Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 28, 1954

McCarthyism In The Church

Bill Carmack, Waynoka, Oklahoma

Most of the articles appearing in the Gospel Guardian and other papers published by our brethren are not only interesting and informative, but more important, they are useful. I must confess that upon reading "Fellowshipping the Ungodly," by Brother C. R. Mansfield (The Gospel Guardian, December 24, 1953) I saw no way to translate its teaching into action to better me as a Christian. After considerable deliberation the answer still eludes me.

Brother Mansfield's article is typical of a large number that have appeared in various journals in recent months. Except for differences in circumstances and facts they are all quite similar. These articles, directed against fellow preachers, are circulated to create in the mind of uncritical readers suspicion of the man under attack. While Brother Mansfield did not disclose his subject's name, many of them do. Especially is this true if the "offender" happens to enjoy the respect of large numbers of brethren. The assumption seems to be that the writer will be somehow elevated or bettered if he can cast aspersions upon some great man. Most such articles are characterized by the usual propaganda tactics of few facts and multiplied inferences and judgments.

I have not been accorded the pleasure of meeting Brother Mansfield, nor do I know the preacher who led the prayer at the football game. I am not interested here in the wisdom of leading such prayers, but rather in the sophistic devices used in the "reporting" of the matter.

An analysis of the article under question will reveal that it contains three pertinent facts: (1) A gospel preacher led a prayer at a high school football game; (2) He used the pronoun "we"; (3) He said that the gospel contains general principles.

In contrast to this poverty of information we find in the article at least nine inferences and judgments — a ratio of three conclusions for every premise. This presents an interesting contrast to the more careful and objective writer who will collect many facts and then offer a tentative conclusion. Admittedly, the latter course is more difficult, but, I suspect, more productive also.

Here are some of the things that Gospel Guardian readers were asked to believe on the basis of the three facts given. (1) Many churches are trying to "ape" the denominations. (2) The preachers who labor for them are interested only in money. (Paul, who labored among churches with all sorts of moral and doctrinal error, will be distressed to learn this!) (3) Such preachers, including the brother who led the prayer, have a "lack of love for the truth; (4) a lack of respect for the authority of Christ and the gospel." (5) They are willing to compromise in order to be popular. (6) The preacher under attack has compromised with Satan. (7) His prayer was a mock. (Did God say so? After all, it was addressed to Him. Doubtless some said that about the prayers of Cornelius.) (8) He betrayed ignorance of the Bible. (9) His ability is not being properly applied.

It is needless to comment on the extreme seriousness fo these charges.

Not only should we ask ourselves the question, Are the facts at hand sufficient to demand the conclusion presented? but also, Is the implied interpretation of the facts the only consistent one that can be made? Let us briefly review the facts given.

1. The preacher led a prayer at a football game. I gather that under certain specific conditions Brother Mansfield would not object to this. If, for example, all sinners were excluded. The objections were to what was said in the prayer.

2. The prayer made use of the pronoun "we." What would Brother Mansfield have us do if called upon to lead prayer at a gospel meeting designed for (as most of them are) and well attended by non-Christians? Should we ask all the unsaved to leave the room during prayer? Or perhaps we could say, "Father, the following is a list of those whom I consider worthy to participate in this prayer ...." and then make the petition. Or, like the Pharisees, we could make our prayer one of thanks that we are so much better than those in the audience who overhear us. Is it proper to say "we" if most of the people there are Christ-tiaras? Where, exactly, is the dividing line?

3. It was said that the gospel contains general principles. This Brother Mansfield stoutly denies, saying, "They are NOT general. They ARE specific." Without proof he adds that "previous departures are evidenced for it takes much drifting to get down to that"!

A little thought will reveal that the gospel does contain general principles. If Paul's injunction to the Corinthians for unity is not general then I cannot use it in a lesson on unity at Waynoka, for this is not Corinth and I am not Paul. The whole plea of churches of Christ is that we must follow the teachings of the New Testament because those teachings are general and, therefore, applicable to 20th Century America as well as 1st Century Jerusalem. The Sermon on the Mount affords many excellent examples of general principles being taught. The reader can multiple his own illustrations.

S. I. Hayakawa, one of the nation's foremost students of General Semantics and author of Language in Thought and Action pays a tribute to the teaching of the Master when he says:

"The famous injunction of Jesus, 'And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise,' is...a generalization at so high a level of abstraction that it appears to be applicable to all men in all cultures."

We should attempt to think both critically and charitably at all times, but especially when we are prone to speak out against a brother in Christ. If there are additional facts about the football game prayer, and if those facts might force upon us the conclusions reached by Brother Mansfield, then they should have been given. As it now stands, too much has been said about too little.