A short time ago another radio program dealing with religion used as its theme question one which is of much concern to religious people of all faiths today, namely, should the church concern itself only with making individuals better and stay out of the realm of social action? In other and perhaps simpler words: Is not the main job of the church to save souls and not to concern itself with social and economic matters affecting its members? This is a fundamental question that has caused differences of opinion among church people. It seems worthy of some consideration here.
Virtually all of us would agree that the individual has a right to expect from his church personal help and comfort and inspiration and guidance in his personal life. Whatever else the church should stand for, it must never neglect this primary task of ministering to individuals.
But many people, an increasing number of people, are convinced that the church has a further obligation to hold up before men those principles which should govern a righteous society, and that the church must call attention to gross abuses of human dignity and gross failure to meet human needs wherever they exist in our society. If a family with no roof over its head was going to have to stay out in the cold, and you had an opportunity to put them up or to find them shelter, undoubtedly you would consider it your Christian duty to do so.
But, if we are concerned about a family without a roof over its head, should we not also be concerned about many families who find it impossible to secure adequate shelter and do whatever we could to secure for them, through private resources if possible – if not, through public resources – low-cost housing that will enable us, working as members of society, to see that the less fortunate among us be removed from the degrading situation of having to live in hovels or to beg for a night’s lodging?
But housing is not the only matter affecting the well-being of human beings in our world. We subscribe to the idea that every human being, regardless of race or other artificial distinction, is a child of God and as such has inherent dignity that should be recognized and respected at all times. If, then, we really believe this, do we not have an obligation to speak out when that dignity is being trampled upon by those who have no regard for human personality and who destroy the reputations of innocent people by accusation and insinuations?
One could go on almost indefinitely citing areas of human living which the Christian cannot ignore if he is interested in putting the principles of his faith into practice to the end of making the health, economic, moral, and spiritual conditions under which people live more conducive to human happiness and well-being. We cannot overlook the fact that the Master himself spent much of His time on Earth ministering to the physical and social and economic needs of human beings, as well as to the purely spiritual. He healed the sick, comforted the troubled, fed the hungry, and spoke out against abuses of his day. His example cannot be improved upon.
A United Press dispatch from New York raises a question in connection with this concern about social problems. American Protestant leaders are said to be concerned over a papal statement that the authority of the Roman Catholic Church is not limited to purely religious matters.
Dr. Claud Nelson, executive director of the Department of Religious Liberty of the National Council of Churches of Christ, says Protestant leaders are studying implications of the statement.
Pope Pius XII recently said social problems are not outside the authority of the church because they are of concern to the conscience and salvation of man.
It would seem that the Protestant concern arises of the use of the word “authority,” a word about which we Protestants are very sensitive when applied to control by the church over temporal matters. We generally agree that churches should be “concerned about” such matters, but to suggest that they “have control over” them is another matter. Details regarding the papal statement are meager, and it would be hazardous and perhaps unfair to draw conclusions until more is known as to his meaning.
Atlanta: The Congregational Christian Churches will deny endorsement by the church of Piedmont College until it purges itself of a controversial endorsement by the Texas Educational Association. This college is a relatively small church school in mountainous north Georgia. It has been accepting donations from the Texas association, upon the condition that the college include among its elements of instruction the doctrine of white supremacy. A spokesman for the Southeast Convention of the Congregational Christian Churches says the college will be dropped from sponsorship by the church until it rejects further such donations and, presumably, drops also its emphasis on racial supremacy. Americans of all faiths who believe in the Constitution will applaud this action, for neither the Constitution nor Christianity concedes that one race is superior to another; both affirmatively oppose such a misconception.
The National Council of Churches of Christ is joining with the Japan National Christian Council to give United States troops in Japan opportunity for a more wholesome recreational environment. The American Council says that soldier recreation in Japan, Okinawa, and Korea is limited almost completely to such places as cabarets, burlesque houses, and taverns. The council, which includes 35 major United States Protestant denominations plans, with its Japanese counterpart, to provide not only a more wholesome environment for American troops in Japan but also hopes to improve and restore good Japanese-American relations at the same time. Its plans include the raising of funds to provide off-base recreational centers. The United States General Commission of Chaplains will cooperate in directing the project.
