Three acute problems relating to the public welfare—automobile accidents, cigarette smoking, and alcoholism—are exacting an enormous toll in human suffering. Of them, alcoholism is the oldest, the most complex, and in its effects the most far-reaching with a national total of more than five million alcoholics, a number that is increasing at the rate of 200,000 each year. Moreover, 25 million others—families and friends of alcoholics—are affected; and the problem also reaches extensively into such areas as crime and accidents.
What man does with drink has been a problem since the dawn of history. Compared with it, cigarette smoking and the misuse of automobiles are the most recent of newcomers. Yet apart from obvious dissimilarities, there is a kinship among the three problems in that each is to some extent controllable by human volition. And wherever human suffering is preventable or controllable, there Christian concern must be manifest.
According to the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization, alcoholism is a disease. (From a purely medical standpoint this is true; but the Bible speaks too emphatically of drunkenness as sin to relieve alcoholics of all moral responsibility.) Yet the etiology and exact nature of this disease are still imperfectly known, as Dr. E. M. Jellinek’s study, The Disease Concept of Alcoholism (Yale Center of Alcoholic Studies, New Haven, 1962), shows. The strange paradox is that hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually to persuade people to run the risk of contracting a devastating malady that ruins personality and shortens by an average of twelve years the life-span of those who have it. The decision of WQXR, the radio station of The New York Times, to accept advertising of hard liquor in violation of the code of the National Association of Broadcasters points to the need for more active government concern with the present state of advertising of alcoholic beverages.
It may be that alcohol has so long been surrounded by an aura of social respectability that it has truly become what Dr. Jellinek calls “the domesticated drug.” But its domestication has not mitigated its dangers. And because its use is so intimately related to social customs, attitudes toward alcohol are all-important. Christians differ about its use, and the Bible does not condemn all drinking. Thus problems relating to it must be considered both with care and with charity.
Nevertheless, the plain facts about alcoholism need to be faced. Whether or not one thinks drinking permissible, 75 million Americans are using alcoholic beverages and one out of fifteen of these drinkers is suffering from alcoholism. Thus the United States with its multitudes of alcoholics shares with France the leadership of the world in the incidence of this malady. Teenage drinking is soaring. According to the National Safety Council, special studies have indicated that in fatal highway accidents as many as half of the victims had been drinking. The annual cost of alcoholism to our society is well over $1 billion, and the yearly expenditure of $12 billion for intoxicating beverages far exceeds what is given the churches of the nation. Other statistics implicating alcohol in mental and physical diseases of various kinds and showing the enormous loss to business and industry occasioned by problem drinkers are well known.
The foregoing stands as essential background for reconsideration of a solution that has long been known and practiced by a significant minority and yet is strangely slighted in many current discussions of alcohol and its perils. That solution is voluntary abstinence.
With all that is being written about alcoholism and with the sociological, medical, physiological, and psychological research being devoted to its cause and cure, there is no secret whatever about a sure method of preventing it. No one who does not drink will ever become an alcoholic. Moreover, those who do not drink, while not exempt from highway accidents, will not be subject to accidents resulting from impairment of their own faculties by even very small amounts of alcohol in the body.
Surely the time has come for a careful, persistent, and persuasive presentation of the fact that abstinence makes sense. Regardless of differing religious traditions and varying interpretations of what Scripture says about drinking, youth today—and they are the future drinkers of tomorrow—have the right to hear the plain case for abstinence as a valid and socially acceptable answer to the alcohol problem. Unfortunately this answer is not being given as widely as it should be in literature about alcohol. Too often the gratuitous assumption is made that youth are bound to drink anyway and that therefore they need only to be taught how to drink and how to diagnose signs of trouble in their drinking. One wonders whether this attitude is indicative of adult reluctance to set forth a solution many have themselves rejected and whether it may reflect a covert hostility of the drinker to the non-drinker.
