Christianity in the World Today

Reports from all over the nation confirm renewed interest and increasing activity over the question of Sunday business. Merchants who want to operate seven days a week are meeting stiff opposition from forces who seek new Sunday legislation and enforcement of similar existing laws.

The New Jersey State Assembly was ready for a keen floor struggle on a bill for stricter Sunday legislation. The Sunday opening of 200 supermarkets in the Detroit area was suspended following mounting remonstrances by church groups.

In Toledo, Ohio, Big Bear chain stores tried Sunday business for a month, then closed with the statement that “Sunday should be a day of worship, rest and recreation—a together-time—for our employees as well as our customers. We believe sales gains—in dollars and cents—are less important than the well-being and high morale of our associates and customers. We want our friends and customers to know that we tried it and don’t like it. We urge our competitors who are still open on Sunday to review their position and arrive at the ‘right’ answer.” A Toledo Real Estate Board survey showed 85 per cent of local realty firms opposed to keeping houses open for inspection on Sunday.

In New York, the National Retail Merchant Association came out against the opening of major stores on Sundays, excepting “those primarily engaged in selling articles absolutely necessary to the health and welfare of the community.”

Sunday business is rising rapidly as a leading issue in American political, social, and religious life. The pros and cons were joined this month in unique fashion when the matter was debated on the American Religious Town Hall Meeting, a nationwide telecast which brings together clergymen of different faiths to discuss “important questions affecting human rights and the dignity of man.” Seven programs were filmed in the Academy of Music and Congress Hall, Independence Square, in Philadelphia, for future release. Thirteen panelists, representing Protestants, Roman Catholics and Jews, and including officials of the Lord’s Day Alliance, participated in the discussions.

The general lines of debate found Dr. Frank H. Yost, Seventh-day Adventist editor of Liberty magazine, joining Jewish rabbis against his fellow Christians, a familiar if anomalous procedure. Panelists engaged themselves in such vigorous and heated exchanges that permanent program moderator Bishop A. A. Leiske, Seventh-day Adventist, expressed supreme confidence that no slump in listener ratings would result from the series. Indeed, the audience, heavily Adventist in sympathy, had to be verbally restrained from the platform. Seeking to quiet the panel at one point, Bishop Leiske intoned, “Now, we’re all Christians here” at which pronouncement the rabbi on the panel managed to conceal any surprise or amusement he may have felt. The charge was later made that the bishop had not wholly succeeded in the rather formidable assignment for an Adventist of keeping his comments entirely neutral as the Sabbath debate swirled about him. He likened his experience to that of Daniel in the den of lions.

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The program topics, having been worked out within an orderly thought progression, manifested careful planning. Broader aspects of the problem were first considered, such as the separation of church and state, a principle agreed upon by nearly all Americans, who then proceed to evolve countless variations on the doctrine by differing as to the degree of separation which is to exist.

Dr. Clifford A. Nelson, Lutheran minister, declared that complete separation, toward divorcing religion from the state, was impossible. A sacred relation exists between them, he said, for “God is the author of liberty.” The Rev. Melvin M. Forney, general secretary of the Lord’s Day Alliance of the United States, pointed out that this country’s founding fathers, while establishing no single church, did place chaplains in the army and navy, enact Sunday legislation, and the like. The individuals composing the state had to express their convictions in the state.

On the other hand, Dr. Yost and Rabbi Arthur J. S. Rosenbaum, one of three Pennsylvania rabbis participating, called for as complete separation as possible. Dr. Yost would allow chaplains to teach “spiritual ethics” only, which seemed meager fare to the other Christians on the panel. Mr. Forney quoted William Penn, “Unless men are governed by God they will be ruled by tyrants.” Dr. J. Ernest Somerville, transplanted Scots Presbyterian minister, wanted it emphasized that church-state separation was not an eternal verity in the same category with basic Christian doctrine. “I know a land where the two are not separate and neither has been harmed thereby.”

Another question debated was whether the state is supreme over conscience. Methodist District Superintendent Ira B. Allen affirmed this to be so upon certain occasions when man’s conscience is untrustworthy, as when it would allow theft. Dr. Somerville said that while the state was not supreme over conscience, it often must stand in judgment upon it. Dr. Yost and Rabbi Rosenbaum held that the state has no control over conscience, though the former admitted that when conscience worked itself out in activity it was subject to as little government control as possible.

