On the day after Washington demonstrations against American policies in Southeast Asia, President Johnson heard a different view expressed by evangelist Billy Graham in Houston’s Astrodome.
“Even a little handful can make a great noise and get national attention if they are protesting and demonstrating,” said Graham, who was winding up a crusade in Texas’s largest city.
Continuing his pre-address welcome to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, the evangelist pointed out that in Houston nearly 400,000 people of every color and creed had attended the ten-day meetings “to protest sin and moral evil and to affirm their belief in moral integrity and old-fashioned religious convictions.” The fact that most of them had been under 25 indicated that “the youth of today, in spite of a noisy minority, are probably the most religious-minded of any generation in this century.”
The President and his wife had flown in specially from their ranch, where Graham and his associate Grady Wilson hail been guests the previous weekend. Johnson’s fulfillment of a promise made to Graham, a longtime friend, made history. It was probably the first time a President in office had attended an evangelistic meeting. And the experience was doubtless a novel one also for many members of the White House press corps, which was out in force. In view of the Texas tragedy of two years ago, pressmen and photographers were asked to watch their language: the President was to be “filmed,” not “shot.”
Two days before the beginning of a crusade twice postponed because of his illness, Graham had addressed a capacity crowd at the University of Houston auditorium. In this, his first public address in twelve weeks, the fit-looking evangelist pointed to the fallacy of waiting for problems to be solved in a society “ruled by computers, systems and mass media,” which take no account of the fact that man is more than a statistic. This address was relayed to a TV audience estimated at more than 300,000 students in an eighty-mile radius.
Other distinguished visitors during the crusade included Texas Governor John Connally, who introduced the evangelist at the opening service; veteran singer Ethel Waters (“God bless each and every one of his sparrows”); and Vonda Kay Van Dyke, Miss America of 1965, who spoke and sang at the next-to-last service, specially directed at youth. “Christ is the only one who can give you real happiness,” she told more than 37,000 listeners.
At the closing meeting Graham expressed violent disagreement with those “who would throw God and religion out of our schools” and outlined the dangers of educating a man without moral and spiritual strength. “This is one of the most dangerous aspects of Communism,” he declared, “and we are in danger of copying the Communists.” Taking his address from Paul’s famous Mars Hill message, Graham said that the Apostle would find in an American city “immorality, crime, and even more idols than in Athens.” Modern man tries to make God conform to his own wishful thinking, involving an absence of judgment and punishment for sin, the evangelist declared. “God is not suggesting that we repent of our sins—he commands it.”
The final day’s crowd of 61,000 was 10,000 more than had ever watched the Houston Astros in their home Dome. The 218-foot-high air-conditioned amphitheatre, built at a cost of $20 million, is 4½ times the size of Rome’s Pantheon. On seeing it for the first time, even a Texas sports writer was stopped in his tracks and gasped, “It’s like stepping through the gates of heaven.” And that’s precisely how many onlookers felt as 13,100 inquirers responded to Graham’s call for commitment. They stepped onto a playing held that developed extensive patches of dead grass after the Dome ceiling was painted to reduce glare in athletes’ eyes.
Expenses of the crusade, including rental of the Dome at $12,000 a night, were more than covered before the end, and the offering taken during the final meeting was designated by local sponsors to buy radio time for future evangelistic projects of the Graham association.
Not realizing that the final meeting was an afternoon one, a New Orleans man and his son flew in just as the presidential plane left Houston International Airport. Taking his disappointment philosophically, the Louisianian said: “Never mind, I’ll hear Billy Graham in Greenville.” The next crusade is planned in that South Carolina city March 4–13. Before then, Graham goes to Washington for his annual pre-Christmas appearance in the Pentagon concourse.
Solidarity In Bolivia
The world’s loftiest capital, La Paz, Bolivia, saw an unprecedented display of Protestant solidarity last month as 15,000 believers—many in colorful Indian attire—paraded peacefully through streets more accustomed to hostile mobs.
The two-hour procession and two weeks of services capped a year-long “Evangelism-in-Depth” drive coordinated by the Latin America Mission. Next is “consolidation,” with each of fourteen cooperating denominations launching its own program.