Quite apart from the biblical argument that rests upon consideration for one’s weaker brother, there are compelling reasons why abstinence is a valid answer to the question (To drink or not to drink?) with which our society confronts youth today.
What, then, are these reasons? They are related to an enormously significant fact about alcohol and its use. There is no way of knowing who among any group that begins to drink will become an alcoholic; no medical or psychological research can accurately predict the victims of alcoholism. Estimating conservatively the number of American drinkers as 75 million and dividing a similarly conservative estimate of 5 million alcoholics into this number, the chance of a beginning drinker’s becoming an alcoholic is at least one in fifteen.
Someone has put it this way. Suppose a man goes to an airline counter to book a flight. The ticket is purchased, and the attendant delivers it with these words: “You should know, sir, that on this plane, seating seventy-five passengers, five seats at some time during the flight will suddenly give way and drop their occupants out of the plane.” The purchaser replies, “Don’t put me in one of those seats.” “But,” says the attendant, “that’s impossible; we don’t know the seats that will give way. Have a good flight, sir.”
Youth need to be told that drinking is a gamble and that the stakes are high—not indeed instant calamity, as in the illustration, but personal disaster that might involve loss of work, marriage, children, friends, self-respect, and, if not checked, life itself. (Remission is possible, but only in about 50 per cent of the cases.)
This is the risk against which the oft heard advantages of alcohol as a social lubricant, a means for relaxing tension, an aid to gracious living, and a compliance with prevalent custom, must be weighed. For there is no way of choosing these without running the unavoidable risk of being the one out of fifteen to become an alcoholic. Let youth be told this plainly, factually, and emphatically. Along with this, let them be told also that they are going to live in a society that wants them to drink with it and that will make every effort by social pressure and the unremitting impact of advertising to get them to drink with it.
Nothing short of this is fair to youth. Theirs is the hazard, and they must be informed. The reasonableness of abstinence rests on considerations of responsibility, example to others, and the danger of alcohol itself. Many of those who advocate abstinence find their warrant in Paul’s words, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient …” (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23), and in his principle of restricting one’s liberty in consideration of the weaker brother: “It is good neither … to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak” (Rom. 14:21). Abstinence can only be voluntary. Enforced group abstinence cannot succeed. Nevertheless, to refrain from a practice so fraught with danger and to do so not only for self but also for the sake of others is a true Christian answer to one of the great social problems of our time. Consequently it must be presented unashamedly and unequivocally.
In other periods, such as Bible times, the problems about alcohol were different from today. But these are not Bible times. The stresses of living in this space age make the human organism more susceptible to the perils of alcohol than in ancient Palestine. The driver of an oxcart or the traveler by horse or donkey faced different demands for instant decision than the man at the wheel of over a ton of metal propelled by a multihorsepower engine. God expects of us the adjustment of maturity to current problems and holds us responsible for indulgences that may imperil our own lives and the lives of others. In a day like this, voluntary abstinence to the glory of God and for the sake of others is a reasonable and safe solution to the problem of alcohol. It requires the courage of conviction. Let individual Christians earnestly consider it for themselves. And let parents, schools, and churches examine their obligation to teach their youth that abstinence makes sense.
General Of The Army Douglas A. Macarthur
A great warrior has fallen. Slain not on a distant battlefield, General Douglas MacArthur passed peacefully from this life after a last heroic struggle.
His memory readily evokes the West Point motto: “Duty, Honor, Country.” His noble figure seemed to epitomize the words. Yet he also transcended them, for the vertical dimension loomed large in his life. Bypassing a hundred battlefields and a thousand campfires in favor of his mammoth contribution to postwar Japan, he hoped he would be remembered as “the one whose sacred duty it became, once the guns were silenced, to carry to the land of our vanquished foe the solace and hope and faith of Christian morals. Could I have but a line a century hence crediting a contribution to the advance of peace, I would yield every honor which has been accorded by war.”
