See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Smell No Evil

Not everyone is wholly satisfied with the decisions rendered by the United States Supreme Court; among the malcontents are, for example, the more than two hundred prisoners waiting on “death row” for the Court to decide whether or not their pending execution is cruel, unusual, or otherwise unconstitutional, yet few will deny that the Court brings an innovative spirit to the interpretation of law. Recently Jacksonville, Florida, prohibited the display on vast outdoor screens of certain portions of the human anatomy, ostensibly in order to avoid traffic problems when such screens are visible from traveled roadways. But the Court, even more alert than its members usually look in photographs, quickly spotted in this local ordinance a thinly disguised attempt to abridge the freedom of the press.

Some may wonder whether the Court did well to devote itself to this relatively trivial matter, in view of the many more grievous problems facing it. They may think that instead of abiding by the old Roman maxim De minimis non curat lex (the law is not concerned with trifles), the Supreme Court appears more impressed by the slogan of a contemporary moving company: “No Job Too Small for Us.” But if we look beneath the surface, we see that the Court has broken new legal ground. The attention of most commentators was fixed on the fact that it will now be possible for drivers to witness diverting scenes on drive-in screens as they pass by. Only the more observant noted the promising future opened by Justice Powell’s interesting explanation that it is unreasonable to forbid the projection of such scenes, inasmuch as anyone who wishes to avoid seeing them can do so “simply by averting his eyes.”

This will no doubt put a spoke into the wheel of meddlesome consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who is constantly striving to interfere with freedom of industrial development under the guise of a war on pollution. Justice Powell has not yet said it, but it is now obvious that anyone who does not wish to be exposed to atmospheric pollution can avoid it, “simply by holding his nose.” This puts responsibility for maintaining clean air, like good morals, precisely where it belongs: in the hands of the individual citizens and taxpayers. In addition, instead of attempting to enforce outmoded laws against homicide, aggravated assault, and the like, the government can advise people of their right to run, dodge bullets, and adopt other readily available courses of escape when faced with behavior they consider objectionable.

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If it is objected that some people may not be able to avert their gaze, hold their breath long enough, or dodge quickly enough, that is certainly not the responsibility of the Court. After all, as the old legal maxim has it, “Hard cases make bad law.”

More (Much More) On Women

I have read with interest the several articles in the June 6 issue relative to women in the church. I have appreciated the open and relatively balanced fashion in which you have been treating this and other controversial questions—although your articles do reflect a moderate to reactionary range, lacking an enthusiastic positive statement such as some of the young women seeking ordination might make.

It occurs to me, however, that Elisabeth Elliot (“Why I Oppose the Ordination of Women”) and Ruth Graham (Others Say …), like other women who so forcefully express opinions on the role of women in the church as only submissive, in effect contradict their own assertions. If Paul was right when he said women should remain silent and not be allowed to speak “in church,” then by what authority do they write?… To be silent in church would surely include not speaking out publicly in a church journal such as CHRISTIANITY TODAY!

Syracuse First Baptist Church

Syracuse, N.Y.

How sad it is, if I understand Ruth Graham correctly, that all single women are living second-class lives because God has not provided them with a husband and family.

San Jose, Calif.

Your issue of June 6 was excellent. However, I would like to add a note concerning the listing of Letty Russell as a faculty member of the Manhattan College in the Bronx, in the review of books by feminist authors. She is also associate professor of theology at the Divinity School of Yale University.

Consultant in Women’s Ministries

Division of Homeland Ministries

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Indianapolis, Ind.

Three cheers for Betty Elliot’s wonderfully lucid and delightful exposition. How naughty of C.T. to use a lady to express the conservative viewpoint! I don’t deduce the conclusion of the seminary professor’s piece (Paul King Jewett, “Why I Favor the Ordination of Women”) from the red herrings he throws out. He seems to set up an elaborate series of straw men and then knocks them down. Case not proven, professor, even if your exposition is profitable.

Tergiversation … what a wonderful new word to convey warping of the Scriptures.

Dr. Jewett should be required to join a church where the lady minister preaches only in asexual analogs and arid algorithms. On the other hand, it would be interesting to know if Betty Elliot kept things “in order” when engaged in missionary endeavor planting churches.

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Beverly Hills, Calif.

A large percentage of the Christian women with whom I talk are searching to find their personhood apart from being simple reflections of husbands and children. These women know an intrinsic part of the Good News is that God sees each of us as a unique, precious person for whom Christ died.… In what sense does Scripture define the masculine and feminine? Rather, aren’t these terms culturally defined and therefore variables? To whom does the single woman “naturally” submit? Do not all submit directly to God? If women achieve excellence only as wives and mothers, what is the hope of achievement for the childless or single woman? How will the granddaughters of Elisabeth Elliot and Ruth Graham answer these questions?

Indiana, Pa.

I consider Ms. Elliot one of the finest ministers in the contemporary church. I find myself more in agreement with Jewett than with Elliot, however. Mr. Jewett’s analysis is, in fact, a fine example of Ms. Elliot’s principle that “we ought always to be testing our assumptions and priorities against the Word of God.” Elliot’s presentation was remarkably weak precisely at the point of biblical support. She unfortunately equates her own opinion that “woman was made from man” and “man was not made for woman” with revelation and therefore rules out “any attempt to evade or reinterpret” her own interpretation! This violates her own principle.

I wish that Jewett, however, had given more attention to the implications of his own stated belief that biblically there is “no essential difference between laity and clergy.” It seems to me this is of fundamental importance. The issue, therefore, is not of clerical ordination but rather the more basic question of ministry. The biblical view of ministry knows no distinction on the basis either of sex or of a clergy/laity dichotomy, but only on the basis of function.…

Contrary to Ms. Elliot, the biblical principle of man-woman relationships is not unilateral female submission but rather, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). Here the analogy between marriage and the Christ-Church relationship must be qualified. The Church must be submissive to Christ in a way that the woman should never be subject to the man—for no man is Christ. And men certainly are not inherently more godly than women.

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The biblical view is neither a static hierarchy nor a drab homogenization. Rather it is the beauty, harmony, and diversity of the body where each member is different, each is important, all are interdependent, and all are subject to Christ, the Head.

Executive Director

Light and Life Men, International

Winona Lake, Ind.

A Glaring Omission

As an Anglican clergyman working amongst Cree Indians in northern Quebec, I could not help but notice a glaring omission in David Kucharsky’s article, “Toward a Red Theology?” (News, May 9). There was no mention whatever of the extensive Anglican and Episcopal mission work in many parts of both Canada and the United States, much of which has flourished for well over a century. The Episcopal Church is particularly strong on a number of Indian reservations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North and South Dakota.… Anglican work in the James Bay area of northern Ontario and Quebec dates from the arrival at Moose Factory in 1851 of the Rev. (later Bishop) John Horden. Thanks to the apostolic labours of Horden and his successors, the vast majority of Crees (and Eskimos) in these two provinces are devout and loyal Anglican Christians.

Kucharsky quotes “a prominent Indian mission director” to the effect that “there may now be considerable duplication of efforts … because of lack of awareness of what others are doing.” Much of this duplication is perpetrated by several independent groups similar to the North Canada Evangelical Mission, as well as by certain Pentecostals who come well-financed from the United States. Their raison d’être is not to convert the heathen to Christ, but to divert existing believers to their own particular brand of denominationalism.

Church of St. John the Evangelist

Baie du Poste, Quebec

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