People usually write growling letters to the editor about policemen.

Conrad S. Jensen, captain of one of New York’s roughest police precincts, the 23rd, switched the procedure. He wrote one to the editor of Life magazine on the unlikely subject of Billy Graham and his critics.

It was in relation to the views in Life of a theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, and a practicing pastor, Dr. John Sutherland Bonnell, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Since the letter isn’t likely to see the light of print, unless it appears here, portions of it are quoted, as follows:

“I am aware that my scholastic background, as compared to Mr. Niebuhr and Mr. Bonnell, leaves me only a rung or two off the ground … because I am a policeman I encounter the danger of being put into the category of a ‘dumb cop.’ Notwithstanding, I have no ulterior motives and God knows my heart.

“Nineteen hundred years ago a centurion (a police captain like myself, if you will allow this parallel) stood by the foot of the cross of Christ and made this statement: ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’

“He had just witnessed the crime of all crimes. No doubt he was reluctant to carry out the order to crucify ‘this just person.’ Whether or not the centurion had time to reflect on the worth of this sacrifice and recognized it as a ‘bargain,’ as Mr. Niebuhr puts it in his closing statement, I don’t know … Perhaps the centurion saw the peace of God in the face of the penitent thief and then looked at the other malefactor who refused a ‘bargain.’ However, both men came to a decision without the benefit of ‘Christian historical scholarship.’

“It has been my experience ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Issue: