Revenge as a Theme in hard line Churches of Christ

In the 1970s when I was in Florida College, a college affiliated with the Non-Institutional wing of the churches of Christ, I came across two young men who liked to get revenge. They were both studying to be preachers. One of the young men was in my dorm. He hailed from a small rural town in the Bible belt. He and his girlfriend were temporarily suspended from school for some infraction of the rules. He gleefully told me of the havoc he wreaked on campus, including taking a dump in front of the chapel auditorium doors, to get revenge on the school for suspending him. When I objected to his behavior, he told me his father was a preacher and his father would not object to his behavior.

Another young man, also the son of a preacher, a more accomplished young man, being one of the top elected officials in the student body, told me how he would get revenge on people who refused to dim their lights while driving at night, and what he would do to people who riled him. He loved debates, and we would attend any Church-of-Christ-versus-some-other-religious-group debate that we could find. 20 years later he was embroiled in taking Florida College to task for being soft on the seven twenty-four hour days of creation, because they were tolerating a professor who believed some of the days could have been billions of years long.

What is important about this penchant for revenge is that it is the opposite of the gospel. The good news Jesus came to die for was the good news of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the opposite of revenge. What is important to note is that many in hard line Churches of Christ are running head long in the opposite direction from the good news. It is odd how the songs the churches sing are written by Watts and Wesley, drunk on the forgiveness of God, while the Bible classes and sermons are filled with shame-and-blame and us-against-them.

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About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
This entry was posted in Faith and Works, Grace, History, Psychology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Revenge as a Theme in hard line Churches of Christ

  1. Gary Bray says:

    Revenge is born of self righteousness. self righteousness takes hold when the people are convinced they are the only true church and all others are going to hell. The hard liners I’ve come in contact with are quite content to go to heaven while the rest of the world perishes. I find they are a cult led by ignorant people that rule with fear. Forgiving others, admitting their own sin and truly loving others is not something they preach. They honestly believe they know “the system” well enough to ‘work’ their way to heaven by following their own rules.

  2. Jenny says:

    I’ve noticed this too. And it’s funny that you bring it up just now, because I’ve been reading a novel recently written by the son of a CofC preacher and had been rather disturbed by its focus on revenge. Now I’m wondering if the connection lies deeper.

  3. John Doe says:

    Amen.

  4. Penny says:

    I left the CoC a little over 2 years ago. Now that I have most of the teaching out of my system, I really feel as though I can see it clearly for the very first time. This “revenge” thing, along with so many other teachings of that group, appears to be a characteristic of a certain personality type that really thrives in that type of environment. It’s kind of sad really.

    • Phil says:

      I don’t like to stereotype anyone but my observation is that those who embrace coC theology are strongly analytical and logical thinkers. Revenge is a strong “cause and effect” principle that is the foundation of logical thinking. Yet, forgiveness is a product of surrender, something that those in the coC don’t give much credence toward. The passive aspects of NT Christianity is downplayed by those in the coC and is seen as weakness.
      Not everyone in the coC is like this, but my observation is that it is more prevalent in the coC than most other religions.

  5. Gary Cummings says:

    I am not shocked about the revenge motif in the COC. I think it is a hand me down of the old Scots-Irish pioneers, who were the backbone of the Stone Campbell Restoration movement.
    I had similar experiences with COC guys at college, even among the preacher students.
    A lot of the support I had encountered for the Vietnam War was based on this revenge Motif, as well as their general anti-communism. This was in spite of the fact that neither the communists nor the country of Vietnam ever attacked the United States.

    • Mark says:

      Would hard line members of the Churches of Christ even be ashamed of their revenge ideals? Their nasty debate tactics were held up to be lauded.

  6. garycummings says:

    How many COC members belong to the Tea Party? Their approaches to reality seem very similar.
    Just wondering.

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