Editors Can Be So Inadequate and Inaccurate!
Wm. E. Wallace
In "Seeking the Lost," a quarterly publication of "Church of Christ (Mendham-Bernardsville, N. J.), May 1966, there appears an editorial by Reuel Lemmons. In this editorial Lemmons asserts:
"It is a known fact that Daniel Sommer once aspired to the presidency of a college. He was defeated by another man. Most historians among us attribute his long lifetime of opposition to colleges, to this defeat. Sommer was a mighty man. Few have possessed the drive and personal magnetism of the man. Few have possessed the intellectual acumen he had. Few have had the editorial pungency of his pen. If the historians be correct, then what a difference there might have been in the brotherhood if this single turning point in his life had never been encountered."
Being aware of Lemmons' notorious editorial misdemeanors, and having learned of how Daniel Sommer has been so regularly misrepresented, I decided to check on the accuracy of the Lemmon's assertion.
There was a period in my life when I labored under the impression that most "hobbies" or radical positions among us were or could be attributed largely to Daniel Sommer's influence. If a fellow was opposed to "Sunday School," or "women teachers" or was always fussing about something of the sort, I figured he was a "Sommerite." I'm not sure how I developed this conception, but in time I realized how mistaken I had been.
Now, I'm in disagreement with the Sommer position on "Bible Colleges" and with his position on what he called the "Pastor System." So, I don't think I am what brethren have meant by the term "Sommerite."
Some brethren have called us "Sommerites" because we oppose church support of colleges. But I don't think this makes me a "Sommerite." I have an old clock on my mantle that set in the American Christian Review office for a number of years. A preacher friend of mine jokingly suggested that this made me a "Sommerite!" This is about as "reasonable" and "accurate" as the use and application of the label "Sommerite" by brethren to a multiplicity of negative and radical positions that Daniel Sommer never held.
It seems that if brethren hold prejudices against a man they are not too careful to avoid careless, inaccurate and inadequate assertions or accusations about him.
Well, I decided to check on the accuracy of the Lemmonts assertions about Daniel Sommer. Allen Sommer, son of Daniel and publisher of the defunct American Christian Review, gave me access to Daniel Sommer's own disclaimer of the oft-repeated assertion used in this instance by editor Lemmons. Said Daniel Sommer:
"I have lately been reminded again of the report that 'the reason Daniel Sommer opposes religio-secular colleges as attachments to the church is that he wished to become president of a college himself, but another man got ahead of him.'
"I began to learn of the report perhaps 15 or 20 years ago, and have been required to deny it many times in this paper as well as privately by letter. Once I thought I'd put an end to such a report by copying articles I wrote for The Review in 1878 on that subject, and when I made reprint of them I endorsed them fully. By so doing I hoped to show that soon after I left Bethany College I exposed the college addition to the church, especially in regard to educating men in them for the pulpit of churches of Christ. Later I began to write thus: 'College-ism led to Preacherism, and Preacherism led to Societyism and Musicism, and Societyism and Musicism led to Worldlyismamong disciples!' Nor have I seen reason for writing otherwise on this subject.
"I never thought of wishing to be connected with a college, as teacher or student, since I left Bethany in 1872; and this means the mentioned report about a wish on my part to become president of a college is strictly and emphatically untrue!" (The American Christian Review, November, 1951, page 2.)
Allen Sommer observed further: "But let no one be deceived into thinking the Collegiate Digressives will now cease their malicious peddling of these falsehoods." It looks like he was correct in this observation, doesn't it?
I believe Daniel Sommer was wrong on a number of things and the grounds of his opposition to what he called "religio-secular colleges,' I believe was erroneous. But he certainly was not guilty of much of what brethren continue to attribute to him, and misrepresenting him does not embellish the spiritual stature of editors, writers, and spealkers.
I wish some objective and fair thesis writing brother would produce an honest biography of the one and only Daniel Sommer.
TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 11, pp. 17-18 August 1966