Gradually a rather large number of interesting news items has accumulated on my desk. Each one individually calls for little comment, if any. They tend, generally, to show the direction of the church today in these evil times. We offer them here to our readers,
Christian News has a rubric in its paper entitled “Turret of the Times”. We are indebted to this paper for the following items:
—Last July two white policemen were shot, one fatally, when they attempted to arrest a negro robbery suspect. A negro organization called Black United Front unanimously hissed a resolution which defends this murder of policemen as justifiable homicide. The resolution reads:
Be it resolved that:
The methods of self-defense by the family charged with the alleged slaying of the honky cop is justifiable homicide, in the same sense that police are allowed to kill black people and call it justifiable homicide.
This statement was approved by Rev. Channing Phillips, a negro minister, who received nearly 70 votes for the Democratic presidential nomination in Chicago.
—Dr. Robert C. Dodds, the director of ecumenical affairs of the National Council of Churches recently went on record as favoring a general church membership. He wrote:
My thesis can be put quite simply: that the day has arrived to declare the existence of a general church membership. This means that, if you become a Christian, other Christians acknowledge that you are fully a Christian. It is unrealistic, of course, to expect all Christians to accept such a principle at the start. There will be inevitable regional and ideological holdouts. But the norm—at least, let us say, among the ten churches which now comprise the Consultation on Church Union and the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church in America—will be that anyone who belongs to one belongs to all. Thus, if you should become a member of the Methodist Church, you would become simultaneously a full member of the African Episcopal Church Zion, the Roman Catholic Church, the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church.
Imagine if this would some day become compulsory for all churches as well it could. That would mean that our Churches would have to receive at the communion table anyone who was affiliated with any other church in the whole country. Presumably, to refuse, would open one to the charge of narrowness, bigotry and lack of love for one’s fellow Christian.
—In the Standard Bearer of a couple of months ago we discussed in this column what was being done with poverty funds in the First Presbyterian Church of Chicago. Rev. James E. Fry is minister there. Under his leadership the funds have been used to promote gang activities. Recent investigations have uncovered over one thousand separate acts of fraud in this poverty program. Gang members, who are supposed to be rehabilitated through these poverty funds were repeatedly guilty of fraudulently signing checks and using government funds for their own personal purposes. The activities of Rev. Fry have received the complete approval of the Chicago presbytery to which Fry’s church belongs.
—The number of Roman Catholic priests resigning from the priesthood is growing. The figures complied, while incomplete, list 463 men who have resigned in the United States since the first of the year. This is usually considered to be only a part of the total number which is not known. Since January of 1966 the known number is 1,174.
—A Methodist minister has recently written:
Extramarital sexual communication harms marriage no more than does extramarital verbal communication. It is time we freed our understanding of marriage from its property-rights attitude. It is time a number of our penal laws were revised. It is time we updated our sexual ethics to a level that enriches human life.
This is situation ethics with a vengeance.
Although the decision was taken last June, it is of special importance now that school has opened. Last June the United States Supreme Court ruled that the program which provides textbooks paid for out of public funds for parochial and private school children is constitutional. A law was made in New York in 1965 which requires public schools to lend up to fifteen dollars worth of textbooks each year to each pupil in grades seven through twelve of private schools. This law was challenged but the Court ruled that it did not violate the First Amendment because it did not constitute state support of religion. This position was taken by the court because of one key point in the law: the books are given to the students and not to the schools.
It is possible that this principle might be expanded in such a way that far more aid could be given to private schools from the coffers of government if the aid was given directly to students and not to the school itself. In some areas suggestions have already been made that certain amounts of money be given directly to parents with children in private schools to aid them in tuition payments.
If it is true that this is a successful dodge of the implications of the First Amendment, it still would be the kind of aid which we should never accept. Just as long as the money comes from the public funds and is provided by governments, so long does the danger remain that government aid is a first step towards government control. This is the way it is. We might as well honestly face it from the outset. Then we will not be tempted to shirk our own responsibilities and seek financial relief from a secular government which is intent on making all schools serve the atheistic purposes of the state.
The United Church of Canada is considering a new creed intended to replace the ancient Apostolic Confession. It reads as follows:
Man is not alone; he lives in God’s world.
We believe in God: Who has created and is creating, Who has come in the true Man, Jesus, to reconcile and renew, Who works within us and among us by His Spirit.
We trust Him.
He calls us to be His Church: to celebrate His presence, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil.
We proclaim His Kingdom.
In life, in death, in life beyond death, He is with us.
We are not alone; we believe in God.
It has been objected that the creed is so bland and colorless that anyone can accept it. It does not speak of the Virgin Birth of Christ, His divinity, His resurrection, the atonement or any other fundamental of the Christian faith.
A leading spokesman of the United Church of Canada readily admits this but approves of it nonetheless. His description is: “I think it’s poetic. It’s short, it’s suitable for liturgical use. But it’s basically a non-Christian creed. I’m very radical in my theology at the moment, I could accept it, but I don’t think the Church should.”
