Evil spewed out of the urban ghettos this summer in a torrent of violence that battered at the consciences of even the most complacent Christians. Riots in dozens of cities left scores dead and hundreds maimed and injured, as well as untold property destruction. An alarmed Lyndon Johnson became the first U. S. president in many a day to call a special day of prayer for a domestic crisis. And even before the smoke cleared, new misery stalked the inner city as thousands of homeless sought food and shelter. It was hard to believe that this was really happening in America.

In the inevitable effort to assign the blame, a wide assortment of factors were cited: subversion, the new morality, plain old mischief, the liquor traffic, lack of firearms control, and Christian indifference. The truth undoubtedly lay in a combination of some of these and others. But the fiery glow of the fury made the dust jacket of Billy Graham’s best-selling World Aflame all too real and pointed with new force to the cause that underlies all the rest: human sin.

Many Christians responded to Johnson’s prayer plea on Sunday, July 30, and some went a step further, searching their own hearts in a spirit of repentance, realizing that the summer’s sin was not exclusively that of the sniper and the slum lord but extended as well to the insensitive suburbanite.

Christians may not condone violence but “must understand it,” and will be “gravely in error” if they seek a “scapegoat in order to feel relief from our own guilt in all of this,” said Methodist Bishop Dwight E. Loder of Michigan.

A number of other individual churchmen spoke out on the causes and effects of the riots. But corporate ecclesiastical statements ...

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