October 28, 1956

Some rather quaint statements were made this week by a New Jersey businessman to a Tennessee chapter of a nationally known patriotic (so-called) organization for men. Some of his more bland and ambiguous, some downright inaccurate, gems include: “Today, more that ever in our history, it is vital that we preserve the traditions of early America, the America of George Washington…. to preserve these traditions is vital because conditions of the past 150 years have given us a melting pot – a great mixtures of races, religions, and ideologies. And some of these are antagonistic to the traditions for which Washington fought and for which patriot blood was shed all the way from Boston to King’s Mountain.”

“From 1760 to 1780, Americans were racially one, of one mind, grounded in the principles and traditions of America. Today, the influx of peoples from other lands with ideas hostile to those woven into this Republic and sealed with the blood of patriots has diluted these early traditions…. Now with peoples split and with much intermarriage, especially in the North, of pure American stock to foreigners, we have a problem that presses upward for solution. How are we to keep Americanism pure?” and he goes on to answer this purely rhetorical question by saying, “We, the descendants of the founders of America must unite and stand as one together as never before, not only to justify our existence, but to make certain that the traditions of our great past become the traditions of future generations of Americans.”

Well, there is more of the same, but it is largely repetition. But let us look for a moment at this series of statements, or misstatements. In the first place, there is much in our history that we wish to preserve. It all started with the Revolution, so we want to preserve that right as basic to our philosophy and perhaps our continued existence. If revolution is wrong, then we started out from an untenable assumption and action based on that assumption, and hence we have no moral or historical justification for existence as a nation. But perhaps the speaker did not realize that what he was urging was contradictory to the events that give his organization justification for existence.

George Washington was not fighting to preserve tradition, but to break with it. Had the Revolution ended in defeat for the American forces, Washington would probably have been the first to be executed as a traitor, and he would have gone down in history – British history – as a traitor, just as we now so firmly regard Benedict Arnold. And the verdict of history would have sustained his executioners, for Washington was definitely subversive, from the British point of view. Obviously, the speaker is the son of a Revolution, for which he is proud, but he would shrink from being the father of one.

As to his assertion that “From1760 to 1780, Americans were racially one, of one mind, grounded in the principles and traditions of America,” well, it is a beautiful thought; the only thing wrong with it is that it is simply is not true. Even an elementary glance at the ethnological make-up of our population at the time of the Revolution, reveals that there were Negro slaves, British, Dutch, French exiles, incidentally Huguenot Protestants, Maryland Catholics, Pennsylvania Quakers, Irish Catholics, Scotch Covenanters, Jews, Swedes, and others to numerous to mention.

We started out as a polyglot people, heterogeneous in our make-up, diverse in our political outlook. Many Americans for example, supported the loyalist cause. And, as a matter of historical fact, there was intermingling and inter-marriage among these foreigners from the start. If by “pure,” one means “race, religion, or nationality,” then we started out as an impure nation, and as Americans we (the majority of us) are proud of it. Perhaps the tradition demonstrated by the fact that diverse peoples from many nations and religions and races can find common political bonds of agreement under our constitutional system is the greatest tradition that we have created, and the one of which we can be the most proud. There is no race, religion, or nationality group that has a monopoly upon Americans (whatever that means). In every war we have fought, if you wish to use participation in war as a criterion of patriotism, all of our races, nationalities, and religious groups have taken part and acquitted themselves with honor. And that holds true whether their descendants came over on the Mayflower or arrived since World War II as refugees from tyranny. The words “displaced persons,” so disturbing to some, may mean “delayed pilgrims.” After all, anyone could come here in 1760 for there were no immigration laws, and it is likely that many who came then could not get past the barriers of the watchdogs of our State Department [today].

So let us keep these things in mind as we see, hear, or read such nonsense as our, undoubtedly sincere, but uninformed, speaker presented this past week. Ten days from now Americans of all national, racial, and religious backgrounds will go to the polls and vote for candidates of their own choice. They will, it is hoped, make their choices in the light of the problems of 1956 rather than any blind adherence to some mythical tradition of our past. Americans generally have, if anything, been realists: holding on to those things in our tradition that history has proved to be good, but willing to cast aside those that are either not good, or having been good once, are now outdated and useless as a result of the passing of time and changing of problems we face. And certainly it is not in the American tradition to acquiesce in the idea that a numerically small group is the self-appointed keeper of American purity, destiny, or anything else. It was that against which we revolted in 1776.

