Vol.XVII No.V Pg.4
July 1980

The Party Spirit

Robert F. Turner

Sectarianism is the practice of choosing certain doctrines and building a "party" with them as a boundary, while refusing to consider anything else as truth. Most brethren agree that the sectarian spirit should be denounced and condemned by both pen and pulpit. Some brethren pride themselves in not being a member of any "brotherhood camp" and in not flying the flag of any party. Yet those same brethren often encourage and demonstrate sectarianism by their actions toward those with whom they differ!

For example, one may claim to be against sectarianism and then encourage it by heeding and spreading prejudicial statements made about a certain brother or congregation. What someone said about someone else has been the cause of many misunderstandings and false representations. Erroneous conclusions have often been drawn about brethren because of secondhand information. James 1:19 tells us that we are to be "swift to hear, slow to speak" and Christ warns that we will give an account for every idle word that we speak (Matt. 12:36). The best way to avoid the sectarian error of misrepresenting others is to check with them about their actions and convictions.

If we are truly opposed to partyism, we must also avoid the practice of ignorantly categorizing brethren. Just recently, a brother referred to my attitude about a particular situation, when I had given him no indication of my attitude. I asked him what gave him the idea that I felt that way. The reply — several other preachers of "my persuasion" felt that way, so he assumed that my attitude was the same. I suppose "my persuasion" referred to my agreement with what some brethren teach on one or two particular subjects. Because of similar convictions on these matters, it was assumed that those of "my persuasion" thought the same way and believed exactly the same thing in all matters. When we begin placing brethren into certain categories because of false assumptions or erroneous information, we partake of the party spirit.

Finally, one of the most obvious ways in which we demonstrate sectarianism is by refusing to study with those whom we have branded as sectarian. The Jews referred to Paul as "a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes"-- and their Jewish party pride prevented them from giving Paul an honest and objective hearing (Acts 24: 5f). If we differ with a brother, and we will, we should be willing to study together as brethren — seeking divine truth. As someone well said, "The only thing that suffers from open and honest investigation is error." We must always have the attitude that we might be wrong in our conclusions on some matter. When we think we have everything worked out, and our conclusions are equivalent to "truth," we have become the sectarian!

Sectarianism will prevail as long as we view a brother as "one of them" and are unwilling to study with him in a common endeavor to find the truth. Yes, we may openly condemn the party spirit and teach against it — then by our actions encourage and demonstrate the very thing we claim to oppose! Kevan O'Banion