Mennonite Migrations. . . .

Great lovers of rural life with its comparative simplicity are the various branches of Mennonites. The stricter groups, as for example the Amish, are particularly careful about keeping themselves free from all entanglements with the world as much as possible. Just recently a group of Amish Reformed folk in Indiana decided to move to Tennessee to escape worldly influences. Unable to maintain their own high schools, and compelled by Indiana law to keep their children in school until they are sixteen years of age, this Amish group is migrating to Tennessee to keep their children out of the public schools because of the ill effects of their worldly influence.

From Germany and Holland, 2,300 Mennonites arrived recently in South America seeking a new home and freedom in Paraguay. Their migration was arranged and financed by Mennonites in the United States and Canada, who hope during the next few years to help 10,000 of their fellow-believers out of the distresses of post-war Europe. But the difficulties of the emigrants did not cease with their arrival in the Western Hemisphere. Half of the company of migrants were able to reach their destination in Paraguay, but the rest were halted by the revolution in Paraguay, and compelled to remain, for the time being, at Buenos Aires.

In the history of religious migrations—which never seems to end—the Mennonites have done more than their share of travelling, and have endured their share of hardship. Their vigorous, and sometimes distorted, anti-worldliness has accentuated their troubles. Deep-seated loyalty to convictions is not disturbed by oppression and hardship.—P. Van Tuinen, in The Banner.

Postwar France . . . .

Some time ago we presented a brief article on the Protestant Church in France. Interesting and further light on the general and ecclesiastical picture in France today is contained in the following. It is an excerpt from an article written by Robert W. Root, CCORR Correspondent which appeared in The Banner of May 16, 1947. Mr. Root writes of a conversation which he had with a French Protestant minister while travelling from Switzerland to France.

“This pastor, who is in the Reformed Church, and I got to talking about moral problems. He said the first American soldiers who had come through his city were well-behaved, but that the French were less enthusiastic about those in his city now. As when the Germans had occupied, there is some illegitimacy also today. He spoke with gratification of the fact that several French departments have outlawed prostitution since the war, and the Church is resisting the fight of organized vice to have a licensed system again. On the liquor question he said that there is more drunkenness in France than many think, that it had been a problem even in his own parish.

The Reformed Church is the largest Protestant denomination of France and corresponds in Calvinist doctrine and organization to the Presbyterians in America. His is the sole Protestant church in his community, which is largely Catholic. But informed Catholics admit that Catholicism is weak, he said, for many Catholics are that only on paper. The problem of French Protestantism is like that of American churches—getting more than about one-quarter of those on the rolls to attend services. Because of the low birth rate, young Protestant leaders know they must spread the gospel to others to survive, he added, but it is hard to get ordinary people in the congregation steamed up about “evangelization.” In most concrete terms, his problem is serving a parish which extends about 20 miles north and south. He said he does not see how he will do the job by bicycle over pitted roads. If somehow he could get a car, it would be a great aid.

The pastor expressed his concern about the competition which Communists give the church. Sometimes the Christians and the Communists find they are allies in social welfare struggles, such as in the battle against prostitution, he said. But with a program which they picture as heaven on earth, the Communists offer a materialistic faith which many Frenchmen seize upon instead of religious faith.

Notwithstanding, I got the impression from talking with him that French Protestantism understood its strength and weaknesses and was having some success in injecting new life into French religion. So I was not prepared for the quick drench of pessimism or optimism that I then got, depending on your viewpoint. When I asked whether he did not think Protestantism in France was proving equal to the situation, he replied that he did not and that in his mind the struggle of Christianization was being overwhelmed by the evil of the world. This, he added, seemed to him a sign that the second coming of Christ is near at hand.

Clipping The News . . . .

Religious Liberty In Poland.

