Psst! Anybody Listening?

Few people today have had the experience of using a party-line telephone—that wonderful institution our grandparents enjoyed. You never said anything over it that you wanted kept secret.

During World War II there were signs in schools, factories, churches, and restaurants: A SLIP OF THE LIP MAY SINK A SHIP. They were a constant reminder that our enemies might be listening, and that a careless conversation could have disastrous consequences. The same is true today. Many of us are sharing a party line with Russian spies who regularly listen in on long-distance phone conversations. Overheard gossip could adversely affect someone in the electronics industry, the space program, or the military.

There is a positive side to this situation. If Russian spies are listening to our phone conversations, we can use the opportunity to give them a message. For example, when you call Aunt Millie or Uncle Jack in Sheboygan, you can discuss how thankful you are to live in a country where men and women are free to travel, to change jobs—and where free speech and a free press are a reality. You could emphasize the fact that Americans admire the Polish people, decry what has happened in Afghanistan, and are well aware of what Russia is doing with yellow rain. Discuss things that will tell the spy that many Americans are morally strong and spiritually committed. If you complain about food prices, be sure you also mention how thankful you are that there is plenty of food on supermarket shelves.

You might want to try a more direct approach: “Hello, Aunt Millie,” and “Hello, Russian. Why don’t you stop eavesdropping?” Or, “Hi, Comrade. Aren’t you glad you’re here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.?” Take advantage of the opportunity to get a spy to read the Bible. Make it a practice to quote chapter and verse in your conversations. Your spy will be puzzling over Bible verses for hours. You might even put together a selection of verses that could send a powerful message into the heart of the Russian spy network in the U.S.

Some vindictive people—not Christians, of course—might start giving special “American” recipes over the phone that, if cooked and eaten, would be guaranteed to put a spy out of commission, or at least “on the run” for a while.

The important thing is to remember that, like it or not, you are on a party line with Russian spies. If you can’t do anything else, you can at least make every effort to bore them.


Knee-jerked Vengeance

Does Mr. Marsden seriously believe [“A Law to Limit the Options,” Mar. 19] that the American Civil Liberties Union, which manufactured the Scopes incident in the first place, cares about the various creation models held by evangelicals? Even had the Arkansas law been more inclusive than what Marsden calls the “most conservative of the literal interpretations,” the ACLU would have knee-jerked with precisely the same speed and vengeance. Clearly they don’t care how we present our case, only that we present it at all. The ACLU has demonstrated that it is dedicated to eliminating the few vestiges of Judeo-Christian heritage that remain in American public life. It is inconceivable to me that a Christian would knowingly assist their efforts.

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The Arkansas law, though weak at points, offered a broad framework within which creation-science could have been presented. That opportunity is now gone.


Visalia, Calif.

Evangelicals Unite!

I agree with most of what Richard Neuhaus wrote in his article, “Who, Now, Will Shape the Meaning of America?” [Mar. 19]. Those who count themselves evangelical had better stop arguing among themselves and unite on some moral issues. While they vacilate, the abortionists, pornographers, homosexuals, and evolutionists are persuading our young people that the Bible is an old fogy’s book and there is no God.


Montgomery, Ill.

Deceptive Allure

“Liberation Theology: European Hopelessness Exposes the Latin Hoax” [Mar. 5] was at best a glaring visual and verbal relapse to tragic and unfortunate days gone by.

One need not be a liberation theologian to recognize the deceptive allure of a flawed attempt to debunk the popular movements in Latin America via Eastern Europe. Theologies of liberation are created within particular revolutionary situations. Latin American liberation theology is understandably Marxist and anti-American. The Eastern European theological expression now emerging is, as it must be, far different. Such is the nature of the theologies of liberation, and though they may be mistaken in whole or in part, we surely do them an injustice if we “expose” one culturally informed theological expression by relying upon events occurring in a totally different historical context.


Cambridge, Mass.

I cannot accept either Benjamin’s perception of the relationship of liberation theology to the Polish situation or his general evaluation of the state of affairs in Eastern Europe in general. It is unfortunate he did not reflect upon his material a little more thoroughly before writing.

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It is not responsible to talk of queues for food in all Communist countries. Upon my last visit to Hungary, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables were readily available in Budapest, Szekesfehervar, and on Balaton. Fresh oranges were piled high, and coffee was available.

Even in 1979, everyone—Hungarians, Czechs, and East Germans—saw Poland as the poor sister. Then Poles came in huge busloads across the Oder River on shopping sprees in the “oasis” of the East German marketplace.

On the church scene, of course, there are other distinctions. In West Germany the state collects taxes for all but the free churches (Baptist, Methodist, etc.). In East Germany, all the churches have involuntarily become “free” churches and have begun to thrive after substantial adjustments in numbers and methods of operation. In Czechoslovakia, all church buildings are state owned, and all pastors are paid directly by the government—even in the “free” churches. In 1980 they received their first pay increase since the system’s inception in 1949. In Hungary, a combination of state support for the “established” churches and unofficial payments from nebulous church treasuries supports the ministry of the Reformed Church. Others may function differently. In each of these countries, the churches traditionally have played, and continue to play, obviously different roles. Any effort to describe them “monolithically” obscures reality.


Sunnycrest United Methodist Church

Marion, Ind.

Wrong Focus

It is disappointing that in reporting on Evangelica’s special issue on the problems surrounding Seventh-day Adventism’s extrabiblical authority [“More Problems for Ellen White,” Mar. 5] the focus was on peripheral matters and completely overlooked the central thrust of Evangelica’s challenge: that Ellen White’s claims of divine revelation should be rejected because (1) her theology denies the New Testament gospel of justification by faith alone on the basis of Christ’s finished work of Atonement, and (2) God has given his full and final revelation in his Son, recorded in the New Testament by the apostolic witnesses. This is the real issue at hand, and if more Christians were aware of it, fewer would become entrapped in Adventism and other quasi-Christian cults of this nature.



St. Joseph, Mich.


Your assertion that our research center is one of the “other groups” formed recently to promote the Vashchenko and Chmykhalov emigration is in error [“Siberian 7: A Desperate Situation,” Feb. 5]. The Research Center for Religion and Human Rights in Closed Societies and its publication, Religion in Communist Dominated Areas, have championed over the years the rights of various religious denominations and of many individuals. The bill (S. 312) to grant permanent resident alien status originated in our research center in February, 1980.

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Nobody has worked more devotedly for the Siberian Seven and for the bill than Jane Drake of Montgomery, Alabama, the founder of SAVE. It was Mrs. Drake, and not the State Department, who asked former President Carter to telephone the Seven on January 14. The most realistic hope for the Seven is the passage of S. 312 in the near future, which will have an enormous impact on the issue of human rights in the USSR.


Research Center for Religion and

Human Rights in Closed Societies

New York, N.Y.

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