Why Don’t Singers Sing?

I went to a Christian concert the other night. I haven’t really been to that many lately, and shortly after the concert began I remembered why. After singing her most popular songs and some new ones, the singer started to talk.

Now, a brief testimony or exhortation might have been nice. But she wanted to talk. Maybe she’d share a brief word of encouragement or a concise presentation of the gospel. Nope. Another anecdote about what happened “the other day on the bus between here and Albuquerque, and how our crazy sound man Chet—you all don’t know Chet? Stand up and take a bow, Chet.… Chet has a mule named Merle that … Well, anyway, where was I? It had some spiritual point …”

And the next 20 minutes we spent in her own personal Twilight Zone, in search of a bridge into the next song.

I left that concert committed to helping her and singers everywhere who have the compulsion to talk during concerts. And I think there is a way to do it.

I’m beginning small, with only the artists I’ve personally heard in this transgression. There can’t be more than 150 of them. I am inviting them to hear a very famous preacher friend of mine, who is known for his wise teaching and could counsel them in this area.

A five-minute message is all that would be necessary, I’m sure. He is a skilled orator, and it would not take long for him to make his point. And then, of course, I would insist that they hear him sing.


The Nea And Humanism

Harold Smith’s “Extra-curricular Activities” [Mar. 15] does not explain why the NEA supports all the secular humanist concepts of the humanist movement. The humanist orientation began with John Dewey whose “progressive” ideas were soon adopted by teacher colleges all over the country.

With great funds available, the NEA, in the last decade, has concentrated heavily on supporting political candidates who conform to its humanist agenda. Any idea that the NEA can be turned away from its humanist objectives is pure speculation and has no practical basis.

The interview, with NEA president Mary Futrell, is a propaganda ploy specifically designed to improve the image of the NEA with the evangelical community. You should not have permitted such a one-sided presentation to appear in a magazine that ordinarily tries to be objective.


West Allis, Wis.

Mary Futrell makes a statement in the interview that: “We are turning the public schools around.” I think that should have been more accurately quoted in the past tense: “We have turned the public schools around.” When I graduated from high school 20 years ago, everyone in my class could read and write; statistics have shown that something radically different has pervaded the school systems, rendering a startlingly large number of recent high school graduates functional illiterates.

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Olean, N.Y.

Since I teach in the public school system, I was intrigued by the two articles. I find it unfortunate that the NEA’s philosophical presupposition (secular relativism) has become the basis for its questionable political entanglements and decisions on obvious moral issues.

This topic came on the heels of a recent questionnaire in my district, in which the highest percentage of respondents indicated that good pay and job security were most important in making them happy in their work. I was surprised that service to others was not even included among the ten items on the questionnaire.


Eugene, Oreg.

I was ready to quit the NEA until I read your last line about being the salt! I imagine if a poll could be taken of all members, NEA would be in for a shock.


Aiken, S.C.

As a trustee currently serving on a local high school board, I read Mary Futrell’s comments with interest. She must be joking when she says the NEA is “turning the public schools around.” The demand for excellence and accountability has come from the public—not her union that is trying to control our schools. I have yet to see a bumper sticker on the car of an NEA member that reads: “Teach Truth.”


Trinidad, Calif.

The usual answer of the NEA to dissent is to crush it. If you doubt my word, ask my clients—a former professor at the University of Detroit who was discharged because his prolife beliefs would not allow him to associate with the NEA and its affiliates; a Mennonite teacher in Ohio who the NEA is trying to push out of the public school system because his philosophy of life bars him from supporting the union’s coercive tactics; or the one sued for $50,000 by the NEA because he wrote two letters to the local paper that criticized the NEA.


National Right to Work

Legal Defense Foundation, Inc.

Springfield, Va.

Soli Deo Gloria!

I would like to congratulate Richard Dinwiddie on his fine expose of the attempt to secularize the life of J. S. Bach by the media and the musical community [“God’s Master Musician,” Mar. 15]. I, too, have been disappointed in recent articles that have appeared in celebration of Bach’s 300th birthday in that most of them either ignore or overlook what Christian musicians feel had to have been the driving forces behind Bach: his genuine faith in Christ and his desire to serve him.

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Liberty Baptist College

Lynchburg, Va.

Sitting in my cozy office, surrounded by tape recorders, radios, a synthesizer, multiple “musical wall hangings,” and stacks of music—much of which is carelessly tossed, or sloppily piled in a corner—I am severely chided by that thought of the “master” having to struggle for his very existence! Today’s ministers of music possess a myriad of resources at our disposal. Too often, however, we fail to step out from behind our multi-phase mixers and orchestral tracks long enough to seek a true Resource. Perhaps we need to inscribe on our hearts that which Bach inscribed on his manuscripts: “Jesus, help me!”


