The Gospel Guardian
USING EPITHETS AS A SMOKE SCREEN
“Campbellites,” “Sommerites,” ETC.
Roger M. Hendricks
Brother Moses E. Lard once declared, “I love to read a thing when it becomes a little racy, and can stand it well when it becomes even a little rare, to use a favorite term of the Epicurean, when ordering his steak. I do not mean that I like to see a discussion look bloody; but with me let it look almost any way rather than cadaverous. Away with that sickly sentimentalism which screams out at every strong epithet of an earnest man! I love epithets; and if they detonate like percussion caps or flash like meteors, all the better. Only let them be not unbecoming the gravity of religious discussion and the fraternity of Christians.” (THE PIONEERS ON WORSHIP, p. 115.) I am of the persuasion that the above is advice which should be carefully considered today in view of the present “low quality” epithets which are so abundantly flying about.
The branding of groups or individuals in disagreement with one’s beliefs as “Hobby Riders,” “Sommerites,” “Antis,” etc. is but a “smoke screen” to evade the real issues involved in current discussions. It is on a par with the tactics of Baptists, Methodists, and others in calling Christians “Campbellites.” It evidences a weakness in one’s position. It is a deceptive move prompted by a desire to arouse prejudice, distrust, and animosity.
It would be interesting to discover just what a “Campbellite” is, what a “Hobby Rider” looks like, and what kind of creature a “Sommerite” is.
Under the word “Campbellite,” Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary says: “See DISCIPLES OF CHRIST.” The dictionary states that “Campbellites” are members of “A Christian denomination founded in Pennsylvania in 1810 by Thomas and Alexander Campbell.” The truth of the matter is that neither Thomas nor Alexander Campbell founded a denomination. Thus, the definition given is erroneous. Then, who is or what is a “Campbellite?” It would truly be interesting to discover what one really is.
Unfortunately, as in the case of the “Campbellites,” neither the Bible nor the dictionary gives a definition of a “Sommerite.” “Sommerite” has been defined as one who opposes congregations turning over their funds to a single congregation which will, then, plan, oversee, and execute the benevolent or/and mission work to be done. The term has been defined as “the policy NOT to publish both sides of an issue.” Wouldn’t it be something to really find out what kind of creature a “Sommerite” is?
A good friend of mine recently asked me if I were one of these “Anti” brethren. I thought that I knew what he had in mind, but not being sure, I answered that I was opposed to certain teachings and practices such as mechanical instruments of music in worship and infant “baptism.” If to oppose such is to be an “Anti,” I confess that I must be so labeled. Does opposing such automatically place one in the category of beings designated as “Antis?” Or does this appellation apply only to those of us who are opposed to the institutional trends of the day?
Just what is an “Anti” anyway? Does anyone know? I have read that “Anti-ism” is “the practice of condemning some things the Scriptures do authorize,” therefore, an “Anti” would be one who condemns that which the Scriptures authorize. I have heard that an “Anti” is one who opposes Bible classes, women teachers, and the use of many containers in serving the Lord’s Supper. Some say that an “Anti” is one who opposes “brotherhood projects.” Some, no doubt, have charged that an “Anti” is one who opposes “instrumental music” and “the societies.” There are, perhaps, many other so-called definitions of the word “Anti.”
What is an “Anti?” Is it one who opposes everything? If so, I have never seen one. Is it one who opposes some things? Then, I have seen nothing but “Antis.” It is rather like asking, “Who or what is a ‘Protestant’,” isn’t it? Webster’s Dictionary affords little information as to what these “Antis” look like. It states: “an’ti – A person opposed to a practice, law, policy, movement, or the like.” If an “Anti” is one who opposes something, I confess that I am one. If this be the true definition, Christ and the apostles were also “Antis.”
Brother R. L. Whiteside once stated, “So often the announcement runs about as follows: ‘We are anxious to secure a preacher. He must be a good mixer, and …’ But no mater about the rest. Anything else is of secondary importance…” (DOCTRINAL DISCOURSES, p. 35.) Had Brother Whiteside been writing today, he might have said, “We are anxious to secure a preacher. He must not be a hobby rider, and…” Ah, but no matter about the rest. Is not anything else of secondary importance?
One brother at the Freed-Hardeman Lectures this year defined a “Hobby Rider” or a “Hobbyist” as one who “makes laws where God has made none.” I understand that during the lectureship in 1956 held in Nashville a “Hobbyist” was defined as a man who “opposes and continues to hammer away” at that which “the brotherhood in general” agrees is scriptural. A ‘Hobby Rider” is said, by some, to be one who opposes the church support of the benevolent institutions of the day. The counter-charge is that those who endorse said institutions are the ones who are “Hobby Riders.” Yes, it would be interesting to find out what a “Hobby Rider” looks like. Brethren are inventing new definitions for “Hobbyist” all of the time. They are, throughout the land, inventing their own definitions for all of these epithets and are boldly labeling a11 who do not agree with their own theories with these appellations.”
Some have been heard to cry out that the brethren who are favorable to present institutional trends are “Hobby Riders” (or “Institutional Hobby Riders”), “Sommerites,” and “Modernists.” Such is just as unbecoming of me as it is of anyone else. A brother may tend to be rather modernistic in his views and, yet, not be an “out-and-out” “Modernist.” And just as surely as name-calling on one side of a given issue may be evidence of a weakness in position, so may it be evidence of the same thing on the opposite side.
I Agree With Brother Bill
“While the liberals stigmatize sound brethren with ‘anti’ labels and contend that we stand on the same ground as that of the anti-class, anti-college, and anti-located preacher advocates, they are in turn charged with digressive tendencies, and accused of occupying the undesirable ground of Pendleton, Errett, Loos and Briney – men who figured prominently in the digressive movement. I don’t know what all this labeling will accomplish in the end, but I hope that a lot of it will come out in the wash – the wash of clean controversy.” (William E. Wallace, KENTUCKY BIBLE BANNER, Vol. 1, No. 6.) Brethren, is it not past time to leave off this “branding” and simply meet the issues squarely?
Yes, I, too, “love to read a thing when it becomes a little racy, and can stand it well when it becomes even a little rare, to use a favorite term of the Epicurean, when ordering his steak. I do not mean that I like to see a discussion look bloody; but with me let it look almost any way rather than cadaverous. Away with that sickly sentimentalism which screams out at every strong epithet of an earnest man! I love epithets; and if they detonate like percussion caps or flash like meteors, all the better. Only let them be not unbecoming the gravity of religious discussion and the fraternity of Christians.”