DR. HENRY: The conviction is now widespread that America is undergoing a revolution in sex morality. What role and responsibility has the press in this development? Is the press handling sex responsibly, or does it tend to miscarry the subject of sex?

MR. KUCHARSKY: I think the press in general has handled many stories and separate developments adequately. The major lack is an interpretative analysis of the decline of traditional norms in regard to sex.

DR. HENRY: A newspaper is made up of many pages. Do you regard the front page as specially delinquent?

MR. KUCHARSKY: Well, I think the decline in sex morals has been one of the major news stories of our day. Interpretative handling of this certainly belongs on the front page.

DR. BELL: When the press exploits that which harms the reader, freedom of the press is actually license. Sensational exploitation occurs when stories mention sex aberrations in detail, and for the obvious reason of titillating the readers and increasing readership. There should be, I think, a distinction between responsible reporting and exploitation of news to gain attention from individuals who would otherwise not read it.

MR. KUCHARSKY: I think that there is a failure to represent the situation adequately in this sense. Newspapers have carried over and over again the fact of the rising rate of sex crimes. But I don’t think this has been put together for the reader so he can understand the significance of this increase in comparison to past years. I think the average newspaper reader just thinks in terms of recurring sex offenses. I don’t think he realizes that there is a crisis in sex morality.

DR. FARRELL: Newspapers, particularly tabloids, have learned that sex on the front page sells newspapers, and this hunger for greater profits is not easily denied. When the editorial page then attempts to bounce back with something akin to righteous indignation over the events recounted on page one, after these events are pressed into service as sales gimmicks, editorials then have something less than a thunderous effect. You keep hearing the editor clearing his throat. But is any great degree of righteous indignation being expressed in newspaper editorials? I have not noticed such myself, although I speak as no authority but rather from a limited sampling of reading. In our post-Victorian era, editors and writers in general are much more conscious than before of the ubiquitous sin of self-righteousness, present in the “moral” man as well as in the “immoral” and breaking down any rigid distinction between the two. And the editor taking a strong moral stand on a given issue will certainly be charged with self-righteousness and pride. Yet he must face this hazard if he is going to say anything worthwhile. But there is a deeper issue. Is the editor simply a news hound or may he serve also as somewhat of a watchdog of the nation’s morals? If he is simply to reflect some moderating form of morality representative of the vast amalgam of persons comprising the country, we cannot expect much in the way of a trumpet blast for righteousness. The editor cannot, of course, be totally aloof from public opinion. But many feel that he now reflects the general slippage of national moral standards, so that something rather extraordinary is needed to evoke a tone of judgment from him.

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This feature appears simultaneously in CHRISTIANITY TODAY and in The Bulletin of American Society of Newspaper Editors.

DR. HENRY: The slum district in many newspapers is the entertainment section. One cannot blame the press, of course, for Hollywood’s exploitation of sex and the theater’s current idolatry of prostitution. But there is no need for movie advertisements to drip with such passion that the reader feels he has stumbled into the privacy of a neighbor’s bedroom. Advertising policy enables the industry to import an immodest billboard technique in promoting even some quite acceptable family films. Quotations from critics often fix attention on the sex ingredient, while their reviews have lost much of the indignation that springs from moral concern and holy living. These critics enthusiastically commend such achievements as The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur. But often they use a sliding standard of virtue; they tend simply to be mirrors of modernity when they handle the more typical Hollywood product.

MR. KUCHARSKY: There was a splendid turn in a Washington drama column recently. It carried a letter from a concerned mother criticizing a neighborhood theater manager for “consistently showing low-grade, morally objectionable, class D movies, and on top of this you introduce a daily matinee. What better way for the coming generation to achieve a complete moral breakdown than from suggestive movies and trashy literature?” The drama columnist commented on the “dollar-conscious, tasteless” operators and managers in the theater business who “would rather show smut than lose a cent at the box-office,” and who “are in a position to do great harm to the young, the stupid, and the impressionable.” Now, since newspapers are widely read by the young and impressionable, one wonders whether perhaps advertising policy ought not also to reflect some of this concern?

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DR. BELL: Then you feel that sex exploitation is mainly a matter of front-page and movie section transgression?

DR. HENRY: No. Last Sunday’s paper (The Washington Post, Dec. 4, 1960) ran the first of 12 chapters from the biography of Marilyn Monroe. The four-column title was: “Marilyn’s Monroe Doctrine: Men.” The feature appeared in the Society section. Another feature carried the banner headline: “Will There Be Any Petticoats in Kennedy’s Cabinet?” In the same section (in December) a bathing suit photo of Mrs. Maurine Neuberger, Senator (Dem.) from Oregon, was probably justified by the related news tie-in.

