During the coming presidential campaigns the possibility of a Roman Catholic nominee will again occupy the attention of the country. The politicians will calculate whether the solid Catholic vote will overbalance the number of Protestants who may bolt their party. The fate of Al Smith will be recalled.
But conditions are different now from those of 1928. Roman Catholics have elected a record number of governors; their political power has greatly increased. Then too, several periodicals have made soundings and have reported that anti-Catholic feeling is on the wane. Protestants who oppose the election of a Romanist have been and are going to be called bigots; and some Protestants will vote for a Catholic nominee just to show how broad-minded they are.
But is it bigotry to oppose the election of a Roman Catholic for president? What is bigotry? The dictionary defines a bigot as one who is obstinately and irrationally, often intolerantly, devoted to his own church, party, belief, or opinion; and bigotry is said to be unreasoning attachment to one’s own belief. Is then opposition to the election of a Roman Catholic bigoted?
Well, first of all, this opposition is certainly not unreasoning. The past history and present practice of the Roman church illustrates its acceptance of the policy of persecution and oppression. The Protestants do not base their opposition merely on the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve nor on the Pope’s efforts to raise a rebellion against Queen Elizabeth. There are current events in Colombia, Spain, Italy, and Quebec. Where the Romanists are strong enough, they persecute; where less strong, they oppress and harass; where they are in the minority, they seek special privileges, government favor, and more power. A Catholic president alone will not turn the United States into a Colombia or Spain, but he would in all likelihood knowingly or otherwise take what steps he could in that direction.
Opposition to political Romanism is not unreasoning, because a Catholic in the presidency would be torn between two loyalties as no Protestant has ever been. A candidate may announce, and even sincerely believe, that he is immune to Vatican pressure; but can we be sure that he will not succumb in the confessional booth to threats of purgatory and promises of merit from the organization which he believes to hold the keys of heaven?
The Vatican does all in its power to control the governments of nations, and in the past and present it has often succeeded. The Pope favored Mussolini’s conquest of Ethiopia. He made a concordat with Hitler, a concordat that still is in force in Germany as a last remnant of an evil rule. The United States a century ago had unpleasant experiences with the Vatican and had to break off diplomatic relations—relations that should never have been established in the first place and should never be resumed. We know that Romanists do not accept the separation of the Church and State; we know that they oppose a government’s treating all churches alike; we know that they constantly seek tax money for their own uses.
Informed Protestants therefore believe, not at all irrationally, that the interests of the nation are safer in the hands of one who does not confess to a foreign, earthly power.
Far from bigotry, opposition to the nomination and election of a Romanist is perfectly rational. To suggest that this opposition is bigotry is itself a smear campaign. It is an effort to distract the public’s mind. It attempts to obscure the important difference between the wise policy of acknowledging religious liberty for all, even for Roman Catholics who do not believe in it, and the unwise policy of choosing a Romanist government that could take the first steps which would extinguish religious liberty.
The truth of the situation is not Protestant bigotry, but Romish smear.
WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ON AMERICAN YOUTH
The sixth White House Conference on Children and Youth, scheduled March 27-April 1, promises to be a colossal affair with significant ramifications. For one thing, this “golden anniversary” conference will be bigger than its predecessors: in 1909, there were 200 participants, whereas in 1960 invitations will go to 1700 representatives of national organizations, 2900 representatives of state agencies and committees, and 500 international guests. A million dollar budget is being met by $350,000 from government agencies, a lion’s share from private foundations (including $250,000 from Ford Foundation), and token appropriations by denominational boards. A staff of 50 specialists is correlating background data, and Columbia University Press is publishing three volumes, including 33 background papers. Plenary sessions will have to be held in University of Maryland fieldhouse and in the Armory.
But significance is no mere matter of size. The conference, notably, is the first in its series to deal overtly with values and ideals. Somewhat oversimply it may be said that the 1909 conference was concerned mainly with institutions, 1919 and 1930 with health, 1940 with children in a democracy, while 1950 popularized the relevance of new psychiatric concepts. But the 1960 conference sets sights on development of the creative life and freedom and dignity of the person, through commitment to values and ideals. President Eisenhower has previously emphasized the importance, in the present ideological and moral crisis, of articulating basic values in the home, in the school, and in the churches, and some observers expect the White House conference to echo this note.
