O Time, O Mores!

When the noble Roman M. Tullius Cicero noticed how bad things were getting in the republic, he exclaimed in his accustomed Latin, “O tempora, O mores!” (O what times, O what morals!) If he were among us today he could be even more specific and cry out, O Time! For widely read but aging Time is rapidly revealing a delicacy of moral judgment so precious as to make even that stern Roman pall.

Recently Time’s tender feelings were aroused by the melancholy fate of the “mules,” unfortunate creatures who reach a “tragic trail’s end” in Mexican prisons. “Mules” are amateur smugglers of things like cocaine and heroin, “desperately naïve” persons whose simple, childlike hopes for a bright tomorrow are dashed by the vigilance of Mexican customs inspectors and the implacable severity of Mexican courts. Professional smugglers, Time explains, label the carefree, fun-loving amateurs whom they use as couriers “mules,” but “the amateurs could not care less: the potential profits are sizable—though not as big as the risks” (Time, August 12, 1974, p. 36).

The mules’ motives, Time seems to be suggesting, are above reproach: “A junior high school teacher and his wife had joined a coke mule team for $5,000—a down payment, they hoped, on a farm.” What could be more praiseworthy? Although Cicero would not have understood, at least Virgil, author of the buccolic Georgics, might have. In any case, Time does. Even more pitiable are two crafty grandmothers from California, for their motive in smuggling was to get “bonuses” that would “let them retire comfortably.”

Prisoners of both sexes must endure abuse, insult, and maltreatment in Mexican prisons, Time sympathetically points out. Imprisoned American men are given degrading jobs such as cleaning toilets—hardly what they had hoped for when they agreed to transport the precious, habit-forming drugs back to the United States. Women prisoners, chosen by “professionals” in the hope that their good looks would help them whisk undetected through customs, suffer even more distressing fates.

Of course it would be unwise for Eutychus, who has not even been effective in a modest plea for a new approach to bribery in American jurisprudence, to cast aspersions on Mexican justice, but there are deficiencies. Perhaps it will not be taken amiss if he merely repeats Time’s discerning remark that many Americans imprisoned in Mexico stay in jail for months before they are brought to trial.

Of course, rigorists might point out that many of those “hooked” on cocaine or heroin—even when it was transported by amateurs—become addicts for life. But on the other hand, the addiction usually shortens that life. Had Time pointed that out, too, it would doubtless have aroused even more sympathy for the languishing mules. But where moral values are concerned, not even Time can think of everything.

Article continues below

O Time, O mores!


Filing For Aid

I must take time out to express my heartfelt appreciation for your article “Exorcism; Is It For Real?” by John Warwick Montgomery (July 26). I am amazed at all the information Montgomery shares in just three and one-half pages! I am filing this superb article for reference to aid me in my counseling work.


Director of Familytime Ministries

Milwaukee, Wis.

I really appreciated your article on exorcism.… To begin with, the author’s humorous yet serious style drove home the reality of the satanic. As a young Christian recently saved out of the occult and a college student, I can verify the terrifying rise in demon oppression and possession due to a growing interest in the occult by students. Most appreciated was the author’s explaining that while Christ’s method of exorcism is “simple” it is not “simplistic.” I’ve seen many people run into trouble by thinking they knew everything on the subject but didn’t have the Christian maturity to apply it.

Also badly needed and interesting was Montgomery’s brief history of exorcism, particularly in relation to church history. Such an explanation gives a feeling of continuity and permanence to an often baffling subject.… I’d like to thank your magazine for printing such a level-headed, practical article on a heated and current issue. Thank you for providing sound information where it is needed. I trust you will continue to do so in future articles.


Vicksburg, Miss.

I find it altogether incredible that CHRISTIANITY TODAY continues to offer approval to William Blatty’s book and film The Exorcist, as in the article by John Warwick Montgomery and Cheryl Forbes’s [review]. “The maturity of The Exorcist,” Montgomery asserts, “was nowhere better demonstrated than in its recognition that in the last analysis, where all else fails, only Substitution rids man of the evil powers arrayed against him.” Favorable reference is then made to Jesus our Great Substitute, and for this I sigh relief. In the film, however, the name of Jesus is either an obscenity or else an exercise in futility since in the end the Roman rite of exorcism is seen to fail. I just can’t believe that Montgomery, of all people, is really praising Father Karras’s act of suicide as both heroic and substitutionary, though this is unquestionably the intention of the author.

Article continues below

We need a more incisive critique of The Exorcist than has been offered thus far. Little has been said about the mind-manipulating use of images wherein the Cross is desecrated but the priestly collar is given a halo-like reverence. The book and film may yet prove to be the nearest theological equivalent to Jean Paul Sartre’s No Exit, expressing in a most subtle way a priest’s own sense of absurdity and futility.


