When Czech reformers reportedly resorted to nude attractions, Soviet ideologists sensed a scheme to distract young people from Communist pursuits. “On the pages of magazines and newspapers, naked beauties are more and more decisively pushing out their competitors in working tunics,” said Komsomolskaya Pravda. “One becomes convinced that those nude models carry a skillfully disguised ideological load.” The Soviet Young Communist League newspaper charged that striptease had been introduced in Prague for the same purpose—to divert young minds from Communist politics.

Communist policy-makers apparently realize that sexual permissiveness can rob a people of serious purpose. And their views contrast embarrassingly with the seeming indifference of so many opinion-leaders in America, where an unprecedented wave of sexual exploitation erodes values that have been very important in this country’s greatness. Preoccupation with illicit sex has become so acute that it puts us on the verge of moral anarchy.

Lately the media and entertainment fields have been playing a sordid can-you-top-this game. Hair introduced nudity to the stage last year. I Am Curious (Yellow) presents, for the first time on an American public theater screen, an act of sexual intercourse in which the performers are shown full-length and nude. The off-Broadway play Che! was so bad that its players were arrested and charged with “consensual sodomy, public lewdness, and obscenity.” One theater-goer was quoted by Religious News Service as saying, “About all they have left to do now for shocks is actually to kill somebody on the stage.”

Things are as bad—or worse—with the printed page. Portnoy’s Complaint runs the sexual gamut and is said to be the fastest-selling hardback novel in history. Newsstands are flooded with hard-core pornography. Writing that used to be seen only on washroom walls has now become commonplace in college newspapers across the nation.

An especially appalling aspect of this whole movement is that so much of it is under the guise of “art.” Such a facade denigrates authentic sex as well as aesthetics. Much hypocrisy about sex existed in the Victorian age, and it has been amply discussed. But it is eclipsed by the hypocrisy that is practiced today by dollar-mad “artists” who prey on weak people in the name of aesthetics or “authenticity.”

Incredibly, some pundits see our new sex binge as a movement of liberation that represents social and cultural progress. One wonders if these exponents of moral decay are also hypocrites, or whether they are simply naïve and ignorant of history. This is the way many a man used to live. The great cultures have been those that rose above the barnyard level some modern sophisticates seem so eager to dwell in. To throw away decency is not progress but retreat!

Article continues below

Much as we may cringe at open portrayal of coitus and focus upon genitalia, these are not the only objectionable aspects of the current movement. The real corrupting influence is in the advocacy, subtle or otherwise, of sexual immorality. This is the underlying message of almost all the new sex dramas. It is the new morality at best and amorality at worst, and directly at odds with God’s revealed will for man. The Bible may only whisper against nudity, but it thunders against fornicators, adulterers, and perverts.

Communists, of course, oppose immorality not on biblical but on pragmatic grounds. Although their view of morality is relative, in the sphere of sex they readily see a diversion that does not serve the best interests of society. You can’t fritter away your time, talent, and energy drifting from newsstand to theater and from bed to bed and still grow more wheat or get to the moon. It’s as simple as that.

It is at least an arguable theory that there is a link between Communist opposition to promiscuity and the fact that in Communist lands even women and children can walk the streets and parks at night with reasonable safety. When one American visitor to the Soviet Union spoke of this upon returning home, an older friend commented, “That’s the way it used to be here.”

It may well be that although the Soviets themselves want no part of permissiveness, their agents do what they can to promote it in the free world. They know that moral collapse can destroy our whole democratic system more effectively than a bloody rebellion or a nuclear attack.

Surely this is a time for the Church to be voicing a great outcry against pornography. But this is not happening. The churchmen who are getting attention are those avant-garde who are defending pornography by replaying old records about art and censorship. For example, an April issue of the new National Council of Churches weekly Tempo carried a review by Harvey Cox of The Killing of Sister George, a film about lesbians. He found it a poor film, but not on moral grounds. “I am against censoring sex out of films because I am against censorship in any form.” Cox argued that “our feelings or moral approval have little to do with whether we find a movie worthwhile. Sex is appropriate in movies if it advances the artistic intention of the movie-maker.”

