Evangelical Christians who shun involvement in politics in an effort to remain “pure” are handing over by default an important realm of life “to those who don’t share the moral vision of Christianity,” says American Baptist Paul Henry, a political science professor at Calvin College and a Republican county chairman.
His is one of many voices in the past few years calling for evangelicals to get involved politically. There is mounting evidence lately that the idea is catching on.
A number of developments make this election year one of special interest for evangelicals. Among them:
• Of the leading presidential candicates, four are professing Christians: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George Wallace, and Ronald Reagan.
• Religion is getting national attention in campaign press coverage.
• Hard feelings have developed between some Christians in Congress over differences in political ideology.
• Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ has become a center of controversy in connection with politically oriented statements and activities.
Ford is open, though not vocal, about his religious views. A lifelong Episcopalian, he credits the spiritual deepening of his life in recent years to involvement in prayer groups, study of the Bible, and the influence of other Christians, especially evangelist Billy Zeoli. In a letter to Zeoli he stated that he had received Christ as his personal saviour and was being helped through prayer and Bible study (he and Zeoli study together periodically using the paraphrased Living Bible). He encouraged his son Michael to select an evangelical seminary. But he smokes a pipe, dances, and drinks cocktails before supper, and these practices disturb many conservative Christians (Episcopalians traditionally have not looked on them as vices).
Reagan attends the Bel Air Presbyterian Church when he’s at his Los Angeles area home but talks very little in public about his faith. Bel Air’s pastor Donn Moomaw, an evangelical, told Howard Norton of the National Courier that Reagan is “a knowledgeable Christian” who “really knows doctrine” and has “an alive faith.” Reagan’s mother was a devout member of a Disciples of Christ church who raised her son in the Christian faith. They both taught Sunday school in Eureka, Illinois. His wife Nancy says he prays before making major decisions. He recently told a Christian group in Florida that he feels the country “is in need of and ready for a spiritual renewal,” and he called for Christians to join forces and reclaim their Judeo-Christian heritage for the healing of America. “As a Christian,” he stated, “I commit myself to do my share in this joint venture.”
Wallace was raised in Methodist churches in Alabama. His religious views have been described by his pastors as strongly fundamentalist. Other preachers who have known him say they wished he had shown more love and a sense of humor during the social turmoil of the last two decades. He does seem to have mellowed a bit in recent years, and a deepening of his faith has been apparent since the attempted assassination that crippled him in 1972. He told the members of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, that regardless of physical condition “if you have Jesus Christ in your heart and he has you in the hollow of his hand you are whole.” Said he: “I do know from experience that God is alive and that Jesus saves.”
Carter, a Southern Baptist who takes a regular turn teaching a men’s Sunday-school class at the rural Plains (Georgia) Baptist Church is the most outspoken of the four about his faith. He grew up in the church but not until 1966 did he have a conversion experience. He won’t discuss details but says he emerged from the experience a transformed person and began spending a lot of time in prayer and Bible reading. He said he spent more time on his knees during the four years he was governor than in all the rest of his life put together. He tells his critics that he’s never tried to use his position as a public official to promote his beliefs, adding, “and I never would.” But whatever role he might have in the future, he explains, it will be with the same personal relationship with Christ he’s had in the last ten years.
Carter’s sisters, also outspoken Christians, have received press coverage in connection with their faith too. His sister Ruth Carter Stapleton, also a Southern Baptist, is known for a low-key healing ministry, and she has a wide following among charismatics.
Many black clergymen support Carter, and that may be a key factor next November if he wins the Democratic nomination.
Possessing an evangelical faith does not necessarily color the way one votes. Among the Christians in Congress are Mark Hatfield, John Anderson, Andrew Young, Don Bonker, John Conlan, Jesse Helms, Albert Quie, and John Stennis, yet they represent a broad political spectrum, and they vote accordingly. Privately, they sometimes wonder how a brother can vote the way he does on a certain issue and still call himself a Christian, but the thought usually passes quickly. In an election year, though, feelings are sometimes more intense and lasting.
