Christian democracy applied to industry means the development of cooperative relations to the fullest possible extent. The Church should therefore clearly teach the principle of the fullest possible cooperative control and ownership of industry and the natural resources upon which industry depends, in order that men may be spurred to develop the methods that shall express this principle. Report of the Commission on the Church and Social Service to the Quadrennial Meeting of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America. December, 1916.
THE papers presented in this little book were written for widely varying publics. The longer were contributed to Church papers or delivered before Church audiences; some of the shorter were printed in the socialist press and addressed to people who have no point of contact with the Church. But all had one object: to promote better understanding between the religious world which fears social revolution, and the unchurched world of radical passion which desires it.
These two worlds are nearer each other than is commonly supposed or than either realizes. Among radicals, the irrepressible hunger for spiritual experience stirs here and there unmistakably. And this in spite of bitter abuse and scorn lavished not on Christ Himself but on His followers. It is all very well to assert that "The Church is Judas Iscariot," that creeds are dead and that no cult of an Oriental god can solve modern problems. One may gather such assertions by the handful from the pages of the radical press. But through the defiance of the authors runs more and more a note of doubt. For the truth is that creeds are not dead but very much alive, that the "Oriental god" is still to countless men the one Master of the world's salvation, and that the churches, akin rather to Peter than to Judas, are almost awake to the peril in which they have been of betraying their Lord. Their vast reservoirs of social power have been long ice-bound. But the ice is breaking, the waters begin to move. It is not beyond hope, that soon these waters may be released, to flow forth, at the moment when the need of the world is greatest, in streams that shall be for the healing of the nations.
The social awakening of the churches is the great fact which this little book would signal, and in its modest way would further.
It is full time that the critics of the Church,--and they are many, including some of her most loyal children,--should become aware of the advanced position which various official Christian groups are now taking at last on questions concerning social justice. From one point of view, to be sure, official statements count for nothing. If too far ahead of the public conscience, they become inert formulae, and formulae not translated into life are the ancient curse of religion. On the other hand, however, if the Church finds no corporate expression for the restlessness and compunction that consume Christian hearts to-day, she will soon deserve the contempt or indifference which she is sure to inspire. The Spirit ever works at first secretly, kindling in the wills of the faithful fires that cannot be concealed; but in due time these fires light on the altar of the Church flames that shall illumine the world.
Not very long ago, Christians who felt revolutionary implications of their faith looked in vain to the churches for any encouragement or endorsement. To draw out the social significance of the Gospels, to define Christian duty in terms of industrial justice for an industrial age, was a task wholly neglected and desperately necessary. As recently as the time of Maurice and Kingsley, it was attempted by English Christianity only through sweeping generalities if at all, and these noble pioneers were distrusted by religious authorities and silenced in religious circles. As lately as the time of Phillips Brooks, the task could be ignored by a great spiritual leader. But it cannot be ignored any longer, and the power to rest in generalities is past. Concrete and stinging must be the application of Christian ideals made by the Church to modern civilization and modern Christian lives. The last years have taught all who watch Europe that there are no heights of sacrifice to which humanity will refuse to rise if the summons sounds authentic.
But if the Church has failed to offer any social leadership through official channels, at least the voice of great churchmen pleading for justice has never been silent down the Christian ages:
"So destructive a passion is avarice that to grow rich without injustice is impossible. . . . But what if a man succeeded to his father's inheritance? Then he received what has been gathered by injustice. For . . . of the many who were before him somebody must unjustly have taken and enjoyed the goods of others . . . because God left the earth free to all alike. Why then if it is common, have you so many acres of land, and your neighbor has not a portion of it?"--Henry George is not speaking: that is St. Chrysostom.
"It will be objected to holding goods in common that governments will perish because no one cares to preserve common property. But no, if that law were in force, states would be most excellently preserved. . . . For goods are to be cared for in proportion to their excellence. Now goods held in common are the best of all,--therefore, they must be cared for most perfectly." That is not a modern syndicalist utterance, it is Wyclif in his youth, writing his De Dominio Civile.
