Reply to Objectors of Article on Literary Cavalcade

In the March 15th issue of The Standard Bearer two article. Contributions appeared which were directed against the undersigned and reflected on the article we wrote, which appeared in the March 1st issue under the heading “Literary Cavalcade—The Green Pastures.” We trust that the following reply will satisfactorily answer both of them. Both of my opponents charge me with serious faults. The one accuses me of degrading the quality of The Standard Bearer, of misrepresenting motives, of transgressing journalistic ethics; the other, of maligning a good name, of transgressings the rule of brotherly love enjoined by Scripture. 

Both of the Contributions are so nearly alike that we should have no difficulty in answering both in one reply. Since my article was directed against Grand Rapids Christian High School? I will reply to the objections raised by the English Staff of that institution and trust that Miss A. Lubbers will be satisfied to take this as my answer to her also. 

In the first place, the English Staff tells us that the magazine Literary Cavalcade has been used for many years with profit, and the Staff has faith in its high-caliber offerings. At the same time the Staff admits that the magazine does have objectionable material in it, and the Staff even admits that the article “The Green Pastures” is objectionable. Other magazines, such as,Time, Newsweek, and Reader’s Digest, so we are told by the Staff, are also used, and these too have objectionable material in them. And so the conclusion must be according to the Staff, that through a magazine contains objectionable material it may and should be used anyway. 

Now I will admit that almost all secular magazines contain objectionable material. I will also admit thatLiterary Cavalcade may be 99 9/10% of the time quite usable for literary purposes. But does that mean that a teacher should give this objectionable material as an assignment for reading, and that, too, without warning the students concerning that material? I say not! I believe it lies exactly in the calling of a Christian school and Christian school teacher to choose other literature which does not contain objectionable material of which there is plenty. And if a magazine must be used that contains objectionable material, it is the duty of the teacher to give sound warning against the reading of that material. It is just because I was told that this was not done that moved me to write as critically as I did. 

This leads me to say, in the second place, that the Staff and the informing student do not agree in their testimony. The Staff claims that I have been misinformed, and that this is not surprising because I received my information secondhand. The Staff maintains that “the teacher involved deliberately avoided this selection ‘The Green Pastures’ and even cautioned at least one of his classes concerning its use.” 

Now I have checked, again with the student involved not secondhand, and am told that the teacher involved told the class of the student involved not only to read the entire issue of the magazine, but that the class would be held responsible to give account to its contents. Nor, according to the student, was there any warning given concerning that article. 

Again, the Staff says “no assignment was given at any time to have the students read The Green Pastures.” The student involved says that the class the student was in did receive the assignment to be responsible for the entire contents of that issue of L.C. 

It is, of course, quite possible that the teacher cautioned one of his classes concerning the reading of the article in question, and that to the remaining two classes, in one of which the student involved resided, he did not give this warning. And if this is so, it follows that that the teacher did right in one class does not make right what he did in the other two. But when the Staff says that no assignment was given at any time to have the students read the article in question, and the student says that the class in which the student resided did receive the assignment to be responsible for the entire contents of the magazine, we have a flat contradiction in testimony. 

Regardless, however, of who is right, what we said above we still maintain. The material found in the article The Green Pastures has no place in our Christian institutions of learning; and where this objectionable material nevertheless creeps in, there should be a strong antithetical note sounded by the teaching staff that will set straight the covenant child who is being taught. That is the whole point of my criticism. If this is not done, our Christian Schools are no better than the public schools which know nothing of the antithesis. 

In the third place, my opponents found it also objectionable that I wrote about this matter in The Standard Bearer. The assertion is made by the Staff that “in deference to the spirit of brotherly love enjoined upon us by Scripture and out of concern for the good name of our Christian Schools, those taking exception to any report or rumor concerning the educational program of our school should consult us directly. It is at this level, rather than in our church papers, that remedial action can best be taken if and whenever it is needed.” Also Miss A. Lubbers reminds us of Matthew 18. Writes she, “I am convinced that a writer may never rush into print unless he has first consulted the party in question and in this case I am sure Rev. Schipper never did. If he did he should tell us. I do not believe that such journalistic ethics may be left unchallenged nor should they be tolerated. Matthew 18 always applies, it seems to me, whether we are dealing with one personal or a communal organization.” 

