Challenge to Religion
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Original Essays and An Appeal to the
Conscience from the National
Conference on Religion and Race
HENRY REGNERY COMPANY
19 6 3
HE ESSAYS in this volume are based on papers
delivered at the National Conference on Religion and Race,
convened by the Department of Racial and Cultural Relations
of the National Council of Churches, the Social Action Com-
mission of the Synagogue Council of America, and the Social
Action Department of the National Catholic Welfare Con-
ference. An Appeal to the Conscience of the American People
was unanimously adopted at the close of the Conference by the
delegates of 70 participating organizations. The Conference
was held at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago from Jan-
uary 14 to January 17, 1963.
Preparation for the Conference was assisted by grants from:
The Acquinas Fund, the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., Foundation,
the William J. Kerby Foundation, the Irwin Sweeney Miller
Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
Mathew Ahmann, editor of the volume, served as Conference
Executive Secretary. He is the Executive Director of the
National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice.
s- - ,\<^
© 1963 by Henry Regnery Company
Chicago 4, Illinois
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 63-13762
The National Conference on Religion and Race represents,
for the first time in the United States, the formal cooperation
of our major faith bodies on a common moral and social prob-
lem. The Conference was convened by agencies of the National
Council of Churches, the Synagogue Council of America, and
the National Catholic Welfare Conference. Sixty-seven addi-
tional religious and religiously identified groups participated in
the meeting by selecting delegates to attend. Several other na-
tional religious bodies sent observer delegates to take part in
The meeting was conceived as a distinctively religious com-
memoration of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclama-
tion made effective by President Abraham Lincoln in January,
1863. The Conveners hoped and planned for a Conference
which would concretely examine the role of religious institu-
tions in race relations, and then move on to propose and inspire
renewed action, and interreligious projects to increase the lead-
ership of religion in ending racial discrimination in the United
The essays in this book, by their number and length, may
tend to hide the fact that the delegates present felt the theme
of the meeting was action. The talks provided a setting for the
real heart of the meeting — 32 workgroups in which lay and
clerical religious leaders from all over the United States re-
viewed concrete problems facing religion and religious insti-
tutions in race relations.
Workgroups dealt with concrete matters: racial exclusion in
congregations and denominations; programs to educate mem-
bers on moral issues in race relations; use of national and local
policy and programs in the desegregation of religious institu-
tions; the responsibility of religious institutions as employers;
the responsibility of the church and synagogue as administra-
tors; educational resources of religious institutions; the role of
church and synagogue in urban and suburban neighborhoods,
and in rural areas.
Groups of delegates also dealt with the relation of religious
institutions to voluntary civic groups and movements, as reli-
gious people worked for desegregation and racial integration.
Others were concerned with the relationship between religious
groups working for interracial justice, and the relation of reli-
gious groups working for interracial justice to governmental
and political forces.
In each of these groups, delegates first made a candid ap-
praisal of the weaknesses and strengths of religious work for
race relations. They dwelt on the racial abuses still extant within
the life of religion itself. Then they moved on to propose ideas
and map programs to correct racial abuses within religious insti-
tutions, and to quicken the impact of organized religion on
United States racial patterns.
Some sixty-two practical program suggestions were accepted
in a closing plenary session. While delegates, chosen by their
groups, could not commit their groups, there was firm resolve
to use the proposed program ideas within national religious
groups, as well as in local communities around the country.
Indeed, the weeks prior to the meeting saw initial steps taken
in ten local communities around the country to organize top
flight interreligious committees which would implement Con-
ference findings by developing interreligious action programs.
And the weeks immediately after the Conference saw sponta-
neous developments along these lines take place in a number of
cities and states.
The Conference Steering Committee and the delegates were
conscious of the need to extend the influence of the meeting,
and so provided for the maintenance of a national interim
secretariat. This secretariat and a continuing Steering Commit-
tee also have responsibility for publishing Conference findings
not contained in this book, for evaluating accomplishments of
the meeting, and for proposing further joint program ideas to
the participating groups. While the decision taken at the meet-
ing indicated the secretariat should continue for a period of
only four to seven months, delegates felt strongly that inter-
religious action for interracial justice must go on, increase in
its impact on our divisive racial patterns, and especially develop
specific local projects in our many urban and rural areas.
Secretariat responsibilities are being transferred to a strength-
ened Steering Committee, and the United Church of Christ
has released Dr. Galen R. Weaver to serve as interim Executive
To the 657 delegates present in Chicago from January 14-17,
1963, there was no doubt that the work of the National Con-
ference on Religion and Race only began when the meeting
While interracial justice was the goal which has called forth
this demonstration of religious unity, an underlying concern
was the relationship between religion and society. How do reli-
gious values influence and shape our society? How do religious
institutions behave if they want their values to produce con-
structive social change?
While acknowledging some notable religious accomplish-
ments in race relations— not the least the religiously motivated
non-violent-movement inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr.— conferees acknowledged the collective guilt of the religious
bodies in America; guilt for malpractice which contributed to
the climate which produced the Civil War; guilt for the racial
abuses still found in religious bodies; and even more, they
acknowledged the massive fear of positive action to open our
society so that every man is accepted by every other man.
There was a note of frustration and almost desperation which
kept cropping up in deliberations. But there was no despair.
The meeting was a solid demonstration of the eagerness of
religious men and women to break unnecessary social and insti-
tutional restraints and give real leadership in resolving the great
dilemma of America's conscience.
Three main lines of action seemed to emerge in the thought
1 . The conscience of each individual communicant of a re-
ligious group must be informed. Definitive policies of moral
education on racial justice and love must be adopted and ad-
ministered in all religious bodies. They must affect seminary
education, the intraining education of clerical and lay leaders,
adults from pulpits, and children. This education must be con-
ducted in terms so concrete that the conscience is disturbed, so
that any man can see that toleration of racial segregation in his
neighborhood, his worklife, and the life of his religious body
makes his faith irrelevant. As Dr. Heschel says in his paper, the
man who permits racial segregation, really segregates God. Man
must also see that religious values will not even permit him to
segregate racially in his private social life. No part of the life
of the people of God is apart from His judgment. In the far
reaching meaning of religious commitment, religion does go
much further and makes greater demands than government or
other social institutions can ever make. Religion is not a crea-
tion of man, but of God, and adherents to our Jewish and
Christian traditions must fulfill the command of God to draw
no artificial line between man and man. The theme of the Con-
ference was: "Challenge to Justice and Love J'
2. Religious institutions must correct their own abuses.
Again specific policies eliminating racial segregation in the life
of religious and religiously administered institutions must be
adopted and administered in all religious bodies. A religious
body which preaches a doctrine of the oneness of humanity, the
equality of all men created by God, denies its nature if it does
not scrupulously root out those sore spots in its own institutions
which divide brother from brother, and conscience from God.
Delegates to the Conference were not naive. They might
hope for, but did not expect a rapid fire development in reli-
gious bodies which have been slow to respond to the moral
challenge our racial patterns have placed before them. But they
did pledge to see to the constant development of policy and
administration which would enable religious institutions to
cleanse themselves of their own sins, and be free to give leader-
ship to a confused country.
3. Finally delegates were concerned with the specific rela-
tion between religious institutions, as social institutions, and
our society. The life of a synagogue or a church in a local com-
munity shapes the response of that community to interracial
challenge. Religious groups can refuse to contract or purchase
from concerns which have not taken deliberate steps to elimi-
nate racial discrimination in employment policies. Religious
groups do manage social and welfare institutions which can
respond to the needs of people caught in the misery of the slum
ghetto. Religious groups together can conduct the kind of dem-
onstrations which will awaken the conscience of Americans.
Religious groups together can give forceful testimony before
governmental and civic bodies. Indeed, delegates shared a posi-
tive belief that joint religious action in our communities was
the one force which could dramatically alter racial patterns,
bring racial justice with rapidity, free the conscience of white
people from a burden of guilt, and shape the kind of social pat-
terns which would enable all men to contribute their talents
to the development of our world.
There was, then, a conviction present in the Conference that
religion should influence our society not only through the in-
formed communicant, who acts on religious principle, but also
through the proper exercise of institutional power. Religious
groups bear institutional responsibility, too. As Rabbi Adler
says in his essay, religious bodies have every right to behave as
other social institutions in contributing to the life of our society.
It was with these convictions, I believe, that the delegates to
the National Conference on Religion and Race left the meet-
ing hall, to work with renewed vigor for a just and open society.
It was my good fortune to be deeply involved in planning
and preparing for this historic Conference. It was a pleasure
for me because of the task before it, and also because of the
many people who gave of themselves so deeply, and in such a
splendid demonstration of interreligious cooperation to make
the meeting a good one. It is never possible to acknowledge the
contributions everyone made, but if the meeting is productive
of new vigor in religious work in race relations the help of the
following must be recognized.
The Rev. Gene Wesley Marshall was released temporarily
from the staff of the Ecumenical Institute of the Church Fed-
eration of Greater Chicago. He joined my staff at the National
Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice, and brought unique
talents for administering the many details of a meeting like
this, and for inspiring others to make their best contributions.
Conference direction was given especially by the following
representatives of the convening agencies: Dr. J. Oscar Lee of
the Department of Racial and Cultural Relations, National
Council of Churches; Rabbi Philip Hiat, Executive Vice-Presi-
dent of the Synagogue Council of America; and the Rev. John
F. Cronin, S.S., Assistant Director of the Social Action Depart-
ment, National Catholic Welfare Conference.
I wish also to thank the Conference Chairman Dr. Benja-
min E. Mays, and the Committee Chairmen, Rabbi Marc
H. Tanenbaum who was helpful from the inception of the
Conference, Mr. Fletcher Coates for his public relations serv-
ices. Miss Thelma Stevens, Dr. Garry Oniki, Rabbi Balfour
Brickner, the Very Rev. Msgr. Daniel M. Cantwell, the Rev.
Arthur E. Walmsley, Mr. John McDermott, Dr. Edgar Chan-
dler, Rabbi Irving Rosenbaum, and the Honorable James B.
Mr. Donald Graham, Vice Chairman of the Continental
Illinois National Bank and Trust Company, and Mr. Irving J.
Fain, Chairman of the Commission on Social Action of Re-
form Judaism provided generous leadership in raising necessary
And I am personally indebted to Dr. Nathan Lander and
Miss Peggy Roach.
February 2, 1963
Part I The Inner Life of Church and Synagogue
in Race Relations 9
THE REV. WILL D. CAMPBELL
Part II Religion and Race: The Historical Perspec-
dr. franklin h. littell
Part III The Religious Basis of Equality of Oppor-
tunity—The Segregation of God 55
DR. ABRAHAM J. HESCHEL
Part IV The Religious Institution and the Commu-
The Role of Church and Synagogue in the
Racially Changing Community 75
DR. DAN W. DODSON
The Responsibility of Church and Syna-
gogue as Institutions in the Commu-
THE VERY REV. MSGR. JOHN J. EGAN
Relation of Church and Synagogue to
Other Community Forces 101
RABBI MORRIS ADLER
Part V Perspectives on the Challenge 115
Interracial Justice and Love: Challenge to
a Religious America 117
DR. JULIUS MARK, President, Synagogue
Council of America
ALBERT CARDINAL MEYER, Archbishop of
J. IRWIN MILLER, President, National
Council of Churches 135
America, Race and the World 142
R. SARGENT SHRIVER, Director, United
States Peace Corps
Part VI A Challenge to the Churches and Syna-
THE REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING
An Appeal to the Conscience of the Amer-
ican People 171
Notes on Contributors 175
Dr. Benjamin E. Mays
Chairman, National Conference on Religion and Race
President, Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia
On January the first, 1863, two significant meetings were
held in Boston, Massachusetts. The people assembled that day
to rejoice and to thank God for the signing of the Emancipa-
tion Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln, thus ending 244 years
of physical slavery which had been in operation since 1619.
The first meeting was held in Music Hall, Boston. If you
had been living on the afternoon of January 1, 1863, and if you
had been present in Music Hall, you would have seen some of
the great literary figures celebrating and rejoicing as if they
themselves had just been emancipated from bondage. Who
were some of them?
You would have seen Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver
Wendell Holmes, Charles Eliott Norton, John Greenleaf
Whittier, Edward Everett Hale, Francis Parkman, and Ralph
Waldo Emerson. And last, but by no means the least, Harriett
Beecher Stowe. Charles Sumner was absent because his invita-
tion arrived too late. Wendell Phillips had a previous commit-
Emerson opened the meeting with the reading of a Boston
hymn which he had completed that morning. Here is one of
I break your bonds and masterships,
And I unchain the slave.
Free be his heart and hand henceforth
As mind and wandering wave.
Emerson was followed by music, highlighted by Beethoven's
Fifth Symphony, with Carl Zerrahn conducting the Philhar-
Harriet Beecher Stowe, sitting inconspicuously in the bal-
cony, was called upon to speak. She walked slowly down the
rail of the balcony— so deeply moved that she could only weep
The counterpart to this meeting was an evening assembly in
Tremont Temple, Boston. Though sponsored by a predom-
inantly Negro group, it was an integrated audience. Comment-
ing on this meeting Frederick Douglass said: "We were not all
of one color but we all seemed to be one color that day." An-
other Negro speaker, John S. Rock, commented that this was a
great day for his country and for his race.
Why did they celebrate? Hale, Parkham, Longfellow, Whit-
tier, Emerson, Stowe, Douglass and Rock? They celebrated
because to them the emancipation of the slaves was not a mili-
tary necessity, not a political gesture, not a diplomatic move-
emancipation was a moral necessity. To them slavery was im-
moral, a cancer destroying the soul of religion and democracy,
just as real cancer destroys the body. That's why they cele-
brated. They rejoiced that Lincoln had issued and signed the
Why do we come one hundred years after Lincoln? Cath-
olics, Jews and Protestants? We come because we too believe
that racial discrimination and prejudice are immoral and can-
cerous and that they destroy the very vitals of democracy and
religion, and undermine the foundation of both church and
We come because we stand on a sohd doctrinal foundation.
We affirm together that God is the ground of our existence,
Creator, Sustainer, Judge. We hold that God is Father of all
mankind, and that all men are brothers under God. We hold
together that man is made in the image of God and that the
life of each and every person is of intrinsic worth and value.
This common doctrine cuts across all boundaries— national,
religious, racial, class and caste. It is a common platform upon
which Jews, Catholics and Protestants all stand. In believing
this, we know that this doctrine must apply to each and every
person everywhere, or it applies to none. God is the Creator of
all mankind or He is the Creator of no part of it. He is the
Father of all or He is the Father of none. The life of every per-
son is sacred or the life of no person is sacred. If God cares for
the greatest. He cares for the least. Either all or none. In this
belief, Jews, Catholics and Protestants unite. We come because
"We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are cre-
ated equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the
pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights. Governments
are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the
consent of the governed." We believe then that life, liberty and
the right to pursue happiness are gifts of God and not govern-
ments. It is the function of government to protect life, liberty,
and one's right to pursue happiness. Although this document
was pronounced when slavery was an accepted institution, the
Declaration of Independence must apply to all or none.
We are here this week because we feel that the time has
come for the three major faiths to speak to the nation with a
united voice on what is one of the most crucial problems con-
fronting mankind today. In questions of ethics and morals, we
believe that religion should lead and not follow. It may be that
if religion had taken the leadership, emancipation might have
come without a Civil War and without the hatred that the
War engendered. It may be that if the Church and Synagogue
had led the way in desegregating their congregations, the May
17, 1954 decision of the United States Supreme Court might
have been unnecessary. The so-called secular society would
have followed the leadership of the Church and Synagogue.
The signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the en-
acting of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments brought phys-
ical freedom to the newly emancipated people. But the struggle
to emancipate the mind and free mankind from prejudice and
discrimination had to be left to those who followed Lincoln.
We come this week to think together, to work together, to
pray together and to dedicate ourselves to the task of complet-
ing the job which Lincoln began 100 years ago.
We recognize the fact that we have had 100 years to make
religion real in human relations and that we may not have
another 100 years to make good on our theological commit-
ment. We did not seek world leadership, but the Second
World War thrust it upon the United States. The United
States is the leader of the free world and it is the most powerful
industrial nation in the annals of man. No nation in history
has been so favorably circumstanced as the United States. But
world leadership requires more than industrial and military
might. It requires that we practice at home what we seek to
sell to the world. So we are here because our consciences will
not let us rest in peace until we implement, more fully, in deed
what we expound in words. And as long as we say we believe in
God, the brotherhood of man and in the Declaration of Inde-
pendence, we have no choice but to strive with might and main
to close the gap between theory and practice. Until we do this,
we play a hypocritical role and wear an uneasy conscience.
We believe that this conference will create in us a new sense
of urgency to do in the next ten years what we failed to do in
the past 100 years— abolish from among us racial discrimina-
tion and prejudice. Other countries that repudiate God, deny
the God given worth of the individual, and lay no claim to a
Declaration of Independence, a Bill of Rights, and a 14th
Amendment may hesitate and falter on this question, but the
moral leadership of the world is in the hands of the United
States of America. We dare not fail the world in this crucial
moment of history!
We come because great responsibility rests on our shoulders.
God has blessed America. No nation in history has achieved so
much in so short a time. In less than two centuries we have be-
come the wealthiest nation in history. Our standard of living is
the highest in the world. Our military might is probably su-
perior to that of any other nation. Our literacy is high. Never
before has a country been in the enviable position where prac-
tically every nation on earth looked to if for some kind of aid.
Whether they hate us or love us, the nations respect us and
accept our aid and in many instances our leadership. Neither
Rome nor England in its heyday carried the responsibility
for world leadership as that which has fallen upon our shoul-
This enviable position makes our country morally vulner-
able. The Biblical injunction is applicable here. "To whom
much is given of him much is required." Our greatness in other
areas will amount to naught unless our moral leadership in
human relations equals or surpasses our industrial and military
power. Segregation in God's house, a few Little Rocks, Oxfords,
New Orleans, Albanys do more to tear down our moral leader-
ship in the world than our billions given in foreign aid can build
up. These are not the main reasons why we must abolish racial
discrimination and prejudice. We must abolish them because it
is right so to do. But we can not dismiss the fact that the eyes
of the world are upon us, and what we do in human relations
speaks so loudly that the nations cannot hear what we say about
religion and democracy.
We come today 100 years after Lincoln to seek ways and
means of eliminating human injustices because we love the
United States. It is my candid belief that if the United States
so favored by God cannot implement its religious ideals in the
area of race and culture, no other nation will or can. If men of
all races cannot live together in mutual respect and helpfulness
in the United States, religion and democracy as we know them
will be doomed in the world.
In one sense, it may matter little what happens to minority
groups in America— Negroes, Jews, Indians, Japanese, and Chi-
nese. But it matters much what happens to the soul of Amer-
ica, to our democracy, and to our Judeo-Christian faith. If
these lights go out, may God have mercy on our souls. If we
cannot build the brotherhood of man in the United States I
despair of its ever being built anywhere in the world. So we
come today. Catholics, Jews, and Christians to confess our sins
before God and dedicate ourselves anew to our religious ideals
to the end that the emancipation which Lincoln began 100
years ago may become a reality in our time.
The Inner Life of
Church and Synagogue
in Race Relations
The Inner Life of Church and
in Race Relations
Rev. Will D. Campbell
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One."
The traditional Shema, as old as Israel itself, should be
enough to solve the race problem.
It hasn't solved it.
The response which often follows certainly should have
been enough to prevent the centuries of prejudice, discrimina-
tion and hate we have experienced: "Thine, O Lord, is the
greatness, and the power, the glory, and the victory, and the
majesty; for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine;
Thine is the Kingdom, O Lord, and Thou are exalted as head
above all." There is really nothing one can say beyond that
concerning the subject before us. What can we say after we
have acknowledged the existence of God in the Shema? The
only thing we can do is try to define what kind of God we have
acknowledged and the response does it for us. It says He is the
kind of God who has all power, all greatness, all glory, and the
victory and the majesty. It says He is the kind of God to whom
everything in heaven and on the earth belongs. It says He is the
God who is exalted as head of everything. He alone is sovereign
10 R E V . W I L L D . C A M P B E L L
and all our fates and destinies belong to Him. That should have
been enough to know.
Likewise since 1521 when the first Roman Catholic altar
was erected in what is now the state of Florida, day after day,
in parishes scattered from Minnesota to Alabama, from Cape
Hatteras to San Francisco Bay the priest, just before the most
important part of the Mass, namely the re-enactment of the
Last Supper of Jesus, has turned to the people and said Orates
Fratres. Pray Brothers . . . that my sacrifice and yours may be
acceptable in the sight of God. You are brothers. Day after day
after day Orates Fratres, no condition, no qualification, no
exceptions, those two powerful words are spoken wherever and
whenever the Mass is celebrated. Whether in Lewiston, Maine
or Biloxi, Mississippi, the words are the same. And they are
said, not in a general and nebulous way from a top level con-
ference or council where there is always the hazard of their
being lost between there and the living level but they, like the
Shema, are said in a local situation, to a congregation gathered,
to the family circle. Our subject is the inner life of church and
synagogue. It is at this level that these words are spoken. They
should have been enough to solve the problem of race in
They haven't solved it.
Again in Protestant Christianity Sunday after Sunday the
people stand and affirm: "I believe in God the Father Al-
mighty, Maker of heaven and earth." Or they stand and recite,
"In His hand are all the corners of the earth; and the strength
of the hills in His also. The sea is His and He made it; and His
hands prepared the dry land." Or from the Jubilate Deo, "Be
ye sure that the Lord He is God; it is He that hath made us,
and not we ourselves; we are His people." This constant affirma-
tion and reaffirmation of the absolute sovereignty of God, as
The Inner Life of Church and Synagogue 1 1
creator, redeemer and sustainer, should have been enough to
have shown us the total irrelevance of race, the frailty of man,
the folly of such Bible Belt absurdities as, "God was the original
These words, the Shema, the words from the Mass, the cen-
tral message of most Protestant liturgy scream out at us that
life is suffering and sorrow, and the beginning of death, that we
all come forth like a flower and are cut down and are of a few
days and full of trouble, and all flesh is grass and we are all here
dying together. They alone should have been enough to teach
us the error of our ways in dividing people into such categories
But the truth is they haven't.
Some Jews who are active in the life of the synagogue con-
tinue to respond to the Shema by going out and joining the
White Citizens' Councils. Father J. H. Fichter, one of the
world's foremost authorities in the Sociology of Religion, found
in his study called Southern Parish (J. H. Fichter, Southern
Parish, Vol. I, the Dynamics of a City Church, Chicago, 1951 )
that Catholic parishioners may indeed hear the words of the
Mass daily but often take it to mean that they are brothers at
the altar rail at prayer but not on the street car or in the school
room. And Protestants have continued to number among them
more racists than perhaps any other religious group in the
world. This despite their avowed belief in a God Who became
man to die that all men may be drawn into one family— the
Church. This despite the Beatitudes which most Protestant
Christians know by rote before they can read. Blessed are the
meek, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart,
blessed are the peacemakers. Where is there mercy, where is
meekness, where is there purity of heart, where is there peace-
making in racist doctrine, a doctrine which yet rules on the
throne in every segment of American life, in every industry, in
12 REV. WILL D. CAMPBELL
every region, in every mass medium, in every profession?
Despite the Decalogue, despite the Mystical Body, despite
the strong emphasis on the absolute Sovereignty of God, de-
spite the Beatitudes, every religion represented here today is
deeply afflicted with the cancerous cells of racism.
So perhaps it is ludicrous that we should be here talking
about the inner life of church and synagogue. Perhaps the Black
Muslims and the White Citizens' Councils are right. Perhaps
it has now come down to a matter of sheer naked survival and
that we should now take our stand, not on the basis of our
religious faith and heritage, but on the basis of the color of our
Or perhaps we are already irrelevant. Perhaps if we are not
ludicrous in our presence then maybe it is sheer madness. There
is a scene in a novel of some years ago which strikes me as being
tragically descriptive of church and synagogue in the American
racial crisis. The scene takes place on the sky balcony of a large
hotel. The symbolism is too obvious to miss. A band is playing
and people are dancing and making merry. At a table are four
people playing bridge. One of the men is dealt a dummy hand.
He places it upon the table, walks over to the balcony rail and
looks far down to the street below him. Drifting lazily out of
the basement window, a tiny wimper of smoke can be seen. He
lights a cigarette and when he has finished it, crushes it upon
the floor, walks into the dancing couples and dances with a
beautiful girl. He returns to the table and during the course of
the game he is again dealt a dummy hand. Again he goes to
the balcony rail, lights a cigarette and gazes downward. This
time he sees flames lashing their tongues out the fifth story
window. He calmly finishes his cigarette, walks out onto the
the dance floor, dances with the beautiful girl and once more
returns to the bridge table where in a little while he is dealt
another dummy hand. Again he walks quietly over to the bal-
The Inner Life of Church and Synagogue 1 3
cony rail and starts to light his cigarette. But this time the
flames are leaping and stepping their deadly dance across his
face, singeing brow and lashes as they move. And at this mo-
ment there is a crash at the door, the fireman breaking the
door down with the shout, which is the central theme of the
book, "Gentlemen, are you mad!"
This, it seems to me, essentially has been the history of the
religious forces during the long, dark night of American racism.
We looked over the balcony from the comfort and security
of a promising and prosperous young country and saw just a
hint of smoke when good, sincere and conscientious business
men began paying African tribesmen to capture and deliver
their brothers into white hands. But for the most part we
turned and walked away because, after all, had not the Apostle
Paul admonished Onesimus to return to his master, Philemon?
We saw the curling smoke of slavery flowing from the fifth
story window but turned and sat down, for in reality this was
one way of converting the heathen and, really and after all,
weren't they more happy singing in their shanty under the pro-
tective eye of Colonel Sartoris and the big house than they were
in disease-ridden jungles?
We walked to the balcony and saw the billowy flames of
secession and Civil War soaring over our heads and almost
engulfing us. And Dr. James Silver, in his book, Confederate
Morale and Church Propaganda, has shown that there was not
one known clergyman of any faith opposing slavery in the
South by the time the first shot was fired (though some had
earlier) and that the war would have collapsed from lack of
public sentiment and support had it not been for the morale
supplied by the churches.
We witnessed that C. Van Woodward has called "the
strange career of Jim Crow" rise to manhood and for the most
part saw our role in it all as establishing departments of Negro
14 REV. WILL D.CAMPBELL
work, floating little schoolhouses down rivers to educate Negro
children and otherwise fitting into the segregated pattern . . .
the flame, leaping over the banister and all around us and we
were all set to take our place again at the bridge table when out
of the darkness, knocking us into a state of consciousness on
May 17, 1954, those nine old men with a shout, "Gentlemen,
are you mad!" Your house is burning down, why did we have to
tell you! Why the Court? Did not the prophets tell you? Did
not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob warn you? Is this not
a moral and spiritual problem? Has it not to do with God and
love and people and brothers and children of one God? "Gen-
tlemen, are you mad!"
And no longer can we take our seat. No longer the casual
smoking of a cigarette and the unconcerned dance with the
beautiful girl. For nothing has slept since. All is motion, and
the question must be answered. Are we indeed mad?
If our being here is not ludicrous, if it is not madness, then
maybe it is too late for us to be here at all. Perhaps God has
already moved out of our houses erected in His name and that
such inner life as we may now know is but the growth of a
man's beard after he has been placed in the casket. Professor
W. W. Stout in a recent review reminds us of the time in the
fifth century B.C. when the keepers of the oracle at Delphi had
to admit the real presence of Apollo was not consistently with
them. "However," he says, "they hoped for the best and kept
the shrine open for declining business another eight hundred
years." If would be presumptuous and possibly a sacrilege for
me to maintain with any degree of certainty that this is hap-
pening today. But if God be God He can move in whatever
circles He chooses.
And I do say that it is too late for us to be here. That is, it is
too late now for us to establish harmonious relationships be-
tween the races on a worldwide scale. We who live in America
The Inner Life of Church and Synagogue 1 5
are not inclined to take this seriously for Negro leadership in
the field of civil rights had a fortunate beginning in America
in the rise and development of the NAACP, and most organi-
zations concerned with Negro rights which have come into
being, in more recent years have, for the most part, been sophis-
ticated and non-violent in orientation. However, a new phe-
nomenon which we must face honestly is in America. The fact
that it might be too late is irrelevant to our task. The fact that
Cain might become Abel and Abel, Cain, that history might
see a reversal of majority and minority positions cannot be our
If it is indeed too late for us to be here then why are we here?
