Religious leaders are gravely concerned over the spreading use of tranquilizing pills. The director of the Academy of Religion and Mental Health, the Rev. George Anderson, calls the problem a new aspect of the age-old subject of morals and medicine. What seems most disturbing to ministers is this question: Are people employing drugs to dull conscience and shun realities, to avoid what he calls the God-ordained crucibles that forge character and spiritual strength? The Rev. Dr. John Thomas, who heads the American Baptist Council on Christian Social Progress, stated emphatically, “You can’t overcome the tests and problems of life by trying to find a way out of them through drugs.” Clergymen concede that under careful medical controls, tranquilizing pills can be helpful in the treatment of cases involving serious emotional illness or exaggerated anxieties. But they point to the increasing volume of sales of the so-called “peace” pills throughout the nation. Churchmen fear the pills are often used to deaden sensitivities and stifle responses necessary for inner growth. Another commentary on the situation is that by the Rev. Charles McManus of New York’s Roman Catholic Chancery Office. He says that when rashly used, the pills could become a means for a person to suppress feelings that, in his words, “have a providential purpose in his life.” Father McManus adds, “It is something less than following Christ when we try to duck all anxiety. He promised a cross to all. But there will always be those who shrink from it.”
Says Rabbi Dr. Robert Gordis of New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary, “Whenever these tranquilizers are used to the excessive point of blunting man’s conscience or awareness, it runs contrary to religious teachings.” And the only comment that this reporter has is that when the divines have rushed in, he fears to make any tread of his own.
Although details are yet to be announced, the U.S. Post Office Department soon will issue a special commemorative stamp honoring religious freedom in America. Postmaster General Summerfield discloses that the 3-cent stamp will be sold first at the Flushing, Long Island, New York, post office December 27. It will mark the 300th anniversary of the signing of the Remonstrance, a protest by Flushing citizens against a law imposed by Governor Peter Stuyvesant. The Stuyvesant edict was regarded by those early Flushingites as violating the principles of religious freedom.
And over in the neighboring city of Elizabethton this week, the Watauga Baptist Association deplored the wearing of shorts by both men and women on the streets of cities in Upper East Tennessee. The resolution finally adopted declared that “We believe this practice to be below the moral standards of teachings of the Bible and Christianity.” Well, without casting any suspicion or doubt as to the sincerity of those resoluting on the matter, if they are going to be literal about this thing, let’s employ historians to prescribe as accurate as possible replica models of the costumes worn by Hebrews during Biblical times and then all of us proceed to tog ourselves accordingly. On such matters as this, it is very difficult for this reporter to decide whether immorality is in the object or in the minds of those viewing that object. All of us, theoretically at least, are, like Cal Coolidge’s preacher, against sin, but we just don’t agree on what it is. Anyway, winter is acomin on and we will be more concerned in the months ahead with the long rather than the short of it in wearing apparel.
The problem of racial integration was one of many discussed this week by the Oklahoma Synod of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. At its meeting in Oklahoma City, the synod asked each church in its jurisdiction to report on progress toward eventual elimination of racial lines within the church. Also approved was a resolution urging support of President Eisenhower’s action in the continuing Little Rock school integration controversy. The resolution, however, deplored what it called “the necessity” for calling out federal troops. Worthwhile to note is that both resolutions were drawn up by William Einsfield [Enfield?] of Bentonville, Arkansas, a laymen and attorney. Little Rock and Western Arkansas are part of the Oklahoma Synod.
And on the subject of Little Rock, integration, and religious attitudes and practices, an event occurred yesterday in that city and more or less throughout the state that indicates how illogical we approach the relationship between our own shortcomings and religious belief, if there is any such relationship. Anyway, yesterday 85 churches and synagogues in Little Rock held services to pray for the end of integration troubles at Central High School. At these services, Negroes and whites, Protestants, Catholics, and Jews implored the deity to do something about the mess things are in there.
However, 24 Baptist churches, segregationist-minded, held their meetings separate and asked for divine approval of a plan to keep segregation. The Rev. M.L. Moser, Jr., of the Berean Baptist Church of North Little Rock, conducted the meeting and intoned a prayer that included, “We pray that our national leaders might follow constitutional law and remove federal troops, rather than follow political expediency … We thank thee … especially for Gov. Orval Faubus. We feel that he has been raised up for just this hour…” There is more, but these will suffice to indicate the general trend of this group.
Other church groups prayed for “forgiveness for having left undone the things we ought to have done; the support and preservation of law and order; the support of our leaders, community, state, and nation; the casting out of rancor and prejudice in favor of understanding and compassion…” Again, this will suffice.
But let us look at what we have in what is to some of us a ridiculous performance. It is not much different, if any, from the Greek and Roman concept that the gods actually step down and interfere in the affairs of man. Read Homer’s Iliad about the Trojan War for an example.
Moreover, here we have segregationists and those who would uphold law and order praying to God for him to step in and settle matters. But their supplications are conflicting, and it is impossible to see how the deity could answer yes or no to both requests. And one can observe without sacrilegious thoughts that to do so would require an advanced case of schizophrenia. Far be it from this reporter to arrogate to himself any assumed right to suggest what the divine thinks of such things. We not only put God in the middle, but we also use Him and our supplications to Him as something of an escape from facing the realities of a problem that only we can solve. And this is certainly said without any disparagement intended toward either the virtue of praying of the efficacy of prayer.
