All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances.
So said Shakespeare. The player on center stage now is the President of the United States, and the whole world is wondering about his exit. Will he resign, be impeached and convicted, or complete his term?
There can be no doubt that a large percentage of those who voted for Richard Nixon in November, 1972, no longer have confidence in him, and that his capacity to execute the functions of his office has been considerably reduced. Whether guilty or innocent of impeachable offenses—“treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”—he bears the ultimate responsibility for what Watergate has come to stand for.
Mr. Nixon’s problems were greatly intensified by his release of the transcripts of the tapes. Up to that time the major if not the only question was a legal one: Did he have advance knowledge of Watergate and was he involved in the cover-up? To that has been added a large question of morality. The transcripts show him to be a person who has failed gravely to live up to the moral demands of our Judeo-Christian heritage. We do not expect perfection, but we rightly expect our leaders, and especially our President, to practice a higher level of morality than the tapes reveal.
And so did Richard M. Nixon himself, in 1960, judging from his remarks in a televised campaign debate with John F. Kennedy. What he said about “dignity and decency and, frankly, good language” in the conduct of the presidency makes ironic reading now: “And I only hope that should I win this election, that I could [see] to it that whenever any mother or father talks to his child, he can look at the man in the White House and say: ‘Well, there is a man who maintains the kind of standards personally that I would want my child to follow.’ ”
While this in no way excuses the White House, it must be said that much of American life has contracted the same disease. American religious life is no exception. Lester Kinsolving, the syndicated columnist, has recently exposed the payment of what he calls hush money in connection with a minority-group funding program of more than $7 million in the Episcopal Church. And evangelicals can point to some in their ranks whose private or public conduct is disgraceful, perhaps even worse than that displayed by the Watergate participants.
The defense of the President’s moral failures by John McLaughlin, a deputy special assistant to the President who is also a Jesuit priest, is particularly shocking. To recognize that the President is a human being is one thing; to try to justify his moral delinquency is quite another. McLaughlin has performed no service to the President by defending him when he should have urged him to repent and to seek God’s and the nation’s forgiveness. It is this kind of ethical understanding that earlier gave rise to the uncomplimentary term “jesuitical.”
We now have a President who is under House scrutiny for possible impeachment and whose moral flaws have been revealed. A legal question lies at the root of the call for impeachment; a moral question, at least superficially and theoretically, lies at the root of the call for resignation. If the President were to resign, the legal question would not be resolved. Yet the Constitution does not provide for the removal of a President because of moral flaws. To resign would be to leave the presidency for other than a constitutional offense.
We all know that politics plays a large role in the thinking of our legislators, and it is easy to see why for personal reasons some advocate and others oppose resignation. Undoubtedly Republicans who must face the electorate in November would prefer to do so with Mr. Nixon no longer occupying the Oval Office. If he is still there, the indications are that the Republicans will take a licking at the polls. Many Democrats do not want him to resign, for they believe his presence will insure the success of their candidates in November. Meanwhile the country suffers setbacks and divisions.
Superficially a case can be made for resignation based on the immediate best interests of the nation. But the long-run disadvantages might outweigh any immediate benefits. Even though Mr. Nixon’s policies are not the issue in this case, future presidents might be unable to resist public clamor for resignation based on a capricious response to unpopular decisions. But the United States does not have a political system like that of Britain or Canada. Presidents do not leave office when the Congress votes down a bill proposed from the White House.
Moreover, just how crucial is it to “spare” our country the impeachment process? If it is too difficult, then the Constitution should be amended. Actually, we are in a relatively stable international situation compared with that of recent years.
The Chicago Tribune is correct in rebuking the President for “a lack of concern for morality, a lack of concern for high principles, a lack of commitment to the high ideals of public office.” If this were sufficient reason for resignation, then Mayor Daley should resign as should any number of governors, legislators, and judges. The Tribune’s evaluation is correct, but it does not necessarily follow that resignation is the right answer.
We think that the constitutional process should be followed, and followed with dispatch. Either Richard Nixon should be removed from office by the Senate or he should be acquitted. If he is acquitted, the nation will have to wait out the term of a President whose ability to function has been seriously eroded.
In our judgment the President would be well advised to seek the forgiveness of God by repenting privately and then by going to the people publicly and asking for their forgiveness. And those who have mercilessly pursued him and uncompassionately sought by every means to do him in should examine their own souls. Repentance might not win Mr. Nixon acceptance by all, but it could get him off to a new start if his exit from the stage is deferred until January, 1977.
Frederick Donald Coggan took four days to answer the letter before accepting royal appointment as 101st archbishop of Canterbury. Approaching sixty-five but looking much younger, he is the oldest appointee since Frederick Tempe in 1896. He holds a Cambridge double first in Oriental languages and began his career by teaching at Manchester University (see also news story, page 44).
Coggan has actively supported the United Bible Societies and the Feed the Minds campaign for worldwide distribution of Christian literature. He opposes disestablishment, favors union with the Methodists, and would like to see women priests. He has done much to encourage the revival of preaching in his church and is himself a Bible-based preacher. “Every now and then,” observes Canon David Edwards of Westminster, “he mentions the Ten Commandments, which shows how bravely he can be unfashionable.” Coggan was an early leader of the Inter-Varsity Fellowship. Although his outlook has broadened over the years, he is still identifiable as the first evangelical primate of all England and titular head of the worldwide Anglican Communion since John Bird Sumner, appointed in 1843.
