The Decline of Pacifism in Churches of Christ: Cordell Christian College

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”)

8 thoughts on “The Decline of Pacifism in Churches of Christ: Cordell Christian College

  1. brian

    and today pressure comes from well-meaning christians instead of the goverment, if you don’t participate fully in the political process, or fully support war, or vote their way, etc.

  2. heavenbound

    Since we have a volunteer military, what is the point here? You now have a choice,
    to be a part of an army that defends, our country, liberty and the pursuit of self determinism. Isn’t that why we fought the British for our independance? Isn’t this the reason why NATO is bombing Lybia? Self determinism is a luxury we have lived with for centuries. Does it not make sense that people of the world have the same right?
    A government of self rule? Not ruled by kings, dictators, and royal families. Haven’t we moved beyond this as a world society. As the civilization of the world moves closer to globalization isn’t right for everybody to live in peace and harmony? No matter what religious system you believe in, we all have the God given right to be free…….GRACE to all

  3. Gary Simmons

    Heavenbound: is any luxury worth sending people to hell for? After all, that IS what happens when nonbelievers die, isn’t it? Is our living without that luxury here on earth worse than the suffering they will experience for eternity in hell? I would say no.

    While I understand your concerns, I believe they reflect a poor choice of priorities.

  4. Plainservant

    I believe the point is very clear. The God fearing men at Cordell Christian College we teaching biblical principals that were not in the governments best interest, so the government shut them down. When the government applied pressure to the college, there was no cry of outrage from all or the people who label themselves Christian. Without the peoples backing, the college had no choice but to close it’s doors. People who value the American dream have one foot in the church and the other in the world, which is exactly where the government, and Satan want them. Cordell was one of the last colleges that thought the truth. One did not have to do a background check on a Cordell graduate to see if they were a Christian. Anyone could tell from their dress, their attitude, their interest and their speech. They did not just study the word, they lived it. It was a hard blow to the church when Cordell fell and it was the start of secularizing it’s members.

  5. Pingback: Cordell Christian College | Resurrected Living

  6. Verna Lewis

    I am trying to find if OCC has a historical library of CCC. I have a banner from when my Mom and Dad were there in 1916 and also a EAC 1916 Washita Co. banner. If there is a place for these I will email pictures.

  7. David P Himes

    Verna … this is a late response, but ACU has a Center for Restoration Studies, where I’ve sent several digital files for their archives.

    My grandmother taught at Western Bible & Literary College in Odessa, MO. JN Armstrong led that school prior to founding Cordell Christian College.

  8. Pingback: The Politics of Gay Marriage (Powers, Part 2) | One In Jesus

Leave a Reply