Article continues below

Although we differ on the propriety and effect of censorship, all Christians ought to be concerned about the popularity of pornography and ready to play a part in a major move against it. Christians should not impose their standards upon unbelievers arbitrarily; but the scriptural norms on sexual behavior can be rationally defended as being in the best interests of humanity, aside from whether it embraces Christianity as such. Important people are needed to stand up and be counted on the right side of this question. There are signs that if influential Protestants will lead out, there will be followers aplenty.

Union Seminary: An Ethical Dilemma

A few weeks ago James Forman, militant head of the Black Economic Development Conference, invaded Riverside Church in New York and read his radical statement (see May 23 issue, page 29), which included demands for $500 million in “reparations” from churches and synagogues.

Around the corner from Riverside Church lies Union Theological Seminary, headed by socialist John C. Bennett, who also teaches ethics. A few days ago some fifty of his students seized the administration building to dramatize Forman’s demands and force the seminary to participate liberally.

The incident suggests that Bennett’s socialistic eggs have begun to hatch. Union Seminary is the most richly endowed theological school in the world, with $25 million in the till. Apparently it doesn’t disturb socialist Bennett that “capitalistic” money pays socialistic salaries in his institution. Nor has he ever admitted that his socialistic teaching and his capitalistic practices do not jibe. But his students got the message and now they have demanded the money.

The directors of Union Seminary have agreed to raise more than a million dollars of capitalistic money under circumstances that might be said to suggest blackmail or extortion. Strangely, however, they did not agree to channel the money through the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, which Dr. Bennett said many of the directors “had not heard of.” Dr. Bennett could easily have told them plenty about IFCO had he chosen to do so (see News, page 42).

Perhaps Union Seminary, eager to make the Church the key agent in social revolution, should match words with deeds by giving all its endowments for reparations. And should it not stop seeking and using capitalistic money to support an institution whose objectives run counter to those held by the people whose money it seeks?

Article continues below
The Churches And James Forman

James Forman is the new hero of a number of religious liberals. They are leading him on. He is getting the platform at important church assemblies to voice his demands for $500,000,000 in “reparations” (see News, page 43). Not all his welcomes are warm, but he is perhaps the first anti-Christian to find entree into the hallowed halls of American Protestantism.

But why James Forman? Are there not any number of responsible blacks in the Church and out of it with much more realistic and hopeful proposals who haven’t been given the time of day by the establishment? Forman hardly speaks for any substantial segment of the black community. He is at odds even with militants of his own race. The only thing he seems to have going for him is the scope of his demands.

We must face the question whether Forman’s sponsors are merely seeking to gain attention, or to put the Church on the spot. Or are they possibly trying to salve bad consciences?

American churches must surely take blame in the racial crisis and in the oppression of blacks over the years. Thus far, however, the Protestant and Catholic leadership has done little more than pass lofty resolutions and then pass the buck for corrective implementation to government. This is why we must ask whether bowing to Forman is not in some measure a psychological out to help relieve guilt.

The churches obviously aren’t about to meet Forman’s demands, even if its leaders say they will. They probably couldn’t even if they wanted to, and the opening of doors for Forman may be somewhat misleading. But even if he got the $500,000,000, it would be a case parallel to that of the harried parent who showers his child with gifts instead of with himself and his time.

On the other hand, considering the dubious things that church money is being spent for these days, the projects Forman has in mind might be preferable. He says he wants a lot of the money to go into new schools for blacks. If properly established and operated, they would represent progress.

An underlying question is whether Forman is not seen in the eyes of some liberal churchmen as someone who can contribute to their quest for mission. Incredibly, some influential Protestants still are trying to decide what the Church is for, and Forman’s crusade could conceivably fill the bill for a while.

This whole ridiculous situation stems from the implicit repudiation of biblical revelation in today’s seminaries and ecclesiastical bureaus. The terrible pity is that the Church is the only agency in the world that can speak to the spirit of man—wherein lie all our problems. Yet that dynamic dimension of the Church is being forsaken in deference to secular objectives.

Article continues below
The Mote And The Beam

Through the efforts of an organization that calls itself the United Presbyterian Grass Roots Committee for the Sovereignty of Jesus Christ, Newark Presbytery overtured the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America to pass judgment on two “goals” of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, Incorporated. The Lay Committee, a conservative organization within the UPUSA Church, in two of its goals has affirmed its intention to: (1) encourage Christians to speak out as individuals in social, economic, and political issues, and (2) discourage public pronouncements on these matters by church leaders speaking for the Church as a corporate body unless there are spiritual or moral issues that can be supported by “clear-cut biblical authority.”