Roman Catholics and Methodists have expressed delight at the choice, but the most significant endorsement comes from within Coggan’s own church. The influential and moderately “high” Church Times welcomes him as a “leader of true evangelistic zeal and fervor” and “an undoubted man of prayer.” It does not underestimate his task in a national church that is declining but yet has enormous resources and potential, in the Anglican Communion (where his leadership is by courtesy but is nonetheless real), which lacks cohesion, and in a world bedeviled by radicalism, syncretism, and secularism.
Asked the inevitable question whether he would be regarded as a “caretaker,” Coggan told newsmen, “There is a passage in the New Testament which says ‘Take care of the Church of God’ and I can think of no greater or better job than this.” Donald Coggan’s appointment has been for many an answer to prayer, and many will wish to remember him as he goes to Canterbury in November.
India, the world’s largest democratically ruled society, is one of the world’s poorest nations. Officially committed to a policy of non-violence and a constant proponent of peace in international affairs, India nevertheless has one of the world’s larger and more formidable armies. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, broke with the Mahatma Gandhi’s policy of non-violence in order to incorporate princely Hyderabad and Portuguese Goa by force into independent India. He was also involved in violent conflict with Pakistan. In 1961, he found to his sorrow that Red China, when it considered India to be trespassing on its interests, was not restrained by India’s assiduously cultivated image of peaceableness but struck out against it with considerable vigor in the Northeast Frontier Agency and on Aksai Chin. In 1971, India successfully resorted to force against Pakistan in an effort to end the intolerable persecution of East Pakistan’s Bengalis. Now India has joined the ranks of the nuclear powers.
Editorial opinion in the West has been highly critical of India, stating that the money spent on atomic research could better have been used to feed India’s hungry millions. Indeed it could. But so could the hundreds of billions spent on armaments by the industrialized nations, not to mention the oil-rich Arabs and Iranians. Without necessarily commending the decision of Madam Gandhi’s government to engage in atomic research adaptable for military purposes, we must observe that as long as we insist, for reasons that seem compelling to us, on having many guns to guard our butter, we should refrain from sanctimonious condemnations of other states, even poor ones, for taking what we may think are unnecessary costly measures in their own defense. In a fallen world armaments will always be with us, and as long as we feel that we need them ourselves, we can hardly condemn others, even the “less fortunate,” for feeling the same way. Given the moral bankruptcy and impotence of the United Nations and the self-interest of the great powers, India’s decision may be called unrealistic, but it is hardly irrational.
The Right To Be Wrong
Bob Jones (“the world’s most unusual”) University has earned its self-chosen appellation by its refusal to admit single black students. This policy, which Bob Jones claims is based on religious convictions, attracted the attention of the Internal Revenue Service and was fought in the courts all the way to the Supreme Court. Bob Jones has not won its case up to this point. This means that no donor can claim exemption from income taxes for any gift sent to the university.
We think that Bob Jones is wrong in its racial views and that barring certain students because they are black is an indefensible, unbiblical position. Nevertheless we consider the withdrawal of exemption a violation of the First Amendment that opens the door wide to government control of religious convictions. It breaches the wall that supposedly separates church and state.
There are religious groups that refuse to ordain women. It would seem to be only a short step for institutions under the control of such religious groups to lose their tax-exempt status, too. And the list of other analagous situations is a long one. Thus, for example, institutions that refuse to admit homosexuals on religious grounds could also be denied tax exemption.
The Congress of the United States ought to supervise the Internal Revenue Service more carefully and correct this inequity because of the implications of the current court decision. We would like Bob Jones to change its position, not for expediency but on the basis of principle. But we do not think the government should deny tax exemption over an issue that is genuinely religious, however misguided the institution’s views. Religious freedom includes the right to be wrong, and we would fight for the right of atheistic institutions to deny admission to students who believe in God. Bob Jones is wrong in its theology at this point but right in its claim to tax exemption.
Genesis Revised: ‘No Essential Difference In Method’
In 1970 and 1971 the messengers to the annual meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention instructed their Sunday School Board to scrap the first volume of the “Broadman Commentary” because its treatment of Genesis was “out of harmony with the beliefs of the vast majority of Southern Baptist pastors and people.” They directed that the volume be rewritten with “due consideration of the conservative viewpoint.” Volume 1 Revised is now off the press, with a new Genesis section by Clyde T. Francisco.
Joseph Smith, the Baptist campus minister at the University of Maryland, reviewed the new volume in the Capital Baptist and found it much to his liking. He concludes that “happily, dissent within the denomination has brought us not one, but two creditable and complementary works of Biblical scholarship,” and that Francisco “has succeeded remarkably well in steering amid the traps set for him by his assignment.”