Quotations equally telling might be multiplied from age to age. But statements bearing the stamp of ecclesiastical authority are harder to seek. An outstanding fact is the Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, dating from 1891. It reads mildly enough now, but it was considered at the time to be very socialistic in tendency, and it does call for a revised concept of Christian duty, in the light of the modern economic situation. Prom the dawn of the twentieth century, expressions of social faith slowly appear; so that some day, history may narrate the capture of the modern Church by a social Christian ideal. Among English-speaking Christians, the first striking group-utterance of the century was perhaps that of the Lambeth Conference of 1908. It sounds rather faint beside St. Chrysostom, but is good as far as it goes:
"What is now needed is ... groups of Christian men and women in every place determined to make it their aim to bring the sense of justice and righteousness which is common to Christianity and to Democracy, to bear upon the matters of every-day life in trade, in society, and wherever their influence extends: and to stir up public opinion on behalf of the removal of wrong wherever it may be found, thus making an earnest endeavor to share in the transforming work of Christianity for their brethren and companions' sake." It would be interesting to know to whom this statement was due.
In this country," viewing all organized Christianity together, the first impressive landmark is the platform adopted by the Federal Council of Churches in Chicago, 1912:
"The churches must stand:
"I. For equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life.
"2. For the protection of the family, by the single standard of purity, uniform divorce laws, proper regulation of marriage, and proper housing.
"3. For the fullest possible development for every child, especially by the provision of proper education and recreation.
"4. For the abolition of child labor.
"5. For such regulation of the conditions toil for women as shall safeguard the physical and moral health of the community.
"6. For the abatement and prevention of poverty.
"7. For the protection of the individual and1 "society from the social, economic, and moral waste of the liquor traffic.
"8. For the conservation of health.
"9. For the protection of the worker from dangerous machinery, occupational diseases, and mortality.
"10. For the right of all men to the opportunity for self-maintenance, for safeguarding this right against encroachments of every kind, and for the protection of workers from the hardships of enforced unemployment.
"11. For suitable provision for the old age of the workers, and for those incapacitated by injury.
"12. For the right of employees and employers alike to organize; and for adequate means of conciliation and arbitration in industrial disputes.
"13. For a release from employment one day in seven.
"14. For the gradual and reasonable reduction of the hours of labor to the lowest practicable point, and for that degree of leisure for all which is a condition of the highest human life.
"15. For a living wage as a minimum in every industry, and for the highest wage that each industry can afford.
"16. For a new emphasis upon the application of Christian principles to the acquisition and use of property, and for the most equitable division of the product of industry that can ultimately be devised."
That document certainly registers a great advance on the statement of the Lambeth Conference. It is the work of minds trained not only to social emotion but to practical social thinking,- and it is cognizant of specific modem issues. Claims as extreme as any radical could make are interspersed among definite points which, taken together, remind one of the platform of the Progressive Party,--a document, it may incidentally be said, modeled if report speak true on this very program. "Equal rights and complete justice for all men," "The abatement and prevention of poverty, " "The most equitable division of the product of industry that can ultimately be devised" . . the words have a vigorous ring, and they are redeemed from the suggestion of verbiage without vision, by the practical propositions in regard to child-labor, the minimum wage, pensions, the right to organize, the reduction of working hours '' to the lowest practicable point," and the like. It is an admirable program. It sets a mark to which many of the separate churches have not yet begun to attain. In the quadrennial meeting of the same Council, held in St. Louis, Dec. 1916, this program was reaffirmed, with a preamble well worth quoting:
The Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America expresses again the deepening conviction that the scope of the gospel and the program of the churches must include the creation on earth of a Christian civilization, organized upon the ethical teachings and controlled by the spirit of Jesus Christ.
