material world affairs of the congregation are uncontrollably in the hands of the ministers, who have unlimited authority and absolute obedience from their sect. —
This article prompted the following response:
Anzeiger des Westens, February 9th.
In the previous issue of the Anzeiger you refer to the Stephanist community and use deprecating terms regarding the attention and forebearance one must have with the unfortunate and the persecuted. One would scarcely expect such a reception from a German in a country where the first settlers were religious refugees. The greatest principle of our Constitution is freedom of faith and profession. Responsible behavior alone should have restrained you from greeting compatriots from the old homeland in such an unfriendly manner. We do not agree with the religious sentiments and feelings of the new arrivals but we are in agreement that we must all grant them the same level of respect as we ourselves would have.
In the same issue the editorial staff felt compelled to make the following explanation:
The Stephanists - with regard to the letter of Mr. S. printed on the first page of this newspaper.
In no way was it our intention to impugn the tenets of faith or the freedom of profession of this religious community. Even less had we intended to prepare a hostile reception for these newly arrived compatriots. However we do not see them as persecuted religious refugees deserving a warm reception in the land of religious freedom, despite what their leaders would have us believe while ignoring the truth. We do see them as respectable, industrious men, welcome them as a special group and wish them happy settlement and free, uninterrupted practice of their religious doctrine. We only disapprove of the ways and methods used to start up the emigration movement in the first place, the community's total reliance on its clergy and the dangerous, unlimited power of the ministers. We will always fight against such things for wherever you find them you find individuals who recognize no distinction between priesthood and freedom and the result is the indecent seizure of our fellow citizens' freedom of profession.
The intention of our publication was nothing other than to alert those members of the community who have not been thoroughly plowed under by priestly authority so they will not permit heavier chains than those, which prompted them to leave the fatherland, to be forged on their spiritual, personal and proprietary freedom in the classical land of freedom.
It is our responsibility to present a true and unadorned description of the facts by which the new arrivals become a new groups of citizens no matter how disappointing the truth is for us or how unpleasant it is the all those concerned. The sender of the above letter must be completely unfamiliar with the external and internal relationships of this community otherwise it would have been impossible for him to rebuke us for making charges of spiritual and social oppression and tyranny against a community which might not have been fully cognisant of its situation but certainly is guilty of surrendering itself to such foolishness. His own sight must be obstructed by the wall constructed by the political bahavior of the leaders of this community if he does not share our wish that the situation were other than it truly is.
The facts as we have reported them at the time of the arrival of the first group, remain irrefutable. If the author of the above letter or the members and leaders of the community itself wish to deny them, there is proof which has been held back so far out of kind regard. However if the declarations, such as they are, remain uncontested then each rational individual will decide that we did not intend to show coldness and intolerance towards the newly arrived but rather we believed we had a responsibility
as publishers of a public newspaper to the misguided and maltreated immigrants and the public in general.
Anzeiger des Westens, February 16, 1839.
After the last article I had occasion to speak with one of the Stephanists, who visited me as a fellow countryman and envoy. I greeted him in friendship but after scarcely 10 minutes of dialog he felt compelled to flee from me as quickly as possible since he believed I was possessed by the devil.
Since he obviously had feelings of unease concerning his coming here and asked me questions about this and that, I attempted to make him aware that it was not reasonable, honorable or advantageous to allow himself to be led by a handful of ministers in a land where men are free and independent by law. These ministers:
in a clear voice, "help yourself." This is a truth which even the greatest saints must live up to. If he decided to stay here, he should practice his trade as a shoemaker. I would help him find work and until he did, he could stay with my family. He would do well to reflect on all this and act like a man instead of relying on blind faith.
Highly enraged over my speech, he responded in bitter tones that their ministers had taken better care of them than they would have themselves. As for my powers of thought and my precious reason, these were things which had been clouded by the devil since the time of the first sin and they could only be washed clean by their holy religion and the blood of Christ.
I answered that a man should be ashamed of himself for believing such nonsense and no one becomes a Christian by sacrificing his reason. The teachings of Christ, the most virtuous and noble man, are indeed worthy and known to all of us and purification through his blood is a metaphorical and mystical idea. However they were not meant to mislead us into denying our reason.
A look of terror came over the young man's face. In agitation he tipped his hat and wished me well on my sinful path. Upon exiting through the door he called out, "The devil walks this earth and he speaks through you." Then he vanished.
It is not my intention to make fun of this poor, mentally ill man.
Go to pages 44 - 48
Copy of text provided by the Concordia Theological Seminary Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825
Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks