‘Somewhat Inured’

Asked by Senator Howard Baker in the Watergate hearings why, since he knew that the proposed Watergate break-in was “illegal, inappropriate, and may not work,” he went along with it, Jeb Stuart Magruder cited his ethics course at Williams College under William Sloane Coffin, now university chaplain at Yale:

During this whole time we were in the White House and … were directly employed with trying to succeed with the President’s policies, we saw continuing violations of the law done by men like William Sloane Coffin. He tells me my ethics are bad. Yet he was indicted for criminal charges. He recommended on the Washington Monument grounds that students burn their draft cards and that we have mass demonstrations, shut down the city of Washington. Now here are ethical, legitimate people whom I respected. I respect Mr. Coffin tremendously. He was a very close friend of mine. I saw people I was very close to breaking the law without any regard for any other person’s pattern of behavior or belief. So consequently, when these subjects came up, although I was aware they were illegal we had become somewhat inured to using some activities that would help us in accomplishing what we thought was a cause, a legitimate cause [full text in the New York Times, June 15, 1973, p. C19].

Appraised of Magruder’s implication that Coffin’s approach to ethics helped him rationalize his Watergate misdeeds, Coffin responded, “Jesus and Jimmy Hoffa both broke the law, but there’s a world of difference between what they did. Whatever we did, we did in the open to oppose an illegal war in Vietnam. What he and the others did, they did behind closed doors” (Washington Post, June 15, 1973, p. A16). Apparently in his presentation of situation ethics Coffin did not succeed in communicating to Magruder his own ability to recognize that while all situations are ethical, some situations are more ethical than others.

Only The Beginning

Afghanistan’s expropriation and demolition of the only Protestant church in that country (see News, page 43) speaks eloquently of the perishability of religious freedom. We deplore this move, and the indifference of church and government leaders around the world that permitted it to happen. But the militant Muslims who were primarily responsible deserve our special sympathetic concern in their blindness, and they may live to realize their mistake. If they knew church history better, they probably would not have done what they did. Persecution, far from stamping out Christianity, only serves to encourage it. This evil act could usher in a new surge of Christian growth and influence for good in Afghanistan.

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James Deforest Murch

North America lost one of its most influential evangelical leaders with the death last month of Dr. James DeForest Murch, who was managing editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY 1958–61. He helped found a number of enterprises that God used to strengthen the impact of evangelical Christianity. His zeal to get Bible-believing Christians to work together is epitomized in the title of one of his books, Cooperation Without Compromise, a study of the National Association of Evangelicals.

One of the big challenges to which he responded was to get the many orthodox believers in Christian Churches and Churches of Christ to recognize other theological conservatives in North America, and vice versa. More than anyone else, Mr. Murch, who came from this movement, worked to break down this massive barrier. His great work will continue to bear rich fruit for years to come.

Grim Economics

Mounting public protest over large increases in food prices led the President of the United States to impose a two-month price freeze before announcing the terms and conditions of Phase 4 of the nation’s battle against inflation. But instead of merely freezing prices, why did he not roll them back, say to the January 1 level? And is there no relation between wages and prices? If wages rise and prices are fixed, producers soon reach a point where bankruptcy is imminent.

Mr. Nixon’s commitment to free enterprise has been abridged by this decision. We look for further regimentation and the loss of more economic freedom as the material principle prevails and the maintenance of affluence becomes the ultimate goal. This is a sorry state of affairs.

Key 73: A New Note

When churchmen in Puerto Rico decided to translate “Key 73” into Spanish, they had to choose between the word meaning the implement used to open a lock and the word meaning a tonal system in music. In English the “key” in Key 73 is derived from Washington’s Key Bridge, near which the originating consultation was held, and the bridge was named after Francis Scott Key. Although the proper name does not dictate the choice of one “key” meaning over the other, Francis Scott Key’s fame was as a composer: he wrote the “Star Spangled Banner.” So a musical interpretation is certainly a possibility, and the Puerto Ricans chose this. For them Key 73 is Clave (i.e., Clef) 73.