Tremont Temple Baptist Church

Boston, Mass.

Setting Straight?

There are two inaccurate statements concerning Southern Baptists in the editorial “A License to Live” (July 26) which I ask you, please, in the cause of fairness, honesty, and Christian brotherhood, to set straight.… The editorial says, “Martha Willing proposes first tax disincentives for parents who have more than two children (a suggestion taken over by the Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention …).” This statement is utterly false. Southern Baptists in general and the Christian Life Commission in particular have long experienced false accusations of this kind from some sources.… A few lines further down the editorial says, “Southern Baptists and others who incorporated the first step of Population Dynamics’ ‘disincentives’ into their own educational programs should take a long look.…” Since such materials have not been incorporated in any shape, form, or fashion in Southern Baptist educational programs, this statement, too, is utterly false.


The Christian Life Commission

Nashville, Tenn.

“Issues and Answers: Population Explosion,” a pamphlet prepared by the SBC Christian Life Commission (460 James Robertson Parkway, Nashville, Tenn. 37219), of which Dr. Valentine is executive secretary-treasurer, contains the recommendations to which we drew attention.—ED.

Less Than Objective

Ed Plowman’s report on the World Evangelical Fellowship General Assembly left something to be desired as an objective evaluation of what took place in Chateau d’Oex and the future of the WEF.… In-depth discussion and re-evaluation of the entire purpose of the WEF took place, with input from representatives of all continents. It was then necessary to “get bogged down” for several sessions and make the structural changes to accomplish this purpose. As an outcome, the WEF is placing major emphasis on regional offices and services and the creation of commissions or associations in order to serve a broader range of evangelicals worldwide and in special fields.

Article continues below

Plowman’s report failed to mention many of the official actions which did take place.… The Theological Assistance Programme (TAP) will continue to be a principal program. Steering committees were also appointed to complete development of both the World Evangelical Communications Association and the international body of missions associations. During the assembly, reports were received from at least five relief and evangelical aid agencies within the WEF family that are cooperating worldwide, mostly through evangelical churches and missions.…

Membership in the WEF has grown by 50 per cent in the last two years. The organization is in healthy financial condition, with the new budget providing for two full-time executives at the international level. We are much encouraged by the unanimity of the official actions and outcomes, and look forward to the Lord’s guidance and leading as the Fellowship develops among evangelicals worldwide.


International Secretary

World Evangelical Fellowship

Washington, D. C.

Never having been a magazine columnist I can only imagine the difficulties there may be in accurately reporting an event. CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S account of the Sixth General Assembly of the World Evangelical Fellowship illustrates the problem. What apparently escaped your correspondent was the fact that the consideration of the constitution of the WEF was directly related to the organization’s purposes and goals.… Moreover, it should have been noted that the delegates’ willingness to consider modifications in the WEF structure in light of the Lausanne Congress was actually one of the first items of business. It was not therefore incidental and was assumed in the discussions that followed.… Then it should be emphasized that the adoption of the budget did indeed include provision for an international secretary. This is one of the reasons the budget was so relatively substantial compared with previous years.



Wheaton College

Wheaton, Ill.

Almost Sufficient

It was only after extended debate with myself that I decided to renew my subscription at my last opportunity—and only a free book bonus moved me to do so. But your latest issue heartened me considerably and was itself almost sufficient cause for unending loyal reading in the future. I hope it was an omen.…

Article continues below

Malcolm Muggeridge’s ICOWE address was magnificent.… the pace was renewed in the Charles Lewis Taylor article on “The Numinous in Worship.” What “made” the article was the author’s heavy dependence on the work of Rudolf Otto and recognition of the suggestions of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And the copy of the Lausanne Covenant revealed numerous similarities to our own Missouri Synod “Mission Affirmations” in essential features. And then the amazing recognition given Rudolf Bultmann on his ninetieth birthday! Who would have expected such an affirmative comment on this twentieth-century theological giant, so richly deserved and so much more Christian than the cheap shots some so-called evangelicals feel compelled to deliver? And the “frosting on the cake” came with the letter of F. F. Bruce, acknowledging with classic simplicity that “higher criticism” is just one more tool of the trade for serious biblical scholars.

I refrain from a plethora of complimentary adjectives for reasons of space. May I suggest that similar issues in coming weeks seek to maintain the superlative character displayed here by conscious comparison with that of August 16?


Trinity Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

Anna, Ill.

Surprised By Celebration

Just a note to say that I was surprised and deeply pleased by Cheryl Forbes’s coverage of Bishop John Maury Allin’s installation. I’m a new subscriber and a Missouri Lutheran, both of which may help to explain my reaction. She has a solid instinct for the importance of celebration.



Bread for the World

New York, N. Y.

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.