Among the recent discussions of the problems of American youth today, Teen-Age Tyranny (William Morrow and Company, 1963), by Fred Hechinger, education editor of The New York Times, and his wife, Grace Hechinger, takes high rank for the intelligence and candor with which it faces the problem. It is not comfortable reading; out of abundant documentation it shows things as they are among the rank and file, not of socially and economically underprivileged boys and girls, but of our young people who are being schooled in the most expensive educational system any nation has ever had and whose material advantages exceed those of any of their predecessors in our history. Because of the hard common sense with which it deals with adolescent mores today, Teen-Age Tyranny is of special interest to parents, ministers, teachers, and youth counselors.
For the discerning Christian reader one sentence in the book stands out as even more disturbing than the facts about youthful violence and promiscuity. The Hechingers disavow any religious orientation of their discussion. But when in a scant page and a half they do refer to religion and youth, they offer this thought-provoking observation: “Since 84% of today’s teenagers are church members and more than half attend church regularly, they could undoubtedly be influenced strongly by religious values.” That youth in general are not so influenced confronts the reader on almost every page. Moreover, because a book like this is largely a transcript from life, the failure of the Church to counteract an adolescent culture that has given up the common morality of the Judeo-Christian tradition can be substantiated in almost every community in the country.
Why this failure? Why do the churches, by and large, have so little influence upon our youth? Answers to such questions as these must be found. For what shall it profit the churches to claim as members 84 per cent of the youth, when so many of these young people are living by sub-Christian and even pagan standards?
The question may be answered in part by another quotation from the Hechingers: “Teen-age values are inevitably determined by the adult values around them.” Or, as Professor Henry Steel Commager put it, “The American has boundless faith in the new generation, is willing to make almost any sacrifices for it except those required by self-restraint” (The American Mind). It is plain that youthful conduct reflects adult standards or lack of them. But to admit the truism only leads to another question: “Why has the Church not influenced those many adults whose own moral failures are reflected in our youth?”
At this point evangelicals are likely to say that the answer is clear. Thinking of the prevalence in many pulpits of liberalism with its denial of the radical need for regeneration, they are inclined to blame the ineffectiveness of the churches in producing a stronger morality upon one thing—failure to preach the Gospel. That there is truth in the charge is undeniable. But that it is not the whole truth is equally undeniable. Honesty compels the admission that evangelical churches where the Gospel is faithfully proclaimed also have a good many grave moral problems among their youth and among their adults as well. The Gospel is indeed “the power of God unto salvation,” but to be believed it must first be understood. And to be understood it must be communicated effectively and in the conviction and power of the Holy Spirit.
Consequently, the answer to the problem of a high rate of church membership and a low standard of morality among young people is not so simple as some have thought. In fact, it goes deeper even than the assumption, too common among evangelical Christians, that witness is only verbal.
Let there be no misunderstanding. The presentation of the Gospel in words is primary and essential. The story of salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ must be told in complete fidelity to the biblical sources and in words that the hearer can understand. Yet a preacher, Sunday school teacher, or youth leader may be as orthodox as Scripture itself and fail to reach young people. Orthodoxy just for orthodoxy’s sake neither wins souls nor nurtures Christ’s flock. The message must indeed be understood if it is to be obeyed. And that it can reach even the most thoughtless teen-ager has been shown by such a movement as “Young Life,” which is primarily concerned with effective communication of the Gospel of Christ to high school boys and girls by leaders who love youth, who speak to them out of the conviction of personal experience, and who are first willing to take the time to know them and listen to them. By the same token, it can be effectively presented by pastors, teachers, youth leaders, and, above all, by parents who will make a like effort to understand and be understood.
But the communication of the saving truth of Christ also has, as has already been suggested, a non-verbal aspect. Words are essential for communication. But they do not stand alone. They must be backed by conviction and reinforced by the reality of consistent living. Even the clearest communication intellectually may be vitiated by a lack of love and Christian concern.
Youth longs for reality. It understands instinctively the language of the heart that underlies and transcends the form of words. As Pascal said, “The heart has its reasons that the reason does not know.” Youth knows those reasons. But when it sees adult selfishness and unconcern and when it has set for it examples of moral flabbiness and lack of spiritual discipline, it will not listen to the message of the Gospel that has apparently done so little for those who profess it.
