This summer, some 6 million American youngsters are going to use part of their traditional summer vacation to learn more about religion. They will be attending vacation church schools or church camps. The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. says the number of individual schools and camps is expected to exceed last year’s totals. Some 96,500 church schools and more than 3,500 church camps were operating then. About 35,000 teachers have prepared the 1955 season with special training this past spring, at workshops conducted by 20 state councils of churches and 50 city councils. The National Council’s Special Committee on Camps and Conferences has conducted six interdenominational leadership training camps. Most schools are conducted by local churches or church groups and most run from two to four weeks. Attending the schools will be children from kindergarten age through the 9th grade. The church camps will enroll children from the fourth to ninth grades.
The Rabbinical Alliance of America has urged legislative bodies in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to stop coddling and pampering youthful criminals. The 400 delegates of the Jewish Orthodox group have been meeting this past week in Spring Valley, New York. In NYC, Chairman Strauss of the Atomic Energy Commission has praised formation of an Institute for Ethical Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Strauss said, “The foremost source of inspiration and instruction available to the modern man in this search for moral insights is certainly scripture.”
Vatican City: Pope Pius XII bestowed his blessings this week on more than 10,000 persons who packed St. Peter’s Square. They had come to observe the feast day of the first pope of the Roman Catholic Church. The Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul drew one of the greatest crowds on record for the occasion.
Washington: The Senate has given final congressional approval to a bill requiring that the inscription “In God We Trust” be placed on all U.S. currency. This inscription now appears on coins, but will be placed on paper money also gradually as the Bureau of Printing and Engraving obtains new dies.
My comments upon the principle involved in this bit of religiosity has been either misunderstood or misinterpreted, but it still smacks of the pharisee who wore a long face to convince those he met that he had been fasting and thereby was a devout person.
Last week I reported on the fact that the Jews had turned down the proposal to ordain women as rabbis. This week from Spring Valley, New York, comes the item that the proposal has been termed “blasphemous” by the national director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. Rabbi Chaim Lipschitz made the statement at the 13th Annual Conference of the Alliance. Rabbi Mendel Feldman, president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, had made the suggestion. Now being of the liberal persuasion and a devout believer in the principle of democratic equality, this reporter can understand how righteous indignation may be sweeping throughout the Jewish distaff ranks at this affront. It would seem that they are having about as difficult a time breaking into the purely masculine rabbinical order as the Republican women have had in getting in on the White House stag breakfasts. Oh well, slavery lasted in this country from 1619 to 1863, but it finally ended. Maybe this rabbinical problem will be ironed out in a couple of centuries.
From Chicago comes a statement of a missionary of Jehovah’s Witnesses that “Communism is beating Christianity at its own game.” Joseph Wengert of International Falls, Minnesota, said the clergy “cry out in complaint about spiritual apathy. But the spiritual drowsiness they see,” he said, “is merely a reflection of themselves.” He spoke at the final session of the five-day assembly of the Witnesses in Chicago.
The six-day international convention of the Young People’s Lutheran League closed this week in San Francisco. Dr. Charles Malik, a U.N. delegate from Lebanon made an address in which he stressed the closeness between the objectives of the Young People’s Lutheran League and the U.N.
And while on the subject of Lutherans, in New York, the Rev. Arnold Grumm, vice president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod said that the Lutheran Church is growing so fast that there is a shortage of pastors.
In Heidelberg, Germany, German and American members of the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) have broken ground for a new church building. Both congregations have been raising money for the church since January. They will supply ten percent of the building costs, with the rest being borne by the Central Church of Salt Lake City.
On Friday of the past week, Foreign Administrator Harold Stassen ended his supervision of that now defunct agency and officially assumed the unusual state of a member of the cabinet without portfolio as secretary of disarmament and peace – or whatever other euphemistic term is applicable. Realizing that all men have their weaknesses, and Mr. Stassen at times shows he is richly endowed with them, we nevertheless hope that the net result of his endeavors will be achievement toward lasting peace. In connection with the job that lies ahead of him, there came to me this week a copy of a letter sent to Mr. Stassen by the Social Action Committee of the South Nassau Unitarian Church. Its contents seem worth sharing with you. It reads:
“Dear Mr. Stassen, pursuant to your request for suggestions from the public, we respectfully submit the main points of agreement brought out at a recent forum which we instituted to consider the matter.