A second important development lies in the fact that every other major speaker is prominently identified with religion. The executive committee (of 92 persons), significantly, did not split apart in projecting this emphasis on religion. The apparent basis of concord, however, is additionally noteworthy, for it marks an approach to American youth problems on an interfaith platform. One workshop will wrestle with the significance of personal faith for children and youth. The “coalition” of Protestant-Catholic-Jewish religious views may also be detected in the Columbia Studies, the first volume of which is devoted to perspectives. A fourth feature of the conference, perhaps not fully reconciled with other facets, is the prominent role comprehended for the Church, its exact nature left undefined.
While differences are submerged in the background studies, the conference itself doubtless will propel many of these topics into the controversial foreground, among these “planned parenthood” and “Federal aid to education.” Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Arthur Flemming, most “welfare state”-minded member of the Eisenhower cabinet and former NCC leader, will close the conference “looking to the future.” Roman Catholic delegates will be outnumbered—and their spokesmen lost a strategy battle to allow the executive committee to draft the final report, rather than a decision on its contents by democratic floor vote—but procedural rules will allow a minority report wherever the dissenting vote reaches 15 per cent.
To what extent will the interest in values prove genuinely theistic, let alone Christocentric, rather than merely humanistic? To what extent will it reflect a spontaneous reaching toward spiritual dedication, rather than merely a veering from a vacuum by uncommitted men suddenly concerned because communism vaunts a specific ideology? All this remains to be seen. One fact, however, is sure. Although the White House conference lacks authority to speak for government, for educators, or for the churches—and will be formulating nobody’s “official” point of view—its prestige will carry to many special interests. It will be in the national interest and well-being, therefore, that study sessions reflect the concerns not only of “the experts,” but also of the American multitudes at grass roots, to whom school boards and teachers are answerable for the public training of American youth.
THE CHURCH’S MISSION AND NCC’S PROPAGANDA DRIVE
Some agencies of the National Council of Churches seem determined to propagandize World Order Study Conference commitments—including the Cleveland plea for Red China—despite the fact that 1. NCC publicly minimized responsibility for Cleveland positions; 2. trustworthy polls of Protestant conviction discredited the plea for recognition of Red China; 3. several NCC member bodies dissented sharply from Cleveland commitments; 4. some leaders concede that NCC has already lost $100,000 in gifts because of its shallow position on Red China.
The newsletter of the Greater Portland Council of Churches, announcing an orientation meeting for “Peace Education,” lists six areas “which the National Council of Churches has suggested” for discussion, including “Should the representatives of Red China be recognized by the U.N.?” The announcement adds: “An outstanding group of speakers has been selected to speak on these issues. After the panel presents their statements, there will be workshops on implementation of this subject in the local church.” Nobody should be surprised, in view of the preoccupation of the panels with the proposed subjects of birth control, atomic bombs, foreign aid, restrictive real estate contracts, and recognition of Red China, that the NCC’s list of topics ends with: “Are Christian Missions obsolete?”
During the “nationwide program for peace” pushed by NCC’s Department of International Affairs these next five months in “education and action programs for peace in every possible local church throughout the country,” background papers of the World Order Study Conference are being widely distributed by NCC agencies. The literature proposes that the minister and lay leaders insinuate the peace program into every phase of local church life, including the pulpit, study classes, schools of missions, and prayer meetings. One continuing NCC goal is “the establishment, or strengthening, of a Christian social action committee in every possible local church … to assure an ongoing focus of responsibility in international affairs and related matters.” A pattern is to be laid for an ongoing annual program after 1960 “in which the churches will seek to concentrate on three or four issues each year in international affairs, primarily those which would be up for consideration by the people and government of the United States or at the United Nations.”
One might wish that ecumenical leaders were concerned to mobilize the resources of the local churches as fully and effectively for the reconciliation that proceeds from “peace through the blood of Christ’s cross” (cf. Col. 1:20). Then the declaration that “the Church is mission” would raise fewer fears that her historic mission is being subtly transformed.