Another thing needs to be said, not as an exculpation of the Church’s failure to influence more of its youth but as a reminder of a profound biblical truth. The Gospel, as the apostle declared, is “a savor of life unto life and death unto death.” Its faithful proclamation does not inevitably bring salvation. Not all will be reached by it. Not all can be compelled to accept it. God respects individual responsibility far more than we do. Not even the most dedicated and skillful preacher or teacher, nor the most devoted parent, is successful in reaching every child. Yet granting this, the disinterest of youth in the Church is so great as to cause deepest concern.
Still other factors must be considered. Evangelism, primary though it is, must be supplemented by activity. Souls, just as bodies, grow strong by exercise. An easy religion has little appeal to youth. The church that caters to youth through parties and recreation and never faces them with the stringent demands of the Gospel and its application to the hard moral and social issues of the times will not build godly character.
The key to the youth problem, as to every other aspect of life and service, is Christ. But the possession and effective use of that key are costly. In the words of Samuel Rutherford, “There are some who would have Christ cheap; they would have him without the cross. But the price will not come down” (The Letters of Samuel Rutherford). So with the meeting of youth’s needs in a time of sagging morality and increasing secularism. The price of presenting the living Christ to youth in words backed by life and integrity makes high demands upon Church and individual. Young people want reality. Behind their rebellion and dubious moral values is a true yet unrecognized search for identity. If the Church is failing to deeply influence youth and is not turning them to paths of righteousness, it may well be because of adult failure to show forth Christ in life as well as word.
‘Elwa’ And The Gospel Outreach
When station ELWA marks its tenth anniversary on January 18, the radio village outside Monrovia, Liberia, will hardly stop to catch its breath in the task of beaming the Gospel to the African nations and beyond. Now a 50,000-watt station that sometimes has four transmitters in operation and broadcasts in forty-one major languages of Africa, ELWA has had a remarkable growth since its small beginnings in January, 1954, as a 1,000-watt broadcast of the Gospel several hours daily to a limited audience. Since entering the shortwave band, ELWA has beamed daily regional transmissions to North Africa, the Middle East, Ethiopia, the Congo, West Africa, South America, and Liberia.
A staff of fifty missionaries and one hundred nationals, most of them trained in radio effort, labor in the village that now represents a capital investment of almost §1 million and is situated along three-quarters of a mile of picturesque Atlantic shoreline. Its 137 acres of land are the only property in Liberia that the government has permanently chartered to white people—by an act of legislature for as long as ELWA continues to fulfill its originally designated mission. Speaking for a land founded on Christian ideals, President William V. S. Tubman has referred to ELWA as “a Liberian institution.”
Like many other gospel transmitting stations in the free world, ELWA honors HCJB in Quito, Ecuador, as the grandparent of sustained shortwave evangelistic broadcasting. In operation for almost a generation, HCJB now has a transmission strength of 70,000 watts. Today twenty-nine such stations are operating. The latest to receive its charter, CABCO Burundi, brings the number in Africa to three. Located in the territory formerly known as Ruanda-Urundi, the Burundi station was scheduled to begin operating after Christmas, 1963.
ELWA is the radio voice of the Sudan Interior Mission, which last year marked its seventieth anniversary and which has 1,300 workers in nine African countries. Yet the radio village in Liberia has become a strengthening arm for all evangelical effort on the African continent. Its latest venture is a twenty-five-bed hospital, now being constructed through sacrificial gifts (including some from American Negro Christians), which is scheduled for operation late in 1964.
The African’s Burden And Ours
“There is always something new from Africa.” These words attributed to the second-century Pliny were still relevant last month when Kenya and Zanzibar joined that continent’s fast-growing roll of independent nations. They are significant additions. Torn asunder a decade ago when the Mau Mau revolt erupted, Kenya had nevertheless in 1944 been the first East African territory to include an African in its legislative council. Such has been the country of Zanzibar’s peculiar geographical importance down the years that an Arab proverb declares that when you play the flute there, all Africa as far as the lakes dances.
Both nations exhibit a wide heterogeneity of peoples, having assimilated the culture of three continents; but Prime Minister Kenyatta’s problems are the greater, in the face of Kikuyu claims, Somali demands in the northeast for secession, inter-tribal dissension, and, not least, a minority group within governmental ranks that sees something in Red China worthy of emulation. The latter is particularly ironic when it is recalled that Britain has done all she could to help Kenya achieve an independence inflexibly denied to Tibet and other Communist lands, despite Marxist mouthings about the equality of man. We may note that in Angola is a similar denial by the successors of that Portuguese government drat blocked David Livingstone’s fight for the African a century ago.
