By Mike Willis
I have received several comments regarding Jeff Kingry’s article “The Rich Life Is Not Slender Now” (August 2, 1979). I am publishing some of these comments, along with John McCort’s review of Jeff’s article, to give our readers some idea of what others are saying about the article. From the number of comments and the reputations of those who are objecting to the article, I think that one can see that merely dismissing these criticisms as “the hit dog howled,” “I have been misunderstood,” or some other similar rationalization will not deal with the problem.
Jeff’s article contained some excellent food for thought with reference to every man’s fight against materialism. It also sounded some legitimate dangers faced by any gospel preacher who decides to become involved in selling any product. Too, it frankly condemned some abuses of which some selling brethren have been guilty which many of us have felt for years.
I have received enough complimentary comments orally regarding the article to know that: (1) some preachers are abusing a right to engage in selling either through allowing their local work to suffer because of their involvement or using their relationship as a preacher to make sales contracts; (2) selling brethren have been guilty of using their hospitality as a guise for making a sales pitch on a sufficient number of occasions that a number are complaining about it. Knowing that this was so, I felt that there was enough worthwhile material in Jeff’s initial article to print it. Though I would edit it more carefully had I the opportunity to run the article again, 1 still think that the primary thesis of Jeff’s manuscript is correct. The things complimented in the letters quoted by Jeff are not the matters to which objection is made.
There were some specific objections to the article which I think need to be mentioned in addition to those mentioned by letters printed below and John McCort’s review of the article. I want to mention these as follows:
(l) Unjustified criticism of a legitimate business operation. Jeff described the selling of Amway as on “the seamy side of the ‘get it quick’ way to riches.” Furthermore, he called the profit making system used by them and several other firms “a refined system of parasitism.” Both of these comments leave somewhat to be desired, so far as I am concerned. As an editor, I should not have allowed these statements to be printed. Those agencies of our government which investigate dishonest business practices have found nothing wrong with this method of sales. Frankly, some money-making systems will be attractive to one man and unattractive to another; I would appreciate both sides keeping their comments regarding these matters to themselves. Truth Magazine is not a forum to discuss business enterprises. In my opinion, Jeff made a blanket indictment of every salesman of these products in making these statements.
(2) References to those wearing “Free”pins. Little did I know, that only 3-5 gospel preachers among us wear “Free” pins; otherwise, Jeff’s reference to his conversation with two of them would never have been printed. 1 need to also mention that these two preachers’ remembrance of that conversation is significantly different from that related by Brother Kingry. In Brother Kingry’s first intended response to criticism to his article, he said that what he had written was a caricature (“the deliberately distorted picturing or imitation of a person, literary style, etc. by exaggerating features or mannerisms for satirical effect,” Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary). He should not have written in such a way as to leave the impression that he was reporting facts when he was caricaturing; if he was reporting facts, he would have done better to report only such facts as he could document. Yet, Jeff neither corrected this matter nor proved it.
(3) Motive judging. Jeff frankly engaged in some motive judging in the article as, for example, when he mentioned a particular preacher who moved to a church to work without income but moved to work with that group of people in order to sell his goods. I do not know how Jeff could prove that point. Other statements in this article judge motives in a similar way, as Brother McCort ably demonstrates, and make blanket condemnations of preachers who sell products to supplement their income, in spite of Jeff’s denial of making blanket condemnations. Yet, Jeff did not admit being guilty of anything or make correction of them. Instead, he said, “I do not believe that I have written anything that deserves the response you are reading.” Noticeably none of the letters quoted by Jeff defended these abuses.
A Style Of Writing
All of these comments raise a serious problem with regard to a certain style of writing which has become more acceptable among some brethren in recent years than I care to admit. That style of writing is this: to draw a man’s picture so clearly that anyone vaguely familiar with the circumstances surrounding the incident knows who is being talked about, but, to fail to specify who is intended. This is somewhat like drawing a picture of a cat but not writing c-a-t underneath it. Everyone who knows what a cat is knows what has been drawn. This leaves the injured party little recourse. If he replies to the article, he is told “the hit dog howled” or “I did not necessarily have you in mind but if the shoe fits, wear it.” If he does not respond, those who know the situation think he does not respond because of the weakness of his case. Furthermore, it leaves the editor in somewhat of a predicament for editing these articles. He knows nothing, on some occasions, of the particular incidents referred to and, therefore, cannot tell how accurately the writer has related his information. He has no means of checking it out. Hence, he must decide to publish it or not publish it solely on the writer’s reputation. After several such denials of one’s stories by several different parties, an editor soon becomes suspicious of every story written by the writer. When that happens, his material can have little value to the paper.
For these reasons, I would prefer that our writers refrain from writing innuendos. If you have a charge to make against a brother, name the brother and the incident which you have in mind and document your charges. This specifies who is intended by your article and allows the indicted party an opportunity to respond to your charges. This appears to me to be a more honorable method of handling controversy than writing veiled potshots at one another.
Jeff’s reply to these reviews of his article is entitled “I Don’t Want To Do This.” I am sure that this expresses his motives. I am also aware that the same title could be appended to the review by John McCort and the letter to the editor by Ron Halbrook. (I might also add that the title could appropriately describe the “Editor’s Note.”) Yet, the same kind of conviction which prompted Jeff to write his initial article prompted their replies. When one writes for public consumption, he must be prepared to have his writings reviewed. Hence, in keeping with the open forum style of Truth Magazine, the following reactions to Brother Kingry’s article are published. I hope that having to face these public reactions to this article will help Jeff to be more responsible in his articles which appear in his new paper Horizons.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 43, p. 676
October 25, 1979