Tag Archives: Christian Standard

Some Standard Wisdom on Brain Pickling

One of the recurrent themes in the articles that caught my eye while reading through the 1880 editions of the Christian Standard was the confidence with which they trumpeted the scientific knowledge of their day. Looking at the science of a bygone era, in edition to being tremendously amusing, ought to give us pause today about our own scientific hubris and force us to wonder how future generations will perceive our cutting-edge thought, particularly as it filters down to the popular level. This piece was copied by the Standard from Scientific American, which is still in publication.

[…], by far the greatest anatomist of the age, used to say that he could distinguish in the darkest room by one stroke of the scalpel the brain of the inebriate from that of a person who lived soberly. Now and then he could congratulate his class upon the possession of a drunkard’s brain, admirably fitted from its hardness and more completed preservation for the purpose of demonstration. When the anatomist wishes to preserve a human brain for any length of time, he effects that object by keeping that organ in a vessel of alcohol. From a soft pulpy substance , it then becomes comparatively hard, but the inebriate, anticipating the anatomist, begins the indurating process before death, begins it while the brain remains the consecrated temple of the soul while, while its delicate and gossamer-like tissues still throb with the pulse of heaven-born life. Strange infatuation this, to desecrate the God-like. Terrible enchantment that dries up all the fountains of generous feelings, petrifies all the tender humanities and sweet charities of life, leaving only a brain of lead and a heart of stone.

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Some Standard Wisdom on Ministers’ Wives

After a couple of weeks of more serious excerpts, it is time to return to more lighthearted fare. This offering, entitled “The Minister’s Wife” was intended, almost certainly, as a sarcastic critique of the unrealistic expectation that congregations had for the spouses of their leaders. Still, I can’t help but read it and think that, hovering just beneath the surface, is an genuine wish.

The minister’s wife ought to be selected by a committee of the church. She should be warranted never to have a headache, or neuralgia; she should have nerves of iron; she should never be tired or sleepy, and should be everybody’s cheerful drudge; she should be cheerful, intellectual, pious, domesticated; she should keep her husband’s house, darn his stockings, make his shirts, cook his dinner, light his fire, and copy his sermons; she should keep up the style of a lady on the wages of a day-laborer, and be always at leisure for “good works,” and ready to receive morning calls; she should be secretary to the Band of Hope, Dorcas Society, and the Home Mission; she should conduct Bible classes and mothers’ meetings; should make clothes for the poor and gruel for the sick; and finally she should be pleased with everybody and everything, and desire no reward beyond the satisfaction of having done her own duty and other people’s too.

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Some Standard Wisdom on Invisible Gas

This weeks thought from the Christian Standard was borrowed from the New York Evangelist and, like last week, illustrates just how little things have changed, if not in the way Christianity is actually treated by society than at least how Christian perceive their relationship to the broader culture.

Invisible Christianity seems to be a favorite doctrine with many people. The doctrine, it would appear, is this: that you may be saved and nobody know of it. You may get to heaven nicely without any “ado”—so quietly, in short, that nobody will suspect where you are going. Such is a fair statement of the doctrine so many people like. By all means get to heaven, they say, but don’t alarm anybody about it. Keep it all to yourself—the quieter you go to heaven the better. This is the doctrine of invisible Christianity.

I wonder what the world would think if some man told them he had invented invisible gas? Why, they would say the man’s mad—the very thing gas is for is to give light; it must be visible. And, strange to tell, this is just what God says of the Christians—that is, of the soul that’s saved. “Ye are the light of the world,” He says. What could be plainer? But is the light to be seen? Hear what God says, “A City that is set on a hill can not be hid” (Matt. V. 14). “Can not be hid.” That’s what God says about the man or woman that’s saved. Invisible Christianity is not in the Bible. Quite the opposite. If you are saved, your light will be easily seen by the world as a city built on a hill.

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Some Standard Wisdom on Asceticism

We pick back up our quotes series from the 1880 Christian Standard with some thoughts on asceticism, which appeared to have the same negative connotation in nineteenth century American Protestantism that it has today.

