From Denver comes an AP dispatch that reveals the height of something or other. A reporter of the Denver Post went to the local weather bureau to get information on the weather and incidentally discovered that a telephone cable serving federal courts, law enforcement and other agencies had been tapped. This cable carries such sources of secret information as the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. District Court for Colorado, the office of the local U.S. attorney, postal inspectors, and the Investigation Office of the State Department. Interestingly enough, none of the spokesmen involved exhibited any concern about the matter. The weather bureau said merely it had seen several men working around there late the day before. The Denver agent of the F.B.I. said, “I have no information,” while the U.S. attorney said merely that “We have no control over the building….”
It should be a matter for concern when even the secret deliberations of members of our high federal courts are suspect and Gestapo and MVD Vityaz methods are used to listen on information that heretofore has been regarded as sacred as the relationship between a priest and his parishioner.
This disclosure brings to my mind another instance of the straits to which we have gone in our over-zealous hysteria, an instance called to my attention by one of you listeners – assuming there are others. In the recent case before the Supreme Court, involving the matter of dismissal of a Yale professor from part-time employment with the U.S. Health Service, Dr. John Peters. The Supreme Court was informed by Atty. Gen. Warren E. Burger that it could not have access to secret information that led to the dismissal of Dr. Peters. Burger went on to say that security laws provide that the Justice Department cannot release confidential FBI reports except to certain authorized officials unless it has the special permission from the president. Apparently, the members of our highest judicial tribunal are not to be trusted with evidence upon which it is asked, by the Justice Department, to make a decision. The Justice Department, headed by a political appointee, is trustworthy. Members of the Supreme Court, removed as far as possible from political turmoil, but not entirely free from indirect control, are not worthy of confidence that they are loyal to the country. Someone should go to Burning Tree or to Augusta and inform the president of how badly mixed up our so-called laws and procedures are.
It is not a very long step from eavesdropping on our courts to invading the traditional privacy of the home, the church, or other place where the Bill of Rights says we are secure without unreasonable searches or seizures.
In the newspapers, on the air, and on the street we hear people saying that the Negro wants this or he wants that. Actually, it is difficult if not impossible to say what he wants, for the Negroes, like white men, do not all want the same thing by any manner of means. In the present stew over desegregation, it might be worthwhile to consider what the dean of the Atlanta University School of Social Work had to say on Brotherhood Sunday about the Negro’s desires. Being a Negro himself, and an outstanding member of his race, Dr. Whitney Young says this:
“What does the Negro want? The answer is nothing special –just about what everybody else wants – nothing less and nothing more. We don’t want any special jobs, saved for us or withheld from us. We don’t want any special car in which to ride, or special schools to which to go. We don’t want any special houses or blocks to live in, or special units of the armed forces from which to fight for freedom. We don’t want any special favors to put us ahead – we don’t want any special agreements to hold us back. All we want is equal opportunity with all other Americans to live and work and play, to vote and get an education, and be promoted, to fight for our country and – hope to be president like everyone else.” (Why anyone would want to be president, it is difficult for me to see, but on with Dr. Young’s statement.) “More than that we do not ask, but with less than that we shall never be content.” And can you think of any reason why they should be asked to be content with less?
One of the most difficult things to do rationally and conclusively is to define religion. Most of us insist that we have it, believe in it, but when asked to say sensibly just what religion means to us, we have difficulty in finding words that are coherent, meaningful, and logical. What brought this on was my reading the past week a series of statements of outstanding figures defining what religion is or was to them. The great Japanese Ichiro says it is “the endeavor to establish a righteous and vital relation between myself and the universe.” Well, the word “universe” takes in too much territory for me. I’d say religion is more the endeavor to establish a righteous and vital relation between myself and [other] human beings on this planet. The word “righteousness” has no meaning when applied to the universe.
Again, John Dewey says “Religion is adjustment.” But “adjustment” plays into the hands of the status quo. I am not going to adjust to society any more than I have to in order to survive. We need rebels. Religion should be the dynamic back of holy mischief. It is difficult to tolerate a well-adjusted person. None of my heroes were adjusted to the society of which they found themselves a part. Instead of totally adjusting to society we should each do his part to modify society in the direction of individual and social justice.
Whitehead says that “Religion is what a person does with his solitariness.” This well could sound more like a vice than a religion. I doubt if much goodness exists in isolation. Goodness has little meaning apart from society. Isolation of the voluntary kind is selfish anyway.
Donald Hankey says that “Religion is betting your life there is a God.” Could be, but the stakes are pretty high for something that cannot be established. I never was much for gambling anyway.
Well, there are the definitions with some comments. What do you consider religion to be? Try formulating your own definition, and if you are rash enough to spend 3 cents for a stamp, send it to me in C/O of radio station WJHL. I shall appreciate it very much.
