Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

tion. This is how he solves it. A young infantryman, the son of a Texas minister, stepped up to the Y. M. C. A. canteen one evening. He had been wounded in the side of the face, and his cheek was badly disfigured.

“I'm going back to the front tomorrow," he vol. unteered with enthusiasm.

"Good for you, old chap! I am glad you are well once more.” Then as my eyes fell upon the scarred face, I said, "Heinie evidently gave you a bad slap on the cheek. You will no doubt remember him tenderly for that."

“Yes, I will,” was the quick decisive rejoinder. “And I'm going up to the front and turn the other cheek to him—but I'll give him hell while he's slapping me."

The idea of non-resistance was not absent in this lad's religion, but down under it was a positive ethical force compelling him to be loyal to duty and true to his ideals, and to strike unrighteousness, injustice, lust and cruelty wherever they showed their poisonous fangs. Such a soul, utterly fearless and reliant upon a just God, must needs cry out against a milk-fed religion that would lie down and let organized sin stalk across the mutilated bodies of little children and old men and women.

When the war broke out, men were asking, “Why has Christianity failed?” Today they are saying, “Give Christianity a real chance in the world.” But what do they mean by Christianity—an ecclesi. astical organization, a creed, a sect, a formal worship? We do not think so. These may or may not have their place in organized religion; but down under them and apart from them the soldier has found a great unifying element which is clothed with all the authority of God and which is the common possession of all men. These spiritual and ethical elements in Christianity are universal, and, because of this, they prove a binding and cohering force in social life. Where there are social groups larger than that of a single nation, we usually find that the various elements are held together by one or more of five strands. They are bound together by race, by commerce, by culture, by religion, by military force. No one of these alone will suffice, but of the five, religion is the least dispensable. Possessing as it does so many universal, reconciling elements, Christianity is an absolute necessity if a World League of Peace is to be permanently established. To the statesman, the diplomat, the soldier and the preacher let this be said with ever-increasing emphasis: The first and biggest task of civilization is to make men everywhere conscious of the presence and claims of Christ, for out of this fellowship of Christ comes the sense of world brotherhood.

We have tried, in this chapter, to indicate six aspects of Christianity as the soldier has come to understand it. 1. The religion of Jesus is an underlying spiritual reality, a unifying force in the world incapable of division into sects and independent of time, place and form of expression.

2. Prayer is the most natural form of religious expression. 3. Christianity is a direct communion with the Father, through Jesus Christ, by friends who recognize a spiritual brotherhood. 4. The soldier sees in Christianity a law of sacrifice which is above every other claim and which cannot be evaded by any one who bears the name of Christian. 5. To the man who has faced death for his ideals, Christianity is a tremendously ethical, a mighty militant force to be applied to social living without compromise. He has seen

He has seen the so-called futile dreams of the Galilean come true and he now knows that Jesus meant that the Sermon on the Mount should be lived. 6. With the vision of a seer the lad behind the guns beheld the world of nations at peace, bound each to the other by a common religion, the essence of which is the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.

VI

PETER UNDER SHELL FIRE

S

HORTLY after the entrance of America into the war, there appeared in the Atlantic

Monthly, an article entitled “And Peter Sat by the Fire Warming Himself.” It was a vigorous and brilliantly written attack upon the Church for sitting comfortably and indifferently by the fireside while the world was being crucified. The article was bitterly resented by many, and carefully discussed by others—some favorable and other unfavorable. While it contained many things that were true, much of it was overdrawn. Upon the whole it produced a very salutary effect upon the mind of the Church. The war brought the Church under the shell fire of a vigorous, constructive criticism; but it is also true that thousands of Church leaders went under shell fire from enemy guns while engaged in a splendid sacrificial service. It is the purpose of this chapter to present both sides of this question for they both have a very direct and vital bearing upon the future of religious education.

The Church is the mystical body of Christ and as such it has a very large and vital place in the hearts and minds of men. Far more than they think and sometimes more than they are willing to admit the Church fills a large place in their lives. I was particularly impressed with this fact while one day making a visit to the ancient cathedral in Verdun. Slowly we climbed the hill, winding our way through narrow deserted streets and past battered buildings until we stood beside the old cathedral. Shell-fire had not spared this ancient shrine of worship. The roof had been shot away and part of the wall was damaged, but the chancel had not been touched, and over the altar, in undisturbed repose, hung a large crucifix, reminder of the indestructible love and mercy of God. From our vantage point we could look upon a vast area and as we did so we were conscious that we were beholding ground made sacred by the men who had said to Germany's armed host, “You shall not pass !" Three hundred thousand of the finest sons of France were sacrificed to make good that determination and now upon the same spot the best blood of America was being poured out lavishly in one final effort to overthrow the brutal tyranny of sin and autocracy; such is the precious price laid upon the altar of vicarious sacrifice for liberty and redemption. Beneath the shadow of the old cathedral cross I looked out upon the field of battle. To the east and high in the air were the American observation planes. The frequent puffs of yellowish white smoke all about them gave evidence that the German air craft guns were busy. To the north the Meuse wound like a silver ribbon amongst the hills and steep cliffs. On either side one could see men moving here and there, and an occasional

« ÎnapoiContinuați »