In addition to the unquestioned historic mission and work of Christianity with the individual, we understand this to involve certain great social accomplishments; that among these are: the abolishment of war; the transformation of the dangerous commercial rivalries of the nations into a just and brotherly cooperation; the coming together on terms of equality and justice of capitalist, employer, workers, and the consuming public in brotherly cooperative effort, and the shifting of industry from off its basis of profits upon that of human welfare; the lifting of the women of the world to a position of freedom and equality with the men of the world; the destruction of the curse of strong drink; the control of the infectious diseases which afflict humanity; the control of the vices of the race; the removal of the handicap of poverty from submerged millions of people of all nations; the uplift of backward races and their freedom from the permanent and enforced domination of more powerful peoples; the extension of democracy throughout the earth, and the development of its efficiency and honesty, with the supreme emphasis upon the spiritual values of human life. Many of these objectives, perhaps all of them in their wider reaches are the work of generations; but they are with-;.Ja the power of human effort when sustained and scientifically organized, and henceforth they are to be ever before the churches. They call for faith and consecrated endeavor on an unprecedented scale.
The whole report is full of practical and pertinent suggestions.
Among the churches, the Anglican or Protestant-Episcopal,--a body rather shy of its own name, but at present legally known by the latter title--has usually been reckoned one of the most instinctively conservative and aristocratic. But the last two General Conventions have taken action which at least partially exonerates it from this accusation. The Convention meets triennially, with two Houses, a House of Bishops and a Lower House of Clergy and Lay Deputies, and it is the official organ of the Church. In 1910, the Convention endorsed the appointment of a Social Service Commission. In 1913, this Commission was actually appointed, and got to work, being confirmed in 1916. In the meantime, local Social Service Commissions were appointed in many provinces, dioceses, and parishes, until the organization of this new activity is on the way to become as thorough as that of the missionary activities of the Church, with which, in the mind of members of the Commission, it should run parallel. The Joint Commission has been occupied largely in aiding the creation of this machinery and in preparing itself to cooperate with the other commissions; it has published some excellent literature, it conducted an effective educational campaign during the Convention of 1916, and it is preparing conferences on a large scale, for the consideration of economic and social problems from the strictly Christian point of view, to be held in different sections of the country. Its chief aim is not the undertaking of practical reforms, which must in the nature of things lie outside its scope, but the social education of each communicant and each child of the Church; and the reception of its study courses and pamphlets shows how ready the Church and its members are to welcome just such work.
But the Convention did more than appoint a Commission. In both 1913 and 1916 it took a definite stand on social fundamentals. In 1913, the following Resolution was passed:
WHEREAS, The moral and spiritual welfare of the people demands that the highest possible standard of living should everywhere be maintained and that all conduct of industry should emphasize the search for such higher and more human forms of organization as will genuinely elicit the personal definite stake in the system of production to which the worker's life is given; and
WHEREAS, Injustice and disproportionate inequality as well as misunderstanding, prejudice, and mutual distrust as between employer and employee are widespread in our social and industrial life to-day:
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, The House of Bishops concurring, that we, the members of the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, do hereby affirm that the Church stands for the ideal of social justice, and that it demands the achievement of a social order in which the social cause of poverty and the gross human waste of the present order shall be eliminated, and in which every member shall have a just return for what he produces, a free opportunity for self-development, and a fair share in all the gains of progress. And since such a social order can only be achieved progressively by the efforts of men and women who in the spirit of Christ put the common welfare above private gain, the Church calls upon every communicant, clerical and lay, seriously to take part in the study of the complex conditions under which we are called upon to live, and so to act that the present prejudice and injustice may be supplanted by mutual understanding, sympathy, and just dealing, and the ideal of a thoroughgoing democracy may be fully realized in our land.
That is advanced, in its outspoken repudiation of Laisser-faire, and its assertion that spiritual welfare demands the highest possible standard of living,--an assertion which sentimental and other-worldly Christians are always loath to admit, and which indeed if literally and individually applied might carry us into strange regions. It is also fine in maintaining that disproportionate inequality obtains in social and industrial life to-day, and in its statement that the Church demands a social order in which the social cause of poverty shall be eliminated. If Christians at large would only recognize the responsibility of religion per se to eliminate the social cause of poverty, instead of claiming too often that religion has nothing to do with the matter, the struggle for justice would be half won.