We are here as a religious people. We are Jews and Chris-
tians. We come from various theological and ecclesiastical
backgrounds. There are things which we hold in common but
I think it would be a mistake if this conference takes its stand
on the symbol of three faiths meeting together. There are many
things upon which we do not agree. But there seems little point
in discussing that upon which we do or do not agree. Suffice it
to say that we are here as a religious people. We are not here
as civil libertarians first or as scientists or historians or lawyers,
although some of us are all those things. We are gathered here
because we are a religious people. Centennial Conference on
Religion and Race is our title. We are here as Jews and we are
here as Christians. Thus I would say that we are here to discuss
the subject which has been given to us but maybe not in the
order it reads. We, at least I, am not here to discuss how we can
use the inner life of the church to solve the race question. This
presupposes that there is a well defined and established inner
life as a tool to be used. That this is not the case is rather widely
accepted by students of the sociology of religion. Conor Ward
in Priest and People, a book in a current English social research
series says of St. Catherine Parish: "It could be said perhaps
16 REV. WILL D.CAMPBELL
that the system of ecclesiastical organization . . . arose in the
somewhat different circumstances of the . . . end of the nine-
teenth century and that in some respects it had not as yet
adapted itself sufficiently to the new conditions and to a
changed situation in the mid-twentieth century." I have little
reason to doubt that what this scholar said of one Catholic par-
ish in England is likewise true of most churches and synagogues
on a local level in America.
If we are saying that there does not now exist sufficient inner
life within local parishes to substantially influence social change
we are still stuck with the question of why we are here.
I would like to suggest that instead of seeking a solution to
the race problem through the inner life of church and syna-
gogue it would be more realistic to seek a true inner life for
church and svnagogue through the race problem. For here is
an issue that is virtually absolute. Unlike any other social prob-
lem religion has ever had to come to grips with, here is one on
which there is no room for argument. Here is an issue which
should never have been an issue in the life of church and syna-
gogue for it was settled for the Jews in the wilderness when they
were admonished to accept the Ger, the so-journer, the stranger
within their gates; when God approved the marriage of Moses
to an Ethiopian woman to the extent of giving Miriam leprosy
for disapproving; and it was settled for Christendom at Pente-
cost when members of every race and nation and tongue were
"altogether, in one place [integrated] hearing the mighty
works of God."
Yet not only did what was so basic and elementary in our
body of doctrine become an issue; it stands today as the most
crucial issue in the life of both church and society. That some-
thing so elementary did become an issue can only lead us to the
conclusion that something went wrong in the life of institu-
The Inner Life of Church and Synagogue 17
tionalized religion— that if we had had that basic element, race
would not have become a problem but that since it did our
greatest hope is to recover that basic element.
What is the basic element? I would not wander to the brink
of absurdity by trying to summarize each of the three faiths
represented here today. I would say that where there exists a
true understanding and acceptance of what we are as members
of St. Mary's Church, or as members of Congregation Beth-El
or members of First Methodist there does not exist a problem
of race in that grouping because it is recognized that as a people
of God the concept of race is neither tolerated nor recognized.
There exists an inner life of a people of God.
If the basic theological assumptions of all faiths represented
here do not tolerate the concept of race then how did it happen
that race is such an issue in the life of religious communities?
How and why did it happen?
I would like to suggest that it happened because the South
won the Civil War. The Civil War was fought over the issue
of race. One of the best historians on the Civil War period, Dr.
James Silver, says it was this and nothing more. After all has
been said about the economics and politics of it all, it was really
a war of the abolitionist and the non-abolitionist. And it has
been the racial theory of the non-abolitionist which has en-
dured and is to be found in every area of American life.
And where in America, a democracy — a political system of
equality— where in America, a nation of Jews and Christians,
two religions refuting racism from the beginning, came this
influence? For the answer I would turn to an article by the
novelist, Walker Percy, published by The Commonweal a
number of years ago. He says that while the South did live in a
Christian edifice, it lived there in the strange fashion Chester-
ton spoke of, that of a man who will neither go inside nor put
18 REV. WILL D.CAMPBELL
it entirely behind him but stand forever grumbhng on the
porch. And from that vantage point, infers Percy, he developed
a religion which was neither Jewish nor Christian, but Greek.
It seemed to have a theology of the Judeo-Christian tradition
—at least in words and liturgy— but an ethic (that pattern of
behavior resulting from any theological system) which was
Stoic. The noblesse oblige of Southern aristocracy has often
been condemned and the notion that he was "the best friend
the Negro had" has been dismissed as a myth. It was not a
myth. There was this period when he fought the Klan and de-
fended the rights of his Negro charge. There was this bond
which Faulkner describes between the Colonel Sartoris "who
made himself responsible for his helpless 'freedom,' and the
Lucas Beauchamps who accepted his leadership," and between
them formed an alliance which worked for a long time. But it
was an alliance based on the Stoic notion that sovereignty and
the power and authority to rule inheres naturally in the best
man. As Percy said, this nobility, and nobility it was— make no
mistake about that— "was the nobility of the natural perfection
of the Stoics, the stern inner summon to man's full estate, to
duty, to honor, to generosity toward his fellowmen and above
all to his inferiors— not because they were made in the image
of God and were therefore lovable in themselves, but because
to do them an injustice would be to defile the inner fortress
which was oneself." The Southerner fought the Civil War, con-
vinced that this power had inhered naturally in him and he
outfoxed those who, following the war, occupied his land, con-
vinced that he above all was prepared to do the decent and
honorable thing toward the freedmen. And on the basis of the
Stoic understanding of power and nobility and decency he did
the best he could. But when his charges lost their manners,
when Lucas Beauchamps quit coming to Colonel Sartoris, but
The Inner Life of Church and Synagogue 19
instead joined the NAACP and the labor union and turned to
the Federal Court and the Executive, and instead of asking, in-
formed: "We are going to ride, we are going to vote, we are
going to go to school and we are going to eat in dignity and you
are going to help us," the Stoic understanding of man could not
survive the test. For in that concept, based on an hierarchical
structure, when one becomes insolent, when he demands in-
stead of asking, when he refuses the oblige and the noblesse, the
Stoic no longer has a responsibility toward him. The following
paragraph of Percy's seems to sum up the point.
For the Stoic there is no real hope. His finest hour is to sit
tight-lipped and ironic while the world comes crashing
down around him. It must be otherwise with the Christian.
The urban plebs is not the mass which is to be abandoned to
its own barbaric devices, but the lump to be leavened. . . .
The Stoic has no use for the clamoring minority; the Chris-
tian must have every use for it.
The White Citizens' Council member and the Neighbor-
hood Protective Association member is right when he says the
rising mass has nothing to offer his former kingdom. Much of
the data he has about the behavior of the rising mass is accurate
though it does not take into account sociological reasons for
that behavior. But there is no point in challenging him on that
level and on that basis. As a Stoic he is right. As a Christian and
as a Jew he is wrong, bad wrong, dead wrong, heretically wrong,
for his data is irrelevant to the heritage he claims.
So what we are saying is that the greatest contribution the
local rehgious unit can make is to seek and to find, nay, to be
found of that inner life without which it is sounding brass and
tinkling symbols, without which it is nothing. Their greatest
contribution is to preach and proclaim and live their own par-
ticular and peculiar message, that which they and they alone
20 REV. WILL D.CAMPBELL
have. Unless we can say, "We are not pagans, this is the way
we behave because we are in this household of faith, this is
what it means to be a Jew, this is what is means to be a Chris-
tian, this is how we behave because of what we believe." Unless
this can be said then I am convinced that all our techniques, all
our gimmicks, program kits and human engineering will fail.
And so will this conference fail unless it results in rediscovery
and renewal of the hundreds of religious communities repre-
There is strong racial consciousness and loyalty in every part
of America and the new Executive order on housing may well
dramatize the degree of hostility that exists in other regions as
the court decision on education in 1954 did in the South. So
the issue over which the Civil War was fought was not resolved
and its body lies mouldering in the grave much less than John
Still the question comes, what can we do? Although I insist
that a more appropriate question is, "What can we be?" the
question deserves treatment. But any treatment I give the ques-
tion presupposes true renewal of church and synagogue in their
inner life. Until we are able to proclaim categorically and with
authority, "We are Jews and this is the way we behave in this
household of God," and, "We are Christians and this is the
way this family behaves because of what it is." Until we are
able to say that— there is nothing we can do, for we are too
much a part of the culture in which we live.
And I would say further that generally someone who has to
ask doesn't really want to know. Often what we really mean is,
"What can we do to improve race relations and still maintain
the strength and rate of growth of the institution?" The answer
to that question is, "Nothing!" For the cobblestones of a daring
and radical and prophetic religion is the road to death. Further-
The Inner Life of Church and Synagogue 21
more, even if we ask the question in all sincerity with a well-
defined and established inner life we must understand that the
secular agencies and government are better prepared to do most
of it than we are. We must understand that our actions must
be based, not on what we may be able to accomplish, but on the
basis of what we are, and on the basis of our very nature.
And the first thing we can do is repent. There can be no
reconciliation without repentance. And we are all involved.
You don't have to own a cotton plantation in Sunflower Coun-
ty, Mississippi, to be involved. If you wear a cotton shirt you
contribute to American racism, you are a part of the sin we are
discussing. Across the street from where I once had an office in
an American city there was a house of prostitution— so they
said. A small grocery located in the building was managed by a
Negro lady. The establishment proper was owned by whites.
We used to go there for take-out sandwiches when we had
interracial gatherings and had to eat in the office. On one such
occasion when I went for the sandwiches, the manager of the
grocery was not there and in her place was the white propri-
etress. When I inquired as to where Mrs. X was, the white lady
began to weep and told me of the untimely death of Mrs. X
the night before. And then in fits of tears she told me of her
deep affection for Mrs. X. And it was apparent that her tears
were not the patronizing tears of the Old South weeping for
a passed-on Aunt Jemima or a departed Mammy. Here was
genuine grief for a friend and peer. This was in the era of the
kneel-ins. And as I sought to console this proprietress of a
house of prostitution, I could not help but feel the tragedy of
a culture in which this woman would have been unwelcome in
the respectable churches in the area, but was deeply mourned
for in a bawdy house. No wonder a prophet whom most white
council members and most neighborhood protective associa-
22 REV. WILL D.CAMPBELL
tion members call Lord said to some of the "good" people of his
day that those who sold their bodies for pay and those who
cooperated with occupying forces for pay were closer to the
Kingdom of which he spoke than they— "Truly I say to you,
scalawags and whores enter the kingdom of God before you."
Woe unto a generation when a human soul finds more accept-
ance and community in a whore house than in a church house!
Having repented what can a local congregation do— where
can it go from there? Are we suggesting that the duty of the
local congregation is to get together every weekend and say,
"God is Supreme, let us pray"? Far from it. I would like briefly
to outline nine areas where it seems to me a congregation which
has discovered what it is as a people of God can work. I con-
sidered proposing ten but to use that number seemed presump-
tuous. Not all of them apply to all religions represented here.
Certainly high up on any list would be the area of housing.
I am grateful that churches and religious groups have already
pioneered in that field to some extent. Both the National
Council of Churches and several denominational and religious
groups have provided advisory services on a sustaining basis to
local community organizations which have done such things as
securing open occupancy pledges, gathering information and
data on the private housing market, putting buver in touch
with seller and following up the situations in the capacity of
counsellor as long as it is needed. These have been pilot
projects. Now with the recent Executive Order on housing
there will be a ready made opportunity in every American town
and city for local congregations to carry out such a program.
Any one of the convening agencies of this conference is pre-
pared to offer materials which would give you the information
needed. Whereas the school desegregation crisis has affected
but a few southern communities, the housing order has more
The Inner Life of Church and Synagogue 23
far-reaching implications and will offer every church and syna-
gogue a chance not only to be the conscience of the community
but also an opportunity to involve itself in appropriate direct
action. It takes no genius to predict that the housing order, if
enforced and supported, will do far more to change the racial
picture in America than did the Supreme Court decision on
public school education of 1954.
A second dramatic and significant development among
minority groups is the current emphasis on voter education
and registration. In some states nearly half the population is
disfranchised on the grounds of race alone. Such agencies as
the NAACP, CORE, the Southern Christian Leadership Con-
ference, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee,
and the Urban League are cooperating in voter education drives
in a project administered by the Southern Regional Council.
What more appropriate could a local congregation do than to
sponsor one such drive itself working through its youth. It is
disheartening to me that about the only time religion is men-
tioned in political circles is when the bigots inject it to dis-
credit a candidate. Could it not become a major moral influ-
ence through such efforts as the one mentioned?
A number of previously all-white colleges and universities
have now declared an open policy. But they are finding that no
Negro students apply. Why could not a local congregation
recruit and offer scholarships for students to attend these
schools? Especially since most of the schools in that category
are church related.
I would also mention a very interesting movement among
some African Christians to send missionaries to America— not
to preach racial tolerance, but to preach the gospel as they have
understood it from other missionaries. If that movement de-
velops the very act of their preaching to us, white America may
24 REV. WILL D.CAMPBELL
be spared. Local congregations can ask for such help just as
African congregations have requested it in the past. But it can't
be done in the old patronizing manner of thinking there is
something virtuous in seeing the cute and quaint African cos-
tumes on Sunday morning or during Brotherhood Week.
Rather we must ask because we need the freshness of their
preaching, because we need their witness and ministry for the
health of our souls.
There is a somewhat similar program which developed
among Seminarv students in this country known as the Student
Interracial Ministry. These students give a summer to serve as
assistant pastor in a church where their race is not the dominant
one. White students serve as assistants in Negro congregations
and vice versa. A Southern Baptist congregation in North
Carolina had a Negro student pastor who for much of the
summer had full responsibility for all the work of the church.
Congregations in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Ten-
nessee, South Carolina and other states have also participated
in the program. Local churches throughout the country could
profit from such an experience. Or they could contribute funds
to that project so that others may participate.
There are silent sermons being preached throughout the
land by a group who call themselves "BROTHERS." Started
by a physically handicapped layman during the Little Rock
crisis, the group wears a little lapel pin and carries a small card
as a pledge that they will pray for the unity of mankind and
that they will work constantly for the disappearance of patterns
of separation and discrimination. They are not an organization,
they have no dues, no membership roles, no officers. I dare say
that all of you will see at least one such pin being worn at this
conference. Inquire as to its meaning.
Once a congregation has discovered its real nature it no
The Inner Life of Church and Synagogue 2 5
longer fears criticism or persecution and no longer needs to
protect its institutional growth. It is then willing to be used up
in the service of God and mankind. Thus it can then make use
of the mass communications media, to reach the community.
Who, having a light, hides it under a bushel? Who? Why,
churches and synagogues. When the going really gets rough if
we venture out at all it is often after we have made sure the
press won't be there and that no names will be named and no
pictures made lest we ruin our effectiveness. Now we aren't
really worried about our effectiveness are we? We're worried
about our institutional hides. So for the most part we have
turned radio and T.V. over to the bigots and crackpots who
hawk their wares of bigotry in the name of religion on every
band and channel in the country. When we have finally de-
clared that we are a people of God and are against discrimina-
tion and injustices of all kinds we are no longer afraid to shout
it to the winds. And he that hath ears to hear let him hear.
Or a local congregation can do what one let its leaders do in
Oxford, Mississippi, on what the natives call "the longest
night." Their priests went out into the face of death and hell
as a sort of two-man truth squad, relieving students of knives,
shovels, bottles, bricks and other more advanced trinkets of
pleasure. What happened on that night made me proud to be
a Mississippian for a few native sons, James Meredith one of
them. Father Duncan Gray another, showed what it meant to
be men of faith, and they are both products of Mississippi. Cer-
tainly I was ashamed of the chaff, but the grain stood out in a
manner seldom witnessed in this century. And there is a subtle
Oxford almost daily in the average American city. What's the
difference really if two people are killed by bullets or two people
die because they are forced to a life of squalor and poverty and
ghettos and lack of opportunity because of the color of their
26 REV. WILL D.CAMPBELL
skin. What difference except social respectability and headlines
and subtleties. And it happens every day. But how many cities
have a James Meredith to challenge it and how many local
congregations provide or would even tolerate a Duncan Gray
or a Kilmer Myers to "light the dark streets" in support of the
challenge. This is not a defensive effort to say Mississippi isn't
so bad after all. It is rather an effort to say it is worse than its
most severe critics say but that it isn't different from the rest
of America— it is typical. Take a neighborhood in Manhattan
where 80% of the young people betweeen 16 and 18 years old
who have finished high school or have dropped out and are
Negroes and who find it utterly impossible to find employment
and turn to all forms of death and despair— drug addiction, alco-
holism, illegitimate relations, crimes of various sorts. Thou-
sands are dying daily and their lives of crime are retreats from
society and they suffer the same kind of denial— the denial of
fellowship and opportunity — that James Meredith suffers. Con-
sider the increasing breakdown of relationships between white
liberals and Negro youths in these areas and it is frightening.
When a congregation has found renewal, has found itself, it
will not only lend its minister and laity to such a ministry, it
will literally push them into it. The well have no need of a
Or again Sunday Schools can get their studies out of cinder
block classrooms painted a pretty blue and often as far from the
world God placed us in as Oral Roberts is from the Mayo
Clinic and the laboratory of human life; the human world of
various racial and ethnic groups. Where is the community
that does not offer a local church a peace corps situation,
a children's camp to be built, a widow's house to be
painted, a desecrated synagogue or a bombed church to be
rebuilt? I would trade one weekend of such labor by an inter-
racial group of young people who discuss with their leaders and
The Inner Life of Church and Synagogue 27
experience with one another the dimensions of their faith, for
a year's curriculum in the average Sunday School.
Well. I'm finished. We began by saying it is too late. It is
never too late for faithfulness. In the process of our being faith-
ful to the God we worship and seek to serve, society might be
changed. But we must not be faithful in order to change
society. And if there is to be any increase from the fruits of
our labors, let God be the giver.
Religion and Race:
Religion and Race:
The Historical Perspective
Dr. Franklin H. Littell
In a recent interview, the legal advisory to Mr. James Mere-
dith ( Mr. Medgar Evers of the NAACP ) commented that the
white ministers in Jackson, Mississippi, had failed to stand up
in the face of injustices and violence. "As far as speaking out,"
he said, "we don't know they exist. "^ Although in Oxford three
of the Protestant clergy showed exceptional moral courage in
dealing with the challenge to the Church's teaching,- the ques-
tion will not down : Wherein is the captivity of the Protestant
churches, which has led to all too much silence of the Amer-
ican pulpits in the face of widespread triumph of violence and
Understanding the Nineteenth Century
To understand the special strengths and peculiar weaknesses
of the American churches, a brief glance at the course of reli-
gion in American history is necessary. There is a widespread
misapprehension that America has been, and still is, a "Chris-
tian nation," and therefore there is embarrassment and frustra-
tion among the sensitive when infidelity runs rampart. As a
matter of fact, the American people is but slowly being won
?i DR. FRANKLIN H. LITTELL
from heathenism to faithfulness, and the process is far from
completed. The existence of racialism is one proof of that fact.
Contrary to the reactionary legend of the Nativists, the
generation of the "Founding Fathers" was not the heyday of
true religion and simple virtue — from which high level degen-
erate sons and daughters have been steadily falling away.^ The
legend is a white Protestant construct, and it is heart and core
of the vicious assault of the Radical Right upon our present
national leadership, and — more fundamentally— upon our Con-
stitution and upon those agencies entrusted with interpreting
and enforcing it. Since Catholics and even Jews sometimes
seem appallingly vulnerable to the myth-making of the "Prot-
estant underworld," one of the major contributions of Negroes
to their fellow Americans may be to foster the suspicion that
the "good old days" of Protestant hegemony, slavery, concubin-
age, limited suffrage, indentured ser\'itude, religious persecu-
tion, and widespread illiteracy, were not so wonderful after all.
The truth is that the "Roundhead" coercion of the New
England Way was unseemly and unsuccessful. And the "Cava-
lier" laxitv of the southern colonial establishments was unlovely
and fruitful of religious disaffection. With the collapse of the
colonial state-churches, church membership fell to its true
proportions— quite different from the inflated claims of estab-
lishments, then and now. The "Founding Fathers," being rep-
resentative and responsible men, paid their church taxes. The
generation of the "Founding Fathers" was a heathen genera-
tion, with no more than 7% holding church membership. The
true historv of American Protestantism has not been that of
defending and preserving the pretensions of "Christendom,"
but of winning a whole people back to the churches on a vol-
untary basis. Todav, nearly 70% are on church rolls and 96%
of all Americans fourteen years of age and older claim to be
Religion and Race 33
Statistically, and in the practical expressions of the faith, the
Golden Age of Protestantism in America lies not in antiquity
but — potentially — directly ahead. The primitivist legend, so
debasing to sound religion and corrupting to good citizenship,
is a self-deception which must be struck down.
I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
I am waiting for the Second Coming
I am waiting for the day
That maketh all things clear
and I am waiting
for the deepest South
to just stop Reconstructing itself
in its own image.
The stance of looking backward ill-becomes citizens— whether
Southerners or Northerners— of a country entrusted with the
responsibility of self-realization and moral leadership on a
In point of fact, the shape of American Protestantism during
the last century and a half has been given by mass evangelism.
The representative churches on the scene have been the great
revival churches — Baptist, Methodists, Disciples, and those off-
shoots of Presbyterianism which abandoned orthodoxy for vol-
untaryism. Even the great social crusades, as Timothy L. Smith
34 DR. FRANKLIN H. LITTELL
has demonstrated in an epochal study, were products of revival-
ism; the Social Gospel did not appear with the relaxation of
intense faith and the sometimes emotional manifestations
thereof, but as a result of "the zeal and compassion which the
midcentury revivalists awakened for sinning and suffering men.
And it rests in large measure upon social theories which they
originated."^ Not the maintenance of a legendary past, cast in
the mold of European Christendom, but the proclamation of
the "city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is
God" (Hebr. 11:10), has graced American Protestant preach-
ing at its best.
Foremost among the social crusades was the abolition of
slavery. Beginning with Wesley during the Great Awakening,
and carried right on down through Charles G. Finney and the
Oberlin School, revivalism was identified with the anti-slavery
cause. And the orthodox opponents of voluntaryism in religion
were just as consistent in support of slavery. Robert J. Breckin-
ridge, leader of the Old School during the Presbyterian Schism
of 1837-38, said he was
going to lay no burden on men which neither they nor their
fathers were able to bear. . . . Never would he consent that it
should be mooted at all, until the church had first got back
upon sound and orthodox ground. . . .*'
J. H. Thornwell, the most effective apologist for slavery in ante-
bellum theological circles, was equally opposed to revivalism
and what he called "the insane fury of philanthropv."' He also
initiated a word association sequence which is still found in
some disturbed groups today. "The parties in this conflict," he
proclaimed, "are not merely abolitionists and slaveholders —
they are atheists, socialists, communists, red republicans,
jacobins, on the one side, and the friends of order and regulated
freedom on the other."^ By such inexorable logic (both past
and present), unembarrassed by love and unhampered by
Religion and Race 35
humility, a system based on holding human beings as chattels
may become "regulated freedom," mob violence may become
an expression of "gracious living," and defiance of the Amer-
ican tradition of due process of law may be termed "a higher
Religious liberty, made workable by powerful appeals to
voluntary acceptance of the religious obligation, was thus in-
timately related to the anti-slavery impulse. When revivalism
found an economic basis in the free soil movement of the old
Northwest, it became an irresistable force to emancipation.
Although slaveowners became increasingly resistant to evan-
gelistic work among the slaves, the nineteenth century opened
with both whites and Negroes in the little congregations of the
awakened. It was the impending Civil War which, traumatic
in so many areas of American life, fastened the pattern of racial
segregation upon the Protestant churches.
But a second point about the revivals of religion is worthy
of note: in meeting the problems of the newly freed, agencies
and institutions created by the revivals were pre-eminent. Abra-
ham Lincoln, perhaps the ablest American theologian of the
nineteenth century, was in his religion a characteristic product
of the camp meeting culture. So were Lincoln's generals-
Clinton B. Fisk, Oliver Otis Howard, Samuel Chapman Arm-
strong, and others who left security of position and profession
to work in the education of the freedmen. So was the American
Missionary Association ( AM A ) —one of a long line of devoted
efforts beginning with the American Board of Commissioners
(ABCFM) in 1810 which owed their founding and subsequent
support and staffing to the religious awakenings.
There is not enough space to more than note the astonishing
growth of major colleges and universities and charitable insti-
tutions in the Negro community. At this juncture, the impor-
tant point is that the growth of Negro church membership has
36 DR. FRANKLIN H. LITTELL
kept pace with white membership during the Great Century
of the expansion of Christianity. Indeeed, in spite of the most
clever appeals, anti-Christian ideologies have found less follow-
ing (percentage-wise) among the Negroes than among the
whites. More than that, in the last half of the nineteenth cen-
tury, when white churches north and south were often identify-
ing uncritically with sectional interest and atmosphere, the
Negro churches were rejoicing in the Year of Jubilee and prais-
ing the God of the nations and the generations.
Certainly the Church has had a greater formative role in the
Negro community since World War II— the only war that has
been important to Americans— than in the white community.
For this we may all be profoundly grateful. What would our
situation be in America today, facing our most important in-
ternal crisis, if the Negro leadership were at the level of Ross
Barnett, Orville Faubus, Jimmy Davis, and Edwin Walker?
Where would we be if the Negro community were as violent
and undisciplined as many whites have shown themselves to be?
Americans Are "New Christians"
We have come upon one of the most critical issues of all:
the tremendous statistical success of the churches during the
nineteenth century was achieved by watering down the mem-
bership standards. The increase itself was one of the greatest
in church history, and must be symbolized geometrically rather
than arithmetically. The figures on successful home missions,
which made the American churches the morning star of the
"Younger Churches" and no longer an extension of European
Christendom, run as follows:
Religion and Race 37
Around 1900, however, one large church after another formal-
ized the abandonment of church discipline. One result was
that several dozen smaller churches broke off from the major
bodies to reestablish some measure of internal integrity. An-
other result has been that the white churches are today vir-
tually incapable of maintaining the most elementary internal
discipline to support fundamental theological and moral prin-
Most Americans in churches are first or second or at most
third-generation Christians. Racialism, which is the foremost
issue confronting the churches, has precisely the same relation
to our church life as polygamy in Africa or the bride-price in
Africa and Asia. That is, it is a typical case of the carrying over
into the Church of pre-baptismal practices which are contra-
dictory to Christian norms. This is a typical problem among
"new Christians," particularly in fields of extraordinary mem-
bership expansion, and can be viewed in many places and
periods of the past as well as in the present.
For example, when Christianity crossed the Rhine from
Gaul and in the 9th and 10th centuries hundreds of thousands
of tribesmen submitted in mass baptism, the "new Christians"
carried over into the Church their polygamy, their blood ven-
dettas, their trial by combat, their brutality toward the weak
and helpless. It took several generations of the most determined
instruction, salted by the sacrifices and martyrdoms of many
teachers, for the Church to consolidate the statistical gains into
something which could be called (roughly) "Christian." This
is precisely where we are, after a century and a half of mass
acquisitions, in American Protestantism. And I suggest we look
forward with hope rather than backward in despair.
There are those who refer to our era as "post-Christian."
Some come to this conclusion as romantic reactionaries, look-
ing back to a "Christian America" which never existed except
in the formal sense. Others come to this conclusion because
38 DR. FRANKLIN H. LITTELL
they confuse the crisis in European Christendom with the
situation in America, whereas the present identity of the latter
is much more with the other areas of successful mission — with
the younger churches of Africa, Asia, and the islands of the sea.
Our American society is not "post-Christian;" it is, if anything,
Nevertheless, the Christians have been growing in clarity of
mind on the matter of race.^*^ Although the surreptitious propa-
ganda of the "faceless" ones still circulates like a lingering virus
in the bloodstream of our churches, and although some mar-
ginal sect-movements have attempted to cultivate popular
support by attacking responsible churchmen, there has been no
intellectually competent theological defense of racialism in
America for generations. It is this which constitutes the funda-
mental difference between the situation in South Africa and in
the USA.^i As a matter of fact, the most sophisticated defense
of racialism in recent decades has been made by anthropologists
like Lathrop Stoddard^- and Madison Grant. ^^ American
churches which practice racial discrimination do so with a bad
conscience: they know that they are denying their own commit-
ment to liberty, to missions, to Christian universalism.
The official positions of the churches are now plain enough,
as can be seen by use of the appendix to the Campbell and
Pettigrew volume on Little Rock.^^ It is in the maintenance of
a standard of practice to conform to their verbalizations that
they are weak. As Kyle Haselden has shown, other major church
bodies ha\'e in the last generation joined the Congregationalists
and northern Baptists with uncompromising statements, but
"there is little evidence that the local white churches are yet
taking seriously the resolutions and pronouncements of their
respective official bodies. "^-^
This brings us to the heart of the matter: where racialism
today exists in the American Protestant churches it is a product
Religion and Race 39
of indiscipline. Racialism is a kind of heathenism, and its pres-
ence among the baptized is above all a sign of lack of discipline.
For that matter, the general failure of the Protestant churches
to maintain a standard of civic excellence among their members
is of the same order and points to the same problem. The
churches were clear in condemning anarchy, mob violence, and
the law of the jungle, long before they achieved clarity on
racialism; yet they have shown themselves unable as yet to
restrain or discipline the most arrogant effrontery to the Lord
of the Church and disgraceful disloyalty to American political
institutions by mobs of untrained "new Christians."
