April 24, 1955

Since my movie-going is, by choice, limited mainly to those times when domestic tranquility makes it the discreet thing to do, mention and evaluation of moving pictures dealing with religious themes on this program are usually, of necessity, brought to you vicariously. It is so in this case of a new picture entitled “A Man Called Peter.” The picture is in color and beautifully done. The actor in the title role is an appealing figure with a delightful Scottish accent not overdone. The female lead is adequate and the supporting cast is convincing.

The theology is the usual loose sentimentalism we have come to associate with American Protestantism. The theory that a deity is looking after one and guiding one works all right until trouble comes. Peter the preacher, in spite of his resounding sermons, when trouble comes has no philosophy with which to meet it. He slumps down on the cellar stairs and laments that he and God are no longer pals. After a thrombosis he says God mended his heart. (He had resorted to a physician in the meantime.) If God mended his heart, it is logical to say also that God sent the thrombosis. The film says plainly that God cured Peter’s wife of tuberculosis. If so, by the same logic, God sent the tuberculosis. If there exists a super-personality deity who inflicts angina pectoris and tuberculosis on human beings then picks out a few whom he miraculously cures, then we are dealing with a God who indulges in vagaries of the most human kind. The logic of this picture is such that a team of horses could be driven through it, but the film is recommended for adults who park their critical faculties with their chewing gum when they attend movies.

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An American Presbyterian minister, Dr. Louis Evans, former pastor of the Hollywood Presbyterian Church, now Presbyterian minister at large for the U.S.A., made a trip to Scotland this week to address a meeting of several hundred ministers. His message proved something of a startling indictment of attitudes and practices which he sees in the current religious pictures.

He attacked first what he called brilliant preachers talking over the heads of the people. He says: “We are never profound until we are clear. The average university student in America or Scotland has a third grade spiritual education.” Well, that statement is certainly clear. I shall leave it to you whether it is not also profound. “There has never been,” he says, “such a need for clarity. Talk straight,” he admonishes his fellow clergymen.

Another danger which he sees is professionalism. Many preachers, he says, get so wrapped up in their programs they don’t have time to mingle with people – to love them, to help them. What the world needs, he relates, is not more political genius but inner integrity. He goes on to warn also about smugness in church denominations. Many churches, he says, “use different ways to get devils out of a person. Episcopalians chant them out. Baptists drown them out and Presbyterians freeze them out. Just remember this – whenever any church begins to think it is the only church then it has deteriorated to the point where it has ceased to be a church.” Are these just warnings and criticisms? He does not say this applies to all ministers, but doubtless all of you can think of some minister or church where it does apply. It may do us all good now and then to welcome the wish of Burns the poet when he said “O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us.

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On a very different subject comes the report of the campus controversy at Columbia University. The students had drafted a petition to reaffirm faith in the Bill of Rights. When this petition was presented to the university president, Dr. Grayson Kirk, he refused to sign it, saying that to do so was an empty and gratuitous act. His comment was that “It should be assumed that any American of intelligence, common sense and devotion to our American way of life believes sincerely in the provisions of the Bill of Rights.” Apparently the president has faith, but he wants no active part in it. Was it not Paul the Apostle who commented that faith without works is dead? It would seem relevant to tie this incident in which Dr. Evan’s comment just reported about religion. Too many people today are going around making fine speeches about democracy, but those same people do darn little to put such speeches into active practice in their work with others. Apparently Dr. Kirk has academic allegiance only to the basic document that has enabled his university to be the truly great institution that it is.

Fortunately, however, his students’ allegiance to it goes deeper. Commenting editorially in the campus newspaper on the president’s explanation, and calling it unconvincing, they point out, and understandably so, that affirmation of the Bill of Rights is no more gratuitous than the university’s celebration last year of its bi-centennial on the theme “Man’s Right to Knowledge and the Free Use Thereof.” Veritably it might be said that “A little child shall lead them.”

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Japan’s 1,139 year-old Buddhist, Shingon (meaning “true word”) sect became the first in the country to form a labor union with priests as members. Twelve shaven headed priests last week joined office clerks in Temple of the Paramount Summit Labor Union, and drew up a contract complete with a strike clause. Their main purposes are job security and better working conditions. What’s this world a comin’ to anyway! If Japan had the hysterical jitters as badly as we do here – which fortunately it does not – it may be that Hirohito would be suspecting the subversive infiltration of agents of John L. Lewis or Walter Reuther, or even George Meany.

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In the German town of Darmstadt-Eberstadt, with a population of 15,000, Protestant and Catholic church bells rang out this week in new ecumenical harmony. The Catholic bells’ low C, D, F, G, and the evangelical bells’ higher G, B, C, D, formed (more or less) the tune of the Te Deum composed in the 4th century, and one of the most famous hymns in history. Perhaps in another 400 years we may be permitted to see such much-longed-for harmony among some Protestant churches here, not to mention also among Catholics, Jews, and Protestants.

