The contrast between Christianity and Communism has faded progressively during our lifetime. What’s more, this blurring of differences has occurred on all levels—religious and ethical as well as economic and political.

Many observers fear these disparities will now be moderated even more through the World Council’s admission of the Russian Orthodox Church. The weight of Soviet-sphere pressures in WCC policy was reflected variously at New Delhi. Bishop Hans Lilje, for example, was bypassed as a possible successor to Bishop Otto Dibelius as one of the organization’s presidents, pacifist-minded Martin Niemöller being more acceptable to ecumenically influential East German churchmen.

Developments on the Communist side, too, complicate and confuse the struggle. For one thing, more and more stress on “spiritual values” appears in Soviet propaganda. An essay on “Science and Social Progress” in the November, 1961, issue of USSR speaks of the “new communist society, a society of abundance of spiritual and material wealth for everyone.” A former Moscow correspondent of The New York Times, Harrison E. Salisbury, writes of an emerging tendency “within the most advanced echelon of Soviet science … to seek a nonmaterialist, spiritual concept of the universe,” that is, “a force or power … superior to any possessed by man” (The New York Times, Feb. 7, 1962), issue). Mr. Salisbury adds that some of the more eminent Soviet physicists, astronomers and mathematicians are involved in this movement which leans toward a faith “akin to that appearing among many of their Western scientific colleagues” although away from a formal faith or dogma. The Times correspondent then makes the amazing declaration: “They are no longer atheists” (italics supplied).

At the same time, some of the Russian Orthodox Church’s younger priests, aware of the intellectual mood among scientists and trained since the Bolshevik Revolution, are eager to adapt their church to modern life. Their leader is Archbishop Nicodim, 32-year-old head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s department of foreign affairs. “The new line of the Orthodox Church,” Mr. Salisbury comments, “is for ecumenical relations and contacts as widespread and as close as possible.… This, in general, is felt to fit more closely with the Khrushchev foreign policy.…”

Every acknowledgment that a materialistic view of life is too narrow and artificial to cover the facts of life and history should be welcomed. But to view the groping of Soviet scientists toward some spiritualistic principle as an assured transition from atheism to theism is incredibly naïve. Theism asserts that the ultimate reality is a living mind and will through which all else has existence and meaning. We have yet to hear a single leading Soviet scientist insist that not matter, not even impersonal force, not even unintelligent and purposeless power, but rather a living mind and will, a supernatural being, is the source and support of all things.

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Of major importance is the revised paperback A Christian’s Handbook on Communism just published by the National Council of Churches (which is now venturing more prominently into religious publishing and distribution).

Since the Council’s policy-making General Board is to give an official statement on this effort at its Kansas City meeting February 26 to March 2 (after this issue’s presstime), we shall make only a few general remarks. The handbook encourages every local church (NCC represents itself as “service agency of 33 Protestant and Orthodox denominations which embrace 40 million members) to establish “a Committee on Social Education and Action,” a project which could put tens of thousands of these handbooks in circulation as study guides throughout the country. As delineated in the handbook, the NCC’s evaluation of Communism and of its Christian alternative is therefore very important.

It should be noted that although prepared, published and distributed by NCC, the handbook states “it has not been officially sanctioned either by the Division of World Missions or the General Board.” It is remarkable how far some things can get in ecumenical circles these days without official sanction. Since the effort is also NCC-publicized, however, the “not officially sanctioned” cliché could be interpreted as a kind of essential cloak that insulates and covers its leadership from fire. On the other hand, if such an effort is applauded, the “not officially sanctioned” may be easily enough overlooked as incidental. If the statement were simply an evasion of responsibility, then NCC-sponsors ought to receive no particular credit or attention for their effort. But the fact is, there is growing grass-roots impatience to learn NCC’s official position in the wheels-within-wheels bureaucracy of commissions, departments, committees, subcommittees, study groups, and so on. This is especially true on so vital a question as Christianity and Communism. If the Kremlin can make its official views clear, then churchmen who profess a theology of the Word, who stress the importance of effective communication, and who can command so many mass communications techniques, ought to be able and willing to speak “yea, yea and nay, nay.” We shall take a closer look at the handbook’s content after the NCC’s General Board has met at Kansas City.