We do not need, in short, many more general resolutions in
the field of religion and race. What we need is disciplined wit-
ness, backed by positions with binding quality. In dealing with
this matter several Catholic prelates have shown more courage
to date than any of the Protestant bodies. The Church is not a
cave of all the winds of doctrine; neither is it an association of
moral anarchists. Where salvation is involved— and nothing
less is at stake on this front — the Church speaks and acts with
integrity, or else it is not the Church of Jesus Christ at all. This,
from a Christian point of view, is the basic question put by
In the political arena, race is not the basic issue: it is only
the precipitation point of controversy. The real controversy
concerns just government, government representative of every
citizen sharing our common destiny. Are we to have republi-
can forms of government such as guaranteed by the U.S. Con-
stitution (Art. IV, Sec. 4, Par. 1 )? Not long ago, a U.S. Sena-
tor gained notoriety by commenting that he had not found
an African nation capable of self-government. The Senator
missed the point. The world awaits with anticipation the
40 DR. FRANKLIN H. LITTELL
future of young nations already capable of producing men
like Chief Albert John Luthuli, Sir Francis Akame Ibraim,
Julius Myrere, Leopold Senghor, John Karefa-Smart, Felix
Houphouet-Boigny, Kenneth Kauanda. The problem over
which the world agonizes, the particular problem of our
country, is what to do with older states which can't come up
with anything better than Mr. Ellender.
In the religious arena, race is not the basic issue: it is only
the moment of truth which exposes our nakedness. An indi-
vidual once stood on the floor of the most powerful legislative
body in the world, the U.S. Senate, and launched into a violent
and obscene attack on American citizens whom he called
"kikes," "niggers," "dagoes," etc. When decent men rose to
protest, he asserted defensively that he was "a good Christian,"
"a good Methodist." This prompted the former president of
the National Council of Methodist Youth to write in The
The Church ought to have sufficient ethical sensitiveness
and power to reprimand or to remove from membership
persons who ideas and actions are totally contrary to Chris-
tian standards. In some congregations people who drink,
commit adultery, or are divorced suffer some penalties for
their conduct. A more significant Christian ethic would be
to somehow penalize men like Bilbo and Eastland and
disavow the ideas which they expressed on the floor of the
Senate. . . .^*^
In September of 1962 a faithful Christian shepherd at-
tempted to restrain a mob leader and former military person
who was bringing public disgrace on their church, on our
country, on an old university. The mob leader turned on the
pastor scornfully and proclaimed publicly that he was "ashamed
to be an Episcopalian." Classical Christian practice, amply
supported by Scripture and ecclesiastical law, would indicate
Religion and Race 41
how he could be reheved of that embarrassment! and the
Church of Jesus Christ from the shame of pubhc sin.
Foremost for the church is not racial justice or good citizen-
ship, although both are important in the scales of history. The
most important issue from a Christian point of view involves
eternity itself: Are our churches truly the Church of Jesus
Christ, the Prince of Peace?— of Him who gathers the peoples,
and judges nations and generations?
Whatever our fellow citizens of other religions or philoso-
phies may think of our churches, and they are free to join or to
abstain in good faith, they will understand the statement that
at the bar of judgment are the sincerity and integrity of our
religious commitments. The enormous popularity of religion,
or at least of religiosity, has been bought by eliminating stand-
ards of membership— both preparatory and full. As Rufus
Jones once said, our churches have become so big they are like
Robinson Crusoe's goat pasture: the fences are so distant and
the fields are so big that the goats inside are as wild as the
The most useful and relevant contribution the churches
could make to racial justice would not be a political act at all:
it would be to become truly the Church— disciplined as a
community of witness, loving in service to the Least Brother,
intercessory for the helpless and defenseless. Nothing could
contribute more to the resolution of our diffiulties than for
the Church to mean what she says — maintaining an internal
service which would do honor to her universal Lord, enforcing
a standard of order which would civilize and cultivate some of
the untamed jungles of our social existence.
An early Father once explained how the Christians lived in
anticipation of things to come: "Christians are better than
the laws." Today, in many parts of the United States, the con-
duct of the Christians is worse than the laws.
42 DR. FRANKLIN H. LITTELL
Protestants and Catholics
This conference is unique for its sponsorship, and in binding
the American people together, the fact that it represents
Protestant-Cathohc and Christian-Jewish cooperation is al-
most as important as the theme itself.
During the colonial period the shape of American religion
was largely given by the Congregational and Anglican estab-
lished churches. In the founding of the new nation the Presby-
terians played a particularly significant role. At the time of the
Declaration of Independence, out of 3.6 millions in the
thirteen revolting colonies only c. 20,000 were Catholics and
c. 6,000 were Jews. The rest were officially Protestant. The
origins of 85% of the population lay in the British Isles.
During the nineteenth century, the shape of American
religion was largely given by the revival churches — Methodists,
Baptists, Disciples. The nineteenth century continuum of
religious and cultural values ended in Europe with World
War I, but it was not seriously undermined in the United
States until World War II. In spite of the self-image, how-
ever, which served to perpetuate the notion that America was
a Protestant nation and Christianity part of the common law
of the land, the home missions which actually won the people
back to the churches on a voluntary basis operated on more
realistic principles: America was missionary territory, just as
truly as India or China or West Africa. Protestantism in
America, if the gains in membership, attendance, and support
can be consolidated and standards of disciplined witness re-
established, has a far greater potential for good than ever in
the state-church period.
At the same time the shift to voluntaryism was being
accomplished in Protestantism of English background, the
foundations were being laid for an America pluralistic in
Religion and Race 43
religion, culture, and race. Since the newer arrivals— Catholic,
Jewish, and foreign-language Protestant— were largely self-
contained, they did not at first affect the major assumptions of
the American society, with its Anglo-Saxon common law, its
English language and Protestant common schools, its Unitar-
ian and Episcopalian and Presbyterian presidents, and the like.
Since World War II, however, we have entered into a third
period of American church history. Several former foreign-
language Protestant churches have flowered into prominence.
And the Catholic community has emerged from its minority-
consciousness to a status of parity in the new multi-faith com-
plex. So have the Jews. The election of a member of the
Catholic community, now the largest church in the country,
as President in 1960 was in its own way as symbolic of the
breakthrough as the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in May,
1954 (school desegregation), and June, 1962 (legislative re-
apportionment). The old America of white, rural, and Pro-
testant dominance is dying. But in its death throes it has
spawned some of the most wicked political movements and
vicious personality tvpes which this bloody century has seen
The choice before the Protestant churches is clear: either
they can accept the logic of a voluntaryistic and pluralistic
situation, wherein lies their true genius and the appropriate
area for their missionary and universalist drive, or they can end
up as embittered and negative minorities which the course of
history has passed by. Racialism has the same meaning where
found among American Protestant churches as have the bitter
anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism which so frequently
accompany it. They mark and mar a religion which has lost
faith in the Author of history, which is anxiously striving to
retain old ways rather than re-tool to meet the challenges of
the new age.
44 DR. FRANKLIN H. LITTELL
American Nativism was first violently anti-Catholic. Fifty
years later it became anti-Semitic as well. With the rise of the
grandchildren of the freed Negroes to political and economic
significance, and now laying claim to the free American's right
to fair play in education, housing, and job opportunities,
Nativism has allied with the white supremacists.
This is one of the chief practical arguments for the Pro-
testant-Catholic dialogue, a dialogue without which this con-
ference could not have been held. The Catholic communion
is plainly a universal church, and fellowship with Catholics—
which has gained such a great impetus under the leadership of
Pope John XXIII— can help Protestants to avoid sinking back
into racial and tribal religion. As a Catholic leader in Jamaica
has put the basic premise,
. . . the cross of Christ has created a new nation of men . . .
This new nation, this sturdy race is unique in the history of
mankind. It is a race created not by blood, but by grace."
In the words of Pius XI's great encyclical against Nazi racialism
[Mit brennender Sorge, 14 March 1937) :
Only superficial minds can lapse into the heresy of speaking
of a national God, or a national religion; only such can make
the mad attempt of trying to confine within the boundaries
of a single people, within the narrow blood stream of a
single race, God, the Creator of the world. ^**
More particularly, the type of Protestantism which has its
chief strength in those areas most threatened by violence needs
the attention to law and objective justice which is one of the
strengths of Catholicism. The large churches of the Deep
South stand in the tradition of sectarian Protestantism, which
had, to be sure, a powerful sense of fellowship within the con-
gregation; as for the affairs of the world, the Old Testament
once sufficed these churches as a guide to righteousness and
Religion and Race 45
justice. This earlier appreciation of the majesty of the law
rings, for example, through the messages of Abraham Lincoln.
Consider these Biblically-formed words of the "Second Inaugu-
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty
scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that
it continue until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's
two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be
sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash
shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said
three thousand years ago,— so still it must be said, that the
judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.^^
However, with the later popularization of church member-
ship, the abandonment of prophetic preaching, the surrender
of standards of church discipline, the softening of theology
and confession of faith, the Old Testament, too, was scuttled.
The style of the community of grace was generalized, until at
last we have a society without law and with no understanding
that right is right though the heavens fall. The governor of a
southern state asks the infantile question: How can a law be
enforced if we don't like it? As though justice and righteous-
ness in the social order, as though law, were conditional upon
the subjective sentiments of the ill-disciplined and disobedi-
The Old Testament was the radical Protestant alternative
to the tradition of natural law in Catholicism and the more
conservative Protestant traditions. Without either, a society
descends into anarchy. The strengthening of the Protestant-
Catholic dialogue should bring to the fore the fact that the
foundation of law is abiding, although men and nations may
rise and fall. For my part, I am thankful that at this critical
juncture we have a President of the United States who was
raised to believe that law is law.
46 DR. FRANKLIN H. LITTELL
Christians and Jews
Anti-Semitism is perhaps the surest seismographic measure-
ment of totahtarian svstems and pre-totalitarian movements.
The reasons are two-fold. In the first place, on the edge of the
jungle the law is an especially wonderful thing! And those
who represent an ancient tradition of law and order in societies
where violence and anarchy are incipient are the special target
of wicked men who live by chaos. More important, however,
the Jews are the special objects of animosity when peoples are
determined to revert to tribal religion,
Totalitarianism appeals to the desire to return to the womb.
The contrast between religion and culture imposes a strain:
We escape from this strain by attempting to revert to an
identity of religion and culture which prevailed at a more
primitive stage; as when we indulge in alcohol as an
anodyne, we consciously seek unconsciousness.-"
Whether personally religious or not, the Jew by his very
existence represents the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and
His authorship of world history. This is what the baptized also
stand for in their baptismal and confirmation vows. But when
totalitarian movements arise, the Gentile can take on pro-
tective coloration: he can apostatize, revert to a more primitive
stage, betray his baptism. The Jew cannot. It can be truly said
that those millions of Jews who suffered and died in Hitler's
Europe were martyred for what the Christians would have
been martyred for had they stayed Christian. In a mysterious
way, both in disaster and in creativity, the Jews and the Chris-
tians are united in a common destiny.
It is not accident, but a dreadful portent, that precisely at
the moment when White Citizens' Councils, Circuit Riders,
Minutemen, John Birchers, and all the denizens of the politi-
Religion and Race 47
cal underworld are uniting to attack the Supreme Court, the
President, and the remaining centers of free discussion among
the churches, the universities, and the trade unions, synagogues
should be bombed in our cities.
Christians are "spiritual Semites." They know that tribal
religion apart from the Biblical tradition is dangerous, because
they understand their own true history. For that matter, many
of us in the "Christian Israel" believe that God's providence
for his "first Israel" is by no means exhausted. Reversions to
pre-baptismal tribalism, whether "the southern way of life"
or des deutsche Volkswesen of the Nazis, are rooted in hatred of
the Church and her claims, even though the Jews are often
the first victims of the revolt out of the abyss.
Negroes and Whites
Catholics, and even an occasional Jew, can sometimes be
conned into embracing the reactionary legend of America's
past. After all, Mr. Welch assures us half of the members of
his conspiracy are Catholics! But there is one minority which
cannot blind its eyes by backward-looking legends, a minority
which knows that every leap in social progress and in self-
realization must be suffered through as the distance runner
fights through to his "second wind." "The American Negro,"
as Mr. James Baldwin has pointed out, "has the great advantage
of having never believed that collection of myths to which
white Americans cling: that their ancestors were all freedom-
loving heroes, that they were born in the greatest country the
world has ever seen. . . ."^^ Our Negro citizens know, in short,
that we are creatures, and not gods; and in a world where most
of the wickedness toward persons had been inspired by pride
[superbia, hubris) and committed under the "Jehovah com-
plex," this is a precious wisdom. When America struggles
48 DR. FRANKLIN H. LITTELL
through to a mature self-reahzation, subduing regressive
tendencies both rehgious and poHtical, it will be in good part
thanks to the American Negro.
At the present time the Negro citizen is the butt of most of
the anxieties of our society, a society which has often demon-
strated its buoyancy in the crusade but has not yet developed
the steadiness for the long haul. When Germany regressed
into heathenism in the Third Reich, anti-Semitism became
face of aggressive and chauvinistic nationalism turned in-
ward toward the nation itself. . . . During the period of suc-
cessful imperialism the face was turned outward, toward the
British, French, Slavs, Chinese, Africans. When the march
towards a place in the sun was stopped, anti-Semitism, the
"twin brother" of extreme German nationalism, made the
defeated nation itself the new battle-ground and re-defined
In America, the wickedness of the frustrated and insecure
is directed primarily against the Negro. As an acute Negro
observer has recently written :
I do not know many Negroes who are eager to be "accepted"
by white people, still less to be loved bv them; they, the
blacks, simply don't wish to be beaten over the head by the
whites every instant of our brief passage on this planet.
White people in this country will have quite enough to do
in learning how to accept and love themselves and each
other, and when they have achieved this — which will not
be tomorrow and may very well be never— the Negro prob-
lem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.-'^
If the miracle of agape, of brotherhood-love, were not to
come, if Americans prove incapable of breaking out of their
several ghettos, then the judgment has already been passed
upon us. Then the "faceless" ones— the cowardly fashioners
Religion and Race 49
of the terrorists' plastic bombs, the organizers of anonymous
campaigns, the conspirators who attack our fundamental insti-
tutions, the nightriders with their shotgun assaults on citizens,
the vile maggots which feed everywhere so that social and
political putrefaction go unhealed— will inherit the wasteland
and the jungle.
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that
I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing:
therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.
The Great City
The third age of religion in America is the Great City,
beginning with a pluralism in religion, race, and culture.
Seventy-five years ago, four out of five Americans lived on
farms or in rural villages. Today, over 25% live in the twelve
largest metropolitan areas and over 50% are concentrated in
220 counties (out of over 3000) . Eighty percent of the popula-
tion resides within twenty-five miles of cities of at least 25,000.
"Religion today is challenged to create an urban civilization.''-^
Technologically, we can no longer live without each other.
Our liberty, too, has become indivisible. The word on our wall
is this: "Communicate, or perish!"
Communication between real persons, persons with names
and faces, persons freed from false images of themselves and
of the others, is the necessary foundation for creative love— for
the miracle to occur which transcends and transmutes all our
natural impossibilities into the City Beautiful. By the same
token, totalitarian movements can be identified by their hos-
tility to full, free, and informed discussion. Beware the hooded
riders, the anonymous tale-bearers; those without names
and without faces! The faceless ones are the enemies of all
50 DR. FRANKLIN H. LIT TELL
free men. The problem is national, indeed international. But
every local battle which is fought through to bring persons
face to face who share a common destin\', which breaks some
anxious group out of the sound-proofed room of fear and hate,
is a victor\' for everyone everywhere— whatever his credal, cul-
tural, or racial background — who looks hopefully to the day
when every American may say with meaning: "I was born free!"
1. Dallas Morning News (12/16/62), Sec. 5, p. 1.
2. Rev. Duncan M. Grav, Jr. (Protestant Episcopal), Rev.
Murphv C. Wilds (Southern Presbyterian), and Rev. Wavne
Coleman (Southern Baptist); New York Times (10/8/62),
^ p. 15.
3. Cf. the author's From State Church to Pluralism (New York:
Doubledav & Co., 1962), Introduction.
4. Ferlinghetti, Lawrence, "I am Waiting" from Coney Island
of the Mind (New York: New Directions) .
5. Smith, Timothy L., Revivalism and Social Reform (New
York & Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1957), p. 12.
6. Smith, Elwvn A., "The Role of the South in the Presbyterian
Schism of 1837-38," XXIX Church History (1960) 1:44-63,
quotation On p. 57.
7. Thornwcll, J. H.,'T/ig Rights and Duties of Masters (Charles-
ton, S.C: Walker & James, 1850), p. 8.
8. Ibid., p. 14.
9. Cf. the author's The Free Church (Boston: Beacon Press,
1957), p. 117.
10. Haselden, Kvle, The Racial Problem in Christian Perspective
(New York:' Harper & Bros., 1959); Maston, T. B., Segrega-
tion and Desegregation: A Christian Approach (New York:
Macmillan Co., 1959).
11. Marais, Ben J., "The Race Question: The U.S. and South
Africa," XXII Christianity a^d Crisis (1962) 18:187-89.
12. Stoddard, Lathrop, The Rising Tide of Color (New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1920). A representative "scientific"
Religion and Race 51
statement: "In the western hemisphere there are some
25,000,000 persons of more or less mixed black blood, brought
thither in modern times as slaves by the white conquerors of
the New World. Still, whatever may be the destiny of these
transplanted black folk, the black man's chief significance,
from the world aspect, must remain bound up with the great
nucleus of negro population in the African homeland." pp.
13. Grant, Madison, The Passing of the Great Race (New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1924), 4th revised edition. A leader
in the New York Zoological Society, American Museum of
Natural History, American Geographical Society, etc., Grant's
fear of the "mongrelization" of the blue-eyed, blond-haired
"Nordic race" led him to such representative statements as
these: "The church assumes a serious responsibility toward
the future of the race whenever it steps in and preserves a
defective strain . . ." (p. 49) . "In mankind it would not be a
matter of great difEcuty to secure a general consensus of public
opinion as to the least desirable, let us say, ten per cent of
the community. When this unemployed and unemployable
human residuum has been eliminated. . . ." (p. 54). The
Preface to Grant's book was written by a distinguished pro-
fessor at Columbia University. Since Adolf Hitler, such views
are encountered chiefly in the underbrush of the academic
world; cf. John O. Beaty's The Iron Curtain Over America
(Dallas: Wilkinson Publ. Co., 1951), or Stuart Omer
Landry's The Cult of Equality (New Orleans: Pelikan Publ.
Co., 1945). Nevertheless, such volumes as these — with their
poor printing, careless footnotes, and wildly undisciplined
speculation — still pass for learning in some circles. "In the
kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."
14. Campbell, Ernest G., and Pettigrew, Thomas F., Christians
in Racial Crisis: A Sstudy of Little Rock's Ministry (Wash-
ington: Public Affairs Press, 1959), pp. 137-70.
15. Haselden, Kyle, op. cit., p. 33.
16. Hayes Beall in LXII The Christian Century (1945) 29:840.
17. LaFarge, John, The Catholic Viewpoint on Race Relations
(Garden City, N.Y.: Hanover House, 1956), quotation on
18. Ibid., pp. 82-83.
19. In Sandburg, Carl, Abraham Lincoln, III: The War Years,
1864-6S (New York: Dell Publ. Co., 1959), pp. 771-73.
20. Quoted from T. S. Eliot's Notes Towards the Definition of
52 DR. FRANKLIN H. LITTELL
Culture (p. 68), in Braybrooke, Neville, ed., T. S. Eliot: A
Symposium for His Seventieth Birthday (New York: Farrar,
Straus &Co., 1958).
21. Baldwin, James, "Letter from a Region in My Mind," The
New Yorker (11/17/62), pp. 59ff, 142.
22. Massing, Paul, Rehearsal for Destruction (New York: Harper
& Bros., 1949), p. 147, quoting Franz Oppenheimer.
23. Baldwin, James, loc. cit., p. 60.
24. Osman, John, "A City is a Civilization," in Lee, Robert, ed.,
Cities and the Churches (Philadelphia: Westminister Press,
1962), p. 75.
The Religious Basis of
Equality of Opportunity-
The Segregation of God
The Religious Basis of
Equality of Opportunity—
The Segregation of God
Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel
At the first conference on religion and race, the main par-
ticipants were Pharaoh and Moses. Moses' words were: "Thus
says the Lord, the God of Israel, let My people go that they
may celebrate a feast to Me." While Pharaoh retorted: "Who
is the Lord, that I should heed this voice and let Israel go? I do
not know the Lord, and moreover I will not let Israel go."
The outcome of that summit meeting has not come to an
end. Pharaoh is not ready to capitulate. The exodus began, but
is far from having been completed. In fact, it was easier for the
children of Israel to cross the Red Sea than for a Negro to
cross certain university campuses.
Let us dodge no issues. Let us yield no inch to bigotry, let
us make no compromise with callousness.
In the words of William Lloyd Garrison, "I will be as harsh
as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject
[slavery] I do not wish to think, to speak, or to write with
moderation. I am in earnest— I will not equivocate— I will not
excuse— I will not retreat a single inch— and I will be heard."
Religion and race. How can the two be uttered together?
To act in the spirit of religion is to unite what lies apart, to
remember that humanity as a whole is God's beloved child.
56 RABBI ABRAHAM J. HESCHEL
To act in the spirit of race is to sunder, to slash, to dismember
the flesh of living humanity. Is this the way to honor a father:
to torture his child? How can we hear the word race and feel
Race as a normative legal or political concept is capable of
expanding to formidable dimensions. A mere thought, it ex-
tends to become a way of thinking, a highway of insolence, as
well as a standard of values, overriding truth, justice, beauty.
As a standard of values and behavior, race operates as a com-
prehensive doctrine, as racism. And racism is worse than idola-
try. Racism is satanism, unmitigated evil.
Few of us seem to realize how insidious, how radical, how
universal an evil racism is. Few of us realize that racism is man's
gravest threat to man, the maximum of hatred for a minimum
of reason, the maximum of cruelty for a minimum of thinking.
Perhaps this Conference should have been called Religion
or Race. You cannot worship God and at the same time look
at man as if he were a horse.
Shortly before he died, Moses spoke to his people. "I call
heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have set
before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life."
(Deuteronomy 30:19). The aim of this conference is first of
all to state clearly the stark alternative. I call heaven and earth
to witness against you this day: I have set before you religion
and race, life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life.
"Race prejudice, a universal human ailment, is the most
recalcitrant aspect of the evil in man" (Reinhold Niebuhr), a
treacherous denial of the existence of God.
What is an idol? Any god who is mine but not yours, any
god concerned with me but not with you, is an idol.
Faith in God is not simply an afterlife-insurance policy.
Racial or religious bigotry must be recognized for what it is:
The Segregation of God 57
In several ways man is set apart from all beings created in
six days. The Bible does not say, God created the plant or the
animal; it says, God created different kinds of plants, different
kinds of animals (Genesis 1: 11-12, 21-25). In striking con-
trast, it does not say, God created different kinds of man, men
of different colors and races; it proclaims, God created one
single man. From one single man all men are descended.
To think of man in terms of white, black or yellow is more
than an error. It is an eye disease, a cancer of the soul.
The redeeming quality of man lies in his ability to sense his
kinship with all men. Yet there is a deadly poison that inflames
the eye, making us see the generality of race but not the unique-
ness of the human face. Pigmentation is what counts. The
Negro is a stranger to many souls. There are people in our
country whose moral sensitivity suffers a black-out when con-
fronted with the black man's predicament.
How many disasters do we have to go through in order to
realize that all of humanity has a stake in the liberty of one
person; whenever one person is offended, we are all hurt. What
begins as inequality of some inevitably ends as inequality of
In referring to the Negro in this paper we must, of course,
always keep equally in mind the plight of all individuals be-
longing to a racial, religious, ethnic or cultural minority.
This Conference should dedicate itself not only to the
problem of the Negro but also to the problem of the white
man, not only to the plight of the colored but also to the situa-
tion of the white people, to the cure of a disease affecting the
spiritual substance and condition of every one of us. What we
need is an NAAAP, a National Association for the Advance-
ment of All People. Prayer and prejudice cannot dwell in the
same heart. Worship without compassion is worse than self-
deception; it is an abomination.
58 RABBI ABRAHAM J. HESCHEL
Thus the problem is not only how to do justice to the
colored people, it is also how to stop the profanation of God's
name by dishonoring the Negro's name.
One hundred years ago the emancipation was proclaimed.
It is time for the white man to strive for self-emancipation, to
set himself free of bigotry, to stop being a slave to wholesale
contempt, a passive recipient of slander.
"I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun.
Behold, the tears of the oppressed, they had no one to comfort
them! On the side of the oppressors there was power, and there
was no one to comfort them." ( Ecclesiastes 4:1 )
There is a form of oppression which is more painful and
more scathing than physical injury or economic privation. It is
public humiliation. What afflicts my conscience is that my
face, whose skin happens not to be dark, instead of radiating
the likeness of God, has come to be taken as an image of
haughty assumption and overbearance. Whether justified or
not, I, the white man, have become in the eyes of others a
symbol of arrogance and pretension, giving offense to other
human beings, hurting their pride, even without intending it.
My very presence inflicting insult!
My heart is sick when I think of the anguish and the sighs,
of the quiet tears shed in the nights in the overcrowded dwell-
ings in the slums of our great cities, of the pangs of despair, of
the cup of humiliation that is running over.
The crime of murder is tangible and punishable by law. The
sin of insult is imponderable, invisible. When blood is shed,
human eyes see red; when a heart is crushed, it is only God who
shares the pain.
In the Hebrew language one word denotes both crimes.
Bloodshed is the word that denotes both murder and humilia-
The Segregation of God 59
tion. The law demands: one should rather be killed than com-
mit murder. Piety demands: one should rather commit suicide
than offend a person publicly. It is better, the Talmud in-
sists, to throw oneself alive into a burning furnace than to
humiliate a human being publicly.
He who commits a major sin may repent and be forgiven.
But he who offends a person publicly will have no share in the
life to come.
It is not within the power of God to forgive the sins com-
mitted toward men. We must first ask for forgiveness of those
whom our society has wronged before asking for the forgive-
ness of God.
Daily we patronize institutions which are visible manifesta-
tions of arrogance toward those whose skin differs from mine.
Daily we cooperate with people who are guilty of active dis-
How long will I continue to be tolerant of, even participant
in, acts of embarrassing and humilitating human beings, in
restaurants, hotels, buses, or parks, employment agencies,
public schools and universities? One ought rather be shamed
than put others to shame.
Our Rabbis taught: "Those who are insulted but do not
insult, hear themselves reviled without answering, act through
love and rejoice in suffering, of them Scripture says: 'They who
love the Lord are as the sun when rising in full splendor.' "
Let us cease to be apologetic, cautious, timid. Racial tension
and strife is both sin and punishment. The Negro's plight, the
blighted areas in the large cities, are they not the fruit of our
By negligence and silence we have all become accessory
before the God of mercy to the injustice committed against
the Negroes by men of our nation. Our derelictions are many.
60 RABBI ABRAHAM J. HESCHEL
We have failed to demand, to insist, to challenge, to chastise.
In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "I tremble for my country
when I reflect that God is just."
There are several ways of dealing with our bad conscience.
1 ) We can extenuate our responsibility; 2 ) we can keep the
Negro out of our sight; 3 ) we can alleviate our qualms by point-
ing to the progress made; 4) we can delegate the responsibility
to the courts; 5 ) we can silence our conscience by cultivating
indifference; 6 ) we can dedicate our minds to issues of a far
more sublime nature.
1 ) Modern thought has a tendency to extenuate personal
responsibility. Understanding the complexity of human nature,
the inter-relationship of individual and society, of conscious-
ness and the subconscious, we find it diflBcult to isolate the
deed from the circumstances in which it was done. Our en-
thusiasm is easily stunned by realizing the ramifications and
complexity of the problem we face and the enormous obstacles
we encounter in trying to implement the philosophy affirmed
in the 13th and 14th Amendments as well as in the 1954 deci-
sion of the Supreme Court. Yet this general tendency, for all
its important correctives and insights, has often had the effect
of obscuring our essential vision, aiding our conscience to grow
scales: excuses, pretense, self-pity. The sense of guilt may dis-
appear; no crime is absolute, no sin devoid of apology. Within
the limits of the human mind, relativity may be true and
merciful. Yet the mind's scope embraces but a fragment of
society, a few instants of history; it thinks of what has hap-
pened, it is unable to imagine what might have happened.
The qualms of my conscience are easrily cured— even while
the agony for which I am accountable continues unabated.
The Segregation of God 61
2 ) Another way of dealing with a bad conscience is to keep
the Negro out of sight.