During the year, 20,000 Bolivians professed faith in Christ (1,000 in the final La Paz meetings) and hundreds of young people vowed to enter Christian service.
The picturesque parade drew wide press reaction, none more significant than that of the leading Roman Catholic daily, Presencia:
“The diverse Protestant sects have united here and have organized these activities in spite of their differences and with the Gospel as a backdrop. This is a great step and shows a very interesting spirit.” It said the neat, sober evangelicals offered proof of “a social action and of a philosophy of preaching which produces positive results for these people and for the nation.”
W. DAYTON ROBERTS
Hearth And Homily
United Presbyterians and Roman Catholics plan to publish a joint worship guide next fall. The project was revealed after a two-day private ecumenical meeting in Philadelphia, the second official encounter between the two churches.
The guide will have three sections: specimen worship services with sermons and “homilies” emphasizing such topics as peace, unity, and thanksgiving; Bible study and worship for smaller groups; and an elaboration on Bible selections with commentary to show where Protestants and Catholics differ.
The worship guide is reminiscent of a recent book on the informal “living room dialogues” being promoted by the National Council of Churches and the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (Catholic education agency). These new “hearthside” discussions, scheduled to start next month, include prayer and Bible study but not worship services as in the Presbyterian project.
The “role of the Holy Spirit” was another topic at Philadelphia. After discussing a treatise, panelists agreed on three points:
1. The traditional trinitarian doctrine.
2. “The universal salvific will of God manifested in the God-man Jesus Christ, the mediator for all men.”
3. Church reform and renewal as the work of the Holy Spirit.
On point one, panelists said they took historic creeds at face value and never considered the possibility that modern theologians might be assigning new meaning to traditional formulations.
One of the Presbyterian leaders, Dr. David Ramage of the Board of National Missions, said after the meeting that the most troublesome area was the relation between Scripture and tradition, a topic on which the Catholic Church recently took action (see page 36).
Thumbs Down To $1,111,898
Furman University turned down a $611,898 federal science grant and Mercer University shunned a $500,000 loan when the South Carolina and Georgia Baptist Conventions enforced traditional beliefs against government aid.
The pressing aid problem (see page 57, November 5 issue) also dominated fourteen other recent state meetings in the Southern Baptist Convention. The aid ban was upheld, at least for the present, in Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, Virginia, New Mexico, and California, while seven states set up study committees to decide whether a change is due.
Among the seven is Kentucky, where Baptists raised only one-third of the $9 million they needed for four schools. The federal challenge at Furman spurred the South Carolina convention to provide the money.
In Maryland, Dr. Conwell Anderson denied reports he quit as president of a planned Baptist college because the state convention refused federal aid.
Pope Paul reportedly directed the Ecumenical Council to re-endorse the birth-control doctrines of Popes Piux XI and Pius XII in its “Modern World” schema.
Ecumenical Council commissioners who prepared the new version of the schema decided also to include Paul’s own statement of June, 1964. which affirms traditional Roman Catholic teachings until they are changed by himself, subject to advice from a special papal commission.
That commission has been unable to agree, although the majority is rumored to favor change in the church’s ban on contraception by any means other than the natural “rhythm” method.
The latest papal move is interpreted variously. It may be an attempt merely to clarify the current church stand. However, it may signal a freeze on the birth-control issue, which would mean no change is forthcoming, at least in the near future.
The onrush of events, however, will put the world spotlight on the Pope’s decision. Besides the ever-present challenge of population growth, there is the special White House advisory panel’s plea for greatly expanded birth-control programs sponsored by the U. S. government, both at home and overseas.
The panel, headed by Professor Richard Newton Gardner of the Columbia University Law School, said man has a “basic right” to choose family size, but two-thirds of mankind lacks both information and the means to do it. The United States should provide both, said the study group of thirteen, which had only one Roman Catholic member. George N. Shuster, assistant to the president of the University of Notre Dame.
There is also continuing scientific expforation. A controversial report of sex research now being prepared by two Washington University gynecologists reports discovery of a vaginal chemical that can kill sperm in ten seconds. The scientists hope it may provide an answer to Catholic objections. The Ford Foundation recently announced $14.5 million in new research grants on birth control and related fields.
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