November 27, 1957

Throughout U.S. history, major religious bodies have been in conflict over various aspects of American life. But at last, Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish leaders are talking over these problems around the same conference table. Previously, however, the general pattern has been for the different groups to remain in their own domains from which they hurled their arguments, and frequent brickbats on touchy subjects. Now the three faiths are tackling an assortment of issues under a new project involving a broad study of religion, its activities, and relationships to freedom and democratic government.

Among the issues are use of public funds for parochial schools, rights and effects of religious pressure groups in such matters as censoring what they deem to be undesirable literature and entertainment, and dissemination of contraceptive information. Prominent clergymen of the three faiths are also studying causes and results of sectarian bloc voting and the part [?] plays in religion.

So far as is known, this is thought to be the first time such full scale, joint discussions have been held. The editor of The Boston Pilot, a Roman Catholic weekly, says to his knowledge this has never been done before. The Right Rev. Francis Lally adds that he has never heard of such an effort on this level. A top Protestant theologian, the Rev. Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr of Union Theological Seminary, said mutual talks on limited phases of the various subjects have been held but that substantive issues have not been discussed.

The Fund for the Republic, Inc., one of the Ford foundations, is sponsoring and financing the project, which will require about a year to conclude. It includes the commissioning of special research from qualified individuals and institutions. The chief coordinators of the project are Dr. Niebuhr and the Rev. John Courtney Murray, a leading Catholic scholar, of Woodstock College, Maryland. Among the key consultants are Rabbi Dr. Robert Gordis of Jewish Theological Seminary, Dr. F. Ernest Johnson of the National Council of Churches, and Mark de Wolfe Howe of Harvard Law School. Non-religious representatives are also included.

Coincidental with the opening of this unusual interfaith study, a Jewish scholar, Dr. Will Herberg, commented that the Catholic Church was right in principle, in calling for public support of parochial schools. He expanded his position as follows: “Parochial schools are, in fact, public institutions though they are not governmentally-sponsored. They have full public recognition as educational agencies. Their credits, diplomas, and certificates have exactly the same validity as those of public schools.”

Jewish groups, generally, have in the past been opposed to government benefits to parochial schools. Catholics, however, have advocated that their schools should share in such benefits as transportation, health services, textbooks, and school lunches, but not direct support. It is highly likely that Congress will be eager to depart from its long tradition of being reluctant to appropriate money for private education. Furthermore, it might be pertinent to suggest that if Dr. Herberg is correct in his view that private schools are really public, those states in the South that have threatened to turn their public school systems over to private agencies to escape integration are going to have to re-think their procedures and come up with something else. But even should Congress relax its stand on public money for private schools, the courts have in recent years been especially sedulous in drawing the line even more clearly to keep church and state separate. Even the so-called “moral guidance” programs which in some cases have become mere cloaks for religious teachings, have come under judicial ban in a few cases. And released time for religious instruction is definitely not legal, though some over-zealous people, especially here in the Bible Belt, are going on with such stuff, despite its illegality.

Of course, the ridiculous, and sometimes uncomfortable, position they take is that if anyone opposes teaching of religion in the schools, as does this reporter, he is thereby opposed to religion, which this reporter definitely is not. This is about as sensible as saying that because one does not want to wear his shoes in bed he does not wear them anywhere else either.


The unity or teamwork they derive from prayer and living Christian lives is credited by Coach Bud Wilkinson and his Oklahoma Sooner football team for this aggregation’s great string of victories. (It might be though sacrilege by some to wonder in passing why the coach does not then give up training rules and devote all his time and that of the team to prayer and doing good. deeds.) Anyway, before yesterday’s game they said a prayer, uttered another at half-time, and a third when the game was over. A leader in this movement to bring prayer sessions to college football has been Guard Bill Krisher a 216-point Hercules who is candidate for All-America Guard. Says Krisher, “We never pray for victory. We let that take care of itself. We do pray that both teams can play their best.” Krisher believes praying gives the team unity and says the players feel better when they pray. That praying and Christianity are considered important is indicated by the fact that when a new athlete reports to Sooner coaches, he is first asked whether he knows the locality of his denomination’s church. During a game, Krisher is a hard-hitting lineman. He says he puts forth even more effort when opposing a player who resorts to the use of foul language. There is no place in football for profanity, he notes, because it does not make the player any better and accomplishes nothing.