Compounding the situation this year are activities identified with Campus Crusade’s Bill Bright and Arizona congressman John Conlan (he’s now running for the Senate), both staunch political conservatives. A dim view of these activities is taken in the April issue of Sojourners, a magazine published by young evangelicals in Washington, D. C. and known formerly as the Post American.
Editors Jim Wallis and Wes Michaelson, a former aide to Senator Mark Hatfield, trace links between Bright and Third Century Publishers, the Christian Freedom Foundation, Campus Crusade’s Christian Embassy, and a national recruitment-for-political-action campaign, all reflecting Conlan-styled ideology (some of which Hatfield, for one, finds distasteful). Bright and Conlan have been close friends for years.
The article states that Bright brought together key individuals, many of them wealthy, to help organize Third Century two years ago as a for-profit company in Washington to publish God-and-country books and practical helps for getting organized politically at the local level. Through a shake-up of board members, Christian Freedom Foundation became part of the Bright-Third Century-Conlan camp as sort of the educational non-profit counterpart to Third Century. Meanwhile, the Christian Embassy was founded as an outreach center in Washington by some men who were on the boards of the other organizations.
Among other things, Third Century publishes a newsletter and a rating chart showing how legislators voted on issues of special interest to conservatives. Some prominent Christians, including Hatfield and Anderson, have scored low on the charts.
Bright denies that he is involved in promoting partisan politics, but he does acknowledge that he believes America is in desperate straits, and that if things don’t go right in the 1976 elections the country may “fall” within two years. Christians involved politically can turn the nation around, he says, and he openly encourages such involvement. In scattered parts of the country, some evangelicals are running for public office for the first time, reportedly in response to Bright’s challenge.
Wallis and Michaelson insist that Bright is using his influential position to promote narrow conservative positions and to harness wealthy people to the cause. They also object to Bright’s alleged mixing of evangelism with political objectives.
Whatever the outcome, all of these things are making this election year one for evangelicals to remember.
NEW HAMPSHIRE REMEMBERS
The flags on New Hampshire state buildings flew at half staff on Good Friday. Governor Meldrim Thomson, 64, who has a reputation for being independent minded, ordered it done to “memorialize the death of Christ on the cross on the first Good Friday.”
The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union called his action “an utterly inappropriate usurpation of power.” It lamented that “the lowering of flags, which are the symbols of the secular state, in this connection is … in blatant disregard of the separation of church and state.”
Thomson, running for his third two-year term, declined to comment on the group’s complaint. “Christianity speaks for itself,” he said. (He attends a Conservative Baptist church in Wentworth.)
Deprogramming: A Right To Rescue?
A grand jury in Westchester County, New York, last month dismissed charges against cult foe Ted “Black Lightning” Patrick and seven others accused of abducting Mark Goodman, a 19-year-old member of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. Patrick and the others, including Goodman’s mother and uncle, had been free on bail on a felony charge of unlawful imprisonment in an attempt last January to “deprogram” the youth out of the Moon sect. A passing motorist spotted the sidewalk scuffle as the group seized Goodman, and police were alerted. Everybody was arrested, and Goodman pressed charges.
The defense pleaded that the action was justified, and the jurors agreed. “Implicit in their findings,” said district attorney Carl A. Vergari, “was the belief that the family had the right to take reasonable steps to rescue the child from a situation which they believed constituted a danger to his health and welfare.”
Goodman is still in the Unification Church but leaders aren’t telling where he is. His mother, at home in San Francisco, reflects sadly that the family had always been closely knit. She said she hopes that communication with her son will be reestablished someday.
Patrick, a full-time deprogrammer working out of San Diego (see March 12 issue, page 45, and August 31, 1973, issue, page 40), may go to jail if appeals fail in cases in Colorado and California. Moreover, sources inside the Justice Department indicate that a federal investigation of his activities is quietly underway. Federal agents have quizzed teen-ager Wendy Helander who twice returned to the Unification Church after attempts by Patrick and her parents to deprogram her.
