August 23, 2017

Editorial – On Calling a Brother a Lizard (I)

By Cecil Willis

When one edits a paper like Truth Magazine, there is never a dull moment. If nothing else occurred, ones mail would he sufficient to keep the air tinged with excitement. Often an expression used most innocently is taken out of context, and blown all out of proportion. Some months ago, I was preaching on the urgency of evangelism. In connection with my remarks about the dire need for personal evangelism, I made the observation that in many churches most of those who are baptized are our own children, and that we are reaching all too few complete "outsiders." A liberal member who was present distorted what I said, and observed: "I never thought I would hear Brother Willis advocating infant baptism." You see how an expression can be misinterpreted.

A few months ago in an article in this journal, I commented about how Brother Reuel Lemmons, Editor of the Firm Foundation, blows both hot and cold on some issues. One of Lemmons friends praised him for having the unique ability to be "equally strong on both sides of a question." You must admit that that is quite a peculiar and rare trait. Another fellow liberal brother says that Lemmons is "tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. One time he teaches the truth relative to orphan homes and another time he teaches exactly the opposite and condemns the orphan homes." (W. L. Totty, Garfield Heights Informer, April 23, 1972.) Perhaps it should here be said that this statement by Brother Totty appeared in the Informer before Garfield Heights church fired Brother Totty, and later disfellowshiped him.

In connection with my efforts to show how Lemmons shifts from one position to another on an issue, I compared him to a chameleon, a small creature that has the strange capability to change his line to conform to several different colored backgrounds. An elderly Ohio brother then wrote me quite indignantly, chastising me for calling a brother a "lizard." At the time, I could remember no occasion upon which I had called a brother a "lizard." So I retorted: "You reprimanded me for calling somebody lizard in one of my editorials. Now if I have ever done that, I have forgotten it and would appreciate it if you would tell me which editorial you are talking about." The aged brother then replied that I had called Lemnons a "chameleon," and said, "In my book, thats a lizard."

Figurative Usage

Apparently our Ohio brother never thought about the usage of language figuratively. Of course I did not mean that Lemnons was literally a chameleon. Instead, I meant that his actions are chameleon-like. When Jesus said that Herod was a "fox" (Lk. 13:31, 32), He did not mean Herod was a small animal with a large bushy tail. He was using "fox" metaphorical, just as I used "chameleon" metaphorically when I applied it to Brother Lemmons.

Metaphorical usage is quite correct literary form, whether our Ohio brother is aware of this fact or not. A few nights ago I was reading Jim Bishops The Day Kennedy Was Shot. In describing the personality of Jack Ruby who killed Lee Harvey Oswaid, Bishop said: "he had a chameleon character which could switch colors, from hilarity to resentment, from generosity to fisticuffs, from charitable impulses to tears, without changing emotional gears." (p. 647) My reference to Brother Lemmons as a chameleon likewise was also intended only to indicate his changeableness, of which changeableness he seems to be unaware. However, I think nearly everybody else in the brotherhood is aware of his vacillation on nearly every important issue.

That sweet-spirited "apostle of love" from St. Louis (Carl Ketcherside) even got so worked up over one of Lemmons editorials on the prohibitory nature of Gods silence that he let, his sugar-coated mask slip a little. Even Brother Ketcherside, who keeps telling us and telling us and telling us how much he loves all the brethren, compared Brother Lemmons to a chameleon.

Ketcherside said of Lemmons: "Brother, Lemmons regards himself as the golden mean between two extremes. Almost all editors feel this way about themselves, but he advertises himself as walking in the middle of the road. This is intended to conjure up an image of a faithful stalwart marching squarely down the white line in the center of the pavement while everyone else is slogging through the weeds and underbrush on the right hand or on the left. This is hardly a picture of reality. Our brother remains in the middle of the road by dashing frantically from one ditch to the other. Occasionally he slips and sticks one foot into the, swamp up to his knee. His distracted supporters hardly know from week to week which flag to wave.

Ketcherside then continued: "I mention this so that if my reply seems outdated by the time it appears, I urge you not to throw the paper away. Save it, and when the merry-go-round makes its circuit, it will be appropriate again. Brother Lemmons is not wholly to blame for this. He is caught in an editorial vise. He edits a paper for a many-hued party, which he acknowledges is quite inconsistent, so he is forced to develop chameleon-like traits, if he is to please all of what he refers to as the heirs of the Restoration movement. (Mission Messenger, September, 1972)

Now if it appears that Brother Ketcherside has hit Brother Lemmons too hard, that only evidences that you have not carefully read Lemmons writings the last several years. If the great "apostle of love" could refer to Lemmons as "chameleon-like," surely the brethren should not hit me too hard for using the same figure of speech when referring to Brother Lemmons. I used that figure of speech only because it is a most appropriate one and because it so perfectly fits Lemmons and his editorials. Indeed, one does not know from one week to the next which bandwagon flag he is going to be waving. That these are not over-statements of the case, I propose to show in articles to follow. Please stand-by.

February 8, 1973