Reviewing Brother Broadus
When I opened my March, 1959 issue of TRUTH MAGAZINE and found an article on page 11 by brother Edwin Broadus of Duluth, Minnesota, entitled "Controversy that encourages, division" I settled down in my easy chair anticipating a period of inspirational reading. But when I reached the body of the article I suddenly realized that this was an attempted review of an article I wrote for this paper in the January '59 issue, entitled "Reviewing Controversies-Past and Present." Of course I would have never known that brother Broadus had taken exception to my piece were I not in the habit of reading every article in this magazine. There was nothing in his heading or his article to suggest that he was seeking to correct James P. Needham since my name or the title of my article was not once mentioned his review. Now, while these facts are not seriously objectionable, they do sort of leave a bad impression on me and cause me to wonder for what purpose such tactics were employed. I fail to discover any virtue in reviewing a brother's article in a paper on whose staff he serves without letting the readers know the identity of the writer or the article under review.
I certainly feel no repugnance toward anyone for seeking to correct me. I try to write what I sincerely believe, but my belief is not infallible. I realize that I have much to learn, and that it is highly probable that my practice will sometimes be inconsistent with my expressed belief, and I have a feeling of warm friendship for the person who sincerely seeks to assist me to more consistency and a better understanding of truth.
I have now read my original article and brother Broadus' review of it several times, and I am convinced that some comments from me are necessary lest brother Broadus and others who might guess that he was reviewing my, article take my silence as a plea of guilty as charged. Since I enter a plea of not guilty to the charges my brother sought to lodge against me 1 find it necessary to bring forth the evidence to sustain it. I entertain such strong scruples against mis-labeling and impugning motives that nobody is going to pin such practices to my coat tail by simply assuming and asserting my guilt, or by misusing what I write. Should I become guilty of these un-Christian practices I stand to be corrected, but I'm not guilty just because someone happens to assume and assert it.
Sometimes we are so strong when others reveal the true tendencies of our beliefs and practices that we sort of act like a pup in a bumblebee's nest: we get so busy trying to bite the opposition that we just run around in circles biting at everything and wind up bitting ourselves more than anyone else. From the way brethren Broadus and Crouch treated my article in question it's my sincere opinion that the illustration fits them to a "T." The readers may form their own opinions following a perusal of the articles involved.
In paragraph 4 of his article brother Broadus says some good things with which I agree concerning impugning motives and I commend him for saying them. But then he falsely accuses me of impugning the motives of certain brethren when I said:
"Our present controversy is the result of a well planned effort initiated some several years ago to make the church more acceptable to a modern society; to create her in the image of the denominations about her, and thus deliver her from their 'reproaches'."
Concerning this statement he says:
"It was certainly not improper for the writer to disagree with what others have done, but he was impugning their motives when he said that they have done it as a 'result of a well planned effort . . . to make the church more acceptable to a modern society' and 'to create her in the image of the denominations.' Accusations of this kind require thorough proof. I may be exceedingly naive, but I cannot believe that the proponents of what the author calls 'current innovations' have been activated by such motives. Certainly to accuse them of such does nothing to promote unity and peace."
My brother seems to intimate that because HE "cannot believe that proponents of what the author calls 'current innovations' have been activated by such motives" they just couldn't have been thus "activated," and that because HE doesn't have "thorough proof" of such motives they just cannot exist. It seems not to occur to him that one may know a thing of which another is completely ignorant, and that some things are true whether he believes them or not.
Now if he wants to reprimand me for not giving more proof of the "well planned effort" to which I alluded, I need only to remind him: (a) That since he ignored the proof I gave what assurance do we have that he would have treated "thorough proof" differently? He has no logical right to demand more proof until he has refuted what has been offered. (b) That he charged that "Candidates for public office sometimes stigmatize their opponents in the minds of many unthinking people by calling them 'socialists' and 'communists' " and yet offered no shred of proof to substantiate it. If he answers that such practice is too well known to need proof, I reply that the same is true of the charge I made. He condemns me for making Ia"charge" (actually stating a well-known fact) without giving "thorough proof" of it, but then he maligns the poor politicians without giving "thorough proof" of his charges. Why does our brother ignore the proof of other men's charges and reprimand them as though they gave none, then turn right around and make charges against others and actually offer no proof for them? He condemns the innocent for that of which he is guilty!
I am perfectly willing for my charge to stand as is on the basis of the evidence I gave and sought to evaluate in the article brother Broadus attacked. Certainly, I did not give all the evidence available. (The article was too long as it was.) I kindly suggest that my brother go back and read it again without so much passion, and view it as a unit rather than lifting certain statements front it, ignoring the evidence upon which they are based, and charging that they haven't been proven. If after doing this he wants me to write an article giving "thorough proof" that "a well planned effort to make the church more acceptable to a modern society" etc. is in operation among us, I shall be glad to accommodate him. I think, however, that giving further proof of such would be about as useless and unnecessary as giving evidence that his charge against politicians is true. Such is so widely recognized that an attempt to "prove" it smacks of the ridiculous and tends to reflect upon the intelligence of the populace.
Under this heading brother Broadus says:
"A common but unfair tactic in controversy is to attach some unpopular label to an opponent. Candidates for public office sometimes stigmatize their opponents in the minds of many unthinking people by calling them 'socialists' and 'Communists.' Such tactics are appeals to prejudice rather than to reason. Sometimes we find the same kind of tactics employed by religious writers. One author, (that's me! JPN) while correctly pointing out the unfairness of such labels as 'anti, hobbyist, dictators, legalists, Sommerites,' inconsistently called those who differ with him 'promoters,' 'liberals' and 'social gospel advocates.' Because terms like these appeal to prejudice, they are a barrier to 'thoughtful and dignified discussion of issues'."
