Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
Volume 1
Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 19, 1950
No.36 Pg.1

That Rock Fight In Italy

Cled E. Wallace

"We" are getting plenty of publicity in the papers these days. It appears that a hand-full of "our missionaries" were on the receiving end of some rock-throwing in Italy. Fortunately, up to last reports nobody has been killed or sent to hospitals but some of the brethren have not been so excited since the baby fell in the well. "A Church of Christ minister in Dallas" says that "we have 150,000 members all over Texas and they're all pretty indignant about this." The Dallas News uses the word "irate" in describing the frame of mind of many of these "members." Brethren, it might be a good idea to cool off and settle down and view this upsetting situation a bit more calmly. Really, it won't do much good to get mad. If the brethren over in Italy get as mad as some of the brethren are over here, they are liable to have a real rock fight and somebody might get hurt. Maybe if we keep our shirts on and our hats on straight, "our" denomination may be able to appoint enough committees and draft enough resolutions to influence the pope to call off his rock throwing. We are too badly outnumbered over there to risk throwing any rocks back at them. I am not very optimistic over the prospect of persuading the President and the State Department to bomb the Vatican. It is doubtful that "our" denomination is that popular in Washington at the present time.

Before I get as mad as 150,000 of the other "members" seem to be I have a few observations I would like to make for what they may be worth to anybody. Be it understood that I speak only for myself as a Christian and a lay-member and do not even belong to any "committee to draft resolutions." If I am the only member who is not mad, "irate," or "indignant" possibly nobody will listen to me.

It looks a little like "approximately 700 ministers and laymen" are going off "half-cocked" like some of the brethren did when they went into Italy and are getting us some publicity which, as far as I am able to see, is not doing the church any good. There are a lot of other people in this country besides the few myriads that "we have" and most of them may not be as mad as "we" are. Some of them probably think "we" need a few rocks bounced off of "us," and would not be willing to go to war on such a slight pretext.

The main question seems to be: "What can we do about it?" The minister of "our" big church in Houston has called a big "mass prayer meeting" to pray to the Lord and protest to the President of the United States. The paper doesn't say which he thinks will do the most good, but obviously he thinks what the Lord cannot do about it, the President can. "Approximately 700 ministers and laymen from 60 churches in the Dallas-Fort Worth area" met and "appointed committees to draft resolutions to be sent to congressmen and the State Department. And they also drafted a telegram to be sent to President Truman." Nothing was said in the paper about prayer. Possibly they decided not to bother the Lord with it until things got more serious.

"The Vatican source," unofficially of course, and the Italian government, officially, present their side of the case and it also got in the papers. They claim that "these young people have been most intemperate" and that "some of them have at times used gross words in their public declarations and have attacked the Holy See—as well as other Protestant religions—with ill-advised words." We have been accused of the same sort of thing in this country without having any rocks bounced off us. But Italy is not America. Rome is not expected to be as gentle with Innocents Abroad as we are. When a few Americans camp in the pope's back yard and begin to take yanking liberties with the old gent's whiskers, they cannot expect to escape dodging a few rocks and it doesn't appear that resolutions and protests adopted in Dallas and Houston will correct matters to any great extent.

If the Italian government is correct in its claims that "the evangelists came in as tourists and got permission to stay three months," and then set up permanent installations with only the hope of getting their permits renewed, then somebody used some mighty poor judgment. Prayers, protests, and resolutions may not repair the damage.

It looks like we need a good-will ambassador of some sort like we have in Japan and Germany. This thing calls for some politics, in the field of "civil rights" of course. Just look how they did it in Germany. They did not get any rocks thrown at them over there. They explained to them that "we" had nothing to do with bombing their organs and so forth, that our wicked government was responsible for that. The inference was that the American Air Force over Germany were winged Wolves harassing flocks of German lambs. The Germans liked that. What we need in Italy is for somebody to play politics with the pope. Our Houston minister says that: "Americans had helped to free Italy of despotism" and is proud of the fact that "two members" of his church were killed in the process. "The Supervisor of our missionaries" in Germany says that they were not Christians, for no Christian would do a thing like that. Come to think of it, conscientious objectors who think that all civil government originated with the devil, look sorter funny calling mass meetings and passing resolutions and making protests and trying to kick up a fuss with congress and the President about "civil rights," especially in a foreign country, which doesn't know much about "civil rights." Things are in quite a mess. I don't know what can be done unless somebody sends some of "our" good politicians, who have been throwing figurative rocks at us for preaching the plain gospel, over to smooth out this "civil rights" issue. It seems to be all right with both Dallas and Houston for "our missionaries" to be persecuted. We expected that, but we don't like it when they throw rocks at us, that is an infringement on our "civil rights." If we are that sensitive about "civil rights" we ought to get a clear deed to some of it, before we invade a foreign Country.

I happen to know that two of "our" preachers got whipped in this country where "civil rights" abound. A Holiness whipped one of them, and a Baptist whipped the other. I do not recall that the incidents jarred the President, nor rocked the State Department. No mass meetings were held nor committees appointed to protest. I don't think the Vatican ever heard of it. Confidentially, I think the preachers involved have been behaving better ever since.

This thing would be serious if we did not have divine precedent to go by. You know, when Paul was stoned in Lystra, brethren from all over the country gathered in mass meetings in Jerusalem and Antioch, appointed committees and passed resolutions and made protests to Caesar. When Caesar found out how many members we had, he saw to it that we had our "civil rights" and we lived happily ever afterward.