There are great names in church history whose confidence and example mark us all. But their names set against evangelical understanding only seem to confuse us. They sound remote and too “Catholic” to be practical. Thomas Aquinas sounds like a kind of medieval medicine used to treat malaria. Saint Bernard was a big dog that guarded an alpine monastery; Saint Benedict was either an early Christian traitor or conceived of a new way to cook eggs. And didn’t Ignatius of Loyola start a university? Translated from the Spanish, the names of the saints become even more confusing. San Diego was either an apostle or a friend of Zorro. Santiago invented chili, and Santa Ana was either the mother of Santa Maria or the alcalde at the Alamo.
This confusion has robbed evangelicals of a certain cultural richness and spiritual heritage. I myself was once impoverished in my own understanding. I saw the names of saints here and there and knew they must have something to add to my life, but never really guessed the spiritual power they would afford me once I studied their lives and contributions.
The key for me was Saint Francis the Sissy. I knew he was really Saint Francis of Assisi, and could even quote his famous prayer. But when anyone said anything serious about his life and witness, I would always chuckle and say, “Oh, you mean Saint Francis the Sissy!” It was not until the Zeferelli film, Brother Sun Sister Moon, that my interest was piqued enough to begin a thorough reading of the life and work of that brother. The more I learned, the less flippant I became.
From Saint Francis I moved on to the Carmelites, whom I once declared made candy in central Spain. But after reading Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa, I once again grieve penitently over my flippancy. I once quipped that Thomas à Kempis, Thomas à Becket, and Thomas Aquinas were Catholic triplets. Now I see each as separate, with his own special impact on my life.
So great is the contribution of these saints to my inner life that I publicly repent. Now I call churchmen I know to a new realization. As we read the ancient words, we are more alive and confess in a new enlightenment of joy. The substance of their lives has replaced ignorance with power. As for the Catholic triplets, Aquinas’s impact on the church and in our own day has been abridged as My Way of Life, a spiritual journey rich in practical insights. À Becket was a martyr whose life and example instructed the Norman king, and à Kempis was the author of the second-best seller of all time: The Imitation of Christ.
Now I am made wiser by those I ignored: Saint Bernard was not a dog, nor Teresa the Carmelite a Spanish confectioner—and certainly Saint Francis was not a sissy!
I write in reference to an item on Underground Evangelism [News, Sept. 17].
A serious mistake (an honest one) was made by a writer in our publications office who was not directly involved with a literature project. The writer assumed that certain events had taken place when in actuality they had not. This resulted in a financial appeal being written which was based on erroneous information about a proposed project for printing Christian children’s books in several East European languages. That appeal appeared in the June issue of Underground Evangelism magazine. An editorial policy has been implemented to prevent this in the future.
The errors were corrected at the earliest possible time. Funds raised for the project will be used as designated. Suitable children’s literature is being selected, and the books will be translated and printed in 1983. All editions of Underground Evangelism magazine have already printed, or are in the process of printing, a correction of the information contained in the June appeal.
M. DALE SMITH
I am writing to affirm your perceptive editorial, “Does Religion Belong in School?” [Sept. 3].
The basic question on abortion, school prayer, and other controversial “social issues” is not whether values will be “imposed,” but whose values will be reflected in our public policy and institutions.
Too many evangelicals are confused by the muddled thinking your editorial so articulately refuted. As one who has been involved in both the legal and political aspects of these value-laden social issues, I have grown weary of evangelicals neutralized by (largely undefined) phrases like “legislation of morality,” “pluralism,” and “civil religion.” Unfortunately, what primarily seems to motivate many evangelical thinkers is the desire to hold on to hard-won social acceptance—wanting above all else not to be mistaken for fundamentalists who see so many issues in black and white terms. However, we have learned to make so many subtle distinctions that an impartial observer often has difficulty knowing what it is for which we do stand.
Your editorial gives hope that evangelicals may yet wake up to the urgent need for distinctively Christian involvement in the making of our law and public policy.
CARL HORN III
I am considerably troubled when religious advocates give careless or incomplete accounts of the legal record in advancing their perspectives. There is both more and less to the two cases you cite than your editorial suggests.
McCollum v. Board of Education (1948) reviewed not merely Bible classes but an extensive program of religious education conducted by clergy on school premises in Champaign. Significantly, in 1952, the Court upheld in Zorach v. Clausen a New York release-time program in which religious instruction was given off school property, thereby making the constitutional test dependent on the setting of the instruction.
Each of three rulings on prayer and/or Bible reading in public schools came in the 1960s. Engel v. Vitale (1962) dealt with considerably more than a “22-word prayer prepared by the New York Board of Regents for voluntary use.” While use was voluntary, the 22 words constituted the only prayer allowed, a circumstance that weakened the meaning of “voluntary.” It was those words or nothing, an important point in considering either the No Establishment or Free Exercise implications of state involvement in school-based religious observances.
Murray v. Curlett (1963) was decided in a joint decision with Abingdon School District v. Schempp, the latter generally considered the more precedentially weighted. Schempp dealt with state-required Bible reading and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in Pennsylvania, Murray with nonstatutory rules in which Baltimore school officials mandated what they defended as a “secular” exercise of morning Bible reading and prayer. By its letter, the ruling outlawed governmentally required religious services.
From McCollum through Schempp, the Supreme Court emphasized the importance and the constitutionality of the study of the Bible and religion in schools, and it has not decided a case dealing with truly voluntary prayer, or the voluntary exercise of religion in debates, private meditation, Bible study, moral instruction, (instructional) Bible reading, or religious clubs.
National Conference of Christians and Jews, Inc.
New York, N.Y.
I was troubled by your report on the recent Evangelical Women’s Caucus [News, Sept. 3]. In their desire to spare Paul the embarrassment of opposing a need for identical roles in the church for men and women, some “evangelical feminists” have engaged in questionable exegeses of 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 11. An appeal to the urgency of the situation in Ephesus as an explanation for Paul’s remarks in I Timothy is no solution to the problem. One wonders if such exegetical subtleties would have ever been conceived among evangelical “inerrantists” had a humanist elite not brought feminism to the sociological fore in the last 60 years. And this causes one to wonder, in turn, both whether such a humanist elite should be setting the agenda for evangelical Christians and, more important, whether twisting Scripture to fit the feminist mold will only serve to further discredit evangelical biblical scholarship among other theologians not of our persuasion.
Aggressive Outreach Program
I read with great interest “The Evangelism Explosion in Quebec” [Sept. 3] after I received word that the Canada East Conference of this denomination had doubled the number of congregations in Quebec at its meeting this summer. For a number of years the Free Methodist Church in Canada included only one pastor serving as many as two or three groups. As the first step in an aggressive outreach program, two additional projects have been opened in and around Montreal.
JOSEPH D. RISER
Free Methodist Church of North America
Winona Lake, Ind.
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