“You have to keep in your mind an imagery of infinite possibility.”
While his obituary did appear on the front page of the New York Times in , he did not conduct himself in the manner of a legendary historical figure. He looked after and loved the distinctly unfamous, the marginalized, the estranged, and the incarcerated.
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He steadfastly refused to credit any hierarchy or system that placed one person higher or lower than anyone else. How does one live a life so extraordinarily varied and so inspiringly defiant? By asking around, I discovered that Campbell was in the phonebook and entirely accessible to anyone who wanted to discuss such questions, especially if it involved taking him out for barbecue.
In , with the prompting and encouragement of a friend and local minister, David Harkness, we made the trek to his farm in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, to behold the man. Through Campbell, I began to understand better the neighbors and strangers of Nashville. Juliet home. He called the joint his church.
It served as a reminder that sacred work can be done well when human beings come together at table, trying to hear one another over the hum of an air conditioner. Or, as Campbell liked to translate it, Be who you are. We surrender our composure and, out of the necessity of chewing, we enjoy these amazing seconds of silence.
Words come to mind and get spoken. We have no choice but to be patient and listen. Receiving visitors and paying visits, Campbell would offer watermelon or cornbread unto all manner of human being. There could be a loss to be grieved, an apology to be made, or a realization to be had, but blessedly, a pickled egg is not an argument or even an assertion. Campbell carried with him, in a kind of deep conjuring, a space in which to be oneself.
He brought the same largely unsanctioned ministry to those among us who feel estranged from institutionalized religion. Church, for Campbell, had to be a verb. After the third or fourth telling, Campbell excused himself and crept quietly back into the room, sneaking up behind him with a bowl of water. This was anything but flippant. Campbell took the love of God seriously.
Be ye reconciled. Act like it. As much as he reveled in telling these stories, he also understood that you have to do without saying. Nashville, at its Campbellite core, gets this. The city knows all too well the toxicity of empty moralizing. After all, televangelism is one of our largest industries. The dishes we come to think of as comfort food have gained this association through healing and humble gestures.
Friends and neighbors communicate deep affection, one squash casserole at a time. Somehow in rural Southern culture, food is always the first thought of neighbors when there is trouble. That is something they can do and not feel uncomfortable. It is something they do not have to explain or discuss or feel self-conscious about. And some potato salad. And I am sorry for what you are going through and I will share as much of your burden as I can. There is no deep reconciliation apart from deep reckoning. The manager locked the two of them in the restaurant and turned on a fumigator full of insecticide.
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As the room filled with fumes, the young men could no longer see each other. One Saturday, Lawson was on the scene to coach students and to dissuade white passers-by from responding violently to young people whole-heartedly—and whole-bodily—committed to nonviolent witness. The man directed a racial slur at Lawson before spitting in his face.
Reverend Lawson regarded the aggressor calmly and asked if he might have a handkerchief. As Lawson thanked him and wiped his face, he asked the man if a nearby motorcycle belonged to him.
It did. And in no time, they were discussing horsepower. Within a few minutes, the man was asking how he could aid Lawson and the students in their work. Christ was not divided, 2. Paul was not crucified for them, 3. Notice the last point. These Christians were not baptized into the name of Paul, but of Christ. The Bible teaches that when you obey the gospel, you are added or baptized into the body of Christ Acts ; Galatians ; I Corinthians Notice that Paul, Cephas, and Apollos were in existence when Paul wrote first Corinthians; however, the apostle Paul nowhere teaches that we are authorized to argue that we are added to their bodies, but the body of Christ.
Sadly to say, many religious people of our day have not understood what Paul taught in first Corinthians chapter one. These titles are not authorized in the pages of the New Testament, our pattern to follow. As members of the body of Christ, we must reject any man-made doctrines and titles that go contrary to what the Bible teaches.
As I close this lesson, it is my prayer that you will consider this information with an honest heart. May we accept what the Bible teaches in all respects and not what man says. The Bible is clear about who we are.