The general once told Billy Graham that the Emperor of Japan had offered to make Christianity the state religion of his nation. Episcopalian MacArthur said he rejected the offer on the basis that “no nation must be made to conform to any religion …; it must be done voluntarily.” Yet in his own view, progress in the Japanese occupation rested “more upon the application of those guiding tenets of our Christian faith—justice, tolerance, understanding—which without yielding firmness, have underwritten all applied policy, than upon the power or threat of Allied bayonets.”
MacArthur’s personal convictions were reflected in his prayer for his son, which included the words, “Build me a son … who will know Thee …” (see News, p. 43). In a 1949 letter to Glenn Wagner, foreign secretary of the Pocket Testament League, the general said that a plan to distribute New Testaments in Japan had his “hearty endorsement,” and added: “I urgently request that the Pocket Testament League make available to the Japanese people ten million portions of the Scriptures, rather than the one million which have been in the original plan.” Some years later at West Point when an evangelical leader expressed appreciation to MacArthur for his action, the general brightened and responded that he wished it might have been many, many more.
While fighting his last battle and rallying from his second major operation in seventeen days, the old warrior said: “I am going to do the very best I can.” The words simply characterized his life throughout. In his passing America has lost a measure of greatness. But she yet retains it in her heritage.
Anti-Semitism In The Soviet Union
If one were looking for something kind to say about Communism in Russia, there was a time when he could point to the Soviet stand against anti-Semitism in contrast to the awful record of czarist Russia, particularly in the late nineteenth century. But by 1953 there could be no doubt that anti-Semitism had become official Soviet policy. At the ad hoc American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry in Washington early this month (see News, p. 40), Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg listed some of the Soviet limitations on the 2½ to 3 million Jews in the U. S. S. R.:
… the teaching of Hebrew, the biblical language, is banned …; Yiddish, the tongue of 450,000 Soviet citizens, is discouraged; Jewish schools virtually prohibited and non-existent; … and Jewish literature and publications sharply curtailed.
The religious freedom of Soviet Jews is severely limited—more so than any other religious group; increasingly synagogues are closed and private worship restricted; both Bible and prayer books are denied printing; … the training of Seminarians hampered and religious exchanges discouraged.
… there is also evidence that an undue proportion of Jews is being prosecuted and executed for economic crimes.
We salute this conference and strongly support its goal of greater freedom for Soviet Jewry. We also fervently hope the same for other religious groups in Russia.
To Abraham God said: “I will make of thee a great nation, … and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.…” Along this line, perhaps the Soviet leaders should consider the fate, not only of Pharoah’s Egypt and Hitler’s Germany, but also of the Czar’s Russia.
Hopeful Development In Birmingham
The many thousands of Negroes and whites who sat side by side in a stadium in Birmingham on Easter Sunday represented a remarkable and hopeful development in racial relations there (see the news story on page 38). We feel it especially significant that it was the preaching of the Gospel that brought these people together. For Alabama it was a first in terms of such numbers and such a wide cross section of society.
We salute the evangelist Billy Graham and his team and the ministers and laymen of the Birmingham area who showed the courage necessary to bring about such a development. Their confidence in the power of the Word to heal was vindicated. Christians everywhere share the hope that this meeting in Birmingham may have been the beginning of better things for that Southern city.
Liberalism’S Time Of ‘Turning Away’
The significant essay from the pen of the Rev. Jesse J. Roberson provides readers of CHRISTIANITY TODAY with a remarkably frank criticism of Protestant theological liberalism. Evangelical Protestants have long made similar charges. But the fact that these charges now come from within liberal circles is telling evidence of the breakup of what was once a formative theological movement on the American scene (cf. “Liberalism in Transition,” Dec. 20 issue).