The Grass Roots Committee says these goals are out of accord with Scripture and United Presbyterian distinctives. Its statements, however, do not fairly represent the Lay Committee’s position, and some of its charges border on the absurd. At the General Assembly, the Lay Committee was merely asked—and it agreed—to reword its stand against church pronouncements.

We are delighted at the formation of another group within the United Presbyterian Church that is deeply concerned to promote adherence to Scripture and the standards of the church. However, if this is a genuine concern, the Grass Roots Committee has begun at a most unlikely place. Why single out a group that exists for the same purpose? What about those within the Church who outright deny cardinal doctrines of the Church? Somehow this defense of the peace and purity of the Church has a hollow ring; in fact, it has the earmarks of harassment of evangelical lay leaders who are so desperately needed within the Church in our day. Perhaps the Grass Roots Committee is so involved in removing the mote from the Lay Committee’s eye that it has missed the beam in its own.

Will The Church Strike Out?

A baseball fan’s most frustrating experience is to see his team’s power hitter strike out when the bases are loaded and the runs are needed. If ever the Church was at bat in a bases-loaded situation, it is today—and the Church is on the verge of striking out.

Article continues below

Remarks by two speakers at a recent meeting of the Religious Publishers Group of the American Book Publishers Council (see News, p. 47) underscored our concern about the Church’s shaky stance in the batter’s box. Both Martin E. Marty of the Chicago Divinity School and Roland W. Tapp of Westminster Press discussed the developing revolution in the Church. Marty emphasized the continuing quest by individuals for religious meaning in life. In departing from his printed text, he referred to the best-selling Robinson-Cox-Boyd-Pike-Altizer-type books as the “exit” books which become “crutches to help people get out of the Church.” These books operate on a one-way street; they lead away from faith but offer no adequate way of return to faith (“What do we do after we’re liberated?”). He noted that many Protestant college students do not have an identity crisis because “the Church hasn’t given them an identity,” and called upon the publishers to produce books devoted to the search for personal meaning (along with social-action books).

Tapp, on the other hand, in outlining changes he sees ahead, predicted that people both inside and outside the Church will, in increasing numbers, turn away from the idea of personal salvation to a primary concern with social action. Both Marty and Tapp are right. There is a continuing quest for meaning in life by the individual, and the Church is moving away from the concept of personal salvation through Jesus Christ.

The Church cannot meet the needs either of individuals or of society apart from the proclamation of newness of life in Christ—the personal salvation of the individual. In the Gospel there is a power to transform the world. The Gospel has not been proven ineffective; the reason it has so little impact is that it has been virtually abandoned. The bases are loaded.…

Abraham Vereide

The Norwegian immigrant who served national politicians breakfast with prayer died in Washington, D. C., on May 16. Abraham Vereide, who believed prayer could reverse “the down-grade pace at which things are moving,” began prayer breakfasts for congressmen in 1941. Now about forty such groups meet weekly in Washington; others meet in many states and foreign countries. The movement’s growth owes much to International Christian Leadership, the organization Vereide founded.

Only In New York

New York City is the ultimate headache. It is Exhibit A in any study of today’s urban problems. In sheer concentration of men and things, and in the incredible difficulties that go with such an impacted mass, it defies contrast.

Article continues below

The unique predicament of New York influences almost to the point of determination the city’s character, mood, and sense of values. Effective political leadership becomes so elusive that election campaigns take on amusing aspects with a motley assortment of candidates. Given this milieu, what can the Church possibly do or say?

Christians have a responsibility to pull together to relieve the suffering, feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned, and comfort the broken-hearted. And in New York it is hard to believe that there can ever be enough compassion to go around.

But the best the Church can do for that city, as for any other, is to proffer divine advice; and God’s best advice is that men accept his Son. This is what Billy Graham and all who support him are doing on an unprecedented scale (see News, page 46). They deserve the prayers of Christians everywhere in the interests of spiritual awakening. God’s answers to those prayers could raise up a new New York.