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And in this connection, may I pass on to you a short poem by T. Moore Atkinson, who says:

Gone are the old frontiers, the unexplored,

The borderlands on which our fathers wrought

To tame the wild or, at some rocky ford,

To plant a town; a culture dearly bought.

The lands are mapped now, schools have come, and trade

The niceties of social grace abound.

The ancient dangers, stark romance are laid

Away where only legendary tales are found.

Still, one frontier remains as old as men,

As rude and lone as Vineland’s lonely shore,

The realm of man’s own spirit past the ken

Of men to weigh, still waits beyond the door.

These pasts persist, a dare to pioneers,

The soul and minds unconquered lands, our last frontiers.

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During the past two weeks we have heard much “’tis so” “’taint so’” about cessation of H-bomb experiments, disarmament, etc., all of which has been both enlightening and confusing. Perhaps it is the unshackled common sense of the general public that will have to guide the nations to a disarmament agreement that the world’s political and military leaders have been unable to achieve. In both the United States and the Soviet Union, military leaders, some not now in uniform, have a virtual veto power over their country’s disarmament proposals. Political heads, sensitive to public pressure, try to move forward, but the military leaders have shown very little faith in a security system through disarmament. As a result, disarmament negotiations have been a sort of minuet, where partners advance mincingly toward each other, then coyly back away. But public demands for a disarmament treaty continue to mount. A generation that has unleashed the power of the atom and that has devised cures for dread diseases must certainly have capacity to create the political devices which will ensure world peace. This is a must, for if this generation fails to do so, it will have failed to meet its rendezvous with destiny and will be responsible for the awful effects upon future generations. In fact, it may well determine whether there will be any future generations.

October 21, 1956

In a recently published report entitled America’s Needs and Resources: A New Survey, the Twentieth Century Fund points out that although the people of this country are probably offered a wider choice of religious worship in both form and substance than in any other country in the world, nearly three-fourths of the churches and almost 90 percent of church members are attached to the 19 largest denominations. On the other hand, about 200 denominations have only about 2 percent of the church members. Official statisticians of the various religious bodies reported nearly 286,000 local churches or congregations in 1950, compared with 244,000 in 1940. Total membership of the more than 250 religious bodies of the United States amounted to 86.8 million in 1950 and 64.5 million in 1940, a gain of over 22 million during the war decade. The previous decade added only about 5 million to church rolls. In 1952 over 92 million persons were reported to be church members. About 49 percent of the total population were church members in 1949, and about 59 percent in 1952. This latest gain was unusually large, although the long-term membership trend has been upward.

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One curious note in the news states, “Pacifists are eager to pacify the world because of their own inner conflicts.” This is a startling statement, for when analyzed, it would indicate the so-called psychologist who is talking, implies that persons with no inner conflicts want people to kill and be killed. I wonder how silly some people can get.

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An item on an old subject, but a very important one, came to my attention this week in an exchange dispatch quoting the late President Albert Palmer of the Chicago Theological School on the matter of importance of church attendance. It goes like this:

“Going to church, like going to meals, is a good habit. Spiritual nourishment is as necessary as physical. And there are various ways to get spiritual nourishment. One can wait until tragedy overwhelms him and then reach out blindly for help and comfort. One can browse around, taking in all the religions, sampling all the cults, accepting no responsibility anywhere. But the best way is to go regularly to church, enter heartily into the service, join up, make a subscription, pay attention to the sermon, shake hands with many before you leave, talk it over around the dinner table, and think about it before you go to sleep. Do that regularly, week after week, and you will not suffer from spiritual anemia.”

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A sage observation from a correspondent says that “The older I become the more it is pressed on me that the greatest of the personality graces is simple kindness. It is really the summit of personality growth.” No thinking person could, apparently, argue with this.

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At their meeting in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, this week, the United Lutheran Church condemned enforced racial segregation, but rejected outright endorsement of the Supreme Court decision outlawing it in the public school. In a somewhat hectic session, the church’s biennial convention voted down a proposed declaration that the court ruling is in harmony with Christian convictions. That portion was stricken from a statement urging church congregations to take the lead in demonstrating the possibility of integration. But this watering down of the church’s stand was by no means unanimous. The Rev. Paul L. Roth, of Kenosha, Wisconsin, declared it “a weak and ineffective statement.” Southern members understandably took a more comforting view. For example, the Rev. Frank Efird of Salisbury, North Carolina, called it “courageous, Christian, and consistent, and one that won’t divide our people.”

