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Kansas City today as they were in the simple life of Nazareth or Jerusalem twenty centuries ago. Christ did not have a definite social program; if he had, it would have been forgotten long ago, for social problems change with the years and the social solutions of Christ's day would have been useless in the Middle Ages and unintelligible today. Even the best program of yesterday may be defective tomorrow. But principles do not die, and the deathless doctrines of Christ have changed the face of the earth. Again and again these principles have healed the nations in the past, they have not lost in truth or vigor, and if applied will heal the wounds of the nations today.
Christianity and Civilization
How has Christianity changed the face of the earth and healed the wounds of the nations? It found society sick and corrupt to the core. The world was filled with the poor, the unfortunate and the slave; it was brutalized by a handful of heartless tyrants, as has been well expressed in the brief phrase of the Roman poet (Lucan) that "The human race lives for the few." Woman, wife, mother, and child, in whom are the substance of the present and the hope of the future, were cheap chattels or vain playthings in the hands of their master, man.
To this world, the church proclaimed the substantial equality of all men, the dignity of labor and even the blessedness of spiritual poverty. She proclaimed the common rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Down through the ages, not with fire and sword, but with the gentleness of inspired words, she bound men into nations by unity and justice, by peace and love. Down through the ages, in spite of passion and power, in spite of thrones and principalities, she has impressed her spirit upon an unwilling world so that it can be said of her in the words of the Psalmist: "All good has come through her hands."
The history of every nation and even the darkest of that history shows that Christianity has been the leaven of the world and that its spirit has found its way even into the ranks of its enemies; unconsciously they have imbibed its spirit, and often what they are pleased to call "humanity" is but the bloom or flower of a Christian root or branch. Whatever is worth while in civilization is linked to Christianity and wherever civilization has failed it has broken that golden bond.
The service of the church to the community has been primarily to protect from the greed of power the rights and the liberties of society. Like her divine founder, she has always through the centuries had compassion on the multitude. The primitive church fought the despotism of pagan emperors and her martyrs sealed with their blood the charter of man's rights. After three hundred years of persecution, the church received these emperors into her bosom, but she bade them respect the rights of her children. When Theodosius became a tyrant, St. Ambrose of Milan drove him from the portals of the church; and when Arcadius betrayed his people, St. Chrysostom of Constantinople exposed him to the world.
When Attilla and his Huns threatened the civilization of the fifth century, it was a pope, Leo the Great, who checked his Vandal hordes. And so down the pages of history we read how Alexander VII defied Barbarossa, and how Gregory VII triumphed over Philip I of France and Henry IV of Germany and vindicated the rights of the people as well as those of the church. Again it was a bishop of the church, Stephen Langton, who inspired the barons of Runnymede to force from King John the Magna Charta, the liberties of England and of the whole world. It was the church that transmitted to us the body of our civil law, habeas corpus, trial by jury and no taxation without the censent of the taxed.
The church again was the defense and the hope of Europe in the struggle against Moslem, and when the infidel invader threatened civilization, it was the triumph of the Cross over the Crescent that again made the world free.
The political influence of the church, though much constrained in modern times, has nevertheless been felt in every age and in every land. Because the White Shepherd of Christendom on the banks of the Tiber, is the natural as well as the God-given arbiter of nations, the nations have recognized him in the past and must recognize him today. Modern governments, even Jean Jacques Rosseau admitted, "owe to Christianity their stability and the escape from frequent revolutions and that by enlightening the minds and softening the manners of nations Christianity has spared them oceans of blood."
And who shall recount the social services of the church? During the wars and upheavals which ravaged Europe century after century, she built every bulwark to defend the weak and the persecuted; she secured the right of sanctuary to the oppressed; she enacted canons against the wanton waste of human life; she instituted the Truce of God, which arrested the cruelties of war during the latter part of each week. Thus was the church ever the champion of the weaker nations and members of society; she stood between the Roman master and his slave; between the feudal baron and his serf, as she stands today between the profiteering capitalist and the exploited wage-earner. To the individual the church has ever been the messenger of mercy and love. From the days of the deacons of the apostolic church to the present hour, the crowning glory of the church has been her charitable and correctional works, her communities, her guilds, her religious orders, her asylums, her hospitals and her schools.
All the world acknowledges the church's contribution to the world of thought and beauty. Her monasteries were the depositaries of the art, the science, and the literature of the ancient world and the creators of the art, the science, and the literature of the new, while her popes and prelates were the constant patrons of education and culture in all their phases.
But the greatest contribution of the church to society has been the millions upon millions of her children, just and high-souled, honest and clean with the love of neighbor in their heart. The greatest of these she has hallowed upon her altars and they are called the Saints of the Church; they might with equal truth be called the Heroes of the State.
The Present Crisis
But what can the church do for the community today? She can do today what she has ever done. At a time when passions are high and excesses are almost natural, she emphasizes anew the rights and the duties of citizen and state. She holds aloft the principles of patriotism for which men are willing to live or to die for country; for which they are willing to suffer and sacrifice for what is right and just. On account of these principles she gives her blessing to a devastating war because it is infinitely better than a degrading peace.
But the best answer of the church's service to the community can be found in her deeds, which speak louder than words. Today she gives her sanction and her support to the holy cause of humanity and world democracy. Through her chaplains she gives morale and the consolations of religion to the men at the front, so that they find it easy to obey and sweet to die for their country. At home she prays for victory and for honorable peace; she holds up the hands of our President and his counselors; she consoles the wives and mothers, who are making the greatest sacrifices of the war; she puts courage into their hearts and hope into their breasts, so that with patience they await the hour of ultimate victory.
