United Nations experts estimate that about fifty tons of heroin now reach the illicit drug market each year. That amounts to a minimum of ten billion doses, enough for three each to every man, woman, and child in the world.

The drug problem is more acute than even informed people imagine. It is probably most severe now in North America. Unless indifference is overcome and drastic measures are taken, drug abuse could get completely out of hand within a matter of months. National vitality may be at stake.

What makes the peril so great? The chief factor is that drug abuse tends to increase in a geometric progression. The point is often made that if one Christian were to win one convert each day, and that if each convert would in turn win another, the whole world population would be Christian in less than a month. The same progression could be applied to drug addiction. Users cannot quit and often become pushers (or thieves and even murderers) to finance their craving, soliciting others who also become addicts and in turn pushers, and so on. It is a chilling consideration.

Ralph de Jesus must currently be the most famous twelve-year-old boy in the world. He became known through the mass media after his testimony before a committee of the New York legislature investigating addiction among the young. Ralphie is a four-foot-tall, sixty-pound symbol of the terrifying wave of drug abuse among pre-adolescents. He is now being treated in an effort to get him off the habit of injecting heroin directly into his bloodstream.

Ralphie arouses our compassion, and that is right; but today’s drug addicts should also be arousing indignation. Drug abuse is not merely an unfortunately widespread personal problem. It is a crisis in which many people who have no connection with drugs are getting hurt. Drug users, because they must resort to crime and because during their “trips” their behavior goes awry, are a growing menace to an organized society and to law-abiding citizens. Much of the growing crime rate, in both city and suburb, can be attributed to the drug problem. After researching the situation, columnist Marquis Childs guessed that in New York City alone the theft bill of heroin addicts adds up to $2 billion a year.

The drug problem is the greatest blot on today’s youthful subculture. Many activities of young people today have a reasonable and even admirable foundation. But their inclination for drugs is one thing in which they are dead wrong, and they are thereby damaging the acceptability of their sound premises. Unfortunately, the non-using young are doing very little to counter this evil among their peers.

Young people try to defend their use of drugs by scoring adult hypocrisy. Let older people give up alcohol and tobacco, they say, before they indict other drugs. Even though it does not excuse the young, their point is well taken. Many evangelicals are on firmer ground in this matter because they have long opposed the use of alcohol and tobacco.

Currently, the most unsettled question in the drug problem is marijuana. Some say its use may be less harmful than imbibing liquor. There are uncertainties about marijuana, but there are also many uncertainties about alcohol and tobacco. Putting marijuana in a category quite separate from heroin and LSD, and reducing the penalties for its use, might actually help the nation to concentrate on the worst facets of the drug problem. Much money and manpower now spent on enforcing stringent laws against marijuana might better be used in countering harder drugs.

Young people ought to think more seriously about the possibility that the current wave of drug abuse among them is being fomented by anti-American (and antihuman) interests of the most selfish sort. Could it be that they are being made pawns in an international intrigue that is proving more effective than nuclear blackmail and guerrilla warfare? This fact cannot be ignored: a cold-blooded enemy might well resort to such means.

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Enforcement and education are crucial weapons in the battle against the killer drugs, and Christians need to rally around both causes. We must consider ourselves to be in a literal war, whether or not a conspiracy is involved. Capital punishment of peddlers and retributive action against nations that de facto fail to restrict drug exports should be among our options.

Counter-measures should reach down to the individual and family level. Parents ought to caution their children discreetly but regularly. Travelers crossing borders should be alert against being used, and should not complain when customs agents search their baggage thoroughly. These inspectors, though in short supply, succeeded in making 3,425 separate seizures last year, and thus collected 54,818 pounds of heroin, opium, hashish, marijuana, cocaine, and other narcotics. Some was being smuggled in through hollowed-out crucifixes!

Drug abuse is a social issue in which Christians need to become involved—not in merely telling the government what to do but in helping arrest the problem and in ministering to victims. The churches should not fail to expose the evils of drug use and addiction. Every local congregation, especially those in large cities and suburbs, should have drug briefings for young people as well as adults.

