by Al Maxey

Issue #335 ------- February 8, 2008
Where the way is hardest, there go thou:
Follow your own path, and let people talk.

Dante {1265-1321}
The Divine Comedy

A Bulldog For Jesus
Reflecting on the Life and
Work of Carrie A. Nation

Walt Whitman (1819-1892), in his classic work titled "Song of the Broad-Axe," wrote, "How beggarly appear arguments before a defiant deed." Although these words were penned when Carrie Nation was a mere child of ten years old, they nevertheless capture the very essence of her approach to life and what she considered to be its greatest issues, for which she was a most fearful "weapon of divine justice" by almost everyone's reckoning. Carrie Nation was not interested in fair speeches and pious platitudes. She was a woman of action. Wielding a Bible in one hand and a hatchet in the other she charged full-speed ahead into the fray. When people would see Carrie Nation (6' tall, 175 lbs) coming their way with that wild look in her eyes, they literally fled the premises. She was a fierce warrior, and she took no prisoners! In her own words, Carrie described herself as "a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn't like."

She was born Carrie Amelia Moore on November 25, 1846 in Garrard County, Kentucky. (Note -- in many biographical sketches one will find her first name spelled Carry. This mistake is thought to have resulted from a very popular slogan that came to be associated with her actions in later years during her work with the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Carrie A. Nation sought to personally "Carry A Nation" for the cause of Christ Jesus against the sale of liquor. It was a play on her name [which Carrie actually had registered as a trademark in the state of Kansas] that over the years came to cause some confusion as to how her first name was actually spelled. Adding to all the confusion is the fact that her father spelled her name Carry in the family bible, although all the official records, as well as the spelling used by Carrie herself throughout her life, was Carrie). She tended to be rather sickly as a young child and her parents suffered a good number of financial setbacks. It didn't help that her mother was often delusional, at times believing herself to be Queen Victoria. Thus, young Carrie largely looked after her own upbringing, while her mother increasingly lost touch with reality. The family moved about from place to place, finally settling in Belton, Missouri.

Little Carrie was an avid reader, spending much of her time reading and thinking upon the Scriptures. From a very early age she was extremely religious. At the age of ten, she attended a revival at Hickman's Mill, Missouri which was being conducted by a minister associated with the Stone-Campbell Movement (of which her father was a member). At that time she was immersed into Christ Jesus. Though young, a relative remarked, "Carrie, I believe you know what you are doing." Another relative of hers was not nearly so positive, however. She describes it in her own words: "A few days after this I was at my aunt Kate Doneghy's. Uncle James, or 'Jim,' we called him, her husband, was not a Christian. He really shocked me one day by saying: 'So those Campbellites took you to the creek, and soused you, did they?' What a blow! My aunt seemed also shocked to have him speak thus to me. I left the room and avoided meeting him again. How he crushed me! It had the effect to make me feel like a criminal." [This is taken from her Autobiography: The Use and Need of the Life of Carrie A. Nation, which is a most interesting read. I would encourage everyone to examine it.] In her autobiography, she describes her baptism this way: "At the close of the sermon, and during the invitation, my father stepped up to the pulpit and spoke to the minister and he looked over in my direction. At this I began to weep bitterly, seemed to be taken up, and sat down on the front bench. I couldn't have told anyone what I wept for, except that it was a longing to be better. I had often thought before this that I was in danger of going to the 'Bad Place,' especially since I would be afraid to think of the time that I should see Jesus come. I wanted to hide from Him. The next day I was taken to a running stream about two miles away, and, although it was quite cold and there was some ice in the water, I felt no fear. It all seemed like a dream. I know God will bless the ordinance of baptism, for the little Carrie that walked into the water was different from the one who walked out of it. I said no word. I felt that I could not speak, for fear of disturbing the peace that is past understanding. Kind hands wrapped me up so that I felt no chill. I felt the responsibility of my new relation and tried hard to do right" [chapter 3].

There are a good many other fascinating stories from her childhood, but I shall leave those for the readers to experience, should they be interested, as they review the above mentioned autobiography (for which the online link has been provided). Carrie's first great romance came in the year 1865 with the arrival of a boarder at her parent's home. He was a newly arrived physician by the name of Dr. Charles Gloyd. The two soon fell in love, but Carrie's parents did not approve of this man, for he was not a Christian and he also was known to be a drinker. Nevertheless, over their objection the two were married on November 21, 1867. Her husband's drinking got progressively worse, however, and it soon became apparent that he was a hopeless alcoholic. Carrie, pregnant with their first (and what would prove to be their only) child, left and returned to her parent's home. Dr. Gloyd pleaded with her: "Pet, if you leave me, I will be a dead man in six months." He was not far wrong. Just two years after his marriage to Carrie, and not long after the birth of their daughter, Charlien, he died from the effects of alcohol abuse. He was only 29 years old at the time of his death, leaving a 23-year-old wife and infant daughter behind, as well as what could have been a promising career as a physician. The death of her husband from the abuse of alcohol was to have a profound and life-altering impact upon Carrie.

