Monday, June 30, 2014

Reading List for Vietnam

The following reading list is for the topic of "Vietnam" in a much longer list for U.S. History after 1877. It includes seven titles. I am an Americanist, but I do not focus on the Vietnam War. So this is a set of books for the topic, geared toward preparation of a nonspecialist for comprehensive exams. Recommendations? Suggestions? Tell me what you think:

Berman, Larry. Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist Agent. HarperCollins/Smithsonian, 2007.

Bilton, Michael and Kevin Sim. Four Hours in My Lai. Penguin, 1992.

Milam, Ron. Not a Gentleman's War: An Inside View of Junior Officers in the Vietnam War. North Carolina, 2009.

Moyar, Mark. Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965. Cambridge, 2006.

Prados, John. Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945-1975. Kansas, 2009.

Sheehan, Neil. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. Vintage, 1989.

Vuic, Kara Dixon. Officer, Nurse, Woman: The Army Nurse Corps in the Vietnam War. Johns Hopkins, 2010.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

All's Fair in War? Larry Berman's Wonderful Book about Pham Xuan An

Berman, Larry. Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist Agent. New York: HarperCollins/Smithsonian, 2007.

This finely-written book tells the story of one of the most fascinating real-life characters ever. If you like history with a bit of mystery, you'll love this.

*Spoiler Alert*

In early 1953 in the southernmost province of Vietnam, the legendary Le Duc Tho presided over a ceremony in which Pham Xuan An, the subject of this riveting story, became a member of the Communist Party. Shortly afterward, the Party determined An's career. They realized he had the intellect and disposition to become a first-rate spy. For many years to come, An would lead a brilliant double life.

As historian and author Larry Berman explains, in the early 1950s, the leaders of the Communist Party fully realized that the United States was in the process of replacing the French colonialists in Vietnam. To the U.S.--in spite of American propaganda--Vietnam was never about the Vietnamese people. It was always about Cold War containment and the incredible task of keeping all of the dominoes in Southeast Asia standing straight.

For their part, many of the Vietnamese people had no interest in being told by the French or the Americans or anyone else that they would not be allowed to determine their own national future. As they had with the French, the Vietnamese would do everything they could to resist the Americans. Secretly, Pham Xuan An and his network would become a powerful component of that resistance.

In 1957, An came to Orange Coast College in California where he learned English, became acquainted with American culture, and developed many contacts inside the U.S. He even worked for the college newspaper where he made several new friends. Upon returning to Vietnam, An was at first quite nervous. Living in Saigon, he wondered, would he be suspected and arrested? Once he settled down, An began to develop relationships with important Americans and high-ranking leaders within the South Vietnamese government. In the years to come, An worked for the Reuters news service, the New York Herald Tribune, and eventually for Time magazine. All along, he was one of Hanoi's most valuable informants. He didn't have to steal information. It was freely discussed and shared with him by people who considered An a colleague and friend.

In short, Pham Xuan An may have been the one of the greatest con men and informants ever. For many years, he lived as both a first-rate journalist in Saigon working for American news outlets, and also as a hero of the Communist government headquartered in Hanoi.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jon Butler on Jack-in-the-Box Faith

Butler, Jon. "Jack-in-the-Box Faith: The Religion Problem in Modern American History." Journal of American History 90 (March 2004): 1357-1376.

Butler observes that historians typically have assumed that religion was a vital aspect of pre-Civil War American history. Citing U.S. history textbooks and survey courses, he notes that by contrast, religion "has not fared well in the historiography of modern America" (1358). One symptom of this difference is that "[a]fter 1870, . . . religion more often appears as a jack-in-the-box." It "pops up colorfully on occasion . . . But as with a child's jack-in-the-box, the surprise offered by the color or peculiarity of the figure is seldom followed by an extended performance, much less substance" (1359). The question arises, "Was religion important in American public and private life after 1870, and how should historians describe it?" Butler breaks down the question along three lines: "the problem of assuming 'secularization' in America after 1870; religion's continuing importance in twentieth-century American politics and elections; and religion's adaptive capacities in the face of modernity's technological, economic, and intellectual challenges" (1360). For the remainder of the article, Butler provides an historiographical essay in which he demonstrates that historians and observers of America have produced a rich variety of resources so that those who write textbooks and who teach should be able to include religion as a vital aspect of American history following 1870.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Visit with Bill Humble