Well, there is more of the same stuff, but it is still the same stuff. No psychologist would be likely to dispute the therapeutic effect of a frame of mind which causes one to believe he is fighting in a righteous cause, but the whole idea sounds like the line continually put forth by the Graham-Peale-Sheen axis, much of which is charlatanism simple, if not so pure. Moreover, such an attitude and practice sort of puts God squarely in the middle in an earthly contest. Remember how the gods came down from Olympus and aided each side in the Trojan War? Unfortunately the Sooners and their opponents, presumably, have but one God and it would require a schizophrenic one to aid both sides at the same time. How silly can we get in the name of religion?


And while on the subject of Graham, a not altogether pleasant one, I will admit, The Atlantic Monthly for July had an article by R. E. Robertson on “When Billy Graham Saved Scotland” that was a literary masterpiece. The September issue of the same magazine has a defense of Billy Graham by David H.C. Read that is not a masterpiece. Mr. Read, like all defenders of Graham, uses considerable space asserting Billy’s sincerity. I wonder why Graham’s friends feel that is necessary. You’d think that his sincerity might be taken for granted and not be imputed to him as righteousness. Moreover, the alleged fact that Graham has a pleasant personality does not appear to be relevant. The defense rests upon the undisputed fact that Billy attracts crowds and makes converts. If he, at the same time, and in the process, teaches a shallow gospel, making full use of the myths and superstitions of an outgrown theology, but gets people to accept the same, is it good or evil he is doing? Can you imagine a group of astronomers, e.g., allowing meetings for an astrologer and justifying the movement by attendance figures? Are not the clergymen backing Graham a cynical lot? Their attitude seems to be, “Of course it’s not true, but he increases church attendance and church income and we hope he does some good.” I am not unaware that this current comment may be looked upon as heresy (by the superstitious at least), but I believe it stands the test of logic and at the same time is a reasonable conclusion from the evidence splurged across the newspapers and through the air about this truly remarkable figure.


A quotation that is worthy of quoting again came to me this week. It is from a statement by the Rev. Harold Schmidt in Van Nuys, California. He says that “Little has been done to help the man in the street to understand the new world he lives in, to help him see how utterly different it is from yesterday’s worlds; even how different he is in personality from any of his ancestors; to help him see how costly it is in life and wealth to himself and his children to pack around in his head images of worlds that have died. Little has been done to give him a fuller, more accurate image of the world that is and can be. The liberal should not be surprised when so many people fail to respond to his thinking or his leadership. They do not share with the liberal the new worldview from which our new social thinking stems. Hence they keep a grandfather thought of God as a part of the furniture of [their] mind.”


To supplement Dr. Schmidt’s rather penetrating analysis of the unnecessary and no longer useful furniture we hold onto in our minds comes to my mind the fact that among many people, and this includes some ministers, we still hear a lot of nonsense about the so-called conflict between science and religion. With our normal acceptance of religion, this imputes an evil quality to science. Perhaps in the minds of many, this evil quality has been emphasized by the identification of science and materialism.

But let us remind ourselves that religion is the best that man knows about God, while science is the best of man’s knowledge about things in God’s world. The assumption that scientists find no place for God is simply not true. On the contrary, the more objective a scientist is, the more likely he is to fall back on a “first cause” which is in effect, a creator. Furthermore, many, perhaps most, scientists attend church, serve as Sunday school superintendents, lay ministers, deacons, or other active workers in their denominational groups.

The scientist starts with the assumption that knowledge about God’s universe is good. It should aid in the understanding of God and his ways. It is said of the great biologist Louis Agassiz that he would say to his class at the beginning of an experiment, “Gentlemen, we are about to ask God a question.” It can and should be – probably is – in a somewhat similar spirit of reverence and humility that scientists do their work today.

Perhaps still another reason the uninformed or ill-informed assume there is a conflict between science and religion is that discoveries that scientists make inevitably change the previously prevailing concept of God. This is not denial of religious insight, but rather an amplification of it. Men sought to know about God and his way from earliest times. It is natural that they should impute to him wondrous creative powers in terms of their current conceptions. “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth” is a beautiful and universal concept. Thus it was that Ussher attempted to date the Old Testament using recorded chronologies and genealogies, placing the date of creation at 4004 B.C. In later years many discoveries in the areas of geology, anthropology, and chemistry showed that there must have been many, many omissions in these records. This in no wise diminishes man’s concept of the creative power of God, but it does change his ideas of how and when God created. The truth is that religion can have a great future in the acceptance of the expanding concept of God that science makes possible. It is the duty of science to make these explorations in the spirit of asking God a question.


