If anything specific came forth from this month’s third National Mobilization for Peace in the nation’s capital, it was the apparent shift in emphasis from Viet Nam to “healing the wounds” war has caused within the nation. With the shape of the peace table resolved in Paris, the nation’s most conspicuous ecumenical peace movement—Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Viet Nam—lost most of its thunder. The result: a dramatic reshaping of its own raison d’etre.
As spokesmen tried to weld the woes of the home front—racial unrest, unheeded cries of the poor, moribund cities—to what they decried as an “immoral” political debacle in Viet Nam, a number of observers failed to see the catenation holding. But from ascendant rights leader Coretta King through Yale’s jail-bound William Sloane Coffin, Jr., they insisted on forging the links.
Energetic 34-year-old United Church of Christ minister Richard R. Fernandez—administrator of the group, which has a mailing list of 25,000—sought in vain an audience with President Richard M. Nixon. Instead, leaders settled for a forty-minute interview with top foreignpolicy aide Henry Kissinger. Lyndon Johnson hadn’t allowed them any contact with his staff the previous two years.
The bitterest note of all, however, was directed not toward the President nor toward the United States as “aggressor” in Viet Nam, as in previous years, but toward unspecified religious leaders who were ostentatious before the Justice Department turned its guns on Coffin and baby doctor Benjamin Spock but went into hiding when the trial came up.
“We are scandalized,” a position paper fumed, “by the failure of bishops and religious leaders to follow through their support for selective conscientious objection. With few exceptions, ...1
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