Patrick has removed some of the mystery surrounding his deprogramming activities in a just-published book, Let Our Children Go! (E. P. Dutton). Told with high interest (thanks to novelist Tom Dulack), Patrick’s story includes details of actual deprogrammings (they last from one hour to three days and consist mostly of questioning and badgering designed to make the cultist think independently and thus break the supposed hold of the cult on his mind). The book tells of conspiracy, kidnappings, assaults, questionable actions by police, and outrageous cult practices. It describes Patrick’s failures as well as his successes.
The illegal body-snatching associated with deprogramming may become legal and be carried out by police if a tactic employed by Arizona attorneys Michael E. Tauscht and Wayne N. Howard survives the judicial process. Through a recent conservatorship proceeding (a case where someone is named to protect the interests of another), they were able to get a California judge to send sheriff’s deputies to the controversial Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation center near Los Angeles and take 25-year-old Lane Petri into custody. Her mother, who had a team of deprogrammers ready, was named temporary guardian. Other legal phases of the case were continued to a later date. By the time the hearing is held, and if the deprogramming works, Lane Petri may testify in support of her parents’ contention that she had been “psychologically kidnapped” by the Alamo people when she joined them more than two years ago.
EDWARD E. PLOWMAN
Scientific creationists in California want equal time with evolutionists in the state’s classrooms, but boards of education and textbook companies are not cooperating.
“Not all scientists are evolutionists,” declares Nancy Stake, 32, founder and chairperson of “Citizens for Scientific Creation,” a non-profit, non-denominational group in Saratoga, a suburb of San Jose. “It’s all the same evidence,” she observes, “but the scientific creationist interprets the data quite differently from the evolutionist. All we are asking for is equal space in the texts.”
That space continues to be elusive. The California State Board of Education declared in a February 26 “memo” that “various alternatives [on the origin of life] should be presented appropriately,” but board members concede that the approved textbooks do not do this. Local school boards, when asked why alternative views are not being taught, reply that the state has not yet approved appropriate textbooks. And textbook companies apparently are waiting it out with the hope they will not have to spend large sums to revise the social-science textbooks. Such changes might not be approved in other states where the books are marketed.
“Our only solid hope,” says Mrs. Stake, “is that citizen groups such as ours will spring up across the country and make their views known. We believe that scientific creation—the concept that the theory of creation can be studied and taught on the basis of scientific evidence rather than religious beliefs—is viable, and we have evidence to show that the public wants it in the curriculum.”
Citing a 1974 community-opinion sample taken in the Cupertino school district, Mrs. Stake points out that 84.3 per cent of those polled on a random basis, including evolutionists, declared that they want creation taught along with evolution. “We don’t want evolution taken out of the text,” she emphasizes. “We just want creation to have its chance to be heard.”
Some organizations are producing texts reflective of the scientific creationist view. Among them are Creation Research Society in Ann Arbor Michigan, and the Creation-Science Research Center in San Diego, California. Whether these materials will ever get on the approved curriculum lists and then into the classroom is, however, anybody’s guess.
The Signature Must Be Valid
Following the ouster of four district presidents of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod last month (see April 23 issue, page 45), LCMS president J. A. O. Preus named four acting presidents to take their places until the districts hold their conventions within the next two months. At that time, new presidents are supposed to be elected. But the four who were ousted say they consider the action invalid, and the boards of directors of the four districts have voted not to recognize the acting presidents but to go on affirming the leadership of the men Preus removed. They are: Herman Frincke (Eastern), Harold Hecht (English), Rudolph Ressmeyer (Atlantic), and Robert Riedel (New England).
The four acting presidents named by Preus are pastors: Henry L. Koepchen of Setauket, New York (Atlantic); Albert W. Bahr of Niagara Falls, New York (Eastern); Paul G. Barth of Buffalo, New York (English); and Oscar E. Milke of Norwalk, Connecticut (New England). They were named after the vice-presidents of the districts declined appointment by Preus.