It has been about 200 days now, more than six months, since the life of a Washington Countian was snuffed out by an automobile starter rigged with a homemade bomb – time enough for the forces of law and order here to find a guilty party or parties, or call in more expert aid to do so. A trial, called by the local newspaper, “A Farce, A Fiasco” was held. This week the Knoxville News Sentinel carried an item with a Johnson City dateline saying that investigators Peterson and Shoun were reentering the case unless a special investigator for the National Board of Fire Underwriters, who has done much talking but presented little information, produces concrete results. No published evidence has appeared indicating any activity on the part of the local sheriff and attorney general in trying to apprehend the guilty. Has it become safer from the standpoint of punishment, for one to kill a man than to steal his automobile? There is not only a legal but also a moral obligation for the two chief law enforcement officials to produce results or to procure someone who will.

November 24, 1957

This coming week will see thousands of Protestant churches throughout the nation holding special Thanksgiving services, the occasion being used to launch the 1957-58 Share Our Surplus food program. This is the project through which the Church World Service hopes to gain 300 million pounds of food from our national surplus stocks for free distribution to the world’s needy people. Three major observances will be held simultaneously this afternoon in Washington, D.C., Manhattan, Kansas, and San Francisco. Millions of Protestant Americans of all denominations will, during the course of the week, have the opportunity to express their gratitude for the abundance with which this nation is blessed. The Share Our Surplus, also called S.O.S., was inaugurated in 1954. By the end of 1958 about 8 billion pounds of U.S. government surpluses will have been distributed free to hungry people in many nations. The S.O.S. appeal to the people of American Protestant churches of the 35 denominations is for funds to cover overseas distribution, administration, and other handling expenses.


It’s a crazy world in which we live. The nations get together and spend months in a so-called disarmament conference, when actually none of them wants to disarm. In this country we spend $60 billion annually trying to find more terrible ways to kill people, and we do this because mankind has not solved the problem of learning to live without war. Nobody apparently wants to find it; they had rather go on trying to patch up an old system that never has produced, and will produce nothing but war. That $60 billion alone would do much to buy housing, education, medical services, etc., for people who need such things far more than they need guns or to be killed. But I suppose vested interests would call the last under that vague and meaningfulness thing “socialized medicine.” Then here at home we take money from all the taxpayers to provide subsidy to farmers to grow more than is distributed. Then we go back and bombard those same taxpayers to give money to distribute to the world’s needy that which they have already partially paid for. At the same time we put on a so-called “United Fund” drive to help the needy here at home. I could go on, but how mixed up can we get?


This past week saw the dedication in New York of the nation’s first Protestant Interchurch Center. The 19-story building, costing nearly $20 million, is scheduled to be ready for occupancy by the end of 1959. Its tenants will be 19 denominational and church-related agencies. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., whose generosity in the interests of civic and religious projects is well known, made the block-square site on Riverside Drive overlooking the Hudson River available on a 99-year lease, rent-free basis. In the dedication address, Dr. Clarence Cranford, the American Baptist Convention president, said, “To this site, the eyes of millions will turn with new hope because of this practical demonstration of unity.”


In the neighboring state of North Carolina, a conflict between youth and the older generation, between modernists and fundamentalists, exploded on the campus of Wake Forest College at Winston-Salem, and, to a lesser degree, at Meredith College for Women in Raleigh. In 1937, the overall governing convention board imposed a ban on dancing at the colleges. In recent years the trustees of the two colleges took action to permit such activity. But pressure, apparently mostly from rural pastors, was soon brought to bear. Parishioners sending in donations to the church from the congregations of these ministers were adding a note that none of the money was to be used for the two colleges because dancing was permitted. The trustees now reversed themselves and imposed the ban again. A poll of the parents of the students showed that 80-90 percent favored campus dances under the auspices of the college. The trustees now changed their minds and permitted dancing. But this week the convention board was adamant – no more college dances.

This action touched off the fireworks, literally and figuratively. Mass protests were staged by the student. The president was hanged in effigy. Students walked out of the assembly program, and shouts of derision were heard, not only about the board and the president, but also about Baptists in general. A reported jitterbug dance – though it was probably more of a rock and roll affair – was held on the campus and a larger one in a square downtown, to the music of radios. That is about where the matter stands as of now.

