Richard M. Nixon, elected thirty-seventh President of the United States by a whisker, got public support from only two major Protestant leaders. But they were big ones.
After a long personal friendship, and several appearances with Nixon during the campaign, evangelist Billy Graham said in Dallas five days before the election that he had voted for Nixon by absentee ballot. Formal endorsement came from the Rev. Joseph H. Jackson, of the huge National Baptist Convention, Inc., whose opinion was shared by few other Negro leaders (see editorial, p. 25).
Hubert H. Humphrey got a series of endorsements from social-action Protestants, white and black. George C. Wallace won little prestigious support, and drew active opposition from a few church spokesmen who did not endorse either of his opponents.
And some activists sat this one out, disgruntled over the Viet Nam war. This 1968 phenomenon showed how far the war had eclipsed the racial-justice crusade of the earlier sixties. For these clergymen couldn’t rouse enough enthusiasm to back Humphrey or Nixon—or both—against Wallace, who had repudiated the whole church consensus on race.
In the Dallas interview, Graham said “I almost feel sorry for the next president, because he will be heading into the eye of a hurricane. What we really need is a great religious awakening.”
The evangelist, probably the nation’s best-known and most-respected clergyman, said he would make no speeches for Nixon. “I am trying to avoid political involvement. Perhaps I have already said too much, but I am deeply concerned about my country. It is hard to keep quiet at a time like this. I feel like this is going to be the most important election in American history.”
Historians may yet debate what role the evangelist—who had a key role in Nixon’s decision to run—played in the thin victory. On Election Day Graham, in New York City where he planned to visit Nixon, made no comment on his influence.
Graham said he had come out for Eisenhower in 1952. In 1964 “everybody knew by implication that I was for Lyndon Johnson,” he said, recalling that the two went to church together the Sunday before the election. In the two weeks before that election, Graham got 1.2 million telegrams urging him to endorse either Johnson or Barry Goldwater. His 1968 statement drew about 200 complaint letters, compared to about 60,000 letters his office receives daily.
Graham, who voted for Democrats in North Carolina races, said he felt a “personal tug” over the presidential race since “I admire Hubert Humphrey.” He said the Wallace factor “did not enter in at all,” and he had “no comment” on the Alabamian.
The evangelist was amused that some of his liberal critics had now praised him for being “relevant” in supporting a candidate. Though Graham has been critical of much social action by church officialdom, which he believes displaces the Gospel, he believes the nation is in “such serious condition” that “Christians should stand up and be counted on social and political questions.”
Nixon won formal endorsement from Graham’s father-in-law Dr. L. Nelson Bell, well-known Southern Presbyterian layman and executive editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.
Jackson, president of the 5.5 million Negroes in the NBC, the world’s largest black church body, was joined in his endorsement by a political-action committee authorized at the denomination’s September meeting. The NBC group decided the Democratic Party was “too divided” to unify the nation, and it favored the Republicans’ emphasis on “law and order.”
Since surveys showed 90 per cent of U. S. Negroes were for Humphrey, reaction to the endorsement was not surprising. Concerned Clergy, a group within the NBC, predicted few members of the denomination would vote for Nixon and charged that the Republican “panders to racist theories and has no program which is relevant to the black community.” Signers of the statement, which praised Humphrey’s civil-rights record, included Baptist layman Charles Evers, the Mississippi civil-rights leader.
Humphrey won support from two other denominational presidents who issued endorsements: Culbert Rutenber of the American Baptist Convention, and Dana McLean Greeley of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, endorsed Humphrey while on a get-out-the-vote tour, just eight days before the election. Other prominent Negroes for Humphrey included Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr.; the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr.; Union Seminary sociologist C. Eric Lincoln; and the Rev. M. L. Wilson, board chairman of the National Committee of Black Churchmen (for report on NCBC convention, see page 40).
The major clergy support for Humphrey came in two publicized petitions, one from Boston and another from New York. The 45-name Boston list was headed by theology deans Krister Stendahl of Harvard and Walter Muelder of Boston University.
The New York list, accompanied by a reluctant pro-Humphrey rationale, was led by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and Union Seminary President John Bennett. It included editors Alan Geyer of the Christian Century and Wayne Cowan of Christianity and Crisis, and such veteran petition-signers as Harold Bosley, Arnold Come, L. Harold DeWolf, Roger Shinn, and Ralph Sockman.
