Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 127:505 (Jan 70) p. 64
“The King’s Chapel And The King’s Court,” Reinhold Niebuhr, Christianity and Crisis, August 4, 1969.
Niebuhr looks with alarm at President Nixon’s periodic worship services in the East Room of the White House for his family and staff. He insists that the President has “by a curious combination of innocence and guile…circumvented the Bill of Rights’ first article” (p. 211) concerning the establishment of religion. Niebuhr jumps to the conclusion that “thus, he has established a conforming religion” (p. 211).
The jump to that conclusion is quite a jump. It could well establish a record for non sequitur leaps. The question might well be asked of Niebuhr, “What religion has President Nixon established?” Billy Graham, the first preacher at the East Room services, is a Southern Baptist. In this article Niebuhr quotes from a Jewish rabbi who ministered. Others who served were Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, etc. President Nixon himself is a Quaker, but he carefully refrained from having a Quaker among the first several ministers. As a result, if anyone were eager to jump on the bandwagon of the newly established religion, he would be forced to join the late Lynn Landrum’s “Episcobapterian Church, Unigational Synod, South,” because the President has had representatives of numerous religious groups.
Since Niebuhr has established the pattern of jumping to conclusions in this article, perhaps I can be allowed one of my own. Should we conclude from Niebuhr’s criticism of the President’s White House worship services that he prefers the chief executive of the United States of America to be an irreligious man in order to safeguard the first article of the Bill of Rights? America has had a few such men as president, but surely the office does not demand that. Personally, I thank God that in this critical period of our history the United States has as chief executive a man who pays more than lip service to the idea of seeking divine guidance. I am sure Niebuhr does, too.
Why, then, is Niebuhr so opposed to the Sunday services in the East Room? He makes it quite clear that he is afraid that the preachers invited to the White House will not feel free to speak out critically on issues of national policy. Several times in the article he mentions specifically the antiballistic-missile issue, on which he apparently takes a position contrary to that of President Nixon.
Once again this is quite revealing with regard to Niebuhr. I am sure he is convinced that his stand on the antiballistic-missile is right (I am also sure President Nixon is convinced of the rightness of his position), but what guarantee can Niebuhr give that his view is
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