It would be very easy to condemn the backwoods ministers for their mossback ideas; or the youngsters for their alleged waywardness, if that is what it is. The former are doubtless sincere in believing that dancing is immoral, and none of us parents would teach or advocate anything that would undermine the morals of our children. They hold to the idea that God and religion are fixed, unchanging concepts, and any deviation from what they learned as they grew up is a sin. They are not only unwilling; perhaps they are unable, to reconcile their life-long held ideas to something else.

The college students are normal youngsters of another generation. They look out upon the world with 1957 eyes, and, like their fathers, are fashioning their own pattern of values. That pattern is, quite naturally, not identical with the one of their elders. It is unfortunate, perhaps, that this conflict exists, but it has existed throughout history.

What the elders fail to grasp, or to admit, is that society is ever an ongoing concern. And while some of us might not like the direction it is going, society is bigger than we are, and there is little we can do. Certainly, to try to stop change would be about as effective as King Canute ordering the tide to roll back. It may be true that God does not change; but man’s conception of God changes, and few of us would go back in social matters to the rigid rules and regulation laid down in Leviticus, however appropriate those rules were for the Hebrews at the time. If we did, we would all stop brushing our teeth, for nothing is said there about this practice or about seeing your dentist regularly.


A controversy which has been brewing for several months at the Haverford Quaker College has been settled by the turning down of Defense Department money for science projects on the ground that the philosophy of the department is inconsistent with the peace principles of the Quakers, and, in the words of the college statement, there “is increasing military control of research funds” which the college sees as a threat to free academic inquiry in America.

This all started when last autumn, three members of the science faculty at the college indicated their desire and intention to seek research grants from the Defense Department. One, a chemist, applied to continue study of unstable molecular fragments; and members of physics and mathematic departments wanted to secure funds for pure research. The debate that followed deeply stirred the campus. Haverford is proud of its pacifist tradition, which has been a mark of the Quakers for 300 years. And many feared that if the college became dependent on military funds, it would no longer be free to criticize and oppose war and war-like actions by the government.


From the mess that has been permitted to develop around integration efforts in some places comes occasionally evidences that moderate, straight-thinking elements are merging. In a city election for membership on the governing board in Little Rock, Arkansas, some days ago, six out of seven candidates who stood for law and order instead of mob rule won out over opponents who were segregation die-hards. This does not mean that those six wanted integration; it probably means that they represent those of the population who prefer rule of law with integration rather than violence without it.


Comes also additional evidence now from white students meeting for the sixth annual Youth Institute on Human Relations at Asheville, North Carolina. Stirred by disorders attending integration at Little Rock, Charlotte, North Carolina, and elsewhere, student delegates appeal to President Eisenhower to call or sponsor a national conference of high school youth as a counter measure to violence. In their statement they emphasize that they “are concerned with youth’s responsibility of making our schools a living example of democracy and brotherhood.” They go on to state “how saddened and disappointed we were when a few young people of our age group participated in acts of violence in their schools at the beginning of this school year, thus damaging intergroup relations within our community and unwittingly giving aid and comfort to America’s enemies….” Their recommendations went on to state that it is the belief of the delegates that the overwhelming majority of American youth judge each other on individual merits rather than on distinctions of religion, creed, race, or color, and believe that the law of the land should be obeyed without reservation. The students urged also that each school form a committee on friendly relations to promote intergroup harmony and understanding.

It is more than likely that most of us who are concerned with human betterment, without regard to prejudice, are convinced that if prejudiced parents would refrain from trying to project these prejudices into the lives of their children and let the young folks settle this integration hassle among themselves with a minimum of interference, it would all work out much better. After all, these young people are going to live out their lives in a world far different from that in which their parents grew up, and it is apparent that in that world, such prejudices are a luxury that cannot be afforded. The parents may not admit this, but it is also likely that if they did realize the importance of this truth, they would hesitate to perpetuate a prejudice that will be a handicap to children’s well being in the world that is emerging.


In Nashville this week, the Tennessee Council of Churches came out for racial integration of the state’s public schools. It adopted a resolution urging that the state’s school system be brought into harmony with the Supreme Court decision of May 1954. Specifically, among other things, it stated, “In terms of Christian perspective it is our desire that we may be of service to the state and local agencies in working within law and order toward the fulfillment of requirements of the … decision.” The council represents 13 Protestant denominations with over 600,000 members in Tennessee. School and other people might take note of this number, for it provides a nucleus at least for developing a civic attitude among the public generally that will permit integration to come about without going to the disgraceful extremes that characterized Clinton, Tennessee, and Little Rock, Arkansas.


