We heard something good about you recently. We were seated around a table discussing subscription procedures when staff members Tammie Jarka and Darlene Hill told how CT subscribers were viewed at the Ohio firm that handles our subscriptions. Apparently, these usually complaint-barraged workers encounter relatively little nastiness from CT readers.

“They work with nearly a hundred other publications,” Tammie told us, “and they receive many angry phone calls and letters. But those who work with CT are envied by the other employees because they consider CT subscribers the best to get along with.”

Her comments made my day! We know (oh, how painfully we know!) that foulups and misunderstandings occur in all circulation operations. Many of you have experienced very frustrating problems. But your understanding spirit and our reasonably good systems have resulted in less wear and tear on these fine people in Ohio. We appreciate it. And, yes, the subscribers to our other CTi publications—LEADERSHIP, PARTNERSHIP, and CAMPUS LIFE—are considered equally un-cantankerous!

If you do have a subscription problem, call (614) 383–3141, not our editorial offices. The person who answers can bring your file up on the screen and make corrections immediately. Repeat: do not call or write our editorial offices; this will only delay the process.

However, please do continue to write the editors on other matters. Right now we are particularly interested in your responses and suggestions on the institute supplement, “The Christian as Citizen,” in the previous issue. What was helpful to you? How could we have made it more effective?

Our goal is to glean from scholars and practitioners thoughtful insights on key topics, and to present them to you who are Christian leaders, both lay and clerical. Our next supplement, on the mission of the church, will be based on recent meetings in Chicago and Los Angeles. We want to deal with each topic in the way that is the most helpful to you, so we are more than ever open to your counsel. Our next issue will run a selection of your comments in the letters section.

Speaking of the church’s mission, our cover story on the yuppies—so thoughtfully developed by Chuck Colson—speaks to only one outcropping of the new materialism. We see it in every stratum of society, often resulting in preposterous consumption in a desperately needy world. On TV we see Cher’s $6.4 million mansion, Jill St. John’s $100,000 fur, Aston Martin’s $150,000 Lagonda automobile, and a Paris jeweler’s $300,000 solid gold trinket case—all gushed over as wonders to envy.

As Gil Beers and I were discussing this recently, he told me a story:

While at Forest Lawn in California, Gil had asked the mortician at the cemetery, “What was the most expensive funeral you ever had here?” The mortician didn’t have to search his memory. A man embittered at his ex-wife and children had left them almost nothing, but had provided bountifully for his own final, ostentatious farewell. He had assigned $200,000, about a half-million in today’s dollars.

First, a bronze casket was bought for around $18,000, and a beautiful rose window was created for $25,000. But after these and other expenditures, the mortuary still had about $100,000. What next? Their solution was orchids—one hundred thousand dollars worth!

And how many attended this $200,000 extravaganza? Exactly three.

This story reminded me of the character in François Mauriac’s novel Viper’s Tangle. The rich old man had the same sort of spiritual cancer, and it matched his terminal illness. Yet Mauriac, a Nobel Prize winner, depicts with sharp realism how this avaricious man was eventually apprehended by the grace of Jesus Christ. It transformed him. Money, envy, bitterness—all can become a viper’s tangle, but the cocoon of God’s grace can make even vipers into wholly new creatures.

How, in the magnetic materialism of our culture, can we reflect grace? How can we keep materialism from rubbing off on us when it is dangled before us daily? The mass media measure our happiness by GNP and the month’s retail sales level.

Who could speak more realistically about the illusion of a yuppie value system than Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who suffered deprivation of all that money can buy? In “The Prison Chronicle” he says, as few of us can, “Don’t be afraid of misfortune and do not yearn after happiness. It is, after all, all the same. The bitter doesn’t last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing. It is enough if you don’t freeze in the cold and if hunger and thirst don’t claw at your sides.

“If your back isn’t broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms work, if both eyes can see, and if both ears can hear, then whom should you envy? And why? Our envy of others devours us most of all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart and prize above all else in the world those who love you and those you wish well.…”

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