A COMFORT IN TIMES LIKE THESE
I write these words on the eve of the national election. I do not know who will be the next president. By the time you read this piece a president will probably be chosen—although there remains the possibility that no present nominee will command an electoral majority, that the election will be given to the House of Representatives, and that the next president will not be known till next January.
Why anyone would actively seek the office of president in these troubled times remains, to me, something difficult to understand. The desire for power, for possible fame (which seemingly are the only motives driving one to pursue this office) must be strong indeed. Every columnist in the newspapers or in the news magazines, as well as every commentator on the radio, insists that it will be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for any man to solve the problems which this country faces in one term of four years. The opinion is all but unanimous that the next president runs a greater risk of going down, four years from now, in ignominy and defeat than any other president before him.
The complexity of the problems the nation is facing is great indeed. While every nominee, as a matter of political necessity, assures the crowds he harangues that he has the solutions to the grave difficulties we face, each is notoriously vague on what these solutions are. While every nominee fills the air with cries that he is the one needed to avert the overwhelming crisis into which we have entered, he is hopelessly general about the means to be employed to stave off this crisis. Quite obviously, and not surprisingly, the nominees themselves simply do not know how to handle the problems which beset us.
It seems almost certain therefore that no matter who is elected, the country is in for some very bad times indeed. It seems almost inevitable that things will get worse instead of better, regardless of who is leading the nation.
What are these problems? They are well-known to all. It is only their magnitude which is not, perhaps, generally known.
There is the nagging and festering sore of the Vietnam conflict. At this writing there seems to be hope that peace will finally come and that we are on the threshold of a cease-fire. Perhaps by the time these words appear in print the war will be over. But there remains the general and unsolved problem of war in our times. Other hot spots in the world do not snatch the headlines while peace in Vietnam is in the air. But the threat of conflict between Russia and the U.S. remains. And other wars take their daily toll. It seems as if our boys will be serving in the armed forces for a considerable time to come regardless of what happens in far-off Asia. The world has not solved (and cannot solve) the tension of the nations.
There is the bitter problem of racial unrest. This is a big issue in the present campaign. It is almost the entire justification for the presence of a third party candidate. Those who realize the immensity of the problem know hardly where to turn for a solution. No solution seems adequate. Even half solutions seem hopelessly unattainable. There is a certain despair which hangs as a pall over the country, a despair created by the fury of black vs. white.
Law and order. Perhaps this more than anything else has attracted the attention of people as they weigh. the respective positions of the candidates for the presidency. This year’s figures on crime, released by J. Edgar Hoover, are frightening. Murder was up 11% in 1967 over 1966. Rape climbed 7% above the last figure. Robbery an unbelievable 27%. There were 3.8 million serious crimes last year, including 494,500 crimes of violence and 3.3 million property offenses. All this means that two out of every one hundred Americans will fall victim to a serious crime from robbery to murder some time this year. In the three worst cities (Los Angeles, New York and Miami), the figure is one out of twenty-five. To set these figures off in yet sharper contrast, murder is up 22% per 100,000 population over 1960. Rape is up 7 1%. Robbery is up 70%. These are cold statistics. But they convey the frightening fact that crime rages through the streets of the country like a roaring lion.
But the Supreme Court must bear a large part of the responsibility for this. For the Supreme Court is intent on protecting the rights of criminals to absurd extremes and ruling as if those against whom crime is committed have no rights at all. On the flimsiest of grounds the highest court has turned loose on society a flood of confessed murders, thieves, rapists, and hardened convicts to prey on the populace.
The use of narcotics is spreading so rapidly that it seems to be almost out of control. Criminals are the peddlers and dealers in heroin and marijuana. But the Supreme Court considers the rights of these evil men to be more sacred than the rights of the victims.
The life of a policeman today is one of constant danger. One of every eleven police officers is assaulted every year. In five years’ time 278 policemen have been killed violently. But the Supreme Court has tied the hands of law enforcement agencies and created a climate in which the respect of the populace for law officers is almost nil.
Respect for the law. This is what is gone from the land. Students take over universities and dictate their demands. Teachers walk out of classrooms on strike. Youth, garbed in filth and totally irresponsible, do as they please with no one to challenge their chaotic expression of “the right to dissent.”
Pornography is an increasing evil. A flood of the vilest and most obscene material imaginable inundates the country. Pornography is a multi-billion dollar business. And much of it is aimed at and sent into the hands of the youth of the nation. But the Supreme Court condones much of it in pictures, magazines, and films because, so they say, in this sky-high mass of revolting and repulsive filth it is possible, perhaps, to find a grain of material of some social value. Sodom and Gomorrah will presently look like rather good cities in comparison with America if these trends continue.
