Premeal Tribulation

Some people use New Year’s Day to evaluate their failings and to make resolutions. In a similar vein, I use Thanksgiving to update my ever-changing theology of prayer before meals.

I’ve long been an observer of the premeal prayer habits of people across the theological spectrum. I’ve seen the inconsistencies—a preprayer nibble on a carrot and a sip of water is acceptable, but stay away from the salad and the baked potato until they get blessed.

I’ve seen the variety, too. There are some who never pray before meals except at Thanksgiving. Even then the lot usually falls to children aged eight and under who still think the old “God is great, God is good …” is a pretty nifty turn of phrase. And then there are those at the other extreme who pray not only before every meal, but before popcorn or a candy bar; in short, prior to any oral ingestion of an edible substance, with the possible exception of liverwurst. Let’s face it: it’s hard to be genuinely thankful for liverwurst.

I’ve also witnessed variety in prayer length. I’ve heard four-word prayers: “Dear Lord, Thanks. Amen.” (He was hungry.) And I’ve heard prayers that were so long the food had to be reheated. When they brought it back, the guy thought it should be re-blessed. (He didn’t trust microwaves.)

I guess, like most people, I fall somewhere between the extremes. On the one hand, I realize that praying is important. But I just can’t bring myself to go to God before sitting down to a Pop-Tart, especially at 6 A.M. when there is nobody around to appreciate my spirituality. So where do I draw the line?

To pray or not pray? And how to pray? These are the questions. Should I pray as long over a hot dog as I would over steak? Do I have to close my eyes if it’s just a peanut butter sandwich? Does God understand those hurried times when I pray while chewing? These are the issues I try to resolve each Thanksgiving. Now that I have considered it, perhaps it’s more important just to be genuinely thankful. Maybe even for liverwurst.


No ceremonial “magic”

I have no problem with the substance of Harold Myra’s editorial “The Glamorous Prostitute” [Oct. 5]. However, he condemns premarital and recreational sex whose victims “include thousands of pregnant junior and senior high girls, aborted babies, welfare mothers and families intertwined in a web of tragedies often lasting for generations.” This litany is just as applicable to married as unmarried persons.

If you wish to applaud a loving, committed relationship between two persons that is given empirical expression through the rite of matrimony, I am in agreement. But please don’t lend credence to the notion that some sort of ceremonial magic sanctifies mutual exploitation.

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St. Matthew Lutheran Church

Sugar Grove, Ohio

I wonder why the author never mentions the dark side of physical “rewards” of promiscuity—for example, 1 million annually reported gonorrhea infections in the U.S., probably a fraction of actual new reinfections. I am always reminded of Paul’s warning words about “the wages of sin”!


Mountain Home, Tenn.

Certainly prostitution is not what a Christian should desire, but the results of criminalization are even more undesirable. In the fifties, a lady member of the French legislature pushed through a bill to close the brothels in Paris to “protect the dignity of French womanhood.” A few years ago I read that this same woman is in anguish as she has seen the horrible results of such action and is now seeking to reverse this law.


Manchester Parish,

United Church of Christ

Manchester, Md.

Republicans and reelection

Beth Spring’s “Republicans, Religion, and Reelection” [Oct. 5], has an error and a few terms that reveal her proliberal position. Commenting on Richard Viguerie, she says, “both George Bush and Robert Dole denounced Viguerie by name for seeking to influence the party while not even enrolling as a Republican.” For Viguerie to do so is a political impossibility. Like Spring, he is a Virginia citizen, and there, as in most Southern states, registration is not by party.

She also refers to liberal Republicans as moderates, the implication being that if one is a conservative, one is immoderate. Why not refer to liberal Republicans as liberals? Perhaps her word moderate reveals her own political orientation. I always thought the half-way point between liberal and conservative was middle-of-the-road.


Arlington, Va.

Spring meant that Messrs. Bush and Dole were referring to the fact that Viguerie is not active in the Republican party.Eds.

I have never been able to understand the furor over ministers being involved politically. It seems they are honored when they are liberally minded, but scorned when conservative.


Ledyard, Conn.

Schuller’s spirit

I have never been an admirer of Robert Schuller. However, his letter to you [Oct. 5] left me with a new sense of respect for the man. I may not agree with his approach, but I cannot fault his spirit. I was overwhelmed by the irenic spirit of humility and love he expressed. May more of the leaders of Christianity in America evidence the same loving and gentle spirit.

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Plano, Tex.

In his letter Schuller implies that sin prevents faith in God (“The core of sin is lack of faith.”). Jesus Christ seems to agree in John 16:9. Yet God presents the gospel on the principle of faith: no faith, no gospel delivering from sin. How can this be? I first need deliverance from sin so I can have faith. But God says I must have faith before I can be delivered from sin. I am confused. Is there any theologian who can solve my dilemma?


Kent, Wash.

Authentic heroes

It was appropriate for CT to include “Where Have All the Heros Gone?” in the same issue as “Frank Gaebelein: Character Before Career” [Sept. 21]. In my mind, Hull [Gaebelein] effectively answers Poynor’s question. The church is fortunate that God does provide a few men and women who, by humility, faithful service, and a lifetime of commitment, are legitimate heroes. Frank Gaebelein was and is that kind of hero.