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Next on the agenda was the question as to whether the state should foster religion. Baptist minister Mahlon W. Pomeroy averred that the state should provide an atmosphere where religion and worship can flourish. “The state must foster religion,” agreed Dr. Ellsworth Jackson, President of the Lord’s Day Alliance of Pennsylvania and Presbyterian minister of Philadelphia, for the state is “ordained of God.” It has “moral personality” derived from those who compose it. “Forty-two of our State constitutions acknowledge God.”

“The state must either foster religion or atheism,” continued the Rev. James H. Brasher, a Philadelphia Methodist minister. The state will “serve God or the devil,” and our coins say, “In God We Trust.” Dr. Yost expressed himself as being in favor of removing this inscription from our money, saying that religion is a “personal thing” and the government intrudes only at “great peril.” Dr. Jackson retorted that the state “cannot be neutral” and in fact already is fostering religion by such acts as governing the proximity of saloons to churches.

It was then asked whether the United States should be considered a Christian nation. Judge Anthony W. Daly, Roman Catholic from Alton, Illinois, stated that while the majority of those in our country are Christians, the government could not be so considered, being limited to the civil and moral realms. Mr. Forney, on the other hand, pointed out that the nation was named Christian in a Supreme Court decision never reversed. Dr. Somerville saw our government principles growing out of the Christian faith, while Rabbi Harold B. Waintrup declared that “we are Judeo-Christian inspired, though not having a Christian government as such.”

Mr. Allen claimed we were not Christian inasmuch as we worship gods like Mars and Bacchus. Dr. Somerville immediately interposed the distinction between perfectionism and Christian discipleship. America is not perfect, but as Sir Winston Churchill has said, she is noted for having committed some of the “least sordid” acts of human history.

A Call To Voters

On the issue as to whether there should be a religious test for public office, Dr. Yost said that such was disallowed by the Constitution. Sidney Orlofsky, Jewish lawyer of Philadelphia, opposed himself to “saints by law and hypocrites by action,” placing the burden on the churches and synagogues to make the voter religious. Mr. Pomeroy called for the voters to elect men of religious backgrounds and thus possessed of rootage for high ethical principles. “A man’s faith in God,” affirmed Dr. Jackson, “will guard him against corrupting influences.”

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The debate which all awaited was of course whether or not America should repeal all her blue laws (named originally for the color of paper on which they were written), or whether it was right to establish a Sabbath by legislation. Adventist minister and announcer Dr. Horace J. Shaw emphasized the importance of the issue by declaring that the future freedom of Philadelphia may hinge on the answer given. Dr. Yost began the discussion by condemning the Sunday ordinances as “discriminatory, unfair, and unenforceable.” Being religious in nature, they are no rightful concern of the state for “there should be no law to direct religion.” Does not the Constitution “forbid the establishment of religion?” Therefore, these laws “should all be repealed.” Rabbi Waintrup named the laws “illegal.”

Far from being such, countered Mr. Forney, the constitutionality of the laws has been upheld as recently as 1957, and before that by the Supreme Court as well as by many state supreme courts. These are civil laws and “have been a part of our way of life from our earliest days,” he continued, “with the first thirteen states adopting such regulations, while today all of the forty-eight states, save only Nevada, have some kind of Sunday laws on their books.”

Preserving The Sabbath

Mr. Allen warned that “no nation can long survive when it tramples the Sabbath as does America” and pointed to French national decay in a period when she did away with the Sabbath. Dr. Nelson explained that man’s need for a rest day in seven is part of his nature as constituted by God. Thus while he is opposed to legalism, he sees the necessity of safeguarding a rest day for the working man by law.

Judge Daly would amend the laws rather than repeal them all. He looks on them as providing not a holy day but a day of rest. Replying to Rabbi Waintrup’s cry of “smokescreen,” Mr. Daly pointed out that the courts have upheld the Sabbath laws on health grounds.

Mr. Pomeroy sees an alleviating factor in the whole situation through the growing universality of the five-day week, which will leave both Saturday and Sunday free for worship. To destroy Sunday, he claims, is to work an unfair advantage in competition against the Christian businessman.

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Mr. Brasher pointed out that in opposition to a tyranny of the minority, the majority has a right to its Sabbath and the laws to protect it. “Just any old day becomes no day at all, and the dyke is down before the wave of paganism and godlessness that sweeps in.” With prophetic fervor, Dr. Jackson proclaimed that the Sabbath is ours by divine right, having been included in the Decalogue which was given to Moses, a civil leader. “Our forefathers accepted this, and far from proving a limitation upon freedom, America became known as a haven of liberty around the world. Immigrants knew of the laws here and came anyway in search of freedom. Nowhere in the world are minorities treated better than in this country.” What limitations there may be (and he discovered some as a member of a minority group in Israel during the Sabbath), these are more than compensated for in countless ways.