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Police Seem Impotent To Halt Crime Wave In Washington

Washington is a tourist’s wonderland. To the city come also the kings of the earth, not so much to pay homage, however, as to get dollars. From cherry blossom time to Labor Day, busloads of students, conventioneers and other vacationers crowd cafeterias and sidewalks.

Unfortunately, the crime rate in Washington is as ugly as the Nation’s Capital is beautiful. Week-end robberies and other attacks on both visitors and local citizens have become almost commonplace. Major crimes abated somewhat during the first five weeks of 1962, but the number of gunpoint robberies alone more than doubled, totalling 46; and 222 other robberies also stepped up the 1961 tally. Widows, young wives, the aged, business men, diplomatic personnel—none seems exempt or safe from these hoodlums who yoke and attack their victims in private and public buildings or in parking lots. Recently, as its special project of the year, a women’s service group imported nine specially trained dogs to augment the city’s canine police corps. Some area public schools offer judo classes for girls.

Representative Martha W. Griffiths (D.-Mich.), who lost her contact lenses in a purse-snatching in front of her home, rightly pronounced it “disgraceful that a woman cannot walk unmolested in the shadow of the Capitol.” She is a former criminal court judge in Detroit. A Washington attorney told us that for several years he has been reluctant to walk five blocks from his home to Sunday night church service. And in a recent conversation among professional men, another lawyer suggested that every Washington clergyman should insist that the police commissioner do the job that obviously isn’t being done. Multitudes of Americans recall their vacation visit to Washington with pride and pleasure. Let’s put the hoodlums out, and keep the tourists coming.

Need For A Forthright Gospel Evident In English Broadcast

The recent TV debate on the BBC between Frederick D. Coggan, Anglican Archbishop of York, and Adam Faith, Britain’s latest teenage idol, highlights once again the reluctance of organized Christianity to proclaim a forthright Gospel of man’s utter ruin in sin and God’s perfect remedy in Jesus Christ. In a day when criticism is the predominant mode of thought and the nonbeliever is exulting in his penetrating exposure of the Church’s failures, the Church too often contents herself with defensive tactics and neglects to apply her Gospel to the needs of those people who are her critics. Such an application need not be construed as an adaption of the Church’s message to the thought patterns of the world. On the contrary, it will arraign these patterns before the judgment seat of God’s truth. It will tell Adam Faith, on the authority of God’s Word, that his present nature stands in need of the new Adam, who is Jesus Christ.

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Though I Bestow All My Goods To Feed The Poor …

“I have an unreal feeling, listening to Catholic and Protestant spokesmen sitting here talking about selling church services to the government. I can hardly believe it.” So spoke Congressman Bruce Alger of Texas—in a House Ways and means Committee hearing—concerning a provision under which federal funds could be used to pay for rehabilitation services rendered relief recipients by private agencies with church connections. A National Council of Churches spokesman saw no threat to church-state separation. Alger did. He could doubtless recall no biblical command for the church to barter its compassion with Caesar.

A Lesson In Mr. Kennedy’S Good Will Visit To Asia

The Japanese people traditionally associate maturity with age, and immaturity with youth; they worship their ancestors, overlook the bobby-soxers, and view young manhood as a trial time for learning. Young Bobby Kennedy was not likely, therefore, to inspire the soul of Japan by emphasizing the Kennedy Administration’s zest for youthful adventure. He did, however, mirror the young generation’s strategic opportunities.

Why the Attorney General, the nation’s chief law officer, should make an Asiatic junket of good will baffles many Washington observers. Mr. Kennedy did win tributes as a shrewd political campaigner. And there are those who argue that Bobby already may be campaigning for his own stint (seven years hence) in the White House. But strategic international contacts must always depend upon skilled diplomats more than upon the headline personalities of the moment.