These are some of the problems alarming the nation. This is the situation in this land of ours on the eve of another election. When all agree that there are no, easy solutions (if indeed there are any at all) to these problems, no wonder the nation looks in despair to the future.
But one who knows and loves the Word of God need not be alarmed or dismayed. Basically it makes no difference who wins the next election. The supreme comfort of the child of God is a peace and serenity of heart which comes from knowing that Christ rules sovereignly over all. Nothing can happen without His will. Nothing can take place except He, in the name of the Father, order it. And all which Christ, with sovereign disposition, does must and will serve the final realization of the kingdom which presently we shall inherit. There is no comfort greater than this.
THE SUPREME COURT AND CHURCH CASES
The Supreme Court in its new session will have many cases to decide upon which are, in one way or another, involved with the affairs of the Church.
One item which will be closely watched especially by ecumenical leaders is a case involving two Georgia congregations which were at one time affiliated with the Presbyterian Church US (Southern). These congregations left the parent denomination and claimed the right to their church property. The case was first treated in a county court which ruled that the congregations could retain their property. This decision was unanimously upheld by the Georgia Supreme Court. The reason for awarding the property to the dissident congregations was that the parent denomination had departed substantially from the doctrinal and church political basis upon which it was founded. The importance of this case is to be found in the fact that, if the Supreme Court should uphold the lower court rulings, any congregation which can prove that a denomination has departed from the historic basis of the church can leave without being penalized by the loss of property. This would be a blow to ecumenists because it would encourage other congregations who are inclined to go along with unsuitable and controversial mergers for fear of losing property to leave and to establish independent churches.
“Friend of the court” briefs have been filed in this case siding with the denomination which is appealing the decision. The United Presbyterian Church USA, the Reformed Church of America, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Episcopal Church have all filed such briefs. A lay organization known as Concerned Presbyterians, has also filed a brief defending the rights of lay members in Southern Presbyterian congregations.
According to the Presbyterian Journal two cases involving teaching in the schools are also coming to the Court. One involves a teacher in Arkansas who is challenging a state law which makes it unlawful to teach the theory of evolution in any tax-supported school. She claims that this law limits her freedom of speech and religion. From the opposite side comes an appeal from two congregations of the Bible Presbyterian Church in the Northwest part of the country which are asking the court to rule out courses of study in the University of Washington in which secular and sectarian instruction in a Bible course is given. Their complaint is that the Bible course under attack is taught from a liberal and modern viewpoint and ought not to be taught in this fashion in a tax-supported University.
Another case involves an appeal of a minister convicted under anti-littering laws in Chicago for distributing parts of Scripture in a park.
If nothing else, these cases give ample evidence of how difficult has become the problem of the relation of and separation between church and state.
THE GEREFORMEERDE KERK GOES ITS OWN WAY
The last meeting of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod decided that it was clear and obvious from Scripture that women are excluded from the teaching and ruling offices in the Church.
The Gereformeerde Kerken are in disagreement with this position and have decided to permit women officebearers in spite of this decision. We quote from the RES Newsletter:
According to an Informatieclienst bulletin, a large number of congregations of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands are now installing women into the office of deacon and elder. The present action stems from a decision of the, General Synod earlier this year to permit women elders and deacons but to wait with implementing the decision until after the meeting of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod. The Synod instructed a committee to consider whether additional reasons would arise in the deliberations of the RES why in principle women should not serve in these offices and then to report to the next General Synod instead of informing the congregations to proceed.
The Reformed Ecumenical Synod, contrary to the recommendations of its study committee, declared that it is the clear and obvious teaching of Scripture that women are excluded from the teaching and ruling offices of the church.
The committee of the Reformed Churches has now reported to the local congregations that the RES gave no grounds for its declaration, that in the discussion no grounds were considered and that there was no occasion to change the advice which the General Synod had given.
What this means as far as the structure of the RES is concerned we do not know. It is, I think, possible for a denomination, though a member of the RES, to go its own way if it disagrees with the decisions of the RES. But the fact remains that the decision of several congregations in the Gereformeerde Kerken to proceed at the word of a Synodical appointed committee in spite of what the RES has said leaves the impression that the committee at least had already really decided to do this before the question was discussed and decided upon by the RES. Especially the grounds offered by the committee seem to indicate this. However that may be, this is certainly not proper procedure. At the very least the committee and the congregations should have given close attention to the decision before acting—something there was no time to do. And it would have been far more in keeping with the nature of the RES to bring Scriptural and Confessional objections to the decision of the RES at the next meeting before going contrary to these decisions. The Synod of the Gereformeerde Kerken at least must have had something like this in mind.
The action that has been taken reduces the RES to an open debating society.