It was a mess in Chicago at the time of the Democratic National Convention. Strange it is though, that practically all the news media took the side of the hippies, yippies, anarchists, rebels, draft dissenters and those looking to Chicago for their protest, while charging the police with brutality, police state suppression and every manner of excess. The sympathies of the nation and of the world have been, quite obviously, with the lawbreakers. This is difficult to believe. But it is sadly true.
Now some wings of the Church have weighed in with their analysis of the situation. It is as we would expect.
The president of the National Council of Churches and the President of the Synagogue Council of America issued a joint statement. It reads (we quote from thePresbyterian Journal):
Our nation is both shocked and humiliated by the demonstration of police brutality which took place in the city of Chicago. This is the ‘get tough’ policy which some persons in and out of public office have been advocating. It is in direct conflict with our Judeo-Christian beliefs. The time has come for those who believe in the laws of God to rise up and demand an end to this ‘get tough’ approach to the social issues of our day. If we do not turn our backs on such pagan practices, we are going to be living in a police state instead of a nation ruled by the concepts of freedom and justice.
The statement was sent to Mayor Richard Daley, his police superintendent, the president and vice president of the United States.
Staff members of the University Christian Movement which is connected with the National Council of Churches wired Mayor Daley:
We urge you in the name of God and common humanity to end the abrasive provocation and physical brutality of your policemen and militia against innocent bystanders and idealistic American young people and members of the news media who are honestly trying to report on the Democratic Convention.
When those who enforce the laws of the land are roundly criticized and those who flaunt these laws are encouraged and complimented for their courage we have fallen on evil days.
THE MORAL PROBLEM OF THE VIETNAM WAR
Perhaps no other war in history has been opposed by the populace as much as the United States war in Vietnam. It has produced an army of dissenters, a presidential candidate who came close to winning his party’s nomination, on a platform of opposition to the war, a crowd of youth who burn draft cards and refuse to serve, a campaign issue of considerable importance and a deeply divided nation.
When the Church speaks out on the moral aspects of the Vietnam war the liberal wing of the Church is flatly opposed to it and constantly urges the government to get out while the conservative wing urges pressing the war to a successful conclusion.
In the Banner of September 20 Merle Meeter, an articulate professor from Dordt College, adds his opinion to the many already given. He gives complete and unconditional support to the war.
His first argument is concerning the need to support our government in pressing the war because of the allegiance we owe to these God-ordained authorities. (He admits the possibility of selective conscientious objection to individual wars, but thinks the difficulty of an individual determining all the facts makes this a doubtful choice for the Christian). The injunction ofRomans 13 is clear: we must obey those who bear the sword.
We have no quarrel with this at all and, in fact, find this principle determinative also in the present conflict in Vietnam. Our boys must go because the government tells them to do this. Even John the Baptist did not tell the soldiers of Rome’s legions to become conscientious objectors when they quizzed him as to their responsibilities towards the coming kingdom of heaven. Though they fought in an army bent on world conquest they were to remain in the army, “do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.”
Meeter’s second argument is not quite as persuasive. He justly points out that their is a sad contradiction in American policy towards the war. With one hand we send our troops to fight the Viet Gong, while with the other hand we restrain our soldiers from fighting all out for victory, the meanwhile supplying the enemy with a great deal of desperately needed war supplies. But when he finds in our battle with the Viet Cong a holy crusade against ungodly communism, we must disagree. Meeter writes:
There is a time for war; what our hand finds to do, therefore-not for the anti-Christian idol of Communism, but for Jesus Christ the King, in whom all things hold together—see
—let us do it, in God’s name, with our might! And in Vietnam where we are the defenders of human rights against, God-blaspheming, man-despising Communism, we must move forward in Christ, single-mindedly, courageously, and swiftly so that terrorism soon may cease, so that peace and freedom may be possible, and so that the Satanic savagery and Christ-denying horror of Communism may, by God’s grace, be contained.
What we need most urgently, however, is a nation of Christ-believing persons faithfully reading God’s Word, confessing their sins, and petitioning the triune God in firm conviction that He will answer and bless the people that turns to him in their need . . . .
It is not in Meeter’s assertion that Communism is atheistic that we find our disagreement. It is not even in the implication that the war in Vietnam is perhaps a defensive battle to preserve America from Communistic control that we have our problem. It is rather in the insistence that this is a holy war, a part of the calling of the Church to advance the kingdom of Christ, a battle of God against Satan, a march under the banner of the cross to put to flight the armies of darkness that we have our problems. It is too much like making the armies of this country representative of all that is right and good, fighting the battles of the kingdom of heaven. True, Meeter expresses the conviction that America needs some repentance; and he earnestly desires this as well. But Scripture gives us no reason to make America representative of Christ’s cause and no basis for the expectation that America, as a nation, shall become “a nation whose God is the Lord”.
The grave danger of the position which Meeter takes is a postmillennial conception of the kingdom of Christ. While Meeter would no doubt emphatically deny that he is post-millennial and while we would readily believe that he does not want to be post-millennial, the danger is too great to be ignored. Any implicit or explicit identification of America as the cause of Christ and of the Vietnam war as a holy crusade has in it the seeds of post-millennialism. It is something which the Church must condemn with vehemence.