The vote-for-nobody position, debated in the pages of Cowan’s journal, was represented by Harvey Cox, Tom Faw Driver, and Howard Schomer.
Several voices came out explicitly against Wallace: the Christian Century, the Methodist college magazine motive, and the Jesuit weekly America. The evangelical weekly Christian Times did its bit among pietistic readers by running a page-one photo of Wallace smoking a big, black cigar.
Newly elected Methodist Bishop James Armstrong of North and South Dakota issued a four-page statement asserting that the Christian, no matter how disappointed at the candidates, must refuse to “drop out.” Armstrong saw the Wallace candidacy giving the election special significance. When the nation is divided, he said, “this is hardly the time to encourage a presidential candidate who has promised he would never be ‘out-niggered’ again.”
Despite the bombing halt, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam went ahead with some protest meetings the Sunday before the election, with no apparent impact.
There was some flap late in the campaign when Nixon booster Max Fisher sent a letter to rabbis across the country reporting on Nixon’s friendly meeting with Jewish leaders and asking the rabbis to discuss the material in their sermons. Presidents Levi Olan of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and Maurice Eisendrath of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations called it a “crude attempt to manipulate the synagogue and the rabbinate for partisan political advantage.”
In general, there seemed to be no slackening in the trend toward clergy endorsements. In 1952, 1956, and 1960, the Republicans won a substantial number of important clergy endorsements. But in 1964 clergy statements were almost unanimously in favor of the Democrat, Lyndon Johnson. The Democratic edge was retained in 1968 among nationally prominent spokesmen, though the polls showed that at the grass roots level Protestants definitely favored Nixon.
On the perennial issue of aid to parochial schools, there was little difference between the major party nominees. Humphrey sent a message to the U. S. Catholic Conference supporting federal aid to pupils in non-public schools. Nixon announced he would set up a “National Task Force for Religious Affiliated Schools.” He said religious schools often perform “indispensable community services and would seem to merit public support.” He favored federal aid for state-administered payments to private-school pupils.
Incomplete returns showed at least thirty Virginia localities approved, and eight defeated, restaurant sale of liquor by the drink. A similar proposal in Utah, dominated by non-drinking Mormons, lost by nearly two to one.
BOMB HALT REACTIONS
Church leaders sent up expectable sighs of relief as the United States announced it would stop all bombing of North Viet Nam.
General Secretary Eugene Carson Blake of the World Council of Churches noted that the WCC had called for this move since 1966 and said “killing and maiming of the people of North Viet Nam” would be ended. Blake said expansion of the Paris peace talks to include the National Liberation Front and South Viet Nam—later a clouded situation—promised “rapid achievement of a ceasefire throughout the divided nation preliminary to the negotiation of a just and honorable peace.”
WCC international-affairs director O. Frederick Nolde wired President Johnson expressing “gratitude to Almighty God” for the halt. He sent a similar wire to the North Vietnamese government.
Similarly, international-affairs director Robert Bilheimer of the National Council of Churches and department chairman Ernest Gross told the President they pledged “continuing support of your efforts to contribute to a lasting peace in Southeast Asia,” and recalled NCC pressures for a bombing halt.
Vatican Radio said shortly after the announcement that the halt “has aroused hopes on all sides.… It seems that the principal obstacle to concrete negotiations has now been removed.” The broadcast recalled Pope Paul’s tireless efforts for peace. Later, press spokesman Monsignor Fausto Vallainc said the Vatican received the news with “extreme satisfaction.”
The Vatican reaction was gracious, considering that on the eve of the bombing halt, Viet Cong terrorists fired rockets in Saigon that killed nineteen persons and injured sixty-four while they were attending All Saints’ Day Mass in a Catholic church. Among the injured was Father Nguyen Minh Tri, who was reading the Gospel.
North Viet Nam Case Study
While the bombing halt was being planned last month, United Press International sent a reminder of one reason why religious forces in South Viet Nam fear Communist expansion. Reports pieced together from North Viet Nam indicate the Red regime is “slowly eradicating Roman Catholicism and Buddhism from the fabric of North Vietnamese society,” UPI says in an October 27 dispatch from Saigon.
