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His Master’s Voice is a now-famous trademark in the recording industry – the unofficial name of a major British record label. This phrase was coined in the 1890’s as the title of a painting of a dog listening to a wind-up disc gramophone. That’s not what I’m talking about.

This website reveals some fascinating information which sets the stage for the analogy I wish to apply later. We read, “The bugle was essential to all military communication until its displacement by electronics. The primary bugler was assigned to the headquarters staff and kept close to the commander at the front. Soldiers were quick to learn the calls of the bugle, and on a routine day at least four, and as many as ten were made.

“Today the sound of the bugle is heard across Army Forts from early morning to late at night. Literally, the bugle regulates the soldier’s day. In a bow to the modern electronic age, the calls are recorded, then broadcast on schedule through loudspeakers located around the post. Bugle calls are musical signals that announce scheduled and certain non-scheduled events on an Army installation.”

And then we read that in 1867, Major Truman Seymour prepared a definitive system of calls with the object of eliminating the confusion evident during the Civil War. Bugle calls were standardized for all branches of the Army. Before that, each section of each division had its own bugle player, who was capable of up to 27 distinct bugle calls, each meaning something different to the troops. The enlisted soldier’s life was regulated by bugle calls: the daily routine included breakfast, dinner, and supper calls; fatigue call, drill call, stable and water calls, sick call, and taps.

Christians today find themselves in a wide variety of church denominations, sects, and cults, the doctrines, teachings, and emphases of which can be divisive and confusing, much like bugle calls from different bugle players before 1867. This leads to animosity, confusing, finger-pointing, accusations of not being “real” Christians, and worse. We need a common basis for deciding what defines a Christian to avoid division, because, as we know, the Devil understands the concept of Divide and Rule, and he zeroes in on any weaknesses in the body of Christ.

What is the core of Christianity? What is our Master’s voice on this matter? What beliefs denote a Christian? What is the foundation upon which different dogmas, creeds, and instructions are built, along with legalism, salvation by works, and more? By defining these essential criteria and keeping it all very simple, I believe a lot of painful alienation and rupture can be avoided.

Those who claim to be “Interdenominational” need to be first in line to prayerfully ponder this matter before prescribing these pointers for those considering association with them, many of whom may have previously avoided joining them for fear of rejection.

Robin Elliott