By Robert F. Turner
As you know, the past few issues of Guardian of Truth have carried some of my articles, beginning with an explanation by the editor. The “usual stir” was expected, but phone calls and letters tell me of “raised eyebrows” and questions about “who has changed.” I had hoped to “blend in”, to this new job with a number of “less than personal” type articles, but apparently the public wants something more; so Guardian of Truth readers may expect a few lines on circumstances leading up to my accepting the invitation of the editor and board members to write for Guardian of Truth. I will also consider some of the readers’ current questions.
For the past twenty years I have edited Plain Talk (many years writing eight articles per month), and most of that time I was preaching over thirty meetings per year. Then, health forced me to cut back on meetings (fifteen this year), so I taught “upper division” classes at Florida College for four fall semesters, and continued meetings in “free” time. When I began full-time meeting work, being seldom at home, I dropped subscriptions to “the papers,” seeing only a few lines here and there as I visited in homes. No effort was made to “keep up” with the latest scraps or “write-ups”-and I can’t say I missed them all that much. It was three months after the fact before I discovered I had been a victim in one paper; and I did not know I had been mentioned in the Guardian of Truth until studying back issues while considering this writing assignment. (Editors and writers should learn that only a small clan of readers are waiting anxiously for our next issue. Most of the brethren could not care less what we say.)
But I travel widely, talk with a lot of brethren, and have not been blind to the fact that so-called “brotherhood” journals among conservatives have undergone some bad days. Many preachers and others who once “kept up” with the papers, now tell me, “I do not read them”; and the tone of voice says, “I do not intend to start again.” That is a genuine “issue” for all editors and writers, including myself; for despite my non-reading days, I am convinced the written word is still a powerful tool, and can be used for the good of all. But that is an “issue” that can not be solved by “fussing” at it. There must be reasons for reader apathy among sound brethren who once profited by “the papers.” I would like to try to determine these causes and have part in providing the proper remedy. And to me, these are grounds for welcoming an invitation to use this medium.
A paper wields a tremendous influence on its clientele, and through them, on the church. This is not to say “influence” itself is bad, but to call attention to our responsibilities. A paper may become a “flag” about which a sectarian party rallies and by which the brotherhood is fragmented; or it can play down “self” and become salt and light to build up and strengthen all who will be exercised thereby. It is no secret that papers (like preachers, schools, etc.) have not always used their influence properly. A goodly portion of non-readers who have expressed themselves to me, seem to believe the brotherhood would be better off without the papers. Being a bit “independent” myself, there are times when I almost agree — but not for long. We should not let abuses of a good thing destroy its principle and usefulness.
Many brethren blame the papers for “pseudo-issues” that keep us in a constant turmoil. Sometimes I am tempted to think an editor may have “stirred up something” to create interest, and sell papers. This is a serious charge and may be unprovable. It is far more charitable to say an editor has used poor judgment in writing and selecting material to publish. Some writers seem to delight in pouncing on one another (do they feel it makes them look “sound” or “militant”?), and this can spread a fire before the danger is realized. The readers are to blame also, for some search for idnew issues” like a merchant man seeking goodly pearls. The next “mqior issue ” may be our taste for “issues. ” Unfortunately, one such blunder is enough to sour many readers on a paper; and, more important, it may keep them from reading sorely needed material on genuine docinnalproblems. It is the old story of “crying wolf” and destroying our usefulness as guardians of truth.
The editor and writers of a paper are not more God’s “police force” than any other brother or sister. Yet, each of us has an obligation to teach the truth, positively and negatively, in keeping with our ability and opportunity, The problems of our generation will not be solved either by ignoring them or by prancing around the polemic ring in carnal battles. Smart Alec remarks have never “saved the church.” The One Savior must be followed, in spirit as well as in truth, in private fife and from the pulpit. And we must see the printed word as but an extension of public teaching-a proven medium for embalming truth and conveying it to the hearts of men and women.
I believe loving one’s enemies means treating them fairly and ethically, as “you would that men should do to you”; and that this is the best and only way to overcome them for Christ. Surely that principle applies to brethren or any others who may “differ” with my material; and Guardian of Truth readers’ help in maintaining a proper attitude is sincerely solicited. My writing is usually condensed, may take a second reading in places, but you should feel no hesitancy in questioning it. I would like to think we could study together for mutual profit, learning and growing in the process.
I welcome the invitation from Guardian of Truth, to use their medium for teaching the public. The editor assures me of fair, ethical treatment; I believe him; and will work with this medium so long as those conditions prevail. No restrictions have been placed on me regarding subject matter, and because of popular requests, my next article will offer comments on “walking in the light.” I plan to continue my usual practice of Scripture studies and observations on this and other matters I feel will help folk get to heaven. I have been known to tint my articles and sermons with a bit of what is hopefully called “humor,” but never have I felt teaching God’s truth is anything other than serious business. I want to thank brother Willis and all others who have encouraged me in this new venture, and pledge to do all I can to present truly scriptural and usable material. It will be my pleasure to meet and know Guardian of Truth readers, and correspondence from you will be welcomed.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 17, pp. 519-520
September 5, 1985