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A pioneer undertaking that has deep human and religious significance is going on now in the District of Columbia at the Columbia Heights Boys Club. There is in Washington a network of racially segregated metropolitan police Boys Clubs. The police give only nominal support to these clubs. A board of directors, composed largely of Washington businessmen, actually oversees the clubs. One of the clubs had for more than 15 years met at All Souls Unitarian Church.

Dedicated to an integrated society, the board of the church decided last July it could no longer allow any group to use its facilities on a segregated basis, and so informed the board of the Boys Clubs. After long consideration, the clubs decided in favor of segregation, and finally voted to vacate the church facilities on December 1. By that time it had done so, and William Neal, a graduate student and physical education instructor at George Washington University moved in that afternoon, as program director for the Unitarian Service Committee and to launch a new recreation group for boys.

On opening day, two little Negro boys entered rather tentatively, not sure that the club was really meant for them. Not seeing an adult to question, they started out again. As they reached the door, a white boy of their own age ran after them shouting, “Come on in, it’s okay.” And the new Columbia Heights Boys Club became a reality.

Washington, where segregation is an issue under the very shadow of the Supreme Court’s far-sighted decision, urgently needs a carefully planned experiment to show how integration of a voluntary youth service may be achieved. The Unitarian Service Committee has offered a pilot demonstration of great value. Moreover, and partly as a result of the action by All Souls, two other police Boys Clubs have since been ordered to stop using government-owned facilities on a segregated basis.

Does your city and mine need such a program? Paul said, “God hath made of one blood all nations of men.” Across the front of the Supreme Court Building are these words: “Equal Justice Under Law.” Do we believe that Paul was wrong? Do we mean what we write across our public buildings, or do we, like President Kirk, say we believe but refuse to act? We cannot continue much longer to say one thing and do another about this matter of equal justice. Both our religion and our government demand otherwise.

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A prominent U.S. church woman says the American government, churches, and welfare groups should send abroad more persons who represent all races in this country. That is a conclusion of Mrs. James D. Wyker, president of United Church Women. She says sending diplomats and others of varying races would improve understanding of the U.S. She adds also that it would help other nations see that we all have a job to do together to achieve a peaceful world. Mrs. Wyker, who is an ordained Disciples minister in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, says such action would immeasurably strengthen our foreign policy and win more friends for the U.S. Mrs. Wyker’s suggestions are so obvious that it is remarkable that we should have to have them called to our consideration. And certainly no one could rationally dispute the fact that we need all friends we can get in this too unfree world of today.

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At the Asia-African Conference at Bandung, Indonesia, a Philippine delegate has noted with gratification that most speakers have addressed their appeals to “almighty God.” Raul Manglapus of the Island Republic has declared himself struck by what he terms the frankly religious tones in the opening speeches of most chief delegates. Mr. Manglapus says the culture of Asia is the cradle of the world’s earliest and greatest civilization, and adds that it is founded on one cardinal principle: the love of God.

Virtually the gamut of the world’s largest religions is run at the Bandung Conference  – Christians, Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, and others. Even atheists are there. Red China’s Chou En-Lai (joe un-lye’) has so described the Chinese communists. But he has asserted they respect others with religious beliefs and adds the hope that others respect them. Without in any way subscribing to most of the tenets of the Chinese communists, it is only fair to observe that we cannot refuse to respect anyone’s right to be an atheist if he so chooses, but to give such respect does not imply acceptance of non-faith.

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A slightly curious attack comes from a top official of the National Association of Evangelicals who has attacked those who wish to break down differences between Protestant faiths. The NAE’s director, the Rev. George Ford told the group’s convention that the evangelical church must act or, in his words, the liberal ecumenical movement will usurp the rights of churches. Ford said the ecumenical movement favors such innovations as, in his words, “downtown worship centers which would not only take the place of regular Protestant churches but would be headquarters for Catholics and Jews as well.” It might do us all good to get together once in awhile, at least.

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At the risk of indulging in what you may regard as postmortem, I should like to pass these reflections along to you for whatever they may be worth.

Easter has come and gone. Jesus had risen from the dead before Easter. The centuries have not been able to bury him. Forsaken by his friends, sentenced to die with thieves, and his mangled body sealed in a borrowed tomb, he has risen to command the hearts of millions, and to haunt our hate-filled world with the restlessness of undying hopes. At Easter time we commemorate the miracle of his spiritual resurrection. The years bring him increasingly to life. His public ministry was of only one year, but in that year he gave direction to the centuries. Already he has lived much longer than the disciples believed the world would last, and in far lands they never dreamed existed. The imperial forces that tried to destroy him have long since perished. Those who passed judgment upon him are remembered only because of him, and although military might and political tyranny still stalk across the earth, they too shall perish, while the majesty of the workman-prophet bearing his cross to the hill will remain to rebuke man’s way of violence.

