Dear Mystical Seekers of Happiness:

A new flap in religion in America these days is Sokagakkai. This irrational, existential Nichiren Buddhist sect, famed for its phenomenal growth in post-war Japan, now claims a membership of 30,000 families in all fifty states, with California leading the way. Its appeal to thoroughly modern but incurably religious Americans is its promise of immediate spiritual and material happiness. All one has to do is say a four-word prayer, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, preferably 3,000 times a day, advises international president Daisaku Ikeda.

I attended a Sokagakkai meeting—a kind of Buddhist “sock-it-to-me-time”—in a home about two thousand samurai-sword lengths from the U. S. Capitol. There thirty people—yellow, black, and white—knelt before the Gohonzon to recite their daimoku (the four-word prayer). The Gohonzon, an envelope-sized paper scroll inscribed with the Chinese characters for Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and enshrined in a fancy cabinet, is their object of worship. Recital of the prayer assures one of enlightenment, financial success, physical healing, protection from violence (even in traffic accidents), eventual unity with the spirit of the universe, and, for now, joy, joy, joy!

Most of the evening was devoted to Shakubuku, the proselytizing session. First we had a time of happy songs led by a Nisei woman who used a fan for a baton. To the tune of “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad,” the faithful sang, “I’ve Been Goin’ to Shakubuku.” Then the articulate leader called upon members to explain the movement’s history and practices. (“Don’t worry about understanding. Begin saying the prayer and see how faith in the Gohonzon affects your life.”) Next came testimonies of personal blessing (happiness in a new job, reconciliation with an errant brother, disappearance of cancer). Finally, people were invited to ask questions. I humbly asked about the sect’s view of the afterlife and about the basis for its religious assertions. There followed thirty minutes of courteous but spirited give-and-take in which I set forth Christian claims against Sokagakkai mysticism. At dismissal time, the leader said, “This has been a most unusual meeting,” and he urged all to return.

I haven’t. Nor have I invested in a $4 Gohonzon, despite its power to attune me to the vibrations of the universe. I’m even having trouble remembering Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The fact is, there’s no real sock in Sokagakkai.




The assassination of Martin Luther King was, without any doubt whatsoever, a vile and tragic thing. Men of good will, everywhere, cannot help but mourn this event and view the future darkly. Dr. King died simply because someone hated him enough to kill him.… I have said these things so that no misunderstanding will follow what I say next.… The rioting in the American cities, the gathering of “black-power” groups in front of the American consulate here in Toronto, all with their cries of “Kill whitey, burn, loot …,” are as rotten as the hate that killed Dr. King.

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Bayview Church of Christ

Toronto, Ont.

He led marches which many times became riots. His disobedience to law was unforgivable. I feel that sin reaps its reward.


Oakland, Calif.

I should not be disappointed with your special report on “The Life and Death of Martin Luther King” (April 26), but the hoped-for analysis was not there. As a Negro and minister of the Gospel, I did not always agree with Dr. King. I recognize that his theology was very liberal, but I cannot help but believe that he was nevertheless a prophet.…

[I am] disheartened that my fellow white brothers in Christ were content with the status quo to the extent that they could not see their sin in the acceptance and perpetuation of this society’s iniquities on the basis of race. We are in fact a racist society. What the Negro, saved or unsaved, has sought, is no more and no less than the affluence and right to its acquisition as equally as his white counterpart, now!


Assoc. Pastor

Second Community Church

Columbus, Ohio

Your lead editorial on “Johnson, King, and Ho Chi Minh” (April 26) as usual held to cogent and contributory expressions on the subject.

However, I am increasingly disturbed to find such expressions as: “The American Negro … would still be discriminated against in public places … simply because of his pigment.” …

I am most tired of this oversimplification. It may be that some find the pigment to be the sole problem. I have noted more—the immorality of the Negro, so crass that his apologists now plaintively moan that the matriarchial society of his home is the excuse for all such departure from Christian morality. How many Negroes really do know their paternal parentage?…

And how about that Negress legislator from very Harlem who herself said her people drank too much; and the article in the Reader’s Digest when Philadelphia Negress Judge Stout wrote, “Are We Legalizing Illegitimacy?” When the best of the race concede many insufficiencies, how can you simplify that all the hesitancy in admission to white society is based upon “pigment”?

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Washington, Pa.

While condemning those who look for a solely social solution to racism, let us be aware that we who claim to have a God-given solution have not made ours work either.


Assistant Pastor

Elm-LaSalle Bible Church

Chicago, Ill.