Garland, Tex.

Frank Gaebelein was a wonderful encouragement and help to me right from the early days of my writing ministry. When I wrote my book on Billy Graham he not only gave much material but went through it carefully. Even more important to me personally, he did the same when I wrote The Apostle, my life of Paul. He made many excellent suggestions and took endless trouble.


Devonshire, England

I strongly object to Poyner’s statement about Christian leaders—“… of course they have sinned.… Nor would any of us really believe our minister to be sinless.” Jesus told the adulteress, “Go and sin no more”—not “Go and do it again.” This is a plea for equal time for the Wesleyan-Arminians.


Church of the Nazarene Headquarters

Kansas City, Mo.

Profundity or bias?

Richard Neuhaus appears blatantly to make creedal-style statements of his personal opinions [“The Naked Public Square,” Oct. 5]. He presents little to no factual support for his remarks, and his word choice reeks of bias and prejudice. Profundity does have its place in Christian thought. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, may we have men adept in discernment and apologetics.


Lincoln Park, Mich.

I was impressed with Neuhaus’s examination of “The Naked Public Square.” CT is dealing with the subjects on people’s minds, and from a distinctly evangelical Christian viewpoint. Best of all, you are doing it well.

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Miami, Fla.

Neuhaus is wearing blinders and ear plugs if he does not recognize that the secularization of our society is well-nigh complete.


West Allis, Wis.

The crucial issue?

Excellent articles, such as “When ‘Infidels’ Run for Office” by Mark Noll [Oct. 5], could inadvertently lead to an acquiescence to secular rhetoric. This election year there is a clear choice between candidates supporting life and those supporting death (abortion on demand). If ever there was a single crucial issue set before God’s people, this is it.


University of Wisconsin

Madison, Wis.

This statement is made in Noll’s article: “For the first time in United States history, an ordained minister made a serious run for a major party’s presidential nomination.” May I suggest you review your history: James A. Garfield not only ran, but was the only ordained minister ever to be elected president of the United States (1880). After less than four months in office, a disappointed office seeker assassinated him.


Del City Christian Church

Del City, Okla.

Dr. Noll replies: “This was an oversight: it can be said, however, that Garfield’s ordination in the Disciples of Christ was more informal than other ordinations, and that he was by vocation a practicing lawyer.”Eds.

On filmmaking and films

I thoroughly enjoyed your interview with producer Ken Wales [Sept. 21]. However, for the Hollywood film industry, the bottom line is creative and economic power. Christians have zero power there because for the last hundred years they have embraced both Pietism and “retreatism” as a theology. We stand on the outside looking in while others shape the minds of millions with the most powerful tools of communication the world has ever known, and Christian film companies release so-called evangelistic films that are predictable, boring, manipulative and reach only the already converted. Sharp, brilliant filmmakers like Coppola, Scorcese, DePalma, Carpenter, and Fonda influence millions. Christian culture discourages real creativity and drives the artist from its midst.


Hollywood, Calif.

Of all the tripe I have read lately in CT, Donn Wright’s article has to be the “best” [“Jane Fonda as Proverbs’ Virtuous Woman,” Oct. 5]. It is obvious Wright knows nothing about real Bible Christianity. If CT is going to continue such rubbish maybe it would be better to change the name to “Anything Today” or “Take Your Choice Today” or “You Name It Christianity.”

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Bethel Baptist Church

Dearborn Heights, Mich.

Eutychus’s fans

I think Eutychus’s “The Holy Kiss” smacks of mere lip service [Oct. 5]. On the other hand, it does open up a new, exciting buss ministry whose potential ought to be embraced.


Denver Seminary

Denver, Colo.

I was sitting here in my office this morning, feeling sorry for myself. While trying to come to terms with the situations that helped cause my state, I started to read your section of gripes and praises. I started to feel uplifted. I am not sure why but: (1) Seeing a broader picture of the church, with all her various arms and efforts—and subsequent troubles, both major and minor—helped put mine into perspective; (2) Big guys (i.e., letters about Schuller, et al.) and little guys (i.e., me) all face adversity; (3) Though there are obvious disagreements, it put my mind into a cognitive mode, and out of the negative.

Now I sit here and wonder if I should even send you this letter, because it’s kind of silly, isn’t it? Aw shucks, your section helped me out, and I want to say thanks, and that is reason enough!


First Church of God

Salem, Va.

We have been disappointed in the stance taken by CT on the issues we confront every day. I spent time researching facts about the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon, in response to your three articles. My letter was not published. I hope you get with it; CT has the potential to help turn things around.


Logan, Ohio

Addressing our errors

Addresses in the Editorial (Sept. 21, p. 13) are badly garbled. But I don’t expect to see a correction.


Arlington, Va.

In every instance, the zip code should have read 20005. “Key Votes” is the name of the publication available from the Congressional Quarterly.—Eds.

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