It is easy to by cynical at Easter time when the world turns out in its gay colors but seemingly pays little more than ritualistic attention to the message of Jesus. It is easy to join with those who lend their extravagant lip service to the “Risen Master.” Yet the spirit which he put into the world somehow survives our cheap ceremonies, as it does our foolish ambitions, and reminds us that there is no gain except in moral stature, no conquest except the inner life, and no worship which is not of the heart.

 

 

 

 

 

April 17, 1955

Several times references have been made on this program to the tug of war going on in Argentina between dictator Peron and the Catholic Church. Last Sunday it was reported that Peron had, for the first time in some four months, permitted the Catholics to parade in religious procession in the streets. This week, the news reveals that the government had agreed for the procession to march only from Congress Square to the church of Our Lady of Montserrat, which is only eight blocks, instead of the traditional thirteen blocks on down to the spacious Plaza de Mayo.

Well, the procession reached the point where it was to stop at the church. The marchers shuffled to a halt, some of the younger advanced on as into enemy territory to see what the cops would do. They did nothing. Then the columns slowly started up again. The crowd, catching the spirit of the marchers, joined in, and by the time they had reached the forbidden plaza, a sea of white handkerchiefs fluttered, not in the air, but for the church, in defiance of President Juan Peron.

A part of the picture of the strained relations is the fact that Peron called home his representative to the Vatican, while the pope reciprocated by asking return of his Apostolic nuncio to Rome. It remains to be seen what retributory measures the government will now take to punish the Easter Thursday crowd for its disobedience. Truly the church is paying a big price for its once-respected constitutional right to a monopoly of religious education within the state. Those in this country who urge religious education in our public schools could follow with profit what is happening in a sister American nation where religion and the state are not kept separate. One, it would appear, is swallowing the other.

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Two years ago the Russell Sage Foundation commissioned a Presbyterian minister-sociologist, Dr. Samuel Blizzard, to cooperate with Union Theological Seminary in a study of the functions of the parish minister. Detailed questionnaires were sent to informants in 47 of the 48 states. From the replies, some interesting and significant information is revealed. In the first place, the typical minister is between 35 and 44 years of age, married and has two children. His church is made up of about 400 members; 22 children are in his Sunday school. The greatest single trend pointed out in the survey is the shift from rural and village to urbanized mass living. Among the questions facing the ministers are such as these:

  1. Should the minister be a mediator between God and man or a servant of the congregation?
  2. Should he specialize or be a general practitioner?
  3. Should he emphasize an all-knowing and all-powerful God, or stress the ethical implication of the Gospel?
  4. Should he identify himself with the trends in our culture or be critical of that culture?
  5. How should he divide his responsibility to the local church and the world wide, or ecumenical church?

It is likely that these and many more similar questions confront the minister as he goes about the work of his church, and it is equally likely that no single answer will be possible for all. In religion, as in all other matters in this country, people have a way of maintaining their own diversity of religious beliefs and practices, while at the same time keeping with a very broad framework of ethical behavior approved by American religious mores.

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This next item should doubtless be included under the “How mixed up can you get?” department. It reveals that Cecil B. DeMille is listening to taped speeches of Gen. Van Fleet with a view toward using Van Fleet as the voice of God in Paramount’s forthcoming picture entitled “The Ten Commandments.”

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Something that does make sense is a recent speech of Ernest T. Weir, chairman of National Steel Corporation, a speech made before the Cleveland, Ohio, Engineering Society. He says, “Never in all history has humanity had so great opportunity to exercise a choice as to what its future shall be. And never before has it been confronted with a choice between such drastic extremes. Scientific knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge in practical ways have been increasing at an ever-faster rate – particularly over the last half-century … and the prospect for future development defies the imagination.

“The critical question is, will humanity use this expanding knowledge, and the ability to apply it, as a tool or a weapon. Will these things result in a better more livable world, or in the suicide of civilizations? I am convinced that the answer to this question is being formulated by those of us who live today – and that no individual can escape a personal responsibility for his contribution to that answer….

“Since the war, the two real centers of power in the world have been the United States and Russia. And these two centers have conducted themselves as armed camps, each viewing the other with suspicion and hostility…. The great bulk of opinion expressed by certain military men, by certain members of Congress, and in a number of news organs, created the impression of a nation convinced that world problems could not be solved short of forcible means….

“The only real choice that the people of the world have today is the choice to live together or to die together. The fact is that war has moved to such extreme level of destructive power that it has lost whatever excuse it ever had as an instrument of international policy….”

