Page images

Chapter One



Are We Half Pagan?

The American people in the past have habitually assumed that they were a Christian nation. We have sent missionaries to convert the heathen. We have even suspected that some European nations were only in part Christian, and when the great war broke out we were sure of it. But we are now in a chastened mood; there are those among us who even assert that our civilization is half pagan. Returned missionaries tell us that Oriental countries are becoming doubtful if we are a Christian country, and are asking in what respects, even if we are Christian, we have the advantage over them. Not long ago a group of Christian business men from Tokyo. came to the United States for the purpose of discovering how the practices of Christian merchants differ from the practices of non-Christian merchants. A press report states that they have not yet found the difference!

For a quarter of a century books have been appearing in increasing numbers concerning the need of applying Christian principles to our social problems, and recently these books have multiplied many fold. The very foundations of our social structure are being challenged. Walter Rauschenbusch a decade ago said, “It is unjust to Christianity to call our civilization Christian; it is unjust to our civilization to call it unchristian. It is semi-Christian.” Professor Ellwood in his book on "The Reconstruction of Religion" has a chapter on “Our Semipagan Civilization,” in which he says that one

" of the important needs of the time is “the perception of the essential paganism and barbarity of our present civilization.” And again: "The trend in Western civilization as a whole for several years immediately prior to the breaking out of the great war was unquestionably away from Christian ideals." And then this challenge: “Now this recrudescence of barbarism shows conclusively enough that our civilization can no longer remain half pagan and half Christian. It must soon become one or

the other. We have come to the parting of the ways. Unless the world becomes speedily Christian, it is bound to become speedily pagan.'

These are ominous words. But they are no stronger than those used by one of the able editors of the time, Mr. Glenn Frank of the Century Magazine, who, partly in comment on Mr. Ellwood's book, said:

The civilization that preceded and precipitated the war was at best a thinly veneered barbarism that was slowly consuming the life of the race in the poverties of peace no less than in the perils of war. Pagan ideals of power and pleasure had spread their nets anew for the capture of our souls. Power was the goal of the state; pleasure was the goal of the people. Political life had become paganized by its passion for power at any price; business life had become paganized by its scramble for profits at any price; and social life had become paganized by its devotion to pleasure at any price. In this reluctant indictment little, if any, discrimination can be made between allied, enemy, and neutral peoples. We were all guilty of the sin of surrender to pagan ideals. We practiced paganism while we professed Christianity. All of Western civilization was thus a sort of corporate hypocrisy.

And Dr. Daniel Evans of Andover Theological Seminary has recently stated the issue in these weighty words: “It is quite plain to all that paganism is once more in power in the lives of many persons in all lands. The deadliest conflict our religion now faces is with this fiercest foe of all it holds dear. The essential principles of both are opposed.”

The same sort of indictment of Western civilization is abroad in England. A writer in the Manchester Guardian, under the title “The Threat to Civilization” says, “We are forced to recognize a deep-seated disharmony in our civilization, something wrong with the nations which comes out in their dealings with one another”; and then, referring to a statement of Mr. H. G. Wells to the effect that modern civilized society has visibly broken down, says, “This moral breakup is the cause of the desolation which Mr. Wells sees advancing.” And Bishop William Temple quotes, from a report of the Archbishop's Committee on Christianity and Industrial Problems, to the effect that our present "industrial society” is fundamentally and gravely defective and that “the solution of the industrial problem involves,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

in short, not merely the improvement of individuals but a fundamental change in the spirit of industrial civilization itself.” Professor Tawney, the English economist, says in no uncertain terms that we cannot get ahead so long as acquisition is the main motive of the human race, and that the only remedy is to turn “an acquisitive society” into a society motivated by the spirit of service to humanity.

These men are not “Socialists” nor "Reds,” nor “Bolshevists”; but all of them are soberminded, responsible for what they say, and some of them are influential leaders of the Church. It is clear, however, that they are prophets of a new social order; and they agree substantially that we have only half succeeded in making our civilization Christian; or to reverse the thought, that we are still half pagan.

The Demand for a Christian Program for Society

When we seek an answer to the question, "What are we going to do about it?" "How can we get rid of this half-pagan civilization?” what is perhaps the expected answer, but after all the very significant answer, is that we must make it wholly Christian. And even more

« PreviousContinue »