Advice to a Young Minister

A meeting between two ministers, one the descendant of the other's spiritual ancestor.

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But that’s not the way it’s done. Right now, not to address the conscience of the nation about what’s going on in the occupation of Iraq--you can’t even do that? Just get it out there. Say it softly, don’t say it loudly. A freshman at Yale once said to me, "May I give you a bit of advice? When it’s true and painful, say it softly." Very nice. You have to say what’s true and painful, and you better say it softly.

'The bright flames of Christianity are now down to smoldering embers. There's little prophetic fire.'

At Yale, I always felt an obligation to use my position to provide cover for other people. These days, Richard Clark’s book, "Plan of Attack," "The House of Saud and the House of Bush"--those books provided cover for Rather, Jennings and Brokaw--made it so they could now move out a little more [in questioning the Iraq war]. The fact that Bush is tottering a little allows them to kick his shins a little. It’s very important that Yale, Princeton, and Harvard provide cover for others--particularly because their graduates will play a much more lethal role. Look at all the Yalies in power now. [As university chaplain at Yale,] I certainly didn’t get to Bush when he was there.

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If you had a pastoral visit with the president, what would you say?
I think I’d have to say: "Mr. President, in the British military, the chaplain assumes the rank of the person he’s addressing. Can we for a moment accept that understanding between us?" And if he said yes, I’d say, "Then George, may I have your permission to talk about one or two things that I found sorrowful?" I would have to ask, because otherwise people get defensive. But if they give permission, presumably they’re willing to take it.

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