And out in Los Angeles, the Rev. Nelson Higgins, a Negro who was appointed pastor of a white Methodist church, as reported here some months ago, has managed to galvanize the community into increased religious activity. From membership of only 43 at the time he took over, most of whom left because of the race of the pastor, it now has an average attendance of around 200 at Sunday school, and a corresponding increase in attendance at the church service. About 40 percent of those attending are white, while the rest are of various non-white racial groups.


Ladies and gentlemen: I am reluctant to permit this last item to become something like the lone beat of the piano note in a rock and roll number, but there is still no evidence that the sheriff and attorney general are trying to find those who murdered Everett Jenkins. WHY?

November 10, 1957

The Bible continues to be the world’s all-time bestseller. Recently disclosed figures put total world circulation of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, and portions of the scriptures at just under 27 million at the start of 1957. That’s nearly 1 million more than for 1955 and almost 3.25 million more than 1954. At the close of 1956, at least one whole book of the Bible had been published in 109 languages, including many now obsolete. However, during the past 25 years some portion of the Bible has been circulated in between 600 and 700 languages.

Figures furnished by the American Bible Society and other agencies show the top five nations in the sale of complete Bibles are the United States, Germany, England and Wales, South Africa, and Brazil. The Rev. Dr. Frank Price, who directs the missionary research library maintained by the National Council of Churches, points out that the Bible continues to be published, circulated, and studied in Communist China, where seven Bible houses are maintained in major cities. Dr. Price notes that since 1949, more than 171,000 complete Bibles and 170,000 New Testaments, and more than 3 million portions of the Bible have been distributed in Red China, in addition to 43 editions printed from old plates already in the country.

These are not merely cold statistics, Dr. Price declares, but living and inspirational facts which show the Bible to be a truly universal book in a world that still possesses a babel of tongues.


Professor Walter Freytag of Hamburg University in Germany says his recent three-week tour of Communist China impressed him because the people seemed to have a new spirit of self-respect. Dr. Freytag, who is professor of missions at the Hamburg University, made the trip at the invitation of the Chinese churches.

In Shanghai he reported seeing 50-100 percent of church members in six separate churches on one Sunday. He also disclosed that some splendid churches had been built recently and many others had been enlarged or restored. Dr. Freytag said, however, that fundamental criticism of the political system in Red China was noticeably absent. Anyone who becomes a Christian, he declared, automatically cuts himself off from the Communist Party and joins a minority which is respectfully tolerated at best.


The role of the religious counselor was the subject of a recent survey by Wellesley College in Massachusetts among social workers and both Protestant and Catholic clergymen. At a later date a similar study will be made among Jewish, as well as other, clergymen.

The survey by two sociologists showed Protestant ministers to be unanimously agreed that the counselor’s role is expressive of their parishioners’ wishes. They felt that a church member turns to the pastor because he represents the concern of the religious community. Also that parishioners expect their minister to understand fully and appreciate their inner feelings and spiritual needs. (Perhaps this is expecting the impossible.)

Catholic priests interviewed said generally that the pastor’s role as counselor derived from the priest’s intimate relationship with God. They felt that it was their duty to remind the parishioner of religious duties and to explain particular religious points involved in his problem. When these objectives have been accomplished, they said it was the priest’s duty to refer the church member to the proper church agency for further help.

The study disclosed the social workers were not inclined to give the pastoral counselor a place on the team. They criticized clergymen for overestimating their own resources and capacities. However, the social workers conceded there is a role for the minister or priest in psychiatric cases having a religious compulsion of some sort, or where a clergyman might persuade a religious person to enter a hospital or other institution.


It looks as if the Whitley County, Kentucky, grand jury has joined neighboring Knox County [Tennessee] book burners. That grand jury criticized circulation of a book written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and asked for further investigation as to why the Corbin Public Library was circulating it. In the words of the jury’s final report, the book entitled “The Big Sky” by A. B. Guthrie, Great Falls, Montana, contained indecent language. The Kentucky case, however, is more to be accepted than that of the Knoxville Board of Censors. In the latter case, it is a group of laymen set up to determine what the public shall be permitted to read; in the Kentucky case, it may be that the case is headed for judicial hearing, where the volume in question will be examined in the light of statues governing obscenity. That is how it should be, but newspaper reports indicate that the librarian, Mrs. Edward Cummins, is also tried by public opinion in the community before legal proceedings are through. Understandably, when questioned about the matter she had no comment. A book, as well as a person, has a right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty. And the librarian should suffer no condemnation in making the book available to the public. That is prejudging according to ignorant prejudices.