Let us notice this quotation and some other things he said in the light of it.
1. He charges that the labels: "promoters," "liberals," and "social gospel advocates" are "unfair," "unpopular," an "appeal to prejudice," and "a barrier to 'thoughtful and dignified discussion of issues'." But did you notice that he didn't give "thorough proof" of his charges? My brother seems to be rather long on demanding "thorough proof" of others, but quite short of giving it himself.
I deny that the labels he invented for my labels are correct! Here is some "thorough proof": (a) At least one leading man among the brethren I labelled "liberals" has defined the term to mean "less conservative" which is all I meant by it. I label myself a. "conservative" in the same spirit I call some of my brethren "liberals." If there is anything "unfair" or prejudicial about it I am as unfair to myself is to others and arouse as much prejudice against myself as anyone. (b) The same brother is on record as defending himself and others as "promoters" so there is nothing "unfair" or prejudicial about sticking a label on a man which he accepts. © I gave "thorough proof" that a rather large crop of "social gospel advocates" is present among us and the law demands that the proper label be attached to that which is sold to the public. Does my brother think it is "unfair," prejudicial and "unpopular" for the pharmacist to stick a skeleton and cross-bones label on a bottle of strychnine? I have never condemned proper labeling. My article condemned "bad" labeling and my brother's charge that I became inconsistent falls flat for lack of "thorough proof."
2. Brother Broadus' effort to make my labels of "promoters," "liberals," and "social gospel advocates" parallel with such labels as "Anti, hobbyist, dictators, legalists, Sommerites," etc. also failed of the "thorough proof" he so exactingly demands of others. I think if he will take another look he will discover his error. Let him show where those to whom these terms are usually applied have ever accepted them in the sense in which they are used, or let him prove that they properly apply to the brethren it whom they are generally hurled. If he can do neither (and he can't) then surely he can see his mistake in trying to make them parallel with those I employed.
3. I think brother Broadus is sort of stretching a point when he says the labels I used are inconsistent with my condemnation of "bad" labeling. If I wanted to see if I could stretch as far as he did I could charge that his calling me "one man," "the writer," "the author," and "one author" is inconsistent with his stating that I "correctly" pointed out the "unfairness" of labeling. Or, I could go to the last sentence of paragraph 4 in which he says, "Certainly, to accuse them of such does nothing to promote unity and peace." He is talking about me in this sentence, which means that he is labeling me a "PROMOTER" of division and strife." "Promoters" was one of the labels he had in mind when he wrote, "Because terms like these appeal to prejudice, they are a barrier to 'thoughtful and dignified discussion of issues'." Thou art guilty, my brother! Or, I could go one better than that: In paragraph 4 he says, "I cannot believe that proponents of what the author calls 'current innovations' have been activated by such motives." The brethren I labeled "promoters" he labeled "proponents." It would be real interesting to hear him explain how my label is unfair" and prejudicial and his perfectly innocent since they both mean approximately the same thing. I guess it all depends upon whose "ox" is gored! My brother just got so involved trying to prove that I had improperly labeled someone that he stuck a label on top of the ones I had innocently used, and what must be even more embarrassing, he labeled the very brethren he so passionately tried to defend.
4. The labels which brother Broadus used as pointed out in the above paragraph are perfectly innocent so far as I am concerned. In using them as I did I was only showing how inconsistent he is. I wish I could say that all his labels are that innocent, but I can't. I now engage to show you how efficient in the art of "bad" labeling our brother is.
(a) In paragraph I he says, "Sometimes a new religious periodical will make its appearance, purporting to be non-controversial. . ." Then he says that if such a paper could maintain such a policy it would be "Insipid, uninteresting, and unprofitable." Now, since we all know of at least one paper among us that refuses to print anything that does not agree with its editor's views we all know that there is at least one paper that maintains a "noncontroversial" policy, and we all can see that brother Broadus labels THAT PAPER "insipid, uninteresting, and unprofitable."
(b) He says in paragraph 3, "I wish to call attention to some tactics in controversy that encourage division rather than promote unity." Well, the tactics to which he called attention were mine, hence, he is labeling me as an encourager of division and a promoter of strife. If not, why not?
(c) In paragraph 5 he makes his charge against the politicians which has already been quoted. Now he applies this politician illustration like this, "Sometimes we find the same kind of tactics employed by religious writers. One author . . ." (Emphasis mine, JPN.) The "one author" is none other than James P. Needham. Now if he isn't calling me a cheap politician in this, his illustration doesn't illustrate, language doesn't mean anything and logic is a stranger.
(d) In paragraph 8, in describing "religious journals," he says, "Some who write in them are manifestly unfair in their tactics." In this he labels me as being "unfair."
Just remember that this long list of labels is gleaned from an article that was written to correct labelers! Some of them would almost qualify for a skeleton and cross-bone symbol. "Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?" (Jas. 3:1) "Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?" (Rom. 2:21.)
In conclusion I want to make it clear that in pointing out these inconsistencies and labelings in brother Broadus' article I do not mean to leave the impression that he has offended me, and that I count him as an enemy now -- a thousand times no! Nor should anyone conclude that I have sought to discredit everything he said. To the contrary, I commend much that he said about religious journals, controversy and labeling. It is much needed today by all of us-that includes Edin Broadus and James P. Needham! It is possible that I have used bad judgment in some articles I have written and penned words I should have left unsaid, (and who hasn't?) but I must kindly say that brother Broadus miserably failed to point such out. The noble purpose suggested in his fine title could have been better served by his saying some more things that need to be said rather than delivering a Broadus broadside at something I said.
Truth Magazine, III:9, pp. 21-24