The Mail Man Blows His Whistle
When I write I have in mind to teach, exhort, warn, reprove and even furnish a little spicy and wholesome entertainment to my readers. The mailman's whistle brings me both reward and punishment. The kind of letters people write, even some preachers, is revealing. Under the circumstances I think the readers are entitled to peep into some of these letters. I do not expect everybody to agree with all that I say. Sometimes the same mail brings both bouquets and brickbats. Some correspondents dissent and criticize and do so in a respectful manner. This I appreciate regardless of my personal opinion of their information, judgment or logic. A few preachers seem to entertain the idea that they can break down our morale by performing sapping operations, employing ugly, abusive letters as their weapons. I say "our" because I am not the only one who is receiving such letters. These men evidently hope to hide behind the immunity generally accorded personal communication. Under the circumstances, which the reader may judge according to his lights, I may deny a few of them such a hiding place.
I recently quoted from Brother R. L. Whiteside in an article that appeared in the Bible Banner. Brother Whiteside is query editor of the Gospel Advocate, writes the Annual Lesson Commentary for the Gospel Advocate Company and is widely known for his Bible scholarship, loyalty to New Testament teaching, and a godly life. He is humble and unassuming. He recently received a long letter from a preacher who denounced him for having anything to do with "the Wallaces," denounced us as factionists, referred to Brother Whiteside as "a wily old devil," questioned his honesty and expressed the hope that he could be brought to his senses. That there might be no mistake about it, he added: , "If some of these things sound harsh, I mean them at their worst." This letter was written by a conscientious objector, one who insists that the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount must be literally observed. Brother Whiteside has lived a long time and has written very many letters, but he never wrote one in his life to any man, such as the one he received from this "minister" of a church of Christ. He did not answer this one and being Christians, we do not return his bitter feelings.
Brother J. F. Doggett, of Tupelo, Miss., writes in a milder vein but says in a letter to me: "You sound just a little bit like Hitler." From which I infer that he doesn't like Hitler much, and that sounds a little like me. I don't either. He further remarks that "The fact of the matter is Bro. Wallace, your position is too weak to defend, from a Bible viewpoint, as you of all people should be able to see." Well, be patient with me. When I have reached the age that Brother Doggett has and had time to accumulate the knowledge and wisdom that he has, maybe I too will "be able to see it." He assures me that he has "written in a good spirit" but immediately adds as if he had some doubts about it: "If there are things in this letter that seem sharp, I trust they will serve to awaken you to the great responsibility of your influence in the church of our Lord and Master I only hope you read it and think on the things I have said." So, that's it! Some of the brethren think I am asleep and are trying to wake me up from a Rip Van Winkle slumber by sticking pins in me, so I can think.
Brother James D. Bales has plenty of fault to find with both our position and our style. He quite regularly bombards the editor and me with personal letters and other material. My personal letters from him recently would cover two pages of the Bible Banner and he sends along other typewritten material, setting forth his objections as a conscientious objector, that would cover seven pages of the Bible Banner. Of course if brethren have time to write us in such volume and it serves to let off a little steam, it is all right with us. But why should Brother Bales write us so much? He writes for the Gospel Advocate and is connected with the 20th Century Christian. Why doesn't he say what he has to say in his own papers? We do. He wrote in capital letters at the top of a long epistle to me: "I READ YOURS NOW YOU READ MINE." I did, but think how many more people read mine than read his. Some of the brethren seem to think that we have both time and inclination to carry on lengthy private discussions with any and all who are moved to sit down to a typewriter. We have neither. I received two letters in one mail from Brother Bales in which he expresses deep concern about me and my ways. He exhorts me along this line:
"Why make the wise crack and the derogatory statements which you make in your articles? You are not writing for a comic, for amusement, but for edification, examination of error, proclamation of truth, to convert people to the truth. Why waste time and space, why often insult your opponent and try to amuse brethren? All the funny remarks and broad charges (such as those against the conscientious objector) may amuse the brethren who agree with you, they may disgust others."