I will grant my worthy opponents that I could have done as they suggested. In fact, when I first heard of this matter I was of a mind to do exactly that, but on second thought I did not feel that this was necessary. Though the matter under discussion is perhaps not generally known, it is nevertheless not a secret. We received the impression from their writings that they wished it had remained a secret. We are quite sure too that if we had written in generalities and had not mentioned the school by name there never would have been any rebuttal in The Standard Bearer. The Staff probably feels like some of those people must feel whose names appear in the long list of traffic violators the local newspaper publishes about every two weeks. Ordinarily they may abide by all the rules, but on an off day they become careless and violate one of them, are apprehended and fined. I imagine they don’t like the publicity, but there is not much they can do about it. Nor does the reporter go to the judge to ask if there are any special names he wishes suppressed.

May I remind my opponents of two things: 1. The purpose of the department of The Standard Bearer for which I write. 2. How I sought to realize this purpose in the article they have criticized. 

The name of this department used to be “Periscope.” In 1953 this was changed to “All Around Us.” This the editorial staff did in order to bring the name of this department in line with the English names of the other departments. But the idea of the Greek title “Periscope,” which means: viewing around, the staff wished to retain. Since that time we have filled this rubric and have always tried to realize that purpose. We all know that the periscope is not only an instrument to view the surrounding landscape or seascape to ascertain its beauty, but also it is used to detect dangers and threatening evils, with the purpose then to sound a warning against these evils and dangers. This time, that is, March 1, the periscope sights fell on the Literary Department of G.R.C.H.S., and particularly the magazine used there which contained the corrupt article under discussion. That it was my sole purpose to point up the danger and corruption is evident from what I wrote: “What I read moved me to pen these comments that others of our readers, especially those Protestant Reformed, may be stirred up to inquire of their children just what materials are being used by the schools to which they commit their children for Christian education.” 

It is our conviction that our Christian institutions of learning should not do things that make it necessary for the finger of criticism to point at them, i.e., things they cannot defend. And I have seen no defense of the article in L.C. to which I referred. Nor do I feel that it is necessary for me to consult with every one I write about before “I rush into print” as one of my opponents thinks I should do. Nor should my opponents conclude that I hate G.R.C.H.S. and am seeking its destruction. That I send my children there is proof to the contrary. My conception of love is negatively, that it never rejoices in corruption; and positively, that it seeks to correct and encourage perfection. It is also the response of true love that where corruption has been pointed out, it will not seek to defend it, but forsake it and strive by the grace of God to walk in amendment of life. This I will seek to prove to you in what now follows. 

Finally, there is one statement in my article to which my opponents most seriously object, and which I now feel, after my attention has been called to it, it were better that it had not been written. The statement reads: “And the teacher who most likely believes that due to the. common grace of God we have here a work of art which our covenant children should appreciate.” I am sorry for that statement, and sincerely apologize for making it. I trust that all those who were offended, and especially the teacher, will forgive. 

The statement was made on the basis of the fact that the doctrine of common grace encourages the appreciation of worldly art. And my general observations have been and still are that there are teachers and board members in the Christian Schools, which are predominantly controlled by members of the Christian Reformed Church, who have fallen into the extreme against which even the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church which adopted the Three Points of Common Grace warned. We observed this first hand when we served for two years on the board of one of these schools. Those we have in mind appeared to have and even showed by their actions that they have no sense whatever of the antithesis. Athens and Jerusalem are alike to them. For two long years we tangled with board members and teachers who boldly sought to introduce into the school program, curricularly and extra-curricularly, if I may use these terms, things which we believe clearly militated against sound Reformed principles: And all this, we were told in no uncertain terms, on the basis of the theory of common grace. I said they were “two long years,” and so they actually seemed because of our continual debate which proved at last to be useless. For as soon as those who opposed us became a majority, they got their way; or, as was the case especially with one teacher with whom I had more than one meeting to discuss our differences, the teacher told me that I could keep my opinion and the teacher would keep his. 

It was with this experience and with these observations in mind that I wrote that objectionable statement: I realize now that on the basis of these general observations I had no right to judge the teacher involved whom I do not even know. It may be that the teacher involved does not fit the judgment I made at all, and if it is true that he also condemned the article under discussion as the Staff says he did, he is to be commended rather than condemned. I hope that this answer with this public apology will remove the offence and settle this dispute. 

—M.S.