High overhead a skywriter etched a pair of American flags against the bright blue heavens. Down below, a crowd was filing out of Shea Stadium, where Billy Graham’s five-day crusade had just ended. The aerial artistry provided one of several interesting sidelights during the evangelist’s return engagement in New York and offered an appropriate if unscheduled prelude to “Honor America Day.”

The crusade on the home field of the baseball Mets and football Jets came off without any disruptions. The only “dissent” came in a trickle of applause when Graham spoke of Woodstock and referred to the possibility of a marijuana “smoke-in.” Graham later suggested to newsmen that the reaction merely indicated that there were indeed young people in the audience who needed to be reached with the Gospel.

The crusade apparently attracted an even greater percentage of young people than Graham’s ten-day Madison Square Garden effort last year, when up to 70 per cent of the audience was under twenty-five. He attributes the increasing appeal to young people to their “vast and desperate search.” He says that today they are “more interested in religion, probably, than any generation in history.”

A total of about 137,000 heard Graham at Shea Stadium. Of these, some 6,000 responded at the close of the services to make decisions for Christ. This is about the same ratio as last year, but more of those who responded this time were young people.

More black people also turned out last month than in 1969. Graham said that checks showed about one-fourth of the total audience was black.

As usual, Graham chose simple sermon themes. On the opening night he issued a national call to repentance. “I believe that we Americans have a choice to make,” he said. “I believe we’ve reached another point in the history of this nation where we’re going to have to choose. And the decision we make is going to decide whether we remain a free democratic society. Are we going to continue to serve the strange gods in our midst, the gods of sex, pleasure, materialism, drugs, these other gods to which we’re giving our allegiance instead of the true and living God?”

Graham came to New York well aware of the acute conditionsAdvertisements for the New York State Lottery currently appeal to the problem syndrome, deceptively holding out the promise: “Hit it once and your troubles are over.” that plague the city’s eight million residents. He cited figures that show that in horse-and-buggy days traffic moved across Manhattan at eleven miles an hour, compared with seven now. He urged a change of heart as the initial step to social recovery, but added that the challenge does not end there. “You may have to help remove your neighbor’s garbage,” he said seriously.

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Graham told reporters in a precrusade news conference that there were so many big ethnic blocs in New York that he was amazed that the city managed to live together under any kind of political leadership. (One psychological factor in the unity that does exist is probably the diversion provided by the city’s professional athletic teams. The day the crusade opened, the world champion Mets, after a slow start this year, seized the lead in the East Division of the National League.)

The June 24–28 crusade operated on a $500,000 budget. Some $140,000 had been left over from last year. The finance committee ran into a bit of a bind when a steady, drenching rain kept most people home one evening (some 7,200 did sit out a brief service). The committee had counted on a good offering that Friday night.

Four of the services were put on videotape in color and will be shown across North America in September.

Music for the crusade was provided by the Graham team regulars (soloist Bev Shea, pianist Tedd Smith, organist John Innes, and choir director-song-leader Cliff Barrows) plus a number of guests: Ethel Waters, Norma Zimmer, Myrtle Hall, and Anita Bryant. The choir numbered between 2,000 and 3,000 voices.

Graham appeared to be in full vigor and spoke easily and well. He said he is finding it easier to get his message across these days and suggested that the eagerness of today’s youth may have a lot to do with it. A young woman reporter asked the 51-year-old evangelist if he was letting his hair grow, and Graham said it was merely a matter of his not having seen his barber for a while. Before he left New York, however, a television makeup man sheared a few locks.

The opening service at Shea Stadium was plagued by the roar of jets taking off from nearby LaGuardia Airport. Thereafter, thanks to a change in the wind, they operated in the opposite direction and were not nearly so distracting. The noise of subway trains also was something of a problem in some parts of the stadium.

The local sponsoring committee had debated whether to rent Shea Stadium or go back to Madison Square Garden. Graham said afterward he was glad the committee agreed to go outside. Although the stadium, which could hold 60,000 or more, never was full, for four of the five services it did attract nearly twice as many people as the Garden can seat.

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One enterprising group spotted an opportunity in the empty seats of the huge upper deck. They folded up particular seats whose colored undersides then spelled out “God Lives.”

The closing service included a minute of silent prayer for peace. All during the service a line was emblazoned across the bottom of the big stadium scoreboard: “Pray for Peace.”