First Baptist Church

Pekin, Ill.

Thanks for a superb piece on the part of coffee lovers everywhere switched on to God. SDG.


Dewittville, N.Y.

How good it is to see a strong evangelical view presented of the one who is being lauded in so many corners of the music world during this 300th anniversary celebration.


The First Baptist Church

Phoenix, Ariz.

Thank you for Joe VanSeveren’s Bach cover on the March 15th issue. Nothing can replace Richard Dinwiddie’s article, but this art work stands on its own.


Austin, Minn.

The Bruderhof: A Fresh Stream

Heartfelt thanks to Barbara R. Thompson and CT for the Bruderhof article/interview [“The Challenge of True Brotherhood,” Mar. 15]. It makes a valuable contribution to my personal discovery of that other stream of Christianity (the Anabaptists: advocates of a quiet but intense discipleship) that reached our land from Reformation sources, a stream so fresh that it continues to produce lovely and nourishing fruit in our midst—a garden of the Lord.


Bellevue Baptist Church

Pittsburgh, Pa.

The Bruderhof elders imply that no Christian should hold a political office, whether judge, soldier, or policeman. There is no scriptural support for this position at all.

Perhaps the early church did forbid followers of Jesus to hold political offices. Is this applicable today? Is there scriptural support for this? Luther, whom the Bruderhof follow, taught that scriptural authority superseded the traditions of the church, even the early church.

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Harrisburg, Pa.

Movies: Only Actors

I would like to comment on Harry Cheney’s review of Witness [Cinema, Mar. 15]. I have lived in Lancaster County all of my life and I can’t think of a nicer place to live. I also have great respect for the Amish. But it’s easy to see a movie and forget that you’re only watching actors. The Amish aren’t saints and they’re not wax figures in a museum. There are good and bad sides to everything, and the Amish are people just like us, trying to make it through life the best they can with the grace of God. The only difference is that they prefer to be left alone.


Gap, Pa.

I am confused because I see a Christian magazine painting an encouraging picture of a movie that is less than encouraging in portraying Christian values. Cheney says Witness “reveals how surprisingly sensuous a simple wheatfield can be,” but he fails to mention that the nudity of actress Kelly McGillis on display in the movie is pretty sensuous as well.


Fennimore, Wis.

From the theological perspective, God is ultimately demeaned and conquered by the script. Cheney rhapsodizes about the loveliness and sanctified sensuality of a face illuminated by gaslight—and rightly so—but ignores the sin question entirely.


Greenhaven Neighborhood Church

Sacramento, Calif.

Needed—Scientists And Laymen

The editorial in the March 15 issue [“Why We Need Christian Think Tanks”] was thought provoking. But there is a flaw in current American theological thinking; that is, in a crowd of thinkers made up of “theologians, philosophers, ethicists, lawyers, and politicians,” there would be no representation of the scientific community and, most important, no representation from the laity.

I question what good are all of the theologies, the philosophies, the nuances of the law, and the political ramifications if the laity don’t understand the purpose of, nor the dialog that comes out of, the think tank process.


Cazenovia, N.Y.

For future think tanks and institutes, why not consider: (1) including an intelligent “peasant” or two to check the elitism and inject a practical note into the discussions; (2) requiring each participant to do volunteer work perhaps one day a month in a hands-on situation; (3) recognizing the impact of exclusivism thinking, as exemplified in the all-male panel; and (4) evaluating the effects of a “closed” versus an “open” gospel for the penetration and permeation of society with Christian thinking.

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Kalamazoo, Mich.

A Loss To The Church

I was pleased to see the articles in your March 15 issue [News] about Harold John Ockenga. He will be sorely missed not only in the evangelical community, but in our denomination as well. Although he spent from 1936 to 1969 as pastor of the Park Street Church, none of your articles mentioned the denominational affiliation of the church, the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference.

Our success in being the voice of biblical congregationalism in the United States has been greatly helped by Ockenga and the Park Street Church. To write of Ockenga and not mention that he was an active Congregationalist is comparable to an article on Billy Graham that omits the fact that he is a Southern Baptist!


Conservative Congregational

Christian Conference

Arlington, Va.

Your report of Ockenga’s death did not fully present the great loss the evangelical world will feel. I do not know if any article could ever represent the impact of his ministry upon the thousands of us who work in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Lynnhaven Presbyterian Church

Virginia Beach, Va.