There is much more of the wisdom and conviction of Mr. Weir, but the above are enough to express not only his viewpoint but that of countless others of us. We can only hope – perhaps wish would be a better word – that the go-it-alone Joes, the military brass and the naval braid would let these sentiments sink into their consciousness when they talk recklessly of tossing around atom bombs as they would Fourth of July firecrackers. We sometimes wonder if they can read; we frequently wonder if they can think; and we almost always wonder if they have not lost only their sense of values but also their sense of balance when they talk in 1955 in language that could have been realistic only in the 19th century, even if it was then. There is pretty good evidence to substantiate the charge that today it is the so-called leaders who are laggard in this business of war, and that the peoples of the world are thinking far more realistically than their leaders. If so, the answer for us little folks is to bombard the leaders with so much evidence of rational approaches to world problems that they will be deflected from the irrational ones which they are so eager to express with each issue of the newspaper.

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Not infrequently on this program it is appropriate to comment upon the current status in this country of the thing that we call academic or intellectual freedom. Did you ever stop to think that our whole bundle of freedoms – religion, speech, assembly, due process, etc. –  are so inextricably interwoven that the weakening of one automatically undermines all the rest? A national magazine comes out in a current issue with a pertinent and thought-provoking article entitled “Are Our Teachers Afraid to Teach?” What are some of the facts about the right of freedom to teach in 1955? Not only freedom to teach about what everybody agrees to be true, but equal freedom to teach about all sides of controversial issues? In San Francisco, at a meeting of the Association of School Administrators, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Hervert C. Clish said, “I hope nobody will leave this room today thinking that teachers are not afraid. Of course they are.” Teachers seem more concerned than administrators with the realities of teaching in a fearful world. Prof. Milton Konvitz of Cornell told an American Jewish Congress forum that congressional inquisitions have induced fear and bitterness, if not hysteria and panic among teachers. He pointed out that most universities in California employ full-time liaison agents with the state’s Committee on Un-American Activities to screen applicants for teaching jobs. At the University of Colorado two ex-FBI agents are retained to check on the faculty. But it remained for one no longer in the academic world to provide the most comprehensive evaluation. In a lead article in Look magazine Robert M. Hutchins, formerly of the University of Chicago, and now with the Ford Foundation, gave the coup de grace to the hair-splitters and apologists for witch hunts among teachers when he said, “Education is impossible in many parts of the U.S. today because free inquiry and free discussion are impossible. It is almost as bad,” he goes on, “to be ‘controversial’ as it is to be a spy or traitor.”

And yet, most of us who are interested in real education are keenly aware that to eliminate consideration of controversial issues from teaching is not education at all but indoctrination. It is true that there have been relatively few teachers in the country who have lost their jobs because of their teaching of controversial issues, but, again as Dr. Hutchins rightly points out, “The question is not how many teachers have been fired, but how many think they might be and for what reasons. It is even worse than that. Teachers are not merely afraid of being fired; they are afraid of getting into trouble.… You don’t have to fire many teachers to intimidate them all. The entire teaching profession of the U.S. is now intimidated.”

Of course it is possible to read statements of teachers who insist that this is not true. This reporter cannot help but wonder when he hears teachers say that, whether they are afraid to say what they think, or are they so unaware of what is going on in the world that they honestly do not see it. In either case, there are understandable grounds for wondering also just how much such people are worth to the occupation of teaching.

I have no desire to see things that aren’t there; neither do I wish to fail to see things that are, and the conviction that Hutchins is right is very real and deep. One cannot help but wonder also how honest we really are about the defense of democracy, with its freedom of speech, when we forbid the cadets at West Point and Annapolis to debate the current Pi Kappa Delta question of diplomatic recognition of Red China. At his press conference the president, when asked about this denial of freedom of speech, said he did not agree with it. But to date he has taken no steps to correct the Army and Navy dictators who forbade the students this elemental right. Who’s running the executive department anyway? The constitutional commander-in-chief or the superintendents of the respective institutions?

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The truth is that it is very fashionable today to take a swing at liberals, interpreting liberals as those who insist upon a scrupulous regard for our constitutional rights. Those who take such swings list the ills that afflict us and say, “See what liberalism has done.” Evidently such inane remarks fool many. The plea is to go back to authoritarianism in religion, in government, in morals, and about everything else. Curiously enough, it is only business that escapes the call to return to something. But if business goes back to something it may well be bankruptcy, and that swiftly. My notion is that to return to the past means bankruptcy in other fields also. Fascism and Nazism are, or were, repudiations of liberalism and a return to authoritarianism.