MR. KUCHARSKY: Can we expect an editor of a secular newspaper to reflect a religious or ethical tone higher than that of the general public?

DR. FARRELL: Most editors can see that a breakdown in morality threatens the very survival of our nation. And the editor presumably is enough of a student of history and has enough love for his country to point a warning finger to the lessons of the past. A nation of Bourbons has no chance of survival in the sort of international test facing America today in the cold war. The editor can point to the early days of Russian communism when free love in effect turned the Soviet nation into a huge brothel. The atheistic leaders had to call a halt for national survival. They did this out of no respect for God’s commandments. But even though they would not acknowledge God’s existence, they discovered that certain laws (which we know to be instituted by God) carry punishment for their violation in this world (as well as the next). America’s great heritage is not a secular one. Its foundations did not rest in neutralism as to the existence of God or certain great moral absolutes. The question we and other Western nations seem to be facing is: “For how many generations can a Christian heritage hold a nation back from ruin when that heritage has been compromised or abandoned?”

DR. BELL: Let me state six personal convictions: 1. The exploitation of semi-nudity, or of sex news in general, is a major contributing factor to sex obsession and moral laxity. 2. One has but to look at a daily newspaper or a magazine to realize that Madison Avenue relies heavily on pictures of partially dressed women to attract readers’ attention. This is true when the product for the sale has no relationship to the picture itself. 3. The so-called “beauty contests” are an exploitation of our young women which is a disgrace to the exploiters, the young women who participate, and to the parents who not only permit this exploitation but often urge it on their daughters. 4. Newspaper photographers seem to vie one with another in securing “cheesecake” pictures and where actresses are involved, their agents use these for publicity and to arouse interest. 5. The “pin-up girl” of army days led many young men to worship at the shrine of Venus. 6. The basic danger of the exploitation of and overemphasizing of sex is that it appeals to man’s strongest physical urge.

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DR. FARRELL: The relevance of this whole subject to national survival in the cold war period is seen not only in the threat of general internal decay, but in the Soviet use of sex for purposes of espionage. Female slaves to the state exchange sex for secrets. Thus they probe at our weaknesses in every area. But I wonder if many see the relation between this sort of political prostitution and propaganda prostitution being carried on today by the advertising profession in our newspapers, magazines, and elsewhere. “Selling by sex” is used on behalf of just about every conceivable type of product. A giddy imagination indeed is required to see any relationship between product and sex. But one is expected to choose a particular moving and storage service, for example, because he sees a pretty girl climbing from the back of one of its trucks. Apart from wrecking the propaganda business, such a continuous barrage upon the sensitivities of the American citizen (a continuing dance of Salome) is bound to breach the wall of moral resistance. “For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). He loses a sense of discernment and proportion. Continually going over immoral acts in one’s mind prepares one to succumb far more readily as he passes through the hour of temptation. While adultery is condemned in the Ten Commandments, Christ speaks of an adultery of the heart as well as that of the physical act. Yet so intense is the promise of sexual pleasure, that modern man finds the biblical restrictions in this area perhaps the most onerous of all. The prayer of the public to communications media seems to be “Lead us into temptation.” Nothing seems so dated as Joseph’s running from the attentions of Potiphar’s wife.

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MR. KUCHARSKY: I think we should be careful inasmuch as an indictment of advertising media can only be related to the press in a limited sense. While newspapers certainly should encourage high standards in advertisements which they are obliged to accept, their power over Madison Avenue is limited and in a very real sense they are at the mercy of what the ads contain.

DR. BELL: We are talking about the overall impact of the emphasis on sex regardless of its manifestation on the front page or in advertising, and our concern is that all these areas will rise to a new awareness of the harm done and to a new ethic.

MR. KUCHARSKY: I just think we ought not to lay all the blame at the feet of the newspaper editors, nor even of the advertising managers of newspapers, when the advertisers leave it to Madison Avenue to get results by whatever appeals are successful. Also, the press must mirror the times if it reports the news. A sex-spangled culture will quite naturally assign a proportionate prominence to sex in the news. None of us thinks that sex items should be placed on the index. Sex remains one of life’s deepest drives.

DR. HENRY: But where are we headed in terms of our inherited morality? How far have we drifted from the Judeo-Christian view of sex? Tell us not only what the statisticians of sex delinquency and decline are saying, but what the champions of morality are saying about sex virtue and its rewards. Just after midnight December 31 in every hospital the first baby of the new year will be born. In the vast majority of cases, the babe will not be born out of wedlock; let’s balance the space given to illegitimate births by telling what pains and pangs this family is spared, and what joys it knows that the deviants are denied. A fiftieth wedding anniversary is an opportunity to dramatize the virtues of monogamous marriage. Let’s report the news—all the news—but let’s not give the forces of hell the initiative in the way we handle it.