The daughter that Carrie and Charles produced together turned out to be a very sickly child, which Carrie attributed to the fact that Charles had been an alcoholic. In order to support herself and her ailing child, she took courses at the Warrensburg Normal Institute in Missouri, acquired a teaching certificate, and became a school teacher. After four years as a teacher, however, she was removed from her position for "improper pronunciation of words." She was then replaced by the niece of the very man who had complained about her performance. Without a job, and in need of money to support herself and her child, she prayed to God that He would guide her to a second husband who could provide for her. The Lord responded by sending a man her way who was 19 years her senior. His name was Dr. David A. Nation, an attorney, newspaper editor and minister of the gospel in the Christian Church. They were married on December 27, 1877 and moved to a cotton plantation near Houston, Texas. During the 1880's, while David and Carrie lived in Texas, she operated a successful hotel business and they "started a nonsectarian church meeting in her hotel lobby" [The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, p. 553].

In the year 1889, they left Texas and moved to Medicine Lodge, Kansas. David became the pastor of a Christian Church there, and Carrie again opened up and ran a very successful hotel. It was here in Kansas that she would begin her work with the temperance movement, the work for which she would ultimately become best known. The Woman's Christian Temperance Union was established in the year 1874, and it sought to address a wide range of social issues such as health and hygiene, prison reform and world peace. It is perhaps best known, however, for its opposition to the liquor industry. Carrie A. Nation helped to establish the local chapter of the WCTU in Medicine Lodge, speaking out on the evils of drinking, as well as the evils of using tobacco and immodest dress by the local women. Additionally, she worked tirelessly as a Sunday School teacher and a prison evangelist. Carrie was becoming increasingly radical and vocal in her views, however, and this began to cause concern among her fellow Christians. For example, Carrie was known on occasion to shout out corrections to her husband's sermons while he was still speaking from the pulpit. Such behavior was not well-received. She reached out to and ministered to the poor and the destitute, which was not always popular among her more class-conscious neighbors. She also claimed that she was receiving visions directly from God and that she had been baptized with the Holy Spirit. This was the last straw, and the Christian Church disfellowshipped her in 1892 for her views on the Holy Spirit.

In the year 1880, Kansas had become the first state in the union to adopt a constitutional amendment prohibiting alcohol. When Carrie moved with her husband to this state some nine years later, however, she soon discovered that few were honoring or enforcing the prohibition laws. Saloons, or "joints," as they were frequently called, were everywhere, and they were operating openly. Having experienced the "afflictions of alcohol" firsthand, Carrie decided to take action. She would not sit by silently and witness the ruin of other lives. She prayed to God for guidance on how best to approach the problem. The Lord responded to her, she believed, on June 5, 1900 in a heavenly vision. She said a voice spoke to her within her heart, telling her to "take up something in your hands and throw it at these places -- and smash them." She immediately went out and gathered up an armload of rocks (she called them "smashers") and headed straight for Dobson's Saloon. She stormed in and shouted, "Men, I have come to save you from a drunkard's fate." She then used her rocks to destroy the bottles lined up behind the bar. After destroying the stock of two more saloons, a tornado hit eastern Kansas, which she declared was God's sign of approval of her actions. Those in the liquor industry, however, did not see it this way, and Carrie A. Nation was arrested and jailed over 30 times between 1900 and 1910 for her antics, which became increasingly violent.

She soon evolved from rocks to hatchets. She had three favorite hatchets which she named "Faith," "Hope" and "Charity." On one occasion she was arrested for "defacing public property," which she insisted be reworded -- she hadn't "defaced" public property, she said, she had "destroyed" it. Therefore, in accordance with her wishes, she was charged with "destruction of public property." Carrie A. Nation was radical, but she was effective. She also had a physical presence that was quite intimidating. When she entered a saloon, people generally ran for cover. It is reported as fact that prize-fighter John L. Sullivan actually ran off and hid himself when Carrie burst into his New York City saloon. Within six months after beginning her effort, Carrie had closed down all the saloons and bars in southern Kansas. These businesses usually moved across the state line. However, Carrie had sparked a fire that was spreading across the nation. Others began following her lead and destroying the local "gin joints." Her fame grew, and she became a renowned speaker for the temperance movement, even speaking as far away as Canada and the British Isles. She also traveled to Washington, D.C. to confront the Congress of the United States. She was not going to be stopped, and she intended to "Carry A Nation" to a more responsible course of action.

