Quite often the question and problem of desegregation have been commented upon here. Another aspect of the problem has been brewing in Georgia the past few weeks, the outcome of which at this time is not certain. Specifically, it revolves around the action of the Georgia State Board of Education to revoke “forever” the license to teach of any teacher, white or colored, who maintained membership in the NAACP after September 15 of this year. The association is a national organization devoted to advancement of the welfare of Negroes, and it has among its membership white as well as colored people, some of them white teachers in the state of Georgia. The action of the board goes further and will require all teachers to take an oath that he will not join that “or any allied organization” after September 15.
It requires no comment from this reporter to make clear the injustice perpetrated by this action of the board. It is not only a denial of the right of free speech and free association, but it would seek to impose a form of thought control that is anathema to any decent concept of democracy.
Just what action the association and its members may take in defense against this ruling of the board has not come to light yet, but this ruling strikes at the heart of democratic rights as well as, if carried out, depriving qualified teachers from earning their living at an occupation for which they have spent years of preparation. Schoolteachers, individually and as an occupational group, are in an almost totally defenseless position within our social structure. Only by appeals to reason, to common sense, of fairness and justice, can, apparently, the teachers at the present stage hope to maintain rightful position and rights as public servants. And yet, the public should recognize that its own self-interest, anything that militates against the free functioning of schoolteachers as ordinary citizens with special responsibilities to the community, is in fact and in the long run a threat to society itself.
There are at least five basic rights which the teacher should enjoy, not because of any special immunity or preferred position, but that he should enjoy in the interest of society itself. These are:
- He should be free to teach the truth and have personal freedom to lead his life like any other citizen of the United States;
- He should have freedom to join organizations of his own choosing and not be compelled to join any organization against his will;
- He should know the status of his position with respect to how he is classified, compensated, his grievances heard and dealt with;
- He should have a salary commensurate with his costly training and his service to the community and the nation;
- He should be able to live and work in an atmosphere of democracy.
Anything less than these is a denial of his opportunity to be a full-fledged citizen who plays a vital role in furthering community life.
Last week I dealt briefly with various pronouncements, including that of the Kefauver Committee, regarding the vital role the home plays in preventing or failing to prevent juvenile delinquency. It seems justifiable at this point to expand a little more on the subject, for the family is the most important part of our social organizations. Like other organizations, its functions are changing, some becoming less, some more important. But no substitute has been found for a good family and home. Mass homes for orphans, the aged, bachelor women and men, clubs for the homeless – none of these fills the bill. In most of these the atmosphere of poverty gets one down; not only financially poverty but that which springs from a lack of rewarding and satisfying companionship, which is the essence, or should be, of a home.
In the development of such a home, honest and consistent efforts of all are needed, but if both or all desire a home, it is really no effort, for the things that must be done to satisfy this requirement are those things that both or all want. Cultural equality and similarity of tastes are more important than mere intellectual agreement. Surprisingly enough, results of expert research show that finances are not nearly so important to the continuance of marriage as they were once thought to be. [Louis] Terman in his study of 15,000 successful marriages that the rank order of complaints of husbands was as follows:
- Not affectionate; selfish and inconsiderate; complains too much; quick tempered; conceited.
- Curiously enough, the five most-received complaints of the wives about their husbands were:
- Selfish and inconsiderate; unfaithful; argumentative; complains too much; not affectionate.
There are many more on the list, but time excludes the possibility of dealing with them here. The point is that the above list on each side are personality traits that, both working together, sincerely wishing to succeed, could quickly eliminate, and it is a rather safe assumption that if these were abolished, the other complaints raised would be dissipated or reduced to immaterial proportions. Are any of these things worth the wrecking of marriage where the results are all too often reflected in parental independence, but, unfortunately, in juvenile delinquency simply because the parents of those juveniles were not willing to provide the kind of home heritage that every child deserves. These are things we should ask ourselves and for which we should search or own souls as we hold our hands in horror at some of the extremes to which juvenile delinquency goes as reported in the press these days. Selfish whims of parents are not important; the development of stable, emotionally secure young children is important.
A very unusual book is just off the press, written by the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Entitled “Dear Charles,” it is a light but merciless expose of the rituals of tinkling cymbalism that go on in probably too many of our churches today. “Dear Charles” is a collection of some 26 fictional letters from a frustrated seminary professor to an ambitious young pastor. Comments on the book include the assertion that some U.S. churches are constantly now making Christ over in the image of Dale Carnegie. While the book is intended as a light satire, it could easily pass as the handbook of many a modern clergyman.
It begins with the minister’s appearance, and ranges from dieting to dandruff, to the choice of clothing, including underwear. It warns the young pastor to stop at the hotels where he will meet the “right” people. Far from suggesting that pastors should have convictions about spiritual and social matters, the professor merely admonishes that you “let your church officials know where you stand on the points they now cherish more highly than religious doctrines.” Sermons, he warns, should always be comforting, never political, and preferably critical only of those outside the fold. A pastor’s goal, he goes on, should be to outdo previous pastors, since, he says, there is no difference between selling insurance and selling religion. He advises that pastors acquire PhDs for these “will open more doors and make more impression than anything you could possibly do.” The author does not overlook birth control, which he condemns because, he says, it cuts down on the church’s membership in the long run. Neither should the minister discuss race problems or labor-management relations because they are too controversial. As a result of following the advice given in these letters, the Rev. Dear Charles is called to become pastor of the large, powerful first church in Mammonville. But almost before he can turn his charm on the new congregation, he is inconsiderately called to the Beyond, but the magnetic smile he has perfected across the years, now in death, is crinkled slightly about his full lips. Though his eyes were closed, he appeared any minute to be ready to raise himself from his new bondage and greet each mourner by name with a lusty handshake and a resounding slap on the back.
Well, that’s the satire, but is it satire? And what should be the role of the pastor and his church in a vastly complicated, perplexing, and often conflicting society? For a layman such as this reporter to answer that question is literally a fool rushing in, but it may not be impertinent to point out that the high points in religious progress are marked by men who rebelled against the status quo of their times: Mohamed, Christ, Luther, Wycliffe, and a long list of other illustrious personages who pioneered in the field of spiritual thought and left their mark upon the pages of religious history.
The layman would also seem justified in observing that for the churches to remake themselves in the world’s image is a reverse of the process that should be. When churches become merely reflectors of the world, with all its faults and virtues, they will have lost their reasons for existence. More and more people of today are beset by confusion, doubts, frustration, and insecurity. Churches could well function to relieve or disperse these feelings by offering leadership and stimulation of thought into the meaning of present day living, critical analysis of our problems and evaluation of the various elements of community living. By so doing, they well could become beacons of light in the stormy shoals of uncertainty. If they fail to do this, they will lapse into merely another institution, having little purpose than observance of tinkling cymbals that have a pleasant but fleeting sound that lulls the lazy into complacency and stagnation.