What I have written, I have written and I am willing to leave it to the judgment of those who read what I write whether or not it is insulting or disgusting. The brother finally volunteers this fatherly advice: "State the error and then analyze and refute it. Let your arguments and scriptures attack the position: not your sarcasm and jokes." I appreciate the young brother's efforts, but I am afraid he is "wasting time and space," a lot of it, trying to cram some of us oldsters into the straitjacket of his ideas about modern journalism. It may be that I ought to write like he does, but there are at least two reasons why I do not. I couldn't if I wanted to and I don't want to. I think I'll just have to continue to be myself and go along my own way amusing some and disgusting others. I might be able to make some suggestions looking toward the improvement of his own writings, but he is not likely to receive two letters from me in one day giving him the unsolicited information.
Brother C. E. W. Dorris of Nashville, Tenn., editor of some commentaries for the Gospel Advocate Company, proposes to purge me with strong medicine, a sort of mail-order cure although I didn't order it. He has written me four typewritten letters totaling about forty pages. I disposed of the first one in three lines, suggesting that surely he did not expect me to reply to such a document. The others were at least as bad and went unacknowledged. The letters are bitter, abusive and vulgar. There are passages in them that I would no more put in the paper than I would tell a smutty joke in the pulpit. This sounds like exaggeration, but I have the letters as evidence in case they are needed. His publisher must be proud of him! Men must be in a deplorable state of mind who can persuade themselves to write such letters. I have information to the effect that at least one of these letters was seen in the Gospel Advocate office and was receiving quite a bit of discussion. It seems to be quite widely known that I have received such letters. Since they are likely to become famous I shall risk a few quotations:
"You brethren have convinced me that none of you are brave enough to make a good sergeant at arms in a Pecker-wood Club." "When you fail to volunteer and refuse to face friends' and brethren in open discussion, do you not thereby prove to the world that you are both a moral and religious coward?"
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"Hitler could take a half dozen Pecker woods and run all of you away from home."
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"You brethren have twisted yourselves so badly that you have about ruined yourselves for everything except material out of which to make corkscrews."
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"My guess is that you know that if you meet your own brethren that they will knock your theory into a cocked hat, yourselves out of the ring and into Scott and White clinic and bore you for the hollow horn."
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"It looks like you brethren can't keep from ripping your breeches to save your lives. Did you know that you have ripped them so badly that a part of your anatomy has become a very laughable object to people walking down the street behind you? I suggest that before you go out on the street again that all three of you put on leggins that will go as high up as possible, a long tail coat that will go as far down as possible and a mother hubbard dress that will go at least a foot and a half below possible. If you will do this you will be O.K. provided you behave yourselves and not rip your mother hubbards as you have your pants."
Now some prurient minds might crave to see some of the real bad parts of these letters. I decline to accommodate you. You'll have to call on Brother Dorris. I really think Brother James D. Bales should give us a rest and work on Brother Dorris some and see if he cannot improve his style of writing. Both are conscientious objectors and maybe Brother Dorris would listen to Brother Bales. He doesn't seem to think much of us.
Brother Dorris is a sadly disappointed man and expresses himself this way:
"When I entered into what I supposed would be a heated correspondence, I did it with much fear and trembling, for the reason I thought that a fellow could shake a red rag in the face of an old cow's brother and get by with it as easy, if not with more ease, than he could escape a hot fracas by throwing a monkey wrench into the cogs of your war machine. But, lo, and behold! when the wrench went into the cogs, you were like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened' you not your mouth. It must have knocked the wind all out of your sail."
I do not mind admitting that I am not the kind of a man Brother Dorris thought I was. I have no stomach whatever for the sort of discussion he has tried to badger me into. There is not a man living I would talk to as he has to me. He offers me five dollars, then ten dollars if I will do thus and so and boasts about it in the paper. I do not want any of his money. He can buy war savings stamps with it!
Men who write bitter letters quote Paul to the effect that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal." Some of them do not hesitate to hurl bitter, carnal words. What kind of weapons do they think carnal words are? A man who employs words that "eat as doth a gangrene" is not qualified to go around quoting Paul on "the weapons of our warfare." He should listen while somebody quotes these words of Paul to him. "Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear." "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one."
The Bible does not say that the men who are defending our country are murderers but it does say that "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer." According to their own logic, some men who write letters against war might as well go and join the Army. And when they write us, should we be as bad even as they think we are, and they as good as they think they are, they might emulate "Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing judgment, but said, the Lord rebuke thee."