But when the Resolution passes from general statements to definite recommendations, it betrays a generation still in the fog. The noncommittal appeal, or instruction, to communicants, is a decided drop from the first part of the statement. They are asked chiefly to study conditions: also, so to act that justice and sympathy may be promoted and the ideal of democracy be realized. It is true that study must precede action and that the first step onward is to create a right temper in Christian people, but one may doubt whether these general adjurations, excellent as they are, would make any difference to the readers of them. Certainly, communicants in 1917 ought to be and are ready for more definite guidance.
Such guidance they get, in respect both to thought and action, from a Resolution passed at the General Convention in the autumn of 1916. It is simpler and briefer than the statements hitherto quoted, and it omits all denunciation of the present system, as well as any attempt to formulate the ultimate principles of a Christian social order. It is addressed to the Church as it is, not to the Church as radicals want it to be; for as has felicitously been said, the Church is not a radical body, but a bourgeois body touched with compunction. But in spite of the quiet tone of the Resolution, it implies the necessity for profound change as thoroughly as does the Resolution of 1913; it cuts deeper into the matter of private conduct and starts in at least on the difficult and unusual task of suggesting to Christian people precise points at which through their personal action social reformation might begin:
BE IT RESOLVED, That the service of the community and the welfare of the workers, not primarily private profits, should be the aim of every industry and its justification; and that the Church should seek to keep this aim constantly before the mind of the public; and that Christians as individuals are under the obligation on the one hand conscientiously to scrutinize the sources of their income, and on the other hand to give moral support and prayer to every just effort to secure fair conditions and regular employment for wage-earners and the extension of true democracy to industrial matters.
Production for use and not for private profit is the very nucleus of socialist theory. Social revolution is not too strong a phrase to describe the cleavage that would ensue between our present methods and a civilization governed by that central principle in its economics. To call on the Church constantly to keep this transformation before the public mind is to place a new responsibility on every clergyman and communicant. As for the command that Christians scrutinize the sources of their incomes, it does not at first sound very drastic. St. Chrysostom and the socialist local will agree in going further and telling us that we ought not to have any incomes at all. Perhaps, however, if we scrutinize sources thoroughly and conscientiously, there may not in the long run be much income left. If Christian people in general should discover by any chance that the sources of income under the present system can rarely bear scrutiny, when exposed to the flashlight of conscience, they may decide that the present system has got to go.
"Moral support and prayer" for every just effort of the wage-earners or others to secure fair conditions for labor is a suggestion which cuts at the center. What Christendom really prays for, it will work for and will gain. How much praying is the habit of Christian hearts as a regular part of their religious duty, when strikes are in progress, one wonders? And what about moral support? Too often, Church people behave as if industrial or legislative struggles were none of their concern. Parochial activities, Sunday-Schools, Girls' Friendly, Missions,--these are their concern and the concern of the Church. The other matters are out of her province, and indifference masked in humility declines to hold an opinion about them. All this should now be changed. If people obey the summons of the Church, as expressed both in 1913 and 1916, they can no longer easily assume that it is none of their responsibility to make up their minds about the rights in a labor war. It is their Christian business to attend to such matters, to have opinions when possible, to take sides, and to support the struggle of and for the workers, whenever they shall consider it just,--not otherwise,--with their sympathy and with their prayers. The last phrase, about the extension of democracy to industry, may help them a little in this difficult matter of forming an opinion. It affords a guiding principle, in the light of which the decision where to throw one's sympathy in concrete cases becomes easier. This Resolution of 1916 was enthusiastically and unanimously adopted by the Bishops, and endorsed by the Lower House. It is not the expression of a conservative-minded body, it is the expression of brave men.
