Another item in the oft-mentioned and prolonged struggle between dictator Peron of Argentina and the Catholic Church is in the news from Buenos Aires. Argentine police are reported to have arrested a number of Roman Catholic priests. Reports say the police have made a series of raids since Thursday, and are continuing them. The arrests are connected with an alleged plot by Roman Catholics to “disturb the peace.” The raids followed passage by Congress of a law ending the position of Catholicism as the official religion of Argentina.
A Baptist leader has declared Protestants should tear down the mountain of disunity separating them. The Rev. Edwin T. Dahlberg, of Delmar Baptist Church in St. Louis adds Protestants must band together at a time when the U.E.[?] is coming down in a welter of crime and militarism. The Rev. Dahlberg has made his statement to the 10,000 delegates to the 48th Annual Meeting of the American Baptist Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He also states that since the Protestant Reformation we have been marching around the mountain of denominationalism. He has added that Christ did not intend a splintered, divided system of 250 competing churches that in many countries will have nothing to do with each other. “As Baptists,” he says, “we have to work with our brethren in other denominations to find a better answer to our problems than we have now.”
And from Miami, Florida, comes another statement on another subject from another Baptist. The recent leader of more than 8 million Baptists in 30 states, the Rev. J.W. Storer, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, says that Baptist ministers no longer spout so much fire and brimstone. “Baptists,” he says, “still believe in hell as a reality as much as they do in heaven as a reality, but now the approach is not so much the fear of hell as the love of God.” Dr. Storer was, until this convention, president of the Southern Baptist Convention. The 15,000 messengers at the 98th annual Southern Baptist Convention have named a North Carolina pastor as head of their denomination. The new president is Dr. C.C. Warren of the First Baptist Church of Charlotte. Action by these delegates has included a statement against a continuing universal military service in the U.S., as well as the launching of a nine-year program of emphasizing and bolstering their missionary work throughout the world.
This next item brings with it to this reporter none of the satisfaction that is supposed to go with the position of “I told you so.” A third major Protestant church in the U.S. has heard the statement that the so-called revival sweeping America is neither genuine nor permanent. That comment has come from the Rev. Dr. Charles B. Templeton of New York, who is secretary of the evangelism division of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. The statement was made at a rally preceding the 167th General Assembly of the Northern Presbyterians in Los Angeles. Dr. Templeton says most people today seem to want God as they want a hot water bottle in the night – to get over a temporary discomfort. He adds that the statistical columns of today reveal a U.S. increasingly Christian but the news columns reveal us as more and more pagan. However, the new moderator of the Northern Presbyterians sees the U.S. and the world on the crest of great new religious enthusiasm. The Rev. Dr. Paul S. Wright, of Portland, Oregon, declares it a major goal of the church to respond to this enthusiasm and do its part toward filling the need of the people.
An official of a Jewish organization notes dramatic developments in the war against bigotry and prejudice (and to that, this reporter should like to comment that it is about time). Anyway, Henry E. Shultz of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith declares that major battle is still to be won. Schultz’ remarks have been made at a district convention of his organization meeting at Kiamesha Lake, New York.
Back to Argentina for a moment, the Vatican newspaper terms it too early to dwell on particulars of the Argentine House of Deputies to separate Argentina and the Roman Catholic Church. But the publication, L’osservatore Romano, adds that … the nation’s senators have approved the resolution. President Peron’s signature on this and two other bills restricting church is taken for granted. Catholics probably will not like this comment from a Protestant, but it may well be that the Argentine church will be far better off in the long run if Peron has his way, for as long as it is tied to the state, it must suffer from the vagaries and whims of political forces. Independent of politics, it can concentrate on spiritual rather than political fortunes.
Many sociological studies have pointed to the intimate connection between stability in land tenure and stability in the cultural and religious development of local communities. Typically, the rural church in an area of heavy farm tenancy has a shifting population, only a comparatively few of whom are associated with the church. Such areas are also generally characterized by considerable rural poverty, run-down land, and little community purpose. But the rural churches have endured and have grown for the most part in areas in which land tenure is stable.
The Southern agricultural picture generally is one in which the one-year lease is the rule rather than the exception. Hence, a tenant who is ambitious and industrious and applies himself to the best method he knows on the land he is tending may find that next year he has to move, to begin again the same process somewhere else. It is indeed understandable that under such a system, even the best tenant loses his ambition to improve land for his successor to capitalize upon. Nearly every other civilized Western country has, many decades ago, departed from a renting or leasing system of this kind and has required by law the use of a long-term agricultural lease with strict clauses for compensation for … improvements and provision for arbitration in disputes between landlord and tenant as to the values of improvements involved.
It would be well for the land and the people and the churches of the rural South if some such leasing system became customary. It is all the more needed in recent years as the South has moved rapidly from cotton to cows, for nobody can wisely go into the cattle business on an annual unwritten lease. The problem is one that eventually comes back to education of both landlord and tenant, and perhaps the public as well, and this is a problem that churches could and should attack wherever their parishes are suffering from the weakness of a transient, unstable population. They could well do it for their own selfish interest as well as for the unselfishness that would be involved in knowing that they had contributed to the general well being of a class of people that are on the bottom rungs of our socioeconomic ladder.