The churches’ optimum effectiveness in combating drugs, however, lies at the level of motivating people against their use. Much has been said about why youngsters start using drugs. Whatever the reasons, Christianity gives them something better to live for. And where the faith is presented in its fullness and young people are challenged as they were in the early Church, drugs will be seen as a drag.

United Nations

Twenty-five years ago this April 25, forty-six nations that had been allied in the military struggle against Germany and Japan began a two-month meeting in San Francisco. The result was the charter for a permanent organization to be known as the United Nations.

In the words of the charter’s preamble, the first purpose of the U. N. was “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” In order to achieve this end, the U. N. was “to ensure … that armed forces shall not be used, save in the common interest.” Certain principles that were set forth in the second article of the charter we would do well to recall:

All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means.…
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.…
All Members … shall refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.
The organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.…

Simply to reread the original lofty intentions of the U. N. and then to recall some of the wars and threats of war in the past quarter-century should be enough to discourage the most ardent believer in mankind’s ability to tame itself. The Middle East, Korea, Hungary, Indochina, Czechoslovakia—these and other names are grim reminders that the Bible is right when it teaches that fallen men are by nature inclined to use force against one another.

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Fears that the United Nations would prove to be an instrument of anti-Christ have so far been unfounded. It is difficult to imagine that the U. N. could obtain the necessary power without being so transformed as to be essentially a different organization from what it has been.

On the other hand, the hopes of those who thought the U. N. would usher in a Messianic Age, but without the Messiah, have surely been dashed. Informed Christians knew all along that peace could not be brought about by the good intentions of men. Christians must do what they can to live at peace with all men and to promote peace, but they do this with the knowledge that true peace will come only when the sovereignty of the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ, is truly acknowledged upon all the earth.

As it enters its second quarter-century, the United Nations is a much weaker organization than the framers of the charter apparently intended it to be. This does not mean that it cannot serve some useful purposes. If it were not in existence, many if not most of its functions would have to be assumed by other organizations. To any view of the U. N. as a potential saviour, the Christian must continue to take exception. But to a more limited view that sees it as a useful agency for the international cooperation in which men are willing to engage, Christians, along with others, can lend their support.

The Great Contender

The April 4 pro-war demonstration in Washington was a great personal triumph for Carl McIntire. It makes little difference whether the paraders numbered 15,000 or 50,000. Turnouts for such happenings hinge largely upon the extent of advance promotion. Given McIntire’s meager means, a response of anything more than a few thousands must be considered successful.

Indeed, it was a moment of glory for the great contender. Only a few months ago McIntire seemed perched out on a lonely limb, isolated even from longtime friends who still shared his ideology. He surmised, however, that he could go it alone. What he needed was a spectacular achievement to show the scope of his personal influence, and he got it.

Many an evangelical groans at McIntire’s success. It must be particularly difficult for those in the American Council of Christian Churches who share his theological and political views, even his separatist stance, but who had the courage to get out from under his high-handedness. These are conscientious people who deserve the fellowship of other evangelical believers.

McIntire is an intelligent man, a master of polemic, one whose convictions do not waver. Although neither a great orator nor a particularly attractive platform personality, he knows how to capitalize on restlessness and on the desire of some fundamentalists for a “king.” Unfortunately, he tends to act more like a pope than a constitutional monarch.

We share McIntire’s doctrine insofar as it embraces classic biblical orthodoxy, including the full authority and reliability of Scripture. We part company with him at the point of his politicking, which in theory is not different from that of the National Council of Churches, and his seeming acceptance of certain questionable social positions. Particularly abhorrent has been his appropriation of a verse on the Resurrection, “Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory” (1 Corinthians 15:57), as a campaign slogan in behalf of a military triumph in Viet Nam.

We also are turned off by McIntire’s spirit, which goes beyond contending for the faith to contentiousness. He draws support for this attitude almost entirely from the Book of Jude, to the neglect of numerous other New Testament emphases. If Jesus and Paul had taken McIntire’s advice, they would have devoted their lives, not to ministries of evangelism and compassion, but to campaigning for influence in Rome and drawing people out of the synagogues.