I shared lunch and had a nice visit with Bill Humble today. He'll turn 88 in September. He's lonely without Geraldine, "Gerry," who died in March 2013. They were together for over 64 years. At his home church here in Amarillo, Bill just finished teaching a Wednesday-night series on the Holy Land. He fills in some for the chaplain at his retirement community, and plays "Texas 88" dominoes with some men and women there. A nice new gazebo on the property is being named in Gerry's memory. Bill continues to get out and walk five or six mornings a week. His most recently-read book: Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, by S. C. Gwynne. I told him I had recently read his 1965 article on "The Influence of the Civil War." We laughed when he asked me what the article said.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Reading List for "Religion and Reform" in U.S. History to 1877

The following reading list is for the topic of "Religion and Reform" in United States History to 1877. For this segment, my professor requires five books (there is an * beside the required books) plus five more chosen from a group of possible electives. The list that I have come up with includes thirteen titles: nine books and four important articles/book chapters. Recommendations? Suggestions? Tell me what you think:

*Butler, Jon. Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People. Harvard, 1990.

*Flake, Kathleen. The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle. North Carolina, 2004.

Givens, Terrence. The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy. Oxford, 1997.

*Hatch, Nathan O. The Democratization of American Christianity. Yale, 1989.

*Heyrman, Christine Leigh. Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt. Knopf, 1997.

Mathews, Donald G. "The Second Great Awakening as an Organizing Process, 1780-1830: An Hypothesis," American Quarterly 21 (Spring 1969): 23-43.

*Moore, R. Lawrence. Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans. Oxford, 1986.

Noll, Mark A. and Luke E. Harlow, editors. Religion and American Politics: From the Colonial Period to the Present. 2nd ed. Oxford, 2007.
  • Harlow, Luke E. "Slavery, Race, and Political Ideology in the White Christian South Before and After the Civil War."
  • Stout, Harry S. "Rhetoric and Reality in the Early Republic."
  • Wilson, John F. "Religion, Government, and Power in the New American Nation."
Pascoe, Peggy. Relations of Rescue: The Search for Female Moral Authority in the American West, 1874-1939. Oxford, 1991.

Walters, Ronald G. American Reformers, 1815-1860. Rev. ed., Hill and Wang, 1997.

Wigger, John. American Saint: Francis Asbury and the Methodists. Oxford, 2009.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Church of Christ in Altus, Oklahoma: Some Photos from the Archives

Ground-breaking for the Hudson and Elm Church of Christ building, c. 1925. The fa├žade indicates the building was completed in 1926. From left to right: 1. ?  2. Hilton Stacy  3. ?  4. J. C. Chisum  5. not wearing a hat, J. A. Cullum, preacher for the congregation  6. D. C. Oliver  7. W. A. Chisum  8. J. R. McMahan, who reportedly donated the land.
Silas and Willie Howell, c. 1936. Silas was then preacher for the congregation.
A closer look at Silas and Willie Howell

October 2, 1966. The photographer's notes on the photo identify two people. Wallace Gooch, preacher for the congregation at the time, is on the first row, second from the left (head tilted to his right side). Don Hayes, song director, is on the first row, first to the left of the aisle.  Full-time preachers for the congregation included the following:
1927-34 W. Claude Hall (left when invited by N. B. Hardeman to come back to F-HC)...
1934-37 Silas Howell
1937-41 Glenn Green
1941-43 Frank B. Shepherd
1943-46 Wallace Layton
1947-50 G. C. Abbott
1950-53 W. S. Boyett
Mack Lyon
Claude Robertson
Don Kern
L. N. Moody
Wallace Gooch
Gary Colley
Gene Gilmore
Wayne Price
Bill Osborne
Others who preached from this pulpit: Foy E. Wallace, Jr., G. C. Brewer, Ernest Highers, O. C. Lambert, V. E. Howard, Maxie Boren, Jimmy Allen, S. H. Hall, J. D. Tant, Horace Busby, Jesse B. Sewell, Delmar Owens, N. B. Hardeman, Roy Cogdill, Homer Hailey, John Bannister, C. E. McGaughey, George DeHoff, Perry Cotham.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Report on Forrest M. McCann, "Changes in Worship Music in Churches of Christ"

McCann, Forrest M. "'Time is Filled with Swift Transition': Changes in Worship Music in Churches of Christ." Restoration Quarterly 39 (Fourth Quarter 1997): 195-202.

