Imagini ale paginilor

! ships, and even when they do 'grouse they go on to do their duty.

"It is hard to say about them in the mass that they are just sinners defying God. It is indeed flatly impossible. In many ways they are so near to Christ though they do not know it. They bear each other's burdens, they rejoice evermore (or very nearly so). They endure hardship, they practice charity, and love mercy. They are without hypocrisy, or any false pretences, and even when they sin, they sin like children of nature-going astray like sheep. They are innocent of the subtle artificial and deceitful forms of sin that are so common among Church members.

It is strange indeed that they have not understood Christ.

“The pity of the situation is only increased when we inquire as to what the average man does already believe in. He thinks he does not believe in religion, but he does in his own quite definite way

believe in God. He is very ignorant about God, and knows not how he may find Him. But not five men in a thousand have any real doubt about His existence. Further, he has discovered at the front how truly man needs God. He has stood before deathnear and naked, and has felt all his old securities falling from him. He has held out groping hands towards his Father, and has sometimes prayed, though at home he never prayed.

"Further, though he is a careless being in many ways, he does not believe in sin. He may drink and swear, and defile his tongue with horrible obscenities—he may be sexually uncontrolled, and may have stained his life with some very ugly night of 'skiting,' but he does not believe in these things. He knows they are wrong?

This analysis of the majority of the men in the British army is, we believe, fairly correct of the French army and to a lesser degree of the American army, and of the thousands of men who helped win the war in shipyards, factories and on the farm. There were in the army multitudes of splendid Christian men, noble, vigorous and influential who openly acknowledged Christ and who respect the Church. But the large majority, while they instinctively believe in Jesus and Christianity, do not regard the Church very highly, nor do they have any real interest in religious things. It is important that we, who believe in the Church and love the Church should find out why this is. After talking with thousands of men and after discussing the problem with many chaplains and Y. M. C. A. secretaries, both ministers and laymen, the following four reasons are put forward:

1. Men do not object to the Church as the spiritual body of Christ; their criticisms are leveled at the organized Church as they know it. The most outstanding objection of the masses of men to the Church as they know it is that the Church is controlled by an ecclesiastical organization that has always supported the autocratic and militaristic forms of government. In this contention they are supported by history. The growth of the early Church during the first three centuries was phenomenal, and the membership was recruited very largely from the type of men who now oppose the Church as they know it. There are many reasons: the Church was near to the real Christ and felt the immense spiritual potency of His person.

The Church stood for a vigorous, aggressive, religious life that challenged to the utmost the moral energies and courage of men. Her government was democratic and she stood unequivocally for a new social order. The early Church had a passion for democracy wherein men would love and respect one another, become self-governing, share the world's wealth on a just and equitable basis, and where all aristocracy of cast and culture would disappear. It stood for a society “where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is all and in all.” Such a Church soon became a mighty power, mistrusted, feared and then hated by Rome. At first Rome killed the Christians, then she caressed them, and finally getting control of the government of the Church, perverted it to her own purpose.

Rome autocratized the Church in order that the Church might not democratize Rome. If the Church had kept true to her original course she would have democratized all Europe and Asia in a thousand years. Instead she has been the bulwark of autocracy and despotism for fifteen centuries. Roman Catholic Christianity, Protestant Lutheran Christianity and Greek Catholic Christianity have been lined up solidly behind the Hapsburgs, the Hohenzollerns and the Romanoffs, and this is the reason why, after two thousand years, all Europe lies weltering in her own blood. Today there is a Church political party in every country in Europe seeking to gain control of the government, and the same condition exists in this country far more than we dream. Men would be amazed and embittered if they could but realize the degree to which Ecclesiasticism seeks to dominate our Republican institutions. France is religious at heart and instinctively believes in the religion of Jesus, but the great masses of the people of all classes are deeply imbued with a profound mistrust of the political ambitions of the Church. They cannot discriminate, but attribute ulterior motives to all Churches. To the average Frenchman, the Church stands for the rehabilitation of autocracy.

In very much the same way selfish corporate wealth has sought to dominate the Church in order to muzzle the voice of the pulpit, and neutralize, if not stifle, the democratizing influences of Christianity. To this effort the vicious system of pew rentals has unwittingly loaned itself. The same criticism is often heard against a snobbish and spurious type of culture that too often dominates some churches. The whole gist of the criticism is this: the autocracy of ecclesiasticism, wealth and culture has kept millions of good people from the fellowship of the Church. The Church must democratize itself if it would win the thousands of people now outside its direct influence.

In answer to this criticism there are those who contend that you must have authority in religion and that ecclesiastical bodies provide that authority. It is true that, in all questions of morality and religion the Church must speak with absolute authority, but not with the authority of men. The real sources of authority in the Church are the inward authority of the Spirit speaking through the collective experience of men, the authority of the revealed Word of God, and the authority of the character and Spirit of Jesus Christ. Instead of objecting to this kind of authority, men demand it and are willing to obey whenever it is clear to them that the Church is speaking with such authority. Again, in all matters of Church organization autocracy exercises authority in spite of the will of the people; the governing authority of democracy is the will of the people.

Another reason why men hold aloof from the Church as they know it is that they instinctively feel that a church hopelessly divided into jealous, contending sects is a false witness of their common Lord. They seriously question the Divine credentials of the Church and of the Lord she represents, just as Jesus said they would do. Men in the army have shared a common religious experience far more profound than we think, and they have seen clearly some things that the Church cannot see. It is therefore going to be increasingly difficult for

« ÎnapoiContinuați »