Carrie's crusade against alcohol, however, removed her farther and farther away from her husband, both physically, emotionally and spiritually. In 1901, after they had been married for some 24 years, David filed for divorce from Carrie. He stated, "I married this woman because I needed someone to run my house." Since she was no longer there, he divorced her on grounds of "desertion." That same year Carrie Nation applauded the assassination of President William McKinley since she was convinced that he was a "secret drinker of alcohol," and, of course, drinkers always "got what they deserved." Two years later, in 1903, David A. Nation died. Carrie kept up her speaking tours for several more years, but then her health rapidly began to fail her. Thus, she quit the tour in 1910 and moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas where she purchased some property that included a farm and a building that she named "Hatchet Hall," which she hoped would become a school for the promotion of prohibition. In January, 1911, she collapsed in a park in Eureka Springs while making a speech. Her final public statement before collapsing was, "I have done what I could." She was taken to Evergreen Place Hospital in Leavenworth, Kansas where she lingered for several months before expiring on June 9, 1911. She was buried in a plainly marked grave in Belton, Missouri near her parents. In 1924, however, the people of Belton raised the necessary funds to place a granite stone on her grave site. It bears the simple epitaph: "She Hath Done What She Could."

Eight years after her death, in the year 1919, her work bore fruit: the 18th Amendment was passed banning "intoxicating liquors." This period of American history known as "The Prohibition Era" lasted until 1933, when the 21st Amendment repealed the ban. With respect to her association with my own faith-heritage, "Nation had a turbulent relationship with the Stone-Campbell Movement because she insisted on a woman's right to preach, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the truth of all religions" [The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, p. 552]. As a result, "she remains one of the most controversial and well-known figures in the social history of the Stone-Campbell Movement" [ibid, p. 553].

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Readers' Reflections

From a Minister in Belgium:

Dear Brother Maxey, A friend at our congregation recently sent me a copy of Reflections #320 -- "An Argument For A Cappella." I was greatly impressed by your thoughtfulness and open analysis of the Scriptures on this topic. You have clearly articulated the beliefs that I too have come to after my own careful study of the subject. This article prompted me to visit your web site and read several of your other articles. I was amazed to see that you have written on a number of topics and issues that we have been dealing with in our congregation here within a major city in the heart of Europe. Your web site has given me a great reference source for my own sermons, and it has further confirmed what I have come to understand from my own personal study of the Scriptures on a number of things. Please add me to your mailing list for your weekly articles, and keep up the great work, brother!

From a Reader in Florida:

Bro. Al, I have been reading your Reflections for some time now, and I have to agree with you that one of your primary purposes in life has got to be your writing ministry. You pack in so much good information that requires time to process that I think it would not be nearly as effective if it was just spoken. Your writings have been a very helpful resource for me when I have questions about a given subject. Please keep up the good work!

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Your article "Philosopher, Know Thyself" was another winner! Keep up the good work, and know that many are indeed praying for you. Truly the Lord is the proper focus for us all: His Word, His will and His Spirit (both the Holy Spirit and the spirit, or proper attitude, in which we live and write and speak).

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Dear Brother Al, I pray for you daily that you might remain strong in your ministry and that Christians everywhere may learn to love each other and to truly serve the Lord and not just their religion. I detest "religion" with its divisive nature! Please keep up the good work, brother. Also, I know very well how a person can grow spiritually in the type of atmosphere of love that you found at Kaiserslautern, Germany. That congregation was very much what the Lord's church should be! Unfortunately, you and your family had just left to move back to the states when I got there, so I did not get to meet you in person.

From an Elder in Missouri:

Brother Al, My prayers are with you that you not be wearied beyond your ability to endure in the carrying out of this very important mission through your writings. Your task is not an easy one, but clearly it is one you approach with zeal, energy and much prayerful hard work. Talk about a small world -- I too applied for the preaching position in Kaiserslautern, Germany. However, I was notified by the brethren there that they had asked you to come work with them, and they thanked me for my tapes and for the materials I had sent for their consideration. I know that my in-laws offered prayers of thanksgiving when they heard it was not to be our work!! We were disappointed at the time, but the Lord obviously led us in a different direction. Al, please keep up the very good work you are doing. There are far too few voices for Truth out there. Far too few who really motivate us to think, and who challenge our long held beliefs. Far too few who ask us to lay our beliefs and practices on the table and measure them against the only standard: The Word. May the Lord bless you, brother.