THE MODERN DEBATE ON THE DEATH PENALTY
This issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY carries forward the discussion of capital punishment, initiated some months ago, with special attention to the biblical data.
One gains the impression that opponents of the death penalty, even when appealing to Scripture, often rely decisively on modern social and penal theories. Since the arguments on this horizontal level are not confronted by Dr. Gordon H. Clark’s comments, a supplementary word may be in order.
Statistics have been cited both to support and to oppose the claim that execution deters capital crimes. But a Christian lawyer, Roscoe G. Sappenheld of Geneva, Illinois, reminds us of an observation made by Judge Marcus Kavanaugh of Cook County Superior Court, Illinois, before the Detroit College of Law (Michigan does not impose the death penalty): “Detroit with 1,600,000 residents, has had 484 homicides in two years, while Windsor, only twenty minutes from here, and with 75,000 residents, has had no homicides. Do you need any further arguments for capital punishment?” When capital crime statistics are unfavorable in jurisdictions that impose the death penalty, Attorney Sappenfield adds, the law is not a deterrent because it is not really enforced.
The judicial taking of human life is, in fact, the state’s most solemn function. Efforts to contravene capital punishment by appeal to the commandment against murder, or to Christ’s exhortation to love of enemies, do less than justice to the divinely decreed role of the state, that of preserving justice in a fallen society. Even ancient pagan moralists like Plato and Cicero noted what modern social theorists so often overlook, that punishment is related to justice more fundamentally than to utility, and that it is retributive. The guilty are not condemned to death primarily for their own ethical improvement, or to deter others from similar crimes—although contemplation in the shadows of doom encourage the criminal to side with the law and may shape moral earnestness and repentance, and hinder others also from similar crimes. But, as Mr. Sappenfield writes, “consequence must not be confounded with purpose. For the reason capital punishment is inflicted is not utility but the fact that the law has been violated, and that the capital crime requires the death of the offender. The protection of society, like the personal conversion of the criminal, is secondary. If the public good were the basic reason for punishment, the criminal could be made to suffer more than his crime deserves in order to effect public safety, and man is made to suffer, not for the sake of justice, but for the sake of others.”
Mr. Sappenfield calls attention to another interesting correlation, the fact that the distaste for capital punishment often proceeds alongside a rejection of the doctrine of eternal punishment of sinners. In both cases, modern social conscience suffers from an undervaluation of the righteousness of God and of the wickedness of wrongdoing.
U.S.I.S. FUNDS USED FOR BUDDHIST PROPAGANDA
Although American traditions are mainly shaped by the Christian heritage of the West, the founding fathers insisted on “separation of Church and State” as an essential safeguard in the platform of liberty.
In their official capacities, American government leaders often refer to this “wall of separation” by speaking simply of God the Creator and suppressing a high Christology. The United States Information Agency, meanwhile, takes a provocative course in its direct use of government funds in the service of pagan religion.
A pointed example exists in Thailand. Last fall United States Information Service presented 4,000 copies of The Life of Buddha (edited by a Thai scholar of international stature and published by U.S.I.S. in 1958) to the Anandba Mahidol Foundation. The book was also distributed to Thai clerical and lay leaders throughout that land, and used as a personal presentation item by Embassy and U.S.I.S. officers. The agency’s dull awareness of the underlying issue—use of U.S. funds for anti-Christian propaganda abroad while Christian propaganda is avoided at home in deference to “Church-State separation” is obvious from its confidence that the project was “extremely successful” since “USIS received more favorable public acclaim for this project than for any other we have ever organized in Thailand.”
EXPLODING POPULATIONS AND BIRTH CONTROL
Exploding world populations pose new problems. But much of the prattle stressing birth control as the main solution is more wordy than wise. It proposes, for one thing, a quantitative solution of man’s moral and spiritual dilemma. And frequently it involves earnest churchmen in sheer relativism.
Take the Lambeth conferences. In 1920 contraceptives were declared immoral. A subsequent conference “hedged.” The last conference approved. What next?
There is reason for dissatisfaction, of course, with pretensions that the Roman church has power to decide that birth control is moral by natural law but immoral by artificial means. But an individual’s “good conscience” before God, in view of the principled claim of the biblical revelation upon his heart, can be equally thwarted by Protestant pronouncements—which unfortunately count for less and less.
