When the series of lectures, now referred to as "The Columbus Campaign," was announced, nothing more than a neighborhood interest was anticipated.
But when on Sunday evening, Jan. 11, 1914, all of the available rooms of the Broad Street Church of Christ had to be thrown into one auditorium, and an audience of fifteen hundred people faced the astonished pastor, he realized, with a staggering suddenness, that he had "a situation" on his hands.
The audiences began assembling as early as five o'clock, and long before the regular hour for service the house was packed. All stairways, vestibules, galleries and Sunday-school classrooms were filled with standing people; people stood, elbow to elbow, around all walls; the pulpit, choir and communion lofts were filled; and the aisles were so con-
[pg. 4] gested that the city fire department issued a command calling attention to the law on the subject of public safety. And still the people who wished to hear could not be accommodated; the doorkeepers estimated that one night as many were turned away as secured entrance. The worst blizzards of the winter held two of the meetings in their grasp, but the interest did not abate. The people were "wrought up," and storms could neither blow down nor freeze up their enthusiasm. For seven consecutive Sunday evenings they came from all over the city and the surrounding towns. New Lexington sixty miles away had representatives at all the meetings save the first.
The campaign naturally met with Roman opposition. Catholic reporters were on hand, three at a clip. They sat together and put forth no effort to conceal their mission. The day following the first lecture, a committee with a typewritten copy waited upon one of the trustees of the church, stated that the lectures were being stenographically
[pg. 5] reported, that the names of all the men in the church were tabulated and under consideration, and demanded that the officers of the church should discontinue the series. It is also known that Catholics attended the meetings in large numbers, and the presence of several priests was likewise reported. Quite frequently people "talked out loud," and such expressions as "He's lying," and "He's doing this for the money," were heard, here and there, in the building.
As the campaign progressed, many unexpected things occurred. The mails brought letters of encouragement and letters of criticism, periodicals, tracts and all sorts of literature on both sides of the Catholic question. The telephone was busy from early morning until late at night conveying information, advice, threats, neighborhood gossip, and offers of assistance. Business men neglected their offices and went in quest of local "thunder" for the speaker. Affidavits were secured and information of every description was furnished much of which was not used, owing to the fact
[pg. 6] that it was of such a character it could not be referred to the public. Some of the affidavits had to be ignored for the same reason. When the lecture on the "Auricular Confession" was delivered, there was a miniature confessional box about three feet wide and two feet high on a table in the pulpit. It had been placed there by an ex-Catholic.
But nothing was more surprising than an opposition from Protestant sources. Protestants of the ultra-aesthetic type including a few preachers were reported to have referred to the meetings, and especially the speaker, in a way that was anything but complimentary. "Sensationalism," "a love of notoriety," and "a nine day's wonder," are samples of the terms and phrases that slipped from the tongues of Protestant critics and sped through the city. One man, well known in the city and at the head of a Protestant church, was reported to have prophesied that the antipapal lectures would ruin the Broad Street Church of Christ. The threats
[pg. 7] and letters from Rome were amusing. But not so with the Protestant arrows they left a sting.
But is such a campaign a "nine days wonder"? Does it amount to anything, after all? and what is the effect upon the church that conducts it? These are relevant questions.
It has now been five weeks since the delivery of the last lecture. And in this short time and organization which prophesies a reconstruction of the political situation in Columbus has been effected. This organization is already large and strong, and the fact that it is rapidly enlisting business and professional men, and the most representative of the sturdy laboring classes, proves that it is not a growth of the mushroom kind. The campaign did not create the sentiment which evolved this movement. But its influence upon the city made the movement immediately possible upon an energetic and a widespread scale.
So far as the church is concerned, all are agreed that it is better known than ever before in its history. It has
[pg. 8] already received new members as a direct result of the lectures, and the audiences show a marked improvement.
To all who are inclined to look for "spots on the sun," and to censure anything and everything another does, the foregoing will smack of the "braggadocio." Nevertheless, it is deliberately written for a purpose that of stimulating ministers, into whose hands this book may fall, to conduct similar campaigns.
And to, at once, puncture the bubble which may begin floating on the minds of any who are ready, at the first opportunity, to hurl the accusation of "egotism," let it be said that the pastor of the Broad Street Church of Christ is not a logical target for such shots. He is practically a new man in the city. He had in no spectacular way come before the Columbus public, nor had he in any way ever gone "front" in the promotion of enterprises that usually make a preacher "known." To put it in a nutshell, he had never addressed a representative audience in the city, had never been in the limelight for a single moment,
[pg. 9] had preached to small audiences only, and was not known outside his own neighborhood and not very well in that.
Hence the crowds were not drawn by the preacher, but by the subject. The results would have been the same had any other man of ordinary intelligence been at the speaker's end of the situation. A day-laborer, endowed with a little speaking ability and conversant with the theme, could have drawn and held the crowds.
Any preacher, anywhere, who announces a series of discourses upon Roman Catholicism, will discover that the people are eager for his messages. The public is in advance of the pulpit in the consideration of this subject, and it is therefore ready to hear whomsoever will expose it. To put it in another way, the entire country is ready for the message of light. Every community is a magazine, and any public speaker can strike the match that will ignite the powder. The writer now wonders that he did not attack Romanism years ago, and that all the preachers of the country
[pg. 10] have not laid bare this medieval political system of the twentieth century. All the speaker needs is a knowledge of history and current events, the faculty of multiplying 2 by 2, and the ability to convey his thoughts to an audience. The people will do the rest. And any house, in which antipapal meetings are held, will be packed.
No thought of the lectures ever reaching the public in printed form was entertained until the people began asking for them many, under the excitement of the moment, offering as much as one dollar for a typewritten copy of a single speech. Also, a man of means in Columbus offered to have the entire series printed in pamphlet form and distributed broadcast at his own expense. A local printer wished to publish the lectures as a business venture, and two publishing-houses, other than the Standard, solicited the manuscripts.
Had such interest been anticipated, the speeches would have been prepared with a view to their publication. But no previous preparation had been made.
[pg. 11] Each speech was blocked out, in "head-notes," during the week prior to its delivery, and under circumstances that were aggravated by family illness and the stress of midwinter work in a widely scattered city church.
The lectures were stenographically reported, and the best that can be done is to send them forth in the garb of extemporaneous address. They are, therefore, sent on their way, not for the supercilious eye of the "high-flung" critic, but in obedience to a widespread demand upon the part of the common people who are ready to fight and are looking for weapons of warfare.
And if the book encourages others to plunge into "the fight that is on," and helps blaze the way for the most insistent reform of the present day, the author will count it a joy to receive whatever censure may be pronounced against him by the "propriety-bound."
GEO. P. RUTLEDGE.
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