The election results left little for anyone to cheer about, but a lot for everyone to hope for.

Richard Milhous Nixon won the presidency of the United States the hard way—over two major opponents, one of them an incumbent. But win it he did. Nixon’s victory, climaxing a cataclysmic year, marked the most phenomenal comeback in American political history.

One sad part of the election outcome is the punctures that remain in the national fabric. It will take the greatest kind of leadership to reweave these holes and unite the country once again. To this end the President-elect deserves the support of every American and the prayers of each believer.

Nixon also faces the burden of unprecedented problems at home and abroad. But a great nation, and especially those of its citizens who claim to be Christian, are obligated to look at the future positively, to try to convert their perplexities into opportunities, their liabilities into assets. A new leader offers the chance for a new dynamic in American life. Fresh insight, talent, and energy must be blended in creative ways that offer the prospect not only of peace and plenty but also of righteousness and justice.

It must be said of Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey that though he campaigned vigorously he conducted himself responsibly. Indeed, the whole campaign was carried out on a reasonably high plane, with all contestants setting a fair example of the democratic process. The losers’ pledges of support for the new President capped off the election in the best American tradition. Their continued calls for national unity will help Nixon to be the kind of leader the times demand.

Unfortunately, Nixon did not win a majority vote. And in some ways the balloting left the world to wonder whether Americans really know what they want. Indecision was illustrated, for example, in Arkansas, where the voters supported for the presidency a man on the hawk side of the crucial Viet Nam issue and for senator one of equally intense convictions on the dove side. Checks and balances have a valuable role in the democratic system, but in this context the ambivalence of Arkansas is hard to justify.

Even on the national scale the situation seemed to be that of a populace uneasy about present leadership but uncertain of the direction in which change is warranted. One consolation is that America has been built on diversity and that somehow in the historical process we have been able to cull the best from a multitude of differing traditions.

In view of the domestic strife of recent years, Nixon now faces the delicate task of showing on the one hand a firmness in dealing with lawbreakers and on the other hand enough restraint to ensure justice even for would-be insurgents. We cannot have crime and anarchy running rampant in the country, but neither do we want National Guardsmen being activated every other week to quell some disturbance. Americans owe it to their country to help alleviate the conditions that encourage unrest and are exploited by a few irresponsible demagogues currently on the loose.

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One reality Mr. Nixon should confront squarely and immediately is that he has very limited support from the black people of America and other minority groups. His rapport with them seems to be almost nil. Actually, he deserves better. There is nothing in his political or personal record to warrant this alienation.

Mr. Nixon and his running mate for some reason or other did little in the campaign to offset or correct ethnic polarization around Mr. Humphrey. The Vice-President-elect, Spiro T. Agnew, is himself the son of a Greek immigrant and should readily have identified himself with the minorities. But this did not happen. Both men need to get busy immediately to break down the ill will and demonstrate a clear concern for and kinship with the minority elements.

Another group he needs to cultivate in order to achieve a better national unity is the American youth. He seems to sense this need, and even took the trouble to mention it in his brief victory speech. His two young daughters and his prospective son-in-law, David Eisenhower, now take on a special responsibility in this respect. The White House is a fish bowl, and the conduct of the occupants can affect the conduct of many an impressionable young American.

Issues on the home front that received little attention during the campaign include fiscal responsibility and growing centralization of authority. Nixon should take early steps to halt the inflationary trend and increasing size of government. He would also do well to hold the line on tax money for sectarian purposes, even though this principle that has helped both church and state to prosper has received little attention of late.

In regard to problems abroad, all Americans wait with anticipation to see what the new administration will do to end the war in Viet Nam, longest and costliest in American history. Bipartisan support will aid him, but the initiative must be his to pick up the pieces of a bad situation.

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The Near East, however, is where Mr. Nixon may get his biggest headaches in the next four years. He has sided with the policy of supplying arms to Israel as a deterrent and balancing factor to the Soviet support of the Arab nations. If the United Nations proves ineffectual and if the Soviets decide that a confrontation will suit their ends, the world is in for a big military showdown.

Czechoslovakia is another spot to keep watching. It is a nation in a dilemma, and it deserves a more sympathetic response from the free world than it has thus far received. It can be pretty well assumed that other Soviet satellites despairing of the Communist system are looking on hopefully. American aloofness strengthens the hand of the oppressor.

Then there is West Berlin with its aging wall and now its internal turmoil, Latin America with its great economic disparity, and Africa with its racial and nationalistic tensions. And does Nixon dare forget the world’s two largest nations, India with its food and population problem and China with its military potential complicating the world’s balance of power?

With all these problems on the horizon, it becomes altogether fitting and proper to underline the conviction that the root of human turmoil is theological. As leader of the free world Nixon will need to exert all due influence to treat the symptoms, and his office of authority is ordained of God to do so. But it is left to the churchmen of America, clerical and lay, to address the spirit of man to the end that he will see his need of divine grace and yield to the will of the Almighty.