The Word proclaims: Love thy neighbor! So we make it
impossible for him to be a neighbor. Let a Negro move into
our neighborhood and madness overtakes the residents. To
quote a recent editorial in the Christian Century (12-26-62) :
The ghettoization of the Negro in American society is in-
creasing. Three million Negroes — roughly one-sixth of the
nation's Negro population— are now congested in five of the
greatest metropolitan centers of the north. The alienation
of the Negro from the mainstream of American life pro-
ceeds space. The Negro is discovering to his sorrow that the
mobility which he gained in the Emancipation Proclama-
tion and the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitu-
tion nearly a hundred years ago merely enables him to move
from one ghetto to another. A partial apartheid— economic,
social, political and religious — continues to be enforced by
the white people of the U.S. They use various pressures-
some open, some covert — to keep the Negro isolated from
the nation's social, cultural and religious community, the
result being black islands surrounded by a vast white sea.
Such enclaves in American society not only destroy the co-
hesiveness of the nation but also offend the Negro's dignity
and restrict his opportunity. These segregated islands are
also an embarrassment to white people who want an open
society but are trapped by a system they despise. Restricted
housing is the chief offender. So long as the racially exclu-
sive patterns of suburban America continue, the Negro will
remain an exile in his own land.
3 ) To some Americans the situation of the Negro, for all its
stains and spots, seems fair and trim. So many revolutionary
changes have taken place in the field of civil rights, so many
deeds of charity are being done; so much decency radiates day
and night. Our standards are modest; our sense of injustice
tolerable, timid; our moral indignation impermanent; yet
human violence is interminable, unbearable, permanent. The
conscience builds its confines, is subject to fatigue, it longs for
comfort. Yet those who are hurt, and He Who inhabits etern-
ity, neither slumber nor sleep.
4) Most of us are content to delegate the problem to the
courts, as if justice were a matter for professionals or specialists.
But to do justice is what God demands of every man: it is the
supreme commandment, and one that cannot be fulfilled
Righteousness must dwell not only in the places where
justice is judicially administered. There are many ways of evad-
ing the law and escaping the arm of justice. Only a few acts of
violence are brought to the attention of the courts. As a rule,
those who know how to exploit are endowed with the skill to
justify their acts, while those who are easily exploited possess
no skill in pleading their own cause. Those who neither exploit
nor are exploited are ready to fight when their own interests
are harmed; they will not be involved when not personally
affected. Who shall plead for the helpless? Who shall prevent
the epidemic of injustice that no court of justice is capable of
In a sense, the calling of the prophet may be described as
that of an advocate or champion, speaking for those who are
too weak to plead their own cause. Indeed, the major activity
of the prophets was interference, remonstrating about wrongs
inflicted on other people, meddling in affairs which were seem-
ingly neither their concern nor their responsibility. A prudent
man is he who minds his own business, staying away from
questions which do not involve his own interests, particularly
when not authorized to step in — and prophets were given no
mandate by the widows and orphans to plead their cause. The
prophet is a person who is not tolerant of wrongs done to others,
who resents other people's injuries. He even calls upon others
The Segregation of God 63
to be the champions of the poor. It is to every member of the
community, not alone to the judges, that Isaiah directs his
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.
5 ) There is an evil which most of us condone and are even
guilty of: indifference to evil. We remain neutral, impartial,
and not easily moved by the wrongs done unto other people.
Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself; it is
more universal, more contagious, more dangerous. A silent
justification, it makes possible an evil erupting as an exception
becoming the rule and being in turn accepted.
The prophets' great contribution to humanity was the dis-
covery of the evil of indifference. One may be decent and
sinister, pious and sinful.
The prophet is a person who suffers the harms done to
others. Wherever a crime is committed, it is as if the prophet
were the victim and the prey. The prophet's angry words cry.
The wrath of God is a lamentation. All prophecy is one great
exclamation; God is not indifferent to evil! He is always con-
cerned, He is personally affected by what man does to man. He
is a God of pathos.
6) In condemning the clergymen who joined Dr. Martin
Luther King in protesting against local statutes and practices
which denied constitutional liberties to groups of citizens on
account of race, a white preacher declared: "The job of the
minister is to lead the souls of men to God, not to bring
about confusion by getting tangled up in transitory social
In contrast to this definition, the prophets passionately pro-
64 RABBI ABRAHAM J. HESCHEL
claim that God Himself is concerned with "the transitory social
problems," with the blights of society, with the affairs of the
What is the essence of being a prophet? A prophet is a per-
son who holds God and men in one thought at one time, at all
times. Our tragedy begins with the segregation of God, with
the bifurcation of the secular and sacred. We worry more
about the purity of dogma than about the integrity of love.
We think of God in the past tense and refuse to realize that
God is always present and never, never past; that God may be
more intimately present in slums than in mansions, with
those who are smarting under the abuse of the callous.
There are, of course, many among us whose record in deal-
ing with the Negroes and other minority groups is unspotted.
However, an honest estimation of the moral state of our society
will disclose: Some are guilty, but all are responsible. If we
admit that the individual is in some measure conditioned or
affected by the public climate of opinion, an individual's crime
discloses society's corruption. In a community not indifferent
to suffering, uncompromisingly impatient with cruelty and
falsehood, racial discrimination would be infrequent rather
That equality is a good thing, a fine goal, may be generally
accepted. What is lacking is a sense of the monstrosity of in-
equality. Seen from the perspective of prophetic faith, the
predicament of justice is the predicament of God.
Of course, more and more people are becoming aware of
the Negro problem, but they fail to grasp its being a personal
problem. People are increasingly fearful of social tension and
disturbance. However, so long as our society is more concerned
The Segregation of God 65
to prevent racial strife than to prevent humiliation, the cause
of strife, its moral status will be depressing, indeed.
The history of inter-racial relations is a nightmare. Equality
of all men, a platitude to some minds, remains a scandal to
many hearts. Inequality is the ideal setting for the abuse of
power, a perfect justification for man's cruelty to man. Equality
is an obstacle to callousness, setting a limit to power. Indeed,
the history of mankind may be described as the history of the
tension between power and equality.
Equality is an inter-personal relationship, involving both a
claim and a recognition. My claim to equality has its logical
basis in the recognition of my fellow men's identical claim. Do
I not forfeit my own rights by denying to my fellow men
the rights I claim for myself?
It is not humanity that endows the sky with inalienable
stars. It is not society that bestows upon every man his inalien-
able rights. Equality of all men is not due to man's innocence
or virtue. Equality of man is due to God's love and commit-
ment to all men.
The ultimate worth of man is due neither to his virtue nor
to his faith. It is due to God's virtue, to God's faith. Wherever
you see a trace of man, there is the presence of God. From the
perspective of eternity our recognition of equality of all men
seems as generous an act as the acknowledgment that stars
and planets have a right to be.
How can I withhold from others what does not belong to
Equality as a religious commandment goes beyond the prin-
ciple of equality before the law. Equality as a religious com-
mandment means personal involvement, fellowship, mutual
reverence and concern. It means my being hurt when a Negro
is offended. It means that I am bereaved whenever a Negrg is
The shotgun blasts that have been fired at the house of
66 RABBI ABRAHAM J. HESCHEL
James Meredith's father in Kosciusko, Mississippi, make us
cry for shame wherever we are.
There is no insight more disclosing: God is One, and
humanity is one. There is no possibihty more frightening:
God's name may be desecrated.
God is every man's pedigree. He is either the Father of all
men or of no man. The image of God is either in every man
or in no man.
From the point of view of moral philosophy it is our duty to
have regard for every man. Yet such regard is contingent upon
the moral merit of the particular man. From the point of
view of religious philosophy it is our duty to have regard and
compassion for every man regardless of his moral merit. God's
covenant is with all men, and we must never be oblivious of
the equality of the divine dignity of all men. The image of
God is in the criminal as well as in the saint. How could my
regard for man be contingent upon his merit, if I know that
in the eyes of God I myself may be without merit!
You shall not make yourself a graven image or any likeness
of God. The making and worshipping of images is considered
an abomination, vehemently condemned in the Bible. The
world and God are not of the same essence. There can be no
man-made symbols of God.
And yet there is something in the world that the Bible does
regard as a symbol of God. It is not a temple nor a tree, it is
not a statue nor a star. The symbol of God is man, every man.
How significant is the fact that the term tselem which is fre-
quently used in a damnatory sense for a man-made image of
God, as well as the term demuth, likeness— of which Isaiah
claims (48:18), no demuth can be applied to God— are em-
ployed in denoting man as an image and likeness of God. Man,
every man, must be treated with the honor due to a likeness
representing the King of kings.
The Segregation of God 67
He who oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
He who is kind to the needy honors Him.
Proverbs 14:31; cf. 17:15
The way we act, the way we fail to act is a disgrace which
must not go on forever. This is not a white man's world. This
is not a colored man's world. It is God's world. No man has a
place in this world who tries to keep another man in his place.
It is time for the white man to repent. We have failed to use
the avenues open to us to educate the hearts and minds of men,
to identify ourselves with those who are underprivileged. But
repentance is more than contrition and remorse for sins, for
harms done. Repentance means a new insight, a new spirit. It
also means a course of action.
Racism is an evil of tremendous power, but God's will
transcends all powers. Surrender to despair is surrender to evil.
It is important to feel anxiety, it is sinful to wallow in despair.
What we need is a total mobilization of heart, intelligence,
and wealth for the purpose of love and justice. God is in search
of men, waiting, hoping for man to do His will.
The most practical thing is not to weep but to act and
to have faith in God's assistance and grace in our trying to do
This world, this society can be redeemed. God has a stake
in our moral predicament. I cannot believe that God will be
What we face is a human emergency. It will require much
devotion, wisdom, and divine grace to eliminate that massive
sense of inferiority, the creeping bitterness. It will require a
high quality of imaginative sympathy, sustained cooperation
both in thought and in action, by individuals as well as by
68 RABBI ABRAHAM J. HESCHEL
institutions, to weed out memories of frustration, roots of
We must act even when inclination and vested interests
should militate against equality. Human self-interest is often
our Nemesis! It is the audacity of faith that redeems us. To
have faith is to be ahead of one's normal thoughts, to transcend
confused motivations, to lift oneself by one's bootstraps. Mere
knowledge or belief is too feeble to be a cure of man's hostility
to man, of man's tendency to fratricide. The only remedy is
personal sacrifice: to abandon, to reject what seems dear and
even plausible for the sake of the greater truth; to do more
than I am ready to understand for the sake of God. Required
is a breakthrough, a leap of action. It is the deed that will purify
the heart. It is the deed that will sanctify the mind. The deed
is the test, the trial, and the risk.
The plight of the Negro must become our most important
concern. Seen in the light of our religious tradition, the Negro
problem is God's gift to America, the test of our integrity, a
magnificent spiritual opportunity.
Humanity can only thrive when challenged, when called
upon to answer new demands, to reach out for new heights.
Imagine how smug, complacent, vapid, and foolish we would
be, if we had to subsist on prosperity alone. It is for us to under-
stand that religion is not sentimentality, that God is not a
patron. Religion is a demand, God is a challenge, speaking to
us in the language of human situations. His voice is in the
dimension of history.
The universe is done. The greater masterpiece still undone,
still in the process of being created, is history. For accomplish-
ing His grand design, God needs the help of man. Man is and
has the instrument of God, which he may or may not use in
consonance with the grand design. Life is clay, and righteous-
ness the mold in which God wants history to be shaped. But
The Segregation of God 69
human beings, instead of fashioning the clay, deform the shape.
God needs mercy, righteousness; His needs cannot be satisfied
in space, by sitting in pews, by visiting temples, but in history,
in time. It is within the realm of history that man is charged
with God's mission.
There are those who maintain that the situation is too
grave for us to do much about it, that whatever we might do
would be "too little and too late," that the most practiced
thing we can do is "to weep" and to despair. If such a message
is true, then God has spoken in vain.
Such a message is 4000 years too late. It is good Babylonian
theology. In the meantime, certain things have happened:
Abraham, Moses, the Prophets, the Christian Gospel.
History is not all darkness. It was good that Moses did not
study theology under the teachers of that message; otherwise,
I would still be in Egypt building pyramids. Abraham was all
alone in a world of paganism; the difficulties he faced were
hardly less grave than ours.
The greatest heresy is despair, despair of men's power for
goodness, men's power for love.
It is not enough for us to exhort the Government. What
we must do is to set an example, not merely to acknowledge the
Negro but to welcome him, not grudgingly but joyously, to
take delight in enabling him to enjoy what is due to him. We
are all Pharaohs or slaves of Pharaohs. It is sad to be a slave
of Pharaoh. It is horrible to be a Pharaoh.
Daily we should take account and ask: What have I done
today to alleviate the anguish, to mitigate the evil, to prevent
Let there be a grain of prophet in every man!
Our concern must be expressed not symbolically, but
literally; not only publicly, but also privately; not only oc-
casionally, but regularly.
70 RABBI ABRAHAM J. HESCHEL
What we need is the involvement of everyone of us as in-
dividuals. What we need is restlessness, a constant awareness
of the monstrosity of injustice.
The concern for the dignity of the Negro must be an explicit
tenet of our creeds. He who offends a Negro, whether as a
landowner or employer, whether as waiter or sales-girl, is
guilty of offending the majesty of God. No minister or layman
has a right to question the principle that reverence for God is
shown in reverence for man, that the fear we must feel lest we
hurt or humiliate a human being must be as unconditional as
fear of God. An act of violence is an act of desecration. To be
arrogant toward man is to be blasphemous toward God.
In the words of Pope John XXIII, when opening the
Twenty-first Ecumenical Council, "divine Providence is lead-
ing us to a new order of human relations." History has made
us all neighbors. The age of moral mediocrity and complacency
has run out. This is a time for radical commitment, for radical
Let us not forget the story of the sons of Jacob. Joseph, the
dreamer of dreams, was sold into slavery by his own brothers.
But at the end it was Joseph who rose to be the saviour of
those who had sold him into captivity.
Mankind lies groaning, afflicted by fear, frustration and
despair. Perhaps it is the will of God that among the Josephs
of the future there will be many who have once been slaves
and whose skin is dark. The great spiritual resources of the
Negroes, their capacity for joy, their quiet nobility, their
attachment to the Bible, their power of worship and en-
thusiasm, may prove a blessing to all mankind.
In the words of the prophet Amos (5:24) :
Let justice roll down like waters,
And righteousness like a mighty stream.
The Segregation of God 71
A mighty stream, expressive of the vehemence of a never-
ending, surging, fighting movement— as if obstacles had to
be washed away for justice to be done. No rock is so hard that
water cannot pierce it. "The mountain falls and crumbles
away, the rock is removed from its place— the waters wear
away the stones." (Job 14:18 f.) Justice is not a mere norm,
but a fighting challenge, a restless drive.
Righteousness as a mere tributary, feeding the immense
stream of human interests, is easily exhausted and more easily
abused. But righteousness is not a trickle; it is God's power in
the world, a torrent, an impetous drive, full of grandeur and
majesty. The surge is choked, the sweep is blocked. Yet the
mighty stream will break all dikes.
Justice, people seem to agree, is a principle, a norm, an
ideal of the highest importance. We all insist that it ought to
be— but it may not be. In the eyes of the prophets, justice is
more than an idea or a norm: justice is charged with the
omnipotence of God. What ought to be, shall be!
The Religious Institution
and the Community
The Role of Church and Synagogue
in the Racially Changing Community
Dr. Dan W. Dodson
I. The Nature of the Change
The most continuously significant confrontation to face or-
ganized religion on the domestic scene during the past two
decades is undoubtedly that of the racially changing com-
munity. The last World War, the mechanization of agricul-
ture, the use of rubber for transportation and the septic tank
have produced a revolution in neighborhood design. Marginal
populations have been drawn away from the farms and lo-
cated in the heart of major cities. The suburbs have expanded
enormously to accommodate the middle class, largely white
population, which has withdrawn from cities.
The need for cheap, unskilled labor, plus Castro's revolu-
tion, has accounted for the emigration of large numbers of
Spanish-speaking peoples from both the Caribbean coasts and
from Mexico. Like the Negro population of rural America
which has been the principal source of domestic migration to
the cities, these newcomers have tended to settle in urban
areas, with the exception of those who are seasonally employed
as migrant laborers on farms.
The extent of the revolution brought about by these changes
can be estimated when it is understood that between 1950 and
1960 the racial composition of the following states changed
Change in Negro Population of Select States 1950-1960
1950 1960 Change
New York State now has the largest Negro population of any
of the fifty states, and Illinois is among the top five in rank of
Negro inhabitants, exceeded only by New York, Texas, Georgia,
North Carolina and Louisiana. The cities with the largest
Negro concentrations by rank are; New York City ( 1,087,931 ),
Chicago (812,637), Philadelphia (529,240), Detroit (482,223),
Washington, D.C. (411,737), Los Angeles (334,916) and
Baltimore (326,589). So it is evident that marginal popula-
tions have moved away from rural into large metropolitan
area, and from the South to the North, West and East.
Within the cities this indicates that the trend has been for
the middle income whites to move to the suburbs leaving
such vacancies to be replaced by an influx of Negroes and
Spanish-speaking emigrants. For the most part the former
group is prominent because of distinctive color. Consequently
it is not possible for them to escape detection by learning the
manners and customs of the dominant group as did the
previous minorities. Neither is it possible to conceal the plight
of such persons among them who suffer the trauma of slum
shock and degradation occasioned by the discrimination and
The Role of Church and Synagogue 77
prejudice evidenced toward them. The worst social problems
America faces are now in the heart of her cities— the show
places of the country. Social problems are no longer hidden on
the plantations of the Mississippi Delta.
This transformation of the city has also led to rapid, and
sometimes cataclysmic changes within neighborhoods. One
settlement house with which this speaker worked was located
in such an area. Its leadership thought there might be as
many as ten per cent Puerto Ricans within its environs. Our
study indicated that actually it was already 45 per cent, so
rapidly had the change come about. In the suburbs the change
in racial composition has been more diffuse, but nevertheless
pronounced. As Negroes acquire middle class status, they tend
to migrate suburban ward also. The disturbances in Levittown,
Pennsylvania, and Deerfield, Illinois, indicate the kinds of re-
sistance which has been shown to this avant garde.
11. Issues in Community Change
An examination of the issues in change suggest some of the
problems which confront churches in dealing with it. Among
( 1 ) All communities are constantly changing. What is re-
ferred to here is either the rate of change or the nature of the
change. Sometimes it is both.
( 2 ) A community with a well-regulated rate of change de-
velops a power structure; norms of behavior are achieved and
newcomers are assimilated into this milieu. This means that
the community moves to solve its problems through integrative
processes rather than through conflict. However, when a com-
munity changes quickly or the change is radical in nature, the
power group arms to defend itself, with the consequence that
new arrivals must necessarily move through conflict to make
their voices heard in decision-making processes. This is thought
to be un-Christian and disruptive in most instances.
( 3 ) The established churches of the communities-in-change
were built and are operated by the power or status groups.
These frequently feel that their institutions belong to the con-
gregation rather than to God. Hence, the local congregation
has difficulty in dealing with the confrontations which ac-
company new viewpoints. The denomination or faith formu-
lates inspiring statements relating to equality and spiritual
fraternity. But these statements are ideals in the abstract and
are difficult to apply concretely when the community is in
crisis. Too often significant religious leaders are reduced to the
position of the pastors who, in Little Rock, during the crisis,
called a prayer meeting to pray that God's Will be done. A
study of one denomination indicated that the stronger the
statement prepared by the hierarchy of the denomination, the
less it was subscribed to by parishoners!
(4) When neighborhoods begin to alter, it is generally
those with children which are most affected. Families with
children are first to leave, and families with children the first
to arrive. This exchange has two significant implications. The
first is that erroneous impressions about the extent of change
are gathered, simply because children are out and about more
than are adults. Peak demands are placed upon institutional
facilities for service, thus sharpening the contrast between
those who have access to services and those who do not.
Secondly, the differential of change leaves in a community
The Role of Church and Synagogue 79
those who are least adaptible to change, and who possess in-
stitutional control to keep it from happening. Instances are
numerous in which a church was not able to change its mem-
bership policies until some patriarch who was extremely in-
fluential was deceased. By this time, all too often, the insti-
tution had declined too far ever to be resurrected.
(5) Other things being equal, those populations who do
not patronize public schools stay longer in a changing com-
munity than those who depend upon these facilities. In a dis-
pute in the Bedford Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn concerning
sending white children to school in an all-Negro neighborhood,
the district superintendent of schools reported that there were
more white children attending non-public schools within walk-
ing distance of the junior high school in dispute, than there
were white children in all the public schools of the district.
The same pattern was discovered in New Rochelle's Washing-
ton and Columbus elementary schools. Whyte observed the
same situation in the Rittenhouse Square section of Phila-
delphia and the Bolton Hill district of Baltimore. It is not
that these religious and private schools discriminate against
Negroes, but rather that new residents are either not re-
ligiously or economically attracted to them.
(6) Another characteristic of rapid community change is
that incoming groups bring their indigenous institutions with
them. Great difficulty in sharing existing voluntary agencies,
including the church, accompanies these attitudes. Many con-
gregations have "opened their doors" and extended welcomes
only to find that the in-coming group was not attracted to
their kind of fellowship. This has been a source of disappoint-
ment to many congregations. However, it should be no sur-
prise. One of the problems of such in-coming groups is their
distrust of the motives of the dominant group. Too often
proffered services and a welcome are really thinly veiled at-
tempts to proselytize newcomers, using the resources of estab-
lished services as "bait." Possibly, both evangelical faiths, the
Protestant and the Roman Catholic, serve as valid illustra-
tions. For example, the Roman Catholic group, which in the
East has fewer Negro adherents, makes an all-out drive for the
Negroes and neglects its Spanish parishoners, for whom it has
a larger responsibility. The Protestants on the other hand, ap-
pear anxious to serve the Puerto Ricans and Mexicans, and
neglect their major constituency, the Negroes. Be that as it
may, many of both persuasions are in conflict concerning how
best to fulfill their Christian mandate without having their
efforts misunderstood as attempts at conversion.
(7) As neighborhoods become heterogeneous and the
values of the dominant group become threatened, there is the
tendency for such a group to withdraw. Some go to the
suburbs. Others use voluntary associations as refuges in which
to evade meaningful encounters with those of other races.
Among these voluntary associations, the church has perhaps
become the most respectable "escape" in America. It is not
possible to equate such withdrawals or evasions with the moral
and intellectual demands of the present Space Age of which
we are a part. Suburban communities likewise attempt to shield
themselves from newcomers whom they consider to be a threat.
Not only are Negroes, but others of different heritages, ex-
cluded from certain communities. In this regard, Jesus Christ
—himself a Jew— would not be a welcome citizen of com-
munities such as Crosse Pointe, Michigan, or Bronxville, New
York. This attempt to escape responsibilities relates again to
the problems of involvement and basic values. Studies indi-
The Role of Church and Synagogue 81
cate that the vast majority of the middle class group in an
average community will attempt to sit on the side lines when
controversy arises and not implicate themselves unless forced
to do so. In fact, one of the most difficult problems in inter-
group relations is how to maneuver such groups into positions
where they must take a stand on controversial issues. This was
the major issue in Little Rock, and it is the greater issue in the
race relations of the average community. Tumin's study of
Gaston County, North Carolina, indicated clearly that there
was a small group of whites which was vefy much opposed to
integration and a comparable group which was very much in
favor. The vast middle group, however, was not about to get
involved if it could avoid it.
It is easier to move on to the suburb or hide in the church
than it is to come to meaningful confrontation with differences,
and make one's influence felt in the processes of conflict
through which new relationships are forged.
(8) Most communities in change feel that such change
downgrades them. This is particularly true of suburban neigh-
borhoods. Almost invariably the first settlers have more status
than do the newcomers. A consideration of almost any well-
known suburb such as Scarsdale, New York, Shaker Heights,
Ohio, or Westport, Connecticut, reveals that when the Jews
arrive, the neighborhood considers itself to be starting a down-
hill slide. When the Negroes come, they are positive of it.
In past years the same arguments were used concerning those
of Irish, Italian or Polish backgrounds.
The core problem of the discriminatory aspects of race rela-
tions would seem to be contained in a single popular word—
"snootiness." It is agreed that a community without a status
ordering would flounder in dealing with its problems. However,
this agreement leads us to pose the pertinent question, "What
are the criteria for status in America?" We should examine
such pedestrian values as implied by length of residence in a
given community, religious affiliation, racial background or
social class, and ask ourselves if service to a community should
not be the real measure of worth. The substitution of service
for "snootiness" could immeasurably enrich the lives of all
community members, both those with deep roots in its affairs
and those who have had time to grow only tap roots.
(9) The next of the issues posed is that of power. Most
communities in change go through a power fight. In this
writer's judgment this aspect of American life has been neg-
lected. Could not evidence be gathered to support the hypoth-
esis that it is impossible for a youth who is a member of a
group which is powerless in a community to mature? Would he,
in fact, experience some trauma to his individuality because of
the anomalous position of his group in the community? With-
out power one feels himself of little worth. One of the great
attractions of our religion is that it teaches the humblest that
he has power because he is a child of God. Hence, regardless of
how impotent he is otherwise, there is some self-respect left.
However, Adler's theory that people who feel compromised in
their potency tend to overcompensate by aggression in order to
overcome their limitations is, perhaps, only half correct. They
also resign in apathy. The class apathy of the slum-dwellers to-
day is mute testimony to the powerlessness they feel.
It would not be hard to make a case that the great advances
in race relations within the past two decades are not due to
what we have done in the intergroup and religious fields, but
rather due to the fact that Negroes have moved from the
South and now hold a political balance of power in those
states which rank high in Negro inhabitants. These are states
in which the two political parties are about evenly divided and
The Role of Church and Synagogue 83
are key states in political elections. Hence the minority group
holds veto power over who is going to capture and hold office.
This is one way of securing leverages to power. Law is another.
The great legal decisions have also shored up civil rights. They
have strengthened the recognition of the change of power re-
lations within the groups. If one believes, however, that peo-
ple's rights are respected merely because they are human
beings, but without power, he should look at the sad state of
the migrant laborers. Without power, i.e., without the ballot,
they are exploited and pushed from pillar to post. Residence
laws discriminate against them in securing relief and harass-
ment of them almost becomes the norm. Newburgh, New
York, is perhaps the outstanding symbol of this in the North.
Numerous evidences of it abound in the Southwest and West.
It has already been indicated that the domniant group in a
community tries to work through integrative processes. This
integrative approach to the powerless in the past has been
aimed at the more intelligent, alienating them in their senti-
ments and sympathies from the groups of which they were a
part, getting them to take stock in the great mythologies of
the American Dream, and making them ashamed of their
heritage. Ultimately they were to be transmuted into so-called
Ideal Americans. This means the constant siphoning off of
the bright ones, still leaving the residual group to stew in its
own problems. Slums are a monument to this kind of action.
They stand as an institutionalized part of every great American
As another evidence of our great humanitarian motivations,
we have moved out both at home and abroad to serve certain
populations, reasoning that if they were sufficiently served in
Egypt, as it were, they would not launch out in search of a
Promised Land. But service creates dependency, and is in fact
a tranquilizer. The great outpouring of service here and
abroad is a dominant power group's way of trying to hold
tenable its position, and at the same time indoctrinate the
world with its value system.
With these vast concentrations of marginal population in
the inner cities of the megalopolises, we are fast approaching
the situation faced by many past civilizations. Today, there are
estimated to be a million more people living in the city slums
of America than on all of its farms. There are estimated to be
a million more marginal people on farms who may yet migrate.
Past civilizations found it easier to keep these marginal people
amused rather than to integrate them purposively into the
common life of their society. The lesson of history should be
illuminating to us. Such attrition of resources brought about
their downfall. Our future is yet to be determined.
Integration into the common life of the community is dif-
ferent for the Negro and certain of the Spanish-speaking pop-
ulation than it was for past groups which have already been
assimilated into American life. The difference is by color.
When the intelligent Negro youth is caught up in these
processes and is transmuted, his limits are still circumscribed,
because his color stands out as a badge of identity. He finds
himself rejected because of the way he looks, not because of
what he is. For him other measures must be employed to take
the place of this integrative process. One eflFective substitute
lies in the process of taking power. It should be remembered
that power has to be taken. It cannot be bestowed. When the
powerless take power, conflict is inevitable. This is anathema
to most religiously oriented people. Most of them believe that
religion and love go together and that conflict is something
evil. They find themselves to be ambivalent. They would like
to see the "little man" succeed, yet they fear the threat to their
own preferential position if too much power is wrested from
The Role of Church and Synagogue 85
The church is remiss in not making more demonstrable
the fact that there is power in moral position, if based on
thoughtful premises, as well as in being a human being. Church-
related people could find true spiritual satisfactions in observing
and being a part of this process. There is nothing more ex-
hilarating than to see people taking the first fumbling steps
toward freedom; they are reaffirming one of our greatest faiths,
namely, that all men cherish freedom and chafe under op-
pression. To witness groups taking power and forcing vested
interests to take into account minority voices in communal
decision-making is to watch democracy working at its best. Yet,
most of us stand in the middle of such goodness and do not
attempt to comprehend it. Some feel threatened, so oppose it.
