Beginning today and continuing throughout the week, including next Sunday, is Brotherhood Week. This week has become a great American institution. It is a week that gives us all a chance to focus our attention on the ugly forces of bigotry, intolerance, and prejudice in our educational, civic, industrial, social, and religious life, and by so doing renew our constant fight against these enemies of democracy at home and abroad. Brotherhood Week is sponsored annually by the National Conference of Christians and Jews. The late Charles Evans Hughes, Newton D. Baker, and S. Parkes Cadman founded the conference in 1928 to promote justice, amity, understanding, and cooperation among Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Jews. This year’s Brotherhood Week has the theme of “One Nation Under God.” Stress will be laid on sharing with others the rights and respect we want for ourselves on dramatizing the practical things people can do to promote an understanding and realization of the ideals of brotherhood and on enlisting the support of more persons in year-round demonstration of belief in the brotherhood of man.
We hear a great deal about brotherly love, what does it mean? It is hard to define for all purposes, but if it means anything, it means a healthy respect for our neighbors, for their ideals and background, a willingness to work with them regardless of creed or color, a conviction that everyone deserves the same opportunity to prove himself.
When you were a child, did you ever cut out a colored map of the United States? If you did, you had forty-eight pieces of paper, different colors, shapes, and sizes. Each one separately represented a state. But put all together, they represented a great nation. That is the principle of American democracy. Each person apart is of a different color, different race, different religion, but take all of us together, we’re all Americans. Brotherhood Week is a good time to put this into practice – all of us shedding our bigotry, intolerance, and prejudice, and working together.
A disturbing thing has been revealed by public opinion polls. These polls reveal that a significant number of Americans indicated they might actively support drives to discriminate against their fellow Americans of other races or creeds. An even larger percentage is reported as being undecided. This is serious. A divided America can only weaken us and play into the hands of hostile powers. American can be strengthened through adhering to the ideals of Brotherhood Week. People cannot be standardized, and in America, it is our pride and our obligation to judge them not by any label of race or religion, but as individuals. When the Declaration of Independence was signed, Benjamin Franklin said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” That is still true today. And today it means that we must all live and work together regardless of race and religion. With the eyes of the world upon us, there is no place in America for group prejudice. Most of us are guilty of intolerance to some degree. During this Brotherhood Week, let’s try to remove prejudice from our lives and our hearts.
Today our country is spending billions to help strengthen the Free World – to help build its resources and educate the people. We undo this good when, here at home, we are intolerant of groups and individuals who differ from us in race, color, or religion. If democracy is to survive, and if our dollars abroad are to do any good, we must end this inequality. It is time to get together and make new friends, to invite these people to our homes so that we can know them better. And what we learn, we can put into practice every day of the year. Our horizons will broaden when we learn to know people of different backgrounds from ours. We’ll be far more tolerant of their problems, and they will be more considerate of ours. Practicing brotherhood can be fun and worthwhile.
No loyal American would set out deliberately to give aid and comfort to the communists. Yet we sometimes do exactly that. The communists would like to divide us, create strife, unrest, and discontent. Looking for defects in our democracy, it pleases them if they hear of a constitutional right being denied a man because of his color or religious belief. Nothing pleases them more than news of an American being denied a job or entrance to a school, hotel, or pleasure resort because of his color, background, or religious belief. Let us not be unwitting tools of the communists. Our country will be stronger if we recognize, believe, and practice the simple truth that all men are brothers.
From New York comes a news item under a religious news service byline that points up the economic cost of prejudice. It asserts that some $30 billion a year is lost in woeful extravagance because of discrimination in employment. This figure emerges from a study by Elmo Roper, well-known analyst of public opinion, marketing trends, and employee attitudes, and is based on 12 years of research. He says that discrimination in hiring wastes $10 out of every $75 paycheck on the phony luxury of indulging our prejudices. “Any firm,” says Mr. Roper, “which does not hire on merit and merit alone is not only guilty of injustice but woeful extravagance as well.”
“By 1980,” he goes on, “industrial concerns will no longer even think in terms of religion, race, or nationality when they hire or promote employees.” “I believe,” he adds, “that our country has the get-up-and-go within itself not to be left stranded as a queer outpost of intolerance in a world which is one-third yellow, one-third brown, and one-third white.”
Evidences of nondiscriminatory policies in employment are cited in the study by four business men: the president of the Radio Corporation of America, the board chairman of Spiegel Chicago Mail Order House, the vice president of the International Harvester Company, and the general manager of Carson Pirie Scott, leading Chicago department store. These four business leaders rest their case for the elimination of discrimination equally on the economic argument against waste, the pragmatic principles of good business, and the appeal to American moral and spiritual values.
Men who are sincerely anxious to see our precepts put into practice will heartily wish that their prediction for 25 years hence will be fulfilled by developments, for we have no room in America for discrimination on any basis other than personal and individual merit.