Among dignitaries who sat on the platform during the last service was Marvin Watson, former U. S. Postmaster General and White House aide to then President Johnson. Graham also introduced Bill Brown, who has been the key team man on the New York scene for the past two years, and crusade chairman Fred Russell Esty. Esty, chairman of the United States Banknote Corporation, told the crowd that “during these past few days we have seen thousands respond to the invitation to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. For them it is just the first step toward a life filled with meaning and purpose. As individuals they can never be the same. The new life they live in Christ will affect their families, their churches, and their communities.”

Some 1,000 churches in the metropolitan area participated in the crusade, and according to Graham about 400 of these “worked real hard.” Hundreds of local ministers gave active support.

Several New York reporters questioned Graham about his association with President Nixon. One wondered whether the identification tended to hinder the evangelist’s efforts to reach youth, and Graham replied he did not think so. Another asked whether Nixon’s appearance on the program at Graham’s Knoxville crusade in May gave a “political tone” to the meetings. Graham declared “it would be tragic” if a president could not make a public appearance without its being considered political.

After the New York meetings Graham left for Washington to take part in this year’s special Independence Day celebrations in the capital, and from there he was to fly to Tokyo for the Baptist World Congress. The evangelist said he planned to take several speaking engagements on university campuses this fall, and vowed to preach the same message.

“I do not have any new message to bring,” he said. “The message of the Gospel is unchanging in any generation. And an evangelist especially is narrowed as to what he can say—very limited—because he’s limited to the proclamation of the Gospel … the kerygma, which is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and man’s response to the love of God. It has to be said in a thousand different ways and put in different contexts, but it’s still the same message.… Many people have said that this message is irrelevant and out of date, and yet thousands of people are coming.…”

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Extra Messages

An anti-abortion group distributed mimeographed literature outside Shea Stadium before the closing Sunday-afternoon service of Billy Graham’s New York crusade. The literature charged that the evangelist had “hedged” on the abortion issue. It said “the hour of decision is here” and called on him to “make a decision for Christ.” The group, which calls itself “Christians for Life,” cited Exodus 20:13; Job 31:15, and Luke 1:43 in support of its stand against abortion.

Graham had been asked about abortion at a news conference prior to the crusade. His reply was that he was against abortion except in cases of incest or rape, or where the life of the mother is in jeopardy.

A group of young hippie types passed out literature that urged support of the grape strike, but made no reference to Graham.

Blessitt Is The Cross-Bearer

“It blows people’s minds” to see someone carrying a six-by-ten-foot, eighty-pound cross through town, says the Reverend Arthur Blessitt. The young, mod minister to hippies on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip has been walking since Christmas—at a rate of one conversion per mile—to dramatize his burden for the nation’s spiritual needs.

The seven-month march will end this month in Washington, D. C. There Blessitt and the thousands of “concerned Christians” he expects to join him will march from the Washington Monument to the Capitol and back for twenty-four hours of prayer and fasting on the monument grounds, the scene of many recent demonstrations.

There will be no program, he says—“Christians have been programmed to death”—just prayer for national revival. Soon after noon on July 19, when the prayer day will end, Blessitt will lead a brief service to challenge Christians to “share Jesus” during an intensive, forty-day evangelistic effort.

Along the way, Blessitt has been holding evangelistic rallies and urging Christians to meet him at the monument—but not with empty hands. “Everyone comes to Washington wanting something,” he says; “Christians need to come and give something.” So he is asking Christians to bring—or send—two gifts for the nation’s needy. Those who reach the capital may find a bloodmobile available for a third gift.

Blessitt began walking against the advice of three doctors who said he’d never make it (he’d had four minor strokes in three years). When a fourth gave him a fifty-fifty chance and said the worst end would be death, Blessitt decided “that ain’t so bad” and set out.His wife, with their three children (the youngest was six months old when they started), is driving a ’55 Ford pulling an Airstream trailer; four members of his rock group, the Eternal Rush, help carry the cross.

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Blessitt’s ministry to young people at rock festivals (see December 19, 1969, issue, page 34), His Place (a “gospel nightclub” on the Strip), and halfway houses prompted his concern for their parents—“You gotta reach parents to catch the kids ahead of time”—and for national leaders. The government sets up committees to study national problems, Blessitt says, but their reports never offer the “solution found in changed men, new hearts, new birth.” He hopes his cross-country walk will publicize that solution.


