Suddenly a number of people have rediscovered ethics. In recent months Americans have been deluged with information about wrong-doing by people in high places. In the unfolding of events the question of right and wrong has surfaced in a provocative manner.

The Watergate disclosures created waves of disgust, the ripples of which are still with us. Among those who most fervently flogged the offenders were some who in their own actions were also transgressors. They called upon a higher morality only to justify their own actions and to salve their consciences. The hands of the one who stole the Pentagon papers and of those who published them were not that much cleaner than the hands of Nixon, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Colson (whose story of repentance and conversion is featured in this issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.)

Wrongful corporate contributions to politicians and political campaigns are another category of dark doing that has recently come to light. The executives who made these decisions knew they were breaking the law. But the politicians and their aides who sought and accepted such contributions knew they too were breaking the law. Should we not call to account the receivers as well as the givers? Some of these disclosures occasioned the reference by Ray Garrett, Jr., former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to “bribery, influence-peddling and corruption on a scale I had never dreamed existed.”

Then the public heard about the corporate bribery by some American businessmen who sell their products overseas. Right now certain Japanese are feeling the heat of the money given them by Lockheed in an effort to increase the sale of its planes to Japan. In the Opinion Research Corporation’s survey among more than five hundred leaders in business, 48 per cent said they thought bribes should be paid to foreign officials if that practice is prevalent in the officials’ country.

Americans have also in recent months been given a taste of corporate, political, and governmental interference in Chile and other nations. Some politicians on Capitol Hill have deliberately breached their own rectitude by leaking documents, tearing down reputations, and drawing conclusions sometimes far removed from documentary evidence. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recently spoke out against the damage wrought by certain congressional activities. He had in mind the publication by the Village Voice of the still-secret report of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. The Voice publisher stated that the report had fallen on his doorstep; but whatever the circumstances, he printed what he knew was supposed to be a private report.

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To turn to the positive side: thousands of businessmen and politicians have never paid bribes to foreigners, given money illegally to political campaigns, or accepted illegal contributions or bribes, and would never do so. And it is good to see that people generally agree that some things are definitely wrong, despite the inroads of situation ethics, endorsed by some who claim to be in the Christian tradition.

The president of the Sperry and Hutchinson Company said recently: “There is no earthly way to defend bribery, kickbacks, or attempts to buy votes.” He was stating what the Judeo-Christian tradition had always affirmed: there are some things that are always wrong. No matter who the person is, what office he holds, or what cause he represents, to lie, cheat, steal, or covet is never right. And for those who confess Christianity to do any of these things is even worse than for those who do not. The Communists pose as ethicists when it suits their purposes to do so. They pretend that what the democracies do is wrong. But they violate every rule they lay down for the conduct of others. Since they neither fear God nor keep his commandments, what they do is understandable even though wrong.

The Rotary “Four-Way Test,” though sometimes scorned as simplistic, is still a useful and reliable guide for evaluating what one proposes to say and do: “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good willand better friendship? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

Bad ethics is bad business, bad religion, bad politics Those who know and practice this truth must ever stand as guardians of what is essentially the Christian tradition and call before the bar of human justice and public opinion those who traduce these truths of natural and special revelation.

Where Do Retired Pastors Live?

The cost of a house continues to climb almost everywhere. The experts tell us that a smaller and smaller percentage of households can scrape up enough money for a down payment and earn enough to handle the monthly mortgage payments and upkeep. In many countries the situation is even worse than in the United States and Canada. And as the costs of buying a house go up, so do those of renting.

Especially hard hit by this escalation are pastors who live in parsonages. Some in the congregation may envy their pastor’s rent-free housing, but they need to ask themselves, What happens when he retires? What happens to his wife when he dies? If the average churchgoer has not paid off the mortgage on his home by retirement, he generally has enough equity so that he could sell it and purchase a smaller house or condominium; or he will have received enough income over the years to provide for suitable housing upon retirement.

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But the pastor who has always lived in parsonages has no equity upon retirement, nor has he usually had a salary high enough to enable him to save for retirement housing. Moreover, the combination of social security and, one hopes, a pension is likely to be very inadequate. Frankly, we don’t know what retired pastors are doing about housing these days; many may be living with grown children, or are getting by some other way.

The key question is, What is the responsibility of a congregation in today’s economy toward its pastor and his dwelling? In our opinion, in most cases the parsonage should be sold and the pastor be paid enough to enable him to afford the kind of housing that is average for his congregation. (The Internal Revenue Service grants the same benefits for a properly designated housing allowance as part of a salary as it does for a parsonage provided by the congregation.)

In some instances it may simply not be feasible to sell the parsonage; it may be unsaleable or an inseparable part of the church plant. In such cases it would be in order to pay the pastor a higher salary; a better solution would probably be to increase the church’s pension contribution. Non-profit groups may make pension contributions that are tax deferred up to 20 per cent of the employee’s total compensation. Such a pension plan could provide a lump sum upon retirement that could be used for the down payment on a house. It would also have the advantage, unlike many company pensions, of moving with the pastor without diminution wherever he goes.

Clear Away The Cloud

Just before he left office as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, William Colby told reporters that it would be “inappropriate” to order his agents to cease contact with American missionaries. He added that such contacts were very limited.

Just after the new director, George Bush, was sworn in, he declared that the CIA would continue its policy of having no paid informants among American clergymen or missionaries.

What is the difference in the position of the former and the present directors? There is none that we can see. The key word in Mr. Bush’s statement last month seems to be “continue.” He was not announcing anything new. He was affirming publicly that it is the policy of the CIA not to pay ministers or other missionaries from the United States to spy abroad. Mr. Colby had said earlier that there were no missionaries on the payroll.

