Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Memories of a Veteran, Plus Rice Haggard and the Rehabilitation of the Name "Christian"

It's Veterans Day. This will always be an important day for me because of my father, Frank Howard Bellizzi, Jr., who served with distinction in the United State Air Force for over twenty-six years.

I faintly recall the days of the Vietnam War. Back then, Dad was a flight engineer on C-141s, regularly flying in and out of Southeast Asia. There were times when he'd be gone for long stretches. I don't know how many days or weeks. What I do remember is that it was always like Christmas whenever my dad came home.

It would be wrong if I didn't also mention my mother, Joy. Back in those days she so often lived like a single parent. But in addition to everything else, she made sure that she and my sister Shari and I made it to every meeting of the Church of Christ in New Egypt, New Jersey--on time, Bible in hand, my face freshly cleaned in a struggle that involved spit and a tissue. No woman was ever tougher or sweeter than my mother.

I guess one of my memories from that time will always be with me. It must have been a Sunday or a Wednesday night. My father, stationed at McGuire Air Force Base, returned from one of those long trips and drove straight to church, knowing we'd be there. He arrived just as we were dismissing. I can still see him in his flight suit, standing in the church foyer. As soon as I saw him, I ran as fast as I could straight for him. When he saw me, he bent his knees and opened his arms just before I jumped and threw my arms around his neck.

That's the way I'll always feel about my dad. I love him. I respect and admire him. And I'm thankful for him, and for all of our veterans who have honorably served the United States.

Happy Veterans Day, Dad.

- - - - - - -

Most students of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement will recognize the name Rice Haggard. A minor prophet of the Movement, Haggard is credited with suggesting the name "Christian" to a couple of early American restoration groups: (1) the Republican (i.e., Free) Methodists in Virginia associated with James O'Kelly and (2) the Springfield Presbytery in Kentucky led by, among others, Barton W. Stone (pictured here).

That Haggard influenced both groups, at different times and places, to abandon the names they had taken for themselves and to adopt the name "Christian" is a standard subplot in the story of early American Restorationism. And, thanks to John W. Neth, Jr., historians also recognize that Rice Haggard's anonymous pamphlet on the sacred origin of the name "Christian" was, in fact, written by him.

Something that hasn't been recognized as often is that Haggard's main idea, and even the specific wording in his pamphlet, did not originate with him. The few scholars who have identified the antecedents of Haggard's position and the sources of his rhetoric refer to Benjamin Grosvenor (1676-1758).

From what I can gather, Grosvenor was a very capable English minister and pamphleteer. Recently, the Disciples of Christ Historical Society in Nashville sent me a photocopy of Grosvenor's booklet, An Essay on the Christian Name: It's Origin, Import, Obligation, and Preference to all Party-Denominations (London: John Clark and Richard Hett, 1728). Knowing the work of Haggard (published in the early 1800s), I'm looking forward to hearing what Grosvenor had to say 75 years earlier.

It's also been noted that Grosvenor's insistence on the name "Christian" was taken up and advanced by one Samuel Davies, who became one of the illustrious presidents of the school now known as Princeton University. You can read Davies' sermon on "The Sacred Import of the Christian Name" here.

I don't know if Haggard got his ideas from the Englishman Grosvenor or from the American Davies, or from both. It's sort of a Stone-Campbell Synoptic Problem, a major difference being that there's no debate here about who wrote first. Here and there in his anonymous pamphlet, Rice Haggard includes footnotes, citing his sources. So, of course, he could have cited Davies or Grosvenor (or both, assuming for the moment that he had copies of both works). But he didn't. Why not?

Before I dive into the writings (and I know this is sort of backwards) I have a theory. My theory is, Rice Haggard wanted to communicate to the early restoration movements that he knew (the ones in Virginia, Kentucky, and New England) his beliefs about the name "Christian." But he couldn't email them or blog about it, and say "Click on this link and see what Benjamin Grosvenor (or Samuel Davies) says about the sacred origin of the name 'Christian'." So he wrote and published his own pamphlet that borrows heavily from his source(s). His work was so similar to its source(s) that he would have been embarrassed to put his name on it. So he published the pamphlet anonymously and accomplished two things at the same time: (1) he communicated this important teaching, designed to unify, to the fledgling movements he knew, and (2) he avoided becoming an out-and-out plagiarist.

And it would have worked, if it hadn't been for that meddling scholar, John W. Neth, Jr., who connected the dots and realized that it was Haggard who had published the anonymous pamphlet.

I'd be glad to hear from anyone else who has some ideas or knows some other sources on this sub-topic. Thanks for reading.


Dave Ramsey said...

Barack Obama also has a connection with the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVaG7MtSnVc .

David Ramsey, Ph.D.
Vietnam Veteran

Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

Thanks for taking us back to Haggard

Bobby V

Bob Bliss said...

Frank, thanks for expanding my knowledge of the Restoration Movement with this introduction to Haggard. I need to know more about him.

I didn't know you were at New Egypt. When and how long? I was at Tabernacle CofC from 1996 to 2006. Was Joe Lemmons (did I spell his name correctly?) preaching then? My son met his wife when he was at Harding. He was working in the Midnight Oil's cafe at the hospital and she was working at the gift shop at the hospital.

Frank Bellizzi said...

Dave, thank you for your service to our great country. Yes, as you know, there is a United Church of Christ connection to the Churches of Christ, though faint. My understanding is that when the UCC was formed in 1957, of the four groups that merged to make up that new denomination, the smallest was the remains of the old Christian Connection (earlier, Connexion) led in earlier, better days by Elias Smith and Abner Jones.

Bobby, I knew you would appreciate something historical. Speaking of that, do you know of anyone who's explored the Grosvenor-Davies-Haggard connection? I really do believe that Haggard published his pamphlet anonymously because he was borrowing from earlier sources, knew it, and just wanted to get the message out. Does this match up with how you read it?

Bob, yes, Joe Lemmons was my first preacher. He and Lois quickly became family to my family. You know how it is in Church of Christ circles in that part of the country. Great, great people. As you're probably aware, Joe is no longer with us. But I believe Lois is still living in Searcy. (?)

Bob Bliss said...

Frank, when were you at New Egypt?

Frank Bellizzi said...

My folks moved to NJ in 1961. I showed up in '63. We moved away when my dad got a transfer in '71.

Dave Ramsey said...

Yes, the historical relationship between the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement and the United Church of Christ involves the Christian Connexion associated with Elias Smith and Abner Jones. In general the Disciples of Christ wing of the Movement continues to work closely with the UCC. I pointed to the historical relationship as a conversation-starter, a positive avenue with individuals who seek a closer walk.

My own walk has gone through New Egypt, a delightful place which is at least better than Little Egypt, who doesn't work there any more. New Egypt lies outside the gates of Fort Dix, where I was privileged to spend a couple of sojourns. Especially remembered and appreciated is the helpfulness of Richard Gunselman, a member of the New Egypt Church of Christ, who selflessly squired me around the area when I was there without wheels.

Anonymous said...

cool, interesting stuff