The question has repeatedly come up in the last months whether Nelson Rockefeller’s recent divorce and remarriage are going to harm his political career, and particularly, his chances for the Republican presidential nomination.
The editor of the Roman Catholic paper “Our Sunday Visitor” writes about this:
A Baptist minister, who had urged his people to vote against Nelson Rockefeller on the moral issue of Rockefeller’s divorce, changed his mind recently and said his earlier words should be ignored.
The minister explained he had talked with Mr. Rockefeller and in a private talk Mr. Rockefeller had given him information that led the minister to believe there were mitigating circumstances.
We think the minister has now reached the right conclusions but for the wrong reasons.
It is not right to use a religious principle as a test for a candidate. Mr. Rockefeller’s divorce is not a legitimate issue in the campaign. It never has been. It is possible to judge Mr. Rockefeller on the purely secular principle of loyalty to his wife of many years but when the voter demands that candidates adhere to the religious principles they do not hold—obviously Mr. Rockefeller’s religion did not make it impossible for him to divorce—then the voter is applying a religious test that is not in the spirit of our national history or our constitution.
The editorial writer is not a great admirer of Nelson Rockefeller, but Mr. Rockefeller deserves to be judged on his merits as a political leader, not on his private life.
The fact remains that Nelson Rockefeller, governor of New York, divorced his wife and remarried a divorced woman. It is a sad commentary on American moral standards when such a man’s actions are not only approved, but when he is even seriously considered for the highest office in the land.
THE CHURCH’S WITNESS
In a recent article in the “Banner,” Rolf Veenstra writes under “Word a Week” an article entitled “Sing!” He makes the following comment in this article:
The fact that she (the Church) preaches more to herself than she witnesses to the world is just as unflattering as when any person talks to himself more than to others.
I doubt whether Veenstra means to condemn the fact that the Church preaches every Lords Day in her own established congregations. At least it seems almost impossible that he would do this. But there is a very serious error in this brief remark nonetheless. We do not mean in any way to disparage missionary work, of course. We are fully aware of the fact that throughout the new dispensation God engrafts into the lines of the covenant generations who are born outside. But the fact remains that Veenstra wholly ignores the central truth of all Scripture that God gathers His Church in the line of continued generations. The Word of God must be preached within the established Church. Not only is this for the purpose of feeding the saints; but it is also in order that the Church may be gathered from the children of believers. This is primarily where God does gather His Church. And the Church is not simply talking to herself when she is busy with this important work.
An article of this nature tends to strengthen our suspicions that often times the Reformed churches in this country are more interested in those in heathendom than they are concerned for the seed of the covenant. They do all in their power to bring the gospel across the oceans while the seed of the covenant is neglected. This is a serious mistake.
ATHEISM IN RUSSIA
Communism has always maintained that religion is the opium of the people.” Avowedly atheistic, Russia has waged several campaigns to eliminate religion altogether from the Soviet Union.
But these efforts, from the Russian point of view, have failed. There are still 50 million members in the Russian Orthodox Church, 25 million Moslems, 3% million Jews, and many thousands affiliated with Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist and Jehovah’s Witness denominations. All this in a population of about 260 million people.
Now a new campaign against religion is being launched. The announcement comes from the Communist Party’s Central Committee, which expresses concern about the failure to eradicate religion from an atheistic society. More effort obviously must be put forth. The emphasis this time is to be on education. Courses in the indoctrination of atheism are to be made compulsory in Soviet universities. A central agency to coordinate activities is to be set up; trained propagandists are to be given thorough instruction; special atheistic celebrations are being planned to take the place of Christian holidays; competitions are being held for the best atheistic plays, films, paintings, and photographs. According toTime one entry shows believers gloating over a collection plate.
The Church press is rather aroused by this—understandably. The World Council of Churches have made some pious pronouncements about it—although they are reluctant to condemn it too strongly, seeing the Russian Orthodox Church often supports the Communist Party and is itself a member of the WCC. Various Church papers are bemoaning this increased attempt to make all Russia conform to the atheistic materialism of the Soviet Union.
There are no doubt people of God yet in! Russia; and they are going to have a hard time of it—especially if the State resorts once again to persecution. But the irony of the whole thing is that what Russia makes bold to state as its official policy is plainly practiced in these Western countries that are enemies of Communism. If atheism is not taught in the schools in this country, one wonders by what name it can be called. The Supreme Court has banned all religious instruction, all prayer and Bible reading; evolutionism is not only the only doctrine taught in the class room, but it has the official sanction of the State; false religion is so prevalent that it is difficult to find churches today which still maintain the truth of Scripture; every kind of sect grows by leaps and bounds; materialism is even worse in this country of plenty than in Russia; moral standards are so low that even the world is shocked sometimes at what goes on.
