This item is sort of posthumous, but it did not get on the wire in time to be included on last week’s broadcast. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of last week, two teachers’ organizations met in Knoxville, Tennessee. The white group, which calls itself the E.T.E.A., met at the University; while not far away, the colored teachers, the East Tennessee Teachers’ Association, met at the Austin High School. It is somewhat an anachronism that there should be continued two groups, meeting separately, based on race.
However, the irony becomes greater when one looks into the matters about which the two groups were concerned. A Dr. William F. Robinson, professor of sociology at Central State College in Ohio, told the colored teachers that the only way that further integration could be brought about was by continued efforts through the courts.
In its closing session, the white association passed a number of resolutions, among them being, and I quote, “…to dedicate ourselves…to the task of improving our own understanding of American democratic principles and their advantages over conflicting principles of life and government.” Apparently no conflicting principles occurred to them regarding the racial separation of colleagues at Austin, who are just as interested in promoting education in Tennessee as is the white group.
All this brings to mind the case of the old Scottish elder, who was faithful in church attendance but the cause of a great deal of trouble among the members. He told his pastor one day that he was going to pay a visit to the Holy Land. “And when I get there,” he said with great enthusiasm, “I’m going to climb Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments from the top of it.” “I can tell you something better to do,” his pastor said, “Stay home and keep them.”
What has come to be known in our time as the “Social Gospel” is something that many, perhaps most, Christian people today take for granted. We see the gospel not only as a means of securing reconciliation with the deity, but also as a means of transforming conditions of human life. The Christian ideal is not simply a new heaven; it is also a new earth.
While it is not to be denied that the church from the beginning was a social force, it has taken a long time for it to become the continuing, positive force for reform that it is today in many instances. In the Middle Ages, e.g., the church had great political and economic power, and it used that power to further its own organizational ends rather than the welfare of needy individuals.
But almost from the beginning there was some emphasis upon the social gospel by the church. It early exerted an influence on legislation, on the treatment of slaves, on the treatment of prisoners of war, on the treatment of women and children, on provision for the treatment of the sick and aged. Wycliffe’s Bible and the poor priests known as Lollards, carried the biblical message up and down the country, and historians are agreed that these did much to help and prepare England not only for the Reformation but also for improvement in the lot of the barest level of subsistence. They heard little from their priests to lead them to suppose that they were entitled to a better life. But as they listened to Wycliffe’s Lollards and to the reading of the Bible in their own tongue, something began to stir in their souls and they realized that they did not have to die and go to heaven before they could know a brighter lot. And thus it went, from country to country, as the Reformation swept across Europe. French, Germans, and others came to realize that religion was not necessarily a procedure for enduring hardships here in order to escape them in some hereafter, but a positive doctrine that realized that and advocated the good life for men here and now, as well as afterward.
There are some groups today who frown upon the advocacy by the church of a social gospel. To such people, religion is something abstract from or a segmented, compartmentalized portion of life. Such groups fail to catch perhaps the most important aspect of religion, for while there is no intent to disparage emphasis upon religion as a preparation for eternity, it is more than likely, it is fairly certain, that people who see that through religion, a happier, more plentiful life is possible, will also wish the more ardently to influence others to accept it also.
Two days from now, some 90 million Americans will have an opportunity to perform the most important duty of citizenship – go to the polls and vote for the candidates of their choice for national, state, and in some cases, local candidates. At the national level we shall be choosing the men who will guide the destiny of this country for the next four years. Unfortunately, it is estimated that only a maximum of 60 percent of those who could vote will do so. This discrepancy between the possible and the actual number of voters makes it all the more necessary that those of us who do vote do so with extreme discrimination and with all the information at our command.
Voting is a moral as well as a civic obligation, for government is the institution that regulates in some way all the others. It may step in and regulate the family, religion (e.g., laws preventing the disturbing of public worship); it may and does regulate our economic system, education, and all the other basic social institutions. What it does or fails to do has daily tremendous impact upon the lives of not only all of us, but as we have seen, the lives of people around the world.
The tumult and the shouting are about over. Propagandists, distortioners, exaggerators, as well as the straightforward, objective campaigners have about had their say. We, the voters, have been subjected to a barrage of oratory that tells us that salvation is here; another says it is there. Our task is to evaluate all that has been said in the light of the record – or lack of it – and to determine within our own minds and hearts what is the best for us as a people and also what will be best for the world. What is good for the American people will surely be good for the rest of the free world, for in the long run, our destiny is inextricably interwoven with theirs. Otherwise, freedom will perish from the earth.