One lesson was well worth learning, however, if Mr. Kennedy has taken it to heart. At Tokyo’s Waseda University, political shock troops of the Japanese Left Wing stole the publicity spotlight by their dramatically impressive even if disorderly demonstration. In principle, of course, the disruption was not much different from some of the techniques of mob violence increasingly common in the United States. Minority groups that resort to extralegal pressures and secure disproportionate attention from the mass media are a favorite tactic of proponents of revolutionary social change. In Tokyo Mr. Kennedy had firsthand opportunity to observe what such strategy implies: disregard for the orderly traditions of representative government and leftist reliance on the techniques of violence.

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Restrictions Still Cripple Protestants In Spain

“Nobody shall be molested for his religious beliefs nor for the private worship of his faith,” says Article Six of the Spanish Bill of Rights. Yet in the past three months stringent measures have been taken against Protestants in Madrid, Melilla, Valencia, Majorca, Barcelona, Alicante and Zaragoza. Even in Spain’s more cosmopolitan areas one seeks in vain for a Protestant church notice board. English-speaking places of worship also maintain gray anonymity, and one recently refused admittance to a Spanish Protestant because to do so would “cause embarrassment” with the authorities.

A leading ecclesiastical spokesman now states in Ecclesia, organ of Spanish Action, that though Protestants number only 0.6% of the population, the growing influx of Protestant tourists “makes it essential for us to abandon a position of mere opposition.”

With our persecuted brethren we rejoice at the prospect of less crippling restrictions, but how ironical that expediency is exhibited as a more potent force than Christian charity! The student of Dostoevsky might see in all this the baleful influence of The Grand Inquisitor spanning the centuries and still dictating the policies of a land which long ago fathered the incredible proverb: “God is stronger than the armies, and almost as strong as His Church.”

The Big City And The Small Churches

Big city folk are not the same as small town and country people. One group is no better than the other, of course. They simply differ. Each knows it; each regards the other as a “country cousin” or a “city slicker.” By the same token big city and small town and country churches often differ considerably. Each, unfortunately, often fails to appreciate the other and its peculiar problems. The large city church, for example, that carries on its ministry amid great and rapid cultural changes is often considered suspect by the smaller more stable town church.

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Small town denominations that function primarily around conservative and provincial perspectives, cannot forever overlook the tremendous population changes now occurring in the U.S.A. People are not only moving away from the farm, but are also creating massive urban areas of staggering populations.

According to the 1960 census the five largest cities in the U.S. now total a population of about 17½ million. Nearly one tenth of our people live in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Detroit. The combined population is greater than the total count of 20 less populous states. Between 1950–1960 Los Angeles’ population alone increased more than a half million. Experts predict the distance of 225 miles between Santa Barbara and San Diego will soon be one unbroken metropolitan area.

Such high concentrations of people must necessarily affect the religious life and task of the churches. Especially groups functioning in the smaller towns will need to examine their attitudes and policies in view of current sociological changes.

Theologically conservative denominations, prone to be equally conservative about adopting new ways and means, are unfortunately the ones least likely to meet the demands of changing times. Unless the population shift is met with related shift in ecclesiastical thinking, these churches will suffer both in lost witness and in lost growth.

Unheeded Best Seller: The Bible, A Silent Home Missionary

Since the settlement of the “new world,” the Holy Bible has been on this nation’s “best-seller lists.” While the King James Version remains “the classic Bible,” such recent versions in modern English as the Revised Standard Version and the New English Bible have stimulated still larger sales. Bible societies and similar groups have accomplished the amazing feat of translating all or part of the Bible into more than 1,000 languages. The Gideons have placed well over a million Bibles in hotels, motels and guest rooms since 1899.

However, for many of these years of seeming “Bible boom,” the Holy Bible could easily have stood first on the “low readership list,” had such a survey been compiled. No alert observer can deny the prevalence in vast segments of our modern society of a lack of any deep interest in the revealed Word of God.