In the light of these statements, it is no longer possible to complain that the Churches are silent. The social feeling of individual Christians may still so outstrip any corporate Church expression that it commands a new horizon; but this is rarely true of their social action. If Church members would pursue the course of conduct implied in these recent formulae, they would make their Christianity a visible fact, forced on the recognition of everyone. They would live in a mountain city, set on high for all to see as their Master pictured them, instead of settling down, contentedly to all appearance, as they mostly do now, among other folk in the sordid cities of the plain.
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches."
There are two interesting points in connection with these formulas. The first is, that in all of them, the attack on the existing order is scrupulously from the moral, not the economic end. The last Resolution of the Episcopal Convention was even commended by the New York Times on this account! Even the program of the Federal Council, though it treads debatable ground, treads it with such cautious steps that it would be hard for any Christian to disagree with its practical demands. This reticence is wise. For it is a pity that the Church should take controversial positions with which honest Christians can disagree, when there are so many positions out of the reach of legitimate controversy which are nevertheless quite revolutionary in character! Such honest Christians ought not to have their freedom of thinking violated by ex-cathedra pronouncements from the Church. To be allowed to think foolishly, if we must think foolishly to think honestly, is a prerogative hardly won, which the race must very jealously guard: all of us need the protection of it sometimes, and to deny that sacred right leads straight to the Inquisition. In this new function of social guidance on which the Church is seemingly entering, she needs to practice very delicate discrimination. To get up a party which shall fight to gain the endorsement of the Church for this measure or that program is an attractive short-cut to social Christianity, but it is a short-cut that leads to By-Ends' Meadows and will end by plunging the Church into the morass of politics. Socialists claim, and rightly, that the lack of thinking in economic terms is fatal to a sense for reality, and every Christian is under orders to learn how to think in these terms. But the business of the Church as a Church is to translate them into Christian ethics. This is good strategics; it creates a far more salutary annoyance to press home the disturbing truths to which Christians are nominally committed by virtue of their allegiance, in language which no Christian can challenge, than to deal in alien technicalities. In the statements just quoted, it is hard to find anything which the Christian disciple could deny, short of making the fundamental assertion that the relations of men in this world are none of his business. This is why those statements are effective. Economic programs are necessary in their place, but one does not need to adopt the specious "dynamic" theory of the Church to see that this place is not in Church formulae.
Nor does this opinion invite the Church to take refuge in evasive platitudes,--an easy alternative all too readily embraced on occasion by bishops and other clergy, not to speak of the laity. It means that the Church has a distinctive and difficult work to do. To probe to the quick, to trouble people, to sting them into courses of action that involve unconven-tionality, pluck, readiness for adventure,--that is her duty. But this sort of result is gained only by direct appeal to heart and conscience. Possibly the teaching of the Church, if it is sincere, must lead those who obey to share the fate of their Master, Who was pursued by the venomous enmity of the respectable classes of His day, and was finally executed as a criminal by the unanimous will of the religious and the secular authorities. That ought to suffice. Let the Church speak her own language. If bravely and consistently uttered, if faithfully obeyed, it will be found to correspond closely with economic theories quite at variance with those on which society now more or less uneasily reposes; and, under pressure from two diverse directions making for one same end, the world may find itself transformed.
The other point to notice about these statements is that the Church is not appealing especially to the working classes. She is not thinking in terms of class at all. What is in her mind is no movement pushed from behind by the sharp prong of economic distress, it is rather a general movement impelled by such single-hearted passion for justice as should be common to all people. And here again, her policy will discredit her in many radical minds. Those who cling to the Marxian belief that substantial progress is won only by the rebellion of the oppressed, will scorn the appeal to disinterested action. Nor are the Marxians alone. Whether one looks at nations or at classes, a widespread feeling that no group of men will ever act contrary to their own interests, and that the future of the world must be determined by balance of greeds, cuts the nerve of idealist effort. Some warm idealists are among those who distrust a general appeal. They too feel that the slow pressure of the working classes toward power is the one effective hope for freedom; and they think that the most useful thing for a lover of justice to do is to unclass himself and to throw in his lot with the proletarian struggle:
Now there is a misunderstanding here which needs to be cleared up.
