Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 2, 1961

Popularity And Purity

Jerry C. Ray, Irving, Texas

One of the great tragedies that befell Christianity in the first few centuries was the "conversion" of the Roman Emperor, Constantine. Up until Constantine's time Christianity was under the imperial ban, and was called an illicit religion. Persecution during the first few centuries had been severe, but even with the martyrdom of thousands, the church of Christ continued to grow.

As the story goes, Constantine saw a cross in the sky just before a battle. The cross bore the inscription, "in hoc signo, vinces," which means, "in this sign, conquer." Though not converted immediately, this incident is supposed to have led to Constantine's conversion. In the year 313 A. D. he issued an edict of toleration for Christianity and in 323 the first "Christian Emperor" made Christianity the established religion of the Empire. With this came great numbers of "converts" and great popularity for the church of Christ. (I imagine they could have boasted of more famous athletes and entertainers than even "we" can now). And the devil had a field day with the church enfeebled by the worldliness of the people. I am fully persuaded this hurt the church far more than did all the persecution of the preceding decades. The church of Jesus Christ was "popularized" into weakness and impurity. And thus has it always been. When the church leaves the pure gospel to compromise with the world and to cater to the favor of the world, the church must lose its purity in exchange for popularity.

Only a few years ago one who was a member of the church of Christ had convictions or he would never have obeyed the gospel. But then the church of Christ moved over from "the frame building on the wrong side of the tracks" to Popularity Avenue and a brick building. But the church often left the plain preaching and moral purity on the wrong side of the tracks, for with the increase in popularity came many unconverted to "join" the church. They did not want strong preaching, and pressured the elders and preachers to preach "smooth things," until we have reached the point that many had rather have the good will of the world than the approval of God. And many are the attendant sins.

Today "our" famous members are used to draw the crowds rather than the gospel of Christ. And the great shame is that once these wealthy and famous people are set up as THE example of the church of Christ, their actions, right or wrong, are never criticized!

Pat Boone has been set up thusly. One "leader of the church" said that brother Boone's book, Twixt Twelve and Twenty, "will do more towards enabling teen-agers to express Christian principles in their lives than all the sermons that have been addressed to them during the past 10 years." (The book has a picture of two girls in bathing suits).

But brother Boone engages in many things that are wrong for a Christian, and since he has been set up as the example of the church of Christ, the ones who set him up should make known that they do not approve of some of the things he does. Have you ever heard or read where one of these people spoke out and refused to condone his actions? What actions do I mean? (1) He dances in his movie, "Mardi Gras." (2) He states that he wears a Roman Catholic St. Christopher's medal. (3) In a Ladies Home Journal article he encourages a lady to enroll her daughter in a Y. W. C. A. dancing party. (If this is one of his ghost-written articles, he should watch what goes out under his name). (4) He, a married man and a father, kisses women other than his wife in his movies. (5) On the radio the other day he closed his program with a "spiritual song" (his words) with instrumental accompaniment. The song, "Peace in the Valley" teaches rank premillennialism; read the words sometime.

When Christians allow such sins to go unreproved and leave with the world the impression that Christians approve of such actions, we have swapped purity for popularity.

What is wrong with the watchmen upon the walls when they will not sound the alarm?