(10) Most communities in change are characterized by a
high degree of physical mobility. One inner-city public ele-
mentary school known to this author must enroll 106 children
for every initial 100 on the roll in order to keep a constant en-
rollment. Yet most agencies, including the church, operate
programs for children and migrants in general, as if they were
in. Some Things to Do
At the expense of being misunderstood, it seems worth men-
tioning some efforts which dedicated people could make in
meeting the challenges of changing communities. The follow-
ing are suggested:
( 1 ) The church must continue to try to bring society to
judgment on this issue of racism. It is man's most dangerous
myth. Sciences and morality are converging in their agreement
that no one race of the world has a superior capacity. Or stated
more positively, "All groups have the capacities to become
what any present group now is." From a spiritual point of
view, the imperative is the recognition that all men are
brothers, and not that one group constitutes a threat to
This issue is pertinent not only to the problems of Negro-
White or Oriental-Occidental. It includes theories of race
which can be applied to whomever one decides to dislike, as
Hitler demonstrated. In this regard Christians need to concern
themselves more with this curious thread of anti-Semitism
which runs like a low-grade infection in the body politic. It re-
appears every time stress occurs and resistance is lowered. Where
in our religion is this damnable virus carried? How can it be
eliminated? Concern about the ideology of race should be a
supreme anxiety to all religious denominations.
(2) Show interest in the well-being of newcomers for
reasons other than to entice them to join a particular fellow-
ship. Every professing Christian, supposedly, is under obliga-
tion to witness to the faith within him. How that faith is
interpreted, however, can make a large difference. "Rice
Christians" have demonstrated the inherent difficulties when
people are made to compromise their values in order to re-
ceive assistance from others.
(3) Help congregations re-examine their prejudices. When
communities are in change all members are brought to sig-
nificant confrontation. This is a teachable moment. It is the
time when interpretation can have the most meaning. There
is little value in having nice study groups about race in middle
class suburban ghettos which are "lily white." Values really
The Role of Church and Synagogue 87
emerge when a community is in conflict. Opportunities, even
though they may be pregnant with discord, should be wel-
comed as touchstones to test the validity of our committments.
Will they prove to be of sufficient worth to produce fellowship
across the lines of difference?
(4) Try to strengthen the civil rights of all. One of the
great undertakings facing our society is that of the completion
of undergirding the so-called human rights with civil law, in
this way creating stronger civil rights. Civil rights are ad-
mittedly only the first mile, the forced mile, in intergroup rela-
tions. It is the necessary first step, however.
(5) Intervene in neighborhood panic. Many fine things
have been done by different groups to try to prepare com-
munities for change. Some undoubtedly have had a gainful
impact. Many are of the belief, however, that it is impossible
to prepare a community for change. Nothing significant hap-
pens until the community is significantly confronted. Some
groups have been effective in allaying the panic which has
played a community into the clutches of the blockbuster real
estate sharks. Every congregation can inform itself as to
progressions through which communities go when they are in
the throes of confrontation, and prepare itself for the even-
tuality when it comes home to them.
(6) The majority of communities have not been integrated
by great petitions and consensus of large bodies, but rather by
a small action group— the Gideon's dozen. One does not need
the consensus of a large group to desegregate a community.
All he needs is to find someone who wishes to sell his house
and is willing to sell it to a Negro family, someone else who is
Negro who wishes to buy, and the money with which to
DR. DAN W. DODSON
finance the deal. It is unrealistic to expect large bodies such as
church congregations to make significant moves through con-
sensus. The most that dedicated members can hope for is
autonomy enough within the fellowship to act as described
above, without ostracism from the fellowship.
(7) Fight anomie. A significant aspect of the community
in change is that the norms of behavior become blurred and
equivocal. The controls of the old group are wavering and those
of the new have not yet been established. The church has no
more significant role than that of "shoring up" the perimeters
of authority, in order that the youth of the community may at
all times have a clear perspective of the norms. Surely this is a
place where all religious groups have more in common than
there are differences among them. The changing community,
and especially the one in the inner city, is generally the older
community. New groups with their differing population of
children to be educated, their lower economic status, which
frequently produces the greatest demands upon the communal
facilities, find themselves taking second best. If people are ever
to learn to live together amicably, it is going to be in these
mixed neighborhoods. Yet it is precisely here that there is the
tendency to have the poorest facilities available to make this
satisfactory social compound. In such areas are found the oldest
schools, the least able teachers (the novitiates and superan-
nuates), antiquated street lighting, the fewest police per
capita and spasmodic garbage collection. It is as if the city
fathers anticipate a change to lower socio-economic status and
consequently prod the neighborhood along the road to its
How to keep firm, clear and unequivocal images of what the
perimeters of authority are in a changing community is one of
our chief challenges.
The Role of Church and Synagogue 89
(8) Emphasize more social action to complement service.
In our era of conformity this is not easy. Social science, in
recent years, has come to the realization that one cannot sep-
arate personality from social structure. One of the most
neglected aspects of social development is that we have pre-
occupied ourselves with the changing personality of mankind
and have not spent adequate time changing his afferent struc-
tures. It may be more important to help an individual get out
of a slum than it is to serve him in a slum. It is more useful
to help the minority person get a job than it is to provide
him with relief. It is more germaine to make certain that the
child of minority people can use all public facilities than it
is to provide counselors to "tinker with their psyches" in order
to remove the trauma to self-perception stemming from pow-
erlessness. It may be more important to break up de facto
school segregation than it is to have more special services in
the schools. All these are social action jobs. They are not chal-
lenges of service in any traditional way. This the church must
recognize and make proper provisions for.
IV. The Prospect
In the years ahead, the Church is to be confronted as at few
times in her history. The issue is whether she is dynamic
enough to hurdle the barriers of race and social class in order
to effectively bind this nation together in one spiritual com-
munity; or whether, lacking such impetus, these masses who
are now congregating in our cities, who are rejected because of
class and race, will despair that such identities can ever be
achieved and turn to other ideologies. Already the Black
Muslims have told them that the Christian philosophy of love,
forbearance and patience provides the rationale for their servi-
tude. Now churches have the choice of either bringing their
memberships to judgment on these aforementioned issues or
being brought to judgment themselves by a world segment
anxious for definitive action. Changing communities offer
concrete testing grounds for such action.
The Responsibility of Church and
Synagogue as Institutions
in the Community
Very Rev. Msgr. John J. Egan
If there is one underlying theme which unites CathoHcs,
Protestants, and Jews, it is the behef in a personal God to whom
we all have the obligation to give witness; and in the essentially
related belief that all men, as special creatures of God, possess
a unique dignity by virtue of their creation. This notion of
kinship in God is so deeply embedded in the tradition of all
our faiths that it cannot be rejected without at the same time
rejecting our place in the community of the Judaeo-Ghristian
It is precisely this aspect of the Judaeo-Ghristian tradition
which has been under persistent and successful attack for well
over a century.
Undoubtedly the most spectacular of the attacks was
launched by Marx and Engel. The infamous dictum that "re-
ligion is the opiate of the people" is well expressed in the
totalitarian systems which explicitly reject unique individual
dignity and which relate the entire meaning of the individual
to the progress of society.
Yet if the dialectic of Das Kapital is the most spectacular
92 VERY REV. MSGR. JOHN J. EGAN
rejection of the kinship in God, it is for the American scene at
least, probably not the most significant.
In actual practice Das Kapital utilized a view of the nature
of man which took a different form, but the same substance, in
the Anglo-American philosophy of Herbert Spencer and Wil-
liam Graham Sumner. Spencerian philosophy enjoys the dis-
tinction of being the most pervading and enduring of all the
philosophies of man ever proposed on the American continent.
It is, indeed, so pervading that it has influenced, subtly but
effectively, the Judaeo-Christian tradition in America. And
that is the source of our difficulty.
What is this Spencerian view? Drawing an analogy from
the purely biological findings of Darwin, the English philoso-
pher, Herbert Spencer, in a series of volumes entitled Synthetic
Philosophy published in the early 1860's, proposed that man is
a social organism in evolutionary process toward perfection;
and that at the social level, the same processes of natural selec-
tion are in play as Darwin found in the biological world. Man
evolves toward a more perfect strain as the unfit, the misfits,
and the weak die off from their lack of competitive ability.
And, Spencer holds, this is good. The weak die off so that the
race becomes perfected. It is their function in life; and if we
interfere with the process, or permit the weak to live and breed,
we merely impede the progress of society.^
Spencer's thesis, which came to be known as Social Darwin-
ism, was popularized on the American scene by the prolific
William Graham Sumner. His own words are quite succinct:
Many ... are frightened at liberty, especially under the
form of competition, which they elevate into a bugbear.
They think it bears harshly on the weak. They do not per-
ceive that here "the strong" and "the weak" are terms which
admit of no definition unless they are made equivalent
to the industrious and the idle, the frugal and the extrava-
gant. They do not perceive, furthermore, that if we do not
The Responsibility of Church and Synagogue 93
like the survival of the fittest, we have only one possible
alternative, and that is the survival of the unfittest. The
former is the law of civilization; the latter is the law of
With hindsight, it is easy to see that the Spencerian dictum
and the dictum of Das Kapital are remarkably similar. In each,
the individual is meaningless except as he serves as a cog in
the perfection of the race. The specific difference between
Marx and Spencer is that the former rejected capitalism and
free enterprise; while the latter provided a most accommodat-
ing rationale for its abuses.
As a coherent theory. Social Darwinism was discredited in
the cataclysm of the Great Depression. But it has never been
completely rejected in the American ethos. As late as World
War II, for instance, textbooks being used at the Harvard
School of Business were direct and detailed interpretations of
Spencer's thesis. Most of the present leaders of the American
business community were educated in a system which explicitly
taught the Spencerian thesis as the ultimate philosophical
rationale for the free enterprise system.
It is, however, a deteriorating point of view. As a coherent
philosophy, it need not overly concern us. But its residual ef-
fects on American society bear a direct relationship to the prob-
lem of race relations.
The most obvious of these residual effects is in our attitude
toward the poor. Americans admit, if grudgingly and with one
eye on the tax bill, that it is a good thing to give aid to the
deserving poor— to those who through no fault of their own
are unable to make their way in society. But the emphasis is on
"deserving." The man who will not work, or the man whose
personality apparatus prevents him from being competitive, or
the lazy man, or the shiftless man, is not deserving of our help.
If we must help him in order to keep him from practicing
94 VERY REV. MSGR. JOHN J. EGAN
violence against the good order of the state, at least we need
keep him no more than alive and submissive.
This habitual distinction between the "deserving" poor and
the "unfit" poor is the most compelling evidence that we do
not really implement our primal religious belief in the God-
related diginity of man. We are still dominated by the
Spencerian dictum that man is worthy of our attention only as
he actively contributes to society; only as he has a utilitarian
Thus, while our American ethos gives lip service to the no-
tion of the dignity of man, the practical customs by which a
society implements its ethos deny this notion. The apparent
contradiction between our juridical assent to the rights of man
and our treatment of minorities is more easily understood
against this background. In reality, our allegiance to the rights
of man is juridical only. It has not been accompanied by the
only concept which gives it meaning and ultimate rationality:
Kinship in God.
For both history and logic compel us to believe that unique
individual dignity is inconceivable except as the individual re-
lates to the Judaeo-Christian God. The Greek city-state of
Aristotle and Plato gave us perhaps the highest expression of
a civilization ordered outside the framework of God the Father.
Yet Aristotle's concept of the poor is not far different from
that of Spencer. Extreme poverty, Aristotle holds, "lowers the
character of a democracy" and therefore the poor should be
given means to help themselves. But let the help be only in the
form of means to better themselves. If the poor do not better
themselves, then aid to them is wasteful.^
Historically, it is in the Jewish and Christian tradition that
the poor possess a dignity which rises above their utility and the
good order of society— precisely because their dignity, as well
as the dignity of all, is based upon a relationship with God
that transcends the proximate purposes of society.
The Responsibility of Church and Synagogue 95
Thus it is the specific mission of the churches and syna-
gogues to infuse into our society that understanding of the
unique dignity of each man which comes from his status as a
creature of God— a dignity so unique that he deserves our per-
sonal commitment whether he be rich or poor; a dignity so
unique that, if poor, he deserves our help whether he be
ambitious or lazy, moral or immoral, grateful or belligerent;
a dignity so unique that he deserves our understanding re-
gardless of his skin, his temperament, or his cultural tradi-
For there is a direct and vital relationship between the
problem of dignity in God and the problem of race relations.
As there is no intelligible basis for aiding the poor and unfit
outside of the concept of a God who is Father, there is no
intelligible basis for racial tolerance outside of the concept
of God who is Father. Given the assumption that there is no
God of Israel, that men are left to their own devices, both
the extinction of a race and the extinction of the poor are
rational, economical, and humanitarian approaches to the per-
fectability of man. Hitler was no less rational than Spencer;
and neither was less rational than the rabid southern (or
northern) racist. All either explicitly or implicitly reject the
fundamental basis of belief in the God of Israel.
I have examined the problem of our attitude toward the
poor, not only because it illustrates the gap in our mores of in-
dividual dignity ( upon which any sound race relations must be
built), but also because, in the present crisis, the poor and the
racial minorities are often and extensively identified with each
other. Or perhaps in a larger sense, the question of wealth and
poverty has been intertwined with all minority relations in
America. All immigrant groups, all minority groups, in Amer-
ica, have been at first poor. To be at once poor and a minority
has been the lot of all our "strangers in the land," as the
studies of John Higham and Oscar Handlin demonstrate.* It
96 VERY REV. MSGR. JOHN J. EGAN
has not been an easy lot. Historically, American antipathies
toward the poor have blended with American antipathies to-
ward minorities, and the stereotype still prevails. Indeed, once
an immigrant group has ceased to be predominantly poor, it
has ceased to be regarded as a minority in the general Ameri-
can consciousness. Thus, although residual and often painful
prejudices still work against Catholics and Jews, the public
consciousness does not place them in the same minority cate-
gory as Negroes, Southern Whites, Puerto Ricans, and Mex-
This intertwining of identification (and hostility) towards
the poor and towards minorities has profound implications for
contemporary race relations.
For it is all too easy for the latent racist to rationalize his
hostility toward minorities on the basis of their poverty. It is
all too easy to ask, "Why don't they help themselves?" It is
all too easy to assume, with Spencer, that the Negro ( for in-
stance) is poor; and poor because lazy; and because lazy, not
worthy of concern.
While on the one hand we argue for racial tolerance on the
ground that all men are creatures of God and thus possessed of
their unique dignity, we permit ourselves to apply Spencer's
test of fitness to the poor. We thus perpetuate a moral double
standard which is not lost to our people. We cannot expect to
be taken seriously on the question of race relations if we do
not insist on being taken seriously on the question of the poor.
The point is that we will never be successful in eliminating the
cancer of racial intolerance from our society until we also
eliminate the cancer of intolerance of the poor.
In the next two days we need to keep clearly in mind that
whatever educative value our institutional practises take on —
whether they be primary, as in the case of our educational
forms, or secondary, as in the case of the example of our ad-
ministrative actions— their image must reflect the totality of
The Responsibility of Church and Synagogue 97
our belief in the dignity of man— a dignity which extends to
the poor as well as to the minority; a dignity which does not
ask, "What good are you?" or "What are you?" but a dignity
which asks, in fact, no question at all.
We must keep clearly in mind that race relations rest on
the same basis as all other human relations: the notion of man's
dignity in God. When we practice unjust wage policies we
violate the same principle as when we practice discriminatory
hiring policies. When we gear our welfare institutions to serve
predominantly the middle class we repudiate human dignity
as much as when we restrict our welfare programs according to
race. When we approve, in our educational schema, the moral
status of wealth, we display the same contempt for the
creatures of God as we do when we approve the teaching of
theories of racial inferiority. What is more important, we must
keep clearly in mind that love of neighbor, love, especially of
the poor, is neither an intellectual position nor an elevating
sentiment. It is an action. Here Martin Buber's insight is com-
pelling, and I quote:
The Bible knows that it is impossible to command the
love of man. I am incapable of feeling love toward every
man, although God Himself command me. The Bible does
not directly enjoin the love of man, but by using the dative
puts it rather in the form of an act of love. ( I must love
"to Him.") 5
Love of the poor, then, rests on Buber's dative. It is an act.
The Sacred Books abound with concrete injunctions to feed
the hungry, clothe the naked, do kindness to the stranger,
comfort the brethren. Why? God answers: "What if he cries
for redress, and I, the ever merciful, listen to him?" (Exod.
22:25). "Remember what God you worship." (Lev. 19:9-10).
Love of the poor is an act; it is enjoyable because we are all of
God, and God is the God of all.
If then, love of the poor is the open manifestation of man's
98 VERY REV. MSGR. JOHN J. EGAN
dignity in God; and if love of the poor is in the first instance
an act of dative — it necessarily implies involvement. An essen-
tial element of love, of charity, of almsgiving, of the giving of
comfort, is an empathy that can come only from involvement
and identification. God calls upon his people to love by recall-
ing to their minds their own historical experience: "You were
alien once, in the Land of Egypt" (Lev. 19:34); "Do not forget
that thou wast once a slave in Egypt" (Deut. 24:19)— injunc-
tions that are directed as much to the Christian as to the
Love of the poor, as a matter of fact, is related to human
dignity only insofar as it involves empathy. Then, says Leo
XIII, "It neither connotes pride in the giver nor inflicts shame
on the one who receives. The disposition to ask assistance from
others with confidence, and to grant it with kindness, is part of
our very nature."*^
The spirit of empathy and understanding, the reverence for
human dignity, which is an essential part of charity and love
for the poor, is a value in itself: one of the prime sources of
human enrichment, and a marvelous example of the way in
which Divine Providence draws good out of evil. For the spirit
of empathy implied in a true love of the poor, as Pope Pius
XI points out in a memorable passage, goes far beyond the
simple alleviation of physical want:
But even though a state of things be pictured in which
every man receives at last all that is his due, a wide field
will nevertheless remain open for charity. For justice alone,
even though most faithfully observed, can remove indeed
the cause of social strife, but can never bring about a union
of hearts and minds. Yet this union, binding men together,
is the main principle of stability in all institutions, no matter
how perfect they may seem, which aim at establishing social
peace and promoting mutual aid.'^
The Responsibility of Church and Synagogue 99
Thus it is necessary not only to reshape our attitudes toward
the notion of poverty, but to regear our involvement with the
poor. We have had sufficient conversation about the dignity of
man; what is required of us, as religious institutions, is to be-
come involved with the man whose dignity we preach.
We need to ask ourselves whether our institutions have
abandoned the poor, both formally and symbolically. Do we
seek energetically to find the poor? To serve them? To become
one with them? Or are we, as institutions, becoming as middle-
class as the majority of our people?
Moreover, our institutions must be concerned not only with
the people they formally serve, but also with the neighborhoods
in which they are located. For a church, a synagogue, a school,
or a hospital is not merely an institution— it is a religious insti-
tution. It is a symbol — an image, if you will — of religion and of
God. The religious institution which remains aloof from its
neighborhood, and whose administrators do not involve them-
selves with the aspirations, causes, and organizations of the
neighborhood, are by virtue of their symbolic role denying God
in that neighborhood. This is as true of an orphanage, for
instance, which does not normally serve the immediate neigh-
borhood, as it is true of a settlement house.
Finally, we need to beware of the trap of putting religion
in the role of a tool toward better race relations. As religious
men, we reject racial intolerance not primarily because we are
useful in removing it, but because it is a denial of the God of
Israel. It is the people of God who alone bear the responsibility
for racial intolerance. This is an awesome responsibility.
Neither the Jew nor the Ghristian can escape it. He can only
fulfill it, or fail at it; and failing at it, he bears false witness
not only to his neighbor, but to God.
100 VERY REV. MSGR. JOHN J. EGAN
1. For a thorough discussion of the impact of the Spencerian
thesis on America, see Richard Hofstadter, Social Darwinism
in American Thought (American Historical Association,
1944); also available in a revised paperback edition: Beacon
Press, 1955. For a trenchant criticism of Spencerian views by
a native American philosopher who was hardly in the tradition
of conservative theology, see "Lecture One" in William
James, Pragmatism (Meridian Books edition, 1955), esp. p.
2. Essays, II, 56, cited in Hofstadter, ibid. (Beacon Press edi-
tion), p. 57.
3. Politics, Bk. VI, Ch. 5 (1320a, 28-40).
4. John Higham, Strangers in the Land (Rutgers University
Press, 1955). Oscar Handlin, The Uprooted (Atlantic — Little
5. Martin Buber, essay on "Herman Cohen," The Writings of
Martin Buber, ed. Will Herberg (Meridian Books, 1956), p.
6. Leo XIII, encyclical letter "Christian Democracy" (Graves
de Communi), Jan. 13, 1901, par. 16, Paulist Press edition.
7. Pius XI, encyclical letter, "Reconstructing the Social Order,"
(Quadragesimo Anno), May 15, 1931, p. 137, America Press
Relation of Church and Synagogue
to Other Community Forces
Rabbi Morris Adler
The theme of this paper deals with several of the new
dimensions of tension and dilemma in which organized religion
finds itself involved, as it seeks to sustain itself in a free and
pluralistic society. To be sure tension is nothing new to religion.
It may even be said to be the condition most congenial to its
growth and vitality. Tensions inhere in religion and stimulate
that dynamism of restless quest which its most creative spirits
reflect. The peace that is sometimes spoken of as the harbor and
goal of religious striving is marked neither by quiescence nor
inertness. It is rather a glimpse into or a calming recognition
of an effulgent wholeness which embraces without resolving the
polarities of religion's tensions.
When the prophet described himself as a "man of strife and
a man of contention to the whole earth," he was referring to his
relations with his contemporaries. His words, however, describe
just as truly the inner stresses under which the man of religion
lives, and help to suggest the fierce inquietude which subsisted
at the center of the prophet's life. The Talmud observes that
the man of religious feeling and learning will experience rest
neither in this world nor in the world beyond. Immortality
102 RABBI MORRIS ADLER
would be a doubtful boon were it merely to substitute for physi-
cal death, that inert tranquility which approaches spiritual
death. The incessant and futile attempt to bridge the unbridge-
able, absolute gap between God and man; the agonizing yearn-
ing for the divine, a yearning which can never know fulfillment
or satiety; the inexpressible that one senses which cannot be
communicated and yet clamors for expression; the contrasting
claims of reason and faith; the universal out-reaching midst the
embodiments of one's tradition in numerous particularities;
the eternity that knocks at the windowpanes of the moment
one occupies in history; the consciousness of one's mortality
coupled with one's hunger for everlasting life; the ultimates to
which religion bids us raise our eyes and the urgencies which
crowd us at every move; the grace of inherited forms and the
creative need for the freshness of new responses — these con-
stitute part of that unceasing inquietude which the religious
A faith which seeks to dissolve this perpetual restlessness by
eliminating one or another of the elements in tension not alone
shallows the deeps and reduces the intensity of the religious
experience, but also may be said to pervert it. The opposing ele-
ments in the tension are needed for the completeness of a faith
which aims to embrace all of life as well as for the correction of
any tendency to an exclusive emphasis which would do violence
to the multifaceted character of human needs and capacities,
for, as Emerson said in another connection, while each is a great
half, it might be an impossible whole. These dilemmas integral
to the nature of the genuine religious experience are increasecj,
as we have said, in the case of religious bodies functioning in a
democratic order. The three new stresses to which we will here
make reference are implied in three divisions of the subject,
namely, the relation of religion to voluntary groups in society,
relationships between religious groups, and lastly, relationships
Relation of Church and Synagogue 103
on the part of religious groups to government and political
Religion in our free society is surrounded by a secularity
which dominates substantial areas of that society. No longer is
church or synagogue set in a climate of universal acceptance of
fundamental religious attitudes and beliefs. However the reli-
gious of Western civilization differed among themselves, they
were in agreement upon such basic ideas as the existence of
God, Whose Will governs the world and Whose reality is the
foundation of all moral law; the divine imprint which gives
man his most authentic character; the unity of mankind which
in the long run is more decisive than the conflicts and divisive-
ness which now fragmentize it; the moral purpose underlying
the social order. The authority of religion, at least in the realm
of theory, informed society, however far behind that theory it
habitually lagged in practice. This condition persisted till mod-
ern times. But then there "arose a new king . . . who knew not
Joseph," and religion was removed from its social predom-
inance. The assumptions of religion are not explicit or acknowl-
edged in the cultural and intellectual life outside of it. Its views
of life and of man are no longer the common heritage of society.
Man has, as Joseph Wood Krutch expresses it in his The Mod-
ern Temper, "put off his royal robes." The temper of modern
life is secular. This secularity is not so much an ideology as a
fact; not so much a rationale as a force, enabling America to be
at once, as Reinhold Niebuhr points out, both secular and
We are not here dealing with a secularism which is a philos-
ophically organized denial of religious premises and concepts
and which functions in the life of its faithful as a religion of
anti-religion. The secularity we have reference to is the product
of a complex of historic factors which have united to bring the
modern period into being and which have helped shape it. It
104 RABBI MORRIS ABLER
is the common ground of those who are members of one of the
diverse rehgious creeds of our society and those who are aflRH-
ated with none. It is independent, certainly in its palpable and
overt forms of religious motivations and imperatives. It does
not take the position of embattled repudiation or explicit
denial. It is neutral not because its believes in the equal validity
of the options of religion and non-religion, but because it does
not invoke either the forms or doctrines of faith. Many of the
most influential centers of power and authority in a free society
operate in just such an atmosphere of neutrality, in which reli-
gion as a recognized and affirmed commitment is wholly
absent. One may trace streams of rehgious influence that, in
greater or lesser measure, have entered these institutions of
secularity, but these streams now flow on such a deep subter-
ranean level that they go unobserved even by those who are the
beneficiaries of their enriching impact. Such powerful and in-
dispensable agencies as government, the press, public educa-
tion, industry, labor are instances of a secularity which in their
essentials do not reflect a religious character.
The dilemma is bold and vivid. Religion which seeks to
interpenetrate all of life with its truths and values must not
only do its work in an area apparently unclaimed by religious
commitment, but must relate itself negatively or positively to
a wide-ranging secularity. The dilemma is whether it should
turn its back upon this broad arena of human interest and en-
deavor and read itself out of the crucial and powerful centers
of effectiveness or should it cooperate with the secular arms of
society and run the risk by such cooperation of implying that
religion is not a prime necessity for the performance of good
acts and the promotion of moral policies.
A second dilemma born of the new circumstances of modern
life is that raised by the presence of many differing religions in
a free society. Religions as we have known them in the Western
world are the bearers of an absolute idea. They view themselves
Relation of Church and Synagogue 105
as charting the way to salvation, the secret of which has been
entrusted to them alone. They address themselves to the ulti-
mate questions of life with such an inflexible intensity of con-
viction about the vahdity of their answers as to confer upon
them undupHcated singularity. Absolute truths are after all
non-negotiable and he who holds to them, limits the area of
dialogue and denies a basis of parity. Contending absolutes
leave no room for mutual accommodation. Yet the sovereign
facts of life in a free society force upon religion the inescapable
necessity of recognizing de facto if not de jure the presence of
other creeds with equally insistent claims to authority and ab-
soluteness. To fuse one's convictions of theological exclusive-
ness with the practice of a broad social inclusiveness touching
other religious orientations represents a new challenge for
which the historic experience of the faiths of the Western world
has not prepared him. The contingencies of past history have
either allowed them to be dominant and established in a given
period or subordinate and suppressed. They have not had the
opportunity (would any say "the misfortune"?) of living on a
basis of social equality with other faiths. How does one resolve
a dilemma, one of the horns of which is a theory of absolute
right and the other an interaction which in conferring equality
on many faiths implies or seems to imply the relativity of each
A third dilemma is crystallized by the tripartite formulation
of our subject. How does religion relate itself to government
and the political life in a free society: For in a democracy, gov-
ernment is not a Caesar apart from and over us, but a collec-
tivity of which we are a constituent. However imperfectly the
political machinery serves as an instrument of "we the people,"
there is present a corrective for the perversion of the power that
belongs to the people, and this constitutes a distinguishing
characteristic of the free society.
But in more immediate ways we are involved in the work
106 RABBI MORRIS ADLER
and activity of government. Government today not alone
reaches into those areas in which it gives poHtical and social
expression to values long cherished by religion (such as human
welfare, human dignity, peace, equality, justice), but also by
its pervasiveness colors the entire climate of society. Govern-
ment today is far more than a political instrumentality. It helps
give unity and direction to the group-life of its people and in-
deed in many instances to their life as individuals.
What should be the relation of religion to the political life
of its times? This is not an identical problem with that sug-
gested by the terms Church and State. American tradition and
law oppose the harnessing in any formal way of the machin-
ery with the institutions of religion or with the public or private
exercise of religion by an adherent of religion. This does not
mean the removal of religion from the public domain. For
religion is more than a cult, an agency, an institution. Its un-
restricted scope is suggested by the comment of Dr. William
Temple, the late Archbishop of Canterbury, that "it is a great
mistake to suppose that God is only or even mainly concerned
with religion." Religion is a system of concepts about life and
the nature of man — a complex of sensitivities, a bearer of a
divine mandate and a fellowship of men dedicated to a purpose
in history and beyond history. It places or should place these
ideas and purposes above its institutional interests and con-
cerns. This dynamic purposefulness will not permit it to in-
sulate itself behind the ramparts of its formalism and stay aloof
from the currents of our time. Yet to enter these currents ex-
poses it to many hazards. There is a degree of involvement
beyond which it may not venture, since in its entanglement
with the immediacies it may become estranged from ultimates.