On page fourteen there appears a hymn composed especially for this year of evangelism, one selected from some 1,000 entries in the Key 73 hymn contest. The Reverend Bryan J. Leech wrote the words, and Mr. Gordon Carlson composed the music. Leech serves at Montecito Covenant Church in Santa Barbara, California. Carlson is a sales consultant for Mutual Life Insurance in Kansas City, Missouri, and has done doctoral work in music.

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We commend “Let God Be God” to Christians everywhere. Music has had a unifying influence throughout the history of the Church. May singing this hymn enhance our oneness, to the end that the purposes of Key-73 will be achieved.

The Child-Abuse Problem

Thousands of Americans have been beaten, slashed, scalded, burned with cigarette stubs, and tortured with electrical shocks. Prisoners of war? No, prisoners of problem parents. Experts say that child abuse is on the rise, with nearly 60,000 reported cases each year.

In New York City, partly because of a 1964 law requiring hospitals to report all child-neglect cases, the incidence of child abuse rose 549 per cent from 1966 to 1970; 7,000 cases were reported in 1971 alone. Sociologists and psychologists have found that many of these child-beating parents belong to the drug culture—another evidence that the much-praised flower children are weed-ridden. Experts also have determined that a great many of these parents are little more than children themselves and that their parents treated them with no more gentleness than they bestow on their offspring.

Senator Walter F. Mondale (D-Minn.) is sponsoring a bill (S.1191) calling for a National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect along with a fifteen-member presidential commission to study the problem. Congress would allocate $90 million to be spent over a five-year period for the bill’s implementation. Such legislation may have merit, but our support fulfills only half of our responsibility as Christians and citizens.

Research in child abuse done at Michigan State University suggests that “parent-aide” projects to troubled families could help ease the problem. The University of Colorado Medical Center for the past three years has used this approach. Stable parents from twenty-four to sixty work with disturbed couples as counselors and at times guardians, visiting couples in their homes, paying little attention to the children, and listening to the confusions the parents experience. Other lay-oriented groups are being developed along the lines of Alcoholics Anonymous, such as Mothers Anonymous, started in Los Angeles in 1970, and the more recent Parents Anonymous, based in New York. And here is where Christians can fill the second half of their responsibility. These troubled couples need the healing love and concern that our Lord brings; and he brings it through his children.

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Volunteers are desperately needed, and no experience is necessary. Christian doctors, psychologists, and social workers can also be involved. Mothers with small children could find that such a ministry is the one God intends for them. Church buildings can serve as meeting places for problem-parent therapy sessions. Sympathy and education must be meshed.

Vacations Are For Resting

The Bible talks about two kinds of rest. One is the peace that comes with the knowledge that God is in control and that one has been made right with him. The other is that plain old physical rest possible when one takes a break from his work and everyday routines. God grants the former rest when we appropriate his love in repentance and faith. The latter is not that automatic. Sometimes it seems easier to keep on working than to take a break. The busy person, Christian or not, must conscientiously strive to rest.

Although God has ordained both kinds of rest, we seldom attribute to physical rest any spiritual significance. We are much more concerned about avoiding laziness or any appearance of it. Most of us are so occupied with one thing and another that we fit into the situation described in Mark 6, in which Jesus invited his apostles out to a place in the desert for a rest because, as the King James puts it, “there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.”

We all know we need to get away from it all occasionally. But active, involved people are often tempted to put it off, or to take work along on vacations, or to choose a kind of vacation in which little or no real rest is possible. Women have the additional difficulty of not getting a thorough rest during a vacation in which they must continue to prepare meals for the family. Also, a vacation that requires a great deal of tension-producing driving may deprive drivers of needed rest. The really restful vacations are probably the most expensive.

Nevertheless, every person who recognizes that his body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that he is to be a good steward of the health, strength, and talent God has provided should set aside time for relaxing vacations. Stimulating, active vacations have their merits, but they should be planned so as to guarantee also a period of rest.

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