Just how these acting presidents will be able to conduct the affairs of districts that do not recognize them is unclear. In the face of mounting district rebellion, Preus warned that no district papers requiring a presidential signature would be considered valid unless signed by an acting president. The actions of the district boards, said Preus, “have shown grave misunderstanding about the nature of a district and its relation to the Synod.”
The four ousted presidents say they plan to attend this month’s meeting of the LCMS council of presidents (there are about forty district presidents). Preus says they will not be barred from the meeting but their votes won’t be counted.
Nearly 500 registered delegates and more than that many visitors attended last month’s three-day National Assembly of Evangelicals in England. The assembly, held annually, met on the campus of Salford University in Manchester. It was organized by the Evangelical Alliance, which represents more than 700 churches and church-related groups in Britain.
A battery of speakers drove home a variety of themes, from the need for structural changes in the church to biblical ways of handling interpersonal relationships within the Christian community. John Boyd, a Salvation Army member who is general secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers and is active in Labour Party politics, urged Christians to become involved in public affairs. Believers should be known for their honesty, sincerity, and concern for the welfare of others, he said.
Social worker John Benington of Coventry told how his work had influenced his faith, forcing him to change his mind about causes and treatment of social ills. He said he now believes economic pressures in the present system make it impossible for money to be allocated according to need. Therefore, said he, the structures of society need to be changed. But, he cautioned, the church should not get involved in political and social activism—contrary to an opinion he held earlier. The local church, he explained, should be a symbol of unity-regardless of the views of individual members. All Christians cannot be expected to hold the same political viewpoint, he added.
A number of the delegates took time to visit the nearby John Rylands Library under the guidance of Professor F. F. Bruce to see some of the biblical and other ancient manuscripts in its priceless collection. Among the treasures: the earliest known piece of New Testament writing, a papyrus fragment of John’s gospel which is dated between A.D. 130 and 140.
The Emperor: Still God To Some
Protestantism is only in its twelfth decade in Japan, and for more than five of those decades the venerable Hirohito has been emperor. He is a follower of the Shinto religion (in which ancestors and nature are worshipped), and he is expected to make an annual pilgrimage to the Ise Shrines dedicated to the sun goddess and the goddess of agriculture. Last month, in observance of his seventy-fifth birthday as Japan’s head of state, millions of well wishers waved the national flag and bowed before him. Twice a year the palace grounds are open for the people of Japan to congratulate the emperor on New Year’s Day and on his birthday.
Although New Year’s Day is January 1, the calendar year continues to be counted from the year of Hirohito’s ascendancy to the throne upon the death of his father on Christmas Day, 1926. Thus in daily newspapers, school assignments, and other writings in Japanese this is the year “Showa 51” instead of the Christian year 1976. A misnomer of sorts, “Showa” designates the current emperor’s reign as an era of “light and peace.”
Following World War II the emperor made an offical disclaimer of his divinity. Many people committed suicide after the announcement. Having been acclaimed as a god in Japan, he was the first in a 2,000-year history of emperors to break the god-myth that the emperor is a direct descendant of the sun-goddess to whom the Japanese history books and legends accredit the founding of Japan itself.
A missionary who served in Japan prior to the second world war recalls that the Japanese “were told that the emperor was not only emperor in temporal things, but also that he was the high priest of every form of religion and worship, and therefore, anyone joining any other community was guilty of a personal insult to him. Consequently, there were great difficulties in the way.”
Thirty years have passed and that same emperor is looked upon today as only a man. But not by everyone, apparently. In a recent newspaper survey 3,000 Japanese of a wide age range and various backgrounds were questioned. Though most indicated they realized the emperor is a political figure head stripped of any real power, others wavered on his exact role. Asked just what the emperor really is in today’s Japanese society, 4.5 percent called him “a sort of deity or a god.” If that survey is truly representative of Japan’s 112 million population, it suggests that five million persons may possibly hold to emperor worship three decades after the proclamation of his manhood.