Politics by its very nature is concerned with expendiencies, with
the possible rather than the good, the urgent rather than the
important, the popular rather than the ideal. Prudence and
Relation of Church and Synagogue 107
compromise are attributes of political life, and not improperly
so. Can religion enter the political realm and not be infected
by that which, though it is acceptable and even proper in
political action, is fatal when absorbed into the religious life?
If religion is to be effective, it must be involved. If it becomes
involved, it may cease to be religion and become yet another
pressure group. Here we have the third of the dilemmas which
our subject highlights.
A detailed program is beyond the scope of this paper. We
limit ourselves to some of the cautions and restraints which
should guide religion as it enters the public arena in which
voluntary secular organizations and the government function
and as it relates itself to other faiths, impelled as it is by an
earnest desire to advance in some degree in contemporary social
life the purposes which it projects for all history and all man-
For involve itself, religion must, else it will remain neutral
in crucial areas which so desperately need something of its
passion, perspective and purpose and will become increasingly
irrelevant in an age aquiver with apprehension and confounded
by perplexity. It may mean abandoning society to haphazard
influences of social circumstance and political contingency. It
may have an even worse consequence in that its abdication may
contribute to the development of a civic religion which by the
standards of the Judeo-Christian tradition can only be ac-
counted as a modern idolatry.
It can be maintained with much force that no society is
secular. Every society inherits or fashions a religion. A non-
religionist like John Dewey speaks of "A Common Faith"
emerging out of the structure and pursuits of American society.
Its forms are presently borrowed from the dominant Christian
faiths in our country. But even as it appropriates these forms
it is disassociating them from their original traditional context
108 RABBI MORRIS ABLER
of ideas and values. What is happening to Christmas is only
the most dramatic symptom of an entire process. Between the
invocations with which we begin and the benedictions with
which we close many of our public functions, the sessions of
Congress and the legislatures of our several states, are programs
of activities which are untouched by the religious frame in
which they are formally set. They are basically non-religious in
substance and quality despite their obeisance to a religious
Where the ultimates are business or the state or an economic
system or a political party or any phase of life which true
religion views as relative, the end result must be idolatry. The
civic religion of the Roman empire was the worship of the
Roman emperor. While a civic religion need not become em-
bodied in a state or an established church, it must perforce
lead to a deification of the collective purposes, ideals and other
relativities of its society and its age. In a transitional period,
since symbols are not easily improvised, the civic religion may
lean for these on the historic religions. The content of the
Judeo-Christian tradition becomes muted, even though its
external forms are stressed and imposed upon public life. It
becomes more important to put up a creche in a public place
than to teach and interpret the doctrine of Incarnation. It
seems to be a paradox, yet it is nonetheless sober fact, that the
multiplication of prayers and observances taken into our public
life from historic religions may represent both a dilution of
and a substitution for the religions from which they were
adopted. Unheralded are the doctrines which give substance
and meaning to the forms. Eliminated are the deeply rooted
particularities of experience, belief and mood which give to
religious expression its passion and vitality.
Hence I believe it to be of singular importance that the his-
toric religious traditions of America enjoy high visibility on
Relation of Church and Synagogue 109
the scene of America's social strivings, struggles and planning.
The effect as I see it will be twofold. First it will check the
growth of a civic non-denominational, non-traditional religion
which must inevitably culminate in a national idolatry. Sec-
ondly, I believe that it will reinforce the effort to establish
racial justice, for example, with an authority and an impetus
no non-religious institution can equal. One of the painful
ironies of our time is that religion, whose social concerns flow
from deep sources of belief and commitment, has not been in
the vanguard of the fight for racial justice. A few years ago.
Dean Liston Pope of the Yale University Divinity School
spoke these words, "The Church has lagged behind the Su-
preme Court as the conscience of the nation on the question
of race and it has fallen far behind trade unions, factories,
schools, department stores, athletic gatherings and most other
major human associations, as far as the achievement of inte-
gration in its own life is concerned."
Even the adherents of religion often feel that it is necessary
to work through secular agencies to achieve desirable social
goals since their own Church organizations have either con-
tented themselves with innocuous pronouncements or have
not evidenced any concern at all. Religion should welcome the
support of every secular group whose motivations are sincere
and whose social goals coincide with its own. There is a pro-
found sense in which nothing human is secular. But even as
religion enters into such a partnership, it should not relinquish
its role as a critic, since in perspective and purpose it ranges far
beyond the immediate goals. For religion, the achievement of
racial justice is not an element in a foreign policy, a factor mak-
ing for a good image abroad; or the fulfillment of the implica-
tions of a political system or doctrine, nor yet the price for
domestic tranquillity. It represents an objective transcending
all these. It is part of a program that is grounded in a cosmic
110 RABBI MORRIS ADLER
scheme of things, arising out of a mandate of God to man. It
should impart to its partnership with secular agencies the assur-
ance and the compelling power of a divine imperative which
animates the believer.
Recognizing a judgment above and beyond history, religion
can deepen our social programs with the vision and insight that
derive from it. Religion's solicitude embraces not only the vic-
tim of racial injustice but also its perpetrator. It can thus with-
out sacrificing intensity and resolve help make our social strug-
gle one that not only combats evil but upholds and articulates
the larger good. Religion can focus upon the social scene the
wholeness which Martin Buber intimated is lacking when he
said, "Individualism understands only a part of man, collec-
tivism understands man only as a part. Individualism sees man
only in relation to himself— but collectivism does not see man
at all; it sees society." Religion by working alongside of secular
agencies devoted to racial justice need not be reduced to the
status of an agency or a social work program, as long as it holds
before it the high sights of its own purpose and nature. Religion
is more widely professed than respected among us. Can it truly
hope for the respect of modern men if it affirms in rhetoric the
dignity of man and is blind in fact to the misery of man? If
there are dangers to religion in its alliance with the variety of
secular agencies working in the field of racial justice, it seems
to me there is greater danger to it if it refrains from such
Religion however must be armed not only with resolve and
faith but what may be equally essential in this context— the
rich and sovereign quality of humility. William Temple once
remarked that on some social questions religious people have
no more reliable judgment than atheists. There are technical
matters involving the knowledge of facts for which faith, how-
ever pure and lofty, cannot be a substitute. Religion must
Relation of Church and Synagogue 111
therefore realize its limitations and speak with proper diffi-
dence on many occasions. It must not throw the full weight of
its claims and prestige to a detail of a program which was in all
likelihood not contained in any divine revelation which it en-
joyed. Religion is often likely to win a degree of respect for its
reserve that it could never win by any pretension to undeserved
authority or omniscience.
We have alluded to the dilemma with which the diversity
of the religious life of a free society confronts each of the faiths
comprising that diversity. The problem succintly put is how a
religion can retain its sense of theological uniqueness and yet
work with other religions in the concord which can be main-
tained only through a recognition of equality. It may not be
possible to resolve this dilemma in theory. But there is a syn-
thesis which life rather than philosophy can effect. Joint efforts
can take place without a theoretic resolution of the dilemma.
Whitehead once pointed out that a contradiction may be fatal
in logic and yet operate in life with creative power. As religions
work side by side in the common cause of racial justice, psycho-
logical forces will be released which will not overthrow the
theological doctrine of uniqueness but by a miracle of the
human spirit overcome it as a barrier to cooperative enterprise.
The existence of the doctrine does not weaken the mutuality
which grows out of joint endeavor, participated in by men of
diverse faiths. Since religion accepts responsibility for social
betterment, it must realize that this responsibility can best be
discharged by the pooling of the religious strength of the land.
The logic of life in a free society is that theological apartness
need not be accompanied by social ghettoization and untouch-
The story is told that during World War II a Commanding
Officer in receiving a new Chaplain assigned to his base, said,
"Chaplain, you take charge of their souls, I'll take over every-
112 RABBI MORRIS ADLER
thing else." The Commanding Officer, it is hoped, knew more
of mihtary organization and strategy than he did of rehgion,
the nature of man or of hfe. The rigidity of division of function
which he sought to impose on his Chaplain broke down the
first time he issued an order to his men. For it is obvious that
what he thought of the souls of men would not only determine
the way he spoke to them, but also how he would treat their
bodies. A Chaplain who, when asking of one of the G.I.'s in his
charge "how are you?" would refer only to the state of their
souls, would render himself incapable of understanding their
spiritual needs. The ways in which we earn our livelihood in-
fluence deeply the spiritual life we lead. An economy reflects
and imposes a value-system, a moral code — I almost said a
theology. I have already mentioned the ever widening scope
of governmental activity. It legislates for and supervises a far
vaster portion of our common and individual life than ever
before. It renders decisions and organizes programs which em-
body ethical values and principles. Social projects and policies
have moral consequences. Religion without claiming special
privilege in the arena of public and political aflfairs should not
on the other hand suffer a disenfranchisement in a free society
which is not demanded of any other voluntary collectivity. Re-
ligious belief does not make one less of a citizen and when be-
lieving citizens are joined in a believing body, they should not
be deprived, nor ought they deprive themselves of their in-
alienable rights to participate in the normal processes of dis-
cussion, political action and pressure.
Secondly, religion in the fulfillment of its own nature should
bring to bear upon the social ills and needs of our time its
unique concern, sensitivity, and experience. Here too, as in the
other relationships we have discussed, religion should wisely
practice a number of proper and necessary restraints. I have
already indicated that it should not seek preferment in any
Relation of Church and Synagogue 113
form. It should avoid any appearance of seeking control. In
favoring any type of social program, it must not expect nor
should it receive, immunity from criticism and opposition
which are part of the "free trade of ideas" in a democracy. It
must never, in dealing with a specific issue or problem, draw its
ecclesiastical robes about it and shout "Sanctuary" when it is
challenged or refuted. But far and beyond all this it must not
abdicate its role as a critic of the illusions, inadequacies, and
errors of the political life of its times. It should not seek to
impose upon a society comprising diverse faiths and viewpoints,
laws which mirror only its own specific doctrinal beliefs and
principles. Its universality must come into full play even when
it acts in its capacity as a particular church or religious body.
Its public stance must not only derive from its general religious
orientation but also from the study and knowledge of con-
temporary life and of the particular issue on which it expresses
itself in word and action. I can visualize no type of customary
and legitimate action in the sphere of political life which is to
be denied to organized religion short of promoting the can-
didacy of a particular candidate. Its responsibility is to ideas
and ideals; to the humanization of our technological society,
to the enhancement of human welfare and to those principles
of justice and truth which government no less than other
agencies should seek to embody and advance.
There are no limits to the sacrifice and devotion which those
whose ultimate loyalty is to God can attain. When religion
draws upon its own deepest resources, it will not stop in its
pursuit of the right even when its prestige, safety, institutions
or its very life are endangered. It can have no vested interest in
its struggle for justice other than in the truths it affirms and
the purposes to which it is dedicated. It will be awed neither by
majority opinion, governmental power, or the resignation of
many of its own adherents. It will speak out though the voices
114 RABBI MORRIS ABLER
of others have been muted, and will act when fear has paralyzed
university, press, and every other secular agency. It will not
hesitate to stand alone midst torrents of enmity and scorn. That
religion can act in this heroic manner in the midst of the great-
est peril and the darkest crisis is evidenced by the testimony of
one who himself was not a faithful communicant. Albert Ein-
stein wrote these words— "Only the Church stood squarely
across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing the truth.
I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church has
had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth
and moral freedom. I am forced to confess that what I once
despised, I now praise unreservedly."
No preachment or doctrinal exposition will as fully reveal to
our time the scope and power of religion as this capacity for
independence and commitment in the midst of contingencies
and relativities, which no other phase of life can in equal meas-
ure manifest. To fulfill this singular potentiality is both the
responsibility and privilege of religion.
Perspectives on the Challenge
Interracial Justice and Love:
Challenge to a Religious America
Albert Cardinal Meyer
J. Irwin Miller
Dr. Julius Mark
Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, New York City
President of the Synagogue Council of America
The great religious communions of our country— Catholic,
Protestant and Jewish— have affirmed on many occasions their
conviction that all men are created in the image of God and
are equally regarded as His children by our Heavenly Father.
They have expressed their abhorrence of every form of prejudice
and bigotry on the grounds of differences in racial background.
They have vigorously condemned as evil and unjust discrimina-
tion in employment, housing, schooling, transportation and the
use of public facilities which have been established to serve the
Now the three major religious bodies of our country have
come together to speak out with one voice, in the name of the
one God Whom we all worship, in an effort to impress not
only our own congregants but the entire American people with
118 DR. JULIUS MARK
the urgent necessity of translating into daily practice the noble
concepts of human equality which we have many times indi-
The equality of all men is a basic principle of the American
way of life. The Declaration of Independence proclaims that
"all men are created equal" and "are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life,
Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." The Emancipation
Proclamation, issued by the immortal Abraham Lincoln a cen-
tury ago on the first of this month, outlaws human slavery and
the famed Supreme Court decision of 1954 declares unconstitu-
tional the practice of segregation of the races in schools main-
tained by the people.
Laws enacted by legislative assemblies are, to be sure, impor-
tant. Their mere passage, however, is not enough. The wide-
spread resistance to these man-made laws in the North as well
as the South— we must not forget that our problem is not
sectional, but national— is a challenge to all of us who believe
in God's Fatherhood and man's brotherhood to stress and
proclaim anew the higher, God-made laws proclaiming the
precious worth of every human being and at the same time to
humbly confess our failure to implement them in our own
It appears to me that if we are to make a meaningful and
concrete contribution to the resolution of the shameful and
humiliating condition known by the evil word "racism," we
must first have a clearer concept of the relation of religion to
the social, political, educational and economic problems of life.
Is religion a way of looking at certain things or is it a certain
way of looking at all things? To some, religion either by defini-
tion or by the way they react to life's problems, is a way of
looking at certain things. To them religion's sole or principal
function is to be concerned with such matters as God, church
Interracial Justice and Love 119
attendance, retreats, ceremonials, observance of Holy Days and
festivals, immortality, sin, repentance, and so forth. They
maintain that areas and problems such as business, industry,
race relations, slums, poverty, child labor, social security, social
justice, civil rights, segregation are all outside the purview of
religion. To them religion has no relevance to everyday living.
They would agree with the 19th century statesman who re-
marked: "Things have come to a pretty pass if religion is going
to interfere with private life." They lustily sing "God is in His
Holy Temple" and then make sure that He remains within the
confines of the saijctuary instead of taking Him with them into
the highways and byways of everyday living.
There are others, however, who insist that while prayer,
ritual and ceremony play an important role in religious living,
these by no means constitute the totality of religion. To them,
religion in its truest and finest sense is a certain way, based
upon man's awareness of God and God's requirements of His
children, of looking at all things. For them religion is only
partly concerned with enabling souls to enter heaven. Its
principal purpose is to help create a little more heaven on earth
for all the children of God as taught by the prophets of the
Bible. That is why the prophets preached against corrupt
politics, land monopoly, social injustice, racial bigotry, na-
tional arrogance. Micah summed up his concept of religion in
the famed utterance wherein he declared that walking humbly
with God constitutes just one-third of our Heavenly Father's
requirements of man. The other two-thirds consist of doing
justly and loving mercy.
It is, of course, one thing to proclaim lofty teachings which
envisage a society wherein all human beings live together as
brothers. It is quite something else to implement these prin-
ciples of simple justice. When a priest, minister or rabbi exer-
cises his right, as a teacher of religion, to denounce not alone
120 DR. JULIUS MARK
evil but evil-doers and speaks out forthrightly in defense of
those who are denied the elementary rights which belong to all
human beings, he is likely to share the experience of Amos, who
was told in so many words by Amaziah, the priest of Beth-El:
"Go peddle your radicalism somewhere else, where the over-
head isn't so high."
In the minds of many laymen— and some ministers of reli-
gion—there appears to be a dichotomy between religion and
life. They insist that preachers confine themselves to purely
"religious" matters, which have little or nothing to do with the
practical affairs of life. Several years ago a young rabbi expressed
both amusement and sadness when he learned that an impor-
tant member of his congregation vigorously objected to a pas-
sage in one of his sermons wherein he expressed svmpathy for a
young Negro who had been brutally murdered by a mob. His
congregant objected on the grounds that his rabbi "had no
business mentioning politics" in his sermon. The pulpit of this
rabbi, by the way, is not in Mississippi or in some other South-
ern communty, but in enlightened California. Basically, race
prejudice is not a political or an economic problem but a moral
and religious problem.
We must make it crystal clear that while we are all uncom-
promisingly loyal to our respective religious convictions, prac-
tices and ceremonials, we are united as sons and daughters of
Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism in our equally uncom-
promising affirmation that God "hath made of one blood all
nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth" (Acts
17:26), and that all human beings are descended from one
common ancestor, proving thereby that no man is racially
superior or inferior to his fellowman. Created in the image of
the Divine, all men enjoy equal spiritual dignity. They are
entitled to the same rights and upon all alike devolve the same
Interracial Justice and Love 121
It is well known that proponents of racism and segregation
have quoted the Bible to prove the existence of superior and
inferior races as a manifestation of God's will. Thus, shortly
before the outbreak of the Civil War a distinguished rabbi of
New York City, Morris J. Raphall, delivered a scholarly address
which brought comfort to believers in human slavery. Rabbi
Raphall was only one of numerous ministers of religion
throughout the centuries and even to our day who pointed to
many biblical ordinances and laws as evidence that the Bible
condones slavery. That the Bible also condones polygamy
seemed to have escaped their notice. The fact is that a great
many customs and practices to be found in the Bible merely
reflect the mores of ancient society. Rabbi Raphall's far more
scholarly contemporary, Rabbi David Einhorn, then of Balti-
more, was forced to flee from his city when a mob threatened
him with lynching after he had called slavery "the greatest
possible crime against God."
The fact is that the Bible, while recognizing slavery, con-
stantly tries to humanize the institution. Thus, while as late
as 1854 the Congress of the United States passed a law making
it mandatory to restore fugitive slaves to their master, the book
of Deuteronomy (23:16-17) commands
Thou shalt not deliver unto his master a slave that is escaped
from his master. He shall dwell with thee ... in the place
which he shall choose within one of thy gates, where it liketh
him best; thou shalt not wrong him.
Even more significant is the experience of Miriam, sister of
Moses, as recounted in the book of Numbers (12:1-9), when
she and Aaron "spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian
woman whom he had married." She is punished by being
stricken with leprosy. Aaron pleads with Moses that she be
forgiven. Moses prays to God on her behalf and after seven
days she is healed.
122 DR. JULIUS MARK
Like all peoples, ancient and modern alike, the Hebrews of
Biblical times regarded themselves as the chosen of God. As
proof of their superiority, they would point to their miraculous
deliverances from Egypt by God's mighty hand an outstretched'
arm. The prophet Amos reminds his people that all races and
peoples are equally loved by God when he cries: "Are ye not
as the Ethiopians unto Me, O children of Israel? saith the
Lord" (9:7) . Yes, God brought Israel out of Egypt, but he also
brought the Philistines out of Caphtor and the Syrians out of
The glorious and undying message of the book of Jonah is
oft obscured in the minds of many by reason of the unimpor-
tant and inconsequential incident of the whale or, as the story
has it, the "great fish" which God had especially prepared.
Jonah is commanded by God to journey to Nineveh, "that great
city," and plead with the people to mend their ways lest they
be destroyed by the corruption and wickedness into which they
had fallen. The prophet flatly refuses to obey God's command,
boards a ship and begins his journey westward toward Tarshish
rather than eastward in the direction of Nineveh. Why? Be-
cause he feels himself superior to the people of Nineveh, has no
pity for them and is quite content for them to be destroyed.
Whereupon God again orders him to go to Nineveh and this
time he obeys. He preaches to the people and mirabile dictu,
they hearken to him, repent and are saved from destruction.
Now one might think that the prophet would have rejoiced
over his successful preaching mission. But not Jonah! He is
exceedingly displeased and downright angry over the outcome,
even to the point of wishing that he were dead. Then he is
again filled with anger when a gourd which God had caused to
grow out of the earth to shield him from the sun withers the
next morning. The sublime lesson of God's concern for all His
children, whatever be their race or creed or nationality, is driven
home in the last two sentences of the book of Jonah.
Interracial Justice and Love 123
And the Lord said: "Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for
which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow, which
came up in a night and perished in a night; shouldst thou
not have pity on Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more
than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between
their right hand and their left hand, and also much cattle?
In view of its significant and enduring challenge to human-
kind throughout the ages and even to our own times, it is not
surprising that the ancient Rabbis ordained that the book of
Jonah should be read in all Synagogues on the Day of Atone-
ment, the most sacred Holy Day in the Jewish religious calen-
dar, a practice which is observed to this very day.
Racial discrimination has been defined as "the unjust separa-
tion of people from things and circumstances" and segregation
as "the immoral separation of people from people" (Kyle
Haselden ) . Many organizations are dedicated to breaking down
the cruel walls and barriers which divide people from people.
They demand that the right to vote, to equal educational
opportunities, to equal employment opportunities and to ade-
quate housing shall be denied to no man on account of differ-
ence in race. In this battle to build a society and a world in
which the dignity of every human beings is jealousy guarded
and the equality of all men taken for granted, the forces of
religion, if they are true to their purpose, must, both by precept
and example, be in the forefront— leading and not following,
courageously fulfilling their prophetic mission of being the
conscience of humankind.
124 ALBERT CARDINAL MEYER
Albert Cardinal Meyer
Archbishop of Chicago
At the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclama-
tion we find ourselves seized with the nation's unfinished busi-
ness. We have not yet completely bridged a deep cleft that two
centuries of slave economy have inflicted upon our society. The
deepest cleft, the distance between master and slave, was not
just the distance between the rich and the poor, between the
civilized and uncivilized, the learned and the unlearned, the
fortunate and the unfortunate. The gulf that separated master
and slave under the regime abolished by President Lincoln's
proclamation was none other than the difference between
human personality, with all its rights and privileges, and the
condition of a being — human in appearance, form, emotion and
spiritual capacities — but totally deprived of any inherent rights,
or dignities save those which were gratuitously accorded to him
by his master.
It was the difference between a human being, however poor,
however degraded, and that of a mere chattel. In many cases
this being was honored, even loved, yet he remained stripped of
those elementary rights which are the mark of our humanity
Interracial Justice and Love 125
The history of Negro people in the United States in the
hundred years that have elapsed between the Emancipation
Proclamation and the present day is one of gradually and pain-
fully shaking off persistent remnants of those shackles with
which they were once shamefully bound. Great progress has
been made. There exists today not a single vocation or profes-
sion in the United States in which some men and women of
the Negro people are not found. Yet despite all progress, the
process of liberation remains partially unfulfilled.
We do not need to travel to any particular part of our coun-
try in order to verify the truth of the last assertion. We need
only look at the racial problems which confront us in the cities
of our Northeast, of the Great Lakes, and of the Far Western
regions, to realize the extent of the work that still confronts
us. The unresolved race question is indeed a pathological infec-
tion in our social and political economy. It is also an obstacle to
a right conscience before God. Our whole future as a nation
and as a religious people may be determined by what we do
about the race problem in the next few years. Careful and re-
sponsible thinkers refer to racism as the core of many of our
problems today. What we do about it is the ultimate test of our
vaunted democratic way of life. More than this, however, it is
the ultimate test of our understanding of Christianity, as ex-
pressed in the words of the Divine Master: "By this will all
men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one
another" (John 13:35).
This unfinished business, therefore, is the gravest kind of
challenge to all who believe in a loving Creator, to all who
honor His revelation through the ages, to all who feel a deep
moral concern for the human person whose integrity He has
committed to the conscience of the struggling human race.
How can any of us claim to possess a deep love of the human
family, and yet be unconcerned about prevailing racial atti-
126 ALBERT CARDINAL MEYER
tudes that directl\- militate against the family, and against its
ven' existence as a basic institution of our human society?
Nothing is more foolish or illogical than to take the difficulty
or complexity of our unfinished business as an excuse for in-
action. To take this attitude, would be, indeed, to tempt the
Lord. Our Heavenlv Father Himself, so familiar with our in-
consistencies and weaknesses, must wonder when He sees the
almost infinite skill, resourcefulness and delicacy of operation
by which our astronauts succeed in launching and guiding tiny
capsules through boundless space; yet apparently we are unable
to banish prejudice and gross ignorance and cruel racial injustice
from our communities.
On the contrar^•, the presence and the complexity of our
difficulties are a call to action, to concrete and determined
action. No action, however, can be divorced from the principles
which inspire it. Indeed, in the words of the late Pope Pius XII:
"There are occasions and times in which onlv recourse to high-
er principles can establish clearlv the boundaries between right
and wrong, betw^een what is law^ful and immoral, and bring
peace to consciences faced with grave decisions." Let us, then,
franklv acknowledge that we are dealing here with a moral and
religious issue, as the Catholic Bishops of the United States
said in their statement of 1958: "The heart of the race question
is moral and religious."
The Holy Bible, though it centers in the record of God's
call to man and man's response to God, sheds a guiding light
on the investigation of man's action in human societv and on
the principles which must go\"ern all men in their human deal-
ings with one another. Sacred Scripture, therefore, sheds white
light on the principles of human relations. Men are equal in
God's plan and all can participate in the fulness of His bless-
ings. Human nature is to be fulfilled di^■inelv in membership in
God's own family. This plan of God, as described in the Scrip-
Interracial Justice and Love 127
tures, is the gratuitous fulfillment of man. In it all men are
called to an exalted, divine dignity, and all men are equally im-
potent to fulfill themselves. God fulfills man, and men are to be
united in charity as brothers in the family of God. In this light
man's nature contains a potency for equality on the divine
level, which consecrates a natural right to equality on the hu-
man level. For the Christian, both in the Old and the New
Covenants, God has envisioned the unity and equality of all
men in His plan of salvation.
I shall not attempt here to spell out the biblical passages
which illustrate this statement. Suffice it to say that we are
committed to the proposition that all men are equal in the
sight of God; that is, they are created by God, and in the faith
of Christian life, they are redeemed by His Divine Son; they
are ennobled by the Law of God, and God desires them as His
friends in the eternity of heaven. This fact confers upon all
men human dignity and human rights. Men are unequal in
talent and achievement; they differ in culture and personal
characteristics. Some are saintly, some seem to be evil, most are
men of good will, though beset with human frailty. On the
basis of personal differences we may distinguish among our
fellow-men, remembering always the admonition: "Let him
who is without sin cast the first stone." But discrimination
based on the accidental fact of race or color, regardless of per-
sonal qualities or achievement, is as such injurious to human
rights and cannot be reconciled with the truth that God has
created all men with equal rights and equal dignity.
It is easy to proclaim moral issues, but experience teaches us
that mistaken or misguided attempts to deal with such issues
can land us ultimately in a situation precisely the opposite of
that first intended.
Marxism and communism presented themselves originally
as attempts to deal with grave moral problems that were raised
128 ALBERT CARDINAL MEYER
by a glaring inequality between the rich and the poor in a grow-
ing nineteenth-century industrial civilization: by the grievous
abuses created by the wealthy, powerful man's exploitation of
the workingman and his toil, by shamefully inadequate wages,
by wretched living conditions, and, in short, by the situation
presented in a new type of master and slave. Yet the measures
proposed resulted not in greater freedom for the individual or
society but in the most brutal and absolute tyranny the human
race has ever seen.
So, too, in the field of interracial relations. White Citizens'
Councils, Black Muslims movements, and all such separatist
efforts lead not to man discovering his own true nobility, not to
man raising his head in equality, but rather to man raising his
fist in inequality, in terror, in demoralizing antagonism.
But the business of religious leaders is not that of registering
merely some kind of instinctive reaction against the grave dis-
orders and injustices, the social and racial antagonisms that are
growing up in our communities. Nor is it the business of merely
uttering some kind of an eloquent protest, valuable as such a
protest may be. Our great work is to lay the foundation for that
kind of reaction which will achieve lasting benefits. It is the
kind of action called for by Pope John XXI II in his memorable
encyclical letter, Mater et Magistra, when he wrote: "It is not
enough merely to publicize a social doctrine; it has to be trans-
lated into action. This is particularly true of Christian social
doctrine, whose light is truth, whose objective is justice, and
whose driving force is love." What is needed is the kind of
action which takes into account the whole nature of man, the
demands of his personality, and the necessary integrity of his
social institutions, and is determined to spare no effort that
this personality and these institutions may be honored. Our
homes, our hospitals, our professional organizations and prac-
tices, our schools and colleges, our real estate operations, our
Interracial Justice and Love 1 29
police protection, in short all forms of public association and
activity are involved.