It is true that this upward movement of men seeking expansion and freedom is the most salient and inevitable fact of history. For the first sacred duty imposed on nations, on classes, on individuals, is the search for life's fulfillment. Fullness of life must precede any impulse toward sacrifice. Life must be whole before it can be offered; there was no mutilation of Our Lord's Body on the Cross. It was a perfect Humanity which there gave itself in an oblation full, perfect, and sufficient for the sins of the whole world.
And so, while the Church cannot endorse the crass forms of economic determinism, and will never yield to a materialistic interpretation of history, she is not debarred from warm sympathy with the class struggle. Far from being debarred from such sympathy, Christian people are called to it. So long as they can applaud the self-defense of a small nation, they cannot condemn the self-defense of a weak class. Beyond the fogs in which we grope, shines the fair intermittent vision of a non-resistant humanity; we look at it wistfully and honor those conscientious objectors who even now seek to walk in its light. But to invoke that vision when a big people tramples down a little people, is not yet within the compass of much Christian thought. Equally beyond that compass should be disapproval or indifference toward the fight of working-class groups to preserve or enlarge their liberties. Feeble girl garment-workers learning to stand together for their rights with the light of battle dawning in their eyes, respond to the rhythmic stress which is evolving life throughout the universe; they are part of the God-consciousness ever quickening in the clay. The struggle for freedom is righteous and religious, whether it be found in striking miner or in outraged nation, and Christian hearts must recognize in it the motions of the Lord and Giver of Life.
Yet this struggle, whether in the form of demand for better wages and hours, or for political independence, is on the lower range of human action, on the range of the natural life. The Church is one with nature, one it may almost be said with common sense, in approving it; but the Church as Church has no relation to it at all. For her business is with life on the higher level, the life regenerate. On this level she must teach, from this level she must appeal. Her distinctive song is not the Marseillaise, though she does not forbid her children to sing it; it is the Vexilla Regis. The Royal Banner under which her host advances against the host of evil, is the banner of the Cross.
Naturally, the world scoffs, nor can any one be surprised at its scepticism in face of the spectacle of history. Perhaps non-religious people may long have to remain bound in the chains of scepticism and economic determinism; perhaps the best they can share is the lower though holy enthusiasm of the fighters for freedom on the lower plane. None the less, the Church knows that the world is wrong. Hers is no cynic distrust, no pseudo-scientific fatalism. She is aware of a secret principle, working counter to the indrawing principle that claims and appropriates,--the outgoing principle that sacrifices and gives. The Church knows that man is the child of God by adoption and grace, and that he can rise to God-like action; for she has marked his brow with the Holy Sign. Baptismal Regeneration is a doctrine consigned to the rear of most Christian minds. If it means anything, it means a triumphant refutation of the determinist. It asserts that Christian folk can be appealed to en masse, to act on a supernatural level, where their private interest will yield instinctively and as a matter of course, to the general good.
The Church's faith in a regenerate humanity is not much in evidence just now. To regain it, she must descend into the depths of her most mystical convictions. If she can get even a wee mustard-seed measure of that faith, she can say to the mountains of class-greed and privilege, Be ye cast down and thrown into the sea. They would crumble away, those mountains, they would fall in crashing avalanche, down, down, till no vestige of them remained. Her opportunity and her power are unique, if she will greatly dare. Her belief that the whole body of Christian people coming under her jurisdiction can and must be raised to distinterested social action, makes her mistress of a province all her own. It is her distinctive contribution to the present crisis. So far, she has at best only reiterated what other right-minded bodies are saying, but it is inconceivable that she should pause there. Far from merely echoing approval of measures which secular agencies endorse, which even the Government in some cases begins to further, she might take the initiative. Her work is not to announce new economic theories, it is only incidentally to approve specific programs. It is to insist that her children sift theories uncompromisingly in the light of Christian idealism; it is above all to offer the incentive which shall draw men to try the Great Adventure of Christian living in terms of the new age.
