America has just experienced a time of national tragedy. There is MUCH we all should learn from these recent events.
SCREAMING headlines recently announced to a shocked world the brutal MURDER of the President of the United States. From the time it occurred, radio and television stations stopped all regular programs and devoted complete coverage to the most horrifying event in recent times. People reacted at first with shock and disbelief. Then, when the official announcement came that the President was dead — most Americans felt a pang of deep sorrow tempered, in some cases, with a sense of indignation and outrage at this cruel turn of events. Yet, as major news sources have reported, some Americans shouted and clapped — actually rejoiced that the President of their nation was dead! It Is to clarify this point for our readers — and for ALL who believe in the God and Father of Jesus Christ — that I have chosen to write this article.
How the News Came to Ambassador College
Many thousands of you readers believe that this magazine, published by Ambassador College, is a vital part of the true WORK of the Living God — helping preach His message, teaching His WAY of life to millions. When reports first came of President Kennedy's assassination, here is how we reacted here at Ambassador College: Mr. Ted Armstrong and I — with several more of God's ministers and teachers — were in a "manpower" conference, discussing the growth and future of some of the advanced students here in college, and how we can better help them. When news came of the shooting — with details a little confused — Mr. Ted Armstrong immediately adjourned the meeting and we headed for the nearest television set. It happened to be in the apartment of our "House Mother" for one of the girls' dormitories, Mrs. Annie M. Mann. Hearing the news from us, Mrs. Mann promptly invited us in and turned on a T.V. newscast immediately. Not much was said, but all of us were shocked and hurt that such a thing had occurred to the young, vibrant President of our nation. Then the details began to come with sickening speed. Mr. Kennedy was not just injured. It looked fatal. Then came the "unconfirmed" reports that he had died. The Catholic priests had been called to administer to him the last rites of their church. Then the news came that one of the priests confirmed that John F. Kennedy was, indeed, dead. Finally, the "official" announcement came — the thirty-fifth President of the United States had died at the hands of a vicious assassin.
Reaction on the Ambassador College Campus
As it became clear that Mr. Kennedy was certainly dead or dying, Garner Ted Armstrong slumped forward in his seat and tears came to his eyes. He commented to some of us about the seriousness of the times in which we live and then, in a more personal way, about the deep grief it would bring to the President's family and the two little children. Thousands of you undoubtedly heard the broadcast made "live" within half an hour after the official announcement of President Kennedy's death. Many have already commented on it. Mr. Ted Armstrong was so choked up with sorrow and emotion that it was a very difficult broadcast to make. But, with deep personal feeling, it expressed the shock and sorrow — and the deep sense of shame — which every American should feel at such a time. Meanwhile, unknown to those of us who were in the "manpower" conference with Garner Ted Armstrong, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was given the news right in the midst of conducting his Principles of Living class. At first, of course, he was told only of the shooting — not of the President's death until later. Right then and there Mr. Armstrong interrupted the class and asked them all to rise. He reminded them that we are commanded by God to pray for our rulers and all that be in authority (I Tim. 2:1-2). Then he asked everyone to bow his head, and led the class in PRAYING — as God has instructed — for the President of the United States. It was a moving experience — something that our Ambassador freshmen will never forget.
Flags at Half-Mast — and Tears of Sorrow
Once the official announcement of Mr. Kennedy's death was made, some of our men quickly lowered the American flag here on campus to half-mast. I was glad to see them do this out of respect to President Kennedy — even before any official announcement regarding this procedure was broadcast to the nation. Most of our students and employees here were obviously shocked and hurt — and tears were in many an eye. As my family and I ate dinner that evening and heard continuing-news of the events surrounding the assassination, our six-year-old daughter shed tears and commented on how sorry she was that President Kennedy died. For, you see, even though we are of a different background and religious belief, we have taught our three children to LOVE and RESPECT all men who direct the nation in which we live. And there is a particular identification between our children and the Kennedy children which our daughter had heard us discuss before. For our daughter is the same age as Caroline Kennedy, and our youngest son is almost exactly the age of John Kennedy, Jr. — their birth dates being only three days apart. As the children said their prayers that night before getting into bed, our daughter, Elizabeth, asked God to comfort the slain President's family. So did thousands of the rest of us over the nation, I hope.