“Men must respect and obey law.” Agreed wholeheartedly. But let that include also the many Christian individuals who find ways of circumventing the laws when it comes to hiring or housing Negroes. We in the comfortable upper status quo fear to have the boat rocked. Had we eagerly gone to the rescue sooner, the threat of our boat capsizing now might not be so imminent.


Seattle Pacific College

Seattle, Wash.

Local, state, and national leaders of government called upon the people to toss the Christ of Palm Sunday on the trash heap, and instead, to use the day to deify a fellow mortal.…

Christ has not forsaken the people, but the 1968 crop of Pharisees has rejected the Christ, every whit as much as did the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day. And “all we like sheep have gone astray.” Well, not quite all. One pastor and his flock refused to be stampeded, refused to bow the knee to Baal. They kept Palm Sunday in Christian fellowship and worship, giving full allegiance to Christ their Redeemer.


Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church

Verona, Pa.


I am writing to express my great approval of Dr. Bell’s article … on civil disobedience (A Layman and His Faith, April 26).… Nothing can be added to what Dr. Bell says.


Henderson, Ky.

I was saddened rather than angered when I read L. Nelson Bell’s article on civil disobedience. I am sorry that you saw fit to print anything like that.…

[He] never uses the word “conscience,” which is the base of civil disobedience as it has traditionally been defined. In light of this, the implications of his comments are slanderous to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom he mentions at the outset, for Dr. King was pre-eminently a man of conscience. Furthermore, by this omission, he seems to tell Christians that their first loyalty should be to the law and not, as Christianity has traditionally taught, to God (who informs the Christian’s conscience).…

Civil disorder, while understandable, is nonetheless deplorable, but its roots are not, as Mr. Bell says, in “calculated civil disobedience.” The two must not be confused, and the latter cannot be condemned.

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Cambridge, Mass.


I have never read a more eloquent message than “The Lord Came Preaching” by Manuel L. Scott (April 26). It is not only eloquent but most significant and enlightening, revealing the absolute fact that our Lord’s preaching was truly Christocentric and preachers of our day cannot hope to succeed in winning souls by any other method. The marvelous success of Billy Graham’s ministry is due to the fact that he preaches Christ and him crucified, the simplicity of the Gospel!


Hutchinson, Kan.


In the editorial, “Recovering the Church’s Lost Mission” (April 26), paragraph nine is the most important; however, the whole editorial is of the utmost pertinence. The situation in the mainline churches is such that how can true Christians help from crying, “How long, O Lord, how long?”


San Antonio, Tex.


I just had to sit down and write you how much I appreciated Addison H. Leitch’s “So Far and So Fast” (Current Religious Thought, April 26).

I am sure that the so-called theologians of today will say those famous words, “He oversimplifies.” Thank God for a man who can make such a mass of philosophy, theology—the writings of people who thought that they were experts—simplified.…

His concluding words, “It is about time now to talk about the truth,” are certainly prophetic. So long we have heard the words of men. Now, let us return to hearing the One who said, “I am the truth.


Bentheim Reformed Church

Hamilton, Mich.


I greatly regret that, in your report (News, Personalia, April 26) of recent faculty appointments to the Conwell School of Theology in Philadelphia, you should describe the school as “long stagnant.” This phrase is not only unkind; it is untrue. The school was only founded in 1960 (as the successor to the Temple School of Theology), and what has been achieved over these years is not a matter for gratuitous denigration but for just acknowledgment. Others have labored, and we have entered into their labors.



Conwell School of Theology

Philadelphia, Pa.


I have generally found CHRISTIANITY TODAY stimulating and informative. But I was particularly offended by the advertisement by the Religious Book Discount House (back cover, April 26). The insensitive quoting of Holy Scripture, used out of context and for the purpose of selling a commercial product, seems to me to be in especially poor taste.

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Clayton, Mo.


Pentecostals can be thankful that we live in a country where one can exercise his right to join whatever church he chooses (“Oral Roberts Joins the Methodists,” April 12, and “More on Roberts,” April 26).

However, it need not seem strange that some Pentecostals feel Robert’s action was unethical in view of the fact that hundreds of thousands of dollars were siphoned off from Pentecostal churches and individuals through the twenty or more years they loyally supported his evangelistic campaigns and his television and radio programs, and helped in a great measure toward building his multi-million-dollar headquarters building and university. He walks out on them to join a church that neither sponsored, endorsed, nor particularly encouraged his program through the years he climbed to where he is now.