North Vietnamese regimental commander Phan Van Xang, who defected to the South in June, said, “They don’t forbid old people to go to church, but they send small children to beat drums in the streets outside as the service is taking place.” Rather than using harsh methods, he said, the government seeks to destroy religion slowly through education.
Roman Catholics, once a strong force planted by French missionaries, now constitute an estimated 571,000 of the North’s 19 million people. The Vatican has had virtually no contact with the 300 North Vietnamese priests for years. The government confiscated all church land and buildings when the French withdrew in 1954, and it is impossible to tell how many churches now remain open.
UPI says “older Catholic priests apparently are allowed to work relatively unhindered, especially around diplomatic circles, but are closely watched to see that they don’t overstep the party line.” The number of priests is reported dwindling, and seminaries are gradually closing down.
Shortly after the Communist takeover, one account runs, Catholic children were taken to church at midday and shown pictures of Jesus and Ho Chi Minh. They were told to pray to Jesus for food, but after an hour, nothing had happened. When they shifted to praying to Ho, the Pavlovians brought in candy and cake.
As for Buddhists, they have been badly organized in the North, and apparently the faith is fading away. In 1964, when fewer than 100,000 believers were reported, the government decided there were too many temples and began closing them. Some are used for housing and grain storage.
Colombia: An Illegal March
Religious liberty in Colombia, an issue obscured during Pope Paul’s recent visit (September 13 issue, page 49), continues as a matter of concern.
City officials in Medellin, the nation’s second largest city, recently denied permission for evangelicals to hold a parade, traditional culmination of campaigns sponsored by Latin America Mission’s Evangelism-in-Depth. Basis of the denial was that under the concordat with the Vatican, non-Catholic meetings must be in private.
Evangelical leaders, who had been allowed use of the city Coliseum for the meetings, decided to exercise a bit of civil disobedience and went ahead with the parade, which was held without incident.
Medellin is one of the most devoutly Catholic cities in the world. A recent survey showed more than 50 per cent of adults attend Mass at least once a week.
National officials have also been putting a notice on passports of entering Protestant missionaries stating that they are not allowed to work in “mission territory” in which, by pact with the Vatican, Protestant schools and evangelism are forbidden. Ostensibly set up to protect the Indians, these mission tracts cover more than two-thirds of the country, and include good-sized cities and large areas with no Indians.
A spokesman for Bogota’s Apostolic Administrator Anibal Munoz Duque reacted to debate in the national congress over reform of the concordat by claiming that any change must come by direct conversations between the president and the Vatican and that therefore the congress has no say except in ratification of a new treaty.
However, the spokesman said a commission of canon-law specialists will be set up to study possible reforms. He admitted parts of the 1887 concordat may be archaic.
Turkish Eyes On Jerusalem
The Koran does not credit so much as a single miracle to Muhammad, though the pious say “his whole life is a miracle.” But one tradition gives him extraordinary status: the miraj (ladder). This is the belief that he was elevated into heaven from a point in Jerusalem and returned to earth with the ordinance of praying five times daily.
This highly speculative event at the site marked by the Dome of the Rock is celebrated by an emotional October prayer session by Muslims. In Istanbul, key city of Turkey, this year’s summons to worship said the topic of prayer is revival of the Muslim world and the deliverance of Jerusalem, now fully under Israeli control.
Turkey has never had any dispute with Israel. But its sentimentally susceptible Muslim populace—to whom Islam and Arabism offer a stronger savor than mere Turkish nationalism—is thoroughly unhappy with Israel’s control of all Jerusalem since its victory in the 1967 war.
The paradox is that this right-wing Muslim element is also fanatically anti-communist. But it seems to care little that an Arab victory against Israel (if and when) would have to be executed with Soviet weaponry and that the Soviets could well turn against Jerusalem. Soviet war vessels cruise almost daily through the Straits of Bosporus on their way to friendly Arab ports. The Soviet buildup in the Mediterranean is giving the shivers to many discerning observers in the Middle East.
An editorial in the liberal Istanbul daily Cumhuriyet last month described a recent meeting of Muslim leaders in Cairo that openly declared jihad (holy war) against Israel. The paper, noting that Turkey’s religious-affairs director Lutfi Dogan was in Cairo during the meeting, asked whether he attended it on behalf of the Turkish government and whether he had authority to condone such a statement.
