With the five-day work week, most Americans enjoy an amount of free time unknown to former generations. While the number of hours worked during the year fell rapidly between 1940 and 1960, the decline, although slowed since the advent of the forty-hour week, continues. But working less and less for more and more leisure is not making us a happier or a better people. Leisure time is a potential rather than an inherent good. Its beneficial employment demands the exercise of personal responsibility, for few things are so demoralizing as the abuse of leisure. What we do with our free time is a matter of Christian concern.

Underneath the misuse of leisure is the lack of those inner resources that make possible the right use of solitude. As Pascal put it in a flash of insight, “All the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber” (Pensées, II, 139).

The emptiness of soul that makes solitude unbearable for so many leads to the restless search that so marks our times—the search for satisfaction through new and more exciting ways of being entertained. This is not to say that the shared pleasures of the group are necessarily inferior; man is a social being, and his nature requires fellowship. But what he brings to this fellowship reflects what he is within himself. Participating in wholesome sport and outdoor recreation, attending a concert of great music or a fine play, or (incomparably the most elevating of all) joining in the public worship of God—these experiences not only strengthen the individual in shared enjoyment of what is good but also show something of the kind of person he is within himself. By the same token, group participation in what is morally reprehensible openly degrades the individual and reveals him for what he really is. But still the paradox remains that those who are best able to entertain themselves through good reading, music, art, the personal enjoyment of nature, and other worthy avocations derive most from group recreation.

Christians today live in a state of tension with the world and its culture. Nowhere is this tension more acute than in the realm of leisure. The answer to the problem is not to list the multitudinous varieties of leisure-time pursuits, and then to declare some good and some bad. That way lies legalism. Obviously there are in the light of the Word of God things that are clearly wrong and others that are clearly right. The difficulty resides in the ambiguities about which committed Christians disagree.

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Moreover, the binding obligation of witnessing for Christ cannot be discharged in a social vacuum. To ask, as did Tertullian, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” and then to retreat into cultural isolationism will not do for us today. Christians must know the culture that surrounds them, if they are to make their witness understood. But there is a difference between knowledge of or about something and identification with it. Our culture contains elements the defiling nature of which we know full well and in which we participate at our soul’s peril.

Here is the real point of tension respecting the Christian use of leisure. As Milton says in a great sentence in his Areopagitica, “I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat.” So the Christian in an unchristian culture must have the fortitude, as Milton says in the same context, to “see and know and yet abstain.”

The Reformation doctrine of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit reaches beyond its application to the Scriptures. For those who are Christ’s in a spiritually alien culture, it provides the essential safeguard in the inevitable encounter with the world in which they live and to which they are obligated to communicate the Gospel. The Spirit who indwells every Christian can be trusted to show the believer who knows his Bible where in his obligatory contacts with the culture of his time he must draw the line. To say this is not to take refuge in mysticism but simply to state a principle verifiable in daily life.

In an exhaustive study of the problem of leisure in British life by R. Seebohm Rowntree and G. R. Lavers (English Life and Leisure, Longmans, Green and Co., 1951), religion is treated along with the cinema, the stage, broadcasting, dancing, and reading, as a leisuretime pursuit. This strange misconception of the role of religion in life is all too common even among many church members. Whether a Christian uses his leisure for playing a musical instrument, painting pictures, reading adventure stories, gardening, mountain climbing, bowling, or any one of a thousand other things, is an optional matter. God has given us a host of pursuits richly to enjoy. The scriptural criterion of what we may do is unequivocally stated by St. Paul in Colossians 3:17, “And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” But religion (using the word in the high sense of the practice of Christianity) is not for the believer an elective, spare-time pursuit like going to football games or bird-watching. It is life itself, and it comprehends everything Christians do and say and hear and think. To be sure, certain practices of religion, such as attendance at church, reading the Bible, visiting the sick, and helping the underprivileged, are done in time apart from the daily job. Yet the claims of Jesus Christ are all-inclusive. Nothing is ever irrelevant to him with whom we have to do.

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Christ is the Lord of time—of free time as well as of working time. Those who are his are responsible for the stewardship of the time he gives them. One of the great New Testament phrases is the twice-repeated one of the Apostle, “redeeming the time” (Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5). Our Lord himself lived under the pressing stewardship of time, as we know from his reiterated “Mine hour is not yet come.”