Ft. Dix, N. J.

Because I feel so bad [about] the horrible cartoon of Oral Roberts (April 12), I am writing to ask why you didn’t put in a good picture. I showed it to a friend [who] said, “I guess they don’t like him.” I hoped CHRISTIANITY TODAY was going to help us be more Christ-like.


Holden, Mass.


Kenneth W. Linsley’s article, “Confusion in the Churches” (April 12), was most interesting and informative. I share his conviction that the successful churches today are those in which the membership does not necessarily need a great deal of theology, but they know Jesus.

What a different impact the Church would have in our world if this was the central message preached from all of our pulpits, and then that this message was lived by our clergy and laymen.


Lakewood, Calif.

Thank God for laymen and clergy who realize the present condition of the Church and are willing to search the Scriptures, as well as the heart, to find out what can be done.…

Is it not about time for laymen and clergy to reconsider the nature, character, and mission of the Church in the light of his Word? Too long have many traditional concepts served as excess baggage which have impeded mobility and progress of the Church. To recapture the biblical concept of the Church and the power of the Holy Spirit is the answer to the need today.



The Mexican

Indian Mission, Inc.

Tamazunchale, S.L.P., Mexico


I found both the Harvard discussion program and the related article by Dr. Pinnock to be very informative and helpful (“The Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” March 29, and “A Dialogue on Christ’s Resurrection,” April 12).

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Houghton, N. Y.

The Easter issue this year (March 29) is a much-needed appeal to the intellectual who has feared acceptance of Christianity as tying one’s life to a myth.


Rockford, Ill.


I sure did enjoy—and I hope I have profited by reading—the article “Leadership for the Hour,” by Charles Habib Malik (March 29). I have read and reread it and believe that every preacher and Christian worker should read it.


Buchanan, Mich.


I am very pleased with the fundamental tone and loyalty of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.… I must reveal my dismay, however, at the valid status you gave to the Kerner report (“Why Did they Riot?,” March 29). Certainly the Christian community would agree that spiritual poverty is the root cause of problems and tensions in our society today and that a full life does not depend on an abundance of things. It is most surprising that commendation be given to such a secular and materialistic evaluation of riot causes and solutions.…

Please assure me the entire editorial was included by mistake and even evaded proofreading.


Grand Rapids, Mich.


I do not know whose liberal ax Marquita Moss (“Abilene: Shifting to Neutral,” News, March 15) may be trying to grind, but her quote of J. D. Thomas is significant. Indeed, this year’s ACC lectureship was popular because it went back to the Bible, for the most part, instead of pawning off on us the air and nothingness of theological jargon which has characterized so much of the lectureships of the past year or two.


Church of Christ

Houston, Tex.


I am writing in indignation over “Haiti’s Ills Prod Evangelical Activist” (March 15).… The article is a mass of misrepresentation, distortion, and falsehood. It was compiled from biased persons’ ideas, people outside Haiti, who have been hurt by history, misquotes out of context, “stacked” for effect. I would like to ring the other side of the bell.

For centuries, Rome ruled Haiti.… Only 2 per cent of Haiti’s population were formed in Rome’s pattern, a literate ruling class. The rapid spread of the Gospel changed that. Every little Protestant meeting place, whether a leaf arbor or a church, has literacy classes for children and often also for adults. Not only Christians now are learning; the whole nation wants their children to have more opportunity than their parents. For twenty-one years, I have led in pushing Christian education.

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Naturally, a nation delivered from the slavery of ignorance and a growing number delivered from superstition create a social revolution. People held down for generations in ignorance do not have a finesse in coming into power. Naturally, individuals on both sides get violent, and innocent people are hurt by profiteers.…

The hundreds of foreign missionaries and national ministers who have continued to preach the Gospel and to lend their neighbors a helping hand are not seeking escape from social problems. We are following the example of our Lord, who did not abolish crucifixion or gladiatorial combat but taught by example the way to show his love and salvation from sin. One who is plotting to kill cannot preach this message. As several who have seen your article have commented, our old friend Raymond Joseph is proving himself out of fellowship with his Lord by his erroneous conduct.

One of the worst of the misstatements is that Rev. Bonhomme is producing a Creole New Testament in competition to that which Joseph completed for the American Bible Society. A member of the Haitian Coalition, campaigning for Rome’s candidate led a mob which sacked Bonhomme’s national group’s press, scattering the New Testaments and plates of the first and only edition over the streets ten years ago.


The Conservative Baptist Haiti Mission Society, Inc.

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

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