An informed Turkish observer said, “The rightist-religionist element of Turkey seems to be paving a disastrous course for this country.”
Two weeks later, a new committee of Islamic organizations held its first meeting in Amman, Jordan, and called for an Islamic “summit” to work toward “rescuing Jerusalem.”
Armenians: Held By The Bible
Armenian Christians last month celebrated the 1,535th anniversary of translation of the Bible into Armenian, and the Tarkmantchatz, the “Armenian Renaissance,” which started with formulation of an alphabet in A.D. 406 and culminated in the still-significant A.D. 436 Bible translation.
Armenologist Kevork Kherlopian of Haigazian College, Beirut, Lebanon, says the Armenian Renaissance is significant because it came centuries before that of Europe. It was marked by “a back-to-Greek-culture movement, involving translations of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, and Epicurus, and a parallel movement—the idea of education for the masses,” he said. But Bible translation “came first.”
The Armenian Bible is important for scholars since it was one of the first translations and is thus close to the original manuscripts. Although no examples of the fourth-century Bible remain, ninth-century copies of the earlier translation exist.
During the Renaissance, it is said, a school was opened in every village. Whether they were effective in teaching the masses to read is hard to determine, Kherlopian said; but “the people began to believe that whoever keeps a manuscript or orders a manuscript to be written goes to heaven, thus helping promote a love of learning.”
Armenia was a highland region between the Caspian and Black Seas to the north and the Mediterranean to the South. Kherlopian says Armenian culture is so interwoven with religion that it has kept the people from assimilation during repeated invasions from all sides across the centuries. During World War I, the Turks slaughtered 1.5 million Armenians in a massive resettlement plan that led to abandonment in the desert for those few who survived long death marches.
Historians attribute the Armenians’ staying power largely to the fact that translation of the Bible unified their culture and gave them a God in whom to hope.
Today’s Armenian Christians are divided into three groups with general cooperation salted by frequent feelings of opposition: the Armenian Catholic Church (Roman); the Armenian Gregorian or Apostolic Church (Orthodox), the largest group, which was founded at the end of the third century; and the small Armenian Evangelical (or Protestant) Church. The latter group founded Haigazian in 1955 as the only Armenian college outside the Soviet Union.
Soviet Armenia’s population is 2.3 million, with 1.5 million Armenians living elsewhere in the Soviet Union. About 1.4 million Armenians live in other nations, including 400,000 in America.
Fiercely proud, the Armenians have clung to their cultural past, celebrated in Tarkmantchatz and represented by Mount Ararat, the supposed site of which is in the heart of what was originally Armenia. Kherlopian says, “Every Armenian wears Mount Ararat in his heart.”
LILLIAN HARRIS DEAN
The Vatican has agreed to pay a special tax to Italy on its investments there, though still holding the tax unfair and illegal. Informed estimates place annual taxes on the secret securities list at $1.6 million.
The Indo-Burma Pioneer Mission changed its name to the Partnership Mission, and President Rochunga Pudaite says that as many foreign missionaries are asked to leave India, unprecedented opportunities are open to Christian nationals.
A joint Anglican-United Church-Roman Catholic pastoral letter read from thousands of pulpits urged church members to sign petitions against proposals to tax churches in Ontario, Canada.
Far East Broadcasting Company—which has received more letters from mainland China in the last nine months than in the previous thirteen years—has been accused by Hong Kong Communists of anti-Communist propaganda “under the cloak of religion.” FEBC says its programs are not anti-Communist as such but pro-Christian.
The Asian Evangelists Commission recorded 2,000 decisions for Christ during a thirteen-day crusade in Surabaja, Indonesia.
District Court Judge Roy Harper chastised St. Louis Episcopal priest Walter Witte for testifying in favor of the right of black militants to carry guns in public.
The Milwaukee Council of Churches said “we cannot in good conscience condone” the fourteen war protesters who destroyed draft-board records.
Agnes Scott College, a women’s school in Georgia affiliated with the Southern Presbyterian Church, dropped a twenty-year ban on non-Christian teachers.