MR. KUCHARSKY: I think that newspapers should watch what the law courts and the administrative branches of the local governments are doing in trying to lift the standards of literature other than newspapers. I think city editors ought to keep a close eye on the activities of local groups of citizens for decent literature, and civic clubs and other bodies grappling with this problem and trying to do what they can. Certainly a lot of these groups are springing up over the country. I have noted that newspapers at times will ignore the combined actions of thousands of citizens who are trying to clean up newsstands and at the same time give special treatment and prominence to obscure individuals who represent very small minorities challenging these same citizens in terms of civil rights.

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DR. BELL: Speaking of newsstands, yesterday at an airport I noticed that the overwhelming majority of the hundreds of “pocket books” for sale had to do either with the exploitation of sex or violence. The name of one of these books was The Gold-Plated Sewer. That seems to be not only very descriptive but also prophetic of what we can now expect.

DR. HENRY: The attitude of the printing press toward sex morality—and surely one ought to mention radio and television also—has provoked the complaint that the press tends to become a subsidized (through advertising) instrument of conformity to the modern spirit. Let me quote a sentence from a recent address: “The modern means of communication, linked to business, have become the nerve-system of a decadent civilization.” This sounds like the ranting of a Communist leader at a Party meeting, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. In fact, it was the protest of a clergyman highly sympathetic to free enterprise.

DR. BELL: I make this observation speaking neither from the standpoint of ignorance nor of prudishness. I practiced surgery for 40 years; in the later years a great deal of my work was in the field of gynecology and gynecological surgery. The danger of repeated emphasis on sex is that it distorts human values by keeping the mind titillated by an ever-recurring reference to what should be a high and holy relationship, and dragging it down to the gutter. The Ten Commandments constitute God’s moral law; it is still valid, it has never been rescinded. The seventh commandment says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Our Lord referred specifically to this commandment and expounded its meaning to include the lustful thought and look. Today the press panders in many ways to a violation of this God-ordained and Christ-sealed law of personal purity. We may appear temporarily to be getting away with it, but as the Bible says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption.” We in America are certainly sowing to the flesh and already we see the harvest upon us. In all of this the press has a guilty share.

DR. FARRELL: What constitutes news? Must newspapers feel a responsibility to present readers with every sexual misdemeanor which occurs? Or just those of famous people? How detailed should these accounts be? And how prominently displayed in the newspapers?

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DR. BELL: Let me just inject right here that for many years the New York Times has had a slogan which has deep implications: “All the news that’s fit to print.” Unquestionably, there is news that is not fit to print.

DR. FARRELL: I think we should distinguish the newspaper from certain other mediums. It is a public medium in the way movies, for example, are not. Of course, newspapers use this objectionable movie advertising, and the movies in that way get into the papers. But newspapers saturate our public. Practically every household feels obliged to take a newspaper. They are pretty much a necessity in a way that movies are not. So they have easy access to the hearts of the citizens, and thus, I think, should be much more circumspect. All public mediums ought at least to match standards of public conscience by voluntary self-censorship. This sort of censorship exists always—as does coercive censorship when the former type fails. Their existence is not in question, but rather where they draw the line. Newspapers, generally speaking, have not sunk to the level of some magazines.

MR. KUCHARSKY: Should we just gloss over those who argue that freedom of the press is a basic right—and that criticism of the type we are making is promotive of censorship (even if self-imposed) and the press then is no longer free?

DR. HENRY: Their first premise is wholly true: freedom of the press is a right to be protected: But freedom is itself a moral entity; once it goes amoral, liberty gets lost in license. And it is license that leads to the demand for censorship, both external and internal. Rights and responsibilities always go together. A press that wants to hide its duties soon destroys the very base supportive of its freedom also. Yet if Christian leaders are really friends of the press, and not mere critics, we should be as concerned about rights as about obligations. The license of a minority is often made the ground of a move to censor the majority. Not every pressure brought upon the press, even by ecclesiastical groups, is a good thing. What we need is a dedicated freedom, not merely a reactionary compromise, and on the whole I think we can be thankful that this survives on the American scene.

MR. KUCHARSKY: Some newspapers fall under more criticism than others in this realm and some have more liberal policies than others. But I think it is important that each newspaper have a well-defined policy in regard to the handling of sex news. They should think it out for themselves, and be prepared to give a statement of the standards that they follow in treating this sort of news.