Plainly and candidly Mr. Roberson declares that as a formal theological and operational force liberalism neglected the baser components of human nature; that it has been impotent to achieve social objectives proportionate to its numerical strength; that its demise is to be welcomed because of its lack of theological-Christological substance; that it specialized in semantic legerdemain aimed to conceal from the laity its negation of biblical positions; that it is guilty of intellectual dishonesty and moral cowardice; that it turned its freedom from biblical authority into intellectual license that created “almost as many Jesuses and Gods as there were interpreters” and substituted humanism for historic Christian faith. Nonetheless, Mr. Roberson notes, some liberals cling to their liberalism quite unaware that it has been invalidated. “It will be interesting, and perhaps revolutionary,” he adds, “to see what happens to liberalism and its blandness.”
These are blunt charges indeed, and the one in seven Protestant ministers in the United States who prefers to designate his theological position as liberal (see CHRISTIANITY TODAY, NOV. 10, 1961, p. 11) will scarcely find them palatable. Some details may, in fact, appear debatable, particularly the tendency to minimize liberalism’s social penetration; yet it must not be forgotten that even here the fruit of the “social gospel” was the result of an idealistic humanism rather than of anything discernibly Christian. Taken as a whole, there is much in this essay to stir “second thoughts” in Protestant liberal circles, especially among the growing number who share the conviction that evangelical journals like CHRISTIANITY TODAY are effectively dealing with certain essential problems that magazines of liberal persuasion have evaded and are continuing to evade.
It is apparent, however, that Mr. Roberson lacks understanding of the one sound alternative to liberalism—namely, evangelical Christianity. And it would also seem that, for all his sharp insights into the predicament of theological liberalism today, he does not see that its fatal weakness lies in its sacrifice of the authority of the Word of God. Perhaps in this respect he reflects lack of exposure to the cohesive claim of biblical theism, as do a great many other liberal ministers who, as he himself puts it, “attended seminaries that … presented liberalism as a live option, and often offered little if anything else.” The growing momentum of evangelical Protestantism springs not from such concessions to acceptance of liberal positions as Mr. Roberson’s essay imputes to it, nor simply from emotional reaction against the crudities he finds in liberalism, but from the inherent truth and power of biblical supernaturalism. Moreover, the distinctives of conservative Christianity (the plenary authority of the Bible, acceptance of the fact of heaven and hell according to Scripture, the organic union of humanity on the ground of the creation and fall of Adam, the vicarious work of Christ, and so on) simply point to the liberal tradition of compromises which, in giving up one truth after another, robbed theological liberalism of inner consistency and led it into confusion. What Mr. Roberson says so eloquently and so unsparingly is that liberalism’s time of “turning away” has come. What remains to be made known very widely and just as plainly is that the evangelical undertow is continuing to cut a deeper shoreline along the coasts of contemporary American Protestantism.
Twentieth-Century Jericho Road
The New York Times has printed a blood-chilling account of some modern-day non-Samaritans. The scene is not this time the lonely road from Jerusalem to Jericho, nor does it concern reaction to the victim of an unwitnessed assault. The new non-Samaritans live in a well-to-do residential area in Queens, New York City. And thirty-eight of them have admitted to witnessing the murder of a young woman at night by a man who attacked her with a knife three different times, having left her intermittently because of observers’ turning on lights and opening windows. Once he was shouted at. The twenty-eight-year-old woman cried for help, screamed that she had been stabbed, recognized one onlooker and called him by name. He gave no reply. During the bloody thirty-five-minute period of the assault, there was not enough of a Samaritan spirit at hand even to provoke a phone call to the police, who were about two minutes away and could very possibly have prevented the murder had they been immediately called. Not all the witnesses realized what was going on, but some did. One finally phoned the police after the victim was dead.
In reflecting upon the unbelievable event, some have spoken of the depersonalizing influence of big-city life. The excuse most often heard from the immobile witnesses was that they didn’t want to get involved, a mentality that has been used to explain why a Nazi party can come to power.
Yet in this brilliant flowering of unconcern there is the plaintive cry for help of a lost and loveless humanity. In less obvious ways we are all non-Samaritans. And we Christians often pass by our neighbors seemingly unconcerned about souls in peril, when all the while there is a crying need for the Saviour who gave his lifeblood for the salvation of men, a salvation which points them to a love that has as much concern for the neighbor as for the self.