“First, it was the consensus … that the increasing danger to the world from new weapons of mass destruction rendered obsolete former methods of settling disputes among nations and made necessary a system of international cooperation; and that the matter of disarmament is inseparable from the U.N. which is the only existing instrument capable of dealing with the present situation. Hence the recommendation that you make every effort to strengthen and improve the United Nations so that it may become an effective instrument for enforcing peace, ant that you use your influence to have the Formosa matter and all similar matters that may arise turned over to the body for disposition rather than be handled by the U.S. alone or in concert with one or more other nations.
“Second, it was the opinion that the development of nuclear weapons had already reached the stage where either Russia or the United States could destroy the other, and that regardless of which might strike first, the other would retain ability to retaliate. If this be the case, there would seem to be no point in continuing to amass huge stockpiles of armament and expending vast sums for the development of new and more destructive weapons: and without weakening our ability to retaliate, we might well divert a large portion of our energies to Point Four and similar projects for the improvement of underprivileged peoples. This would strike at the basic causes of war and nullify much of Russia’s present appeal to the peoples of Asia which rests on false pretenses of friendship. It would tend to lessen the distrust of the West by Asians, arising out of centuries of colonialism, and make them see us as their real friends. And finally, it would tend to make our allies more confident in our ability to work for an enduring peace.”
And to that this reporter can add little except to stress that peace cannot be enforced. Only law is enforceable, and before there can be law there must be a duly constituted governmental body to make it, to administer it, and to adjudicate disputes arising under it. Mr. Stassen would do well to bend his energies toward accomplishing the results envisioned by the Unitarians of South Nassau.
And from a cynical friend of mine comes this quote of the week that may sound pretty harsh, but I, and I am sure all of you, have a feeling at times that he is more than half right. He says:
“The Democrats in Congress have enough votes to restore civil rights and liberties and stop the give-away program of the Republicans, but with the exception of a half-dozen valiant senators, it is a do-nothing party. In the face of the greatest need for protection of the people in American history, the Democrats piddle around on peripheral issues. The House has passed the Dixon-Yates Bill, the greatest steal in history (what about Tidelands Oil?). The Democrats could have stopped it. It doesn’t make much difference whether the Republicans skin us from the neck down or the Democrats from the heels up – we the people get skinned.”
Seriously, we may well ask what has happened to the brave promises during the last campaign: promises regarding educational aid, housing, reforming of committee procedures? At times it beings to look as if the opposition party, controlled as it is through committee chairmanships by conservative and in some cases by reactionary Southerners, has given up thought of effective opposition.
Tomorrow marks the 179th anniversary of the signing of the most radical and startling document of its kind ever to emerge from the hand of man – our own Declaration of Independence, so radical that when India was recently framing her constitutional system she rejected it because of its revolutionary nature. It is not law, the courts have held; but those same courts have held that it is a philosophy of government that gives meaning, breath, and life to our American way of government. Tomorrow from platforms, over the radio, TV, and other means of communication, you will be hearing leather-lunged orators extolling this and that, with sonorous phrases and emotional frenzy. Little constructive has ever been accomplished by emotional outbursts. Let us forget emotion and look at a single sentence of the immortal document itself.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal” (not white, black, recent immigrants, or those whose ancestors came on the Mayflower), “That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights: that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Property was originally there, but was stricken out.) “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” (You and I, not president, senators, or other public officials) “That, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
Jefferson did not just think these words up out of his head. They are the expression in tangible form of the struggle that had continued for centuries. Therein he expressed the yearning of ages for man to be free, free to worship, think as he chose, go where he would, live in the dignity to which every human being is entitled regardless of race, creed, color, property, or anything else but his own individual merits.
There Jefferson emphasizes that government is the instrument of the people, and that the people have an inherent right to revolt. He did not say “peaceably,” he merely said “alter or abolish” whenever government goes beyond its rightful limits of promoting the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Many of those whom you hear tomorrow will give splendid lip service to these ideals, but also some of them will be men of little minds, fearful courage, and no perspective, who worked and voted for legislation (like the Smith-Connally Act) that, if enforced, would make a mockery of the Declaration by retaining the semblance but removing its substance. I suggest – no, urge – that you get down this charter of American governmental philosophy and read it as both background to and insulation from the distortions you hear and that you look for discrepancies between what the spokesman say about it tomorrow and what they do about it in the months ahead.
Again it was Jefferson who said that “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves.” You are part of the people. So am I. The principles of our Declaration will survive in this dangerous world only so long as we know what we believe, inform ourselves of the issues, and exert every effort to promote the principles of that Declaration. If we do not, those principles will fail, and we shall deserve whatever may follow.