Those among us who seek to make everyone orthodox, i.e., to agree with them, are, in essence, representing a failure of nerve, a lack of faith in man and the human enterprise. In this unbrave world of today, what should be the strategy and program of the liberal? Obviously, it is the liberals today who are really the conservatives, for it is they who wish to conserve the best that is in the American tradition, and that best is represented by freedom to worship as we please, to think our own thoughts, to speak our own minds, to teach our children to think for themselves, and to permit those same children to be taught by teachers unafraid to stimulate the thinking of their charges in any direction that will enable them to weigh all sides of controversial issues. Teachers are not afraid that honest examination of controversial issues will make undemocratic citizens, for they recognize that only by the interplay of freedom of information and discussion can citizens of a democracy learn its ways and practice it.

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Boston: The first biennial convention of the Council of Liberal Churches will be held August 24 – 29 in Detroit. Some 1,000 delegates representing the Universalist Church of America and the American Unitarian Association may vote on proposals pointing toward total merger of the two denominations.

 

April 10, 1955

Services of various kinds today throughout the world have commemorated a day that is holy to all Christendom. Various denominations have participated in other services throughout the week, observing some feature of the last week of Christ before his crucifixion. On Good Friday a Mass of the pre-sanctified was held in Jerusalem’s Chapel of the Calvary. A solemn procession visited Stations of the Cross where brief sermons were delivered.

In Vatican City the pope appeared in his Vatican study window and blessed the thousands of pilgrims in Rome from all over the world to observe the holy week. In the city itself thousands of these pilgrims and the Romans themselves flocked to some 455 churches for the Good Friday services. Religious images and crucifixes were draped in purple mourning. Holy water fonts were empty. In many churches statues and images of the dead Christ were on display.

In Argentina, this Easter is more than usual a time of rejoicing for Roman Catholics. For the first time in more than four months the government has permitted them to march in religious procession. So thousands of worshipers had their Holy Thursday parade in Buenos Aires.

In Rome on Thursday also, the world’s chief Roman Catholic church, St. Peter’s, saw a repetition of the ancient rite of washing the papal altar stone. This is symbolic of Christ’s washing his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.

This week has been again the coincidence of the Jewish Passover season and the Christian Holy Week. For Jews, the period has marked the joy of deliverance from ancient Egyptian bondage. Rabbi Samuel H. Barron has declared that throughout the ages the story of the exodus from Egypt has been related to the emancipation of all people from slavery. Rabbi Baron is director of religious education for the American Council for Judaism. The president of Synagogue Council of America, Dr. Norman Salit has requested “may a loving God transform the souls of mankind’s rulers so they can thus make themselves the Moses of their peoples, purveyors of liberty and builders of peace.” And so on Wednesday came Seder (say-dehr), the first of the special happy feasts that mark a Jewish celebration that dates back to the time of the pharaohs of Egypt. The week of unleavened bread is being celebrated around the world. And the National Jewish Welfare Board has seen to it that the U.S. servicemen of Jewish faith have had their Seders.

Easter marks the commemoration of an event that resulted from an orgy of violence, which, in turn, resulted in the crucifixion of Christ. Violence has many forms and disguises. It is as cunning, persuasive, and seductive as its father, the devil. It has woven itself into our language, our thoughts; it dyes our emotions and seeps into our sub consciousness. We begin teaching it to our children. To get obedience we spank or flog them. The child, learning the efficiency of brute force from his parent, goes out and practices it. He becomes the bully of the schoolyard. The teacher continues the boy’s course in the art of frightfulness, if not by physical threat, by moral terrorism. When he grows up every motion of his adult mind is spoiled by the poison of the force idea. Violence is the greatest hindrance to reform, to progress. It is the twin brother of autocracy, tyranny, despotism, dictatorship –– whatever alias you choose to use. No greater lie was ever coined than the saying that “God is on the side of the strongest battalions.” War is the perfect flower of the doctrine of force.

The people of the U.S. are caught in the grip of a brutal belief in violence – doubtless, ironically enough, because of having won two world wars fought for the avowed purpose of destroying militarism and the mad militarists. And yet they want to continue and intensify this militarism by telling us now that only by UMT [Universal Military Training] can we find peace, for armed might is the only language we can use that will be respected.

Have the same people who preach this doctrine — a doctrine preached by every military clique in history — given us any indication that they are willing to try any other language? Wouldn’t it be remarkable, and certainly worth trying, if they could but see that a million spent through the United Nations for world recovery is vastly better preparedness than a billion spent in more bombs and guided missiles? No permanent progress has ever been due to fighting: it has all come about by cooperation; very little if any has been made by conflict. And today, it would appear, we are faced with the stark alternatives of either co-existence or no existence. There is no defense against the A- and H-bombs, and we had just as well quit talking and acting as if there were. I personally do not relish the idea of having to co-exist with a communist ideology which I hate, but no amount of ostrich-like activity will cause that ideology to vanish. Only a hard-headed, stubborn insistence on proving that our brand of democracy works better than a totalitarian collectivism will enable us to co-exist without being submerged.