Although this deliberate pursuit of atheism needs condemning as it appears in Russia, it is hypocrisy to call ourselves a Christian country in distinction from them. Perhaps even this superficial Christianity of Western countries is more insidious than the outright atheism of the Soviet Union. At least if it. is called by the right name, there is little danger of being fooled by it.
DECLINE OF PAROCHIAL SCHOOLS?
The Roman Catholics are beginning to abandon their parochial schools and send their children instead to the public schools. This all began with what was called a shared-time plan—a plan in which certain Roman Catholic children were sent to public schools to be taught so-called secular subjects. But now, in some places, the Church is going a step farther and abandoning the parochial schools altogether. Timewrites:
The parochial-school system, which for the past 80 years has been the well-spring of the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S., is changing its patterns. In Cincinnati, Archbishop Karl J. Alter announced that because of high costs and overcrowded classrooms the parochial schools in his archdiocese would close their first grades next September: 10,000 children in an area that includes Cincinnati, Dayton, and Springfield will enroll, instead, in public schools.
In suburban Milwaukee, the Rev. Oscar Winninghoff of St. Aloysius’ parish, said that his school would discontinue the first four grades in September of 1965. Having failed to persuade the local public-school board to build a new 24-room school to educate children of his parish in secular subjects, Father Winninghoff said: “I’m going to quit talking. I’m saying, ‘Here are 600 kids—you solve the problem. And I’m giving you a year and a half to solve it.'” Some parochial school classes have closed in Green Bay, Wis., Saginaw; Mich., and in northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.; in Williamsport, Pa., the 50-year-old St. Mary’s High School shut down last year, leaving 208 pupils to be absorbed in public schools.
. . . A new book, by a Catholic mother of five boys who have variously gone to public- and Catholic schools, suggests that the church should go out of the school business altogether . . . .
One wonders if this strategy is not intended to put pressure on the government to persuade them to give federal aid to private schools as well as public schools. But it shows that Roman Catholics are not at all adverse in some cases to giving their children over to the public schools and sacrificing their own Church Schools rather readily.
A WAY TO MORE CHURCH UNION
Dr. Ben M. Herbster is president of the United Church of Christ. In an editorial by him in the “United Church Herald,” he writes about “Steps Toward Local Church Unity.” He quotes a couple of statements issued with the approval of the United Church of Christ that spell out various ways of encouraging church union.
These statements read:
I would propose we decide that from a given date all funds for new church development will be expended through the division of home missions (of the National Council of Churches). We will create a pool of resources to be used by the wisest and most impartial statesmen we can assemble. New churches will be founded without any denominational designation. At the end of a period of five years, the members of the church will themselves decide where they wish to place their denominational affiliation. If this seems too extreme, perhaps someone will provide a milder proposal that does not return us to the present chaos.
In cooperation with the conferences, we will encourage our local congregations and help them to enter into ecumenical conversations and negotiations looking toward solutions to the problems of fragmentation of Christian witness and competition of institutional church life in town and country committees The editor himself sums up these statements as follows: as may be appropriate, such as federation, denominational and interdenominational group ministry, larger parish and yoked field, denominationally related community church through mergers, withdrawal of one or more denominations (including our own) from the field. This list is not intended to exclude other possibilities which may emerge from local studies.
The editor himself sums up these statements as follows:
1. God calls his church to unity. That unity does not, have to wait upon church union.
2. In face of the world and national situation, the denominations dare not siphon off their energy and resources in needless competition.
3. Cooperation and unity mean very little unless they are made local.
4. To make these principles effective, we must have support and action on the local level. As long as half-dying churches (churches too weak to carry on an adequate ministry) are perpetuated in cities or in villages simply because “Grandpa was one of the founders” or “Aunt Susie is buried in the churchyard,” we will never have unity, no matter how many statements are issued by the Division of Church Extension.
All this heavy language adds up to saying that if the United Church of Christ has its way, there will be no more room for any kind of home missionary work or church extension work any more. This is a kind of evil competition, divisive and threatening to church unity, that has to be abandoned.
If therefore, our own churches wish to bring the truth outside of our denomination and use our available means to witness to our heritage, this will be forbidden. This would be harmful to efforts at church union because the people we are speaking to, already belong to some church. This ought not to be tolerated.
I suppose someday this will actually happen.
But it is the Christian’s assurance that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church of Jesus Christ.