What America needs in the wake of the 1968 election is major effort on the part of its citizens toward spiritual renewal. It was heartening to hear Mr. Nixon express on election eve his feeling that the nation needs a “moral revival.” The problems that confront this nation and the challenges that await us demand a well-disciplined citizenry dedicated to Christian ideals. It was only the tightbeltedness, rugged optimism, and biblical rationale of the American Puritan fathers that enabled them to overcome great obstacles and settle the New World. We in the last third of the twentieth century will get by with no less.

The Bomb Halt

Until more facts are in, responsible commentary on the cessation of the American bombing of North Viet Nam should give the greatest benefit of the doubt before assigning a political motive to such a life-and-death matter. One surely hopes that history will confirm compelling non-political reasons, or at least that the politicking was not on the American side.

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Americans will be asking with increasing frequency how many lives must be lost before the Viet Nam conflict is brought to an honorable conclusion. Already nearly 30,000 Americans have been killed there. The South Vietnamese have lost more than 72,000, and the enemy dead are listed at well over 400,000.

The Paris peace talks obviously represent the best prospect for a settlement at the present time. The need for a breakthrough is urgent, but a generous measure of patience may be needed before an honorable cease-fire agreement is achieved.

For Youthful Readers

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women are 100 years old this fall but (to the dismay of bigger women) show no signs of age. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are alive and well in the hearts of modern children as they were in earlier generations. Though not a statement of biblical Christianity, the warm and compelling story has its moral lessons. Miss Alcott was greatly influenced by her father, a progressive educator, and his transcendentalist friends, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau.

In this century, C. S. Lewis’s Narnia tales expound, without obvious didacticism, the truths of sin, salvation, and the Christian life. While young children may not grasp the entire significance of the fairy tales, they will enjoy the delightful fantasies. And the truths the stories embody will help mold youthful minds.

A child’s character is largely formed in his imaginative and impressionable early years. But where is evangelically oriented literature to captivate these young minds? The field is wide open.

Harper Valley Hypocrites

One of the hottest items on the current recording scene is a country-style single by a virtual unknown. “Harper Valley PTA” sung by Jeannie C. Riley has sold 3.5 million copies in three months. The satirical song tells the story of a small-town widow, mother of a teen-age daughter, who faces criticism about her miniskirts and accusations about some of her actions. She goes before the local PTA and makes a few accusations of her own that prove embarrassing to the leading citizens of the Peyton Place-type community.

Although Miss Riley says that the song is not necessarily a serious indictment of small-town life, the plot will strike a familiar note for many who have lived in small towns. Perhaps one reason for the record’s success is that it is currently the “in” thing to tee off on the establishment and expose the “hypocrites” who make it up. There is almost a certain virtue in flagrant immorality, it seems, provided one is honest about it.

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Although Jesus rigidly opposed hypocrisy and limited the right of stone-throwing to those who were without sin, he did not take immorality lightly even when it was “honest.” In dealing with the adulterous woman he was not only concerned to expose the hypocrisy of her accusers; he was also concerned that her sins be forgiven and that she enter into a new way of life. We don’t want to read too much into “Harper Valley PTA,” but it is important for Christians to avoid the pitfall of tolerating honest immorality while condemning the phoniness of the hypocrite.

Monuments To Human Nature

Memorials are not always marble monuments. Sometimes they are liquid—water from the Jordan River and Lake Lyndon B. Johnson, for example. Others are monetary, like the new Robert F. Kennedy foundation. Still others, as a glance at a drugstore souvenir counter reveals, are plastic gadgets with fake gold lettering or cheap china plates with saccharine portraits of public figures.

Some of those faces arouse sorrowful memories. Five years ago this week, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Since then, a nation that thought such things couldn’t happen here has seen the murder of national civil-rights leaders, a Nazi party head, and the late president’s younger brother.

Human nature is not improving. As a nation and as individual citizens, we have cause for repentance.

Fixing The Blame

Man has always tried to avoid the fact of his own depraved nature. This perennial retreat from reality shows itself in our day in a fatalistic, deterministic, and mechanistic approach toward human motivation and behavior. The September–October issue of Jewish Life puts it this way:

… We live in an age in which the intellectual climate favors and even encourages individual irresponsibility in human behavior. The greatest and most heinous of crimes are justified as being a result of historical circumstances. The tremendous rise in the number of murders and homicides all over the world is attributed not to the decline in the morality of the individual, but rather to the inequities and injustices of society.

The gravity of many of our social problems cannot be minimized, and remedial steps are urgently needed. But a society is only as good as its people. Our opinion leaders—be they preachers, politicians, or publishers—should issue regular reminders that individuals are responsible for what they do. If the Bible makes anything clear, it is that men are accountable for their actions, no matter what their environment.