For this reason I point out now two massive questions which
face us, and certain types of action which seem to me to be the
most effective in order to handle them. The two particularly
urgent, massive questions that face all who attempt to foresee
the future of our large city communities are: first, the future of
our urban youth in the matter of employment and training for
useful, honorable careers, and, secondly, the vexed question of
residential segregation, with all its implications in the field of
home life, family morals, and community peace and friendship.
We observe today an ever growing number of minority
group youth who are dropping out of school at an alarming
rate. In which direction are these young people headed? Are
they to swell the ranks of those who congregate upon our street
corners and are merged into the nameless mass of the dis-
affected, discouraged, and criminal? Are they to be the ready
victims of the narcotics peddler?
Or are they to avail themselves of an ever growing demand
for talent, in the field of technological employment? Are their
talents to be salvaged, as the current phrase goes?
Is there more that we can do to end unfair job discrimina-
tion based on race, religion, national origin? Have we done all
that we could even within our own institutions to open up
employment opportunities to qualified minority group per-
sonnel, to go out of our way to create incentive for those who
need it most, and thus build up in youth a desire for learning
and technical skills?
Again we observe the spread of urban neighborhoods that
have been abandoned by their former owners—either through
fear of minority groups or various types of economic and social
pressure. We see the consequent growth of the segregated
Negro area, as the old neighborhoods are solidly populated by
130 ALBERT CARDINAL MEYER
Negroes. We know the tension, and sometimes violence, that
accompanies this transition— and the difficulties of maintaining
peace, law, and order in the community.
Are we to continue to see fear and panic seize the white
community in areas facing racial change? Will we see home-
owners continue to yield to the professional manipulators of
the panic button and to the ruthless blockbusters?
Or can the force of religion be used more effectively to pre-
pare for change, to help create community organizations which
grow, not from fear, but from pride and stewardship over prop-
erty, as well as from the spirit of neighborliness and openness
to all who will maintain community standards? At the same
time can religion help more effectively to establish the spirit
and practice of open occupancy for an entire metropolitan area
such as our own— because this is the only good atmosphere for
our young people, white and Negro alike— and because this
will relieve the pressures that generate panic, flight, and des-
The types of action which suggest themselves as most effec-
tive are not something startlingly new or original. Rather, they
represent a brief summary of what experience has already
taught in the matter of race relations and interracial coopera-
tion, and is most likely to lead to definite results in the near
future. For, we are not dealing with abstract propositions, but
with living, suffering, and hoping human beings; with parents
and children, with husbands and wives, with the young and
the aged, with the healthy and the sick, with old-line Amer-
icans and recent immigrants.
First of all, we have to work together. The problems that
now confront us in our great cities are too manifold and too
deep-rooted in human passions and misunderstandings for any
one of our great religious bodies to deal with them alone.
Certainly each of the many organizations represented in this
Interracial Justice and Love 131
conference can operate and should be expected to operate-
wherever conditions permit — among those of one's own faith
and spiritual allegiance. No one can honestly point to others
for action if one's own record is incomplete. Nevertheless, this
matter of combating racial prejudice and its bitter fruits, and
of establishing a really integrated community is by its very
nature a task for us all : not separately and alone, but jointly as
well. To this common task each of us brings his own store of
experience and wisdom.
Indeed, I think it is only fair to expect that by our joint
action we shall learn better to understand one another. There
is no surer way for the various religious bodies who love a com-
mon Father than to unite in studying and meeting our com-
mon responsibilities and the needs of our troubled fellow
For a similar reason a work of this kind should, it seems to
me, be undertaken by the generous cooperation of all elements
concerned: by the cooperation of the different racial groups
quite as well as of the different faiths. A joint meeting such as
that in which we are engaged would mean little if it were con-
fined to the leaders of any one group or race. The Catholic
Archdiocese of Chicago has undertaken to emphasize as funda-
mental this principle of racial cooperation, through its various
agencies and through its Catholic Interracial Council, where
intelligent and public-spirited men and women unite in frank,
across-the-board discussions of the sources of racial conflicts and
the best way of dealing with them.
The love of God, our heavenly Father, and the love of neigh-
bor as a child of God cannot in action be a one-way street.
Rather, love seeks a common footing and leads to joint efforts,
in which mutual difficulties and obstacles are laid openly upon
the table, and dealt with in a manner devoid of narrow self-
interest or of timid human respect or mere political conniving.
132 ALBERT CARDINAL MEYER
It is difficult to exaggerate the critical nature of the present
hour. I am not referring to the dangers from abroad, grievous
as these are, but to the situation at home.
Are the various racial groups to waste their energies and dis-
locate the nation itself in a fruitless, hopeless struggle between
despair on the one hand and unreasoned fear on the other? Or
are we all, of every national or ethnic or racial origin, deter-
mined to work together for the good of our communities and of
our nation, and for the glory of our God and Father?
The choice is ours: the responsibility of example and initia-
tive falls upon the shoulders of our country's religious leaders.
The unfinished business of the Emancipation Proclamation
demands that we remove the last vestiges of injustice, legal
inequality, and discrimination from our communities, our
parishes, our schools and other public institutions. We shall
not relax in that task until the work is completed, and the stain
of racial inequality removed from our nation and our cities.
But we can speak of unfinished business in a much deeper
and wider sense, which is that of setting free the constructive,
creative power of the Negro people of the country. It is a ques-
tion not merely of avoiding and banishing racial injustices. Our
goal is a much higher one: to set free, for the glory of God, as
well as for the good of our nation and of the world, the gifts,
the talents— as yet hardly plumbed— spiritual and cultural of
all sections of our human community. Only God our Lord
knows what spiritual forces are waiting to be released, if we
have but the faith and the love to do. The coming of in-
migrant or immigrant racial groups to our local communities
often poses problems, but the problems are not agonizing and
overwhelming if the newcomers are our brothers. The newcom-
ers bear gifts, if we have the intelligence and the imagination
to help them develop them.
As you are well aware, it is my privilege to take part in the
Interracial Justice and Love 133
world-wide Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, that is meet-
ing in Rome. The "Message to Humanity" with which this
Council opened its first session last October, seems to me
peculiarly appropriate for the very task in which we have jointly
"In the performance of our earthly mission," said the
Fathers of the Council on that occasion, "we take into account
all that which pertains to the dignity of man and all that con-
tributes toward the real brotherhood of nations." The conciliar
assembly alluded to its own "admirable diversity of races, na-
tions and tongues," and urged every effort "to unite all peoples
and to create among them a mutual esteem of sentiment and
"We proclaim," said the assembled bishops, "that all men
are brothers, irrespective of the race or nation to which they
But, following the principles of Pope John, they were not
satisfied with mere high-sounding declarations. They urged all
conscientious men and women to work for social justice, and
declared that "the Church is today absolutely necessary to the
world, to denounce injustice and shameful inequalities, to re-
store the true order of goods and things so that, according to
the principles of the Gospel, the life of man may become truly
"Therefore," said the Council, "we humbly invite all to col-
laborate with us to establish in the world a more ordered way
of living and greater brotherhood. We invite all, not only our
brothers of whom we are the pastors, but all our brothers who
believe in Christ and all men of good will whom God wishes to
have saved and led toward the knowledge of the truth.
"It is in fact the Divine will that the kingdom of God,
through means of charity, shine even now, in certain sense,
upon the earth, almost in anticipation of the eternal kingdom."
134 ALBERT CARDINAL MEYER
These words are inspired by a great hope. They are a reflec-
tion of the religious-motivated optimism of the beloved Pope
John XXIII, who after describing the virtues of St. Martin de
Porres, recently declared a saint, concluded with this ardent
wish: "May the light of his life illumine all to walk in the way
of Christian social justice and universal charity without dis-
tinction of color or race."
The words of the Council Fathers are not only words of
hope. Thev are a challenge to our love and sense of justice, a
call to heroic painstaking eflfort on the part of all people of good
will. The evil spectre of racial hatred in our midst cannot be
banished by mere high-sounding words. It cannot be banished
bv court action. It cannot be banished even by the application
of legal justice or the exercise of the virtue of justice alone. It
can only be conquered by love— true, genuine love of God and
love of neighbor. This is the supreme commandment written
in large letters in the Law of Moses, as we read in the Book of
Deuteronomy: "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord
alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all
your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength"
(Deut. 6:5). And in Leviticus: "You shall love vour neighbor
as yourself. I am the Lord" (Lev. 19:18).
This is the supreme commandment in the teaching of
Christ, who repeating the words of Deuteronomy and Leviti-
cus, added: "On these two commandments depend the whole
law and the prophets" (Matt. 22:39).
The evil spectre of racial hatred, I repeat, can be banished
from our midst, can be conquered, only by the prolonged,
patient intelligent effort to consecrate ourselves to the service
of the theme of this Conference, which is: "Interracial Justice
and Love" — a theme which I might paraphrase by saying:
"Interracial justice through love" for it is love alone which
truly unites. This is a joint work and a glorious work. May our
common Father in Heaven bless our efforts.
Interracial Justice and Love 135
J. Irwin Miller
President, National Council of the Churches of Christ
A great deal of embarrassing material is written on the sub-
ject of religion and race and not the least of it by persons like
ourselves. We understand with our minds the perfectly clear
truth that all humans are equally children of one God, the
Father of us all, and, as such, have no business making distinc-
tions which God Himself does not make. This really ought to
be all that is necessary to say about religion and race. Having
said this (which can be classed among the most obvious
truths ) , we should easily secure general assent to it and be able
to address ourselves to other and more difficult moral tangles.
But it does not turn out to be this simple, and the reason that
so much that we (who class ourselves as the "good guys" in this
matter) say must still be labelled nonsense in that in those
secret and hopefully undetected areas of our action and be-
havior, even we often find ourselves not practising what we
Racial discrimination and injustice in our society is at this
moment a highly visible evil, but in attacking it I think we do
well to remember that it is only the visible projection above the
surface of society of a total problem which may have the same
relation to the visible portion that the whole mass of an iceberg
bears to that small part which can be seen above the surface of
Shall I mention portions of the invisible bulk? If I do, they
will seem "little" things to you. You will be surprised that I
note matters like these and in an important way try to con-
nect them with this great evil to which we are called to address
ourselves. Most of the portions relate to individuals. You know
the families who wonder if their daughter is marrying "be-
neath" her. As an employer, I notice that almost never can a
person bring himself to recommend for employment a man he
considers a better man than himself. You see persons anxiously
seeking election to a club or society, who turn out to be the
most vigorous wielders of the blackball, once they are in. As
men, we have to suppress (and not always with success) our
desire to exclude women from preserves that have been tradi-
tionally ours. As women, if you are honest, you will confess
that sometimes there is more pleasure in deciding whom not
to invite to a party, than whom to invite, and so on. This list
can be very long and is limited only by our capacity for honest
self-examination. There is not a person in this room who will
not somewhere score on it several times.
What is the significance of these hidden portions of our-
selves? It lies I think in the recognition that the motives which
urge us to racial discrimination and injustice are constantly
working to produce great and small acts of discrimination daily
and hourly, in both our group and our individual lives.
Now why do we feel thus driven to deeds which we are em-
barrassed to admit, which we hope to conceal? Does not this
urge at its deepest level arise from the fact that every man in
some degree always feels alone and more than any other thing
dreads actually being cut off from the rest— alone? To this dread
and this fear he instinctively has a twin response? The first is
Interracial Justice and Love 1 37
that he will not be alone if only he can persuade the group to
take him in. The other is that he will be safely in only if he can
keep others out.
Once when I was at sea in World War II, I found myself
standing the mid-watch on a calm Pacific night with a gun-
nery officer who was a career man in the Navy. Discussing
what he might like to do when the war ended, he said he had
thought of entering civilian life. What he liked about civilian
life what that a man had there more freedom of movement, of
speech, of action. What made him hesitate, however, was that
he didn't know whether he could stand having those who
worked for him always free to talk back to him and disagree
with him. He would have liked a society democratically organ-
ized from him on up, autocratically organized from him on
down. He was an egotist. And "egotist"— in its most useful
sense— describes a person who is so generally unsure of himself
that he is unable to contemplate any situation except in terms
of its supposed effect on himself. Every one of us knows that in
this sense he too is an egotist— more at some times under some
circumstances (and these are not our best moments), happily
less at other times under other circumstances. It is this fright-
ened concern about me which gives rise to our preoccupation
with "in" and "out," and which prompts the host of petty acts
of discrimination and injustice that pock-mark our lives.
Now, for a moment, let me change the subject and return
to the direct theme of religion and race. It is very clear that this
nation cannot continue to preach to the whole world (with a
certain smug self-righteousness ) the brotherhood of man and
equal opportunity to every citizen in a free society, and at the
same time continue to deny the fruits of that brotherhood and
true opportunity wherever it is convenient and pleasing to the
majority to do so. And perhaps the real danger of allowing our
present state to persist lies not so much in possible loss of
national prestige and world leadership as it does in the dread
effects of what is truly a malignancy of spirit, a sort of national
insanity comparable to that possessing the individual who
allows himself to split, trying to harbor in himself side by side
grossly inconsistent aims and standards of behavior.
It is clear that we cannot continue as we are. I think it is
also clear that we are determined not to do so. And it is to our
great credit that we as a nation have gained the moral courage
to face up to this evil before it is too late. Visibly we are attack-
ing it by means of laws, ordinances, policy changes, and pro-
gram alterations, involving matters of employment, education,
transportation, voting rights, opening of stores and restaurants
and hotels and housing. The religious institutions of our land
are generally committed to the support of every one of these
goals in words and statements— and somewhat less generally
committed in terms of action. An important part of the pur-
pose of this conference is to help the churches and synagogues
of America to discover and to embark upon those paths of
specific program which will speed accomplishment of each of
these needed changes in our law and practice.
But the purpose of my remarks, and the reason for my seem-
ing detour at the beginning, is to caution that this undertaking
—difficult and even perilous though it be— is not enough and is
even not the most important part of our calling today. Another
part— again often stated— is for our churches and synagogues
to provide society with an invariable example of that which we
preach, an example not only in their manner of welcome to
new families, but in their finances, their community witness,
their total involvement in society. Yet neither of these goes far
enough. We can abolish every system and practice and custom
and regulation which now offends, and, if we do not at the same
time work with equal vigor and determination to eliminate the
spirit which embraces and supports all these, then we will find
Interracial Justice and Love 1 39
that little has been accomplished and that somehow all the
new regulations and programs have become themselves the
new servants of the old spirit. It is to this mortal sickness of
man that religion must address itself, without neglecting its
programs of immediate action.
Our common tradition has warned man for centuries that a
preoccupation with self, a surrender to all the fears to which the
self is prey, is suicide — the ultimate tragedy. Our experience
confirms the truth of this, for a society composed of persons
concerned only for self is a jungle, with every man looking over
his shoulder in fear, no man free, and possessing none of the
achievements in which we take greatest pride. This is not a
question of unpleasant duty or of right response to conscience.
It goes far beyond that: It is simply a matter of Life and Death.
You die to the extent that you are preoccupied with yourself;
you live, and you are free to the extent that you can lose your-
self in concern for others. The Old Testament said, "You shall
love your neighbor as yourself." The New Testament: "The
Commandments 'you shall not commit adultery, you shall not
kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet' and any other
Commandment are summed up in this sentence, 'You shall
love your neighbor as yourself.' "
The religious institutions of this country have the clearest
duty to aid and to encourage each practical move and program
which they feel works for good toward the removal of remain-
ing areas of racial discrimination and injustice; to instruct and
to make clear to all our people the cancerous nature of this
evil and its threat to our society if it not be eliminated; to
examine their own customs and practices; to make certain that
no traces exist therein to nullify the example of their preach-
ing and to give the lie to their sincerity. But all this is not
enough; neither is it the most difficult portion of the role they
are now called to play. They must also minister with love and
140 J. IRWIN MILLER
understanding to those very individuals whose practices and
ideas they reject and seek to destroy, finding ways which will
speak to them in convincing terms, showing them that by per-
sisting they are destroying society, but, even worse, they are
most surely destroying themselves. It is not enough to win the
battle in the law courts. Unless we are able also to win over the
hearts and minds of those who stand on the other side, we have
accomplished nothing for certain. No one stands in greater
need of an effective ministry than these persons. How do the
churches and synagogues minister with convincing, compelling
love and concern to those whose most cherished convictions
they reject and oppose? This is a question that must concern
every actively religious man if we are to contribute in a solid
manner to a final lasting solution.
There is another ministry too: And that is the ministry to
those who bear in their lives the great burden of this evil— those
discriminated against, those dealt injustice. Their cause is so
right, the evil done them so manifest, the hurt so sharp that it
is the greatest wonder they have not responded with hate and
retaliation wherever they could. Our churches and synagogues
have a ministry here, too, to comfort, but equally to make cer-
tain that, in winning a righteous struggle, those discriminated
against preserve themselves from hatred, and throughout are
able to see those with whom they are locked in conflict as chil-
dren of the same Father, persons toward whom they must act
only in love, understanding that to surrender to anything less
within oneself is to lose all.
Finally, we have a ministry to the young, to each new gen-
eration. The churches and synagogues must assume a great
share of blame that our problem is still with us. The laws that
govern man's behavior are as inexorable as the laws of physics
and mathematics. And the peril of violating the law of love of
neighbor is as great and as certain as the peril of flying in an
Interracial Justice and Love 141
airplane whose wing design violates the laws of aerodynamics.
This is true, and because generation after generation has been
unconvinced, has thought it could choose those laws of God
which it would obey, we have been endlessly killing ourselves
in body and spirit. The task of religion to expose this great error
is never ended. Each new generation must be convinced all
over again, and in each succeeding age we must find new under-
standing, new language appropriate to new times, new ability
to convince, and we must never think that the job can be done
once and for all.
I wish to affirm that the problem immediately before our
people is desperately urgent, and that it requires our coura-
geous attention. But also the manner of our solutions is impor-
tant. We must take care not to arrive at solutions or programs
which leave beneath an apparently healed surface remaining
germs of the old evil. Man being what he is, persistent in his
foolish hope that he can please God by lending Him half an
ear only, we must remain aware that this danger will never
pass, and that the task of religion has to be undertaken all over
again with each new generation and age.
As always, the task begins with you and me, who are not
ourselves free from guilt, nor ever without need of rediscover-
ing God's truth in our own lives.
America, Race and the World
R. Sargent Shriver
Director, The Peace Corps
In a powerful and moving essay the Negro author, James
Baldwin, has described an incident which happened to him
only a few miles from here— at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. He
and two Negro friends— all well over 30— were refused service
in the airport lounge on the pretense they were too young.
After a long, noisy altercation, and after calling the manager,
they were finally served. During the entire affair not one of the
many white people said a word to help. When it was all over
one of the Negroes, a Korean War veteran, turned to the
young white man beside him and said, "You know, that fight
was your fight too." The young man turned to him saying "I
lost my conscience a long time ago" and turned and walked out.
The purpose of this meeting is to reawaken that conscience;
to direct the immense power of religion so as to shape the con-
duct and thoughts of men toward their brother in a manner
consistent with the compassion and love on which our spiritual
In so doing you follow in a great tradition. From the time of
the ancient Hebrew prophet and the dispersal of the money-
changers, men of good will have taught us that social problems
America, Race and the World 143
are moral problems on a huge scale, that a religion which would
struggle to remove oppression from the world of men would
not be able to create the world of the spirit. This tradition, one
which is also deeply imbedded in our own country's history, was
never more evident then in the years preceding the proclama-
tion of the emancipation whose centennary we celebrate now.
At that time men of God, men of all faiths, men of the North
and men of the South took to pulpit, to the press and to public
squares to demand an end to the moral evil of slavery.
Many religious leaders who followed this path suffered for
it. Many were condemned by their congregations and deprived
of their positions. Churches were burned and physical violence
was often the reward of those who spoke freely. But their efforts
were a significant force in ending slavery and reshaping our
society. And by their actions they not only helped to restore dig-
nity and hope to millions of Americans, they immeasurably
elevated and strengthened the churches which they served.
Today, a century later, we are given the same great oppor-
tunity. Today again, the problem of racial wrongs and racial
hatred is the central moral problem of our republic. Today
again, hostility and misunderstanding, and even violence,
awaits the man who attempts to translate the meaning of God's
love into the acts and thoughts of man. Today again, the hope
for happiness of millions of Negro Americans can be pro-
foundly affected by your efforts. And today again, religion has
one of the rare historical opportunities to renew its own pur-
pose, enhance the dignity of its social role, and strengthen its
institutions and its heritage by pitting itself against vast and
powerful social forces which deny the role of God in the affairs
of man. It is, of course, difficult for me to speak of these matters
to an audience of scholars and teachers.
I am not a theologian.
I am not an "expert" in race relations.
144 R. SARGENT SHRIVER
My only credentials are my experience here in Chicago with
the Interracial Council, my work with the Peace Corps, and a
layman's strong interest in making faith personally meaningful
in a disturbing world.
As an official of the government I am encouraged by a meet-
ing like this. Justice for men is a common objective of religion
and government and the exclusive domain of neither.
I hope the traditional American regard for the separation
of church and state will never be interpreted as an excuse for
either to preempt— or ignore— the vigorous pursuit of human
dignity and freedom which are the legitimate concerns of both
church and state.
But laws and government are at best coarse and inefficient
instruments for remolding social institutions or illuminating
the dark places of the human heart. They can deal only with
the broadest and most obvious problems: guarding against
segregation in schools but not against the thousands of inci-
dents of discrimination and hatred which give the lie to what
is learned in the schoolroom. They can proclaim sweeping
mandates, but the process of their enforcement is so ponderous
that it takes the entire energies of the nation to secure en-
trance of a single Negro into an unwilling white university
while thousands more are without hope of entering.
They can call for the highest standards of moral conduct,
but those standards are only tortuously and imperceptibly
imposed upon a community which does not accept them, veri-
fying the dictate of Walter Raushenbush that "laws do not
create moral conviction, they merely recognize and enforce
For even though law can compel and perhaps even educate,
in the last analysis, the rule of law depends upon a legal
order which embodies the convictions, decisions and judgments
of the men it governs.
America, Race and the World 145
If we recognize that laws alone are inadequate, that legis-
latures and presidents cannot impose moral convictions, then
we must look to those institutions whose task it is to teach
moral values, to restate eternal principles in terms of today's
conflicts, and to conform the daily conduct of men to the
guiding values of justice, of love and of compassion. Pre-emi-
nent among those institutions is religion and the church.
Henry Ward Beecher once wrote, "That man is not a
shepherd of his flocks who fails to teach the flock how to apply
moral trust to every phase of ordinary practical duty." This is
one of the great lessons of the history of religion. It is a lesson
of scriptures and tradition. And it is also a lesson taught by
Abraham, Moses and Christ.
I find it alarming, therefore, when the government looks to
religious community for its share of the task and encounters,
too often, a bland philosophy of laissez-faire.
As a layman, for example, I wonder why I can go to church
fifty-two times a year and not hear one sermon on the practical
problems of race relations? I wonder why a conference like this
does not lead to a continuing exchange of views and ideas and
to a coordination of efforts to solve specific problems through-
out the year. I wonder, furthermore, why each minister, rabbi,
and priest does not map a specific program for his congrega-
tion—a program which will produce concrete gains over the
next twelve months. Such a program could do many things.
It could bring to an end segregation in those churches and
church schools where it exists.
It could include a pledge to double the number of Negro
families in the congregation where Negroes now attend.
It could include the establishment of interracial councils
where none exists.
It could introduce Negroes to every social and community
event which the church sponsors or participates in.
146 R. SARGENT SHRIVER
It could train lay Negro teachers and leaders to participate
fully in congregational affairs.
If such a program intended finally to bury religious laissez-
faire in racial problems where instituted, it would encourage
each member of the congregation to pledge a tithe of his time
to removing racial barriers at work, at play, and at worship.
I wonder why an appeal requesting every church member
to give a tithe of his time has not been made already. Just a few
Sundays ago a Catholic weekly newspaper, The Sunday
Visitor, devoted the whole front page to this subject of tithing,
but the discussion was focused primarily on the financial aspect.
George Romney, the new Republican governor of Michigan,
impressed me with his recent statement acknowledging quite
openly that he was accustomed to giving a tithe of his income
to the Mormon church. But isn't it easier to give a tithe of
your money than to give a tithe of your time? Isn't the time
when you give yourself more important than the money?
Let me be more specific. The Peace Corps has shown what
Americans will do when they are challenged by a high purpose.
They respond enthusiastically no matter what the personal
Thousands of them volunteered to serve, even in the days
when the sceptics and cynics were ridiculing the Peace Corps
as "a children's crusade," "a beatniks' boondoggle," and a
They deliberately chose a hard— and to some an unpopular-
course because first, it is voluntary; second, it demands their
utmost; third, it is worthwhile.
These volunteers have already written the moral to a story
that is still being told. That moral: "A nation cannot require
too much of its citizens if the cause is right."
Do our churches expect too little of their members in solv-
ing race problems?
America, Race and the World 147
Suppose 5,000 congregations in America were to set up
volunteer groups to combat racial prejudice and eliminate
racial tensions in 5,000 religious precincts throughout Amer-
ica. And suppose 5,000 were to become 10,000 or 20,000?
In thousands of communities religiously inspired volunteers
would be inviting Negro families to personal social functions.
They would be organizing and joining interracial councils,
securing entrance of Negroes into previously all white neigh-
borhoods, insuring enforcement of constitutional rights to
equal opportunity, and improving living conditions in segre-
A profound new force would be at work in America, emanat-
ing from the deepest wells of religious inspiration and reaching
for the noblest summits of human experience. That combina-
tion would be invincible.
There will be those who scoff at so pointed an effort by
organized religion to deal with the major social disorder.
Some will cry "Busybodies," but they will not be the first.
When a group of English bishops tried to mediate the bitter
British coal strike of 1926, Prime Minister Baldwin retorted
by asking how they would like it if he referred the revision of
the Athanasian Creed to the Iron and Steel Federation.
Some critics will want to ignore the church's word on the
thesis that it is irrelevant— like the corporation president who
said, "Of course, segregation is wrong from the Christian point
of view. Let's not discuss it from that point of view."
Still others will argue: "So what? Go ahead. You won't be
any good but you won't do any harm either."
Few people read much history, as William Temple re-
minded us, otherwise they would know that history abounds
with dramatic examples of the impact made by the spirit of
religion upon the life of mankind.
The abolition of the slave trade, for example, was carried
148 R. SARGENT SHRIVER
through by Wilberforce and his friends in the inspiration of
their Christian faith. Other faiths can point to similar
More recently, efforts by churches and synagogues have
illustrated what can be accomplished. After his school system
was desegregated, one Kentucky superintendent said, "I believe
ministers and lay church leaders made the greatest contribu-
tion in getting the general public to accept desegregation."
You may be familiar with the inspiring experience in Saint
Louis. The 600-member Church Federation set aside a Sunday
for thanksgiving prayer for public school desegregation. It
challenged pastors and members to take an open stand for
integration. The Cardinal called in a general letter for all
Catholic pastors to influence their hundreds of thousands of
parishoners to cooperate. The Rabbinical Association urged
all citizens to work and pray for its success.
On the other end, we know what can happen when re-
ligious leadership is absent. Remember Clinton, Tennessee?
Ugly violence flared there when desegregation was attempted.
It took 650 National Guardsmen and 39 state highway troopers
led by a burly 290-pound commander to restore order after
days of tension.
When a special report was written to analyze what had
happened in Clinton this significant sentence appeared:
"Churches were not utilized to any extent in Clinton,
During the crisis a Baptist minister escorted Negro stu-
dents through the howling crowds. He was beaten by the mob
but his courage was unshaken. What might have happened at
Clinton had the religious community rallied to support him?
One man is not enough.
There must be others.
I said earlier there is no reliable justice without the
machinery of justice: the Government. But the machinery of
America, Race and the World 149
justice cannot be effective without men and women who have
the will and character to make it work.
There is where we come again to religion. What is it that
produces men and women with the will and character to make
the machinery of justice work if it is not religious faith?
The maxim is true that politics is the art of the possible.
The constant challenge we face in politics is to enlarge the
area of the possible— "to lengthen the stakes" in biblical
But to do that requires that men change their objectives.
But they can't change their objectives unless they change their
prejudices and that requires changes in men's attitudes, and
that requires changes in men's minds, and that requires
changes in men's hearts— that the human heart is the business
So I ask: "Is there any way of creating a social order of
justice if religion does not do its work in the minds and hearts
I don't think so.
Is there any way of winning racial equality if religion does
not permeate its adherents with its urgent sense of personal
responsibility for the injustice of our present system?
I cannot stress this too much. We believe the success of
the Peace Corps is due to the fact that thousands of Ameri-
cans are willing to take personal responsibility for bringing
peace to the world.
They have seen their task and have set forth to do it.
In race relations there is a strong tendency to blame
"society" for our errors. We pass the blame on to any one of a
number of impersonal causes— environment, education, etc.