This article was originally a speech, delivered at Abilene Christian University in 1997. Forrest McCann, a musician and historian, identifies and describes distinct episodes in the musical history of the Churches of Christ. According to him, they are as follows:

The Nineteen Century: The Campbell Tradition

No surprise, Alexander Campbell was the most significant influence on the worship music of the Disciples movement during the nineteenth century. Campbell had been raised a Presbyterian. Consequently, he favored the "metrical versions of the Psalms" well-known among the Presbyterians. His original hymnal of 1828 was republished a number of times. And, it served as the basis for hymnals produced by the American Christian Missionary Society between 1865 and 1882.

First Major Transition: Competition

In 1882, James Henry Fillmore published a song book that was much the same as the one produced by the ACMS. But, Fillmore's book was cheaper! Consequently, Campbell's dream of the the united Disciples having just one hymnal was crushed. Too, a new era of song-book competition began. Standard Publishing produced a hymnal in 1888, and in 1889, the Gospel Advocate came out with a hymnal whose lyrics were overseen and edited by E. G. Sewell. Interestingly, there was evidently no one among the Churches of Christ at the time who was qualified to oversee the music for the Gospel Advocate hymnal. So, a Methodist musician, Rigdon M. McIntosh who was on the faculty at Vanderbilt, did the job.

Second Major Transition: Advocate Books

Following the official separation between the Christian Churches and the non-instrument, non-society Churches of Christ in 1906, hymnals produced by the Gospel Advocate always had a non-instrument, Churches of Christ text editor. But, again, there was apparently no one in the group who was qualified to oversee the musical part of the hymnal. Consequently, an "instrumental" brother or someone like the Methodist Rigdon McIntosh edited the tunes. "The sad fact is that since the 1906 separation, Churches of Christ have never been a part of the mainstream of church song in America" (196).

Third Major Transition: Competition Again

Just as there was competition among Disciples hymnals in the 1880s, the emerging Churches of Christ witnessed similar competition. There were the Gospel Advocate hymnals, which competed with hymnals produced by the Firm Foundation, plus a large number of hymnals produced by independent editors. None of these hymnals featured songs whose words and music were consistently good.

Among the many hymnals published in the early 20th century, The Wonderful Story in Song (1917), by F. L. Rowe, was more substantial than most, and had some staying power (197). Some of the song books produced by the Churches of Christ in the first half of the twentieth century were of very low quality.

West of the Mississippi, Churches of Christ typically used the hymnals produced by the Firm Foundation headquartered in Texas. Hymnals were edited by G.H.P. Showalter, editor of the Firm Foundation magazine. The content of these hymnals was heavily influenced by F. L. Eiland, "the most prominent singing-school teacher among the Churches of Christ in Texas" and his proteges (197). Eiland's own Trio Music Company and subsequent Quartet Music Company produced several small, paperback hymnals, none of which lasted very long. These were filled with the words and music of Eiland and his students, songs which no one had ever sung before (and hardly since). Especially in the west, Churches of Christ were going their own way musically. This was a regional, mediocre tradition which produced very few songs which have lasted. Eiland's best-known book was The Gospel Gleaner (1901).

(FVB's guess is that two best-known songs from this time and place are F. L. Eiland, "Time is Filled with Swift Transition," and a song by one Eiland's students, Will Slater, "Walking Alone at Eve").

