We, the publishers of TORCH AND TRUMPET, wish to express our grief at the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States of America, on November 22, 1963. This foul deed of infamy and lawlessness with all the sorrow, distress and pain that it brought cannot fail to convey to the hearts of all men new shocking evidence of the frightful wickedness of the human heart.
For those who feel the stinging blow of sorrow most intimately and personally we register our sympathy and compassion. We join with millions of others in prayer for God’s mercy upon the grieving widow and children, the members of Mr. Kennedy’s family. and those many who were closely associated with him in the affairs of government. The youngest president in the history of the country had gifts of leadership, personal dynamic and charm, wit and intelligence, industry and drive whose sudden dramatic end has left a gaping emptiness for many. The rather amazing spontaneous outpouring of grief from all over the world by the great and the small of men testifies to the impact that this personality had made everywhere.
HIS LIFE IN BRIEF
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born May 29, 1911 in Brookline, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb. He was one of nine children. His forebears came from Ireland, where they bad been farmers. His great-grandfather left Ireland around 1845 and settled in Boston. The family is of the Roman Catholic faith.
The future president was born to wealth. This afforded him the benefits of a good education and other advantages. He was graduated from the Choate Academy in Connecticut in 1935 and was voted. by his classmates as the one “most likely to succeed.” He entered Harvard University in 1936, majoring in government and international relations. He traveled in Europe in 1939, and interviewed statesmen and others in that time of growing tempest throughout the continent. The result of his travels was his senior thesis written on the subject of the unpreparedness of England for World War II. This appeared as a best seller book under the title Why England Slept. He was graduated cum laude in 1940. The years 1941–45 were spent serving his country in the
U.S. Navy during World War II. He proved himself a hero and leader as member of a PT boat squadron in the Solomon Islands. For his heroism he received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and the Purple Heart.
His family had expected John to become a teacher or writer. But this was changed when his older brother Joe lost his life as a war casualty in 1944. John decided to turn to politics, a career for which Joe had been pointing. John’s career in politics began with his election to Congress in 1946. The youthful looking congressman was often mis· taken for a page boy; he was just twenty-nine years of age. In 1952 Kennedy unseated the popular Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., by 70,000 votes while the Republican Eisenhower carried Massachusetts by more than 200,000 votes.
The young senator married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier on September 12, 1953. Her advanced schooling had been at Vassar, the Sorbonne in Paris, and George Washington University, where she was a student when the future president met her. To their union were born Caroline on November 27, 1957, and John F., Jr., on November 25, 1960.
In October 1954 and February 1955 Senator Kennedy underwent surgery to correct a back ailment that had developed during his war experience. While convalescing after these operations he wrote a book about United States senators. Appearing under the title Profiles in Courage, this book also became a best-seller and won a Pulitzer prize in biography.
In the summer of 1960 Senator John F. Kennedy won nomination for the office of President of the United States on the Democratic ticket. Characteristically he had worked hard for this. He began campaigning right after the party convention in 1956. He entered primary contests in seven states and won all of them. In November 1960 he defeated Vice-President Richard M. Nixon by a close vote in spite of what many had thought might be a fatal handicap, namely, his Roman Catholic religion. On January 20, 1961, he was sworn in as the thirty-fifth president of the United States, the youngest man ever to hold this high office and the first Roman Catholic to do so. Less than three years later. on November 22. 1963, he was killed by an assassin’s bullet while seeking political good will in Dallas, Texas, His wife was at his side when the frightful deed took place. Thus the remarkable career of a remarkable man came to an early and shocking end.
The immediate response of grief and shock and tears from all over the world indicated that this man was held in high esteem and personal admiration among the nations. The outpouring of sorrow and respect from all parts of the globe was testimony not only to Mr. Kennedy’s personal prestige. but also to the high position that the President of the United States holds. It is indeed an awesome position. This fact should cause all United States citizens to ponder. Clearly here is warning that this nation must elevate to its highest office men of great ability and character. The position he holds is too laden with responsibility and Significance for the whole human race to allow it to be filled by lesser men. Every American citizen should feel a measure of this great burden, and should exercise a more responsible interest in the political affairs of his nation. Christian citizens especially should ponder their contribution to the role this nation carries in the world today. The nation and the world need men disciplined and controlled by God’s sovereign law and his matchless love in Christ. And let Christians pray much for those who carry these great burdens of state.
One question has been asked by many in the aftermath of this dreadful deed. It is a question that men often ask when life’s circumstances become too complex: or too painful for them. It is just one word—“Why?”
Any sympathetic person can understand the reason for this anguished question. Every morally sensitive person is outraged at the assassin’s murderous action.
Yet, without being offensively abrupt, we would counter with another “Why?” Why linger over the question “Why?” This is not a question for a Christian to ask in anxious distress, the spirit in which so many have uttered the word after the president’s murder. We turn anew to God, whose faultless providence governs all things in wisdom and righteousness, whether it be the fall of a sparrow or the slaying of a statesman. Ah, at a time when some have experienced great personal grief and many others have been profoundly shocked, we may not let the sublime fact of God’s all-encompassing providence sound trite and ready-made like a pious cliche. Yet we insist that this is our spiritual anchorage and our rest in time of peace or war, of laughter or sorrow, of brotherhood or bloodshed. When men’s souls are ravaged in life’s tragic hours, let the sublime faith of the tormented Job be their teacher: “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah hath taken away; blessed be the Dame of Jehovah.” How indescribably blessed are those children of men who. though mourning, find quietude of soul in the faith that can sing “a mighty fortress is our God.”
THE NATION’S FAITH
This was precisely the fortress to which millions of Americans turned in their hour of shock and grief. No one with ears to hear could miss the obvious meaning of the many references to God and religion that were heard everywhere on November 22 and in the days following. No one with eyes to see could fail to comprehend the significance of the crowded churches all over the land and even throughout the world.
We have witnessed a growing trend to banish Cod and religion from the nation’s public and official life. The faith of secularism has been extending its claims further and further. But such a “faith” proves itself to be but a house of paper when men face the grim facts of death and evil and the disturbing uncertainties of destiny. It took the assassination of the president of the United States to call the nation back from worshiping worthless idols to that sure solace which only the living God can give, President Lyndon B. Johnson called the nation to observe a day of mourning, a day in which the people were asked to go to their churches to worship. Could it be that by means of this terrible event of the president’s murder God has called the nation back from the empty follies of secularism to rediscover in the hour of soul-searching grief and shock the true secret of America’s greatness?