One of the things we need to remind ourselves with respect to religion is that the central figure of Christianity, Jesus, probably did not mean to found a new religion. Christianity began as a Jewish sect. Jesus lived and died in the Jewish faith. Probably he was an ethical teacher of the order of prophets like Amos, Micah, and others. We can appreciate the contribution that Judaism made to Christianity and the philosophy of religion in general when we consider the historical and philosophical framework out of which Christianity arose. Our debt to Judaism is great, and we should not forget its significance.
One of the interesting, if necessarily unfortunate, comments, about our newspapers is the avidity with which they assisted Joe McCarthy smear people who had not been convicted of disloyalty to the country. Newspapers brought him to cities, feted him, and made something of a hero out of his professed efforts to save the country. Now that he is in the doghouse, those same papers join in lambasting him. Perhaps this is one of the ironies of human nature. The biographies of the great and good show how seldom they go to the defense of the unpopular – Ingersoll, Atgeld, Darrow, and Debs are some examples that come to mind.
Turning from these liberals to the question of liberalism itself, it might be pertinent to point out that the heart of liberalism is revolt against finality. The heart of scholarship is critical analysis…. Some soft heads call this tearing down religion, the social order, or whatever it is that is being criticized at the moment. Not only should we scrutinize the religious claims of the past and of current propositions, propositions put out to win friends and influence people, but we should also contentiously reexamine the parts and points of our own religion in the light of more information and further contemplation. I am well aware that historically this has been called heresy. But a heretic is not necessarily an unreligious or an irreligious person; he may be merely a skeptic seeking light, the light of truth.
In religion, liberals hold that all relations between men should be ideally based on free consent, not coercion. With whatever intelligence they have, men should in loving concern join freely with others in searching for the truth, more effectively to meet the problems of everyday life and to make their positive contribution to the common good. To do this is not always easy. Sometimes it is indeed very hard to stand up for what one is convinced to be right – to take the course of action one knows he ought to pursue, especially when it runs counter to the mood of the crowd.
Being a Methodist myself, I may be excused for insisting that the church should be a democratic institution – of, by, though not entirely for, the congregation. The congregation consists of those who, as legal members may cast their votes in matters pertaining to the church. In order to participate, then, in the corporate thinking and action of the church, those seeking membership pledge themselves to the code and creed of that church, and through doing so should increase their personal satisfaction and greater usefulness to themselves and to the community.
In essence, then, liberalism is not that “God’s in this heaven and all’s right with the world,” nor that “It doesn’t matter what one thinks,” or that “Everyone is right.” Such attitudes reveal flabby thinking and feeling. However, the essence of liberalism is, in a sense a revolt, a revolt against the unfairnesses and social injustices of the time, or whatever time. It is a passion for truth and justice.
Something that is unique is happening up in Massachusetts. There controversy over a so-called crime commission has been moving forward for sometime. This controversy has so aroused public interest that it would appear it is going to be established with adequate funds to support its activities. However, it is reported that the underworld has on deposit in a Boston bank $200 million to battle any probe the commission may start. If these alleged facts are true, they illustrate well how easy it is to secure funds from entrenched interests, interests that are inimical to the welfare of the public.
The following is admittedly abstracted from an editorial appearing in The Spectator, a prominent newspaper in London. It sets forth succinctly some aspects of the world picture that are sober and thought-provoking. It says, “A sober man might be forgiven for letting the peals of boyish laughter from Marshal Bulganin’s diplomatic parties go in one ear and out the other. Not that there is any reason to grudge the Russians their newfound affability … but it would be a thousand pities if people here in America mistook manner for matter and began to believe that our troubles are over.… The situation today is precisely as it was before Geneva. Russia has given away nothing but a few merry parties and appropriately jolly words. Nor is there any sign that Russia will be likely to make any concessions when the hard bargaining begins at the foreign ministers’ conference. This is the point at which, before we sun ourselves into forgetfulness, we should recall that the entire system in which Eastern Europe lies frozen is contrary both to the general principles which must inform the policies of the West and to the Yalta and Potsdam agreements and the various peace treaties. The democratic parties are suppressed. Their leaders are in exile, in prison, or dead. Anybody suspected of sympathy with their forbidden ideals does not long remain at liberty.”
And, The Spectator concludes, “The aim of the West is to see Russia back behind the frontiers of 1939, and the peoples of Eastern Europe freed from the yoke that presses so tyrannically down upon them. The aim of Russia is to radiate peace ever more intensely while not budging an inch, yielding nothing, making no concessions. That is what the new diplomacy is about, and the West is in for a nasty shock if it permits itself to imagine that there will be anything easy or friendly about the coming negotiations.”
Well there it is. What do you think of the editor’s summation of the situation?
This next item is one which, as you might suspect, I view with some perturbation, for if it should work out, teachers might be replaced by that process we might call automation, though that is hardly the word – TV is the one.
It points out that researchers at Pennsylvania State University report that television can be a cheap and practical means of overcoming teacher shortages in colleges and universities. They found that students, when measured by objective achievement tests, measured up to scores made by students actually in the classroom. Dr. C.R. Carpenter, who directed the project under the sponsorship of The Fund for Advancement of Education, says, “The system has great promise as one means of meeting the critical problem of rapidly expanding college enrollments.” This feature of expense received primary consideration from Dr. Carpenter and his assistants. If television proved costly, its usefulness as an educational medium would be harmed.
In actual practice, lectures were given to more than 360 students in general chemistry, general psychology, and psychology of marriage. Laboratory work and recitations were conducted in the usual manner. Reported comparison of results showed no differences in informational learning between students taking the TV courses and those taking the standard courses.
Understandably enough, while the students generally approved of televised lectures, faculty members were not so quick to accept it, demanding more proof of the feasibility of the project. In summing up faculty reaction, Dr. Carpenter said, “Faculty personnel, as a whole, have yet to be convinced of the effectiveness and acceptability of the plan.” To which this reporter can only comment, “Humph!”