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Those Christians tempted to flex their muscle at the President need to reread the Epistle of Jude. The description of heretics is strongly worded, but Jude’s specific admonition to the saints is positive. The advice to “save with fear” is the last point in the list. Prior to that he urges: “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference.…”

Collaring Cost-Cutting

Now that the deadline for 1969 federal income-tax forms has passed, we can all breathe a little easier. Or can we? There is always that nagging possibility that somehow, somewhere, we made a mistake in filling out the 1040—and that the IRS will discover it.

Internal Revenue officials were a little suspicious about a deduction claim on one clergyman’s form: $450 for a “clerical collar.” Despite the leapfrogging cost of living, that seemed a little out of line. Called to account for his costly collar, the minister said he had made an innocent mistake: $450 should have been $4.50. Understanding IRS men let the clergyman pay the extra tax—plus 6 per cent interest.

But one shrewd auditor—was he a P.K.?—had a second guess. Sure enough, a scrutiny of past income-tax returns revealed that the minister consistently had trouble with decimals. For three years in a row things like $4.50 came out $450 in the deductions column. For this, the red-faced cleric paid added taxes, 6 per cent interest—and a 50 per cent penalty for fraud.

The Wall Street Journal tells the story in an article pointing out that tax evasion is growing; in some cases it’s considered “socially acceptable.” The temptation to cut corners is nothing new, but the Christian ought to be scrupulously honest in “rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s”—even when it hurts.

Nixon On The Schools

President Nixon’s lengthy statement on school desegregation is the kind one would expect from a political leader. Prophets are supposed to proclaim without compromise the standards of righteousness and to rebuke forthrightly the slightest deviations from them. Politicians, by contrast, are engaged in what has been called “the art of the possible.” They often have to settle for less than a whole loaf. If President Nixon, a politician, not a prophet, can secure equally good education for all citizens, then the nation will indeed have made progress.

We commend the President for his outright repudiation of de jure segregation, north and south. We commend him for his forthright call for the integration of faculties and administrations and for the equalization of physical facilities and educational equipment within a school district. If his administration follows the guidelines and if Congress appropriates the needed funds, then the federal government will be doing what it can to remove two out of the three major factors that make a school black.

As for the composition of the student body, the President recognizes that segregation can come about because of official actions, which he denounces, and also because of housing patterns. To the extent that segregation is the result of ethnic neighborhoods, President Nixon believes that school boards are not necessarily the best agencies to overcome it and are not obliged to attempt it.

The President defends the right of people to cluster in ethnic neighborhoods if they choose, but at the same time he calls for “the right and the ability of each person to decide for himself where and how he wants to live, whether as part of the ethnic enclave or as part of the larger society.” We wish that, in accordance with biblical teaching, the color of a people’s skin had no more to do with the way society functions than does the color of their eyes. Christians are obligated to function as Christians regardless of what others do. But the course that a society of unregenerate men takes attempting to live up to its ideals is more halting than what an individual can do.

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Federal pressure upon segregated school districts has been and will continue to be necessary. But we believe that the combination of pressure plus latitude to local communities to work out their problems along various paths and through different agencies of government will be more likely to accomplish desired goals than a heavy-handed policy that further alienates people from the public schools, the central cities, and the federal government.

Nixon’s statement has left some Negroes filled with frustration and resentment. They feel they have been betrayed by one whose major concern is for his “Southern strategy” rather than for the plight of the black man. To them, terms such as “neighborhood school” and “quality education” are code words for segregation. It is imperative that Nixon give dynamic leadership in the continuing fight against racial discrimination in all institutions of our society. His statement could be used by segregationists to further their purposes, and the President must give the kind of leadership that will not allow this to happen. If he does, then maybe the day will come when we will no longer have two societies, unequal and strife-ridden.

Justice Still At Bat

First Clement Haynesworth went down swinging. Now G. Harrold Carswell, Mr. Nixon’s second choice to sit on the Supreme Court, has been fanned out by the opposition (the vote was 51 to 45 with four absentees). It was a cliff-hanger all the way, and for a time it looked as if Carswell might get to first base; but he didn’t. Now the President, baseball buff that he is, has a chance to send the third man of his choice to the plate. We are constrained to tell him, as if he didn’t already know it, that the first two strikeouts were less the result of good pitching than of poor hitting by the men at bat.