Church of Christ At St. Leon in Guilford, IN
We are Christians only, members of the one true church we read about in the pages of the New Testament. May we never forget this great truth! As faithful gospel preachers, let us proclaim the Word of God without any addition or subtraction. To God be the glory! A Preceptor reader from Texas has submitted a list of questions which request a statement of what Alexander Campbell actually did. Since members of the church are often asked such questions as "The church of Christ began with Alexander Campbell, didn't it?
The questions asked were:. At one period in Campbell's career he was affiliated with the Baptist denomination and even earlier he was a Presbyterian. After he and his father, Thomas Campbell, had both renounced the Presbyterian church, they began to study the question of baptism and were persuaded by their own investigations that immersion alone constituted Scriptural baptism.
After they and several others had been immersed by Elder Luce of the Baptist Church June 12, , the Baptists of western Pennsylvania were jubilant at the "conversion" of these former Presbyterians and invited the Brush Run church, which the Campbells had organized, to join the Redstone Baptist Association.
After lengthy discussions the Campbells affiliated with the Redstone Association but only with a written understanding that they would be allowed to teach whatever they "learned from the Holy Scriptures, regardless of any human creed. When he debated Maccalla in , Campbell maintained that baptism was essential to salvation: and though Campbell was supposedly defending the Baptist cause, baptism for the remission of sins was unacceptable and heretical to Baptists as to Presbyterians.
During Campbell's seventeen years as a nominal Baptist his prestige and influence increased enormously in spite of his heterodox views. The process of separation was slow and often painful; but by the "Christians" or "Disciples" had been ousted from the Baptist denomination, and the Baptists counted their losses in the tens of thousands.
Campbell was no longer a Baptist, even in name. The answer to this question is a most emphatic NO! Before one can be said to be the founder of any institution, it is essential that the institution in question never have existed prior to the period of its alleged founder.
Why I Am Not A Campbellite - Dr. Peter S. Ruckman
The church of Christ did exist long before the time of Alexander Campbell. Its establishment occurred in Jerusalem on that memorable Pentecost morning; its early history forms the theme of the Book of Acts; its needs for instruction were satisfied by the Epistles of the New Testament. Campbell's enemies utilized every means at their command to criticize, ridicule, and undermine, his work.
One of their favorite tactics was to accuse Campbell of being the founder of a new religious denomination; for they believed that if he could be branded a factionist, the founder of a new sect, his plea for religious unity would appear absurd to the religious community. As often as Campbell encountered this charge that he had founded a new denomination, he carefully pointed to the true character of his work and disclaimed all pretenses at being the founder of a new sect.
For example, when Campbell visited New Orleans, the Commercial Bulletin announced his visit to the city and referred to him as the "founder" of a religious denomination Campbell immediately addressed a letter to the editors of the paper; and after thanking them for the complementary notice of his visit, he continued:. Neither the facts of history nor the statement of Campbell himself give any support to the charge that he founded a new denomination.
It follows, therefore, that when someone asks a Christian, "Didn't Alexander Campbell found your denomination? If it be a case of insufficient information, he can be persuaded that the church of Christ is not a denomination and that Campbell was not its founder.
Seek The Old Paths, Questions for Campbellites
If the question proceeds from malicious intent, the questioner illustrates again the power of religious prejudice! It would be incorrect to imply that Campbell alone succeeded in restoring the primitive church of Christ, but it is accurate to state that Campbell was one leader in a great movement whose goal was the restoration of the New Testament church.
It will be observed that two things are implied when one uses the term "restoration. It is implied that the church of Christ did not originate with Campbell or even during the period of his life; rather it originated and flourished before Alexander Campbell lived. Campbell believed in returning to the original standard, for this is the meaning of the term "restore.
Now, in attempting to accomplish this, it must be observed, that it belongs to every individual and to every congregation of individuals to discard from their faith and their practice everything that is not found written in the New Testament of the Lord and Savior, and to believe and practice whatever is there enjoined. This done, and everything is done which ought to be done" Christian Baptist, March 7, Secular history shows that efforts to restore undenominational Christianity had begun long before Alexander Campbell started his work.