Too much is said in these days against “asceticism,” but the danger of the Church does not lie in that direction. […] in cloaks are more in vogue than “hair shirts.” Daily food is a lawful indulgence. But fasting is sometimes profitable to both body and soul. Many luxuries of domestic life are lawful in themselves; to give them up in order to have more money for benevolent uses, or in order to discourage social extravagances, is a dictate of pure Christianity. John Wesley had a right to own silver plate, yet he nobly refused to possess more than two or three silver spoons “while so many poor people were lacking bread.” An excellent man in my congregation sold his carriage just as soon as he found that his horses were eating up his charity fund too fast. My friend is no ascetic. He is a very sensible and sun-shiny Christian. If the same spirit which actuated him were more common in the church, there would be fewer luxurious equipages, fewer wine bottles, fewer card tables, fewer sumptuous evening parties; but there would be more missionaries in the West, and more Bibles in China and Japan. Self-denial soars above them.

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Some Standard Wisdom for Managing Canals

In 1880, long before the canal would come to fruition but while it was certainly in the minds of many, the Christian Standard came out in favor of the Panama Canal. At the time, the French were preparing to build a canal, and in fact would make an expensive and deadly attempt at it in the following decade. The Christian Standard was very much opposed to this, for reasons that display the editors’ profound naivete and almost criminal patriotism.

It is nevertheless clear that the United States government, the only considerable government in the world, not committed to the war policy should guard this great highway of nations. Every such international work, however, is a great preserver of peace. The greater the interest of each nation in all other nations, the greater the interest of that nation in the preservation of peace. And there is no work in which all civilized nations would have a greater interest than in this canal. It is commerce that rules the world now, and it is commerce that always suffers in war. Therefore we may assume that a work in which the commerce of the world is directly concerned will diminish the possibilities of war. Let it be in the hands of a nation whose policy is peace, and no limit need be put on its influence on the affairs of men.

Funny. I always thought it was people, not commerce, that suffered in war.

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Some Standard Wisdom for Hiring Help

Continuing with the amusing theme of anti-Irish racism picked up in the Deseret News, this week’s tidbit from the Christian Standard has it all: racial, class, and religious chauvinism.

The people who need house servants find the Chinese more serviceable than any others they employ, and they have relieved them from the tyranny of the Irish girls. Mr. James Redpath says, “The real secret of this outcry against the Chinese is that the Catholic Church can no longer levy a tax on every Protestant family on $5 a month, which used to be added to the Irish girl’s wages; and the Irish girls openly avow it.”

The world has changed so much. Whereas once Americans advocated switching to Chinese domestic labor, now Americans are content to let the Chinese stay in their own country and do American labor (all the while, of course, complaining that no labor is domestic anymore).

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Some Standard Wisdom for the Proactive Church Lady

Having highlighted the seedier side of Stone-Campbell views on the prospects and methods for evangelizing the newly freed slaves, let us turn now to a more egalitarian note. This comes from the Querists’ Drawer where Errett and his editorial staff answered questions on belief and practice sent in by readers. Here Errett comes to the defense of some women fed up with their unmotivated fellow congregants.

“We met today for social worship and the elder no being present, the deacon and the brethren would not lead in worship; the sisters went ahead and had singing, prayer and Bible reading. Did we do right? Would it have been right for a sister to have led in the breaking bread?”

In our judgment, you did just right. And if you had added the Lord ’s supper to observances, we should still say you did right. If a company of sisters in a neighborhood in which no brethren lived were to assemble for reading and prayer, what would there be to hinder their observance of the Lord’s supper? And if brethren are present and refuse to lead in the worship, no one can charge that the women usurp authority over them, if they go forward in the performance of duties from which the men shrink. Certainly, such men should never complain because the women outstrip them in zeal and faithfulness.

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Some Standard Wisdom for Converting Blacks

Less than a month into this series, I already feel the need to sound the reminder that in quoting some of these articles, my intent is not to endorse or make light of or even to stand in judgment of some of the darker sides of late nineteenth century thought. This warrants particular restatement with the following article by J. W. Crenshaw. It would be easy to read the below and assume either that my intent is racist or callous or anarchonistically judgmental. It is none of these. Instead, the following article sounds, among other things, a pair of themes that I have tried to reiterate here in various ways. The first is the need to complicate the narrative of the Civil War that we all learned in school: the North invaded the South to free the slaves and give blacks their rights. Historians have almost entirely abandoned this carefully constructed fiction, but the public still casts the Civil War in these terms, failing to see the stark racism and paternalism that dominated in the North no less than the South. The other is the sinister overtones that education often takes on in the hands of progressives. It’s a message that has ongoing merit.