Getting into specifics, Smith comments that Francisco “is more than comfortable with the documentary hypothesis as an approach to the literary diversity of Genesis.” “Further, Francisco is quite clear that much of Genesis is essentially figurative (chapters 1–11) or typological (chapters 12–36).” “Francisco sees that the editors of the Pentateuch have larger purposes than recounting fanciful fireside tales.” “As has already been indicated there is no essential difference in method between the two commentaries.” “[G. Henton Davies in the first treatment of Genesis] denies that the God whom we know could have demanded that Abraham offer Isaac as a sacrifice … but Francisco … is also driven to ask, ‘How could the God of love revealed by Jesus Christ ever ask such a thing of man? He would certainly not do so today, for … human sacrifice is not acceptable to God’.… Francisco suspects that Abraham’s imperative to offer his son was rooted in the child sacrifice customs of other ancient Near Eastern peoples.”
Smith’s appraisal of Francisco’s work is generally accurate. The question that must be asked, then, is this: Is the revised volume an adequate response to the SBC’s directive? And our answer is: Hardly so.
Scribes And Heresies
You can tell the difference between the Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists and the House of God, Which Is the Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of the Truth, Inc., easily enough. But distinguishing, say, The Church of God from The (Original) Church of God, Inc., or the Church of God (Anderson, Ind.) from the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), is clearly a job for a specialist.
Religion reporting is now a recognized specialty in secular newspapers and magazines. The days when it was a footnote to the job of society editor or obituary writer are long gone for most of the press in North America. By and large the religion editors have contributed to mutual understanding among competing ecclesiastical forces in our society. Evangelicals in particular have benefited: for many years following the fundamentalist-modernist controversy there was considerable reluctance to take orthodox Christianity seriously.
Along with professional sophistication and recognition has come a healthy self-consciousness among religion editors. They meet annually as the Religion Newswriters Association. We salute the RNA members as they hold their twenty-fifth anniversary convention in Louisville this month. Their next big challenge is to face up to the new journalism, the controversial literary genre now finding many converts among media people. It will be interesting to see how they adapt this approach, if they do, to the current trends in newsworthy religion, which show a shift from the ecumenical euphoria of the sixties back to doctrinal conflict.
If My People …
Some years ago a German evangelical—a former combat officer in the German navy and one of the few Germans who will admit to having once believed in Hitler—commented on the fact that German theology adopts every possible epistemological, psychological, and linguistic trick to avoid dealing with God as a living, personal reality: “If we accepted that, we would also have to acknowledge the fact that what happened to Germany in World War II was his direct punishment.” Apparently, living through the debacle of Nazi Germany does not necessarily give people, even religiously inclined ones, the ability to understand and accept the fact that God really does judge nations, even in the twentieth century.
At the time of the dedication of the Temple, the Lord appeared to Solomon and gave him this promise: “If my people, who are called by my name, humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sin, and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14). Awareness of this promise of forgiveness and national healing lay behind the recent Joint Congressional Resolution designating last April 30 as a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer. It was adopted by the Senate, but died in the House of Representatives without coming to a vote.
Between favoring such a resolution and acting on it there is a considerable gap. Not all those who voted for it appear to have fasted and prayed; whether they inwardly humbled themselves before God is, of course, between them and him. Regrettably President Nixon, who made a major address on the evening of April 29, made no reference to the call.
Through the Prophet Isaiah, God warned a later generation of Israelites, “When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood” (Isa. 1:15). One evident difference between the promise to Solomon and the threat made through Isaiah lies in repentance—an active turning away from wicked ways. Of course, the higher and more exalted a person is, the more difficult the admission of guilt and self-humiliation. Yet as even Nebuchadnezzar observed, “Those who walk in pride he is able to abase” (Dan. 4:37).
God is real, he is alive, and he is personal. He is able to tell the difference between superficial religious display, however grandly organized, and true repentance and self-humiliation. He judges nations as well as people. No one can repent for another, but each of us can repent of his personal share in sinful living and attitudes, and pray that such repentance might become genuine and widespread among our people and its leaders. Then perhaps our generation of Americans will be able to confess the reality of the personal God and say, “What happened to us was his direct action—forgiveness and healing.”
Praise the Lord, Sing Hallelujah
The following hymn was written for the International Congress on World Evangelization, to be held in Lausanne in July, by E. Margaret Clarkson. It can be sung to the tune of Regent Square (“Angels From the Realms of Glory”).
1. Praise the Lord, sing hallelujah!
Children of God’s gracious choice;
Let His praises rise as thunder,
Let the whole earth hear His voice;
Till the song of His salvation
Makes His broken world rejoice!
2. Man’s imprisoning night is shattered
At the impact of His Word;
Light and life spring forth eternal
Where that mighty voice is heard;
Let the powers of death and darkness
Own the triumph of their Lord!
3. Praise the Lord until His glory
Floods the farthest realms of earth,
Till from every tribe and nation
Souls rise up in glad rebirth;
Haste the day of His appearing
When all creatures own His worth.
4. Praise the Lord, sing hallelujah!
Sound His sovereign grace abroad,
Till His Word is loved and honored
Everywhere man’s feet have trod;
Till His ransomed family gathers
Safely round the throne of God!
Copyright 1974 by E. Margaret Clarkson
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