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Chapter 22

The Truth that Must Save Christianity

We are face to face today with a condition different from any in our history. We must realise it. Thinking men and women, devout men and women are asking: What’s the matter with Christianity? Young men and women keen in truth-seeking, with life before them and longing for the best in life, are asking: What is Christianity? They constitute a mighty potential force outside and independent of Christianity, or to be won to it and swell its ranks.

If they are told it is a life to be lived, vitalised and beautified and divinely socialised through the simple fundamental message of the Master, the Man Who Knew, they will be drawn to it. If they remain of the opinion that it is a system of belief, an intricately formulated system hoary with age and impotent because inadequate for our present-day needs, delivered to us by the dead of the past who in their eagerness to explain the Master forgot the message so that it never found statement as the dominating factor in any creed and in most cases not even a mention, then they will not be drawn to it.

There is something in the first view so life-building and so necessary as a help in satisfactory, happy, and therefore successful life, that, rightly perceived and presented, it will draw and attract the young men and women of today. There is no longer any appeal in the other conception, in the face of present-day knowledge and facts. To morons, yes. To thinking young men and women, no. They cannot be interested and they will have none of it; and therein lies a mighty loss.

I said but recently to an outstanding forward-looking minister of one of our churches, who possesses an unusual appeal and magnetic force for young people: ‘Our churches — Christianity — today are facing a very critical condition. Their statements of belief, their speculative statements about the Master inherited from the past, no longer interest our thinking young men and women. Some of the things the old creeds contain seem to them not only inconsequential but even untrue. They do not fit with present-day knowledge.

‘In a few years from now the majority of those in our churches will be gone. If their places are not taken in sufficient numbers by this on-coming, clear-seeing, truth-loving, fear-free generation, then the churches’ power as an agency for righteousness mighty and prevailing — to say nothing of their ability even to carry on — ceases. The fact must be faced and the quicker it is faced the better.’

‘You are right,’ he replied, ‘and the bulk of my fellow ministers with whom I come in contact are thinking and saying the same thing.’

The necessity of the re-statement of their articles of creed in forms of present-day truth — as life and action — is no longer open to doubt. It must be a statement brief, simple, and clearcut, built upon the Master’s fundamental truth as a way of life, and not a series of statements primarily to explain him or to inculcate any theories or beliefs about him. There is where the mischief has been done. There is where or, rather, why his truth has been so emasculated. There lies the cause of all of the contentions, the fights, the divisions — and the weakening of Christianity.

I sought my friend’s experience and views arising primarily from his unusual contact with the younger generation, for aid in writing a book — this book. I said to him: ‘An author in preparing a book, a book of serious and, he hopes, helpful content, writes it naturally with the purpose of reaching the largest number of readers. He doesn’t want to alienate, and he doesn’t want to fail to show, due respect for the beliefs of others. At the same time I feel that he should be absolutely fearless in dealing with truth in his statements of present-day facts and conditions as he sees them. I have given the matter careful thought for a number of years. I am now positive that certain things should be said and without any mincing of words, or soft-pedalling of facts. There is a critical condition that must be faced quickly, and should be helped, not by way of destructive thought from any source, but with every sincere effort at constructive accomplishment.

‘My admiration for our churches, for the fine work, helpful work that their ministers have done, outside their pulpit utterances, and which the world at large doesn’t know and doesn’t at all fully appreciate, is so great, that I long to see them bridge, and successfully bridge, the chasm which lies immediately ahead. There is no finer body of men, no more self-sacrificing and useful and helpful in our country, than the great body of ministers in our various churches. The great bulk of them is forward-looking, eager to present the truth, the Master’s truth of life. They need to be less hampered. They need help. . . .’

‘There,’ interrupted my friend, ‘you have touched the point. We do need help. You are right, absolutely right. Say the thing that you feel needs to be said. Say it boldly — don’t hesitate. Our councils are slow moving — too slow for the good of the Church and the greater good that it might do. You as a layman and with no shackles can say things that we cannot say so well, although some of us may feel them just as keenly. To get the fresh and vigorous blood of youth into our churches is one of our greatest needs — for their help and their work, for their
thought and their influence in rejuvenating, or one might be bold enough to say, reforming Christianity.’

Therefore I would say to any young person, whether he is emphatic or indifferent or antagonistic toward Christianity, that our churches are guided by these fine progressive men, eager to do the best they can, eager for the comradeship of young men and women who will come in and help them. Do not be indifferent to this fact. You can, if you will, find such a centre. You will find such a man. Go — and know him and help him. In doing your part in connection with such a centre, already established and needing support, you may find a comradeship with him and a companionship with the others beyond your wildest dreams.

In this way also you will make a natural home and environment for your children for which as time passes you and they will be very grateful. Then by the very beauty of the truth and the life that they sense, without coercion on your part or sanctioned coercion on the part of anyone, as it should always be in matters of religion and belief, they will come to natural acceptance of mcmbcrship in and allegiance to such a home of the spirit. It may possibly save you from many a period of uncertainty — and even of heartache.

Time marches on. Truth marches on. The indifference of what we term Christianity to this fact is almost astounding. This made not such vital difference in the past, though a great loss was sustained. Today, however, is a different day.

There is now available a vast amount of research in connection with the methods of the institutions of the past. Fear no longer holds. There is free research and free thinking. The honest search for truth leads men and women of today to the conclusion that no institution, whatever its self-constituted claims in the past, has or should have any rightful claim or hold on any free man or woman, or any child.

Things today move quickly. We are in an era of change. Old things, old systems are breaking up — sometimes almost overnight. We must be on the alert. Change is in the air everywhere — even revolution. Change is inevitable.

How much wiser though to see and to act in time, that it be orderly, evolutionary revolution rather than a frenzied, destructive revolution which indiscriminately pulls down the good in conjunction with effete parasitic organisations of reaction that, no longer serving an adequate human purpose, should be pulled down.

In the main, churches are ready to adapt themselves, but on the other hand there are the institutions of dogma interested less in the people because now, as in the past, they are more interested in their self-preservation and in evading or fighting, as it arises, all new truth which exposes the weakness of their structure or the falsity of their original foundation. An institution of dogma defends itself not by, but against, new truth; hence it cannot draw and cannot have the free allegiance of the thinking young men and women of today — this different day.


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