What Is The "Right" Attitude?
The major news media have reported that, in several instances at least, some people actually CHEERED when they heard that the President of the United States was, shot! It is true that MANY people disagreed violently with President Kennedy over many things. Some people, perhaps considered him as some sort of enemy — an extreme liberal, or a Catholic, or a bigoted Yankee. But whatever your political, religious, geographical or racial background, never forget, that Mr. Kennedy was PRESIDENT of the United States! He held a very high OFFICE — and that office is allowed of God. In His inspired Word, God commands: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God" (Rom. 13:1). Apart from this subjection and deep RESPECT we should have for high office, what would a truly godly man's personal feelings be at such a time as the recent assassination? We need not GUESS or "suppose" in regard to this matter, but simply look into the inspired examples in God's Word. Recall that God described King David as "A man after mine: own heart" (Acts 13:22). Among other qualities, David expressed the type of wholehearted worship and adoration toward God, and the love and compassion toward his fellow man which made him Godlike in his character. So even though his predecessor, King Saul, had misused some of his powers, had persecuted David and had made other mistakes on several occasions — David deeply MOURNED and SORROWED at his death. When David was told the news of Saul's death, "Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him: and they MOURNED, and WEPT, and FASTED until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son" (II Sam. 1:11-12). David lamented and cried out saying: "The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!" (Verse 19) Here, then, is an example of David, a man who was after God's own heart — who exemplified in many ways His attitude — and who really MOURNED and WEPT with deep feeling when the leader of his nation was slain. David certainly disagreed with many of the things that Saul had been doing, and with many of his policies, but he loved him as a fellow human being, respected his strength and abilities, and SORROWED at his death!
David GRIEVES at Abner's Death
Another example of this same God-like characteristic of David is brought to life in the description of Abner's death. Abner was the Captain of the Host, or Commander in Chief of the armies of Israel, as opposed to the armies of Judah which were commanded by Joab under King David. In a previous battle, Abner had been forced to slay Asahel, brother of Joab, or perhaps lose his own life. Joab let HATE build up in his heart and never forgave Abner for this action even when Abner had come to finally make peace between the two separate houses of Israel and Judah. And in what was supposed to be a peace conference, Abner was taken aside quietly by Joab and stealthily murdered in cold blood — just as President Kennedy's apparent welcome to Dallas was turned into a cruel murder by one demented maniac. David soon heard of it. He knew that Abner was the leader of the house of Israel — and had actually fought with the Jews in many battles. Abner, you might say, was certainly of a different "political party" than was David. Yet David deeply RESPECTED Abner's sincerity, ability and his humility in being willing to come as an emissary to make peace between the two warring factions of the whole house of Israel. "And David said to Joab, and to all the people that were with him, rend your clothes, and gird you with sackcloth, and MOURN for Abner. And King David himself followed the bier. And they buried Abner in Hebron: and the king lifted up his voice and WEPT at the grave of Abner; and all the people WEPT" (II Sam. 3:31-32). "And the king said unto his servants, know ye not that there is a prince and a GREAT MAN fallen this day in Israel?" (Verse 38) David's example certainly ought to teach us that even though we may at times disagree with a great leader's methods and actions we should still RESPECT his abilities, learn to LOVE him as a person and potential son of God, and sincerely SORROW at his death.
What about the Assassin?