I am well aware that there are those who will call people who speak in this vein naive eggheads. Yet the memory of those who do such name-calling is short; their judgment is even weaker. Even I am old enough to have lived through a series of major disappointments. World War I was “to make the world safe for democracy.” It did nothing of the kind. We turned to the League of Nations and the World Court with high hopes. But then millions marched to war while the buildings at Lake Geneva became mocking skeletons. Then a period of financial extravagance and behavior extravagance was followed by worldwide hunger and despair. The dream of a brave new world of brotherhood faded before a craven fleeing to the past an apostasy to the worth of mankind, taking many forms. In a fit of madness another world was projected.

It would seem that when conditions become complicated the old men of the nations can think of no better solution than to set the youth of the nations to killing each other. And they call that patriotism. In our worst moments of depression and disillusion we could conclude that the world is ruled by blockheads; that there is no healing in Zion; that all that remains is to curse God, or McCarthy, and die. But despite the blockheads, there is the comforting thought that it just might be those same eggheads whom they despise who may yet save mankind from its own madness, for the egghead tries to think problems through to a sound and sane solution rather than to resort to brute force of the kind that cannot but lead to Calvary for mankind, for he who takes the sword perishes by it.

Well, it is not difficult to be somewhat bitter, even on Easter, when we reflect today that after 2,000 years of stupid force, the rulers of the world have nothing better to offer, it would seem, than a continuation of the same old eye for an eye. But the one whose resurrection we commemorate today brought to the world a new vision, a different version as to what constitutes sane and proper conduct.

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Easter, like many of the other days, both holy and secular which we commemorate, is not only closely associated with our religious beliefs, but it also has a counterpart in the non-religious sphere. Its name in English comes from an Anglo-Saxon goddess, “Eostre,” who represented light or spring. The Anglo-Saxon tribes, who had never heard of Christianity, held a festival in her honor every April. To the Christian, it marks the resurrection, or rising from the dead of Jesus. In most Christian churches, it is preceded by a 40-day observance of Lent.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, 40 days before Easter, excluding Sundays. The name comes from Lenten, an Old English word for spring. Lent was at first a 36-day period, but during the reign of Charlemagne, about 800 A.D., four days were added to the 36, making it correspond to Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness. Thus, from Ash Wednesday until Easter, fasting is prescribed by some faiths, special devotions are held, and many entertainments and amusements are given up.

Holy Week, the seven days before Easter, is a time in many churches for deep religious feeling and worship. The Protestant churches commonly observe with special services, music, and flowers. Many of the churches hold a special baptismal service. A mass on Easter Sunday closes the Lenten season in the Catholic Church and in some Episcopal or Anglican churches. Many Easter customs are quaint, and others are full of meaning. Just as the earth is dressed in a new cloak in the spring, people often wear new clothes for Easter. The idea of Easter eggs came to us from ancient Egypt and Persia. The eggs are a sign of new life. Legend has it that they are laid by the Easter Rabbit on Easter Eve. Churches often decorate with white lilies, a symbol of purity and light. The cross reminds worshipers of the religious meaning of Easter.

The first Nicene Council of the Church, in A.D. 325, fixed Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after March 21. The earliest possible date of Easter is March 22; the latest is April 25.

And thus it is that out of the past, the past of the Christian religion, comes to us this Easter, bringing with it customs drawn from numerous, and sometimes non-Christian peoples. It is for some a day of solemnity in what they consider to be a proper reverence of the tragedy that preceded Easter Sunday that first time: with others, the emphasis is on the resurrection itself as a symbol of victory over death. To all it is a day of religious significance, regardless of variations in the way it is observed.

And it is these variations among us in the celebration of a religious day that bring me to the item with which I should like to conclude this broadcast.

It was an English Unitarian layman, one Sir John Bowring, who wrote the well-known hymn “In the Cross of Christ I Glory.” Now the Unitarians are a religious group whose members believe in seeking the truth of religion within their own souls. They encourage freedom of belief, and promote the interests of religion which Jesus taught. Here is a group who do not accept the orthodox conception of the metaphysical nature of Jesus, but who respond in vital faith to the Jesus of the cross. This ought to remind us that the quality of personal faith and living cannot be judged by a person’s attitude toward dogma, even the dogma that others might consider to be the most sacred and necessary. There is much about the hymn that this Unitarian of the 19th century wrote. First there is the picture of a Unitarian glorying in the cross of Christ, and glorying in a very vital and personal way. The human reveals how much the cross meant in his life, glowing with peace and joy and adding luster to bright and radiant days, with a peace that knows no measure and an always abiding joy. But many who sing “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” today in their churches sing also the equally great hymn of the Roman Catholic Newman entitled “Lead Kindly Light.” If the Unitarians represent the extreme of liberal approach to religion, with scarcely any attachment to dogma, the Catholics represent extreme orthodoxy with respect to religious dogma. Between these extremes are the hymns of saints and believers of all faiths and sorts whose common experience is devotion to God.