A few superstitious souls may consider the Bible a good luck charm, kept tucked away on bookshelves to ward off evil spirits. But modern men are too civilized to believe in the automatic efficacy of beads, books, and medallions. Neither can possession of a Bible any longer be called a status symbol, since belief in its teachings is not generally considered “fashionable.”

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Taking up its assigned space on a little-used bookcase or gathering dust on the cocktail table, the Bible is more easily likened to a symbol of detachment from roots and reality. A sign of the cipher. For as surely as this book is “unfashionable,” the masses of people consider it quite harmless. So it rests in peace. Unheeded, even if unconciously respected, it gathers dust or mildew, depending on the climate. Yet the Bible has penetrated more homes, offices, and places of learning than any other book in history. It was the first book printed in the first printing press. It remains a sign of these times—unfashionable, harmless, unread, yet bought and bought and bought. A good gift for someone. Everyone ought to have one. Why?

There are bright spots in this drab picture. That unheeded Bible is still faithfully in its place. When it is finally opened, the Gospel is the same as at the date of purchase, whether 10 years ago, or 50, or one. The Bible is not only the number one penetrator of homes, but the number one penetrator of hearts. Low readership? Perhaps. But no words breathe more life to a sinner in the time of crisis.

In spite of well-publicized moves to secularize public schools by the total elimination of Bible reading, and signs of general indifference to God’s Word, a growing trend can be noted toward new interest in Bible reading among the laity. More and more Bible commentary literature is being published each year, admittedly representing all shades of theological opinion. The conviction that the Bible speaks to us uniquely of God’s offer of redemption in Jesus Christ is nonetheless becoming more widespread. Sound evangelical emphasis can also be noted. Millions are “unchurched” in America today, but few are without a Bible—somewhere. God works in marvelous ways, his wonders to perform. Millions of “unread but ready” Bibles bear silent witness to this fact.

Reflections On Eichmann And International Justice

Whether or not Adolf Eichmann is eventually executed, his case adds another unusual chapter to the annals of international justice.

No one denies the propriety of bringing Eichmann to bar for alleged crimes in Germany. But what of his surreptitious apprehension and removal from Argentina? What of his trial by a state which did not even exist when Eichmann committed his heinous deeds? From the very outset the case has bristled with troublesome legal points. Who should judge? Which laws should prevail? Apparently on the assumption that a good end justifies questionable means, Israelis and many others summarily squelched all such probing questions. Must not the guilty one be brought to judgment? Then let no one, it was argued, thwart the effort by challenging propriety of method.

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Compared with the Nuremberg trials this one in Israel showed some definite progress. This time no nation that had earlier bloodied its own hands in crimes arising out of the same general situation under indictment mounted the high judgment seat. And we must certainly applaud Israel’s “Western” sheriff-like zeal to see justice accomplished. We can only urge that the same spirit of juridical zeal so prick every nation that every perpetrator of “crimes against humanity” be brought into court.

Unfortunately other Eichmanns go their ways unapprehended; they even enjoy diplomatic recognition and official hospitality. Why do the crimes of Eichmann arouse widespread indignation whereas “The Crimes of Khrushchev” (House Un-American Activities Committee, 1959) create hardly a stir? Are massacred Ukrainians and Hungarians somehow different from massacred Jews? Why do their atrocities hustle Nazi leaders off to the gallows, via Nuremberg while those of a Red Chinese regime (15,600,000 executed and 20,000,000 starved in 1951–52 alone) are lost either in a peculiar amnesia or in a strange rush (even by many churchmen) to welcome its leaders into a law-abiding world organization? Are dead Asiatics somehow different …?

Played on the world stage against such a backdrop, the Eichmann performance must surely impress Christian observers anew with at least two major convictions: 1. International justice is often conditioned by national might and inclination. 2. International justice in its fullest meaning waits for the return of Jesus Christ to judge the nations and their rulers with perfect justice.

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