January 20, 1957

Muskegon, Michigan: For the first time in nearly a century, no Dutch Reformed churches in the Muskegon area will have sermons delivered in the Dutch language. The final sermon in Dutch was given last Monday. The Rev. Alkema explained that “It is apparent younger generations are content with religious services in English and apparently have little interest in Dutch rites.” And I might, as a sociologist, point out that once a church has given up its different language from that of the country in which it is located, it has taken about the last step in becoming assimilated, in this case of religion, into the main stream of American churches.


Warsaw, Poland: Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, the Catholic primate of Poland, has conferred on church-state problems with communist Premier Cyrankiewicz. The meeting was believed to be the first time the cardinal has discussed religious problems with a government leader since Titoist Gomulka took over as Communist Party boss last October. The Polish news agency says the cardinal and premier discussed the appointment of candidates to clerical posts and the introduction of religious teaching in schools, which the new regime is permitting.

And in connection, further, with Poland, Cardinal Wyszynski has urged all Polish citizens to get out and vote today. As one statement put it, “Catholics as citizens are urged to fulfill the duty of their conscience and take part in the election.” This urging was brought about partly because of the widespread fear in Poland that many people would abstain from voting, thus weakening Gomulka’s stand against home-grown Stalinists and in his dealings with Moscow. Informed Catholics say that the church recognizes that if Gomulka is not given support of the country in today’s election, this very limited and restricted experiment in democracy will give tough Stalinists an argument that they need to try to return to power.


Vatican City: Pope Pius has been pronounced in perfect physical condition by examining physicians. The pontiff will be 81 years old in March. The examining physician was Professor Antonio Gasparrini, one of the physicians who treated the pope during his grave illness during the winter of 1955.


Again Vatican City: The pope has been presented with the first copy of the 1957 Annuary. The book, bound in white parchment, was presented to the pope by the assistant pro-secretary of state of the Vatican, Monsignor Angelo Dell’acqua.


Washington: A church leader says one of America’s most pressing religious problems is finding a Christian path through the pitfalls of prosperity. The Rev. Cameron P. Hall, of the National Council of Churches, says that for the first time in history a whole nation is subject to the temptations that Christ had in mind when he warned that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter to enter the kingdom of heaven. One danger, says Hall, is that we may become so blessed with material possessions that we crowd out other values in life. Wonder if he has examined the financial status of schoolteachers? But then we are in a minority in a sea of prosperity.


Buck Hills, Pennsylvania: The Rev. Dr. Earl R. Brown has retired as secretary of national missions of the Methodist Board of Missions. Dr. Brown served in the past 12 years. The new secretary is Dr. W. Vernon Middleton.


Atlantic City, New Jersey: A Methodist church official charges that the Roman Catholic Church is trying to pressure some Methodist colleges into dropping study of the Bible. In an annual report to the Methodist Board of Education, the Rev. Myron F. Wick, of Nashville, Tennessee, director of the Department of Secondary and Higher Education of the board, declared attempts in his words, “represent, apparently, a steady but calculated probing for timorous sects among all Protestant schools and colleges.” He said the alleged interference is centered on Protestant colleges attended by Catholics. The Rev. Wick does not document his statement, at least as reported by United Press. But if it is true, then probably Catholics are somewhat like us Methodists: they would prefer that everybody studied their Bible.


One of the obsessions of the present time, in some circles, educational and political, for example, is a bewailing of the alleged dearth of physical scientists and engineers. So, their logic goes, our colleges and secondary schools are not turning out enough young men and women who wish and plan to go into the physical and chemical laboratories of the nation, sufficient enough in numbers to keep pace with what is happening among our potential enemies, particularly the Soviet Union. The next step in their so-called logic is that we must offer greater rewards in the field of natural science so as to attract greater numbers to teach it and to promote it. The net and end result of such logic is to make every endeavor, through higher salaries, greater headlines, etc., to enlarge our activity in science.

No informed person would disparage the amazing work of science, nor decry the benefits it has brought to the human race in terms of more food, more light and heat, greater speed of travel and communication, wonder medicines, better understanding of diseases, and so on, ad infinitum. However, the concern of the present seems to be mainly in the field of nuclear devices related to the armaments race. And, again, no informed person would desire to see our own country so outdistanced in the field of security that we should stand no chance of survival if attacked.

But the very spectacle and emphasis upon a single area of our existence causes thoughtful men and women to ponder the unbalanced perspective nuclear zealots have of the world in which we live. Many of us think that we have a greater scarcity of equipped people in the human sciences than in the physical. To put it bluntly: We have the hydrogen bomb, but we do not know what to do with it. We live in a world in which the greatest industrial nation (our own) is presented with a proposed budget of $72 billion, 53 percent of which is allocated for military spending. If to this, you add the interest on the national debt, which is mostly for past wars, and the amount to be spent, we hope, in debt retirement, plus all other charges relating to our past conflicts and their by-products (for example veterans’ administration), we come out with the startling and discouraging fact that only some 10 percent or 15 percent at most will be spent for purposes unrelated to past or possible future wars.