If we are realists, the use of the hymnbook should make us tolerant and humble, rebuking all narrow and sectarian ways in recognition of the wholeness of the unity of Christ. Paul set glorying in the cross against the attitudes of those who would make religion a narrow and circumscribing thing, a matter of ritual observance for the sake of ritual alone. The cross of Christ is what Sir John Bowring called it. In his words, a cross that was “towering o’er the wrecks of time …,” a symbol of eternal greatness and grandeur.

 

April 3, 1955

Washington: World leaders of the Seventh Day Adventists have come out in strong opposition to the adoption of a world calendar. The proposal, being studied by the United Nations, would bring about equal quarters of 91 days each by dropping one day from the calendar altogether and two in leap years. The objective is to put business on an unchanging cycle, saving millions of dollars in bookkeeping and other costs. But Walter Beach of Washington, general secretary of the Seventh Day Adventists, said the calendar would break the present weekly cycle, hopelessly shift the holy days of various churches and “bring religious confusion and economic hardship to those sacred personal attachments to Saturday or Sunday or to any other day.” (UP)

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(AP) Nearly 400 television stations across the U.S., in Alaska and Hawaii, will view a major new Easter film during Holy Week. The 44-minute film is entitled “The Day Before Easter” and will dramatize the Easter message. The film was produced in Hollywood for the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S. The story’s simplicity is said to afford rare religious potency. It concerns a veteran clergyman, Dr. Mackenzie, who finds himself dissatisfied with the Easter Sunday sermon he has prepared. Because of the acute problems involving members of his congregation, he has not had enough time to work on the sermon. Being a man who cannot be happy with easy, glib answers, he knows that unless people’s religion can help them solve their immediate problems, he has failed in his task. The film will be climaxed by Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, performed by the Hollywood Presbyterian Church’s great Cathedral Choir.

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Catholics on the Island of Mindanao are mourning the destruction of their church by the violent earthquake which struck the southern Philippines on Thursday. Particularly tragic was the destruction of the Church of St. John the Baptist in a small village on the island. It was a stately stone church seating 1,500 persons. Begun and completed by the Spaniards in 1864, after 40 years of work, it was the only remaining Spanish church on Mindanao. According to its pastor, the Rev. Thomas Callahan, it was built to serve as a church, but was also a fortress against the Mohammedan Moors who used to raid Christian communities. During World War II the edifice was damaged by the Japanese. Only recently were restoration and repairs completed at a cost of $25,000.

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Thirty-five years of work by a Jewish scholar, Hugh Schonfield, was completed this week with the unveiling in London of a new translation of the New Testament. An English Jew of the Liberal Synagogue, Schonfield considers his effort the authentic version of the writings which make up the story of Christianity. He was motivated, he says, by a great need to promote improved relations between Jews and Christians. The work is said to be the first such ever done by a Jew, and is the world’s first non-ecclesiastical interpretation of the New Testament. The translation is in modern English idiom and runs to 568 pages. For 30 years, Schonfield studied countless manuscripts, and he traveled to Palestine, Egypt, Athens, and Rome. It took five years to write. A special subscription edition of 3,500 copies is to be issued in London, selling at $11 each. The new translation is expected to be published in the United States soon.

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This program has from the first been, and will continue to be, dedicated to the principle of not only the utmost freedom of religion, but also to the right of freedom of religion. To this reporter, no other position is tenable in a nation that wrote into its first article in its Bill of Rights a guarantee of religious freedom.

This week saw an attack in Congress on the sincerity of the religious convictions and activities of the president of the United States. Now let us keep in mind at the outset that Americans reserve the right to criticize freely our public officials, and not even the chief executive is immune from criticism about almost anything. This reporter has done his share of criticizing, not only the present occupant of the White House, but numerous of his predecessors. That is the American way.

However, to question the sincerity of one’s devotion to a religious creed is not only bad taste; it runs counter to one of our deepest and most cherished principles. If one is charged with a crime, that is something that is capable of objective proof in a court of law; if he asserts physical superiority, that, too, can be proved by a test of strength. But if he asserts that he holds to certain spiritual convictions, that is a matter about which only he and his deity know, and no mortal has a right, under our scheme of things, to question the sincerity of that asserted belief.