The day following my arrival in Poland, I was cordially received by the Polish government’s director of religion. I found him exceedingly sympathetic toward evangelical work, particularly the project for opening a Polish Bible institute in Warsaw similar to the Russian Bible institutes already established in Toronto, Canada, and Rosario, Argentina. For, you see, Poland is now open for the preaching of the gospel and the distribution of gospel literature. New work, too, may be organized and one has permission to travel from village to village, and city to city with the gospel.

The first postwar conference of evangelical Christians met in Warsaw in October. Fifty-nine representatives came from different sections of Poland, braving all sorts of transportation problems. It was my privilege at this conference to meet many of the missionaries we used to support before the war. Many of them fell on my shoulders and wept for joy to think that we could meet once again.—Peter Deyneka. The Moody Monthly.

Southern Baptists vs. Federal Aid.

The Southern Baptist convention, protesting what it described as a “threat to the future of all public schools/’ went on record Friday against acceptance of federal aid by church-sponsored schools.

The convention, attended by 7,900 persons from 19 states, unanimously adopted a resolution warning all Baptist schools and other institutions against accepting grants of money from the government for any purpose on the grounds it weakened what it termed the traditional wall between the church and the state.

Also adopted by the convention was a resolution deploring the recent supreme court decision which upheld, 5 to 4, a New Jersey case for use of federal funds to help pay the cost of transporting children to and from parochial schools.—A.P.

Methodists vs. Catholicism.

The Methodist National Council of Bishops has accused the Catholic church of denying religious freedom to protestants in ‘’Catholic-controlled lands.”

The bishops in a report adopted at their annual meeting, referred specifically to Argentina, where they said “law now requires the teaching of the Roman Catholic religion even in the schools of Protestant churches.”

“The situation in Italy and Spain denies to Protestants the religious freedom which Protestants in the United States desire Roman Catholics to enjoy,” the bishops said.

The report asked removal of the President’s personal representative to the Vatican and opposed alleged Catholic overtures for public support of church education.—U.P. Dispatch.

Netherland War Casualties

The Hague—(aneta)—The war cost the Netherlands a total of 265,000 human lives, mostly as the result of murder and mistreatment by the Germans, authoritative sources reported here.

Chief victims were Holland’s Jews, of whom 114,000 out of a total of 140,000 were deliberately slaughtered or died as the result of ill treatment.

About 11,000 political prisoners lost their lives in the same manner, in addition to about 2,000 persons executed officially by the German occupation authorities, while 34,000 of the Netherlanders taken to Germany as forced laborers are known to be dead.

Approximately 25,000 persons died while prisoners of the Japanese, and 22,000 of starvation in Holland in the “hunger winter” of 1944-45.

Military casualties were about 4,000 in the army and 2,600 in the navy.

In addition, 90,000 of all categories are listed as missing. Virtually all hope that any of these still survive has been abandoned.

Still Wars and Rumors.

A.P.—Three Youngish officers, their identities known only to a select few in the army top bracket, are trying to visualize what war will be like 25 years from now.

They will attempt a reasonable guess on the fantastic means of destruction science may devise and then they will give Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower a picture of the command problems involved. The chief of staff let it be known he is isolating the officers from the war department’s regular operation and planning staff.

Taking orders from no one the three will think in terms of the future.

The study group’s research goes everywhere, Eisenhower says, “since everything effects war.” Behind this statement was the implication of improved atomic weapons, germ warfare and means to inflict unheard of mass destruction.

u. S. Views U. s. (Continued from last issue)

“We noticed the great danger to which the reformed church in America is subject, the depletion of a Reformed Theology. Acceptance of the religiosity of Americanism begins with “Jesus saves” and results in a departure from dogmatic fundamentals.