Fourth Major Transition: Great Songs

In May 1921, E. L. Jorgenson, a trained musician, completed Great Songs of the Church. Commendations poured in and were published in Word and Work, which had produced the new hymnal. Among Churches of Christ hymnals, the quality was unprecedented. And, this hymnal "reconnected the Churches of Christ with the great historic tradition of hymns and spiritual songs" (198). The book was a combination of Christian history and more-recent music produced by the Restoration Movement. Here was the best music from Christendom and from Restorationism. The musical isolationism of the Churches of Christ was coming to an end.

In producing Great Songs of the Church, Jorgenson was heavily influenced by the lesser-known W. E. M. Hackleman. For example, like Hackleman (and Fillmore), Jorgenson divided his collection into "Hymns" and "Gospel Songs."

Fifth Major Transition: The Dominance of Great Songs

The Gospel Advocate was silent about Great Songs, which was published by Word and Work, associated with R. H. Boll and premillennialism. Nonetheless, Great Songs became the standard everywhere, apparently because of its quality and despite its connections to "Bollism." By 1958, Jorgenson could say, "Nearly three million souls, in some 10,000 churches, now sing the Saviour's praises from its pages" (200). In the 50s, Jorgeson sold his standard-note edition of the hymnal to the Christian Standard, and the shaped-noted edition to Abilene Christian University. "The result of these transactions was that for the next decade and a half the heirs of the Stone-Campbell Movement again approached Alexander Campbell's dream of one hymnal for the churches" (200).

Sixth Major Transition: Imitation

Beginning in the mid-50s, producers of song books began simply copying songs straight from Great Songs of the Church. Sometimes the new books were 50 percent reproductions of songs from Jorgenson's work. They did so with impunity and apparently came to imagine that what they were doing was right. "His work, which has greatly elevated and standardized our hymnody, is now in its death throes because of inveterate copying. Perhaps my speech today is its requiem" (201). (Seems like this section should be called "Duplication" not "Imitation").

Seventh Major Transition: Current Events

McCann clearly saw the 1990s as an era of decline. A summary of his observations:

1. Only seventeen years later, it is astonishing to read McCann's assumption that part of the answer is to keep the best hymnals in print. (How many Christians sing from a printed hymnal anymore? They sing words projected onto a screen. In many cases, there is no musical notation).

2. Publishers of song books operate on the premise that more songs makes for a better book. McCann notes that by that time, there was a hymnal with over 1000 selections.

3. The advent of "so-called praise songs."

4. A trend toward performance music, music written for choirs and other trained musicians, not for "the average worshiper" (201).

In his conclusion, MaCann hints that the introduction of more-complicated music makes the adoption of instrumental music more likely. He quotes approvingly from a 1861 article by Isaac Errett in the Millennial Harbinger, which discusses the importance of music and singing.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Abstract of Everett Ferguson on "Alexander Campbell's Sermon on the Law"

Ferguson, Everett. "Alexander Campbell's Sermon on the Law: A Historical and Theological Examination," Restoration Quarterly 29 (1987): 71-85.

This article explains the historical, religious, and polemical contexts of a sermon which, in printed form, became one of the seminal texts of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, especially in connection with attitudes toward the Old Testament. Ferguson observes that statements from the sermon were later taken out of these contexts and applied in ways that had the effect of discounting the authority and usefulness of the O.T. Ferguson argues that Campbell did not intend to demean the O.T. Instead, he was interested in cutting off typical Protestant appeals to it for practices such as infant baptism, observing Sunday as a Christian Sabbath, national covenanting, and the establishment of civil law. He concludes that if someone wants a better understanding of how Campbell understood the O.T. and used it as Scripture, he should read Campbell's Familiar Lectures on the Pentateuch.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Report on "Second Great Awakening" article by Donald G. Mathews

In an ongoing effort to chronicle some of my reading, to preserve the work and make it accessible to mainly me, I'm posting a few notes like this. The articles and books I'm reporting on are typically seminal works, important secondary sources in my historical research.

Mathews, Donald G. "The Second Great Awakening as an Organizing Process, 1780-1830: An Hypothesis." American Quarterly 21 (Spring 1969): 23-43.

Mathews begins by suggesting that "present interpretations" of the Second Great Awakening may not be "sufficiently comprehensive" (23).