It is understandable that in the heat of political rancor, even the otherwise most measured of men sometimes indulge in unbecoming charges. This has been true when persons of other political complexion have occupied the White House, and when the attacks came from the same party as that of present occupant. Both are equally in bad taste and both are equally wrong. Citizens naturally have their private evaluations of many things connected with public officials, and doubtless, consciously or unconsciously, they take these things into consideration when they go into the ballot box. But to make his religion a public issue with respect to any man is going beyond the realm of both propriety and ethics.

A great governor of the state of New York ran for president in 1928, and was defeated largely because of his religion. This reporter does not subscribe to that particular faith, but he feels yet a sense of shame that the religious issue was undoubtedly a cause of his defeat. Such prejudice assumes that one cannot be a good citizen or office holder because of his religion, when there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that any president in the past has let his religious convictions determine his governmental policy. America has had far too much religious bigotry in her past; she needs no more of it, whether it comes from a political spokesman or from a religious fanatic.

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An item of possible interest relating to public officials and their religion comes to light this week in the publication of the results of a survey carried out by the Living Church magazine. This survey reflects the current religious affiliations of the members of the present Congress. The results show that Methodists predominate, with 105 members out of a total of 531 in both houses of Congress. Roman Catholics are next, with 82 members: followed by Presbyterians, with 68; Baptists rank fourth, with 66; Episcopalians number 33; Congregational-Christians, 31; Lutherans, 21; Disciples of Christ, 8; Latter Day Saints, 8; Jews, 7; Reformed, 5; Friends, 3; Unitarians, 3; and the rest are unspecified.

There has been no opportunity to check these figures to see whether they are proportionate to the numerical ranking of these faiths in the general population, but it is likely that they are roughly so. If so, this is as it should be, for it reflects something of the heterogeneity of Americans generally, i.e., our religious affiliations find expression even in Congressional representation – not, it is hoped, that many vote for Methodists because they are Methodists, but that as a people we have confidence in men of all faiths, for America is made up of all faiths.

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Dr. Charles Allen of Atlanta calls our attention to some parallels between religion and science that are well worth thinking about. Writing in The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, he points out that both science and religion are based on faith, and not on despair. Science looks ahead with optimism believing that things are possible, refusing to believe anything is impossible. The Christian recalls the words of their leader who said, “If ye have faith … nothing shall be impossible unto you.” Science reveals a world that is trustworthy; likewise, religious truth reveals a God who is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Science reveals the existence of positive, creative forces that release spiritual power. Science liberates the man by constantly widening his horizons. Religion liberates the man, for it believes that “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

What, then, becomes of the much talked-about, much prolonged conflict between science and religion? The truth is that this conflict exists only in the minds of those who want to feel rather than think their religion; it sprang more from a non-rational approach to religion than from a knowledge of science. In all likelihood, the major battles in this conflict came from ministers who devoutly believed their religious dogma but were largely devoid of the true nature of what science is, how it works, and what it tries to do. Both science and religion seek truth. Both respect it, and a religion so fragile that it cannot withstand honest scrutiny by inquiring minds is of doubtful utility.

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All media these days are so filled with speculations, threats, charges, and counter-charges relating to possible war in the Far East that it is difficult to prepare a 15-minute broadcast without taking some notice of it, for apparently talk of war is ubiquitous, and no subject is of greater concern to people of all religious convictions and faiths. Without trying to review charges that part of the palace guard is trying its best to take us into war, charges made this week on the floor of the Senate, and denials of those charges by the Administration, let us look soberly at some little publicized facts about the Formosan situation.

First, both the governments of the China mainland and that of Chiang Kai-shek are dictatorships. They vary in details, but their general patterns are much the same. Anyone who has read objectively the story of Chiang’s rule while he was in China can hardly, with a straight face, assert that the present regime on Formosa is “the Far Eastern stronghold or outpost of democracy.” That assertion has been made by a spokesman in high public office over and over again. The only thing wrong with it is that it simply does not square with the facts. It is a safe assumption that the American people do not want dictatorship of any kind, from whichever portion of the political spectrum it comes.

Second, the island of Formosa is peopled by over 7 million inhabitants who are Chinese in national origin, but who settled there hundreds of years ago. There is no evidence, no reason to suspect, that they feel any considerable desire to be under the rule of either Mao Tse-tung or Chiang Kai-shek. On the other hand, a recent indication of Formosan desires came in the form of a letter from Dr. Thomas I. Liao, leader of the underground Formosan Democratic Independence Party, to British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, requesting British support for Formosan independence from both the Communists and Nationalist Chinese.

We give much lip service to the U.N. Why not, instead of a big three, big four, or big any kind of conference to settle world tension, work through the U.N. to resolve the Formosan crisis by placing it under the U.N. Trusteeship Council for a period of years, and in the meantime police the country as much as necessary by a truly U.N. police force? ….

[There is a page missing here from the transcripts.]