With Tennessee now a Confederate state and at war with the Union, Fanning published an article entitled “Taking up the Cross,” in the August issue of the Gospel Advocate 7.8 (1861), 244-245.
What did it mean to “take up the cross” in August 1861 for Tennesseans, Confederates or Unionists?
On the one hand, it meant abandoning all unnecessary provocations. Disciples seek peace and do not stir the pot of war. But, on the other hand, it meant affirming allegiance to the kingdom of God rather than to any “worldly power,” principality, or nation-state. Disciples, according to Fanning, could neither swear allegiance to the Confederacy nor to the Union though they would submit to whichever governed them. Ultimately Fanning did submit to both but he never swore allegiance to either.
The cross which Disciples bore in 1861 was to choose peace, nonviolence and disavow allegiance to any national state. Fanning called them to resist peer and public pressure for war. They must reject the siren call for war and follow their Christ to the cross. They must follow no banner or flag but the one belonging to King Jesus.
Taking up the cross is a willingness to die to self and follow Jesus to the cross rather than save one’s life by bowing to the pressure of the national state. He writes:
Till Constantine, the simple avowal that Jesus as the Savior, placed all who ventured to make it, as enemies of the State, and consequently the taking of the cross, was not only treason, but christians renounced all confidence in earthly institutions, and looked for their reward in another state.
In the early ages of the church, whoever ventured to make an open profession of faith in Christ, was certain to lose the respect of the world,–his property was subject to confiscation and his life was in perpetual danger. Hence, the taking up the cross, was performed after the maturest deliberation, and with all the startling dangers staring one fully in the face. The professor of the faith renounced “principalities,” abandoned all confidence in men as safe governors, took no interest in the world’s affairs, farther than to make proper efforts to secure the necessaries of life, but vowed allegiance to the King in Zion as superior to all other rulers. Christians walked with their lives in their hands for three centuries. Even the propraeter [sic] Pliny the younger, after having many of the Lord’s servants put to death, merely for professing the name of Jesus, wrote to Trajan the emperor stating “that as far as he had learned, they did nothing wicked or contrary to law, except that they rose with the morning sun and sang a hymn to Christ as to a god.” Till Constantine, the simple avowal that Jesus as the Savior, placed all who ventured to make it, as enemies of the State, and consequently the taking of the cross, was not only treason, but christians renounced all confidence in earthly institutions, and looked for their reward in another state. Still, Christianity was then healthful, pure, and invigorating and the children of God rejoiced that “they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. It is scarcely possible at this great distance from these hale and joyful days of the people of the Most High, to fully realize the meaning of denying ourselves, taking up the cross of the Savior and following him through evil as well as good report.
When the civil authorities in three hundred and twenty five, took charge of the church, “the offence of the cross ceased,” the pure in heart and life, withdrew from the public gaze, went into the wilderness, still keeping their banner unfurled to the breeze.—but have been ever since regarded as the offscouring of all things. There is no cross in religions regulated, and acknowledged by “world powers,” and the honor of bearing the cross can be appreciated by no one, who considers not the authority of his King as the supreme government. We freely grant that, men through ignorance and stubbornness, may seek opposition, in order to glory in their persecutions; but genuine christians study to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves—they unnecessarily offend neither Jew nor Greek, but labor at all times to glorify God in their bodies and spirits which are his.” There is a continual tendency to lay down the cross in order to be “like other people” and unless we keep our eye upon the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, and struggle hard against the outward pressure, on minds and affections will become so engrossed by the “cares of the world” as to induce us to lose all taste for matters spiritual.
In conclusion, we would be glad to know if there is any cross bearing by the denominations and professors that act merely in conformity with the popular influences of the age? What party in all the land has any cross to bear? Who, all the region about are now meekly bearing the cross of the crucified, yet exalted Savior?