Yesterday we looked at government censure of the Gospel Advocate during World War I. This was a serious blow to pacifist thinking within churches of Christ. Another setback was the closing of Cordell Christian College in Oklahoma.
Cordell was headed by a man named J.N. Armstrong. Armstrong held to what Richard Hughes calls “an apocalyptic worldview.” This viewpoint was fairly common in our brotherhood in the late 19th century, putting a strong emphasis on the Kingdom of God vs. the kingdoms of this earth. Among other things, such a view typically leads to a refusal to participate in war.
This apocalyptic thinking became common among the faculty at Cordell Christian, a fact which did not please the pro-war community around them. In particular, the Selective Service board felt that Cordell was not giving sufficient encouragement to its students to enlist in the military. When faculty member S.A. Bell published an anti-war article in the Gospel Herald, that was perceived to be the final straw. The Selective Service board intervened, demanding the resignation of Armstrong, Bell and all faculty members who held to a pacifist viewpoint. Rather than accede to these demands, Cordell Christian College closed its doors.
How could I have forgotten about this incident? (BTW, Bobby V. reminded me in the comments yesterday that there was an entire chapter on this closure in his book Kingdom Come) How could we as a brotherhood have forgotten? I hear people talk about their fear that government might someday tell preachers what they can and can’t preach. We’ve already been there! And we as a brotherhood acquiesced, bowed our heads and quietly muttered, “Hail, Caesar!”
I know that it’s easy to judge what has happened in the past. You really have to have been there to have known what really happened. But I can’t help but see this as one of the low points for our brotherhood. Even if we don’t agree, we should be willing to stand and defend a brother’s right to preach what he sees in Scripture. I pray that history will not repeat itself on this matter.
“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29)
(Bobby V. was gracious enough to share with me the chapter that he contributed to a book that was published in memory of Mike Casey. Bobby’s article was titled “‘David Lipscomb of Texas’ Vs. David Lipscomb of Nashville: R. L. Whiteside’s Rejection of Lipscomb’s Pacifism”)