Intelligence operations “are commonplace in political campaigns and usually include efforts to collect all published information about an opponent along with occasional efforts to obtain advance copies of speeches, travel schedules and the like,” wrote Seymour M. Hirsh in the New York Times. But Watergate went far beyond this; the illegal acts that the term now signifies must be condemned.
Billy Graham in another Times piece commented that Watergate is “a symptom of the deeper moral crisis that affects society.” How right he is! Anyone at all familiar with the Washington scene knows there are skeletons stacked high in some congressional closets. If all these doors were opened, the Watergate scandal would no doubt rate only second billing.
What jars us is the selective morality some persons display in regard to the Watergate and Ellsberg cases. Whatever may have happened subsequently, we need to remind ourselves that Ellsberg admitted stealing and reproducing the Pentagon Papers and delivering them to the news media. Both the Watergate and the Ellsberg incidents are exhibitions of law-breaking, and nothing should be allowed to obscure this fact.
Columnist David S. Broder, who just won a Pulitzer Prize, wrote in the Washington Post (May 8):
We could well discuss with our readers … why the same papers that have been so outraged by the threat to civil liberties resulting from the bugging of a party headquarters or the break-in at a psychiatrist’s office feel free themselves to print the transcript of secret grand jury testimony, regardless of the risk to the reputations of persons who may be mentioned in that non-adversary proceeding.
We do not think that Nixon knew what was going on at Watergate at the time it happened. We do not think he moved fast enough when he did find out. And we do not think he will be impeached. We hope that the sordid affair will be aired thoroughly, the guilty punished, and the administration’s attention turned to solving such problems as inflation, the energy crisis, and the pressing need to rebuild confidence in its own integrity.
Two at the Top
CHRISTIANITY TODAY won two awards in the annual competition sponsored by Associated Church Press. Among ACP magazines of opinion, public affairs, and social concerns, CHRISTIANITY TODAY got top awards for best article and best editorial in 1972. The article was “The Irrelevance of Relevance” by Kenneth Hamilton (March 31), and the editorial was “The Church’s Distinctive” (May 12).
When Jacques Maritain died in Toulouse, France, April 28, at the age of ninety, it was the passing of one of our century’s intellectual giants. Raised a liberal Protestant in comfortably bourgeois circumstances and at a time when there was very little evangelical fervor among French Protestants, Maritain rebelled against the emptiness of the skeptical, ostensibly scientific humanism of the academic world of his day. Although stimulated by the philosophy of Henri Bergson with its “creative evolution” and “élan vital” as an alternative to materialistic naturalism, Maritain remained unsatisfied, and ultimately—together with Raissa, his Russian-Jewish wife—he turned to Roman Catholicism.
An ardent if imaginative disciple of Thomas Aquinas, because of his open-minded and critical spirit Maritain was for years considered a liberal in Roman Catholic circles. But in recent years, as he saw both Rome and Protestantism beginning to make absolutes out of some of the social and intellectual values for which he had sought Christian endorsement—for example, freedom, social justice, and the fine arts—he spoke out against what he considered their idolatrous and world-worshiping tendencies. He vigorously opposed the “Catholic pantheism” of Teilhard de Chardin. Although loyal to the Roman church as an institution, he seemed primarily concerned for fundamental Christian and evangelical principles, an attitude that gained him more popularity among Protestant evangelicals than among modernizing Catholics. His tremendous academic and literary attainments never prevented him from testifying to his faith in simple, easy to understand terms. An intellectual par excellence, he was never embarrassed by the simplicity of the Gospel and never tried to adjust it to the modern world.
In a beautiful park in Lausanne, Switzerland, there is the original of the familiar statuette of three monkeys, one covering his eyes, one his ears, one his mouth. The inscription in its familiar English version reads, “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” This is a respected motto in Washington—not among journalists but among those in high government office. But when monkey business goes on long enough, it eventually becomes public knowledge, and an indignant and outraged public turns with anger on those who for so long kept eyes, ears, and mouth closed.
Located midway between the White House and the National Press Club, we at CHRISTIANITY TODAY can observe the example both of the “say nothing” and of the “tell everything” school. And sometimes—particularly when it concerns charges of monkey business among evangelicals—it may be that we incline rather quickly in the direction of the Press Club and the “tell all” school. We are certainly not infallible, and occasionally may not even be prudent. But to our readers who are genuinely concerned about the possible harm done to the cause of the Gospel when evangelicals’ vagaries are publicized, we urge this reflection: think too of the harm that is done when they are long piously concealed—until finally exposed by secular media or hostile muckrakers.
