Abroad Depressing Scenes

Louis W. Garrett
Temple Terrace, Florida

Tours that include the Bible Lands are becoming quite common, and almost without exception the weary travelers return with slides to show and much to tell of what impressed them along the way. Many things are impressive and are remembered with the greatest of pleasure. However, along with the impressive allow me to inject a note of sadness of some of the things that depressed me in my travels abroad.

Our tour, directed by Ferrell Jenkins and Melvin Curry, included visits to ten countries in nineteen days. Any tour arranged by these two men is well planned, most educational, delightful, and tiring from beginning to end. Both men are eminently well qualified because of previous travel experience and special educational background to direct the travelers to places of interest and to separate the chaff from the wheat. Often on the tour the guides sat quietly while Ferrell Jenkins related the things to be seen to stories and incidents of interest to the Bible student.


Our first stop was Italy where poets, painters, sculptors, and musicians have found inspiration for their artistic efforts and have produced great masterpieces. Here Michelangelo, Raphael, Dante, and others flourished, but here also Catholicism has reached out its deadly tentacles to impoverish the nation both materially and spiritually. Building its empire on the ruins of the old Roman Empire, Catholicism has ruled Italy with a rod of iron, has enriched itself at the expense of the nation, and has left the people deluded into believing that a man elected by other men is the "Holy Father." They believe that he is capable of dispensing the blessings of God with the nod of his head or the shake of his hands.

At 11: 00 A.M. on Wednesday the "Pope" gives a public audience. We stood inside the beautiful and magnificent St. Peter's cathedral with a few thousand others to await his approach. To others, he was the Pontiff (a term borrowed from the heathenism of the Roman Empire and Caesars); to us he was the Arch Deceiver bent on his own destruction and theirs. At the precise moment the lights flashed, the audience hushed in expectation, and, suddenly, the scarlet cover at the side of the cathedral parted and "the Pope" enthroned in his royal chair borne on the shoulders of four men emerged. Expecting a reverent response from the audience at the sight of their spiritual leader, I stood amazed, dejected, and depressed as they broke into a thunderous applause which continued while he was carried slowly down the long aisle to a place beneath the dome of the basilica, supposedly Peter's seat. Around the top of the walls of this magnificent structure, in Latin, was Matt. 16:18," . . . thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church..." While others cheered, I fought against a heaviness of spirit thinking that millions have been and are being deluded by the heathenism of this heinous system.


In Egypt it was the poverty that depressed me. Against the hot Egyptian sky stood the pyramids of Giza - lonely, dejected, and tired. How like the Egyptian people they seemed to me. There is no ambition in Egypt; this leaderless nation of lonely, isolated individuals marks time against eternity. The forlorn Egyptian shuffles along the streets of populous Cairo in much the same manner that his ancestors had done for centuries before him and as his children will continue to do for whatever centuries lie ahead. He labors for about 59 cents a day at best; the middle class make little more than starvation wages. The completion of the Aswan dam will only return the nation to conditions equal to those of 1952. On the treadmill of poverty going nowhere the Egyptians live in misery, poverty, and disease.


Lebanon, the Switzerland of the Middle East, was a cool and pleasant land that we visited for two days before we dipped south into Tel Aviv where arrogant Jews looked down haughty noses at in-coming Gentiles. The air bristles with Jewish-Arab animosity in all of Palestine, but it revealed itself to us most openly in Jerusalem. Jewish merchants shouted taunts at our Arab guide in the Old City of Jerusalem and promised big discounts if we would return without him.

One night we passed a tavern called Les Caves where a hand-to-hand battle had just broken out between young Jewish and Arab boys. Before the police arrived, a car pulled up, and some Jewish boys with blood on their hands, faces, and clothing, crowded into the back seat to escape the local authorities. Depressing to me was the thought that peace will not come until the Jewish people have carved for themselves a strong country in Palestine, even if it means bloodshed and war and driving the Arabs from lands they have rightfully held for centuries.


My love of English literature and life made England an especially welcome stop on the tour. Here I could walk where Shakespeare, Chaucer, Wordsworth, Milton, Johnson, et al. had spent part of their lives. England is a scenic land with its Abbey, Big Ben, the changing of the guard, and all -- these I did not want to miss. But the seeming degeneracy, particularly of the young people, was exceedingly depressing. Boys with long dirty hair accompanied by mini-skirted teenage girls ambled about everywhere.

A recent poll in England obtained only a ten percent response to the question about "church preference." Apparently ninety percent of the English have no religious interest or preference. This lack of concern about spiritual matters reflects itself in the decadence of the youth of England. The young are openly demonstrative of the feelings toward each other, and modesty and shamefacedness are not evidenced anywhere. To me the future of this once-mighty nation is bleak indeed.


Returning to America, I rejoiced in the great land God has permitted us to hold for a little while. Yet even here I remember Catholicism is strong, poverty is a problem still to be overcome, animosity exists among some of the peoples of our land, and many of our young people are without spiritual training, lacking in morals, and unconcerned about modest apparel.


January 8, 1970