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There are many kinds of courage. Perhaps many of us associate courage with war and bloodshed. But another of these many kinds of courage is not physical at all, but moral: the kind of courage that some men in high political office exhibit, when, for the sake of their convictions, they hazard their whole future. In his exhilarating book, a best seller, entitled Profiles in Courage, Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts tells the story of eight U.S. senators who were men of this kind. The national interest, he states, rather than private political gain, furnished the basic motivation of their careers. John Quincy Adams’ Puritan conscience would not permit him to take a purely partisan stand on any public question. His resultant unfortunately caused him to develop a morbid feeling that his whole life had been a failure. Daniel Webster tossed aside his chance to become president in order to stand unswervingly for the preservation of national unity. Thomas Hart Benton’s opposition to slavery brought down upon his head and avalanche of censure from Missouri. Sam Houston suffered a like fate and for the same reason at the hands of his fellow Texans. Their story was different from those of Kansas’ Edmund G. Ross and Mississippi’s L. Q. C. Lamar. Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio paid a heavy penalty of abuse for working to get a stay of execution for the 11 war criminals condemned to death in the Nuremberg Trials. The stories of these, and others are the heroes with whom Kennedy deals. It is unfortunate that the very closeness of the men and the events concerning them are so close to us that we fail to see clearly the elements of their moral courage until long after; instead we become emotional at the time and it is only until time and the dissipation of emotional coloring are gone that we can give our men of moral courage the admiration their actions merit.

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All, or virtually all, of us, whether of religious bent or not, are interested in the achievement of peace, peace of the real kind. This interest and concern cut across and transcend the fortunes of any political party or political figure. Furthermore, it is recognized that the ideal world would be one in which peace were achieved because all men were of good will. But humanity is far from ideal, and in such a world, peace can be achieved only through the development of channels by and through which those who would promote war, consciously or unconsciously, will be repressed by the overwhelming desire of the many.

Within the past week we have seen something of a curious and somewhat confused exchange of ideas on the steps we should take toward achieving peace. One presidential candidate has proposed a step-by-step suggestion that we seek at any level necessary to bring about a halt to further experiment with H-bomb testing. His argument is that we already have such bombs so strong and destructive that our present state of transport will not permit us to deliver them anywhere we might choose. He further contends that means of detection of nuclear explosions have become so sensitive that it would be impossible for a violator of any no-experiment agreement to violate that agreement secretly. So, in the interest of humanity and its protection from H-bomb fallout, in the interest of indicating our willingness to display leadership in a movement toward peace, he believes that such a course would have a profound effect upon the race toward destruction, without at the same time doing any violence to our security.

Opponents of this, without thus far analyzing the merits of his proposal as carefully as he set them forth, attack his suggestions as “political folly,” as a wild and irresponsible proposal of a politician overcome with ambition. Consequently their reply is to try to submerge the whole discussion by wrapping their opposition in the cloak of that magic word “security.”

Now, nobody knows whether Stevenson’s proposed moratorium on H-bomb testing would bring about the desired results or not. From what we the public know, our Iron Curtain censorship on such things being what it is, we cannot determine whether such a move would endanger our national security or not. But since when has it become undesirable that such a topic be excluded from discussion by public figures in a campaign where the stake of all of us is greater than the failure or fortune of a political candidate or party? What we do know is that a stalemate has existed for some time now on any suggestions or progress toward halting this mad race toward destruction. Only the United States is in a position to offer real initiative, and from a position of strength, toward leadership of the free world in its desire to find peace. So, it would seem that public discussion of such a vital issue, far from being discouraged, should be explored in its entirety, for where there is no vision, the people perish.

October 14, 1956

First, a potpourri of religion in the week’s news, as reported by Associated and United Press agencies:

Throughout the U.S. churches are observing harvest festivals. For Protestant churches, an order of service to give thanks for the rich bounty of the earth has been written by the Rev. Deanne Edwards of New York City, a minister of the Reformed Church and director of the Hymn Society of America. The department of the Town and Country Church of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. has given wide distribution to the services. Many churches will be decorated with vegetable, fruits, and flowers typical of the season, which later – the decorations not the season – will go to charitable institutions or needy persons.