“In many American Churches, which I attended, one can find these symptoms present. Sometimes it is revealed in the little things, as for example, in the lack of Bibles in the pews. Each is supplied with a large hymn book but very seldom does one find a Bible available to follow the Scripture reading. In many Church, moreover, the preaching has also lost the essential Reformed character. The text serves merely as a “kapstok” upon which one hangs whatever he has to say. Up until now I have heard nothing but what we call ‘exemplarishe” sermons; in which the proper meaning of the text content is hardly discernible. What is said has a good purpose; the evils of Church life are decried in very sharp terms but the Word does not come to its right because the content of the Word is not brought. The text serves merely as a stepping-stone to allow one to say what he desires to say. This naturally removes the emphasis from the Word. It is the minister that says something, not the Word itself that speaks to the Congregation. It is no WORD service anymore. A result is that the Congregation suffers from lack of spiritual nourishment and this lack is reflected in the discussions of the members. There is an alarming ignorance in the spheres of “kerk begrip”, exegesis, dogmatics, etc. The discussions in the men’s societies are superficial. They speak rather broadly about the text without seeing the Scripture.

“It is also a great defect of American reformed life that one no longer studies. I made it a special point to ask, in the several homes in which I stayed, whether there were any books in the house and if so what kind. On this point I always experienced a feeling of thankfulness for my own land as I thought how much different it is in our country in this respect. I often thought of the visit I had last summer in a simple fisher’s cottage in Spakenburg, whose bookcase was filled with theological works. The complete “korte verkiaring” was included and the great standard works of our Reformed theologians were not lacking. And that these were used was evident from the conversation I had with this man. And this situation is not an exception in the Netherlands but is the rule amongst those who are active in the Church.

“In America they do not buy books. The daily paper, that is completely at the disposition of the world, and the “neutral” magazines, weeklies, etc. are avidly read. One meets with them in every home. This is the reading matter from which proceeds a deadly influence on the younger generation in that the antithesis is no longer discerned. And he who yet strives to live the antithesis in America is considered a kill-joy.

“Another great danger that defrauds the reformed churches in America is the increasing power with which the spiritual Americanism influences the members of these churches. This is the result of mixed marriages, incomers from other church groups and a general deflection among her own members.

“As I make the acquaintance of more individuals,—members of the Christian Reformed Church—I am more and more struck with the fact that there is among these every ‘wind of doctrine’. In a comparatively small congregation I found adherents of ‘The thousand-year reign’; another that was convinced of the theory of ‘soul-sleep’, an adherent of Arminianism. There was also a member who had come under the influence of a new sect, that had just begun, and as all sects in America, quickly gained followers.”

(Here Mr. Van Spronsen describes at great length the “Kingdom” movement. Undoubtedly, the brother was in California when he wrote this as any American would guess, even if he didn’t know. That which he describes is another of the many “wild schemes” which are always coming out of California and with which we in America are so often amused and annoyed. At this point we wish to add a bit of criticism of the brother’s writings. To an American many of his observations would be simply humorously interesting if it were not for the fact that he is writing to the public in the Netherlands, most of whom will accept his descriptions as being an authentic and generally prevailing condition in Reformed Churches. We maintain, with him, that wherever conditions exist, such as he describes, these Churches or individuals have lost their Reformed character, though they may still bear that name. But we do not agree that this is a fair characterization of prevailing conditions in Reformed circles. The basic error Mr. Van Spronsen makes is that he sees a few extreme instances and considers them to be the norm and so applies them. Such sweeping statements as, for example, “all the houses are the same in America”, “in America they do not study”, “they do not buy books in America”, etc. Give his readers distorted impressions of both spheres—social and religious. They may be the brother’s impressions, but he should not set them down as general facts. The influence and tendency to world-conformity (not Americanism, as v.S. characterizes it) is no more severe here than in his own country. Nor, do we believe, according to all reports and writings from the Netherlands, do we as Reformed churches in America do a poorer job of maintaining our distinction in this struggle than the Reformed church anywhere else in the world; including the Netherlands. We appreciate much of what Mr. Van Spronsen writes but maintain that the situation is not peculiar to America nor due to a spirit of conformity to Americanism but is the age-old struggle of the Church everywhere against world-conformity; ever increasing in intensity as the end draws near. Perhaps, along these lines we will make a few remarks as we continue to quote Mr. Van Spronsen.