An item coming to notice the other day from one Joe College seems worth passing on to you. It goes something like this: “In this age of servile conformity and anxiety to be acceptable to the stereotype currently demanded by the conformists, the great need is for college students who are maladjusted. If there is anything duller than a well-adjusted individual it must be the average movie or TV program.” And try as he might, your reporter could think of no comment that would improve upon that statement.
A tract distributed by a Catholic agency says that brotherhood cannot be realized until all people are Catholics. The communist religion holds that brotherhood cannot be realized until all people are communists. Both these are puny conceptions of brotherhood. Brotherhood includes all people of no religions and no religion, people of all politics or no politics – in short, the whole human race. Any other conception divides the world into pharisees and publicans, and it is highly doubtful if you can find any individual who admits that he wants to be either one.
At times, comments have been made that amounted virtually to questions, about the emphasis which this program has consistently given to the subject of civil rights, especially as these pertain to minorities. I have been at times surprised at these comments, for I had, naively it would seem, taken it for granted that everyone looked upon the importance of civil rights as axiomatic which needed no proof or explanation. A brief answer to this is an anonymous quotation which goes something like this: “It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself to resist invasions of it in the case of others.” And to that, might be added, “not only liberty of conscience, but every other kind of liberty.”
In a democracy it is important to protect minorities. Most majorities can take care of themselves. The history of religion, of governments, we might say the history of the world, has been the tyranny of majorities over minorities. A democracy, to be a democracy, must protect the right of a minority to teach, preach, publish, educate, agitate, and propagandize freely in the attempt to transform itself into a majority.
In a democracy there should be no second-class citizens. Such rights and privileges as the state can confer upon its citizens, should be the rights and privileges of all citizens: the right to sell services in every market; to move about at will; to purchase goods, land, houses, services on an equal basis; to enjoy all public facilities as parks, swimming pools theaters, hotels, restaurants, schools, and transportation without discrimination. Democracy demands political, economic, and professional equality. It demands no discrimination on any basis of race, former nationality, political preference, religion, or color of skin, or ideas.
As for civil rights generally, sometimes it would appear that we have become so frightened lest we lose our liberties that we have well-nigh abolished them. In the name of defending democracy, we have denied its principles. One by one we have seen assaults upon our democracy, not by a foreign power, but by the people we ourselves have elected. In the main, the pulpit has been silent. The true patriot has been dumb. And the schools have cravenly acquiesced in inquires and procedures that would do violence to every principle for which the schools should stand, including that of intellectual freedom and independence. The courts have often tweedle-deeded a little on the treble and toodle-doodled on the bass. The opposition party has cried “Me, too.”
There is no doubt that there is danger among us – danger to the freedoms that have been traditional with us as a people; danger from the communists, but also danger from the fascists and the professional anti-communists. Many of us think the danger has been over-exaggerated, though admitting its existence. Thus far I have seen no evidence that any nation intends to attack us, but to bait Russia has become a national pastime. Worse, one who tries to understand Russia is looked upon with suspicion. Some politicians have found it easy and cheap (cheap in more ways than one) to ride into office on red hysteria, conveniently ignoring the basic social and economic as well as political problems that beset us. The notion that this country will become communist is ludicrous. The Communist Party has never elected a single person to the House or to the Senate, and I for one hope it never does. No party in any country at any time is as cordially hated and discredited as that of the communists.
There is no question that a government has a right to take lawful steps to preserve the nation. All of us agree to that. If there are state or military secrets that are stolen or passed on to nations or people who are not entitled to them, those who do these things when found guilty should be punished. But they should be tried in a court of law by due process, and their rights as accused protected. In our republic there should be no Star Chamber councils, no congressional vigilantes, no evidence by professional informers, no wire-tapping, no trial by secret documents, no protected perjurers, no trial by slander. All citizens should be safe in their persons, papers, houses, and property. Only courts should try accused persons.
All of these things are simply the foundation stones of the American way; they represent the best that has gone into American thoughtways and folkways. They apply to all alike: the mightiest as well as the lowliest. It was one who Himself constituted a minority, who refused to conform to the hysteria of his time, who found himself tried, convicted, and sentenced by a paid informer, upon evidence given by perjured witnesses, under a misapplication of the law. It was He who said “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
America cannot afford to forget or to ignore these things, for upon them rest our freedom to worship as we please, and this is one and only one of all the other freedoms to which we as a people have dedicated ourselves as a nation. These are a few of the reasons the subjects of civil rights and minorities are stressed by this reporter, for he believes devoutly in them and is sure that if these are taken away, the real American way of life will disappear with them.
Senator Long of Louisiana recently said in connection with the Far Eastern situation, “The best way for us to save face over Quemoy and Matsu is not to get our face in Quemoy and Matsu.”