Revolution In Korea

With about 20,000 new professions of faith made in three weeks, Dr. John Haggai’s speaking tour through Korea has earned its name of the “Seventh Decade Spiritual Revolution Crusade.” The Atlanta-based evangelist’s meetings drew a total of 270,000 persons, creating crowds too large to permit walking forward at the invitation. Instead, follow-up cards were distributed, resulting in an overflow of local churches. Seoul’s Yung Nak, largest Presbyterian Church in the world, reports more than 2,000 new members from the campaign.

University and college students were the most responsive in professions of faith, with over 13,000 of the decisions coming from a campus attendance of 88,000. Haggai spent a week each in Pusan, Taegu, and Seoul, ending June 14.

A Christian Passover

Most Christian evangelistic organizations readily admit that their outreach to Jewish people is sadly lacking. Beth Sar Shalom, a Hollywood, California, branch of the American Board of Missions to the Jews, has developed a fascinating new means of reaching Jews with the Gospel and also of showing Christians their Judaic heritage.

This new ministry is built upon observance of the traditional Jewish Passover service and is held in churches throughout the Los Angeles area. The Passover commemorates the night when the angel of death took the lives of all the first-born in Egypt, sparing only those households over whose doors the blood of a lamb had been sprinkled. The observance prefigured the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper.

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Plotters In The Pews

After six nights of rioting in the University of California at Santa Barbara collegiate community of Isla Vista, two hundred angry student leaders and professors rallied in the United Methodist University Church to plot strategy for continuing their protest. Nearly three hundred dissidents had already been arrested after indictments against fifteen persons and two John Does for burning the Bank of America branch February 24 brought renewed fire-setting and rock-throwing antics.

Demonstrators accused police of brutality ranging from billy-clubbing to knocking down doors to appprehend curfew-violators. University Methodist pastor, the Reverend Dan Kennedy, said, “We’re getting documentation and I can tell you we’ve got plenty of lulus.…” Police officials claimed that only necessary force was being used to enforce the law.

The church sanctuary rally resulted in an overwhelming vote to defy the 7:30 P.M. curfew with a sit-in in Perfect Park, adjacent to the Bank of America building. That evening one thousand demonstrators taunted 300 khaki-clad law-enforcement officers surrounding the park and cheered as 375 protesters were escorted, dragged, or wrestled to buses bound for jail.

Aware of the presence of television and press representatives, the students yelled, “The whole world is watching!” Many made obviously phony grimaces of pain for cameramen as they were carried off, flashing the peace sign. “Make the World Safe for the Bank of America,” cried the crowd. They sang the theme from Marat/Sade, “We want our revolution and we want it now!”

The sheriff’s men methodically made arrests until darkness necessitated use of a tear-gas fogger to disperse the remaining activists and observers on the park’s fringe. A din of obscenities, a hail of three-inch white patio rocks, and a series of trash-can and automobile fires continued until roving patrols cleared the street by 11:30 P.M. A CHRISTIANITY TODAY reporter saw no improper conduct by law-enforcement officers during this particular four-hour confrontation.


Scripture In Public Schools

Back to the Bible may be Washington’s answer to the rising crime rate. The District of Columbia school board is considering proposals for a “character-building” program to begin this fall. Teaching the Bible as literature in English courses and instituting an elective comparative-religion course are prominent parts of the package. The plan has a “very good chance” of passing, according to Director of Curriculum Mrs. LuVerne C. Walker.

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“Our ideal heroes have been wrong—somehow we have to reverse this process,” states the Reverend Andrew J. Fowler, chairman of the Committee of 100 Ministers, which originated the proposals as part of an anti-crime campaign involving police, parents, churches, schools and news media. “Unless we can do that, they may as well stop talking about more police,” says Fowler. “We produce more criminals than the guards can arrest.”

Approval is certain for such aspects as studying the lives of “heroic individuals,” memorizing wholesome poems, using more religious music, and teaching “eight positive attitudes.” “We plan to revitalize and reactivate the character-building which is actually inherent in all parts of the curriculum,” affirms Mrs. Walker.

The textbook committee is expected to add The Bible Reader (Cromwell, Collier, and Macmillan, 1969) to its approved text list to increase use of the Bible in English courses. However, the comparative-religion course will be more difficult to adopt because of administrative and financial problems.

The D. C. drive is one of a number of efforts at teaching religion being explored across the nation. Extensive field testing of other programs will begin this fall in Pennsylvania and Florida, and a revised curriculum is already under way in Nebraska.