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So, what is the fuss about? The policy reaffirmed by Mr. Bush does not rule out contact by his agents with missionaries who might volunteer information. This still leaves a cloud of suspicion over any ambassador of Christ, whether or not he does cooperate with America’s intelligence community.

Shortly after Mr. Bush announced his position, President Ford went on television to explain a new intelligence oversight plan. Simultaneously, he sent a message to Congress, asking its cooperation in safeguarding the nation’s secrets. The President indicated that he was willing to work with the Senate and the House of Representatives as they reconsider their oversight responsibilities.

At first glance, these pronouncements from the executive branch of government seemed a movement in the constructive direction requested by many missionary agencies (See January 2 issue, page 23). Upon examination, however, they indicate no real change. Thus, missionaries still need some authoritative word from Washington that they are “off limits” to the CIA.

Since that assurance has not come from the executive branch, it is time for Congress to act. The President has said he wants to cooperate with the legislative branch. One Congressional attempt is the bill introduced by Senator Mark Hatfield. Both houses of Congress should get to work soon on this proposal or a similar one, and we hope the President will assist in its enactment.

Meanwhile, missionaries must be alert to any attempts to compromise their position as ambassadors of Christ and not representatives of foreign governments. Churches at home should support them as they follow the dictates of their consciences in this matter. Some who are genuinely concerned about developments in their area may be led to share the information. For the good of the mission enterprise, they should not share this with the intelligence community. Until the current questions are cleared up in Washington, all American missionary personnel abroad could be adversely affected by what any one of them does.

Counterpressure On Their Peers

Peer pressure on teenagers is a powerful force. Today Christian young people face degrees of pressure that would have been unimaginable in their parents’ youth.

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Some of the most difficult challenges are those to join the crowd in the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana. Promoters of these products are now publicizing scientific claims of various beneficial effects, and young non-consumers do not know how to respond. The research on potential harm or good is not yet complete, but one incontrovertible statistic has been fully established: the number of teenagers who use these products is increasing rapidly.

Led by girls, the number of cigarette smokers in their teens continues to rise. The number of teenage alcoholics keeps going up. Larger percentages of young people try (and continue to use) marijuana each year.

One day last month, an ounce of a preferred strain of marijuana cost more on the streets of New York than did an ounce of gold on the London market. Despite the inflated prices, acceptance continues to grow. Maybe Christian youth and their advisers can find a clue in this inflation. What about the stewardship involved?

The Christian’s obvious answer to the question of whether to consume any of these harmful drugs is that his body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that he is accountable for its stewardship. To answer peers, the young Christian could also point to the costliness of the products themselves.

Whether Christian or not, most young people today claim a social consciousness. Injustice, poverty, and war stir them to demonstrate. This concern for the cause of the less fortunate should lead them to question the propriety of spending their money on these expensive luxuries. Can they justify the cost of a daily pack of cigarettes when that money could keep starving children alive? Can they justify the cost of regular drinking when that amount could provide simple shelter to a destitute family in a disaster area? Can they justify the exorbitant expense of the marijuana habit when those funds could buy medical care for many who are dying? Christian young people can put such counterpressure on their peers, and in the process ease their strain.

The Word In Washington

America’s evangelical community put on an impressive show of strength in Washington last month. Several thousand of its most influential clergymen and laymen turned out for the first joint convention of the National Association of Evangelicals and the National Religious Broadcasters. A patriotic spirit characterized the four-day bicentennial meeting, but while most participants were respectful and appreciative of their nation’s heritage they also expressed a wide variety of concerns about its moral direction and its lingering injustices.

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President Ford addressed the opening session, which suggests that evangelical political potential is now being recognized at the highest echelons of government. That potential had been significantly underscored by the precedent-shattering total of more than three million letters received by the Federal Communications Commission opposing a petition, since denied, to freeze broadcasting permits for certain religious organizations.

NAE delegates pledged to “commit ourselves to participate in every lawful and morally right function of human government and oppose with all our determination whatever is unlawful and morally wrong. While we work, we wait for the return of him whose right it is to reign, whose kingdom shall abide throughout eternity.”

(A comprehensive news report on the NAE-NRB convention will appear in the next issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.)

Simeon: Filled, Taught, Led

The name of Simeon appears in the New Testament in the account of the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple (see Luke 2:22 ff.). He is in a sense an unknown; we are not told his work, his age, his tribe, or whether he was a layman, a scribe, a Pharisee, or a Sadducee. But this much we do know: he was a man of God and a prototype of the kind of person each of us ought to be.

Luke tells us three things about Simeon that throw light on his life. First, “the Holy Spirit was upon him.” The full meaning of this we do not know. But we do know Simeon had something that not everyone possessed. Scripture says elsewhere that John the Baptist would “be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” We can conclude that Simeon was in some similar fashion filled by the Spirit.

Second, Simeon was taught by the Spirit. In this instance it was more than illumination of what already existing Scripture meant. It was some kind of direct revelation that would not have come to one who was not under the lordship of the Spirit: “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

Third, he was led by the Spirit. The account says that “inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple” at the time Mary and Joseph brought Jesus for the presentation. Had he been late he would have missed this event. But led by the Spirit he was there at God’s appointed time.

The words Simeon spoke as he held the infant Son of God in his arms are beautiful, for they express the heartbeat of the loving Father who wants everyone to be saved: “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” Simeon was a true believer, a saved man. “A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.” What a large vision! God is not the God of Israel alone. He is also the one who loves the Gentiles and sent them, too, the light of the world, Jesus.

What God could do through this unknown personage he can do through us, too—if we are filled, taught, and led by his Spirit.

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