Many churchmen are uneasy because attempts to justify birth control by appeal to population explosions come dangerously near to making the end justify the means. So responsible parenthood, not exploding population, gets more and more emphasis. But just which parents are responsible for whose children?
JUNGLE ROT COMES FROM THE JUNGLE
Anti-Semitism is best described as a jungle rot of the human spirit. It is a particularly unpleasant testimony to original sin, and a sign of ill-health in any environment. Recent outbreaks of defamation in Germany, England, America and other countries provide both an index and a warning. Jungle rot develops where dampness and lack of sunshine create fungus conditions. Anti-Semitism can breed only in diseased segments of the human family where unfettered pride cohabits with unlimited ignorance.
Regardless of what may be thought to the contrary, the Christian Church has no part of anti-Semitism. The divinely-prescribed attitude of the Christian toward his Jewish neighbor has not changed since Paul wrote the ninth, tenth and eleventh chapters of Romans. We honor the sons and daughters of Israel. We thank God for them. In a free land we acknowledge and defend their rights individually and as a group. We look forward to the day when “all Israel shall be saved: as it is written.” No Christian who has been to the Cross and has found his sins forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ could possibly take any other position.
Yet here is the paradox: anti-Semitism (which is as old as the Pharaohs) has been sown in earlier centuries by those who have claimed to walk under the banner of Jesus. We have lived to reap the whirlwind, for today’s hostility toward the Jewish people has left the “Church” to stalk the world. The latest pack of synagogue-smearers lays no pretense to historical or sacred motives, any more than the Nazis did. It should not be forgotten that Hitler needed no slogan such as the medieval mob’s “Get the Christ-killers!” to perpetrate his grisly genocide.
When we ask why—apart from the ubiquitous possibility of Communist influence—men and women should so act in the year of our Lord 1960, we are forced back to the Scriptural understanding of the nature of man. There probably is no simple answer. The only real explanation of jungle rot is the jungle. The tragedy is that this jungle was once the Garden of Eden.
THE UNIMPEDED DRIFT TO THE DEFENSE-WELFARE STATE
On numerous occasions President Eisenhower has given lofty expression to America’s heritage of belief in God the Creator and in man’s dignity as a creature endowed with inalienable rights. But in a recent news conference on foreign affairs he voiced a turn of credo reflective of a widening mood in national circles today: “I believe in the United States’ power.…”
Taken in context of other public statements, this need not imply a saving trust in missiles, rockets and the atomic or hyrdogen bomb. The President stressed defensive use of military power (“I believe it is there, not to be used, but to make certain that the other fellow doesn’t use his.…”). Yet human perversity encourages the appraisal of defense power as a greater resource than spiritual and moral strength. Our growing reliance on defense structures in national education policy reflects this tendency.
Mere verbalizing about spirit and conscience is, of course, for the semantic swamps. What Americans need most is day-to-day heart for life’s durable concerns. From Mr. Eisenhower’s last year in office we covet enlarging dedication to the big issues in the world crisis. In Crusade in Europe he wrote: “We believe individual liberty, rooted in human dignity, is man’s greatest treasure.” Beyond this, if our historic traditions count, stands the divine sanction for human rights and responsibilities. General Eisenhower himself has testified how, at Normandy, when all human plans were made, the outcome was entrusted to God.
The President’s budget contains a surplus designated (happily if belatedly) to help lower the staggering national debt. But it also includes $3½ billion for welfare purposes (and social security dispersements will lift welfare payments above $15 billion). When elected in 1952, Mr. Eisenhower was interested in curtailing “welfare spending” and assailed the Truman “welfare state.” But Mr. Eisenhower’s new budget for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare runs one quarter of a billion dollars above what he asked for these purposes a year ago. Obviously neither of the established political parties can now be counted on to halt this ‘welfare” drift. Small wonder the cutting edge is dull on another of Mr. Eisenhower’s confident assumptions in Crusade in Europe: “We believe that men, given free expression of their will, prefer freedom and self-dependence to dictatorship and collectivism.”
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