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DR. BELL: This should not be considered as an imposed censorship, either by the Church or by groups of individual Christians, or even by concerned people having no church relationship. Rather, what can be printed, and how news can be exploited for something other than the news itself, is a question of common decency. It is possible to write up a sordid story in such a way that the reader will feel revulsion over what he reads; or that same story can be written so as to make evil attractive—and that is what we deplore.

DR. HENRY: We agree that freedom of the press, even in the American tradition, does not mean immunity from legal responsibility; nor does it mean the absence of moral responsibility; nor does it mean liberty of obscenity. It is easy to overstate the situation, however. Happily, we do not really have an “obscene” news press in America today. There is a tendency, perhaps widening, for the press to cater to the climate of indecency and immorality through a commercial exploitation of sex. Books and magazines have deteriorated noticeably more than newspapers.


We have stayed with NBC radio network’s Sunday morning “Theology Today” series (8:15 a.m., EST), scheduled 18 weeks through April 30. The broadcasts, arranged in cooperation with the National Council of Churches, are designed to “highlight major questions or areas of concern in contemporary religious thought.” We hope our readers will give the series a try.

I Believe …

In twentieth century Christianity the Holy Spirit is still a displaced person. Liberal theology exiled this divine person from the life of the Church in favor of simply a divine “function.” Recently a distinguished theologian told me: “When Christianity lost the Holy Spirit as the divine person who leads into all truth, the Spirit was soon misunderstood (by idealistic philosophy) only as Mind, indeed as human mind. The ability of distinguishing spirits was lost.” How right he was. Whenever the Church makes the Spirit of God a refugee, the Church—not the Spirit—becomes the vagabond.

The programs provide first-hand insights into some newer currents of thought. They probably fail to make speculative intricacies intelligible to the man in the street, who although swiftly gripped by the simplicity of Jesus and Paul, is confounded by the gnosis of a Bultmann or Tillich. Our impression at this stage is that the general public isn’t much interested in technical, philosophical jargon, even if it is spoon-fed. Despite professional emphasis on “communication,” and complaints that sacred broadcasts often reach only the initiates while missing the masses, the intellectuals unwittingly seem to reinforce the popular notion that theologians and clergymen today talk mainly to themselves.

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When the unchurched, moreover, are told that the resurrection and ascension of Christ are not historical events, but are to be grasped subjectively in the dimension of poetry or music—which is one of the prevalent notions today—we may expect two reactions. If the hearer understands what he hears, he may well be tempted to dial to the local good music station. If he doesn’t, chances are he has switched there already.


“Easy-money fever” is an affliction that threatens the pastor and those laymen who assist in handling church funds, thinks P. D. Browne, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Religion in Baylor University, Texas.

One early symptom of this contagion, he observes, is the hiring of staff members not really needed, purchase of more materials and supplies than needed, and larger payment for them than necessary in a competitive market. Next comes the long distance telephone call and telegram when a letter or postal might have served as effectively. Then there is the matter of letting the church pay for personal telephone calls, postage, and telegrams, even for arranging revival meetings from which he may receive love offerings.

“As the pastor’s salary grows larger in a big church situation, his allowances and reimbursements for conventions, car expense, travel, and miscellaneous items, house rent, and love offerings increase,” Professor Browne comments. “He has been preaching the giving of the tithe and of sacrificial love offerings, but ten per cent of all his income runs into sums of money which he doesn’t hesitate to pledge but sometimes fails to pay. Some rationalize that they are the Lord’s men using the Lord’s money in the Lord’s work—which balances their personal financial obligations and responsibilities. Laymen who come to know these situations react differently: to some the undisciplined preached is a clever one; others overlook the matter as another example of human frailty; and a few label such pastors as presumptuous thieves.”

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“Evidences of affluence and grandeur in so-called spiritual leaders,” Mr. Browne adds, “create more envy and uneasiness than spiritual communication. And what is a proper attitude toward pastors and denominational leaders who, while enjoying the best in income, housing, food, clothing, insurance, cars, and travel, regularly pressure many poor church members to give sacrificially to special fund raising campaigns and recurrent budget drives?”

These are hard-hitting words but do they not strike at a real cancer, often undiagnosed, which may sap vitality from the Church? The pastor too—indeed, even more than the flock, since he is to lead by example as well as preaching—is called to deny self, to take up his cross daily, and to follow Christ.


One of the costs of political and religious freedom in the cold war era is the personal limitation put upon the high school graduate by the military draft. What may have been for the father only a remotely possible vocational choice, now becomes for the son an enforced “choice,” if only for a few years. Love of country is no different from other loves in that it makes certain demands.

