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A Summer of Violence

For many cities in the United States, the summer was long and hot. Looting, hatred, arson, sniping, and death were the order of the day. Negroes rose in ghetto after ghetto to challenge police and armed troops sent in to restore order. Perhaps the worst of the rioting occurred in Newark and Detroit where at least 68 people were killed, thousands injured and property damage rose to nearly one-half billion dollars. But rioting ranged across the country breaking out in at least fifty cities including Plainfield and Engelwood, Minneapolis, Grand Rapids, Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Cambridge, New York, Erie, Phoenix, and Cincinnati. It was a strange and frightening experience to see, in this fair city of Grand Rapids, armed patrol cares traveling in groups of three and four race up and down the streets with rifles at ready to bring, if possible, some measure of peace. 

Naturally, the country looked around for the cause of this rioting. Surely, only in the hopes of finding the cause could there be hope of a solution to a most serious problem confronting the nation. Some claimed that the cause was the frustrated hopes of Negroes who had been promised too much and had received too little with too much delay. Others looked at the terrible poverty characteristic of the ghettos and the desperation born of poverty as the chief cause. Yet again the blame was laid to outside agitation by the Stokley Carmichaels and the H. Rap Browns. And some thought they found evidence of organized conspiracy and strategic planning behind the outbreaks of violence. 

It is entirely possible, of course, that all these things (and other factors as well) entered in to make this the worst summer of violence in this country since the days of the Civil War. But the fact of the matter is that we have not looked far enough if we are content with these explanations. There is one factor which deserves chief emphasis but which is scarcely, if at all; mentioned either in the secular or the religious press. This factor is the increasing lawlessness of our times. 

There are two facets to this matter, both of which are related to ea h other. On the one hand, there can be no doubt about it but that lawlessness is rapidly increasing and is becoming a problem of major proportions. Crime is yearly on the upswing. According to Christianity Today, United States Court of Appeals Judge Warren E. Burger reported that “people murder others in this country at the rate of more than one for every hour of the day. There are more than 140 crimes of theft every hour; assault and violence and rape grow comparably.” The terrible part of it is that a large amount of real crime is committed by persons under twenty years of age—a fact full of ominous implications for the future. The whole civil rights movement also has been written in the language of civil disobedience. The generally accepted theory is that one may refuse to obey any law which he chooses to disobey as long as his reasons for doing so are somehow virtuous—although no one makes clear who is to decide when a man’s conduct is virtuous. The whole history of the labor movement is a history written in blood and resounding with threats, boycotts strikes, picketing and coercion. 

Yet this is not the chief point that needs to be made. There has always been violence in the world. And, while it is true that violence is increasing, nevertheless an important factor enters in which makes the age we now live in unique. This is that those who are responsible for maintaining the principles of authority and obedience have themselves abdicated and have chosen rather to encourage lawlessness. It is common knowledge that for many years the laws of the land have been stacked in favor of labor, legalizing lawless practices of the labor unions. The same is really true of the civil rights movement. Gradually the governments at national, state and local levels have closed their eyes to civil disobedience and have condoned resistance to law and order as a legitimate means of attaining the goal of equal rights. And, to top it all off, the church has stuck her nose into the matter and openly taken a position favoring civil disobedience as a proper method of gaining a desired end. Many denominations (including even the Reformed Church of America) and ecumenical organizations (such as the National Council of Churches) have gone on record as being on the side of those who resist and violate the law of the land. Breaking the law is preached from the pulpits. Revolution as a legitimate weapon in the social battles of the time is openly advocated by church men. A whole generation is being taught to sneer at authority, to choose for itself what laws it will obey and what laws it will break. In the ghettos a generation, witnessing the riots of their elders, are being driven to the conclusion that it pays to rebel, to burn, to shoot, to steal. For, rather than being punished, the result is a wave of pity and concern brings them not only the many things they have stolen, but freedom from punishment and monetary and material rewards besides. 

Another example comes to mind. There has recently been formed an organization busy with what the members call “Project Equality.” To this organization belong leading churchmen, including many Presbyterians, but chiefly under the direction of the National Council of Churches. The aim of this organization is to force various companies to hire what the organization considers a proper proportion of negroes in relation to whites without any consideration of skills and reliability. Last spring Eastman Kodak was picketed, boycotted, and lambasted in the ecclesiastical press because some churchmen were of the considered opinion that this company was not hiring more negroes. A great deal of force and coercion were brought to bear against the company, and the entire project was spearheaded by the church. Laws were violated, violence resulted, but it was all in the name of religion. 

When those who are supposed to be upholding the principles of authority and obedience turn their backs upon their responsibilities and openly advocate disobedience, what, pray tell, can this nation expect? Is it strange that race riots result? Is it so difficult to understand destruction of property, looting, arson, sniping and all the other horrors of racial violence breaking out in our cities when lawlessness, as a fog, pervades the very atmosphere of our commonwealth? If the country is staggering in fear at what the next year might bring, it had better face up to the fact that the government and the church itself bear a great measure of responsibility. The church and state must not wring their collective hands in alarm when these institutions themselves have been preaching that which causes such startling outbreaks of violence. Sow the wind, and there is no choice but to reap the whirlwind. 