The Church must not only call to action, she must show the way to it. And that is more difficult, for even honest eyes see such a tangle of paths! And the Hill of Calvary, from which the only true way reaches, rises very far from modern vision. But perhaps in these heartrending days, eyes purged with tears are growing more able to discern it.
Two special phases of social consecration are demanded by the present crisis. The one concerns the private Life of the individual, the other the group-life of the Christian community.
As to the private life: in one direction, the Christian world has been sufficiently instructed. One would not dare say that it did its duty, but certainly unless it is deaf it knows where that duty lies. This is the direction of practical activity. Social Service is the word of the hour, and the constant message of the pulpit calls people to devote themselves to it. Optimism sees most people obeying the call. Nearly all serious-minded folk give a large portion of their spare time, not to amusement or self-culture, but to one of the multiform modern ways of promoting the Kingdom of God. If one sometimes wonders whether it was meant that this Kingdom should be promoted by sitting on committees, one crushes the unworthy thought. If a good deal of effort is amateurish and wasted, one renews one's faith that aim and effort are the really creative things. Splendid works are carried on effectively,--till one measures them against the need they try to meet. And better perhaps than all Church activities, is the other effect of the ideal of service: the socializing of the professions. In every pursuit, the motive of service can be made central. If it cannot, that is no pursuit for Christian men.
But beyond action, lie the more searching questions connected with fundamental attitude toward possessions, toward the world. And here each socially enlightened Christian must judge for himself. The Church, catching up with her more progressive members, begins to demand the application of Christian ethics to regions once left to the control of automatic law, like buying goods and investing money. A pioneer excitement attaches to the penetration of these regions. And very soon, in reaction from the difficulties encountered there, comes the obvious suggestion, since the present order is so involved in wrong that to Christianize it is at best a task of infinite subtlety and delicacy, and at worst may prove impossible,--why not leave it altogether? From the earliest Christian days, ardent souls have yearned for a complete renunciation of the world. Is not the way out a new Franciscanism, which shall lure men to throw away all that others hold precious in a divine madness, and to abandon themselves recklessly to love?
If it could be done! But how can it? The entire repudiation of worldly goods, the severance from earthly ties, so familiar to exalted and eager souls in the Middle Ages,--are we self-deceived in finding it harder to compass now than then? Short of a monastery or a desert, neither of which was Francis's idea or the idea of Jesus, one cannot renounce the world. It creeps into the tissue of our simplest clothing, it lurks in our shelters, it penetrates our food. And ought one to try to renounce it? Apart from the basic impossibility of the thing, apart from one's weakness, two obstacles stand in the way.
The first is our honest modern disbelief in asceticism. We no longer feel the world to be a peril or an evil, we find in it the Sacrament of God's Presence, and the motive driving men to withdraw from it is no longer plain. Perhaps we moderns are making a mistake here. It is conceivable that a reaction may come, and an ascetic revival, perhaps reaching us from the East, may be in order. But, the second obstacle is more surely honorable, for it is found in the very growth of social feeling. Twentieth-century minds cannot sympathize unreservedly with St. Francis flinging his garments in his father's face; they cannot help thinking of the father! The tender duties, that held Tolstoy to the end from his heart's desire, hold us all. This is not weakness. It is the growth of democracy, making us indifferent to saving ourselves by ourselves, inhibiting us from claiming perfection at the cost of hurt to others. We are all involved together, and to break loose, leaving our dear ones in the net, is no way to follow Love. That old selfish way, which ended in serenely creating a spiritual aristocracy, was natural to aristocratic ages, but it is now alien to our best instincts. We no longer find our solution in a segregated Christianity; for we have learned to pray, Thy Kingdom come on earth. Not that we Christians are wholly thrown back by any means on self-indulgence and conformity. It is our business to obey the Church, to apply her now specific commands: We are to profit by exploitation as little as we possibly can; to simplify our lives to the farthest feasible degree; to practise detachment, and consecration, in the interior life of the souL But we must tread warily lest we tread on hearts; and in seeking the far vision we may not neglect the primary tendernesses which also are of God.