NELL L. KENNEDY
Church Conduit Between Two Germanys
Protestant and Catholic churches have served as a secret conduit for hundreds of millions of dollars in West German payments to East Germany, according to an account by reporter Craig R. Whitney in the New York Times. Thousands of political prisoners have been freed by the East German government in the past fifteen years because “churches made their unofficial channels available to Bonn and East Berlin,” said Whitney. His Times article stated that an East German Catholic lawyer negotiates every year the release of 1,200 to 1,500 political prisoners held in East German jails, using money supplied by the West German government, most of it channeled through the Bonn office of the Evangelical Church of Germany. In 1975 $42 million was spent for prisoner releases, said the paper, about the same for each of the preceding ten years.
In return, authorities look the other way when churches in the West send money to the East to help build and maintain churches, church-operated hospitals, and even expensive pipe organs. A priest is quoted as saying the 1.2-million-member Catholic Church in West Germany had transferred about $14.8 million a year to East Berlin through the East German Ministry of Foreign Trade despite the fact that “officially, the churches in the East are cut off from the official support from churches in the West.”
Probing The Campus
In the past two-and-a-half years, nearly 43,000 college and university students in the United States and Canada have heard the Gospel in the most familiar academic setting they know, the classroom, through the efforts of Probe Ministries International.
Based in Dallas, Probe is directed by Jim Williams, a Dallas Seminary graduate, and Jon Buell. Both formerly served on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ. “There is a seemingly irreconcilable gap in the minds of most college students between biblical Christianity and their class studies,” says Williams. Wanting to harmonize the historic Christian truths with academic disciplines, the two men and their wives began Probe in the fall of 1973. The organization presently has more than two dozen team members.
The Daily Skiff, Texas Christian University’s student newspaper, described a Probe effort on the TCU campus as “a week-long lecture series relating the Christian Gospel to the subject matter in the classroom” that “is being sponsored by several campus non-denominational Christian groups in an effort to show the academic mind the basis for Christianity.… Lecturers are speaking on over forty topics during the regularly scheduled class periods of consenting teachers.”
Probe’s method is to sponsor a “Christian Update Forum” on campus. Forum “lecturers” are team members and guest professors such as Dr. Bruce Waltke (Regent College), Dr. Mark Cosgrove (Purdue University), and author/speaker Hal Lindsey. Their schedule for the week is arranged by student Christian groups such as the Navigators, Campus Crusade for Christ, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, the Baptist Student Union, and local church groups.
The forum consists of classroom presentations in twenty-five classes per day; a two-or three-day lecture series for the campus at large; evangelistic meetings in fraternities, sororities, dorms, and clubs (these feature Probe speakers and Christian students); and an Institute of Christian Academics. The institute offers twelve hours of teaching for Christian students; biblical perspectives are presented on a variety of current issues. The purpose is not only to integrate faith with studies but also to help equip the students to communicate their faith to fellow students and professors, according to Probe spokesmen.
Instructors who agree to having a Probe speaker address their classes are able to choose from a list of about fifty topics the one that would be most appropriate to the course content. Topics available range from current social issues (energy crisis, ecology, abortion, the occult) and the influence of Christianity on society to psychology and the nature of man, the physical and natural sciences (evolution versus creation, the origin of the universe), the need for moral values in education, and the historicity of biblical documents.
Staff member Scott Hanson explains: “Once in the classroom, we offer to our student audience intellectually tenable grounds for a synthesis to life, a Christian world-view, and an appeal for belief in Jesus Christ. Whatever the initial response, the ground is softened and seeds are sown for future harvest by Christians continuing actively with outreach and follow-up on that campus.”
At least 1,000 classroom presentations have been given in various parts of the country, and approximately half the students who heard talks gave their reactions to Probe through comment cards. A statistical analysis of the ministry’s history shows an overall 66 per cent “positive” response, says Hanson.
“Honestly,” wrote a student from Baton Rouge, “this was my first opportunity in four years of college education to hear a college lecturer advocating that God exists and God has spoken.” Another said, “I found the lecture very direct, informative, and interesting. I am not a Christian yet, but I keep an open mind. Lectures like this help a lot.”