Senate chaplain Dr. Edward L. R. Elson observed, “My mail indicates a great host of people across the land are fed up with battles going to the minorities. They want a return to the theistic presuppositions on which they feel our country was founded.”


Oppression In Southern Africa

Lesotho, the small black nation (formerly known as Basutoland) within white-ruled South Africa, used to be a refuge for the suffering political and religious leaders of South Africa. Not any more. The politicians have been arrested and may soon be sent back to South Africa. And churchmen in Lesotho, whose populace of nearly a million is predominantly Christian, are no longer at ease.

Straining of church-state relations began early this year when Christian leaders strongly opposed the prime minister, Chief Leabua Jonathan, for seizing power. The chief had declared invalid the results of an election that favored the opposition. He also arrested the opposition leaders, put the king under restriction, declared a state of emergency, and suspended the constitution.

In mid-February, five men representing the Christian Council of Lesotho handed the chief a protest note, but also offered their services in bringing about reconciliation between him and King Moshoeshoe II. The chief flatly rejected the reconciliation plan. He promised, however, that the state of emergency would not last long and that the constitution would soon be restored.

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But by Easter things seemed to have moved from bad to worse, and Christian leaders were ready for a more drastic step. A strongly worded statement, signed by Protestant and Catholic leaders, was to be broadcast over the government radio. The government refused. The statement was recently published by Seek, the house organ of the Anglican Church of South Africa.

After declaring that they represented “the great multitude of Christian believers in Lesotho,” the leaders said: “We feel the deepest pain and grief and have a sense of shame on account of all the forms of brutality and cruelty which in recent days have scarred the good name of our … nation.”

The statement continued: “We express what we believe to be the spirit of Christ, and the conscience, in Christ’s name, to bring to an end all such forms of cruel and violent handling of our fellow human beings.

“We beg all Christian people to pray earnestly that this will be done. And this we do solely in the name of him, our Saviour and Lord, who declared that the way we treat our fellow men is seen in his eyes as the way we are treating our Lord himself.”


An Essay In Fantasy

When the book first appeared, many considered it an elaborate hoax, though it had come from one of Britain’s most respected religious publishers and had been serialized in the country’s largest-selling daily. Then a group of evangelicals threatened prosecution for blasphemy, the newspaper (probably under pressure) published a reply from a prominent critic, and the whole thing blew up.

The volume was The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, the author John Allegro—who until this year lectured in inter-testamental studies at Manchester University. He is a onetime Methodist lay preacher.

His latest thesis, which runs to 350 pages, is based on the assumption that Christianity was a colossal deception to hide from all but the elect few the erotic and narcotic mushroom cult. Veneration for Amanita muscaria in the ancient Near East, declares Allegro, was combined with phallic fertility rites, a point he pursues at inordinate length.

Leading linguists, historians, botanists, and other scholars have scoffed at the book, some calling it an “essay in fantasy.” Doubleday will introduce the book in America next month.

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A Chaplain Resigns

Prayers were said last month in his former Church of England diocese of Southwell for the Right Reverend Gordon Savage, who resigned last Easter for health reasons. The bishop thereafter took up a one-year appointment as chaplain in Tenerife, Canary Islands, but controversy followed newspaper reports that accompanying him to Tenerife as housekeeper was Miss Amanda Lovejoy, 31, former topless dancer in a London club.

Bishop Savage flew home for several meetings with the archbishop of Canterbury, whose “pastoral advice” he had sought, at the same time protesting that it was an innocent friendship. He subsequently resigned his chaplaincy.

In a statement issued through his lawyers, Bishop Savage said that his choice as housekeeper of Miss Lovejoy, “with whom and with whose mother I had been closely acquainted for some years, appeared then, as it does now, to be a matter which was the private concern only of myself.” Bishop Savage, 55, is a former secretary of the strongly evangelical Church Society.

Roadside Murder

Early last month two men in civilian clothes and apparently under the influence of alcohol stopped a panel truck in Lucena City, Philippines and fatally wounded the 40-year-old missionary driving it. One of the assailants shot Nolan Willems in the abdomen for blocking his attempt to approach the two Filipino pastors riding with Willems.

The alleged assailants were later identified as the local police chief and a companion who fled after firing the fatal shot.

Willems and his wife had been missionaries in the Philippines with Far Eastern Gospel Crusade since 1961. He was a graduate of Wheaton College, with a degree in sociology, a member of Calvary Presbyterian Church in Fresno, California, and the father of four children.

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