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A report by the National 4-H Club Foundation and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith tells, among other things, how visiting American farm youths have been impressed by Israel’s religious life. B’nai B’rith, a Jewish men’s group, says all faiths in the new nation have constitutional freedom of worship. It adds that U.S. members of the International Farm Youth Exchange found the two most important Jewish religious holidays most impressive in their rituals. These ceremonials are Rosh Hashanah, the religious New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. But the young Americans got a particular sentiment out of Succoth, the Feast of the Tabernacles. This is the Jewish celebration of the harvest. One exchange, Carol Jenkins of Shelby County, Missouri, says it seemed a wonderful way for farmers, either Jewish or Christian, to celebrate Thanksgiving.

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Today, Roman Catholic lawyers in New York City will have their annual Red Mass. Francis Cardinal Spellman will preside at the solemn pontifical votive Mass of the Holy Ghost at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The Red Mass has been celebrated for centuries in great European cities. For as long as church history has been recorded, the service officially has opened the judicial year of the sacred Roman Rota. It was first celebrated in the U.S. in New York about 25 years ago. The name Red Mass probably derives from the color of the vestments worn by the celebrant and other priests at the Mass. And that, in turn, goes back to the fact that judicial robes used to be bright red or scarlet.

Cardinal Spellman will also lead some 60,000 persons in prayer at a religious service at New York’s polo grounds today. That will be part of the ceremony marking the 80th birthday of Pope Pius XII. The New York Archdiocesan Union of the Holy Name is sponsoring the commemoration. Birthday medals blessed by the pontiff and flown from Italy to New York early this week are to be presented to each attendant at the services.

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Washington: White members of a Lutheran church have set out on a unique doorbell ringing campaign. Their objective is to bring Negro families into the congregation. The Augustana Lutheran Church is the first to undertake a formal solicitation of Negro members to implement the open door policy that many churches have proclaimed in the last few years.

And at Blue Island, Illinois, the American Lutheran Church, at its 14th Biennial Convention, has adopted a statement of policy on responsibility of its ministers to their entire neighborhood regardless of race. The statement was adopted by almost unanimous agreement of both clerical and lay delegates to the convention.

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Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Dr. Franklin Clark Fry, of New Rochelle, New York, has been reelected to a seventh term as president of the United Lutheran Church in America. Dr. Fry has served as head of the largest Lutheran group in North America for six two-year terms. His latest election is for a six-year term.

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Vatican City: Monsignor Lorenzo Perosi, conductor of the papal choir and a world-famous composer, is seriously ill. Vatican sources say Monsignor Perosi has been given the last rites of the church, and the pope has sent him a special blessing. He is 83 years old.

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Montreal, Canada: The Roman Catholic Church has announced that Catholics in the Montreal Diocese will be allowed to work all but two holy days a year, effective next month. The exceptions will be Christmas Day and the Feast of the Circumcision, January 1. A statement issued by the archbishop of Montreal says the change has been approved by the Vatican.

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St. Paul, Minnesota: Death has taken Archbishop John Gregory Murray, leader of 435,000 Roman Catholics in the St. Paul Diocese. The 79-year-old prelate succumbed to cancer of the neck. He also had suffered a heart attack two months ago and a stroke a month ago, which had affected the right side of his body. Archbishop Murray’s duties have been assumed by Archbishop William O. Brady, who recently came to St. Paul from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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New York: Protestant churches across the U.S. and Canada observe Church Men’s Week, starting today and extending through next Sunday, October 21. Today is recognized as Men and Missions Sunday, which, since 1931, has helped to dramatize the churchman and his relationship to worldwide Christian missions. Laymen’s Sunday, October 21, is the annual occasion when laymen take over the entire Sunday morning worship services, including the sermon.

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Cairo, Egypt: International scholars at the Coptic Museum in Cairo are translating a manuscript that may be a fifth gospel. The author may be the apostle Thomas (or doubting Thomas). The manuscript is written in the ancient Coptic language and is believed to date back to the third or fourth century. It is part of 13 volumes containing 48 books which Egyptian workmen found in a jar while digging in a cemetery in 1945.