Second Thoughts About Honey
The current “back-to-nature” movement may have some beneficial theological fallout. For one thing, the growing preference for natural foods might help people appreciate more the language of the Bible, whose food references are mostly, of course, to unprocessed fare.
Take honey. Sticky, messy, inconvenient. Why bother with it when the pantry shelf offers a neat array of boxed sugars—regular (loose, in cubes, or in premeasured packets), super-fine, confectioner’s, light brown, dark brown, granulated brown, and others. And so until very recently, many moderns knew little about honey. We had little basis for understanding why it was important in biblical times, why, in Jeremiah 41:8, the King James Version refers to honey as a “treasure.”
Honey is pleasant to eat because it is sweet and smooth. Even the very hard to please may find a taste that suits them, because flavors vary somewhat according to the source of the nectar the bees use. Unlike white sugar, it has nutritive value, and it provides an immediate as well as extended source of energy. It keeps well without preservatives and without refrigeration—no bacteria can grow in pure honey. And it has medicinal value: when fortified with particular pollens it alleviates hay-fever symptoms, it has some antiseptic properties, and it soothes an irritated throat. Little wonder that the ancient Hebrews thought so much of it and used it profusely to illustrate spiritual truth.
Critics of the Bible have scoffed at its agricultural orientation as being irrelevant to modern times. But actually the Scripture’s use of such perpetually important products as honey, milk, salt, and leaven serves to confirm divine inspiration and to vindicate the Bible as truly the book for all ages. Had God not superintended the writing, the authors could have relied for their imagery upon things destined to disappear from the human scene.
Acupuncture And The ‘Fitly Joined’
You don’t have to be a Taoist or fly to Peking to be treated by acupuncture. But those are the origins of the enigmatic method of anesthesia and medical treatment about to be studied at the National Institutes of Health. Acupuncture is traditionally based on the ancient Chinese belief that health comes from the free circulation of “life energy” (ch’i) through the body. Sickness is the result of an imbalance in the negative (yin) and positive (yang) life forces in the body. The acupuncture needle is inserted in one of the many control points in the body keyed to the various organs, to correct the imbalance of yin and yang. Often, these control points are somewhat removed from the site of the disease. For instance, a needle is inserted in the little finger for effect on the heart.
Now, far from its Oriental home and with its basic philosophical tenets quietly relegated to the category of metaphysical “personal preference” by serious scientists, acupuncture is coming into its own as a credible contender for Western medical approval. NIH has set up a committee, as yet to receive financial support, to establish research activity. The body may be a little more “fitly joined together” than modern science suspected.
Thankfully, man has discovered many ways of treating his body, but unfortunately his spiritual medicine often has not kept pace. Paul speaks of an acupuncture that can heal the soul as we apply the “sword of the Spirit” to the “thoughts and intents of the heart.”
The Energy Crisis
Last winter in America there was a mild shortage of fuel oil for heating purposes; natural gas too is in short supply. Now some smaller independent outlets have had to close for lack of gasoline to sell, and there is some fear that major oil companies may soon have to skimp on supplies to their own franchised dealers as well.
At precisely this time, as though by a singular coincidence, Saudi Arabia, America’s largest and hitherto most dependable overseas source of oil, has officially indicated that it is not interested in increasing its oil sales to us—unless certain aspects of our political climate “develop favorably” (namely, in the direction of decreasing U. S. support for Israel). It is not difficult to see what could well lie ahead for America: increasing stringency on the domestic front, and increasing vulnerability to blackmail in foreign affairs.
Isaiah warned that apart from God, even youths faint and are weary, and young men fall exhausted (Isa. 40:30). Most of us are no longer used to the heavy taxing of our physical energies, because we have been abundantly supplied with mechanical power. But now the prospect of weariness is suddenly less remote.
The energy crisis is certainly not insoluble. We can—given time and effort—develop alternative sources of power. Solar energy and energy from the recycling of waste products hold promise. Much wider use of nuclear energy is a possibility, if satisfactory safeguards can be developed. During World War II, blockaded Germany learned how to make aviation fuel out of coal, a resource with which America is bountifully supplied, but one whose mining and burning pose severe environmental problems. If the nation faces up to the energy crisis realistically, then certainly, despite the lateness of the hour, some of the worst consequences can be avoided.