One of the most frequently heard criticisms of the foregoing debates was the inadequacy of the period of 28½ minutes for six men properly to present their convictions on large subjects. Though it may come as a surprise to some that once one has announced his belief in church-state separation, there is still more to be said.

Indeed, here is one of the most difficult problems of Christian social ethics, plaguing scholars since first enunciation of the “rendering unto Caesar and Christ principle.” The Sunday laws are a part of this problem, all the more so because of their surprising latter-day resurgence. For better or for worse, they are a part of the American heritage, and they place us now in the stance of decision. Do they simply constitute a legalistic anachronism with which we should do away as soon as feasible, or do they provide a vital part of a disciplined check upon materialism which paradoxically has enabled the English-speaking peoples around the world to enjoy the highest living standards attained by men. De Tocqueville saw in the nineteenth-century American Sabbath one of the chief secrets of American greatness.

A Broader Context

In any case, before sacrificing a part of this country’s heritage for a doctrine of church-state separation which our fathers did not envision, it would seem to behoove the populace to do some very serious thinking. No less a nineteenth-century theologian than Charles Hodge devoted considerable space in his Systematic Theology to a vindication of the Sunday laws. And he saw the issue within a broader context. He saw the gross oversimplification of the human situation in holding forth the ideal of a complete separation of religion and state. He saw the goal of moral government apart from religion as unrealistic and unattainable. And he saw the impossibility of a neutral state. Secularism and naturalism are not neutral. Can a state long survive, regardless of the number of Christians it contains, when it officially snubs God?

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As this question gains greater prominence, the Christian will be called upon to re-examine his own keeping of the Lord’s Day, remembering Voltaire’s aphorism, “As long as the Sabbath remains, the Christian religion can never be destroyed.” But let it not be a Sabbath simply of abstention. Rather, let every Sunday be an Easter Sunday!

F. F.

A Bridge To Cross

This week the San Francisco Bay area seemed closer than ever to spiritual revival.

Would the “city by the Golden Gate” span the hiatus between an eight-week evangelistic campaign and a true spiritual awakening? Does the April 27 opening of the San Francisco Bay Cities Crusade signal the start of the West Coast’s first big moving of the Spirit of God?

Not even the evangelist could answer those questions.

“Certainly the possibilities are there,” said Billy Graham as he prepared for the nightly meetings at the 18,000-seat Cow Palace, so called because of its association with livestock exhibitions.

For about the past 10 years, according to Graham, revival prayer groups composed of ministers and laymen have been meeting throughout the bay area.

Prayer interest, moreover, virtually snowballed as the crusade drew near. Throughout April, more than 3,000 prayer groups met four times a week in homes and offices. All-night prayer meetings were scheduled in a church in each of 11 bay area cities. A local radio station was carrying daily prayer broadcasts.

“We appeal to Christians everywhere to unite with us in intercession for this crusade,” said the Rev. George E. Bostrom, prayer chairman.

Truly the course was charted, as sensed by Graham: “The preparations are by far the most encouraging we have ever experienced.”

The 5,000 counsellor trainees, among them many ministers, busied themselves with six weekly meetings devoted to methods of personal evangelism. The fact that the number of counsellor volunteers continued to increase as the crusade drew near was another unprecedented development.

The Crusade Executive Committee headed by Dr. Sandford Fleming, president emeritus of Berkeley Baptist Divinity School, met every Tuesday at 8 a.m. Pre-crusade meetings for choir members and ushers also were scheduled along with prayer instruction assemblies.

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The 1200 cooperating churches represented a wide area of northern California. (In San Francisco itself there are a total of about 430 churches. Not all of them are cooperating in the crusade.) Graham said church support surpassed that of last summer’s New York Crusade.

This Saturday night, the first of a series of telecasts was planned to bring the crusade into the homes of millions across America via the American Broadcasting Company network. The hour-long programs originating at the Cow Palace will be seen live by East Coast audiences at 10 p.m. The national television coverage will be augmented by 15-minute nightly telecasts over a San Francisco station.

There was much evidence that San Francisco is a needy city. Here a metropolis stands almost astride of the San Andreas fault that bred the disastrous earthquake of 1906. It is not inconceivable that the masses of rock on either side of the fault line will reach the limit of their elasticity. The result could be loss of life and property of catastrophic proportions.

Does this grim possibility deter godlessness? Not according to statistics which show in San Francisco that one of every two marriages ends in divorce, that the city has an alcoholism rate several times the national average, that in a population of 800,000 not more than 10,000 are found in church on any one Sunday morning. (Only five per cent of the population is affiliated with Protestantism.)