A 1962 sermon Ockenga delivered at Norwich University (Vermont) continues to play profoundly on my mind. Dr. Ockenga impressed upon the graduating class the importance of choosing the right course for one’s life. Establishing the year 2000 as the retirement milestone for the graduates, he proceeded to methodically present Jesus Christ as the foundation for a life of God-honoring accomplishment. My every remembrance of that sermon forces an immediate personal inventory of the years that have passed, and still suggests appropriate life-course corrections whenever I contemplate that prominent calendar mark.

For those who might characterize an intellectual appeal as cold and dispassionate, I submit that it is the intellect that engages the emotions in the lasting areas of life. It is seldom the reverse.


Haddam, Conn.

Jewish Extremists

Concerning the news article “A Conservative Jewish Group Opposes a Baptist Congregation in West Jerusalem” [Mar. 15], Yad Lachim is anything but a “conservative” Jewish group. When I find that names of my Hebrew Christian friends and relatives are on their black list (which is a reality), I do anything but go to my local Conservative synagogue to protest. Yad Lachim are extremist, as the article points out, but let’s not label Conservative Judaism with that adjective.

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Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Exchanging Compassion For Orthodoxy

Thank you for Calvin Miller’s incisive and insightful “More Like Jesus, More Like Us” [Speaking Out, Mar. 1]. I have often ached for some of those to whom I am closest in both my personal and professional life, who have indeed “decide[d] it is somehow more Christian to remain unsaved.” And I ache for the many brethren I know who have exchanged their compassion for the supercilious comfort of their orthodoxy.


No address given

Not only is our redeeming word “one of universal love,” and not only do we sin when we tack our “groupy” requirements on to free grace, but we err when we think that the work of God in Jesus Christ can be enclosed and expressed only by our understanding of it.


First Presbyterian Church USA

Montrose, Colo.

Reformed Theology: Less “Dovish”?

I was surprised by the inference in Kantzer’s editorial [“Pastoral Letters and the Realities of Life,” Mar. 1] that an understanding of Reformed theology should make churchmen less dovish on the issue of nuclear arms. A biblical understanding of the reality and extent of sin recognizes that it touches us all; and from that perspective the question is whether any nation can be trusted with such weaponry. While written with good intention, the ultimate logic of Kantzer’s conclusion would be to warn Christians against attempting to repent from sins in anything but a no-risk situation, a position based upon neither the realities of life nor scriptural instruction.


The Reformed Churches

Sprakers, N.Y.

Revival In The Ussr

The article on Christians in the USSR [“Life on the Soviet Precipice,” Insight, Mar. 1] was informative and encouraging. But I took offense at the implication that if revival takes place in Russia it will need to take place in Western-oriented evangelical Protestant churches. This typically arrogant claim ignores the fact that Orthodoxy has survived in Russia for a millenium against incredible odds.


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Arnold, Cal.

Ecclesiastical Personages We Have All Met

In his Refiner’s Fire review of Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers [Sweaty-palmed Evangelicals,” Mar. 1], Robert Bachelder complains that evangelicals get very unfair treatment. Certainly the portraits of Bishop Proudie and his supporters are not very flattering; but I question whether they were evangelicals in the sense that your readers would understand the term. Surely these days CT would call a Bishop Proudie “a leading Anglican Liberal”!

To someone brought up, as I was, in the Church of England, Barchester Towers gives a certain wicked delight in recognizing in the characters certain ecclesiastical personages one has met! But I imagine you can find them in your own denomination. You must all know an Archdeacon Grantly whose chief preoccupation is the rights of the clergy; a Mrs. Proudie who tries to organize the church by manipulating her clerical husband; or a Rev. Obadiah Slope, who will use any flattery, and pull any number of strings, to “get on” in the church.


Parish of Gaspe

Gaspe, Que., Canada

God In Our Own Image

Ben Patterson’s diatribe against Peck’s statement in “Is God a Psychotherapist?” [Mar. 1] that “God’s power is the power of love—his only power” is typical of the sickness afflicting the Christian church for almost two thousand years. Perhaps Patterson forgets that it was Jesus who bade us turn the other cheek, who told the woman taken in adultery (after he’d rescued her) to go and sin no more.

Why is it that Christians always create God in their own flawed image? Why don’t they realize that their need to punish, to get even, is not Godlike—but it is the reason we have made such little moral progress, and why crimes against God—like wars—still flourish.


Arcata, Calif.

Response To A Letter Writer

In regard to Linda Giral’s letter (Jerry Falwell vs. Larry Flynt, Mar. 15): Perhaps she had better reread 1 Corinthians 6:1–8. It is evident that Paul is speaking of disputes within the church, or “among the brethren.”


First Assembly of God

Rio Rancho, N.Mex.

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