Yet something more is necessary if we are to deal with the crisis without panicking: we have to realize that we can do without many luxuries, indeed without some things we have come to consider necessities. Without a growth in spiritual and ethical maturity, we will inevitably be easy marks for just the kind of economic blackmail at which Saudi Arabia is now discreetly hinting.
Maybe in time we will be able to preserve many or most of our present comforts. But unless we are prepared for sacrifice, we may be squeezed into economic dependency and ultimately into a mendicant role among the world’s nations. It is well to remind ourselves of what the prophet says of those who wait for the Lord: “They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:31). We may soon be needing a lot more of that kind of energy.
Congress is currently considering legislation backed by the Postal Service to increase postal rates for second-class mail, that is, regularly appearing periodicals. Under the proposed legislation non-profit publications would generally have much higher increases than (would-be) profit-making ones over the next ten years. Costs would go up to two, four, even as much as eight times more than they now are.
It is true that the Postal Service, like many another business, has a tough job to try to make revenues cover expenses. It is also true that the readers of a periodical should be willing to pay the costs involved in producing and distributing it (either directly through subscriptions or indirectly by patronizing its advertisers).
Yet two other principles should be kept in mind. When a major change in the established way of doing things is instituted (unless the change comes because of discovered illegal or immoral factors), the change should be instituted gradually, to allow those who would be affected adequate time to adjust. Of course, not every periodical deserves to survive, and many will fall by the wayside as did the Post, Look, and Life, because they cease being competitive for the subscriber’s and advertiser’s dollar.
Another principle is that of “subsidy” for what Congress deems to be of social value. (It’s called subsidy when companies or the relatively better off individuals are involved; it’s called welfare when the relatively poor are the recipients.) We subsidize homeowners (and home builders) through mortgage interest deductions, small cities served by regional airlines, farmers (even for not farming), landlords through ridiculous “depreciation” allowances while the value of their property is increasing, oil companies by depletion allowances, and even ministers with housing allowances. It might be a good idea to phase out almost all subsidies; but as long as there are so many, we think (for admittedly biased reasons) that periodicals are, as a whole, worth a tiny slice of the subsidy-pie.
A Debt For All Christians
Many Christians sport a collection of credit cards as large as anyone else’s. Few today insist on paying for everything in cash, on the basis of the Apostle Paul’s command, “Owe no one anything …” (Rom. 13:8a). (Of course, one could easily argue that when a creditor holds the title to your house or car or the like, you do not in fact “owe” him anything if you keep up regular payments. And if hardship should ever cause you to stop paying, the creditor would simply repossess, very likely at a profit.)
However, the main intention of Paul’s command is not to give advice on money management but to tell Christians that they have a debt to their fellow men, a debt as binding as the gas bill or mortgage installment or Master Charge balance. Paul’s concern is that Christians “owe no one anything except to love one another.”
For the Christian, love is not an optional virtue, to be offered when and to whom he pleases, any more than paying his bills is optional. Paul tells believers whom to love, quoting the Lord: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Rom. 13:9). And he gives a simple guideline for recognizing what love is not: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor …” (v. 10).
For Paul, love is no tingly feeling of mutual attraction among those who are, at least for a time, highly compatible. Love is a permanent duty to all men, not to be counterfeited by mere profession: “Let love be genuine” (Rom. 12:9). Nor is it incompatible with hatred so long as we “hate what [not who] is evil” (Rom. 12:9). Love is not content to let others take the initiative: “… outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10).
Love is especially tested in the face of provocation: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Rom. 12:14; cf. vv. 17–21). Love is not simply to refrain from wronging another, which is hard enough, but to express itself positively: “Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality” (Rom. 12:13).
Christians tend to be influenced by a materialistic society that judges a man’s goodness by his wealth, however acquired (as suggested by the phrases “a good neighborhood” or “he has done well”). Similarly, they are susceptible to the world’s practice of limiting love to those with whom one feels compatible.
Probably we can excuse our modification of the command to “owe no one anything” if we are talking about secured loans. But by no stretch of interpretation ought we to evade the main thrust of Paul’s command: “Love one another.”
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.