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The United Lutheran Church in America has opened its doors for women to give full time service to the church, without planning a lifetime career. Women who so desire may join with the U.L.C Deaconesses to do such work indefinitely. The change has been approved as an experiment. The new members of the church’s women’s religious order will be called “diaconic volunteers,” rather than “deaconesses.” They will receive maintenance and a small allowance during their periods of service. As do the Lutheran deaconesses, the volunteers will serve churches in various capacities, such as teachers, nurses, parish and social workers.

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During the past week the Supreme Court let stand a lower court decision barring Virginia from leasing a state park under any plan that might result against Negroes. This decision – or lack of decision on the part of the high court – may have far-reaching implications for the states that have hurriedly, and emotionally, rushed through constitutional amendments, legislative statutes, etc., aimed at turning their public schools over to private organizations in order to prevent the carrying out of desegregation decisions. The lower court decision was by U.S. District Judge Walter E. Hoffman of Norfolk. It was appealed to the high tribunal after the U.S. Circuit Court in Richmond upheld Judge Hoffman. Hoffman decided that the state, in operating the Seashore State Park, must permit all races to use it. He said if the park were leased, “The lease must not, directly or indirectly, operate so as to discriminate against the members of any race.

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Looking at this whole question of desegregation, objectively and dispassionately, it is a matter, not only of curiosity but of deep concern also, of wondering why all the fuss. Today our Sunday school lesson is based on a study of the Ten Commandments. The principles of justice in these laws underlie our whole sense of justice in the democratic social orders of the Western world. Exodus does not mention in these commandments any exception on the basis of race or anything else from the binding force of these principles. How, then, can we say, and be honest with ourselves, that while these commandments apply to all people, they apply a little more to some than others? Is it true that we, along with Jefferson, hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal? But then, with tongues in our cheeks, … that some of us are created a little more equal than others because of race? The whole question boils itself down into just such a simple principle, though admittedly the problem is, socially, a complex one.

One of the things we see materials about and hear a great deal said on these days is “What of the younger generation today?” Well, any statement on such a subject means that its maker is certainly sticking his neck out. However, it is a matter about which we are all concerned, and I venture to suggest that the following characteristics might well be applied to a goodly portion of the thoughtful members of today’s young generation. First of all, they are something of a skeptical generation, one that wants faith, but finds it very hard to achieve an ardent faith honestly. One student remarked not long ago, “I don’t believe in anything, and I don’t know how to go about starting.” This is a not an uncommon predicament. Again, in many respects, it is a lonely generation, hungering for a warm community dedicated to a common cause, but hardly knowing where to find such a community. It is something of a timid generation, more preoccupied with security than with adventure. And when faced with danger, it faces it with stoic fortitude rather than with courage. And, last, it is not a happy generation; in some respects it is something of a joyless crowd. Of course, it throws itself into distraction in order to distract itself from its unhappiness, but there is little of security there.

Well, there is a venture into trying to state something of mass impression of a very important portion of our people. Probably much the same thing has been said about previous generations. Whatever truth lies in the above statements can probably be traced more to the uncertainty of the times, the tensions of today’s living, tensions which the younger generation did not create but among which they must live, than any unsteadiness in the young people themselves. In many ways we of the older generation have cheated today’s young people in not building a world in which such elements that give rise to personal and social disorganization are absent instead of very much present.

Fundamental to a basic religious philosophy is the question,“What can I believe in religion?” In our Christian culture, this means engaging in the study and practice of religion, which, in turn, means an examination of the claims of historic Christianity. Without such examination, people will not get far in answering their basic question. Christian orthodoxy means the evolving changing doctrines of Paul, the early church fathers, the school men, the reformers, the post-Reformation theologians, and theology as it has been presented and is being presented today. One cannot discuss – I doubt if one can think intelligently – of religion without discussing the claims of religion, anymore than he can discuss chemistry without knowing something of the claims of chemistry. It was Christ who said, “Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are which testify of me.” You don’t get religion like you do measles. Religion is natural, native, and intrinsic.

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The best quote of the week that I came across, and one which has survival as well as religious interest goes like this: “The men of big business have been so busy preparing for a war which they hope to avert that they seem to have neglected almost altogether planning for the peace they hope to achieve.”

And another, almost as good, says that when the government does something for you, that’s social progress. But when it does something for someone else, that’s socialism. How lazy can we get through the use of words and phrases, slogans that mean nothing or everything, and which very effectively lull us away from any effort to do real thinking for ourselves?