The outpouring of honor and affection at the death of Hubert Humphrey was a well-deserved tribute to a man who, in the words of the Apostle Paul, was truly “God’s servant for your good” (Rom. 13:4). It is also a tribute to the political system that God has seen fit to authorize for the American people that those who disagreed with many of Humphrey’s views could nevertheless so highly regard him as a man and as a politician. In the same passage, the apostle repeatedly asserted that “the authorities are ministers of God” (v. 6), to whom respect and honor is due (v. 7). To the extent that any man can be, Humphrey was deserving of the tributes he received, both as death was looming, and then as it came, not only for his office’s sake, but for the character, integrity, and zeal with which he filled the offices he held. Whatever our roles in life, we could wish that we filled them as ably.

During his long career, Humphrey served as mayor of Minneapolis, as senator, as vice-president, and again as senator. He narrowly lost the race in 1968 as the Democratic nominee for President. Many analysts think that it was Humphrey’s continued loyalty to President Johnson’s war policies in Viet Nam that cost him the election. The disgraces of President Nixon’s administration and of his reelection campaign were in part provoked by the narrowness of Nixon’s victory over Humphrey. That Humphrey and Nixon were in contact prior to his death, and that Nixon made his first return to Washington to honor his political opponent does credit to both men.

During his long tenure in the Senate, Humphrey learned the importance of winning the respect of one’s colleagues if there was to be any hope for passing the legislation he sought. It was reported that early in his career the entire Senate walked out on him while he was speaking. The senators wanted to show contempt for his reformist zeal. Yet many of the things for which Humphrey at first waged a lonely fight were eventually to win general acceptance. This should be an encouragement to Christians who are lonely advocates of all sorts of causes.

It has been said that Humphrey’s view of human nature was too optimistic. Perhaps so. But his kind of advocacy is a needed balance to the negativism, pessimism, and cynicism that pervades so much of life today. We have enough of politicians, and of Christians, who seem to have resigned themselves to the view that things are so bad that it’s a waste of time to try to improve them. We need more leaders who in their character and behavior persistently manifest the commands that Paul gave just before he told us about the obedience and respect due to those in positions of civil authority.

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It seems that, in his calling as politician, Hubert Humphrey wittingly or unwittingly took these commands as addressed to himself: “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, … Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:9–11, 15–17, 21).

Indeed, commands like these are not only for leaders, they are for all of us.

Misuse of Academic Freedom

Robert S. Alley, chairman of the department of religion at the Southern Baptist related University of Richmond has raised a furor again. This time it was over statements that he made to a group of Unitarians in which he essentially agreed with their denial of the deity of Christ. He asserted that Christ himself didn’t believe that he was divine.

Although Alley claims he was misquoted, there was apparently enough substance to the reports, and enough hue and cry from Virginia Baptists, to force the university to take the unusual step of transferring him from the religion department to another post. The president of the school, E. Bruce Heilman, said that he couldn’t do more because of a commitment to academic freedom.

Alley’s departure from traditional Baptist beliefs is not new. In 1970 he wrote a book, Revolt Against the Faithful (Lippincott), in which he indicated that he does not believe in the Virgin Birth, miracles, or the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Adam, Eve, Noah, and Jonah “were fictitious persons.”

Even the most ardent defenders of academic freedom admit that a professor can be removed for criminal behavior or for refusing to perform normal duties. Were he in a secular university, Alley would be within the boundaries of academic freedom to believe as he does. But he has chosen to serve in a Baptist university and therefore he has agreed to teach within a framework theologically different from a secular institution.

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Alley should have the decency to resign since his views are so unorthodox. If he won’t then the university should dismiss him; they would have just cause. And if it won’t, then the Baptists in Virginia should stop supporting it financially.

Boycotting For Amendments

Perhaps 1978 will be the year in which the proposed Equal Rights Amendment becomes a part of the United States Constitution. Church women and men have been active on both sides of the issue. Legislators in the states that have not ratified it have felt tremendous pressure. Also feeling the pressure are hotel operators and people in related tourist-convention businesses. The pro-ERA forces have mounted a campaign to keep conventioneering dollars out of states that have not yet ratified the amendment. The National Council of Churches is among the groups pledged to hold national meetings only in states that have ratified the ERA and some of its member communions have followed its example. One of the denominations taking a cue from the NCC is the Illinois-headquartered Church of the Brethren. Since Illinois legislators have not approved the amendment, meetings planned at or near the general offices were switched to other locations at a cost of thousands of dollars.

This new tactic is different from the boycott of non-union lettuce. It is pressuring an entire geographic area in order to get a certain legislative decision. An Associated Press report at the end of last year said that ERA advocates claimed that the boycott had already cost certain cities (such as Atlanta, Chicago, and Miami) $60 million to $90 million. The Chicago tourist industry feared that it would be hurt so much that the city’s Convention and Tourism Bureau formally urged the state legislature to approve the ERA.

What if this strategy works? If the ERA is passed because of lobbying by hotel people, then what? That question was raised in a New York Times column by an ERA supporter who nevertheless opposes the boycott. He suggested that if it works for the ERA, then—horrors—what might happen if prayer-in-school advocates or right-to-life people get their amendments before the state legislatures? Wrote New York lawyer Morris B. Abrams: “There is no doubt that the type of boycott threat now used by some ERA supporters may be used to force the passage of amendments, such as these, which would fundamentally alter the Constitution as we now know it.”

It is not only these amendments that repulses Abrams, but also other possibilities that make the boycott a potentially troublesome tool. What if abortion supporters got organizations to meet only in states that were spending tax money for abortions? Other forces could get groups to keep their conventions out of states with “right to work” laws. And how about boycotting states that have state-run alcoholic beverage stores?