How Christians use their time in a time-wasting world is crucial to their spiritual outreach. “Eternity—for some who can’t spend one half hour profitably!” President Charles William Eliot of Harvard once exclaimed. God entrusts us with nothing more valuable than time. Without it money is valueless and the stewardship of money meaningless. Literature has few more pathetic passages than the vain plea for time at the end of Marlowe’s Faustus:

Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,

That time may cease, and midnight never come;

Fair Nature’s eye, rise, rise again, and make

Perpetual day; or let this hour be but

A year, a month, a week, a natural day

That Faustus may repent and save his soul!

The very word “leisure” implies responsibility. Its first meaning, according to Webster, includes “freedom to do something.” But in the Christian vocabulary freedom is always conditioned by responsibility. Our liberty is to be used to “glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.” Within this context we are accountable for the stewardship of our leisure as well as of our working time. From the daily work there is indeed leisure, but from the unremitting exercise of Christian responsibility there is no such thing as spare time. No Christian is ever off-duty for God. Leisure and working time are equally to be accounted for to the Lord who said, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35).

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Cyprus—The Troubled Island

The island republic of Cyprus, with less than half the area of New Jersey, lies forty miles from Turkey and five hundred miles from Greece. There nineteen centuries ago a magician was worsted, a governor converted, and a church founded by Paul and Barnabas. Such was its growth that it sent three bishops to the Council of Nicea in 325, and later was able to maintain its autonomy despite pressure from Rome. Under Turkish rule from 1571, the archbishop was regarded as ethnarch (governor) of the Greek population, and with his fellow bishops was held responsible to the occupying forces. During Greece’s national war of independence (1821) all the island’s bishops, with other clerics and prominent Greek laymen, were hanged by the Turks. The position of the bishops as national leaders remained unchanged after British occupation in 1878, and the bitter struggle that preceded independence four years ago found the hierarchy actively supporting the majority which sought Enosis (union with Greece).

The republic has just under 600,000 inhabitants, of whom 78 per cent are Greeks, 18 per cent are Turks, and 4 per cent are of other nationalities, including British. After elaborate provisions made in 1959 to ensure a balancing of interests and to safeguard the (Moslem) Turkish minority, Cyprus achieved independence, the Orthodox Church’s position was guaranteed, and Archbishop Makarios became president of the new country.

Things have not run smoothly. Vice-President Fazil Kutchuk complains that the rights of his fellows, the Turkish minority, have not been observed, and he sees partition as the solution. President Makarios, for his part, would like to do away with the treaties under which Britain, Greece, and Turkey undertook to maintain the constitutional and territorial integrity of Cyprus. “Unless we become an independent state without outside intervention,” he declares, “our problems cannot be settled in a satisfactory way.” This sounds ominous. British troops, flown in last month at the request of both sides, succeeded in preventing sporadic bloodshed from developing into overt civil war. Meanwhile, Greece and Turkey are howling offstage, and Russia is indulging in a favorite pastime by fishing in troubled waters—encouraging dissidents abroad while suppressing them at home.

The islanders desperately need a purged memory, the realization that they are neither Greeks nor Turks but Cypriots, and that neither Enosis nor partition will resolve their problems. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that President Makarios’s dual role perpetuates old antagonisms. That one man should officially represent both church and state calls for a Solomonic wisdom and impartiality that the President-Archbishop shows little sign of possessing. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s,” is a word that Paul and Barnabas may well have proclaimed to the Cypriot proconsul Sergius Paulus. Makarios and his troubled island vividly demonstrate the folly of ignoring that divine injunction.

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The Panama Problem

American high school students with matches in a tinderbox linked by a fuse of conspiracy to world revolution: the picture is not a comforting one, especially in Panama where sparks are adequate and matches superfluous. You disobediently raise a flag over your Canal Zone high school, then step back and watch in amazement as more than twenty people die and scores are wounded. Yet another chapter is added to the troubled history of the Panama Canal.