And speaking of writing to me, your criticisms and suggestions are always appreciated, whether they be critical or otherwise. Unfortunately it is not always possible to acknowledge them all. One criticism, however, I should like to acknowledge. It says that too much time is spent on what democracy is not, and that not enough is devoted to what it is. That, I must admit, is probably a valid criticism, and at the risk, perhaps hope, that you will disagree with this next, I am going to suggest some things that democratic government is, and what one committed to it will do.
We live in days when traditional American principles often go into an eclipse – a time when thinking (or what passes for it) is so topsy-turvy that Americanism is called subversive, and subversion of American rights and liberties is called patriotism. The believer in those traditional principles will hold firmly to them, for they constitute the highest Americanism. He will defend the high ideals of the Founding Fathers who wrote those principles into our constitutional system. He will not disregard the truly glorious history of this country. He will take his stand on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. He will take those sacred documents as his charter of liberty and justice. They shall be for him as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, guiding him to seek an ever-widening sphere of freedom with which the human soul can grow, enjoy, and live more fully. He will not be unmindful of the great price that was paid for his heritage as a free citizen of this great nation. Others may scoff, ridicule, bribe, connive, and conspire to turn our government over to the jackals of special interests and the exploitation of the people, but the liberal will say that “As for me and my house, we prefer to serve the masses rather than the classes.” He will stand for freedom of press and pulpit, equality before the law, defense of the courts, just taxation, the voice of the people, the defenses of the weak.
The Founding Fathers sought a government that would forward the welfare, safety, and happiness of all its citizens, and they said so in words that should sing in the hearts of all who love their fellow men. Historically our government in the main has pursued those ends. There have been divergences from them, of course, but as a people we have been ashamed, not proud, of such digressions. We do not extol them on the Fourth of July. The liberal will not be deterred from his purpose and program of seeking to promote the welfare of the masses of people of this country by slogans labels, such as socialism (of the creeping or any other variety) for labels are blindfolds to keep us from analyzing and thinking critically. He will insist that government is an instrument of the people for liberty, safety, and the pursuit of happiness. In this connection, it is interesting to note that of the proposals of the Populist Party of 1890, over half are now accepted parts of the American system. It is safe to say that there never has been a measure proposed for the welfare of all the people that has not been bitterly opposed by those whose philosophy was to get rich and to keep others in poverty. Among those who cry “creeping socialism” the loudest are those who maintain the most powerful lobbies in Washington and elsewhere to secure legislation in their own interest.
But what, you ask, does all this have to do with religion? The answer is “Everything.” Whatever brand of religion you espouse, it emphasizes, or should do so, the sacred worth of the individual, and this worth is true regardless of where or who the individual is. Individuals can evolve into their greatest, happiest, and fullest only when the environment and society in which they live grant them the respect and opportunity that the human soul needs and deserves. Between human and property values, there is only the choice for the religious man, if a choice must be made, that is in favor of human values. President Eisenhower has said that where property values are concerned, he is a conservative; and that where human values are concerned he is a liberal. He probably has not thought this through. He simply cannot be both these in our world of today without developing an advanced case of schizophrenia, for human welfare is so wrapped up with what is or what is not done with property that one cannot separate the two. To the religious, only people are sacred, and anything which contravenes this sanctity, whether it be government, economics, or what have you, is a matter of concern to religion everywhere.
Mrs. Gertrude W. Eiseman of Boston has been elected president of the Mother Church, the First Church of Christ Scientist, Boston. Some 7,500 Christian scientists attended the Annual Meeting of the Mother Church. Will Davis, manager of the church’s Committee on Publications, said many insurance companies are now recognizing Christian Science practitioners, nurses, and sanatoriums.
Washington: The House has approved and sent to the Senate a bill to require that all future U.S. currency bear the inscription “In God We Trust.” The bill was sponsored by Democratic Senator Bennett of Florida. It will still probably be necessary to put up the usual collateral at the bank however, when negotiating a loan.
The average salary for pastors of the United Lutheran Church in America enrolled in the Church’s contribution pension plan is $4,392. Dr. George Berkheimer, executive secretary of the pension board, says salaries of UCLA pastors range from an average $3,150 for those in the age group 25 to 36 years to $4,732 for those in the 40 to 44 age group.
Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York is said to be undecided about visiting Argentina. The anti-Roman Catholic measures of President Peron have been denounced by the U.S. prelate. The trip to Buenos Aires had been planned months ago for the end July. Authorities in Buenos Aires watched Roman Catholic preparations for Saturday’s Corpus Christi procession inside the Metropolitan Cathedral. The church was forced, practically, to hold its traditional meeting in the Cathedral instead of historic Plaza de Mayo because police forbade marches this year. The occasion honors the Eucharist in an annual ceremony. And from Vatican City comes the statement that the Argentine army does not appear willing to follow President Peron in his stand against the Catholic Church. While this may be merely wishful thinking, it could be that trouble is brewing for the goose-stepping dictator in the most southern of the Latin American countries.