A Word To The Graduate

This time of year means one thing to many American young people—graduation! One chapter of life comes to a close and the next waits to be written. Some will approach this new phase of life with high hopes and ambitions only to become disillusioned and frustrated by the realities of the world in which they live. Others are already disillusioned and will set out on their venture with a cynicism and pessimism that borders on despair. Others face the future with fear—fear of a war that they might have to fight, fear of man’s power to destroy himself, fear of personal problems and responsibilities.

Some will be driven to ask the question, “Is there a life worth living?” And they may spend their lives gamely searching for such a life only to discover that the pot of gold is always just beyond their grasp.

There once lived a man who tried everything in a vain effort to discover a life worth living. He turned to knowledge, culture, wealth, sensual pleasure, and even religion. Looking back on his life this man declared that “all is vanity and a striving after wind” (Eccl. 1:14). Out of the frustration of his own experience he offers young people a word of sound advice: “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.… Fear God, and keep his commandments” (Eccl. 12:1, 13). A man who wasted his life pleads with those whose life still lies ahead not to repeat his mistake.

Graduate, there is a life worth living. This life cannot be found in the pursuit of selfish desires or even in the effort to advance a worthy cause. God offers this life only to those who are willing to enter into a relationship of submission to and fellowship with the living person of Jesus Christ. As you lose yourself for the sake of Jesus Christ (the course may be difficult and the cost may be great) you will find the full, rich, meaningful, purposeful life that Christ came to bring. Congratulations—and God bless you!

Article continues below
Fathers Know Best

Fathers exist to fix dolls, to lick other kids’ dads, to dole out dimes for offering plates, to wield belts, to banish nightmarish ghosts, to explain football’s fine points. Fathers chase boyfriends home at night, grill suitors, and give away white-gowned daughters who can’t possibly have finished first grade. Fathers face crises like long hair and sideburns, broken hearts, and closets filled with last year’s fads. Fathers finance record collections, college demonstrations, Fort Lauderdale vacations, and all the things that keep the family up with the Joneses.

Despite gray hairs and bifocals, fathers retain at least vague memories of youth’s growing pains. Where they can, they ease the rough spots of childhood and adolescence. Where they cannot, they extend encouragement and guidance. Fathers know best that maturity has no shortcuts; they cannot walk or talk or live for “the children whom God has graciously given” them. They can only pity their children as “the Lord pities those who fear him.” They can only love their children (even in miniskirts and love beads) and set an example for them by their own obedience to God’s commandments. “Lay to heart all the words which I enjoin upon you this day,” Moses exhorted the children of Israel, “that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no trifle for you, but it is your life”—and posterity.

When I Am Weak

“Look, Daddy. See how strong I am!” How often these words on the lips of a little child are the prelude to an amusing demonstration of weakness. If the feat of strength to be attempted is at all difficult, a little one is certain to fail. Like the little child, many of us repeatedly seek to impress our heavenly Father with our spiritual strength only to exhibit our weakness.

God does not want us to impress him with our strength; he wants us to recognize our weakness and to turn to him so that he can give us his strength. The Apostle Paul had learned this secret of Christian living, as he indicated in writing to the Corinthians: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.… When I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:9, 10). It was his firm conviction that “God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1:27).

Article continues below

When Israel prepared to battle the Midianite army in the time of the judges, Gideon was commanded to reduce the size of his army from 32,000 to 300! The reason: “Lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me” (Judg. 7:2). The army was reduced to an absurdly small number so that it would be clear that God and not the military might of Israel had given the victory.

When Israel was challenged by the finest warrior in the Philistine army, it was David, a shepherd lad, whom God raised up to do battle with him. The odds were ridiculous; this young boy could not defeat Goliath. But David realized his weakness and confronted Goliath confident that “the battle is the LORD’s and he will give you into our hands” (1 Sam. 17:47).

When Jesus chose those to whom he would entrust the overwhelming task of world evangelization, he chose men who, humanly speaking, were not equal to the task. He did not choose the rich, the powerful, or the highly educated; he chose the “weak,” according to this world’s standards. They revealed their inadequacy by huddling fearfully behind closed doors—until God intervened, poured out his Spirit upon them, and made of them men who “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

We can never do the work of God in this world by flexing our own spiritual muscles. We must come to him in our weakness and find his strength as we go out to do the impossible task he has given.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.