From a Pastor in California:

Bro. Al, Reading your last Reflections ("Philosopher, Know Thyself") has compelled me to drop you a line of encouragement and support. Through your ministry God is rescuing untold thousands from the dark prison of legalism, and He is shining the brilliant light of His grace and unconditional love upon their souls. You are not alone in this battle! I'm but one man, and a past-my-prime Christian Church pastor at that, but along with me there are countless others holding you up and interceding for you -- many of whom have been personally liberated by God through your Reflections ministry. So, keep on keeping on. Keep doing what you do best, and rest assured that a whole bunch of us are out there propping you up, because we are all one team, fighting one enemy, to gain one victory -- the victory promised to the One Body of Christ. Wow! This is exciting stuff, isn't it?! However, be very careful. Jesus also stood up to the Pharisees, and look what they did to Him. Nevertheless, you are doing what very few of your peers are willing to do, and because of that you are making a difference!!

From a Reader in Florida:

Dear Brother Al, I know now that many years ago the Holy Spirit led me to you. I was really struggling to be edified where I worshipped, and I am so very grateful to have found you back then. The Spirit knew that I needed the edification you have to offer through your Reflections. Now, where I presently worship, we gather together on Sunday evenings into various "Home Groups," and we've started lessons on the Holy Spirit. I feel like heavy chains have been lifted from me; I am free! I definitely feel His presence in my life, as well as His leading. Just recently I was moved by the Spirit to wake up early (which I rarely do) and read your article "A Sanctuary of the Spirit." I was moved to send this article to our elders. I was also moved to call them and let them know I had just sent them this article by you, and to encourage them to please read it. Unbeknownst to me, which they told me later, they were just about to have a meeting with some disgruntled members, and that your article helped them tremendously to deal effectively with those members during that meeting. Brother Maxey, I have only sent two forwards by email in my life, and so I know that it was the Holy Spirit who woke me up early and prompted me to send your article to our elders. The Holy Spirit has certainly given you many special gifts. If I never meet you here on this earth, I am at least thankful that we have a Jesus that gave us an opportunity to be One Family in Him. I sent you this encouragement because I felt that the Holy Spirit was guiding me to encourage you today, and after reading your Reflections this past week, "Philosopher, Know Thyself" (and reading about all those who are causing problems for you), I can see why the Spirit urged me to encourage you. Clearly, you have been blessed with a wife who keeps your head on straight. I am very happy to see marriages like yours! I too am blessed with a wonderful husband, and have much for which to be thankful. May peace and joy be with you all your days!!

From a Minister in Kansas:

Bro. Al, One Cup man here. With respect to the One Cup brother (mentioned in your last Reflections) who will soon let the Old Paths Advocate power brokers know who he is, let me say this to him: I'll pray for you on your spiritual journey, and I will make myself available to help you in any fashion that I can. However, if reform is to come in the One Cup group, then someone has to stay and try to bring about this responsible change. I plead with all One Cuppers who might read this: do not leave. Stay, and let's work together to try and bring about the reforms that are needed within our group. The truth is: reformation is already underway within the One Cup church. However, change takes time, and it will take time to undo the damage that has been done within our group. May our Lord truly bless all who seek unity!!

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Brother Maxey, I would like to thank you for all of your efforts to bring liberty to those of us who have known legalism for so many years. I was introduced to your web page a few months ago and have enjoyed reading your Reflections very much. Recently I came across the following two references from the Old Paths Advocate concerning women participating in online discussions of the Scriptures. I thought you might be interested in seeing them. Greg Gay wrote: "Is a woman posting a message on a web page considered 'publicly speaking'? The posting of messages on a site for the purpose of discussing the meaning of Scriptures results in the blurring of men's and women's roles in teaching. Each media must be carefully examined so we do not violate biblical principles. A woman posting an opinion about a passage of Scripture on a web site that any and all can access appears to be doing public speaking to me" [Old Paths Advocate, January, 2000, p. 4-5]. Alan Bonifay wrote: "When wives and daughters contribute comments to a web page forum potentially open to hundreds, if not thousands, of contributors from all over the world they are violating 1 Timothy 2:11-12" [Old Paths Advocate, April, 2000, p. 4]. Again, Brother Maxey, thank you for bringing us liberty from such teaching!!

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