An item that did not receive much attention in newspaper coverage was a late summer meeting in Nova Scotia by 20 renowned scientists from many different countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Their purpose in meeting was “to assess the perils of humanity which have arisen as a result of the development of weapons of mass destruction.” At the end of their meeting they issued a statement which is, or should be, of great importance not only to those interested in science, but to the layman as well. Recent satellite developments by Russia underscore the importance of their report.

The scientists spent part of their time reviewing the hazards of radioactive fallout; but wisely, they did not stop with this. They went on to emphasize that nuclear war, and not merely fallout, is the true danger. “We are all convinced,” they said, “that mankind must abolish war or suffer catastrophe; that the dilemma of opposing power groups and the arms race must be broken down.” Beyond this, they raised the question: What is the responsibility of scientists in the face of the dangers which confront humanity? Their answer is a complex, and an incomplete one. They say that scientists can help prevent war “by contributing … to public enlightenment on the destructive and constructive uses of science and by contributing … in the formation of national policies…” What they do not say is just how they shall contribute to the formation of such policies. Men of science, it would seem, are now well aware that the fruits of their labor are of paramount importance for the future of mankind; indeed, the uses to which such fruits are put well may determine whether mankind has a future. They point out that war would leave no country untouched; that arms limitation is not enough; that so-called small wars are now the greatest peril, for they would almost inevitably invite participation by the great powers and bring on a general holocaust; and they go on to enumerate what, in their judgment is the political responsibility of scientists.

This responsibility involves, they say, more activity on the part of scientists in influencing political leaders; stressing ways and means scientific and technical progress can be used constructively; that science must be completely free from dogma; and so on.

Well, it would seem that scientists have begun to worry about the potential dangers of what they have created, and this is well. The discouraging feature of the picture is two-fold: Few scientists have or seem to have much influence over the politicians, and politicians insist upon worn dogmas that have little realism in today’s all too realistic world. It is trite to point out again here that 170 years ago 13 struggling, weak little states solved the problem of lack of strength by developing a federal union which, despite its imperfections, has through the years made us into the people we are. Politicians don’t like even to mention such a possibility in the international field, but it is difficult to see how there is any other solution to survival of freedom in a world that is overshadowed by the power of an atheistic, ruthless, dictatorship.


Alabama Polytechnic Institute, Auburn, Alabama, recently fired a professor because he advised obedience to the Supreme Court desegregation of schools. It is, indeed, passing strange that the trustees of a state institution of higher learning should be subversive of law and order. It is not only strange; it is both immoral and treason to their trust. The interference of a board of trustees with the matter of faculty personnel is, of course, outrageous in any college or university, and presents a practical problem. But it can be met courageously, and has been so met in many institutions as at Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and elsewhere. Theological seminars have had to battle against brainwashing. If the administration and faculty stand firmly for freedom of thought and expression, they can win. If freedom is denied at Alabama Polytechnic Institute, it becomes just another hillbilly institution. It is not a question of segregation or no segregation; it’s whether it can be discussed or whether the subject is taboo. When primitive taboos hit a university it is no longer a university and no longer entitled to respect.

In the Sweezy case, Justice Frankfurter said, “In a university, knowledge is its own end, not merely a means to an end. A university,” he goes on, “ceases to be true to its own nature if it becomes the tool of church or state or any sectional interest. A university is characterized by the spirit of free inquiry, its ideal being the ideal of Socrates (who said) ‘to follow the argument where it leads.’ This implies the right to examine, question, modify, or reject traditional ideas and beliefs.”


Had you ever realized that the question, “Are you a communist?” is an emotional response to ideas of which the question is ignorant?


So far, there is no published evidence to indicate whether Sheriff Deakins and Attorney General [Frank] Hawkins are still trying to bring to justice the person or persons responsible for the murder of Everett Jenkins. Until they do, the record of Washington Country looks pretty bad.