Instructors themselves are sometimes influenced by the talks. A biology instructor from Stephen F. Austin University wrote that his field would soon take on many new perspectives because “I have asked Christ to come into my life … and ask you to assist me in finding even more meaning and involvement with my new love for Christ.”
Probe’s people say they are concerned about the needs of the Christian student as he faces the secularism of his university and often the ridicule of professors and classmates. As a result, a scholarly literature series is being developed. Called the Christian Free University Curriculum, the series analyzes the biblical and secular positions on topics within each of the academic disciplines, discusses the weaknesses of the secular philosophy, and presents a scriptural and academic basis for the Christian view. Christian students and faculty have access to the material for use in the classroom.
Probe also sponsors “Spartan Summer” camps, two-to eight-week conferences for the freshman entering college. The aim is to prepare conferees for the secular biases they will encounter in college, to introduce them to the Christian Free University Curriculum, and to provide training in witnessing and in how to act on biblical concepts.
MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN AND SUE PERLMAN, SUE PERLMAN
An attorney for TV producer Norman Lear last month demanded that Sue Perlman “cease and desist” her use of an evangelistic tract entitled “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” Ms. Perlman is information officer for the Jews for Jesus outreach organization of San Rafael, California, publisher of the tract. Like many other pamphlets published by Jews for Jesus, the tract employs a light touch to make a serious appeal (see cut).
Lawyer Glenn A. Padnick didn’t seem amused. He said that the producer possesses a copyright on the lettering of the title and that Louise Lasser, the star of the comic soap opera, possesses rights “with respect to advertising uses of her likeness.” The pamphlet, he claimed, infringes on those rights because it “suggests a common source and dilutes the distinctiveness of the mark.” He warned of “legal remedies” if compliance was not forthcoming within ten days.
Leader Moishe Rosen of Jews for Jesus observed that the Hartman show lampoons anything and everything—including the Church. It all proves, he stated, that some people can dish it out but can’t take it.
Padnick told a reporter he had to take the matter seriously in order to protect the service mark in future cases “where it matters.” Ms. Perlman and the Jews for Jesus people meanwhile have stood their ground; the ten-day warning period passed, and they are still circulating the tracts.
Some others are not treating the show so lightly. Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Milwaukee is contacting other congregations of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to organize a protest against low moral standards in TV programming in general and on the Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman show in particular. A church committee, expressing concern at “the erosion of morality in our area,” cited “the use of the Lord’s name, sex, sexual perversions, and abnormal life styles” on the programs. But TV people say ratings matter more than protests.
The twenty men studying for the ministry at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Bucharest, Romania, have signed a petition protesting the training they are getting at the school, according to a report by Keston College, a suburban London research center for the study of religion and Communism. Keston, quoting from a copy of the petition, says that with two years of their four-year course gone the students are upset by the sparseness of their theological knowledge. They claim they are getting a poor reception from the Baptist congregations where they have been sent on practical preaching assignments. Now, they lament, they are ashamed to stand before the people and preach poor-quality sermons based on what they’ve been taught. It all reflects badly, they suggest, on the quality of the theological education at the seminary.
To help remedy the problem, they propose the return of two ex-teachers who could easily be relieved of present duties to teach at the school: Petru Belicov, a retired director of the seminary, and Josif Ton, a scholarly evangelical pastor in Ploesti. Ton studied theology for three years at Oxford, then taught at the Bucharest seminary for two years after his return from England in 1972. An advocate of greater religious freedom, he was well liked by the students but was removed from his teaching post in action apparently prompted by state officials alarmed at Ton’s growing influence. In pressing their case, the students in their petition praised the achievements and theological knowledge of their predecessors who had sat under Ton.
Currently, five Baptist pastors are responsible for their training; only one of them is full-time, and one of the part-timers is on study leave.
Official reaction to the student protest has been along subdued wait-and-see lines, according to Keston.
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