But just as the old line of escape from sin grows more obscure, new lines are opening. The day is to the common life, the common effort. What we are not able to do as individuals, we may do all together, or through group-action. To use a homely simile, many Christians find themselves caught on the branches of a great tree, the tree of privilege. They do not quite know how to climb down, but they have the axe of the law in their hands, and they can apply themselves to sawing off the branch they sit on. No less than this, probably, is demanded of them by their religion, and it is consoling to reflect that, though a tumble may hurt, the ground is a good place after all.
Suppose all Church members brought their allegiance in great groups to movements which aim at restoring land and other wealth on equal terms to all men, and at placing the control of production in part at least in the hands of the producers. It is a startling hypothesis, but it is not inconceivable. Already it is happening in a measure. The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation, and it will never be possible to estimate the direct share of Christian idealism in recent progress toward industrial democracy. But the hour has come to increase that share dramatically and visibly. The sight of Christendom has surely braced and sobered Christian thought. If we are to avoid such catastrophe as has fallen on our neighbors, we must immediately apply Christianity to life, we must try to restore justice in America at the roots of things. Our prosperity, won at such fearful cost to other nations, gives us such chance at expiation and at social experiment as we have .never had before; and the distinctive contribution of religion to the modern crisis is to encourage its more prosperous disciples to ally themselves with the tendencies which will impoverish them and handicap their power. In spite of all discouraging facts, which the following papers clearly recognize, the Church is beginning to say brave words. It is for her members to seal them with brave deeds.
If in these papers the note of criticism sounds harsh at times, let it not be the last to linger on the ear. Not for a moment can a child of the Church forget the faithfulness of the "Mighty Mother" in fulfilling her primary duty. That duty is to keep open the channel between the temporal and the Eternal, through sacraments, through the Word of God, through all those disciplines of the interior life sanctified by the experience of questing generations. Unnumbered souls fed at her Altars day by day by the Bread of Pilgrims, will attest that she is true to her charge. To ignore this secret sacred work, to throw it into the background while impatient stress is put wholly on Church responsibility for solving social problems, would be to join the forces of Anti-Christ. The enduring task and glory of the Church is to foster in man the consciousness of God and to help him to union with his Maker.
But salvation, which is health and wholeness, can be won by no man alone. Social action becomes the swift correlative of spiritual vision. The regenerate man is the citizen of that Kingdom of Justice which is the Kingdom of God. And as perpetual intercession rises in the words of the Lord's own prayer, for the coming of this kingdom on earth, our social passion becomes, as it were, incorporated with our very conception of God. For He whom we adore is God on the Rood of the world. It is the God involved in the process of time, in the flux of mortal history: the God defeated, crucified, Whom we, by His mysterious will must aid if He is to come to His own. Our hands, alas, have nailed Him to that cross; without our help He cannot, because He will not, descend from it; and to aid Him we must climb to His side. Always men try to evade, to find ways of consecrating life without sacrificing it. And always, in measure as they are near to Christ, they fail. By the cross "the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." If the phrase is to regain a lost reality, it must be translated into social terms. The "world" to which it refers, to which it bids us be crucified, must be the world of the banker, of the merchant; of the solid business men who are the support of parishes; of the ladies from the leisure class who carry on the work of the Church. Love, seeking to save, saving if need be by dying, must be the inward law, expressed in outward life, related to actual present conditions, of every soul in-oned with Christ in the work of world-redemption.
In proportion as the Church can show how such sacrificial love can manifest itself through the present industrial and political situation, she will furnish the moral and spiritual leadership for the lack of which modern radicalism despises her, and the absence of which in that very radicalism makes the radical movement, to a Christian, superficial and suspect.