Advice to a Young Minister

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

Continued from page 2

I would take it as Christian-to-Christian. I would say, "George, Jesus is considered the servant of the poor. He was concerned most for those society counted least. You don’t come through very Jesus-like in your approach to the war. And as for these rather grandiose dreams of hegemony, economic and military hegemony for the United States, have you ever stopped to think that the devil tempted Jesus with unparalleled wealth and power? It was the devil." There would be a couple of things like that. Then I’d probably say, "I don’t want to keep you much longer. I’ll just leave you with that."

What should churches be doing in the face of what’s going on in our country right now?
I think the bright flames of Christianity are now down to smoldering embers, if not ashes, of feeling comfortable. The church is pretty much down to therapy and management. There’s really little prophetic fire. The Roman Catholic Church is so caught up in all the sexual problems of abuse, they’ve lost a lot of their moral authority. And the poor rabbis have a problem being critical of Israel because the congregations don’t want to hear it so much. The only people who could save the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are American Jews. If they said to Bush, "We have to change," that would be it. But they’re not saying it audibly, and not in concert, that’s for sure.

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The churches are a reflection of the truth of Plato’s statement, "What’s honored in the country will be cultivated there." When we got started as a country, we had no more than 3 million people--less than Los Angeles County today. Yet we turned out Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Hamilton--you can name a list as long as your arm. How many people on the public stage can you name today who are of the caliber of those first men? And why aren’t there more? Because what’s honored in the country will be cultivated there.

Or how come those itty, bitty Italian city-states turned out one fantastic painter and sculptor after another? Because every kid couldn’t wait to get his mitt on a paint brush. What’s honored in the country will be cultivated there. We have fantastic athletes. I watched the Spurs and Lakers yesterday. Those guys play basketball like nobody’s business. Yet we have mediocre politicians, and the clergy is pretty mediocre also. But what’s honored in a country will be cultivated there. The greatest recession in this country is not economic; it’s spiritual. And so the great biblical mandates of pursuing justice and seeking peace are shortchanged.

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