Scholars typically choose between two places of the SGA: the west or New England (24). And, it truly was not the same in those two different locales.

Mathews notes that the very term revival(ism), with its prefix "re," indicates that something (faith, churches, etc.) is already there.

Mathews says that there was a continuity between the "end" of the Great Awakening and the "beginning" of the SGA. The discontinuity between the two was that whereas the First "demanded a rethinking of church authority without subsequent general expansion of the churches, the Second Awakening was most noticeable in the undeniable quantitative fact that the Methodist and Baptist sects were not restructuring church life so much as extending it-- . . . by the tens of thousands" (26).

"It is . . . the thesis of this paper that one of the major determinants of the Second Great Awakening was irrelevant to theological issues and can be studied apart from them, that the Awakening in its social aspects was an organizing process that helped to give meaning and direction to people suffering in various degrees from the social strains of a nation on the move into new political, economic and geographical areas" (27).

The SGA characterized by unity

Mathews criticizes Perry Miller's interpretation of the SGA by saying that Miller investigated intellectual facets of the Awakening and (surprise, surprise) identified intellectual (theological) sources or causes of the Awakening. Miller's work "leaves out the social patterns and untidy non-intellectual events of the Second Great Awakening" (28). (Mathews appears to be speaking primarily about the Miller article, "From the Covenant to the Revival"). Mathews also says that Miller's analysis does not really account for all of the SGA, only for New England, not for "the South, West, and Chesapeake" (28).

The SGA as "a vast process of organization" (29)

Mathews has criticisms for W. W. Sweet, but also credits him for recognizing that religious expansion had to do with more than just religion (29). Likewise, an extension of and corrective to Sweet, the work of T. Scott Miyakawa (Protestants and Pioneers, 1964), "demonstrated how, in a mobile society, the churches could become" places of integration, where they found social unity (29-30).

The SGA as "a movement" (30)

H. Richard Niebuhr, The Kingdom of God in America (1937, footnote 8, on p. 30 of Mathews).

"We know that [the SGA] was a movement that converted hundreds of thousands of people and that it had some kind of profound social implications. But too often scholars have examined religion without taking its dynamism and stability seriously as social phenomena--a mistake that should be corrected" (30).

Toward that end, Mathews says that what he's going to say next is a suggestion, "a hypothesis" (31). Returning to the theme of organization, he points out that the SGA had to have been more than crazed activity and camp meetings. There was organization. Leaders at the local level had to define what it meant to be a member of a church. There was discipline and order established, etc. Boundaries were created, and observed, that distinguished insiders from outsiders, the saved from the damned (31).

Theory of social movements resulting from undefined social strain (32-33). Mathews suggests that the post-American Revolution era was characterized by social strain and that that "created a general susceptibility to social movements" (33).

As a result, the new U.S. became the scene of a specialized-society craze; all sorts of special interest societies. Mathews says that what emerged then was "a more persuasive and pervasive organizing force under which the societies themselves could be subsumed, i.e., the Second Great Awakening" (34).

In his book The Psychology of Social Movements (1941), Hadley Cantril said that people are open to suggestion when:
1. they have no adequate worldview for explaining the way things are (now? how they've come to be).
2. they experience a special event, something unique.
Cantril also said that the opposite is true. People are susceptible when everything is so very rigid as well as when they are painfully open-ended (34).

p. 35, Mathews continues to explicate how it was that the SGA was a social movement, and why that meant it was such a juggernaut.

The real question of the "success" of the SGA had to do not with the length of a camp meeting, but with how many viable churches came out of the revivalism. The SGA was a recruiting force. But what about subsequent devotion, organization, life together in the church. The group most ready and able to meet that challenge was the Methodists. They had the right sort of vision and organization for the job (36). No settled ministers. Mathews says the Methodists did not have a strong intellectual, theological tradition. What they had was a system and procedure that led to organizing people (36). Between 1781 and 1791, they went from approximately 10,000 members to 75,000.

Mathews gives more stats re. the growth of the Methodists (37) and says that the Baptists learned from the Methodists how it was done.  The incredible success and growth of the Methodists and Baptists in the the 1780s and 90s is quite a contrast to the dearth of religion in America in the wake of the Revolutionary War (37-38). Things had been in a shambles.