November 3, 1957

Plans for a study were outlined in New York this week by the Rev. Marvin Halverson, an executive of the National Council of Churches. It will attempt to determine the what’s and the why’s of popular arts in contemporary American religious life. For example, they will try to ascertain why people wait in seemingly endless lines to see motion pictures such as “The Ten Commandments” and “A Man Called Peter.” They will also try to find out why songs like “Somebody Up There Likes Me” and “I Believe” make the top 10 on the nation’s juke boxes. In short, they will try to learn whether religion is box-office, and if so, why. The study will include opera, radio, and television. A tangent of the survey will be the effort to see to what extent our 29th century popular arts are genuine American art forms and what makes them popular. As the Rev. Mr. Halverson observed: “People usually think of the Negro spiritual as our only real folk art with religious inspiration. It is important to know what the religious values of people are today, and if the current popular songs debase them.”


Contributions to churches in the United States have passed the $2 billion mark for the first time in history. The total reported by 52 Protestant and Eastern Orthodox church bodies was $2,041,908,161. Better than 81 percent was for local congregational expenses. Contributions for benevolent purposes, including overseas relief and foreign and home missions amounted to nearly $387 million, or about 19 percent.


It is always gratifying to discover that your point of view is shared by others. Last Sunday I commented upon the fact that the U.S. Bureau of the Census is considering including in its questions for the 1960 census some dealing with religious beliefs and affiliations. This week the Associated Press carried an item of some length, the gist of which is as follows: “On the grounds that it would violate the principle of separation of church and state, the General Council of the American Baptist Church has announced its opposition to including any kind of religious question in the 1960 census. The council’s attitude was announced by a spokesman who said the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, with headquarters in Washington, reported the government was thinking about including this question: “What is your religion?” The General Council is the governing body of the American Baptist Church between conventions. It represents 1.5 million members in 6,000 churches in 36 states.


At the age of 67, Neill Robertson of Parkman, in northern Maine, has written finis to nearly a half century as a railroad telegrapher to become a country parson. Robertson became a station agent telegrapher for the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad when he was 25. As a sideline he filled in frequently for ministers unexpectedly called from their pulpits. He memorized sermons that could be delivered anywhere, anytime, and was always ready to help. Twice he was offered pastorates but turned them down because of his wife and seven children and because he felt that his grammar school education was insufficient. But he resolved that upon retirement he would try to find a church unable to afford a full-time pastor. Last June, Robertson found his spot: the United Baptist Church in Parkman. Only 32 persons were in that church the first Sunday. Now there are 72 parishioners. A modest man, Robertson says he has only one strong point as a preacher. He puts it simply: “I am done in 20 minutes. It makes no difference what I may have prepared; when that 20 minutes is up, I’m done.”


As suggested here more than once, religion is native, natural, intrinsic, unavoidable, a primary part of man. And Christianity is only one of the many interpretations of that phenomenon. From the standpoint of sociology, the persistence of super-naturalism as an explanation of this natural phenomenon of religion is striking. Perhaps it is a commentary on the lack of integration of knowledge, but it could be due to the lack of a carryover in education. To illustrate, a careful ands competent teacher who lectures on the evolution of the beetle on the days of the week, goes to church on Sunday. He parks his brains with his umbrella and enters into a new and strange supernatural world where all sorts of wonders happens: axes float on water, the dead come to life, men become gods and vice versa. The man in the laboratory or the classroom demands step-by-step evidence, but in the field of religion he is likely to transform into a sentimentalist.

Not only did the early Christian religion claim more and better miracles than were previously available, but Christians condemned non-Christian miracles. In fact, some of the writers achieved more consistency, but at the same time more bigotry, by condemning all mystery religions but their own. According to the book of Acts, the disciples in Samaria put a professional miracle worker named Simon wholly out of business. Paul was so angry at the miracles of a magician named Elymas that he struck the poor devil blind. The whole history of heresy has in it a great deal of jealousy in respect to who had supernatural power. Catholics have discounted and denounced Protestant miracles and Protestants have made fun of the great miracle healing resorts of the Catholics. Even the state has forbidden the handling of poison snakes and has taken children from homes where miracles were relied upon instead of biotics.

In much the same manner, Christians have denied that there was any revelation except Christian revelation, and if you look at all the different sects you see the Christians cannot agree on what it was that God said. Revelation by definition is the importation of knowledge to a human or humans by supernatural means. But we are not consistent about this. We accept easily that a supernatural power delivered stone tablets to Moses, but we refuse to believe that golden plates were delivered to Joe Smith, who founded the Mormon Church. There is about as much evidence for one as the other, if we are honest with ourselves and look at the evidence and draw our conclusions from it.