What has happened and is happening to our system of values when persons in high places see nothing in the future but continued emphasis on bigger, if not better, weapons of destruction, with corresponding relatively less emphasis on seeking ways and means to avoid destruction? Science is a wonderful instrument, but science cannot tell us what is good or bad, right or wrong. Science can give us a knowledge of germs and the possibility of germ warfare, but it cannot and does not tell us whether to use this knowledge for the destruction or the salvation of mankind. Science, in short, can arrive at truth, but it cannot tell us what to do with the truths it discovers.

How, where, and when to use the results of science rests entirely upon the values that we as a people hold. Our values include not only knowledge but also feelings, beliefs. I cannot prove to you that a college education will make one a better citizen, but I believe that it will. Otherwise I would not be trying to teach. I do not know that people are happier and better off in a democracy than they are in a dictatorship. But I believe they are because democracy as an abstraction and a process rates high on my scale of values. Hence, I am constantly trying better to understand it and to promote its better functioning. And one could go on and on, citing intangible but very real things that go to make up life; things that rest not on science, but upon our cultural conditioning, our beliefs, our customs, our mores.

And it is just these things that are not inculcated by science, but by the social sciences, the humanities, and other subject fields not included in the realm of natural science.

Do we have an over-supply of people seeking ways and means to help avert war? Persons who try to promote understanding among the peoples of the earth? People who believe that international understanding and peace are not only possible, but attainable? People who look at the stark realities of the present day and are appalled that so much time, space, and attention are given to those movements leading to international suicide and so little to those leading to a peaceful world?

Our real problem today, among us as well as among peoples everywhere, is the promotion of values that would impel us to use the benefits of science for the welfare, not the destruction, of mankind. These values rest on feeling, and sometimes, perhaps upon fancy. Feeling and fancy take the stark and ugly realities of life and shape them into beautiful forms, dress them in beautiful garments, and cause hope to displace despair, discipline to take the place of sorrow.

If we look upon life only with the cold eye of scientific objectivity, there is little inducement for us to want to continue it. We come into this world causing pain. Our first cry is a protest. Our childhood is a history of wanting to do the things we are not permitted to do, and being forced to do the things we do not want to do. We have to go to bed when we are not sleepy and get up when we are sleepy. Life, looked at in this way, is all contrariety and frustration. But if we crown reason and scientific truth with feeling, the scene changes. Birth is a precious pearl bought at great price. The first cry of a baby is a paean of victory. The whole life of the child is a poem, its separate parts written in different meters always to be concluded and never dull, and through it all runs the motif of aspiration and achievement. Life of the adult becomes a sacred trust – talents that must not be buried, lights that must not be hidden under a bushel. Life is a romance greater than the pen of man has ever portrayed or the test tube in the laboratory can ever demonstrate. Feeling can inform us that life is a stage on which we always play the leading role: and we ourselves sit in at the performance, and are at once the most critical and appreciative of all the audience.

Values rest in the hearts of men. We recognize anew the truth that great visions come to humble men. These men were out under the stars close by nature, or amid the busy hum of machinery in the roar of a great city. They are not befuddled or beclouded by ships and commerce, tariffs and trade agreements, spheres of influence, oil and colonies – though these make very loud noises. They are men who try to think their way through the morass of today’s immensely complicated world; to see it in terms of people rather than machines; to regard machines and weapons of destruction as means to an end (i.e., peace eventually) rather than ends in themselves.

We need today wise men who are willing to travel over the barren wastes of materialism, under the scorching suns of pressure groups with their selfish interests, and over the frozen mountain passes of derision, and to hold on to those values that the experience of the race has proved to be good. The wise men of this type carry the burden of the foolish. We hold in grateful memory the men who followed a star; a Socrates drinking the hemlock, Jesus on the cross, Paul in chains, Stephen praying for his tormentors, John on Patmos, Savonarola at the stake, and thousands of those who are unknown and nameless, but put human values first and adjusted all other things to them.

The world needs natural scientists today, yes. But more than that, it needs people who do not permit their outlook – and hopes – for the future to become lost in the trees of the scientific moment, but who can stand off and see the forest of humanity that needs to understand itself, and value the best of itself. The whole problem may be illustrated by the young Tennessean who is reported to have said that “When I went to school they learned me to figger but not to read. Now as I drive down the road and see the mileposts, I can tell how fur but not whur to.” It is about time we not only knew how far, but where we are going.

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