Abraham Lincoln dealt with the same dilemma when, during the Civil War, and in his second inaugural address, he said of the North and South, “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other.” And here I paraphrase to suit the present occasion, “It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in denying to their fellow men a right that is theirs by nature’s God and by the laws of the land.” But, Lincoln goes on, “The prayers of both could be answered …” but “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
But of course the Little Rock performance is in complete accord with the Graham-Peale-Sheen philosophy, if it can be so dignified, and they are making millions on such stuff.
Last Sunday I devoted a portion of the program to introducing the fact that a state-wide educational survey is about to be completed, that during the months ahead Tennesseans are going to be required to make fundamental decisions regarding education in the state, and that these decisions are important, not only for secular education, but also for the perpetuation of our ways of freedom, including that of religion. Today, I should like to pursue that a little further, insofar as time will permit.
Crowded classrooms, increasing enrollments, insufficient staff of qualified teachers, inadequate income to support education – there are the basic ingredients of the problem. And over it all is the fact that Tennessee is passing out of the agrarian society stage into one that is increasingly urban and industrial, and this fact calls for not only enriched, but much more highly diversified types of educational training. Already we have heard that “vocational schools” are the answer; consolidation is the answer; merit ratings for teachers (a vicious proposal to which I shall give attention later) [is the answer]. And countless other panaceas have been or will be proposed as the answer. Disconcertingly little is being said about some basic, fundamental considerations. All the above are merely twaddling with educational problems, not the real problems of education.
The simple fact is that business, and by that I mean employers of all kinds, is reaching out more and more for people with broad training, people deeply infused with the ideas that can come only from a sound liberal education program, and with ideas that arise out of association with great minds. By this I do not mean only learning for learning’s sake (though I know of nothing intrinsically wrong about that) but education to attain the mind to think, to reason, to explore, and above all to continue to educate itself so that there will be created a well of knowledge from which to draw not only inspiration but the technique of performance and production.
It must be kept in mind that the years of youth allotted to man are short, and that they should be filled with wholesome and lasting experiences – and these can be provided only by capable teachers devoted to the task of real education.
A liberal education is not the mere ghostly shadow of things that some persons imagine it to be; it is real and substantial. No matter how glorified the science may be or how practical the technology, it needs an arterial connection with basic education if it is to live. As I mentioned last time, engineers, scientists, and other technicians in this age should have a grasp of the humanities grounded in the liberal arts as well as the techniques of their profession.
We are misguided if we think of one curriculum as being suitable to prepare men to be leaders, and of another to be suitable for specialists in techniques who are to be the servants of the policy makers. Yet, some will clamor for a public service sort of institution, poking into the whole range of practical activity, carrying out industrial research, turning out materialistic technicians, testing guided missiles and missing the guidance of intellectual development. To such people an education is a sort of union card (and I belong to a union). The fact is that the course of our technological development has been such that increasingly grave social responsibilities are falling upon the shoulders of men who are only technically trained. There is more than considerable reason in education today to discourage specialization which is designed only to enable the student to take his place in a given industry with a minimum of delay. The necessary factual information, in most cases, can be picked up on the job. What is wanted, certainly above the high school level, is training in basic principles. There is no reason why the specialist should not also be an informed and cultivated citizen.
Higher education will suffer an irreparable loss if it ceases to educate the mind of man and not merely his fingers for handling gadgets and his eye for reading charts and his mental capacity for interpreting blueprints and slide rules. It is sad, not only for the man, but it is tragic for society when the technically trained man comes along in his vocation to the point where he is called upon to make plans, to direct the work of men, and to put into words the visions he sees of improvements and advancements in his craft – only to discover that he has neither the background nor the faculty to do so. He cannot relate the past to the present; he cannot draw the most in effort and interest of men; he cannot express in a constructive and telling way the great thoughts that are, or should be, in him.
Our colleges and universities are, for the most part, free institutions in that they affirm the worth and dignity of the individual, which is the fundamental concept of true democracy. A university or college is not, or should not be, a class nursery, but the resort of young men and women of all races, classes, and creeds who seek what these institutions have to offer. To the traditions of all the peoples of the ancient world, reaching back to Greek and Romans, we have added the cultural heritage of Western Europe and many others. These rich experiences in the arts, and talents and science, have become part of the resources of our institutions of higher learning. These institutions are not planned on the outskirts of life, but are or should be pursuing broad and important objectives in everyday affairs. Higher education is part of our general culture, producing well-educated people who in the words of the director of extension of the University of Montreal, “whatever may be their language, race, or religion, will be excellent citizens.”
America – and this includes Tennessee – and for the time being at least, Arkansas – has the resources with which to build an educational system that will in turn develop a greater civilization than we have had in the past. Such an education should provide for development of individual excellence, physically, mentally, and morally. It should cause these individuals to wish to develop a society of equals; to perpetuate and improve such a government of and for free men; to seek the development and maintenance of an economy of security and plenty; to promote a civilization of beauty (billboard advocates take notice); and it should make them capable of and desiring to develop an enduring civilization in a world community.
Time has forced me here to deal in what seem to be basic generalities, underlying the development of any program of education suited today’s world. However, if these things be sound, think upon them, for you are going to have to make some important decisions on the subject soon.