To an extent, Methodists and Baptists became more like each other; whatever accommodation there was had the purpose of organizing and nurturing the movement.

Methodists faltered in 1792, debates over the ecclesiastical elite, delegation of power (38-39) FVB wonders: is this a reference to the O'Kelly Schism only, or to more than that? Anyway, says Mathews, the Awakening itself did not falter. Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians all continued to thrive.

Mathews says that the essential sameness, the universality of the SGA made it a nationalizing influence. Its effect was anti-provincial.

"[T]he Revival helped make religion one of the major determinants of public discourse everywhere in the country. And it is not surprising that the period 1794-1825 was the great period of founding religious magazines and papers" (40).

SGA "as an organizing process and social movement" (42).

Mathews ends by saying there are other vistas of his idea that just can't be covered in an article:
1. class contours of the story. Specifically, it seems that who was being organized by the SGA was "a rising middle class."
2. More specifically, it seems that the SGA was "the greatest organization and mobilization of women in American history."
Other questions as well (42).


1. SGA "began as an organizing movement, not as a Calvinist reaction"
1.b. was successful because it adopted the Methodist way of organization
2. SGA began in the 1780s, continued to grow for more than a generation and "enveloped the entire country" (42).
3. Related to point 2, the SGA generated a 'common world of experience' (42). A strong national organization was not its secret. It didn't have that. What it had going for it was that it was a network of churches "that shared common values and norms with their counterparts throughout the United States" (42-43).

Significantly, Mathews refers to his article as presenting a "new thesis" (43).

"To explain the Revival in this manner enables students to see the social impact of what is too often presumed to be a purely religious movement . . . " (43).

Note that this article by D.G. Mathews is one of seven sources in the bibliography of Thomas H. Olbricht, "Great Awakenings" in Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Report on Bill Humble, "The Influence of the Civil War"

Humble, B. J. "The Influence of the Civil War." Restoration Quarterly 8 (Fourth Quarter 1965): 233-47.

In 1860, there were 1,241 congregations of Disciples in the North, and 829 in the South. Moreover, many of these congregations were in the Ohio Valley, and in border states like Kentucky and Missouri, where there was a good bit of internal division. These churches decided to stay completely out of politics because there were within the same congregation sympathizers on both sides of the slavery question. In time, preachers were completely hands-off regarding the War and its sources. The Disciples were determined to maintain the unity of their fellowship, unlike most denominations which had, by that time, already divided into North and South.

Christian Pacifism

Almost all of the Disciple leaders of the era (with the evangelist Walter Scott as a notable exception) argued for strict non-participation, either as a matter of conviction or in the practical interests of unity. J.W. McGarvey was an outstanding advocate of pacifism. This position was strong in Middle Tennessee, influenced by and reflecting the words of David Lipscomb.

At the same time, there were participants among the Disciples: both Alexander Campbell Jr. and Barton Stone Jr. wore the Confederate gray. James A. Garfield was a Union major general. And, in spite of the pacifists in the middle, brotherhood journals spanned the spectrum: from pro-Union abolitionists, to defenders of the Confederacy.

Franklin and Fanning: Sectional Symbols

Benjamin Franklin and Tolbert Fanning were mirror images of the other. Both were pacifists who mentioned their belief that the North (Franklin) and the South (Fanning) were in the right. And, they both believed as an expedient that, for the sake of unity, the only right course was for editors and preachers and churches to completely stay away from the war question.

On Record for the Union

During the first wartime meeting of the American Christian Missionary Society in 1861, there were no Southerners in attendance, and a pro-Union resolution was passed, encouraged by an out-of-session speech by James A. Garfield, wearing a blue uniform. In the pages of the Gospel Advocate, shortly before it discontinued publication, Tolbert Fanning reacted in shock and anger. Earlier, in 1859, Fanning had attended a meeting of the Society, announcing that congregations could and should conduct missionary activity, but also saying that he and others were one with those who supported the missionary society. It was when the society adopted the explicitly pro-Union statement that Fanning's language completely changed.