Not only have Christians denied other than Christian miracles, and on occasion condemned to death witches and people possessed of a devil and dealers in magical power, but they have turned upon their neighbors and slaughtered fellow humans who claimed a revelation other than the Christian revelation. Thus Catholics have tortured, burned, and hanged Protestants and heretical Catholics. Protestants have amply repaid the compliment to their Catholic colleagues.

The ancients explained phenomena in terms of super-naturalism because they had no other explanations. The tragedy is that today, after the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the tremendous advances in all fields of knowledge, on Sunday people, otherwise normal, accept super-naturalism as a respectable and satisfying interpretation of religion. The ancients had no telescope on Mt. Palomar through which they could read secrets of many worlds. They had no compound microscope by which they could lay bare the mysteries of nature’s vital processes. The only way the ancients had of establishing truth was to have it supernaturally guaranteed.

And thus it is that even where wild super-naturalism has been greatly modified or rejected by scholarship, the masses today as they always have, love, enjoy, defend, and will pay for the preaching of super-naturalism as a worthy interpretation of religion. Yet, in actuality, sociologically, if not theologically, religion is man’s response to the totality of his environment. Theologies are merely interpretations of something that is native and natural. To take this point of view is in no sense to tear down or disparage religion, for it is intrinsic and unavoidable, indestructible. But we should examine interpretations of it. To show the error of an interpretation of religion is not attacking religion; it is protecting it. It is not meritorious or spiritual, or even pious, to believe something that is in an ancient book, or because a lot of people have believed it, or to hold, as Tertullian did before he backslid, that it is true because it is unbelievable. For many, a technique of religion is to believe something that is difficult to believe. Perhaps the most backward of our social institutions today is the church itself. It could do much for the happiness of the race, for righteousness, brotherhood and love, if it would abandon much of its pretense of super-naturalism and demand the same kind of careful investigation and evidence that is demanded in other areas. We have the known conclusions of all the fields that known scholarship has revealed. The function of the church should be to take these conclusions, weigh them, and build a philosophy of religion that is valid, historically proportionate, and emotionally satisfying. Such a synthesis of knowledge in the light of moral values would, or could, make an unlimited contribution to the happiness of mankind. Such an interpretation of religion would always be subject to revision, open to change, as our methods of achieving truth improve and as the sum total of truth increases.


There came to my attention this week a list of books, some of them exceptionally good, but which are banned by the Catholic Church. It would appear that that church is in favor of lots of children but is not in favor of sex. Wonder if they do not subscribe to the recently popular song that went something like this: “Love and marriage, like a horse and carriage, go together; you can’t have one without the other.”


From a pastor comes this bit of wisdom that seems worth passing on to you. He says, “I am tired of hearing that old chestnut, ‘you cannot legislate morality.’ It is usually used as an alibi for not rectifying an evil condition…. Of course, we do not legislate morality. Who said we did? But immorality can be outlawed and punished.”


One reassuring note in the news this week is that, though we do not have a Sputnik, the Defense Department announces that we have stockpiled enough H-Bombs to blow up the earth three times. One can be pardoned for wondering why three times. After a third were used, there would be nothing to use the other two thirds on.


It is reported that the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, Auburn, Alabama, fired a professor because he advised obedience to the Supreme Court in the matter of desegregation of schools. It seems that the trustees of a state institution of higher learning should not be subversive of law and order. Simply because tensions and emotions run high is no reason for an academic institution to suppress an honest minority opinion. The interference of the board of trustees with the matter of faculty personnel was, of course, outrageous, and would be in any college or university. What is the school trying to do, educate or brainwash? That is a technique of dictatorships.


In the Johnson City Press Chronicle for November 1, appeared under the heading “A Farce, A Fiasco,” the following editorial, in part: “Of the Jenkins murder trial, perhaps the least said the better. It was a farce, a fiasco. It will not be written into the records that way, but that is what it was. The jury returned the proper verdict: acquittal. On the basis of the evidence, any other verdict would have been simply a travesty. The state simply had no case…. Why such a state of affairs? Go back to the beginning. Recall the jealousies, the bickering, the intrigues among rival investigating officers. Remember the false starts and strange finishes…. Can there be any wonder that nothing meaty and substantial came out of such a welter of confusion?”

There is more, but this much is sufficient. The simple fact is that Everett Jenkins was murdered six months ago. The people of Washington County have a right to look to their elected sheriff and attorney general to bring the perpetrators of this murder to justice. They have not done so. There is wonderment in the minds of many as to whether they have exhausted the resources of their offices in trying to do so. Until something more tangible is produced, that wonderment will continue. What about it, gentlemen?