Recently our Congress requested the President to recommend a day of public humiliation, prayer and fasting to be observed by all our people with religious solemnity. Accordingly, the President has set aside Memorial Day, the thirtieth of May, as a day on which we are to appease the Almighty, "by fasting, humiliation and by praying that he may forgive our sins and purify our hearts and that we may purpose only what is in conformity with his holy will." This is a mighty national profession of faith, a striking national acknowledgment of the function of the church in the community. If this function is fitting in the critical times of war, is it less fitting in the normal times of peace?
This war has also taught us that the world is often blind to real and true progress. For half a century the whole world, outside of the positive Christian fold, has worshiped at the shrine of German materialism and studied in the school of German thought and method. The philosophy and education of Germany was the last word on these topics and was not subject to dispute. A German degree was an open sesame to a professor's chair in any American or British University for Germania Docet was the accepted shibboleth of the age. German philosophy and German Kultur ridiculed the dominion of God or the influence of the church, because in its self-sufficiency it made science its God and efficiency its religion. But this mattered naught, until the war opened our eyes and we saw that its science was false and its efficiency vain.
The cardinal tenet of Teutonic Kultur is the survival of the fittest— the supreme rule of the superman and the supernation; the elimination of the smaller and weaker individual or nation. This is the very antithesis of Christian law and practice, in which the humble shall be exalted, the proud shall be put down and the meek shall possess the earth.
Principles of the Church in the New Day
The war has also made us search our own hearts, and our sincerest prophets see the handwriting on the wall, and they warn us that much of our economic and social life is foreign to Christian morality. We are being weighed in the balance of the world's crisis and we will be found wanting if we do not mend our ways.
As a nation we must beget a new national conscience, in which the collective interests of all must outweigh at all times the private concern of any one. We must make America first in our thoughts, and first in our deeds; we must make her ideals of justice and equality supreme over everything; supreme over politics and diplomacy, supreme over capital and labor, supreme over native and foreign born, supreme over the white man and the negro.
War is ever a forerunner of changes, and the peace protocol will not solve the social and economic problems that are sure to arise. Here the principles of morality are of the highest moment and to apply them wisely will tax to the utmost both church and state. In the reconstruction after the war, the two greatest dangers will be radicalism and conservatism; the fallacies of the one can not be an excuse for the other; if we would escape the folly of socialism, we must prevent the crimes of capitalism.
Absolute equality among men is a physical impossibility, but equality of opportunity must be made a reality. We must strengthen the ties of the family, regulate the menace of divorce, hold more sacred the life of the child, even the unborn. We must guarantee to each child an education that will fit it to become a self-supporting citizen, and even our adults, ignorant of our language or our spirit, must be sent to school. To the training of mind and body we must add the training of the heart and the will, which make for righteousness and noble living.
In the industrial and commercial world, the gospel of greed, inhuman competition, exploitation, excessive profits, and wastefulness must cease, and the goal of its energies must be the community and not self.
The wage earner must cease to be a mere cog in the industrial machine. The indictment of Leo XIII, that "a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the masses of the poor a yoke little better than slavery itself," must not be renewed. The personal dignity of the laborer must be recognized; he must live—not merely exist; he must receive a just wage, he must work under conditions that are human and in keeping with his aesthetic and moral nature. If this is impossible for business, let business perish, but let man live.
The new order of things will place new responsibilities upon those in whose hands are the reins of government. They must regard their offices as opportunities for service; and themselves as servants of the community; the common people must be their chief concern in everything and their conscience must be their king.
In all this we must not consider merely the material welfare of the community, for without ideals, without the things of the spirit, material supremacy will sooner or later be its own undoing, and sooner or later go the way of all flesh. Nations, like men, live not by bread alone.
These reforms strike at the very roots of our selfish and exaggerated individualism and will no doubt meet with much opposition. Were we ruled by a genuine social conscience, these reforms would soon be realized; but we must take human nature as we find it. The law of Sinai and the Sermon of the Mount must be brought home to us by social education and social laws. But even these alone will not suffice, unless we bring to bear the moral motives of religion. The force of law will never make us a great nation, but the law of conscience will. You cannot make a man honest or a woman chaste by an act of legislation, but you can do both by keeping the moral law. The observance of one commandment alone, "Thou shalt not steal," would abolish one-half of our social abuses, and most of the other half would surrender to the rest of the decalogue.
Religion in the individual must make legislation for the masses effective; the church must unite with the community, and working in unison they will, under God, create a new and nobler nation, in which all will "render to God the things that are God's, and to Caesar the things that are Caesar's."
Ill Rabbi H. H. Mayer, B'nai Jehudah Temple, Kansas City, Missouri
The church, the community, and the war, I interpret as meaning, What has been and what will be the influence of each of these upon the others. How is the war going to affect the church? How has it affected the church? What are the churches going to do, what service are they going to render in the prosecution of the war? What interest is the community taking, more or less than before, in the church since the war? Is the community, in its attitude towards the war swayed by the church? Is the church modifying its doctrine and its practice in line with demands of the community stimulated by the war spirit? Is the war sounding the death-knell of religion, or is it revealing to us that religion is deathless and indispensable? Finally, are the movements discernable at the present time in this war and in the changes taking place in the church the effect of this world conflict, or are they the outgrowth of a ferment that has been at work in the community and in the church long before the outbreak of hostilities?
Changing Attitude Toward Preachers and the Church
I see very definite results coming from this war, redounding to the advantage of the church. Before the war we heard frequently that "The church is doomed," that the days when the church can control the