The Marriage Conspiracy

I’m not usually a believer in conspiracy theories. I’m naïve enough to believe that John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and George Wallace were not all shot by members of the same clandestine organization. I don’t believe that the Communists are behind the busing demonstrations, labor strikes, or the high cost of pantyhose.

And usually I don’t think that one thing always leads to another. I don’t think rock music, for example, leads to fornication and pregnancy out of wedlock as does the Reverend Charles Boykin of Tallahassee, Florida. (According to his statistics, “out of 1,000 girls who became pregnant out of wedlock, 986 committed fornication while rock music was being played.”)

But I am concerned about trends. And a trend I’m concerned about in the evangelical wing of the Church is our new attitude toward no-no’s.

I can remember in the good old days when dancing, drinking, smoking, and moviegoing were considered on a par with the unpardonable sin. But slowly we loosened up. Dancing didn’t necessarily lead to group sex, we discovered, so we let our kids go to school dances, and we even danced some with our spouses “in the privacy of our own homes.” We read again Paul’s admonition that a little wine was good for the stomach’s sake, and we had some. Smoking cigarettes may have been bad for all except Southern Baptists, but we learned that pipe smoking was almost a spiritual experience. And certainly many movies had intrinsic artistic worth. Gradually (and in many cases appropriately) some no-no’s faded into the sunset.

But there are other no-no’s in the process of fading that I think need to be re-examined. One is divorce. Years ago, marriage was thought of as a lifelong commitment. If you had tough times, somehow you hung in and worked it out. Maybe married life wasn’t always abundant, but it was solid.

Today we seem to be on the verge of toppling that “rule” along with the rest. The number of divorces occurring among church people is astounding. Talk to any campus pastor who has been on the scene for a while and he or she will tell you that marriage isn’t what it used to be. Look at the parish. Examine the ministry and you’ll see that divorces are up … and climbing.

I know there are many reasons for divorce and some of those reasons are valid. But I’m concerned. If someone doesn’t speak up soon and say marriage is still for life and demands some dedication in the midst of the blahs, then we’re in for trouble. Soon we’ll be saying that divorce is okay as long as it doesn’t cause anyone to stumble. Or that it has redeeming value … especially if you smoke a pipe.

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That could be a bad day.


A Therapeutic Sadness

I was deeply moved by George R. McDonough’s poem, “A Missionary Dying on the Molopo” (Sept. 24). Although I have not had extensive cross-cultural experience or intimate contact with serious illness or death, his lines evoked in me the pathos that lurks near the center of the life of every man. Only rarely does such a feeling find adequate expression. Some will question the poet’s faith; I simply praise his honesty. He does not describe a tragedy, although secular man might call it that; he simply and humbly discloses his deep disappointment.… The sadness it stirred was strangely warm and therapeutic. But I was helped most by the fact that it bolstered my faith in the power of words to really live and communicate.…

CHRISTIANITY TODAY’s recognition of sensitive poetry is encouraging. Christians have, above all others, the message and the experience to inspire poetic expression. Too often, though, it has been desecrated with doggerel.


East Frayser Church of Christ

Memphis, Tenn.

The quality of your poetry has improved markedly in recent months, but no poem you have published has been finer than “A Missionary Dying on the Molopo.” I look forward to more from this poet.


Oakland, Calif.

Encouraging and Exciting

I must commend you for the fine article in the September 24 issue: “Dietetic Deficiencies the Church Can Cure” by T. F. Torrance.… I am a young pastor … and have been wrestling with both concluding emphases, the Word and pastoral visitation. I wholly agree with the thesis of Torrance. This article gives me deep encouragement and excitement, and I hope it does for scores of other pastors and laymen, too.


First Free Methodist Church

Lafayette, Ind.

The Bible On Wealth

Your editorial “Election ’76—The Push Potential” (Sept. 10) is interesting in its explanation of the democratic and aristocratic impulses in society. But non-committal.

The Bible is not. The Old Testament economic arrangements, with the seven-year release and the fifty-year jubilee, are clearly democratic in direction. They are all in favor of the poor and unfortunate, the debtor and the slave. The New Testament, so far as I can see, has not one word in it favorable to riches. Why this direction? Because wealth is power, power to get more wealth and to control government in its favor. And because poverty is weakness and grows on itself. God is in favor of the poor.

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Norwich, Ohio

Not About To Be Objective

I was extremely disappointed in Dean Kelley’s review of Ted Patrick’s book (Books, Sept. 24).… Mr. Kelley, as a Patrick opponent, was not about to give anything approaching an objective evaluation of the book. He gave three paragraphs of summary and then five paragraphs of his opinion of Patrick’s operation. Finally he called for another book to refute it. He had just attempted to do that very thing for more than a full magazine page. His attack was interesting reading but not what I am looking for in a book review. No more—please.


Grace Methodist Church

Leesville, La.

Waiting For Brezhnev?

I was blessed by your cover story of October 8 on the spread of the influence of God’s word inside Russia. Especially exciting and challenging … was the deep commitment our Soviet brothers and sisters have to that Word, a commitment that grows in inverse proportion to the copies of the Bible available to them!…

Doesn’t it appear, though, that the article evidences the same safe, “conservatistic” attitude towards the self-edification of the Body of Christ that has so often characterized our support of persecuted churches? The Bible gives us clear substantiation to consider Christ’s Body as one Body; … nothing is said about the need of non-Christian authorization before the Body can minister to itself and upbuild itself in love. What a silly notion: Jesus, risen and exalted Lord, the holder of all power in heaven and earth, coming again in glory, sitting at the right hand of the Father waiting around for Leonid Brezhnev to open the Iron Curtain!


St. Louis, Mo.

From an Evangelical Viewpoint

I would like to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your magazine. I’ve particularly enjoyed your section “Refiner’s Fire,” which deals with contemporary writers from a Christian perspective. I would like very much to see an article on John Berryman, one of the major American poets of our time. I really like the way you examine the work of contemporary writers from a conservative, evangelical viewpoint. Keep up the good work.


Tuscaloosa, Ala.

How Many Baptists In Burma?

There is a factual error in the interview with Chandu Ray, “Asian Strategy For Evangelism” (Aug. 27). Mr. Ray was reported to have said in regard to the Baptists in Burma, “In the last decade the Baptist church has more than doubled, from 224,000 to 480,000.” I have received from the office of the general secretary of the Burma Baptist Convention their latest report (1975) on church membership. Membership stood at 305,252 at the end of 1975. This same figure was reported by the Baptist World Alliance Executive Committee meeting in August, 1976, in Australia. The alliance report indicates that there are an additional 8,500 Baptists who are not related to the Burma Baptist Convention or to the Baptist World Alliance.

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In the interests of accuracy and interpretation of statistics, the correct size of the church membership of the Baptists in Burma indicates about 36 per cent growth in the last decade—still a commendable growth, but considerably less than double!


International Ministries

Valley Forge, Pa.

• The figures cited in the letter are for baptized believers, and unbaptized children are not included. Bishop Ray’s total, confirmed by Burmese Christian leaders, is for the entire Baptist community.


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