Yet “where sin abounded,” as Graham quoted Romans 5:20, “grace did much more abound.” The evangelist said that sometimes “the darker the picture, the greater the victory.”

People: Words And Events

Elections: As member of the General Board of the National Council of Churches representing its Division of Life and Work, the Rev. Charles C. Webber, AFL-CIO representative for religious relations; as president of the Methodist Council of Bishops, G. Bromley Oxnam; as a co-secretary of the Congregational Christian Churches, the Rev. Nathaniel M. Guptill.

Citations: From the Washington Pilgrimage, an association of clergymen who study religious heritage, to Dr. Joseph R. Sizoo, Milbank professor of religion at George Washington University, as “Clergyman of the Year”; to movie producer Cecil B. DeMille as “Lay Churchman of the Year”; to Dr. Georgia Harkness, of the Pacific School of Religion, as “Church Woman of the Year.” The group’s “Faith and Freedom Award” went to Louis Cassels of United Press.

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Ceremonies: Commemorating 400th anniversary of the death of Johann Bugenhagen, noted Protestant reformer and close friend of Martin Luther, held throughout East German Province of Pommerania.

Grants: To the World Council of Christian Education and Sunday School Association, $25,000 to aid delegates to the Second World Institute on Christian Education in Japan, from the Lilly Endowment; to Westmont College, $25,000, from the United States Steel Foundation.

Appointments: As secretary of the Bible Lands Agency North, American Bible Society affiliate in Beirut, Lebanon, the Rev. James A. Weeks; as executive secretary of the American Scripture Gift Mission, the Rev. James O. Palmer.

Deaths: Dr. Richard Tyner, 81, Church of Ireland (Anglican) Bishop of Clogher since 1944, in Dublin; Mother Maria Wolff, 104, believed to be the oldest deaconess in the world, at the Lutheran deaconess training center in Nuremberg where she began her career in 1871.

Crusades: With evangelist Torrey Johnson in Liverpool, England, next month, to be followed by rallies in Oslo and Stockholm; with evangelist Eugene Boyer in Paris, April 26–May 11.

Authorization: To release the film Martin Luther for television, announced by Lutheran Church Productions, Inc.

Resignation: As Archbishop of Uppsala and Primate of the Swedish state Lutheran church, Dr. Yngve Brilioth, upon reaching the retiring age of 67.

He calls attention to the writings of a Methodist bishop back in 1904, when Wales was sensing revival. Said author Warren Candler:

“The next great awakening will … bring forth … mighty men of God (who) will do something more than stir a local interest or excite a transient enthusiasm. Aided by all the modern devices of transportation and communication, they will be able to extend their influence as the revivalists in former times could not.… In America we may reasonably expect a great revival, the center of which will be in the West, and the power of which will be felt all along the Pacific Coast.”

“Perhaps,” commented Graham, “we are standing on the threshhold of the fulfillment of this 50-year-old prophecy.”

(Candler’s statement appears in his Great Revivals and the Great Republic and is quoted in Dr. Sherwood E. Wirt’s Spiritual Awakening.)

But what can such a metropolitan phenomenon mean to the individual clergyman? Said Dr. Louis W. Pitt, rector of Manhattan’s Grace Episcopal Church and chairman of the counselling committee for Graham’s New York meetings: “There is no question that the crusade can be the means of tremendous spiritual blessings for ministers.” Referring to the crusade, Pitt said there was “nothing quite comparable” in all of his ministry.

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The San Francisco minister who holds the post corresponding to Pitt’s is the Rev. Joe R. Kennedy, pastor of the West Side Christian Church, who said:

“I sense a growing expectancy in the hearts of ministers, who witness for Christ in this metropolitan area, for the opportunity of leading those into full commitment with Christ and the church, who take the first step during the Graham crusade.”

The Great Stakes

Representatives of religious groups took part in a “National Conference of Organizations on International Trade Policy” which was addressed by President Eisenhower, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and other government leaders.

A total of 120 national organizations took part in the Washington conference at which administration leaders urged a broader policy of trade relations with other nations in the interest of world peace and economic prosperity.

Among those represented were the Catholic Association for International Peace, Jewish War Veterans of the U. S. A., National Catholic Rural Life Conference, National Council of Churches, National Council of Jewish Women, Unitarian Fellowship for Social Justice and the Young Women’s Christian Association.

Mr. Eisenhower expressed “grateful thanks … for this magnificent bi-partisan citizen effort to rouse Americans to the great stakes all of us have in widening and deepening channels of world trade.”

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