A severe, but at times apparently justified satirical comment on our political morals as a people comes to us through the columns of The Atlanta Constitution commenting upon “The Inaugural Address That Wasn’t News.” LeRoy Collins, the new governor of Florida, said in his inaugural, “I so anxiously want the people of Florida to understand that progress in business, industry, and human welfare can go only so far with a ward-heeling, back-scratching, self-promoting political system. Our progress is sure to run into a dead-end if our citizens accept the philosophy that votes can be traded for a road, or for a job for an incompetent relative, or for a favor for a friend, or for a handout through a state purchase order. …
“I have no feeling of hate for any man. But I do hate the things that some men do. To fight for right is the easy half of the battle for progress. The hard half is to fight against wrong. But this we must do if we are worth our salt. Over two thousand years ago, by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus taught the people that man cannot live by bread alone….
“Government cannot live by taxes alone – or by jobs alone, or even by roads alone. Government, too, must have qualities of the spirit. Truth and justice and fairness and unselfish service are some of these. Without these qualities there is no worthwhile leadership, and we grapple and grope in a moral wilderness.”
The Atlanta newspaper comments that it was not the kind of speech we have become accustomed to hear: It had no hate in it but a lot of the philosophy we know as Christian. It had a lot of common sense and understanding of the fundamental needs of the human being. It is a pity that this speech did not make the “A” news wires, but then of course there was no news in it.
Is this indictment of the U.S., our reading tastes, our expectations – even desires, from our public officials correct? If so it is about time that we took an inventory of ourselves as individuals and as people. Demagogues can flourish only so long as they have followers; corrupt officials can remain so only so long as a dormant and indolent citizenry will tolerate it; raving and ranting by self-styled orators and sanctimonious will continues only so long as we the people are gullible, mentally inert, and physically lazy about our proper roles as citizens. We have a moral obligation to be alert, informed, and active. When enough of us are, speeches like that of Governor Collins will make the news, because those will be the kind we demand and will get. Until then, we cannot expect any better for we do not deserve any better.
This next item is particularly appropriate at this time of year, for it deals with the matter of taxes, a disagreeable subject with all of us. A research study points out that a man with an income of $4,500 a year has to work two hours and 35 minutes every day to pay his taxes. This sounds terrible, for if we go to work at 8 a.m., we do not begin earning for ourselves until 10:36 a.m.
Well, none of us likes taxes, but there is another way to state this situation. A $4,500-a-year man spends the first two hours and 35 minutes of his work day earning money to pay for police protection, public education, from the kindergarten through the university, for public libraries, slum clearance, highway building, aid to the needy, old age retirement, aid to farmers, care of parks and public playgrounds, welfare services, veterans’ pensions, the building of atomic and hydrogen bombs, support of an army, navy, and air force, and all the other manifold activities of modern government.
Several weeks ago I reported on this program the furor caused in England when Mrs. Margaret Knight, a psychologist, advised over the BBC that parents should straighten out their children on what she called the myths of Christianity. Since then the controversy has raged in the islands. Some have hurled vitriol at the speaker; others have warmly approved of her position on the ground that through challenging our religious assumptions, she has made us seek to ascertain more clearly for ourselves just what we do believe and why we believe it.
Perhaps there is something of grim, if perverted, humor in this for some of us, for about the time we seem to be getting over an acute case of McCarthyitis, our trans-Atlantic ally starts coming down with an attack of religiosity. Be that as it may, a Roman Catholic spokesman makes the heartening statement that Mrs. Knight has really struck a blow for Christianity in Britain, pointing out that “There is much distrust…of what are said to be the reactionary and hypocritical views of professed Christians…. What, positively is needed to re-evangelize Britain? It will be no use to stifle debate … that will merely leave people in the fading light of religiosity in which they are stranded already. We have got to get them arguing…. The great days of the nonconformist chapels and of the splits among Presbyterians in Scotland must come back … the days when it will seem as natural to drop into an argument over theology as over the test match. The first step toward this is to get people to think out their own present position….”
Do we ever try this? Do we subject our own views to rigid examination by applying to our religion the same kind of tests of validity which we apply to our views on other matters? Whatever the outcome, should we try it, it is entirely probable that we would find it a worthwhile venture; for there is perhaps no other area of our existence about which we are so smug, complacent, self-satisfied, unquestioning than we are in our religious beliefs. Yet, nowhere in the Bible do we find an injunction against inquiring, learning, thinking, testing. Only by so doing can we learn the truth, and we do find in the Bible the promise that “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make ye free.”
A Chicago Jewish leader says one of every five U.S. Jews is affiliated with Reform Judaism. Dr. Samuel Hollender explains the belief that Reform Judaism is the ideal for today and tomorrow. Dr. Hollender is chairman of the Executive Board of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. He has also repeated to his board, meeting now in Los Angeles, how Reform Judaism differs from the Orthodox and Conservative branches. Dr. Hollender says the 82-year-old Reform movement believes changes in environment necessitate revisions in ritual, religious forms, and theology.
In this connection, and at the same meeting, Rabbi Hervert Weiner of Temple Israel, South Orange, New Jersey, said the Reform movement would attract a large number of Israeli Jews who in good conscience find themselves incompatible with the rigid tenets of Orthodox Judaism. Dr. Weiner has just returned from a trip to Israel.