Kenya and Zanzibar now assume control of their own affairs. Many of their leaders have in youth come under Christian influence through mission schools, though some have since found dubious nourishment from other sources. Ours is a burden of prayer, that the leaven of a Gospel perhaps half forgotten may carry out its mysterious transforming work in their hearts. The Israel of Bible days came to appreciate times of political independence as a direct gift from God. May a similar recognition guide our African brethren through their challenging future to establish, not necessarily the British or American method of democracy, but nations remarkable for that fear of God that alone can make countries and peoples perfectly secure.
A Memorial To Shevchenko
During this year of 1964 the world’s forty-three million Ukrainians will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of their greatest countryman, Taras Shevchenko (not to be confused with the contemporary Soviet poet Yevgeni Yevtushenko).
Observances are planned, interestingly enough, both in Moscow and in Washington. The Soviets are erecting a monument in honor of the poet Shevchenko, and the United States Congress likewise has authorized a statue of him.
In recent weeks, however, a campaign has been under way to reconsider the propriety of a Shevchenko statue in Washington. The liberal Washington Post, one of the nation’s most distinguished newspapers, decided belatedly that it did not like the idea. The Post apparently feels that Soviet appropriation of Shevchenko’s image disqualifies him for citation by the United States.
We prefer to consider Shevchenko on his own merits. He was a devout Orthodox layman who rose to literary heights despite the adverse environment of serfdom. He was in servitude for most of his forty-seven years, yet was able to introduce a new spirit into Ukrainian literature. He achieved abiding recognition as a great champion of freedom and liberty. He most certainly never espoused anything resembling Marxism.
Opponents of the Shevchenko statue say that the nineteenth-century poet does not deserve American recognition because he had no specific ties with this country. This represents a new line of argument, however, with respect to monuments in the capital city. For many years there have been memorials in Washington to historic personages like Joan of Arc, Luther, Dante, and several Latin Americans, whose proximity to the United States can be measured only by the fact that they, like Shevchenko, shared an important measure of our ideals.
Some observers question whether Shevchenko’s greatness has been established; but we feel there is much to substantiate a place for him among the ideological pioneers of more recent generations. His reputation will rise as more of his works are translated into English. Additional thousands will share in literary treasures they never knew existed.
Soviet strategists may have an ulterior motive in promoting Shevchenko. It could be to their advantage to hail him as a “Soviet” forerunner and thus blur the ethnic distinction between Russian and Ukrainian. Some 1,000,000 Ukrainians in the United States and additional thousands in Canada believe there is good reason to resist such amalgamation. We support their cause.
The College Aid Bill
President Johnson’s signing of the $1.2 billion college aid bill, so strongly supported by the late President Kennedy, will be remembered as an event in the history of education comparable to the Land Grant Act of 1863, out of which the majority of our state universities came. The bill, with its present authorization of $835 million in grants and $360 million in low-interest loans, may lead to new building amounting to $3 billion. The 2,100 eligible higher institutions will be required to match federal grants 2-to-l and also to contribute not less than a quarter of the total cost of projects to be paid for by fifty-year loans.
Among the features of this legislation, two are especially significant: the compromise of church-state separation in allowing church-related colleges to share benefits on the same footing as secular institutions, and the limitation of classrooms constructed under the grant program to facilities for teaching science, mathematics, engineering, and modern foreign languages.
Debate in Congress showed the impracticality of evaluating what The New York Times called “the almost insoluble admixture of various degrees of church-relatedness in different colleges.” Thus “the wall” of church-state separation will be penetrated by reason of expediency, as Roman Catholic and Protestant colleges receive aid along with the secular institutions. Few if any evangelical colleges, despite the strong opposition of some of them to federal aid to education, will refuse the benefits of the bill, nor should they do so now that it has become law. But one wonders how long in the light of this precedent the barrier against federal aid to secondary and elementary education will continue to stand.
Moreover, the emphasis upon classrooms built under the grant program for instruction in science, mathematics, engineering, and modern foreign languages may tend to augment the utilitarian tendencies of present-day education at a time when, as Dr. Jacques Barzun, provost of Columbia University, recently said, the liberal arts tradition in American higher education “is dead or dying.” This tendency should be viewed with concern by evangelical colleges, because Christian education is most deeply rooted in the liberal arts.
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