GALBUS IN PERPETUUM

Time quotes this profound observation by a reflective British bureaucrat: “Progress depends on whether there is a red light or a green light. What is important is that the lights should not be set forever at amber.”

The remark assumes a British respect for law, and would not be intelligible to the hot-rodder to whom yellow only signals a burst of speed. Properly understood, however, this contemporary logion could provide our chief ecclesiastical motto. I have approached a church goods manufacturer about issuing a blinker lamp for committee rooms with an etched inscription, “Forever Amber.” (He suggested that for church use it might be better to Latinize the phrase; I think it was Galbus in Perpetuum.)

Committees are essential to our society as centers of indecision. The allegation that a camel is a horse put together by a committee is a manifest fabrication, since no committee could formulate anything less compromising than a swoose.

Unhappily, Christianity is often understood as the religion of committeemen. Caution, mediation, and compromise are made the Christian virtues. To the amber-minded, it is most unchristian to say that anybody or anything is wrong. No final attitude should be expressed on any question from communism to church carpeting. Everything is fluid in the ongoing conversation on all subjects. But the fluid has the highest viscosity, and nothing goes on with any speed.

Sometimes a red or green light shines from the pulpit, but usually the amber is timidly blinking. The preacher is neither modernist nor fundamentalist, but is dialectically hovering somewhere between a conservative liberal and a liberal conservative. Following the amber gleam, the church can move toward the sublime uncertainties ...

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