KENNETH UNDERWOOD, 49, social ethicist at Wesleyan University, previously at Yale; director of the Danforth Foundation study of campus ministries; in New Haven, Connecticut.
RAYMOND BUCK HAYES, 73, of rattlesnake bite during a Holiness Church of God service in Stoney Fork, Kentucky.
JOSEPH LEWIS, 79, president of the Freethinkers of America and atheistic author; in his New York City office.
The Rhode Island Supreme Court unanimously ruled constitutional the state law requiring towns to lend science, math, and language texts to private schools.
Victor Orsinger, attorney and prominent Catholic layman in Washington, D. C., was convicted of stealing $1.5 million from the Sisters of the Divine Savior while acting as their financial adviser. He faces a sentence of nine to ninety years or a fine of $9,000.
Mrs. Madelyn Murray O’Hair, crusading atheist, walked out on two meetings at the University of Michigan after complaining that students who expressed views from the floor were “religious fanatics.”
The Southern Baptist home-mission board named Sidney Smith, Jr., 24, to head a new project in Watts, Los Angeles.
United Church of Christ minister Clyde Miller, Jr., a Negro, replaces white Catholic layman Thomas Gibbons, Jr., as national chief of Project Equality.
Robert L. Friedly, onetime New Orleans States-ltem reporter and oil-company personnel specialist, was promoted to director of the Christian Church (Disciples) Office of Interpretation.
The Rev. Donald F. Hetzler, 45, will succeed his boss, the Rev. A. Henry Hetland, as head of the National Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCA-ALC). Hetland recently resigned without explanation.
The Rev. Gary Anderson, 29, a Presbyterian and an Army lieutenant, won the gold medal in free-rifle shooting at the recent Olympic games, with a record score of 1,157.
Cardinal Bea, head of the Vatican’s Christian-unity secretariat, said that despite religious liberty and dialogue, “we should feel impelled to do everything in our power that non-Christians may achieve the fullness of truth, grace, and power in Christ.”
Cardinal Wyszynski, 67, of Poland, banned from travel abroad by the Communist regime for three years, left November 4 for a visit to the Vatican.
Presiding Bishop Zoltan Kaldy of Hungary’s Evangelical Church told a Lutheran meeting: “We are on the side of socialism, and we regard its defense as our task.”
Burma’s former Premier U Nu, 61, released after fifty-five months in prison, has become a preaching Buddhist monk.
John Victor Samuel is the first Pakistani national elected a Methodist bishop.
The association of seventy-four Southern Baptist churches around Charlotte, North Carolina, continued an immersion only membership rule that bars two congregations. The Houston association also barred a church that does not practice rebaptism.
The Baptist association in Knoxville, Tennessee, rejected a Negro congregation because it is affiliated with the National Baptist Convention, Inc., and hence the National Council of Churches, then reversed the decision a day later. A recent Southern Baptist study showed 3,800 of the group’s 34,000 churches would be willing to receive Negro members, and 500 actually have.
Presbyterian Life says that counting an average 15 per cent housing allowance, the typical new United Presbyterian minister makes $7,102 a year, compared to $10,548 for master’s degree holders in non-technical fields and $11,256 in technical occupations.
The Lutheran Church in America is listing 3,088 projects to receive $6.5 million in urban-crisis funds to be raised in the next fifteen months. A United Presbyterian agency announced $1.1 million in ghetto investments.
The 65,000-member General Association of General Baptists voted to revise its statement of faith and to set up permanent church offices in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.
Some 1,300 persons attended a rally in support of fifty-one priests who have petitioned the Vatican to fire San Antonio Archbishop Robert Lucey.
The American Council of Christian Churches, meeting in Pennsylvania, attacked the state’s new elective public-school course on “Religions of the West” for “creating an attitude critical of the historic Christian faith.”
A paper discussed last month at the U. S. Episcopal bishops’ meeting but not released advocated that Episcopal seminarians who do not serve in the military be required to serve at least two years with such groups as the Peace Corps, VISTA, or the American Friends Service Committee. Two seminary deans spoke on opposite sides.
Canada’s Anglican bishops voted to permit laymen and women to administer bread and wine at communion. And U. S. Presiding Episcopal Bishop John Hines is even speculating that women someday might be bishops.
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