Dr. Price, Chairman of the General Committee of the Friends of Presbyterian Union, is confident that a large majority of his organization will approve his work which seeks to unite the three Presbyterian bodies into a single church. His committee is an agency of a Southern regional group. This group will vote on union in January of next year. Ratification requires an approving majority of three-fourths of the members, or 63 of the 85 Presbyteries. Some groups who are against the union have already voted, for what some churchmen describe as a psychological effect.
One of the oldest Church of England practices has been challenged during the past week; that is, the historic right of the prime minister to appoint bishops of the church with the consent of the queen.
Bishops, rectors, and laymen adopted a resolution at the Annual Church Assembly this week challenging the right of the head of government to make such appointments. Dr. Cyril Garrett, archbishop of York, said: “The present method of appointing bishops and deans is impossible to defend on principles.”
In contrast to the above-cited movement toward unity among the divisions of the Presbyterian Church, the Wisconsin Synod of the Lutheran Church has opposed common prayer sessions held with other groups and denominations. It has also taken a stand against church sponsorship of secular groups, mentioning Boy Scout troops as an instance of the kind of groups it had in mind.
An item of importance, and one of interest to the friends of one of America’s staunchest friends in the United Nations has just been announced. This is the appointment of Ambassador Charles Malik of Lebanon to the board of advisers of a new program of Advanced Religious Studies at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. This program is to start early in the coming year. Dr. Malik’s name is similar to and has often been confused with that of Jacob Malek of Russia, who has likewise been a national representative of the United Nations. No two men could be more different, for the Lebanese Malik is a Christian and a good friend of the West, while the Russian Malek is a communist and quite naturally is a friend only to Russia and Russian interests.
One of the imponderable questions that continually intrudes itself upon the interest of thinking people is the nature of the human being. With some of the simplicity that the ancient philosophers viewed matter, the Rev. George H. Murphy believes contemporary life is made of mind, body, and soul. At Western Maryland College he majored in biology and anatomy to learn, he says, about the body. At divinity school in Philadelphia, he studied the ways of the soul. He learned something about the mind at the graduate school of Temple University through courses in mental hygiene.
By the time he was ordained in the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1945, he had concluded the three components of life were indivisible. His pastorate has been a search to link the three, for he says, no man of God in the world today can be a specialist. At pastorates in Wilmington, Delaware, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia, he did not find the synthesis he sought, although he did score something of a personal triumph in Georgia by converting one of the town’s intellectuals, Ralph McGill, editor of The Atlanta Constitution. His belief in and emphasis upon the indivisibility of these three components, mind, body, and soul may well be studied by those among us who conceive the role of the church simply to minster to the spiritual aspects of the individual, without regard to the mental and physical conditions under which that individual lives.
The National Council of Churches of Christ will launch nationwide Thanksgiving services this week with an observance on Washington Cathedral in the nation’s capital.
The aim will be something more than merely giving thanks. The council points the services to the Share-Our-Surplus program of Protestant denominations through Church World Service. At least a half billion pounds of surplus foods are to be distributed free to needy persons in foreign lands through the three-year Share-Our-Surplus appeal.
The executive director-elect of Church World Service, the Rev. R. Norris Wilson, says this week’s services will show millions of Americans demonstrating brotherhood with all humanity by sharing the material abundance with which they have been endowed by Providence.
One more consideration regarding this season of Thanksgiving –
It is quite easy to develop a spirit of Thanksgiving for one day. Often, though, when our Thanksgiving is limited to one day or one short season, our thanks are for material things. The aim, however, is that we make the spirit of Thanksgiving a normal, practical attitude of our everyday living, being aware of its relation to development of character. This is both a task and an opportunity.