The Red network exacerbates and exploits every grievance that promises to bear the bitter fruit of rebellion. And in grievance-ridden Latin America there are sparks aplenty to light dangerous fires. The high school students in this case were reportedly reflecting attitudes of their parents. Any condescension toward Panamanians can be ill afforded where poverty and plenty co-exist in envy-rousing contrast. Although Panama reportedly has a higher per-capita income than fifteen other Latin American countries, the Panamanian gazes upon an affluent strip that bisects his country and believes the northern colossus grows wealthy at his expense—whereas Milton S. Eisenhower points out in his book The Wine Is Bitter that the canal has actually been a financial burden to the United States.

The history of agitation that has been companion to the canal did not really need the flag-raising incident, but the timing was unfortunate for the pursuit of rational negotiation inasmuch as this is election year in both countries. The United States government is to be commended for firmness in the face of Panamanian demands, though certain adjustments in Canal Zone policy have long been required, as Dr. Eisenhower and other informed observers have pointed out. The Panamanians do not want us to leave, and international stability probably requires continuance of United States control of the canal. But Panamanians could, for example, be trained for skilled jobs that command high wages, and this to the benefit of both countries. Protracted negotiation is in prospect, and it is the lot of the powerful country to manifest patience and forbearance.

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The Government Report On Cigarettes

None who have followed investigations of the past decade into the explosive epidemic of lung cancer were surprised at the federal advisory committee’s report, Smoking and Health, indicting cigarettes as a chief cause of this dread disease and as a serious factor in other major ailments. The conclusive evidence presented to the nation of the deleterious effects of cigarettes reinforces the position of the lead editorial in our November 8 issue that for Christians smoking is now a moral question inescapably related to the stewardship of the body.

The response of many smokers reveals the extent to which a physiological and psychological habituation can blind millions to incontrovertible facts. Moreover, one wonders why the Christian community with its growing sensitivity to social problems has in comparison with secular agencies like the American Cancer Society shown so little active concern about so great a problem of human welfare. The effrontery of the Tobacco Institute (subsidized by cigarette manufacturers) in interpreting the report as a call for further research in the hope of dispelling the fears of smokers is matched only by the determination of members of Congress from tobacco-growing states to resist restrictions upon an industry bent at all costs on continuing to promote a habit that brings disease and premature death.

Intensive education of youth against the dangers of cigarettes and curtailment of advertising are needed. The $8 billion a year tobacco industry and the advertising agencies it employs have an unavoidable moral responsibility. An ethically sick industry should cease fighting a delaying action in a battle already lost, cut advertising drastically, and continue diversification into other fields. Economic consequences with the employment of hundreds of thousands at stake are serious. But the public welfare comes first.

Gustave Weigel

The death of the Roman Catholic apologist Gustave Weigel terminated the career of an able scholar interested in ecumenical dialogue and one specially familiar with current Protestant thought.

Dr. Weigel was a participant in our anniversary-issue symposium of twenty-five religious leaders. Behind that invitation lay an interesting series of events. In the late 1940s, when Protestant liberalism was by political means reinforcing its ecclesiastical hold to compensate for crumbling theological supports, a team of American scholars—a Protestant, a Catholic, and a Jew—were lecturing in Germany about religious trends in America. Father Weigel was sufficiently abreast of the times to know that American Protestant tensions could not be oversimplified into the contest between modernism and neoorthodoxy, but that what Time magazine now recognizes somewhat modestly as “the evangelical undertow” was already a formative force. In his lectures abroad Dr. Weigel repeatedly referred to writings of American evangelical scholars whose attacks on liberalism and affirmation of biblical positions he considered noteworthy. The liberal Protestant simply professed ignorance of such views and voiced a tranquil inclusivism.

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Father Weigel and this writer attended major ecumenical assemblies and conferences in the role of observer. But one meeting with him stands out, a simple luncheon in a modest Washington restaurant. We had spoken frankly of our own religious pilgrimages and had exchanged theological agreements and differences. Then suddenly, at a point of important dogmatic difference, Dr. Weigel reached a hand across the table and clasped mine. Calling me by name, he said, “I love you.” The editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY has met scores of Protestant theologians and philosophers of many points of view. None ever demonstrated as effectively as Gustave Weigel that the pursuit of truth must never be disengaged from the practice of love.

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