Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 3, 1968
NUMBER 22, PAGE 4,6a

The Name Of The Game Is: "Name It Something Else"


Weasel words. Everybody knows what they are — terms that are evasive, indirect, or intentionally misleading or ambiguous. It has always been a popular game, especially so among politicians — and certain theologians. It is a way of saying something that says nothing, of hiding realities under ambiguities, or evading facts by elaborating verbosity. The Chicago Tribune recently gave a "Jet-Set Lexicon" to explain some of the more common terms being strewn across the pages of newsprint, and sounded over the air waves. For example: Great Society: Something that went that-a-way; Urban Renewal: The reduction of housing to holes in the ground; Honky: Any white who is not properly obsequious; Jet set: Rich loafers who can afford to have one another in to whack the jug. The late Supreme Court Justice James Clark McReynolds is quoted as having once told a lawyer who was presenting a case before the court, "I could understand you better if I knew what you were talking about."

Politics is notorious for its "weasel words." And so is religion. And, if anything, in religion they are even weaselier than in politics. Like, for instance, this word "fellowship." It has been hooked on to everything from a special collection to an outing in the park to a gleaming new church kitchen — to a fully organized denominational organizational structure. One of our exchanges is the Baptist Bible Tribune which is published by the "Baptist Bible Fellowship International," with offices at Springfield, Missouri. The "Fellowship" lists its President its Vice-President, its Director of Missions, and its Secretary-Treasurer. It lists also the names of nine men who comprise its "Board of Directors." Then we have this disclaimer in small type: "The churches of the Baptist Bible Fellowship being autonomous bodies, The Tribune does not presume to be their official organ. They have no official organ. What The Tribune does is to publish what it believes to be of interest of the common cause and to accept complete responsibility therefore."

A recent issue of The Tribune listed three full pages of churches and noted the contribution each had made "To the Fellowship" for the first three months of 1968, a total of $829,517.74. There were probably about a thousand congregations in the listing.

What we want to know is, does calling an organization "The Fellowship" change the basic structure or nature of the organization? Just what would it take to turn "The Fellowship" into a "Missionary Society Organization" — which, we surmise, would be a totally unacceptable designation to those of "The Fellowship." They have their President, Vice-president, Director of Missions, Secretary-Treasurer, Board of Directors, and "Fellowship Treasury." Does the fact that all contributing congregations give voluntarily make it right? Is it right to give voluntarily, but sinful to give involuntarily — under coercion? As we see it, this is just the exact reverse of truth. If a thing is wrong, then voluntary giving means the giver has had free choice, and has chosen to support the wrong thing. But if the whole congregation were lined up against a wall with machine-guns trained to them and forced to surrender their money at gun-point, we can hardly conceive that they would be guilty of sin in so doing.

Now these things, brethren, we have taken from the Baptist Bible Tribune that in seeing them — maybe some of us can see ourselves! For surely, every informed Christian can see that "naming it something else" does not change the fact that our Baptist friends have a denominational organization, functioning smoothly, effectively, and with acceptance and participation on the part of the cooperating congregations. But if it is wrong for the Baptists, why is it right for the Churches of Christ? We don't call ours "The Fellowship", but we do call it "Herald of Truth", or "Campaigns for Christ," or "Cows for Korea," or something of the sort. And we DO (usually, but not always) try to see to it that the Board of Directors all also serve as elders in one particular congregation. But beyond that, what basic difference can be found?

The Churches of Christ have been "conditioned" by more than a hundred years of controversy to reject, refuse, denounce and execrate anything bearing the name of "missionary society." But the modern generation has come up with a new set of rules and a new game. The name of the game is, "Name It Something Else." It will help (but is not really necessary) if some Biblical word can appear in the name somewhere — like "fellowship" or "eldership"; but the main thing is to avoid the word "society."

We smile at the weasel words of others — but grow indignant when our own pet projects are put into the same frame! Anybody want to take exception to this article? If so, send in your beef. We might even publish it. The Gospel Guardian has been known to publish opposing points of view in the past; we might do it again.

F. Y. T.