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Opponents of the ERA are tending to cry “foul” at the boycott strategy. But are they opposed to such boycotts in principle? Or are they just opposed to the ERA? If the former, then they are ruling out what might be a useful way of getting, say, an anti-abortion amendment accepted. If the latter, they should be honest enough to say so, rather than trying to disguise their basic views by appeal to some abstract principle.

Similarly, supporters of the ERA such as Abrams are doing well to raise the question as to whether these boycotts are something they want to defend in principle. The boycott could well prove to be a two-edged sword.

What to Do When Attacked

It is a natural human response to retaliate when attacked. There may indeed be times when some defense is in order, as when our Lord responded to an officer who hit him when Jesus gave what the officer thought was a disrespectful reply to the high priest (John 18:19–23).

The general principle, however, was enunciated clearly in the Sermon on the Mount: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44). Paul expands upon this command: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and [unlike the usual response] do not curse them” (Rom. 12:14).

Paul tried to practice what he preached. Like the rest of us he at times may have faltered. (Acts 23:1–5 may record such a slip.) But generally he could testify that “when reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate” (1 Cor. 4:12, 13).

Such exhortations apply not only to persecution by opponents of God. For many of us the test comes when we are verbally attacked by our fellow Christians. When someone challenges the soundness of our doctrine or the propriety of our practice is our response to find some charge to hurl back at them? Or do we pride ourselves that we manage to keep silent or non-committal?

Neither of these responses conforms to the biblical precept. We are not told simply to refrain from hating our opponents, but to love them. We are not commended for not returning slander for slander, but instead we are to try to conciliate.

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We may not be facing violent persecution, but all of us encounter hostility or opposition. Let us, following the example of Christ and utilizing the empowerment of the Spirit, respond in a way that visibly demonstrates the radical nature of the transformation that has come upon the children of God.

We are by no means assured that the response of love will necessarily transform our opponents, but we can follow the injunction that “so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18).

The Reverend George A. Huber, Southwood Baptist Church, Woodbury, New Jersey

This is a day of popularity for the evangelical Christian. The president of the country has declared that he is a born-again Christian. Prominent personalities in political life, business, and entertainment have declared their allegiance to Jesus Christ. The testimonies of Charles Colson and Larry Flynt have shocked people. Can such people actually be changed? Billy Graham’s new book “How to be Born Again” has had the largest initial printing in history, 800,000 copies. Time magazine featured evangelical Christianity in a seven-page Christmas feature story.

Amidst this wave of popularity there are clouds on the horizon. The believer in Jesus Christ cannot be lured into acceptance of practices that will bring reproach upon his name. There are three basic areas in which the evangelical Christian must be alert.

First, the evangelical Christian must be alert to superficial theology. We do not need to return to a narrow exclusivism that brands as “heresy” any view that deviates from our own. It is possible to forcefully defend the key doctrines of Scripture and be able to fellowship with others who differ from us. However, our times emphasize popular interview programs. Many recently converted public figures have become targets for such interviews. Although rejoicing in dramatic conversion experiences, it is evident that principles of Christian living have not become formulated yet. Accurate views and principles of life come with knowing the Word of God. The emphasis upon charismatic, experiential thinking may portray an image of evangelical Christianity that is different from the mainstream. Yet this kind of emphasis has dominated in television programming that purports to represent the evangelical Christian.

Second, the evangelical Christian must be alert to the dangers of the para-church movement. Our emphasis upon an invisible church, a universal body of believers, may have some benefits in helping us to cross cultural barriers and geographical boundaries. At the same time it may cause us to become confused when we review the simple biblical accounts of a church in Philippi, Rome, or Ephesus. Believers need growth in their lives, fellowship with other believers, and an outlet for service. These should be the basis for a church. The New Testament concept of the church is not invisible, but it is basically local, specific, and identifiable. Christians today become identified with missionary societies, youth agencies, and a host of other para-church movements. In a real sense, these organizations become churches in that they fulfill some of these functions. The problem is that they do not provide the needed balance, and they become an excuse for non-involvement with a local body of believers. Evangelical Christians give millions of dollars to large organizations, which develop slick promotional campaigns and haunt the correspondents with tons of literature. Do Christians need to perpetuate such large empires?

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Third, the evangelical Christian must be alert to ethical vacillations. Too many Christian organizations are mainly recognized by their fund-raising gimmicks and by their exhaustive public-relations appeals. The begging and badgering cheapens the entire message being presented. Touring groups enter churches and set up elaborate commercial counters using singers as hawkers to peddle their merchandise. The movement in society is toward integrity and accountability by political figures and by all those who make up public appeals. Why should the Christian organization hesitate to disclose its income and expenditures? Supporters should demand of it specifics or discontinue support.

Solutions to their problems must be sought. The Christian, first of all, must ever be discerning. We can never aspire to be greater than our master. We must beware of the blinders in our own eyes and beware of the flamboyant counterfeits who claim the name of Christ. We must measure conduct by the standards of the Word of God.

Christians must also become involved in service. Support should be offered to ministries known to be true and reputable. The local church needs resurgence as new believers in Jesus Christ willingly submit themselves to the authority of the body of believers and so serve and grow together. The cause of Christ will be hindered if the new popularity and influence of the evangelical will encourage him to flex his muscle as a corporate power in an effort to control the behavior of others. The Bible believer needs to permeate society with the evidence of genuine new life transformations. The grass roots movement of witness and testimony has been at the heart of the resurgence of the evangelical Christian. The local church testimony expressed in innovative and practical ways is the best way to foster the cause of Christ. It follows a simple, biblical pattern, and is the historic movement that results in the blessing of the Lord.

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