A Declaration of Loyalty

From the other side, there were abolitionists among the Disciples who felt strongly that the missionary society had not gone far enough, and that the organization should pledge an oath of loyalty to the Union. In 1863, the society formally made its pledge.

A Problem of Historiography

In 1866, Moses Lard confidently stated that the tensions of the Civil War had not broken the unity of the Disciples. Humble notes that a line of various restoration historians accepted and reported Lard's declaration:

1. W. E. Garrison, Religion Follows the Frontier
2. Garrison and DeGroot, The Disciples of Christ
3. Earl I. West, The Search for the Ancient Order, Vol. 1
4. James DeForest, Christians Only

Only David Edwin Harrell, in his 1962 Vanderbilt dissertation, "A Social History of the Disciples of Christ to 1866," challenged the assumption that the Disciples remained united through the Civil War.

"The assumption that the Disciples escaped a Civil War division requires drastic revision, perhaps a complete repudiation for the evidence proves that the Civil War did play an important role in the Disciples' schism" (245).

Humble observes that David Lipscomb, editor of the Gospel Advocate for decades starting in 1866, was even more bitter in his asides against the North than Fanning had been before the War. That is, the end of the war marked the beginning of wider division.

"The Civil War had so shattered the sense of brotherhood between northern and southern Christians that they could never again be called 'one people' in any meaningful sense.  . . . What had happened was that two threads of alienation--sectional bitterness and antagonistic understandings of the restoration principle--had become tangled together and had shattered the Christians' oneness" (246).

Humble says that if the Disciples had had a denominational structure, then the group would have divided into two distinct churches, much like other groups which did have a denominational structure. The Disciples told themselves that their unity had survived the war. In 1906, the United States Census Bureau said otherwise.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

South Thornton Church of Christ in Piggott, Arkansas: From Early Beginnings to the Mid-20th Century

The historical roots of the South Thornton Church of Christ in Piggott, Arkansas go back to the small band of Christians who first began meeting together in the Haywood community around 1917. The first building was erected on a plot of ground donated by Jake Haywood. About the same time, another small church was meeting in homes and in a theater in Piggott. Around 1932, the Haywood church decided it would be better for them to meet in town. The two churches merged.

The newly-formed congregation first met in a lodge hall at the corner of Front and Court Streets. Occasional preachers for the church in those early years were A. B. Shaver, Elvis Huffard, Cecil Wright, Thetus Pritchard, Thomas Pack, and B. G. Hope. Several special efforts to evangelize the community by public proclamation were conducted by C. L. Wilkerson, Joe Warlick, and G. C. Brewer. The consensus of recollection is that the most notable of these efforts was a 1931 tent meeting in which the preaching of G. C. Brewer attracted much attention and during which many were baptized.

In November of 1940, the plot of ground at the corner of South Thornton and Bruce Streets was donated to the church by Randall Davis. Soon, a frame building was erected, utilizing lumber from the old Haywood building. In May 1948, continued growth necessitated more space. A brick auditorium was built. The old building was turned ninety degrees, placed at the back of the new auditorium in the early 1950s. In 1963, a large auditorium was constructed adjacent and parallel to the existing one. The older building was partitioned to provide classrooms and a remnant of the old auditorium was retained as a fellowship area in the center.

In many respects, the most notable character who contributed to the tremendous numerical growth of the 1940s was Harbert D. Hooker. At first, Hooker commuted to Piggott from his home in Poplar Bluff, Missouri in order to preach and to promote the gospel. Around 1945, Hooker became the first full-time preacher employed by the congregation. His five years of work with the church were very fruitful.

Note: The bulk of this brief overview, which I wrote in November 1991, comes from histories recorded in several South Thornton Church directories, and from C. Ray Miller, "Church of Christ: Its History in Piggott," Piggott Times, Vol. 1, February 29, 1968. For a sketch of the lives of A. B. Shaver and C. L. Wilkerson, see Boyd E. Morgan, Arkansas Angels (Paragould, AR: College Bookstore and Press, 1967), pp. 93-94 and 136-38, respectively.