So it is that when next Tuesday, you and I enter the ballot booth, the hysteria of the campaign will be over. There, in the quietness of that small structure, we shall do something that very few people in the world can do – vote to perpetuate the present government or vote to throw it out and to institute a new government based on those principles which to us shall seem most likely to effect our safety and happiness. We are the final arbiters, the final judges, and however the outcome, the defeated candidates, whether at national, state, or local levels, will not dare dissent from our verdict. So it is we who are sovereign, not a Hitler, a Khrushchev, or an Eisenhower.
This is the American way, and it will stay that way only as long as you and I exercise the ballot conscientiously and wisely. It is a solemn responsibility as well as a valued privilege. We cannot fail, for if we do democracy fails, and with it all the rights and responsibilities of democracy. Presidents, governors, and magistrates of all kinds will not fail unless we do. What are you going to do about it?
An encyclical letter by Pope Pius XII has taken note of two world-shaking events. The pontiff expressed joy for the release of Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski of Poland and Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary. But he asked prayers for the Holy Land and the Middle East. The pope writes of hope that recent events in Hungary and Poland might be a sign of peaceful reordering of the two nations. Yet, he adds, a fearful situation presents itself in the Middle East. The pontiff writes that it is not far from the Holy Land where the angels, flying over the cradle of the divine infant, announced peace to men of good will. He asks that he be joined in prayer for peace and order among the nations. The pope asserted that when men, moved by desire for a true peace, unite to deal with such grave problems, they must without doubt feel impelled to choose the way of justice and not that of adventure on the steep cliff of violence.
Budapest church bells pealed a welcome this week for Cardinal Mindszenty when he entered the Hungarian capital a free man for the first time in seven years. In 1949, a Red court condemned him to prison for life as a traitor. The cardinal blessed the throngs hailing his arrival. Women were kneeling in the streets. Men had their heads bare. And many persons crossed themselves and wept. At a news conference Friday, Mindszenty asked Western political support for the new anti-Russian Hungarian regime. He added that he wants personally to report many things to Pope Pius. Earlier this month, the Protestant world welcomed the release of another famed Hungarian figure. That was the Right Rev. Lajos Ordas, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. He had been imprisoned in 1948 on conviction of illegal currency dealings. Bishop Ordas was declared innocent three weeks ago. But he was not reinstated in his church duties at once. Instead, he was named professor of theology in Budapest’s Lutheran Academy.
Poland’s Roman Catholic primate early this week called on that nation to approach her problems maturely. On his first public appearance since release from house arrest, Cardinal Wyszynski asked for no demonstrations and no disorders. He had been arrested in 1953, and was said to have been released from prison last year. Now, he too, has been restored to his ecclesiastical position.
Delegates for 3,000 U.S. Orthodox synagogues have passed political and spiritual resolutions at their meeting in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The convention of Orthodox Jewish Synagogues of America has expressed deepest concern and anxiety about radioactive dust from H-bomb tests. It declares, “The preservation and sanctification of human life is a prime mandate from the Divine.” The delegates also asked the U.S. Defense Department to make available to Jewish servicemen kosher foods similar in quality and caloric value to regular rations. And they want the U.S. to sever relations with any Arab nation that fails to halt what the convention terms discriminations against U.S. citizens. The Orthodox Jews also backed their National Executive Committee in a test case to maintain separation of men and women worshipers. This refers to a group in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, synagogue that seeks a court order prohibiting mixed seating as proposed by another group within the synagogue.
Efforts from 48 Protestant and two Eastern Orthodox Church bodies disclose that Americans gave their churches more than ever in 1955. The National Council of Churches says offerings to the 50 groups totaled more than $1.75 billion. For the approximate 49 million members thus represented, this meant a per capita increase of 8 percent. The per person contributions rose from $49.95 in 1954 to $53.94 in 1955, a new high. The highest per member giving was in the Free Methodist Church: $193.45.
Two congregations of the different Lutheran denominations are going to merge, even if their parent bodies do not. Union is scheduled this winter for a parish of the American Lutheran Church and a congregation of the United Lutheran Church, in Norwich, Connecticut. A campaign for a building fund for the merged churches has resulted in pledges of more that $122,000. Additional funds will come from sale of presently-held properties. But the congregations will not worship together until the new church is completed. The national bodies of the United and American Lutheran Churches are due to start considering merger at talks in Chicago in mid-December.