To aid the church youth graduating in June plan his next years, the General Commission on Chaplains and Armed Forces Personnel has released some helpful facts on his military responsibilities.

His chances of being drafted, even apart from a hot war, are very good if he doesn’t enlist first. Some 650,000 young men enter the service each year, about 95,000 by the draft route. The obligation is generally for six years, often two years on active duty and four in the reserves.

But he will not generally be called until he is 22 or 23 years of age. All branches of the service advise college beforehand, the education and added maturity being valued for making a better serviceman. (And happily enough, there are many educational opportunities in the services.)

The young man worried about loss of time is reassured: “… Our military forces are helping to preserve freedom. Your years in the service are not wasted years.… Furthermore, these can be years of physical, mental and spiritual growth—if you seize your opportunities.” This is a big if, and the Commission has further sound advice to meet it: “… You will need to pray often, to read the Word of God, to attend the chapel services, to keep in touch with your loved ones and your home church; but above all, ask God through his Holy Spirit to go with you day by day.”

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The counsel is imperative. The temptations involved in military life have taken a heavy toll of youthful morals. The personal tests are big ones. The prize of victory is a rugged spiritual maturity, expressing itself in strong witness for Christ. The risk of defeat: personal enslavement while standing in the cause of freedom.


The retirement of one United States president and the inauguration of another seem in our time to carry more the mood of destiny than in the past. While the flow of events witnesses to the fact that we are still crowded by historical options, rather than faced by the necessities of eternity, an atmosphere of awe today hangs over national and international affairs. It was therefore fitting that Mr. Eisenhower should end his political service to the nation, even as he started it, with a prayer.

In these days the power struggle can easily erase man’s sense of the power of prayer and of true faith, even in the lives of the good and godly. President Eisenhower needed the prayers of the people. He himself prayed, though he seldom talked publicly about prayer or about his religious beliefs. When Secretary of the Interior Fred A. Seaton early one day in 1955 slipped unannounced into the President’s office, he found him on his knees in prayer. Waving aside Seaton’s profuse apology, Mr. Eisenhower said he was praying for divine guidance in a decision that could mean war or peace in the Far East. Mr. Eisenhower invited prayer at the opening of Cabinet meetings. At National Presbyterian Church, after his instruction thrice in the meaning of the Cross and his coming into membership, he was respected as a devout believer. When running the risks of personal diplomacy with Khrushchev at St. David’s, he matter-of-factly said: “It is my custom to attend church on Sunday mornings; I’d be glad to have you accompany me.” Many an American churchgoer has done less with his neighbors. Mr. Khrushchev demurred, on the ground that in Russia (where atheism is the official line) his action would be misunderstood. Had he attended the church service, he might have found a greater than Marx.

Many churchmen will note that Mr. Eisenhower’s farewell prayer, alongside its virtues of simplicity and sincerity, was theologically flaccid by Christian standards. In some respects it was perhaps as nebulous as certain exhortations to faith which simmer down to little more than “faith in faith.” But it also brings into view a problem not yet resolved in American political life. In view of the principle of separation of Church and State, even some churchmen insist that a leader whose private convictions are Christological should formulate only theistic pronouncements in his public life. The danger is that of gliding into a vague theism, and beyond that, into humanism. On the other hand, some quarters today increasingly stress the Christian history of the nation. America can doubtless profit from a sharpening of theological perspectives, even in political affairs. Such a recovery must not, however, involve us in a philosophy of Church and State which our forefathers hoped they had left far behind on European shores.

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One order has changed, and another begun. But the season for prayer remains. We join Mr. Eisenhower in bidding President Kennedy “Godspeed.” The perils of misplaced trust in earthly power—the power of weapons of destruction, the power of intellectual or scientific genius, the power (even if shrinking) of American dollars—remain with us. What we need now, as never before, is new vision of the power of God and of regenerate morality in the lives of men. Without it, one nation after the other spends its last days as a heap of rubble.

In such an hour, some were dismayed to observe a symbol like Sinatra and the Hollywood assortment of characters around him looming upon the capital scene, making use of inauguration celebrations, national in intent, for partisan fund-raising purposes. Certain unsavory aspects of American life are amplified quite enough already. Kindred ties are no excuse for blurring the image of the White House, or making it a suburb of Beverly Hills. Let the Sinatras return to Hollywood and, if they must, its manners, mores, and foibles.

But let us stay with the Book. There is more light in any of the versions than all the radiant neon of Hollywood Boulevard.

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