We hope the President has learned something from what must have been a shattering experience. When he sends the third batter into the game for the Senate to pitch to, he had better be sure his candidate has no racist overhang, no blot on his integrity, and a superb judicial batting average. It is unlikely that the Senate would strike such a man down, even if he were a strict constructionist of the Constitution.

Court Disruptions

The trial of the Chicago Seven has raised some interesting questions about how far a defendant may go in disrupting court procedures when he is being tried for violations of the law. This problem was further accentuated in New York City when a judge sent defendants to jail until they promised to behave themselves.

Every man is entitled to his day in court. And no one is presumed to be guilty until judge or jury or both find him so. But what is to be done with the clown whose courtroom antics impede his trial? Can a man be tried and convicted if he is banished from the courtroom? The Supreme Court has addressed itself to the matter and has chosen what we think to be the best of several alternatives. The court reasons that anyone who mocks the judicial processes loses, by his actions, rights he normally has. Box him in or take him out, the court directs, but continue the trial and reach a verdict. Anything less than this would lead to anarchy and make the attainment of justice impossible.

The opinion of the Supreme Court is consonant with the biblical teaching that all things should be done decently and in order—whether in religious assemblies or in courts of law. We have a notion that this verdict will quickly quell shenanigans and bring order in the court.

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The Churches And Money

Reports continue to filter in that the churches are laboring under great handicaps because of the cop-out of the younger generation, a decline in interest in church among their elders, and decreased giving. And many churches, in an attempt to stem the tide, have made concessions that have worsened their plight. In their efforts to meet people where they are, to show the relevance of their message, and to speak to young people, the churches have sacrificed foundational principles whose loss would seem to be hastening their death.

A convincing demonstration of this is furnished by the latest issue of Colloquy, a magazine that purports to be “published especially for use by” the United Church of Christ, the United Presbyterian Church, and the Presbyterian Church in the United States. Like most religious periodicals, Colloquy is underwritten in part by the contributions of the church members. But it is unlikely that most people would want the money they have given for the work of the Church to be spent on a magazine that could have been produced by a secular organization not the least bit interested in Christianity—that is indeed incongruous with their Christian convictions.

The cover, nicely camouflaged so as to give an impression of decency, depicts a naked woman and a naked man. Lest the readers miss the point, the photograph is reproduced in black and white inside the magazine in a way that leaves little to the imagination.

A Philadelphia high-school teacher recounts the story of a sixteen-year-old girl whose parents were squares and brought her up with odd notions about virginity and the like. But she learned things that changed her view. “Jamie found out about sex. This time for real. And the strangest thing happened. She found out that what her parents had told her wasn’t true at all. Sex was a really beautiful thing.… And she had no feelings of guilt. In fact, she felt great! A friend introduced Jamie to marijuana, and Jamie turned on. It was the nicest thing she had ever done, and she felt fine about it.” Now Jamie has only one problem—how to keep her parents from knowing how wrong they were and from learning what she is doing. The author ends by saying: “So now, whenever I see Jamie, all I can say to her is, ‘I know what’s happening inside of you, and we both know that it is a good thing. So just don’t lose your cool.’ ” That’s all she has left to lose, we might add.

Another essayist says: “We must put an end to God-talk. God-talk is hopelessly irrelevant to the new generation’s perception of themselves and their world.… The irrelevance of God-talk for the new generation is evident in the fact that if one were to announce the death of God from the steps of most high schools or college chapels today, practically every student would ask him what else is new.”

Still another essayist deals with the sit-in at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the music festival at Woodstock. The MIT event was “beautiful,” he tells us. “The community was economically and socially communistic and politically a participatory democracy. It worked better than anyone could have expected.”

In a letter to the editor one clergyman said about a cartoon in a previous issue: “I found the language of the cartoon very offensive. The irreverent use of God’s name and the flippant use of the word ‘hell’ have, in my judgment, no place in any publication, much less a church publication.”

