Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 11, 1954
NUMBER 27, PAGE 6,9b

Preachers, Politics, And Pietism

Vaughn D. Shofner, Camden, Arkansas

"Polities," free from adulteration, simply expresses the science and art of government; the science dealing with the organization, regulation, and administration of a state, in both its external and internal affairs, Mr. Webster says. But, corrupted by man it now carries the primary meaning of skillfully designing and promoting plans and policies which are shrewdly contrived with regard to self interest. Therefore, "politics" has been brought into every phase of human activity by selfish interests, big and little.

In this paper we use the term "pietism" in the limited sense of affectation of devotion. Since selfishness itself is far removed from Christianity, and since this unholy influence could overcome and direct the affairs of people known as Christians, pietism would be the inevitable result of this self promotion in the church of the Lord.

We've been watching politics for a good many years, and the great amount of information thundering through radio and television channels and silently shouting in boldfaced type from the printed page, will eventually slightly enlighten even the smallest minds. So, we reckon we've gained a mite about the tactics of politics, and having no political aspirations we don't know any better than to announce out loud what is carried on in sly whispers, inferring inquiries, unfavorable innuendoes, uncharitable deductions and plain lies.

We paid our poll tax "out in" Texas in order to help democracy in the recent Yarbrough-Shivers fray, but we moved to Arkansas before the deal was settled, and in time to receive a lot of help in learning by way of a like battle. If anything was outstanding to this scribe in these heated gubernatorial races, it was the absence of fair and candid consideration of the issues which entered. When one of the contenders was about to get a whipping on some great issue, he turned his warfare to the dust (powdered dirt, but dirty nevertheless) and began to cover up the issue he failed to meet. In this way selfish interests were protected. We heard a lot of inferring inquiries, uncharitable deductions (just a notch this side of slander) that gathered importance and magnitude as they passed from one voter to another, and by this envenomed stream of petty scandal severe damage was done to a character that could have safely sailed over the tempests of open and violent slander. When a man has no warranty for his position, selfishness justifies what he is doing by searching for an opportunity to inject his poison dagger of implications into the character of the one opposing him.

Friend, you know that some politicians act that way, but don't get your bonnet and leave, for we aim to present some observations that might help you find some of these puerile politicians at work in the church. Yes, we understand that such a thought is bad indeed, but we believe the thinking in that vein isn't as ugly as the questionable things which brought about the thinking.

Successful politicians get big interests, big money behind them. Now look at the church. In recent years we've developed some big churches, and we suppose that's all right if they remain in keeping with God's plan. (Of course we are not unaware of the solecistic shouts about there being but one meeting place for the 5,000 members of the church in apostolic Jerusalem. Our presumption can't read between the lines of the New Testament thatwell. Maybe there was but one, maybe there were several.) But when the big churches shout and cry of their accomplishments until they become the criterion of the brotherhood, refuse to offer scriptural warranty for some of their actions, and ostracize any one who will question them, then politics is already gnawing away at the heart of Christianity.

We are acquainted with some things that are being "sponsored" by big churches which are questioned by many. The churches doing the questionable things refuse to meet the issue, but often raise a bunch of dust to cover up the inability, and to them debating or discussing the issue is as wrong as it is in the eyes of frail denominationalism. Their shrewdly contrived policy is to keep doing the questionable thing until the guillibility of the brotherhood has become so poisoned by having swallowed so much of the wrong doing that it cannot see any wrong in what's going on. We know elders and preachers who once took a stand on firm convictions as to the unscripturalness of certain things who now acquiesce in the doing of those very things, and when questioned have no stronger argument than: "Well, it's here to stay and we'd just as well live with it peacefully. If you can't whip 'em, jine 'em." And you'll see articles in the religious periodicals by certain preachers who like to be called big by being called by big churches, stating their tolerance of the existing things in question. And one preacher recently wrote an article to the preaching brethren he had vowed to do such for, telling them he had changed his mind relative to his old stand against a certain big program. Funny thing, politics, this cowered conviction presented this great change after he'd returned from meeting with the church he once questioned the actions of. Now we don't know it, but we could wonder if that wasn't the reason he was called for the meeting — that is, to soften him up a bit. Would this preacher stand in honorable debate now for that which he once opposed? If he will he may let it be known, and thereby show that it wasn't just a play of politics. And we believe there are many, many other preachers just waiting out the change of the tide before they commit themselves.

We heard a speaker of smooth sayings offer a prescription to remedy a certain kind of opposition to a program of which he was a part. Said he, "Just call on the preacher who opposes to preach on the program. That will silence him." This, in "rasslin" parlance is the softening up tactic, preparatory to pinning him down. It goes further: A preacher writes a book of some kind (and that's all right), or publishes one for some one, becomes more widely known thereby, and so the criterion invites him over to appear on a "special program." Now he is silenced, for he's been over in the corner and softened up by flattery. Look around friend, listen a bit! Do you see any signs of politics in the church today? Now be honest.

Then there's always the failure on the part of some to meet the issues. But politics knows a way around. If you just can't offer scriptural precedent for what you are doing, just begin a search for sins in the life of the one who questioned your practices. Now you have it. In the dust you've raised by inferring inquiries and uncharitable deductions you've covered up your complete inability to scripturally justify your actions, but you continue doing those things that have been questioned. But if you prove the one who opposes your actions to be the vilest character, how would that justify your doing anything, right or wrong? If such is not plain pietism, in the light of our announced usage, please tell us why.

And again the preacher gets so brave as to actually move into town where things exist that he believes are wrong; and has the audacity to call in question the ones practicing such. He even asks to be given opportunity to show the wrong of the practice. Politics has a way to deal with such obstacles. The questioned politicians refuse to debate on the grounds that the one questioning has nothing new to offer, (just like the New Testament isn't new enough). Then the work of moving him out begins. A bunch of back-slapping flattery on members who might have influence where he preaches is used, that they may be softened up and won over to their "side." Then they're told by one of the fawning prophets of the big interest, "Move Shofner out and thirty more families will place membership with you folk." "Shofner (or anyone who dares get in the way) preaches only his ideas." Yet they refuse to try to save his soul by showing him the error. And to others in the "diocese" the news is spread: "Shofner is against Christians caring for orphans." "Shofner is against Christian Colleges." "Shofner is against cooperation among the churches." And these great public relations men knew they were lying when they made such statements, but politics works that way.

Gentle reader, we admit plainness of speech in this paper, but these things are realities and most of them have been applied to us. The time is not far away, unless some changing is done, when preachers will be regulated completely by and sent out from the conferences of the political powers that be. And the name "lectureship" will not change the color of the leopard. And if we're vile in presenting these facts so plainly, then those who use the tactics while feigning largeness of soul are meaner. Don't forget it, just as surely as man can fall to the low sin of fornication and such like; just as surely as history proves it, that surely man can be tempted by selfishness to bring corrupt politics into the church of the living God. Then consider these plain statements in the light of current and past happenings, observe with individuality of thought, and please keep before you, wherever churches are cursed with politics you'll find Christianity made a common sewer, spiritual progress paralyzed, and the house of God converted to a seething caldron of worldly ambitions — disgraceful to those concerned, and a stigma on the body of Christ.