One very SHOCKING incident that came to light in this whole affair was the reaction of people to the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, the suspected assassin of President Kennedy. This man Oswald was officially charged with the shooting of the President. What should your attitude be toward a probable MURDERER such as this? Should you, as a private citizen, want to see him suddenly shot or lynched? Should you build up in your own mind a brooding, seething HATRED toward this apparently demented fellow? A few hours after the accused assassin, Lee Oswald, had himself been shot by Jack Ruby, a night club owner, I heard a most revealing series of interviews being conducted on a local radio station. Here is how they went: One man was asked how he felt about Ruby shooting Oswald. He replied: "It's good enough for him. He got just what was coming to him. I am glad." A woman was asked about this shooting and replied: "He got what he deserved, but now we'll never know for sure who did kill President Kennedy, will we?" Another man was asked about it and said: "This will bring bad publicity on the country, but I am still glad Oswald got what was coming to him so quickly." And on and on it went, with the radio interviewer getting the "opinions," the "ideas" and the "feelings" of all sorts of people who comprise an American big city. The part that ought to be shocking is that NOT ONE of these people seemed to realize or care that an additional, premeditated, lawless MURDER had just taken place in what is purported to be a law-abiding society! For Oswald was not yet tried and found, guilty by the powers that be. He was deliberately MURDERED by another private citizen who decided to take justice into his own hands! In the final analysis, the most truly terrible thing about the assassination of President Kennedy and the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald is that this so vividly illustrates how Americans as a people are flagrantly BREAKING the spiritual laws of Almighty God! The God of creation — the God who gives us every breath of air we breathe — THUNDERS at our self-willed and rebellious people: "THOU SHALT NOT KILL" — "DO NO MURDER" (Exod. 20:13). The assassination of President Kennedy was in itself a national tragedy. But that tragedy was absolutely compounded by the additional murder of Lee Harvey Oswald and the SPIRIT OF MURDER which was shared and participated in by MILLIONS of other Americans who rejoiced that "Oswald got what was coming to him" even if it took a premeditated MURDER to bring it about! In my article last month entitled, "TEN Reasons Why Christ MUST RETURN," I stated that our rapidly increasing crime rate and coming national COLLAPSE was one of these reasons. In the light of what has just happened, one of the outstanding quotations I cited in that article now seems almost prophetic. Let me give it to you again so you can THINK about it and PRAY about it. Los Angeles Police Chief Parker recently warned: "Unless the nation's citizens begin now to exhibit a greater respect for law and order, America's vaunted civilization faces almost certain decay and EXTINCTION." Think of what this means! The President assassinated, and his killer, in turn, MURDERED by a man with equal lack of respect for law and order. Where will this kind of lawlessness end unless we REPENT as a nation and begin to obey GOD — the real source of all law and constituted authority?
The Lessons We Should All Learn
From the events of recent weeks, we should all learn to have love and compassion for EVERY man and woman made in the image of God. Even if we disagree with a man, any man, we should still respect his inherent right to differ with us as a free moral agent before God. Jesus said, "Love your enemies." That does not mean you have to agree with your enemies, but it does mean you have got to quit hating them. In a special sense, we are commanded by God to have deep RESPECT for all those in office and authority. This includes the President of the United States, members of Congress, all federal officials, state officials and even local officials and the common policeman who is actually there to serve us and MUST BE RESPECTED! And when a young, vibrant President of the United States is tragically CUT OFF in the middle of life by a brutal madman, we should all have a special sense of SORROW and SHAME that this had to happen in our land. For John F. Kennedy was a dynamic and, to many, a fascinating personality, intelligent, highly cultured, one who did much to maintain and uphold the dignity of his high office. Any professing Christian who can't feel a deep sense of GRIEF at these tragic events ought to seriously examine himself by God's Word. Another most important lesson we ought to learn from these recent acts of brutal VIOLENCE is the absolute NEED for Jesus Christ to return to this earth soon to bring PEACE and ORDER. For, as all our long-time PLAIN TRUTH readers know, all these events fit directly into the prophesied events preceding the downfall of our nation and it's PUNISHMENT by God. When Jesus Christ returns, the Spirit-born saints who rule with Him will NEVER be shot or assassinated! And they will bring peace to this earth, under Christ, and rule with divine POWER and LOVE and WISDOM. When will we learn to fix our eyes on THAT goal and learn to recognize the REALITY of God's plan and purpose here below? Realizing deeply the shortness and emptiness of human power and glory, our constant prayer should be: "Thy Kingdom COME."