Tragedy In Cleveland
Perhaps it could have been predicted that when a minister was killed in the course of a Cleveland civil rights demonstration, he would be young, white, lovable, deeply committed to principle, a gentle worker with university students, married, and the father of several children.
And perhaps it could have been further predicted that the tragedy would be the result of a mechanical mishap rather than a deliberate act of hostility. Instead of turning the key, the operator shoved his bulldozer into reverse, and the Rev. Bruce William Klunder, 26, was ushered into eternity.
We pray for the young widow and her children. We pray for the hapless driver, John White. We pray for the Negroes who wanted an end to public school segregation and sought to halt construction where the incident took place. We pray for the harried school authorities, and for the students who knew and loved Mr. Klunder. And we pray for America, that she may learn how to solve her problems without such sacrifice.
D. L. Moody once described Christ as saying to the man who thrust the spear into his side, “There is a nearer way to my heart than that.” May it be so in Cleveland, and in all our cities.
Religion And The Peace Corps
American Peace Corps workers in West Africa are making a constructive contribution in many areas, particularly public administration and education. But there are some signs of tension, and Peace Corps directors will do well to take full note of these and to make remedial action.
In the matter of religious commitment, some Peace Corps workers are violating the preliminary understanding of their vocational role. Assurances were given that Peace Corps personnel would not engage in sectarian religious teaching as part of their vocational activity; yet in Liberia a teacher at St. Joseph’s School told us that she is teaching “the entire curriculum, religion included.”
Peace Corps workers were instructed not to obstruct the religious purposes of any institution to which they were assigned, but to maintain the religious atmosphere. In West Cameroon, Peace Corps workers are creating mounting tensions, particularly since a number of recent appointees have been registering a counter-Christian influence in mission schools; their diluting effect is resented by African Christians as much as by the missionary task force. One secondary-school teacher told native students that he didn’t believe in Christ and questioned the Resurrection, and he added that he “came to Africa only ‘for kicks.’ ” Missionary leaders complain that too many Peace Corps workers have joined the effort in order “to find themselves,” and that though they are talented and well-intentioned, they are not qualified for school leadership roles. Some recent appointees in mission schools not only withhold themselves from chapel attendance but violate the campus moral code. Mimbo drinking is one of the cultural vices against which evangelical Christians have long protested, yet on one mission compound a Peace Corps teacher invited his friends for a drinking party that lasted almost until dawn. The diluting effect of such activities upon the campus atmosphere is easy to gauge.
In West Cameroon, where many of the early Peace Corps workers are rendering welcome service, a variety of developments is prompting many mission leaders to protest a growing tendency to “dump” Peace Corps workers where they are not requested, and to insist on the right to dictate the terms on which the workers will be acceptable. When Peace Corps personnel arrive and displace foreign personnel, or American Peace Corps personnel displace Africans whom the missionaries have long groomed for their posts, simply because the Peace Corps workers have superior training, many problems arise. African nationals in educational work now speak of the threat the Peace Corps poses through the replacement of Africans in schools where American missionaries have long labored to turn the institutions over to Africans. They emphasize that while some of these Africans have less training, many of them have taught for years, whereas Peace Corps workers are often novices; and the Africans are wholly dedicated to the spiritual and moral purposes of the mission institutions.
In the realm of education, many West African nations are now giving large subsidies to religious schools for buildings, scholarships, and salaries of qualified teachers of non-religious subjects. The connection of eligibility with academic qualification has the effect of strengthening the secular offerings in religious institutions, while instruction in Christian truth tends to maintain a less comprehensive and less effective role on the margin of the curriculum. The coming of Peace Corps workers uncommitted to Christian truths and ideals to these faculties can result only in a further secularizing of erstwhile Christian institutions. It is little wonder that Christian educational leaders in West Cameroon—and they are not alone—are taking a second look at Peace Corps benefits, and are calling for conversations with Peace Corps administrators.
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