Even if neither of these themes were present, however, the following is important to read both for those in the Stone-Campbell Movement because it is part of our collective history the consequences of which we continue to live with in the de facto racial segregation of our churches and for Americans in general who need to be forced to read chapters of our history which serve neither to glorify US nationalism or to provide the starting point in a narrative of national redemption. What follows in “Difficulties in Christianizing the Colored Race” is precisely the shades of grey that we all need to grapple with in the formation of our historical consciousness.

As to what the future of the colored race of America is to be, socially, politically or religiously, we do not believe any one can conjecture with any degree of accuracy. Naturally superstitious and with their race prejudices to contend with, we approach them more from a sense of Christian duty than from any hope of achieving grand results. To succeed in our mission work among them we must agree upon some decided policy. If properly approached, we do not believe that there is a better missionary field in the world.

Experience has proven that we can not reach them through the preaching of white men. The colored leaders now, excepting a few, are ignorant and superstitious. In what direction, then, does hope lie? Certainly not in this shouting generation. The hope and the only hope, speaking from experience, is in the children. And when we educate a few colored men, as we have been doing for this work, we must not measure their success by converts made. The children, who are just learning to read, are the ones most benefited. Those whom we send out must be impressed with the importance of continuing to sound into the ears of the auditors that Christianity is something more than shouting the clothes off in the first part of the night, and serving Satan the balance of the night. We need to select young men of good character to educate them for this work. There are brethren among us who have the means to help build such a school as we need for this purpose. With the plain gospel plea that we have, if loving liberal hearts, could be interested in this work, in the next generation many of the difficulties that now so hinder our progress could be surmounted, and thousands of this unfortunate race could be Christianized.

Brethren, this is a question worthy of the attention of every Christian.

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Some Standard Wisdom for Purifying Politics

Some of the most interesting and surprising stories in the Christian Standard are in the “Current Topics” section, a kind of miscellany that includes comments on current news, politically charged barbs, and sarcastic quips. Here is a tidbit about one of what have probably been hundreds of failed political reform movements (should we read in this a prediction of how history will treat the Occupy movement?). Whatever its ultimate fate, the editorial staff at the Standard had high hopes for what seems to be a fairly simple proposition:

We hail with joy the Independent Scratchers, whose mission is a purification of politics. It is urged that while the worst elements of a party may secure the nomination of unfit men, nothing but the apathy of the best elements will secure their election. T he independent scratchers propose to defeat those men—and only those—on a ticket who are known to be corrupt. This will force the nomination of honest men, and be an effectual “brake” on machine politics. It has already done effective service, and is destined to play an increasing part in our public affairs.

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Some Standard Wisdom for Avoiding Epidemics

Sun
Continuing with the theme of amusing ourselves at the expense of the level of scientific and technical knowledge in 1880, the Christian Standard published extensive quotes from and commentary on an article by E. W. Cushing which first appeared in the International Review:

We are apparently on the climax—which arrives in 1882—of a cycle of epidemics, which coincides with the sun spots of some eleven years and a fraction. As he argues, it is a time of great disturbances in temperatures, etc….After a carefully prepared table of the great epidemics known in history, which are shown to correspond very clearly with the semi-changes, he concludes: “Now what can these general influences be, this general cause, this morbific influence of an unknown nature? Does the earth itself change periodically? No. Does the mass of air or water change? No. What can change them? The force, the heat, the energy which is derived directly from the sun. Does this change regularly, periodically, and at intervals corresponding with those of this pestilence? It certainly does; and all these strange natural phenomena which we have seen to have been observed in all ages as the forerunners or accompaniments of epidemics are now known to depend on, or at least to coincide with, the changes of solar energy corresponding with the sun spot cycle. Here is certainly the post hoc; shall we not admit the propter hoc?”

Depending on what the fraction is in “eleven years and a fraction,” I fear we may be due for another period of epidemic disease in 2013. Oh wait.

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