1968 may go down as the year in which the world tried to cope with a rising tide of violence while ecumenical assemblies sought to encourage it.
In Uppsala, Sweden, this week, the Fourth Assembly of the World Council of Churches will weigh the pros and cons of violent protest. The National Council of Churches has already adopted a policy statement giving dignity to the use of physical force to achieve social change (see page 43).
Meanwhile, countless Christian clergy and lay leaders pledged themselves anew to principles of law and order, to a more urgent ministry of reconciliation, and to the task of sensitizing consciences toward recognizing social problems and finding solutions within democratic processes.
It seemed to be left to politicians to devise ways of subduing civil unrest and the violent climate that has seen the assassination of a number of American political leaders.
Among the components and causes of today’s climate of violence are the breakdown of American home life, the popularity of murder mysteries and spy stories, the prevalence of TV and movie violence, the traffic in toy guns, and the use of alcohol and drugs. But after the murder of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, attention centered upon the ease with which irresponsible persons can still get guns and ammunition. There was an immediate public outcry for more stringent laws on firearms control. As usual, churchmen differed on the issue.
President Johnson has told Congress that guns are used in more than 6,500 murders in the United States each year. The most frequent victims are policemen, bus and taxi drivers, and small shopkeepers. But it can happen to anyone. In January, two Roman Catholic nuns were wounded and another narrowly missed by a woman with a gun in ...1
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