Now this may be the route the churches choose to go. And it may be that this is what the church members really want. But we doubt it. People are expressing their opinions by leaving their churches, by withholding their funds, or by joining the ultra-right as their only hope for remedial action. Undoubtedly tens of thousands of others will do the same when they find out what is really happening. Perhaps the revolution has already come—but not the one advocated by the radicals.

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Evangelical Christianity’S Appeal

This could be evangelical Christianity’s finest hour. As observers of the American religious scene are noting these days, the laity is increasingly seeking personal commitment and participation in religious life—ingredients often lacking in many churches.

According to the Reverend Ben C. Johnson of Atlanta, head of the Institute of Church Renewal, a ministry of lay study and prayer teams in local churches: “I think we saw in the nineteen sixties the beginning of a movement of thousands of laymen at the grass-roots level—not organized and structured—who are saying, ‘We have encountered God and we have encountered each other.’ The struggle of the nineteen seventies will be to get the masses of churchgoers across the nation to grasp the reality of God as a Being who knows, feels, cares, and has purposes relating us to each other.”

This stirring among the laity unfortunately is taking place at the very time when many clergymen are floundering; not a few are leaving their ministerial office because they think the spiritual realm is no longer where the action is. As a result, points out an article in a recent issue of U. S. News and World Report, churches in the United States “are beginning to find themselves crippled in leadership at a time when rising numbers of laymen are seeking guidance on the meaning of religion in their lives and in the life of the community.”

At precisely this juncture, evangelical Christianity has an appeal unmatched by liberal activism or uninvolved pietism. As the U. S. Congress on Evangelism in Minneapolis vividly demonstrated last September, evangelicals are moving toward responsible social concern tied to a warm personal faith in Christ.

Let those who are disillusioned and bewildered over their role in church and society take heart! There are churches that weld a conservative theology with an enlightened social outlook. And let such churches actively seek those disenchanted with mere religiosity or with “sanctified” secularism.

Counterfeit Christianity

Many of today’s young people turn away from the Church because they are disillusioned with Christianity. The “Christianity” they have observed and experienced has left them empty and unsatisfied, so they look elsewhere for meaning and fulfillment in their lives. But is the “Christianity” that they reject the real item, or is it a counterfeit?

Counterfeit money can fool the unsuspecting victim, but the expert can tell the genuine from the phoney. To the untrained eye, paste jewelry may appear to be the real thing, but the experienced jeweler can readily spot the difference. The art critic can distinguish the original from the copy, though the ordinary observer may not see the difference.

In the world of religion a variety of beliefs and practices and institutions claim the name Christian. Some of these are counterfeit. In his parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:26–30; 36–43) Jesus taught that there are both genuine believers and phoney imitations among those who claim to be the followers of Christ. Some are sincere Christians and some are merely using the name, going through the motions, playing church. The “tares” (literally “darnel”) to which Jesus referred closely resembled wheat in the early stages of growth and the roots of the wheat and darnel tended to intertwine. Since the attempt to separate them endangered the wheat crop, both were allowed to grow together until harvest, when the reapers could readily distinguish the useless weed.

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In the same way real and make-believe Christians exist together in the world until Christ comes again to separate the two. In the meantime, our task is not to judge but to make certain that our own Christianity is not counterfeit. The real Christian is the person who has turned his life over to the control of the living Christ and who demonstrates that commitment in love (for God and for men) and service (to God and to other men for God’s sake) and obedience (to the will of God). That which bypasses a personal relationship to Christ or which avoids the outworking of that relationship in daily life is a worthless imitation. It may fool some men for the time being, but in the day of judgment God will openly expose it for what it is—counterfeit.

There is a related important truth that the parable does not point out. In real life the tares may at any moment be transformed into wheat. The person who realizes that his “Christianity” is empty and meaningless because it is not founded upon personal involvement with Christ can discover what it really means to be a Christian when he is willing to give himself to Christ. No one can blame the person who turns away in disgust from counterfeit Christianity, but the person who embraces the real thing has found life at its best.

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