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Happy Moments In Mexico City

It wasn’t Camelot—it was Mexico City—but for one brief moment there was “simply not a more congenial spot.” The occasion was the closing ceremony of the nineteenth Olympiad. The competition was over; the medals had been distributed; the various conflicts that had plagued this year’s games were set aside. Surrounded by a crowd of 80,000 waving miniature sombreros, the athletes gathered on the field of the Estadio Olimpico to bid farewell to one another and to Mexico City.

Suddenly it didn’t seem to matter whether the athletes were from the U.S.A. or the U.S.S.R., whether they were black or white, whether they came from a wealthy nation or a poor one. One could not help viewing this unusual comradeship with at least a tinge of longing. Somehow it was clear that things should really be this way; but at the same time there was the gnawing realization that the bubble of Utopia would quickly burst.

It is encouraging to realize that such an experience is in the realm of reality for the believer in Christ. When Christ comes again and sets up his kingdom, all the barriers that divide and alienate men will be removed. Even now Christians can experience a unique comradeship with others who are “in Christ,” regardless of other factors that tend to keep men apart. Certainly, this is a time for those who have entered into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ to demonstrate to a divided world the love and oneness Christ can bring.

Cushing’S Dilemma

Richard Cardinal Cushing has announced his intention to resign as Archbishop of Boston at the end of the year. The reason: the volume of hate mail, some of it “in the language of the gutter,” which he received as a result of his defense of Jacqueline Kennedy.

This raises two questions: Is the reason given adequate to support such a major decision? Are there other factors that might justly call for a resignation?

Every man in the public eye who has ever taken a stand on a controversial matter has experienced the wrath of those he has offended. If he allows hate mail and gutter language to accomplish its goal, he does himself and his cause an injustice. This kind of public opinion is not worthy of anyone’s consideration, and it is surprising that a man of Cardinal Cushing’s stature would decide to quit in the face of such reaction.

On the other hand, it would seem that Cardinal Cushing does have cause to reflect seriously upon the legitimacy of his remaining a cardinal in the church of Rome. It is no wonder that the Vatican was embarrassed by Cushing’s statements after the Kennedy-Onassis wedding. He labeled as “nonsense” the idea that Mrs. Onassis is excommunicated or is a public sinner. There would be general agreement with his contention that “only God knows who is a sinner and who is not,” and he is certainly right in calling for an attitude of Christian charity, However, the fact remains that Mrs. Onassis has publicly entered into a situation the church regards as sinful. Other less prominent persons under the cardinal’s authority apparently have not been granted the same dispensation he advocates for her. Monsignor Fausto Vallainc, official spokesman for the Holy See, stated the problem in these words: “Whoever contravenes the law of the church incurs her sanctions.” As a cardinal in the church, Cushing is morally obligated to support its teaching. If he cannot do so, a resignation is in order.

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This conflict of personal views with the teaching of the church is not exclusively the dilemma of a Roman Catholic cardinal. What should a Protestant clergyman do when he finds himself out of accord with a statement of faith to which he committed himself in his ordination vows? Integrity demands that he remove himself from a body whose official teaching he cannot embrace.

Rethinking Reconciliation

The call for “reconciliation” between individuals and races and nations has been a major theme of modern theology. Undoubtedly this is one of the most desperate needs of our day, but it is futile to hope for reconciliation between man and man until there has been reconciliation between man and God. When the Bible speaks of reconciliation, it speaks chiefly of a reconciliation between God and man; out of this grows the healing of other broken relationships.

The need for reconciliation. The concept of reconciliation implies a prior enmity. The enmity between God and man, is the result of two facts repeatedly taught in Scripture: the fact of man’s self-assertion and rebellion against God’s will and the fact of God’s holiness, which demands punishment of the disobedient. Therefore Paul informed the Colossian Christians that before their conversion they were “enemies” of God.

The basis for reconciliation. In a problem of enmity, the cause of contention must be removed if there is to be reconciliation. It is no accident that in discussing reconciliation between God and man Paul twice says that this “peace” was made available by Christ’s death on the cross (Col. 1:20, 22), which removed the cause of the enmity between God and man—sin. Christ took upon himself the sin of mankind and as a substitute for sinful man suffered the penalty for sin demanded by divine justice. Apart from this act there would be no basis for reconciliation, because the root cause of the enmity would remain. This provision for “peace” with God becomes effective only when the individual enters into a personal relationship of faith in and devotion to the person of Jesus Christ.

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The results of reconciliation. When a man is reconciled to God on the basis of the work of Christ, he enjoys a change in status before God. He is no longer God’s enemy; the guilt that made him this has been removed and he is now a friend of God, a son of God. There is also a change within him. With God’s help, he begins to behave as one who is God’s friend. And this change becomes the foundation upon which he can build harmonious relationships with other men. Paul speaks of reconciliation between Jew and Gentile and makes it clear that these who were enemies could become one only through the cross of Christ.

Man’s basic problem is his alienation from God. The only hope for reconciliation among men is a prior reconciliation between men and their God though Jesus Christ.

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