious personal attack on us after the manner of G. C. Brewer, L. C. Utley and the unmentionable Oklahoma City mouthpiece of the Rio Grande slander sheet. He probably has his faults along with the rest of us, but we are confident that he is not capable of that.
Here is another "finding" that deserves a remark or so.
"We commend the 'Irish' for going to the defense of 'little' Ira, and find John O'Dowd 'not guilty,' whether his action was prompted by love for 'little' Ira or just his love to be in a fight."
Now we do not believe that anybody, whether "Irish" or Russian should be prompted to go "to the defense of" anybody when he has shown himself undeserving of such defense, regardless of how much the “Irish love to be in a fight." This is not the "true Christian spirit" Brother Smith is commended for having "shown." We believe that the Bible Banner is prompted by higher motives than the "love to be in a fight." If you doubt it, let one or more of our best friends begin doing some of the things we are fighting, and see whether or not we run to his defense. That is not our idea of fighting.
There is one more "finding" which must have been found with the record book closed and both eyes shut.
"We acquit W. Wallace Layton and............of all guilt in connection with this matter, as the evidence conclusively shows they acted in self-defense against what appeared to them real or apparent danger."
The blank stands for the unmentionable in Oklahoma City, and as far as he is concerned "the evidence conclusively shows" nothing of the kind. That is one time the Judge's finger slipped clear off the pulse of "John Q. Public." The idea of acquitting that chief of sinners in vile utterance "of all guilt"! If he is to be thus acquitted, it should be ruled a mortal sin for anybody to ever again put a bridle on his tongue. I suggest that Judge Kenley go to Oklahoma City, as G. C. Brewer did recently, and put his finger on the pulse of "John Q. Public" up there where the character assassin has his lair.
Considering The Source
Brother Brewer might be real good at invective if he would climb down off that high-horse vocabulary of his. His temperament and present state of mind are ideal for that sort of thing. Since he professes to think I am an expert in that line, I am passing him a bit of advice even at the risk of later being the victim of it. When you want to get under a man's skin, don't call him a "megalomaniac" or anything else that is hard to spell or pronounce. It might be all right if you only wanted to crack his jaw. Call him something he can understand without thumbing a dictionary. Now, take the editor of the Bible Banner for instance. When you called him a "megalomaniac," if it had been anybody else in the world besides you talking, he might have thought you were bragging on him. When Brother Brewer gets mad he sounds like a racing automobile engine with the clutch out and the wheels standing still. He ought to streamline his vocabulary and let the clutch in.
We are not wanting to fight with anybody who naturally just does not like us much, and winces a bit at the directness with which we go at things, if he will be about half-way decent about it. But I have been doing some figuring on this mad crowd which has risen up "in self-defense" to smite us hip and thigh by-fair means and foul, mostly foul. There may be something significant about the fact that most of them, and that is conservative, have records for disturbing the peace of churches where they have been, creating discord, advocating majority rule, leaning toward or actually advocating premillennialism, or habitually making a public display of a soft, compromising attitude toward vital issues. They do not all have the same cause for hating us but "There's A Reason." We are not polishing our nails and slicking our hair to attend any peace conferences with them.
Local Church Disturbances
The surest way for some elders to bring their qualifications under fire from some preachers is for them to decide that a change of preachers is desirable. Even majority rule preachers are willing to be subject to "qualified" elders, meaning of course that the elders think they are the right men for the places they are in. A change of mind on the part of the elders disqualifies them and then the congregation develops a "qualification" that had hitherto blushed unseen, if a majority happen to be in favor of keeping the preacher. Sometimes, or oftener, the preacher is able to contribute his mite to the development of this congregational qualification by judicious "personal work." The members sometimes need some clerical help to find out that their elders are "unqualified." It is possibly just a coincidence that the preacher discovers that elders are not "qualified" about the same time they discover that he would be better qualified for another field. Preachers might be better able to pass on the qualifications of elders, if they had less of a personal interest in the matter. The qualifications and duties of elders should, of course, be studied and preached on, but there ought to be some sort of a law against a preacher taking it for a subject at a place he is trying to stay when the elders have decided he ought to leave. It is not adding anything to the qualifications of either preachers or elders. It more often creates discord in the church.
There are several angles, all serious, to the problem of a divided church when a church-busting preacher is mixed up in it. One of them is the woman-question. Bless 'em, we can't get along without them, but they are sometimes hard to handle in a church fuss, especially if we are trying to save a church and the preacher ought to move as apart of the process. He is sometimes "a devil" with the women. No, this is no reflection on his faithfulness to his wife, if he has one, or his personal purity if he hasn't. The woman involved may be as old as Sarah, if not as docile, and have a fair record as "a mother in Israel." She has a big sympathetic heart always yearning to mother some unfortunate victim of injustice and the preacher knocks at the door. When he "confidentially" and sorrowfully relates his "problem," his hungry heart gets the sympathy it craves. She may let him sample something she has in the ice-box to refresh his wounded spirit and her attitude is as easily translated as one of Aesop's fables. "Why, you poor darling, these old popes can't do that to you." From here out he has some help with the visiting "problem" and the elders begin to hear that they are "so-called" and "unqualified." And sometimes the charge is not entirely without foundation. What have the elders been doing? It may be that they have been too busy attending to their own affairs to properly "Tend the flock of God" and the preacher tends to the flock instead of doing the work of an evangelist as he is supposed to do. It is not unusual in a local church disturbance to hear a chorus of feminine voices running up and down the whole diatonic scale to the tune of how some darling preacher has been abused by some "so-called" elders. "The forgotten man" is often some devout soul who suffers in silence, and anxiously wonders' what is going to become of the church which the Lord purchased with his own blood.
Now, somebody is almost sure to write in, judging from past experience, to know if I mean him or them. A lot of steam has been worked off on paper to set me right on this, that and the other. So if you have three cents for a stamp, or six, some paper and plenty of time, let me hear from you. I often get some good suggestions from people who are both wrong and mad. I read them with a poker face and an analytic mind. I am writing from a background of something like thirty years of experience and observation covering a wide territory. I am calling no names and locating no places and leaving the curious some things to wonder about. It heightens rather than minimizes the interest in these matters. Since I am not a "megalomaniac" I may take up some other angles at another time.