No doubt, in all this, the child of God must see also a clear sign of the return of Christ. Christ, in Matthew 24, speaks of lawlessness as being an indication of His speedy return. We must expect therefore, that in a world under the judgment of God, this will only increase. 


There is no one who has any knowledge and love for the truth of Scripture who would dispute the fact that the church is fast departing from the faith. The evidences of it are too numerous to mention, much less keep up with. The Standard Bearer has consistently brought to the attention of our readers the apostasy in denominations of Reformed persuasion. But this apostasy goes on wherever one turns. Some unusually striking examples are referred to below—examples taken almost at random.

—In a recent issue of the Presbyterian Journalmention was made of a change of attitude towards the conversion of the Jews. Scripture teaches, of course, that the salvation of the Jews as well as the Gentiles is in Christ. But this view is evidently being challenged. At a session of the 1967 annual convention of the International Association of Conservative Rabbis, this question was discussed. A Roman Catholic made the following remark:

I share the view of those Catholic scholars who think that an effort to convert Jews to Christianity is not permissible in the light of sound theology.

A representative of the National Council of Churches said:

How can any Christian have the unutterable gall to invite a Jew to accept what had been the cruelest kind of hell to him and his forebears throughout all these years? When we add to this the fact that conversion itself has brought to the Jew far more misery than joy, how can we possibly be so callous and unthinking?

This is a far cry from Peter’s words: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

—The trial of Bishop James Pike is evidently about to come to an end, favorable to the heretical bishop. Last October Pike was accused correctly of denying such fundamental beliefs as the doctrines of the trinity and the virgin birth. The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church branded Pike’s views as irresponsible, and Pike demanded a heresy trial to treat his case. The presiding bishop, fearing a heresy trial and the publicity it would bring to the church appointed a committee of three bishops, five theologians, two social scientists and a journalist to examine whether it was still possible to be a heretic in this modern age. This committee has recently reported. Some quotes from the report:

Any risks the church may run by fostering a climate of genuine freedom are minor in comparison to the dangers it will surely encounter from any attempts at suppression, censorship or thought control. The church should not be, and does not want to be, easily betrayed into dealing with honest exploration and experiment as if they were sins.

The committee made a distinction between “hardened positions which deserve to be called errors” and “adventurous answers which may be mistaken.” Pike’s views were included in the latter group. But only the former group should warrant heresy trials. Even then, the committee proposed alterations in the machinery of the church which, would make it as difficult as possible to call such a trial. Pike has agreed to withdraw his request for a heresy trial if this report which completely exonerates him will be accepted by the General Convention. 

—At the assembly of the National Council of Churches meeting in Miami last December a poll was taken of the 223 voting delegates concerning their religious beliefs. The following results (taken from Christianity Today) were published. 

“I know that God really exists” 

Doubts—33% No Doubts—66% No answer—1% 

“Jesus is the Divine Son of God” 

Doubts—36% No Doubts—63% No Answer—1% 

“There is a life beyond death” 

Doubts—31% No Doubts—66% No Answer—3% 

“Miracles actually happened just as the Bible says they did” 

Doubts—62% No Doubts—25% No Answer—13% 

This organization, of which one-third have doubts about the existence of God and the divinity of Christ and of which almost two-thirds have doubts about the miracles of Scripture, is the leading voice of Protestantism in this country. 

—The Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) has, with the possible exception of the Wisconsin Synod, been considered one of the most conservative church bodies in the country—maintaining the infallibility of Scripture, the truth of creation and the other fundamentals of the Christian faith. There has been strong suspicion among some that this is no longer the case. An independent paper, Lutheran News, has been pointing out with regularity the liberal inroads that have been made in the church. But always those in positions of leadership have denied the charges. But last summer’s convention proved the critics right. We quote, in part, from Newsweek.

The old environment was the clannish atmosphere of small Midwestern towns where, until a generation ago, most Missouri Synod Lutherans spoke in the accents of their European ancestors, prayed with the fervor of German Pietists, defended to the comma every jot of the traditional Lutheran confessions and looked upon other Christians—including other Lutherans—as less than full citizens in God’s kingdom. Even now, the church remains aloof from the National Council of Churches and maintains only vague relations with its confessional kin in the Lutheran Church of America and the American Lutheran Church. 

But in the new religious climate created by the ecumenical and social-action movements, Missouri Synod Lutherans last week found themselves moving with the times. On the convention floor, moderates turned back resolutions from Biblical fundamentalists who sought to have the Synod affirm that “God created the world in six days of 24 hours each” and recognize the story of Jonah’s rescue from the belly of a whale as a historical fact. They also gained overwhelming approval of a practical open-housing program under which funds secured from individual members and congregations will be used to support agencies—possibly including secular civil-rights groups—promoting integrated housing . . . . 

At the end of the eight-day convention, the delegates found that they had brought their church into closer contact with other faith—the secular society—than many had imagined. Though they put off till 1969 a decision to interchange pulpits with the American Lutheran Church, they did encourage local pastors to enter into “sincere dialogue” with Roman Catholics. And in discussing the war in Vietnam, the Synod shifted i from militant support of Administration policies to a recognition that Vietnam. dissenters have an equal right to be heard in the church . . . .