Shakespeare was right: "This is the excellent sophistry of the
world, that when we are sick in fortune, often in surfeit of
our own behavior, we make guilty of all disasters the sun, the
moon, and the stars, as if we are fools by heavenly compulsion,
150 R. SARGENT SHRIVER
knaves, thieves and teachers by spherical predominance." But
he was also right when he went on to say: "The fault, Dear
Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves." It is the province
of religion to instill a sense of personal responsibility into
mankind: "If you want to cleanse the stream," so the old
proverb goes, "get at the source"— the attitudes and con-
cepts, the prejudice and hate which pollute the stream of
political life. Government can deal with their symptoms, re-
ligion must deal with their source. I think that this is what
the Presbyterian General Assembly had in mind a hundred
years ago when it declared: "The sphere of the church is wider
and more searching than the sphere of the magistrate." Re-
ligion reaches into the sanctuary of human experience where
attitudes are formed.
We can agree government has its business, religion has its.
The important thing is to get on with the job. We have
tried in the Peace Corps to try to deal positively with the
problem. For example, we set out deliberately to recruit as
many representatives of minority groups as possible for jobs
in every echelon. We knew that members of these groups
would not ordinarily seek out these jobs, so we decided to seek
them out. Today 7.4 per cent of our higher echelon positions
are filled by Negroes. Other government agencies employ .8 per
cent Negroes in similar grades. 24 per cent of our other posi-
tions are filled by Negroes. The figure for other agencies is
five and a half per cent.
We made another breakthrough. In the beginning we were
told that the Peace Corps would never get invited to the
Muslim countries because our policies require that our volun-
teers be recruited without discrimination, that they be assigned
without discrimination and that they be received without dis-
The truth of the matter is the Peace Corps is operating in
three Muslim countries. Some of our volunteers are Jewish and
America, Race and the World 151
I am proud to report that every one of them has been well
received by their Muslim hosts.
When I told this to high officials of the government of
Israel, they found it almost impossible to believe that Jewish
volunteers had received a hospitable welcome from Muslim
We sent a Chinese- American doctor to Ghana. When he
rose to speak to his students they could not believe he was
from the United States— "that place across the sea where no
colored man can go to school." They thought he was a Chinese
In Nepal we sent four volunteers to teach in a small college.
Three of them were visited one night by a young Marxist stu-
dent who had studied in Peking and who had already won a
scholarship to Lumumba University in Moscow. This student
had also just been elected to a place on the important "pan-
chayat" council which runs the city government.
He came to rib the volunteers about discrimination in
America. "Just a minute," they interrupted him, "we will let
Carl Jorgenson talk about that." And they called for a fourth
volunteer who was studying in his room. Carl Jorgenson
walked in, a tall young Negro, a top graduate of Harvard, the
son of a leader of the NAACP in Washington. "Sure let's
talk about it," he said. And they did. The young Marxist-
stunned that America would let a Negro in the Peace Corps,
that a Negro could graduate from Harvard, that he would be
living with three white Americans— has come back time and
time again to discuss America with the volunteers.
In the first days of the Peace Corps we were told that
Protestant volunteers would never be accepted in the villages
of Latin America. We heard that the campesinos had been told
that if they talked to a Peace Corps volunteer their souls
would be in danger of hell.
The truth is that we have volunteers all over Latin America
152 R. SARGENT SHRIVER
—many of them Protestant young men and women — and there
has not yet been one incident of discrimination.
I might add that the first two volunteers killed in service
died in a plane crash in Columbia with 32 Columbians. One
was a Jewish boy from Chicago. The other was a young
Baptist from Missouri. They died in a Catholic country. El
Tiempo, the principal newspaper of Bogota, editorialized,
"They were the first to fulfill the Rite of Blood which united
them (with Columbians) in an undissoluble tie . . . their
bodies . . . have fallen with those of our fellow countrymen.
The sacrifice of blood is truly consumated. Two races were
forged together in this dramatic incident. That this be not in
vain is the ardent hope of millions of human beings."
Tliere is only one real explanation of our success in the
field of race relations. We made a deliberate effort to change
old patterns. If I have any justification to speak to this august
body, it is to encourage you to make a conscious deliberate
assault on racial barriers. From our experience in the Peace
Corps I know those barriers are vulnerable.
Let me close with a pledge and a request.
We in government will continue our efforts. We will move
with all the instruments at our command to achieve justice
among men. That is our pledge to you. My request is simply
this: Help us. If there is to be a social order allowing the
fullest possible development of individual personality, if there
is to be the widest and deepest fellowship among men of dif-
ferent races, we need what Maritain has called Democracy
of the Person. You can bring it about.
Help us to see what is our task, inspire us with the faith
that God is above us and with us and that He will help us.
We will try to do what is right. Stir our consciences. Strengthen
our wills. Inspire and challenge us to take our principles into
the toughest walks of life and make them work.
A Challenge to the
Churches and Synagogues
A Challenge to the
Churches and Synagogues
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
America has brought the nation and the world to an awe
inspiring threshold of the future. Through our scientific and
technological genius we have built mighty bridges to span
the seas and skyscraping buildings to kiss the skies. We have
dwarfed distance and placed time in chains. We have carved
highways through the stratosphere. Through the marvelous
advances of medical science we have been able to cure many
dread plagues and diseases, alleviate our pain, prolong our
lives, and make for greater security and physical well-being.
This is a dazzling picture of America's scientific progress.
But when we turn to the question of progress in the area of
race relations, we face one of the most shameful chapters of
the American scene. In spite of the jet like pace of our scienti-
fic and technological development, we still creep at horse and
buggy speed in human relations. We must face the melancholy
fact that one hundred years after the Emancipation Proclama-
tion, the Negro is still dominated politically, exploited econ-
omically, and humiliated socially. Negroes, North and South,
still live in segregation, housed in unendurable slums, eat in
segregation, pray in segregation and die in segregation. How
156 DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
much of our national life can be summarized in that percep-
tive phrase of Thoreau: "Improved means to an unimproved
end." Through our scientific genius, we have made of our
nation (and even the world) a neighborhood, but we have
failed to employ our moral and spiritual genius to make of it
a brotherhood. The problem of race and color prejudice re-
mains America's chief moral dilemma.
This tragic dilemma presents the Church and Synagogue
with a great challenge. As the chief moral guardians of the
community these institutions must work with passionate
determination to solve the problem of racial injustice. It has
always been the responsibility of the Church and Synagogue to
broaden horizons, challenge the status quo, and break the
mores when necessary. They are "set over nations and over
kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to
overthrow, to build anew and to plant."
Honesty impels us to admit that religious bodies in America
have not been faithful to their prophetic mission on the ques-
tion of racial justice. In the midst of a nation rife with racial
animosity, the Church too often has been content to mouth
pious irrelevances and sanctimonious trivialities. Called to
combat social evils, it has often remained silent behind the
anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows. Called to lead
men on the highway of brotherhood and to summon them to
rise above the narrow confines of race and class, it has often
been an active participant in shaping and crystallizing the
patterns of the race-caste system. It has so often cast the
mantle of its sanctity over the system of segregation. In some
communities of the South many churches are the ready lackeys
of state governments. In defiance of the Supreme Court's
desegregation decisions, they allow their religious education
buildings to be used for private segregated schools. Nothing so
completely reveals the pathetic irrelevancy of the Church and
A Challenge to the Churches and Synagogues 1 57
illustrates the eclipse of its spiritual power as its failure to take
a forthright stand on the question of racial justice. How often
the Church has been an echo rather than a voice, a tail light
behind the Supreme Court and other secular agencies, rather
than a headlight guiding men progressively and decisively to
higher levels of understanding.
If the Church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will
become little more than an irrelevant social club with a thin
veneer of religiosity. If the Church does not participate actively
in the struggle for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit
the loyalty of millions and cause men everywhere to say that it
has atrophied its will.
Of course, there are always those who will argue that
churches and synagogues should not get mixed up in such
earthly, temporal matters as social and economic improvement.
There are still all too many religious institutions following a
theology which stresses the total and hopeless depravity of all
mundane existence and which admonishes men to seek salva-
tion in escape from social life and in preparation for a hereafter
wherein all wrongs will be automatically righted. They make
an undue dichotomy between souls and bodies, love and justice,
the sacred and the secular. They end up with a religion which
operates only on the vertical plane with no thrust on the hori-
zontal. But however sincere, this view of religion is all too con-
Certainly, otherworldly concerns have a deep and significant
place in all religions. Religion, at its best, deals not only with
the relations of man to his fellowmen, but with the relations of
man to the universe and to ultimate reality. But a religion true
to its nature must also be concerned about man's social condi-
tions. Religion deals not only with the hereafter but also with
the here. Here— where the precious lives of men are still sadly
disfigured by poverty and hatred. Here— where millions of
158 DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
God's children are being trampled over by the iron feet of
oppression. Here— where millions are consigned to degradation
and injustice and where the habitation of men is filled with
agony and anguish. Here— where social evils have trapped mul-
titudes of men in dark and murky corridors where there is no
exit sign and plunged others into a dark abyss of emotional
fatalism. Any religion that professes to be concerned about
a future good "over yonder" and is not concerned about the
present evils "over here" is a spiritually moribund religion only
waiting for the day to be buried.
Now let us turn to some of the specific things that the
Church and Synagogue can do to face the challenges of this
First, they must make it palpably clear that segregation is
morally wrong and sinful. It is established on pride, hatred and
falsehood. It is unbrotherly and impersonal. Two segregated
souls never meet in God. Segregation denies the sacredness of
human personality. Deeply rooted in our religious heritage is
the conviction that every man is an heir to a legacy of dignity
and worth. Our Judeo-Christian tradition refers to this inher-
ent dignity of man in the Biblical term the image of God. The
image of God is universally shared in equal portions by all men.
There is no graded scale of essential worth. Every human being
has etched in his personality the indelible stamp of the Creator.
Every man must be respected because God loves him. The
worth of an individual does not lie in the measure of his intel-
lect, his racial origin, or his social position. Human worth lies
in relatedness to God. An individual has value because he has
value to God. Whenever this is recognized, "whiteness" and
"blackness" pass away as determinants in a relationship and
"son" and "brother" are substituted. Immanuel Kant said in
one formulation of the Categorical Imperative that "all men
must be treated as ends and never as mere means." The tragedy
A Challenge to the Churches and Synagogues 1 59
of segregation is that it treats men as means rather than ends,
and thereby reduces them to things rather than persons. To
use the words of Martin Buber, segregation substitutes an "I—
it" relationship for the "I— thou" relationship.
But man is not an "it". He must be dealt with, not as an
"animated tool," but as a person sacred in himself. To do other-
wise is to depersonalize the potential person and desecrate
what he is. So long as the Negro, or other member of any
minority group, is treated as a means to an end, the image of
God is abused in him and consequently and proportionately
lost by those who inflict the abuse.
Segregation is also morally wrong because it deprives man
of freedom, that quality which makes him man. The very
character of the life of man demands freedom. In speaking of
freedom I am not referring to the freedom of a thing called the
will. The very phrase, freedom of the will, abstracts freedom
from the person to make it an object; and an object almost by
definition is not free. But freedom cannot thus be abstracted
from the person, who is always subject as well as object and
who himself still does the abstracting. So I am speaking of the
freedom of man, the whole man, and not the freedom of a
function called the will.
Neither am I implying that there are no limits to freedom.
Freedom always operates within the limits of an already
determined structure. Thus the mathematician is free to draw
a circle, but he is not free to make a circle square. A man is free
to walk through an open door, but he is not free to walk
through a brick wall. A man is free to go to Chicago or New
York, but he is not free to go to both cities at one and the same
time. Freedom is always within destiny. It is the chosen fulfill-
ment of our destined nature. We are always both free and
With these qualifications we return to the assertion that
160 DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
the essence of man is found in freedom. This is what Paul
Tillich means when he affirms, "Man is man because he is free"
or what Tolstoy implies when he says, "I cannot conceive of a
man not being free unless he is dead."
What is freedom? It is, first, the capacity to deliberate or
weigh alternatives. "Shall I be a doctor or a lawyer?" "Shall I
vote for this candidate or the other candidate?" "Shall I be a
Democrat, Republican, or Socialist?" "Shall I be a humanist
or a theist?" Moment by moment we go through life engaged
in this strange conversation with ourselves. Second, freedom
expresses itself in decision. The word decision, like the word
incision involves the image of cutting. Incision means to cut
in, decision means to cut off. When I make a decision I cut off
alternatives and make a choice. The existentialists say we must
choose, that we are choosing animals, and if we do not choose,
we sink into thinghood and the mass mind. A third expression
of freedom is responsibility. This is the obligation of the person
to respond if he is questioned about his decisions. No one else
can respond for him. He alone must respond, for his acts are
determined by the centered totality of his being.
From this analysis we can clearly see the blatant immorality
of segregation. It is a selfishly contrived system which cuts off
one's capacity to deliberate, decide and respond.
The absence of freedom imposes restraint on my delibera-
tions as to what I shall do, where I shall live, or the kind of
task I shall pursue. I am robbed of the basic quality of man-
ness. When I cannot choose what I shall do or where I shall live
it means in fact that someone or some system has already made
these decisions for me, and I am reduced to an animal. The only
resemblances I have to real life are the motor responses and
functions that are akin to human-kind. I cannot adequately
assume responsibility as a person because I have been made the
party to a decision in which I played no part in making.
A Challenge to the Churches and Synagogues 161
Now to be sure, this may be hyperbole to a certain extent,
but only to underscore what actually happens when a man is
robbed of his freedom. The very nature of his life is altered and
his being cannot make the full circle of person-hood because
that which is basic to the character of life itself has been
This is why segregation has wreaked havoc with the Negro.
It is sometimes difficult to determine which are the deepest—
the physical wounds or the psychological wounds. Only a
Negro understands the social leprosy that segregation inflicts
upon him. Like a nagging hound of hell, it follows his every
activity, leaving him tormented by day and haunted by night.
The suppressed fears and resentments, and the expressed
anxieties and sensitivities make each day of life a turmoil.
Every confrontation with the restrictions is another emotional
battle in a never ending war. He is shackled in his waking
moments to tip-toe stance, never quite knowing what to ex-
pect next. Nothing can be more diabolical than a deliberate
attempt to destroy in any man his will to be a man and to
withhold from him that something that constitutes his true
The churches and synagogues have an opportunity and a
duty to lift up their voices like a trumpet and declare unto the
people the immorality of segregation. We must affirm that
every human life is a reflex of divinity, and every act of injus-
tice mars and defaces the image of God in man. The under-
girding philosophy of segregation is diametrically opposed to
the undergirding philosophy of our Judeo-Christian heritage
and all the dialectics of the logicians cannot make them lie
Another thing that the churches and synagogues can do to
make the ideal of brotherhood a reality is to get to the idea-
tional roots of racial prejudice. All race hate is based on fears,
162 DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
suspicions, and misunderstandings, usually groundless. The
Church and Synagogue can do a great deal to direct the popu-
lar mind at this point. Through their channels of religious
education, they can point out the irrationality of these beliefs.
They can show that the idea of a superior or inferior race is a
myth that has been completely refuted by anthropological
evidence. They can show that Negroes are not innately inferior
in academic, health, and moral standards, and that they are
not inherently criminal. The churches and synagogues can say
to their worshippers that poverty and ignorance breed crime
whatever the racial group may be, and that it is a tortuous
logic to use the tragic results of segregation as an argument for
A third effort that the Church and Synagogue can make in
attempting to solve the race problem is to take the lead in
social reform. It is not enough for religious institutions to be
active in the realm of ideas; they must move out into the
arena of life and do battle for their sanctities. First, the
Church must remove the yoke of segregation from its own
body. Only by doing this can it be effective in its attack on
outside evils. Eleven o'clock on Sunday morning is still
America's most segregated hour and the Sunday school is still
the most segregated school of the week. The unpardonable sin,
thought the poet Milton, was when a man— like Lucifer— so
repeatedly says, "Evil, be thou my good," so consistently lives
a lie, that he loses the capacity to distinguish between good
and evil. America's segregated churches come dangerously
close to being in that position.
The churches and synagogues must become increasingly
active in social action outside their doors. They must take an
active stand against the injustices and indignities that the
Negro and other non-white minorities confront in housing,
education, police protection, and in city and state courts. They
A Challenge to the Churches and Synagogues 163
must support strong civil rights legislation and exert their in-
fluence in the area of economic justice. Economic insecurity
strangles the physical and cultural growth of its victims. Not
only are millions deprived of formal education and proper
health facilities, but our most fundamental social unit— the
family — is tortured, corrupted, and weakened by economic in-
sufficiency. There are few things more thoroughly sinful than
The Church and Synagogue are also challenged to instill
within their worshippers the spirit of love, penitence and for-
giveness as we move through this period of transition. This is
necessary for both oppressor and oppressed alike. Those who
have been on the oppressor end of the old order must go into
the new age which is emerging with a deep sense of penitence,
love and understanding. They must search their souls to be
sure that they have removed every vestige of prejudice and
bigotry, and that they have moved away from the deadening
idea of white supremacy.
But those of us who have been on the oppressed end of the
old order must be equally determined to go into the new age
with love and understanding. We must also add the dimension
of forgiveness, realizing that the forgiving act must always be
initiated by the person who has been wronged, the victim of
some great hurt, the recipient of some tortuous injustice, the
absorber of some terrible act of oppression. The wrongdoer
may request forgiveness. He may come to himself, and, like
the prodigal Son, move up some dusty road, his heart palpitat-
ing with the desire for forgiveness. But only the injured
neighbor can really pour out the warm waters of forgiveness.
This is why it is my personal conviction that the most
potent instrument the Negro community can use to gain total
emancipation in America is that of non-violent resistance.
Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impracti-
164 DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
cal and immoral. It is impractical because it ends up creating
many more social problems than it solves. It is immoral be-
cause it seeks to annihilate the opponent rather than convert
him. It destroys community and make brotherhood impossible.
Non-violence makes it possible for one to rise to the noble
heights of opposing vigorously the unjust system while loving
the perpetrators of the system.
In speaking of love at this point, I am not referring to some
affectionate emotion. It would be nonsense to urge men to
love their oppressors in an affectionate sense. Love is not
emotional bosh. It is not spineless sentimentality which refuses
to take courageous action against evil for fear someone might
be offended. Love is treating fellowmen as persons, under-
standing them with all their good and bad qualities, and treat-
ing them as potential saints. It is helping people with no
thought of receiving anything in return. It is a willingness to
go the second mile and to forgive seventy times seven in order
to restore the broken community. It is facing evil with an in-
finite capacity to take it without flinching.
I believe that this is the type of love that must guide us
through this turbulent period of transition. It will cause us to
enter the new age which is emerging without the fatigue and
poisonous drain of bitterness. We will not seek to rise from a
position of disadvantage to one of advantage, thus subverting
justice. Nor will we seek to substitute one tyranny for another.
We will be imbued with the conviction that a philosophy of
black supremacy is as injurious as a philosophy of white
supremacy. God is not interested merely in the freedom of
black men, and brown men, and yellow men; God is interested
in the freedom of the whole human race— the creation of a
society in which all men appreciate the dignity and worth of
I am happy to say that the non-violent movement in
A Challenge to the Churches and Synagogues 165
America has come not from secular forces but from the heart
of the Negro church. This movement has done a great deal to
revitalize the Negro church and to give its message a relevant
and authentic ring. The great principles of love and justice
which stand at the center of the nonviolent movement are
deeply rooted in our Judeo-Christian heritage.
A final challenge that faces the churches and synagogues is
to lead men along the path of true integration, something the
law cannot do. Genuine integration will come when men are
obedient to the unenforceable. Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick
has made an impressive distinction between enforceable and
unenforceable obligations. The former are regulated by the
codes of society and the vigorous implementation of law-
enforcement agencies. Breaking these obligations, spelled out
on thousands of pages in law books, has filled numerous
prisons. But unenforceable obligations are beyond the reach of
the laws of society. They concern inner attitudes, expressions of
compassion which law books cannot regulate and jails cannot
rectify. Such obligations are met by one's commitment to an
inner law, a law written on the heart. Man-made laws assure
justice, but a higher law produces love. No code of conduct ever
compelled a father to love his children or a husband to show
affection to his wife. The law court may force him to provide
bread for the family, but it cannot make him provide the
bread of love. A good father is obedient to the unenforceable.
In our nation today a mighty struggle is taking place. It is
a struggle to conquer the reign of an evil monster called segre-
gation and its inseparable twin called discrimination— a mon-
ster that has wandered through this land for well-nigh one
hundred years, stripping millions of Negro people of their
sense of dignity and robbing them of their birthright of free-
Let us never succumb to the temptation of believing that
166 DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
legislation and judicial decrees play only minor roles in solving
this problem. Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can
be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but
they can restrain the heartless. The law can not make a man
love me, but it can keep him from lynching me. The law can-
not make an employer love an employee, but it can prevent
him from refusing to hire me because of the color of my skin.
The habits, if not the hearts of people, have been and are being
altered everyday by legislative acts, judicial decisions, and
executive orders. Let us not be misled bv those who argue that
segregation cannot be ended by the force of law.
But acknowledging this, we must admit that the ultimate
solution to the race problem lies in the willingness of men to
obey the unenforceable. Court orders and federal enforcement
agencies are of inestimable value in achieving desegregation,
but desegregation is only a partial, though necessary, step
toward the final goal which we seek to realize, genuine inter-
group and interpersonal living. Desegregation will break down
the legal barriers and bring men together physically but some-
thing must touch the hearts and souls of men so that they will
come together spiritually because it is natural and right. A
vigorous enforcement of civil rights will bring an end to segre-
gated public facilities which are barriers to a truly desegregated
society, but it cannot bring an end to fears, prejudice, pride,
and irrationality, which are the barriers to a truly integrated
society. These dark and demonic responses will be removed
only as men are possessed by the invisible inner law which
etches on their hearts the conviction that all men are brothers
and that love is mankind's most potent weapon for personal
and social transformation. True integration will be achieved
by men who are willingly obedient to unenforceable obliga-
Here, then, is the hard challenge and the sublime oppor-
A Challenge to the Churches and Synagogues 167
tunity: to let God work in our hearts toward fashioning a
truly great nation. If the Church and Synagogue will free
themselves from the shackles of a deadening status quo, and,
recovering their great historic mission, will speak and act fear-
lessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, they will
enkindle the imagination of mankind and fire the souls of
men, imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth
and justice. They can transform dark yesterdays of hatred into
bright tomorrows of love. Men everywhere and at all times
will know that our Judeo-Christian faith transformed the
jangling discords of America into a beautiful symphony of
brotherhood. In a real sense this conference has been a blessing.
Never before have the major faiths come together to grapple
with the tragic problem of race and color prejudice. The fact
that such an historic conference is being held may be indica-
tive of a greater sensitivity to racial injustice on the part of the
Church and the Synagogue. For four days now, we have dwelled
in this sun-lit mountain of transfiguration. We have listened
to eloquent words flowing from the lips of Christian and Jew-
ish statesmen. We have analysed with painstaking care the
broad dimensions and deep complexities of this haunting prob-
lem. And now the valley of injustice, with all of its ghettos,
economic inequities and demoralized children of God, stands
before us in grim, stark, and colossal dimensions. Will this
conference end like all too many conferences on race? Will we
end up caught in the "paralysis of analysis"? Will this confer-
ence end with a high blood pressure of words and anemia of
action? Well, this is the real temptation. If our thoughtful and
serious deliberations do not issue forth into thoughtful and
serious action, we will have assembled here in vain and all of
our words will have been as sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.
There is a need for more religious leaders and laymen like the
seventy-five who came to Albany, Ga., and the courageous ones
168 DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
who joined the Freedom Ride, to move out into the Freedom
Ride, to move out into the arena of positive action and make
their witness real. This will do much to save the church from
what Reinhold Niebuhr has recently called the "sin of trivial-
Any discussion of the role of the Church and Synagogue in
race relations must ultimately emphasize the need for proph-
ecy. May the problem of race in America soon make hearts
burn so that prophets will rise up saying, "Thus saith the
Lord," and cry out as Amos did, "let justice roll down like
waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream." The
prophet must remind America of the urgency of now. The
oft-repeated cliches, "the time is not ripe," "Negroes are not
culturally ready," are a stench in the nostrils of God. The
time is always right to do what is right. Now is the time to
realize the American dream. Now is the time to transform the
bleak and desolate midnight of man's inhumanity to man into
a glowing daybreak of justice and freedom. Now is the time to
open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. St.
Augustine's words speak to us as never before: "Those that sit
at rest while others take pains are tender turtles and buy their
quiet with disgrace."
Honesty impels me to admit that this type of forthright
stand is always costly and never altogether comfortable. It may
mean walking through the valley of the shadow of suffering,
losing a job, having a six-year-old daughter ask, "Daddy, why
do you have to go to jail so much?" But we are gravely mis-
taken to think that religion protects us from the pain and
agony of mortal existence. Life is not a euphoria of unalloyed
comfort and untroubled ease. Christianity has always insisted
that the cross we bear precedes the crown we wear. To be a
Christian one must take up his cross, with all of its difficulties
and agonizing and tension-packed content, and carry it until
A Challenge to the Churches and Synagogues 1 69
that very cross leaves its marks upon us and redeems us to that
more excellent way which comes only through suffering. We
as Christians and Jews face today that haunting statement of
Whittaker Chambers: "At the heart of the crisis of our times
lies the cold belief of millions, avowed and unavowed, that
the death of religious faith is seen in nothing so much as in the
fact that, in general, it has lost its power to move anyone to die
for it." Every minister, priest and rabbi must continually sub-
mit himself to that test.
We must make a choice. Will we continue to bless a status
quo that needs to be blasted and reassure a social order that
needs to be reformed, or will we give ourselves unreservedly to
God and His kingdom? Will we continue to march to the
drum beat of conformity and respectability, or will we, listen-
ing to the beat of a more distant drum, move to its echoing
sounds? Will we march only to the music of time, or will we,
risking criticism and abuse, march only to the soul-saving
music of eternity? More than ever before we are today chal-
lenged by the words of yesterday, "Be not conformed to this
world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds."
An Appeal to the Conscience
of the American People
We have met as members of the great Jewish and Christian
faiths held by the majority of the American people, to counsel
together concerning the tragic fact of racial prejudice, dis-
crimination and segregation in our society. Coming as we do
out of various religious backgrounds, each of us has more to
say than can be said here. But this statement is what we as
religious people are moved to say together.
Racism is our most serious domestic evil. We must eradicate
it with all diligence and speed. For this purpose we appeal to
the consciences of the American people.
This evil has deep roots; it will not be easily eradicated.
While the Declaration of Independence did declare "that all
men are created equal" and "are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable rights," slavery was permitted for al-
most a century. Even after the Emancipation Proclamation,
compulsory racial segregation and its degrading badge of racial
inequality received judicial sanction until our own time.
We rejoice in such recent evidences of greater wisdom and
172 An Appeal to the Conscience
courage in our national life as the Supreme Court decisions
against segregation and the heroic, non-violent protests of
thousands of Americans. However, we mourn the fact that
patterns of segregation remain entrenched everywhere— North
and South, East and West. The spirit and the letter of our
laws are mocked and violated.
Our primary concern is for the laws of God. We Americans
of all religious faiths have been slow to recognize that racial
discrimination and segregation are an insult to God, the Giver
of human dignity and human rights. Even worse, we all have
participated in perpetuating racial discrimination and segrega-
tion in civil, political, industrial,' social, and private life. And
worse still, in our houses of worship, our religious schools, hos-
pitals, welfare institutions, and fraternal organizations we have
often failed our own religious commitments. With few excep-
tions we have evaded the mandates and rejected the promises
of the faiths we represent.
We repent our failures and ask the forgiveness of God. We
ask also the forgiveness of our brothers, whose rights we have
ignored and whose dignity we have offended. We call for a
renewed religious conscience on this basically moral evil.
Our appeal to the American people is this:
SEEK a reign of justice in which voting rights and equal
protection of the law will everywhere be enjoyed; public facili-
ties and private ones serving a public purpose will be accessible
to all; equal education and cultural opportunities, hiring and
promotion, medical and hospital care, open occupancy in
housing will be available to all.
SEEK a reign of love in which the wounds of past injustices
will not be used as excuses for new ones; racial barriers will be
eliminated; the stranger will be sought and welcomed; any man
An Appeal to the Conscience L73
will be received as brother— his rights, your rights; his pain,
your pain; his prison, your prison.
SEEK a reign of courage in which the people of God will
make their faith their binding commitment; in which men
willingly suffer for justice and love; in which churches and
synagogues lead, not follow.
SEEK a reign of prayer in which God is praised and wor-
shiped as the Lord of the universe, before Whom all racial
idols fall, Who makes us one family and to Whom we are all
In making this appeal we afErm our common religious com-
mitment to the essential dignity and equality of all men under
God. We dedicate ourselves to work together to make this
commitment a vital factor in our total life.
We call upon all the American people to work, to pray and
to act courageously in the cause of human equality and dignity
while there is still time, to eliminate racism permanently and
decisively, to seize the historic opportunity the Lord has given
us for healing an ancient rupture in the human family, to do
this for the glory of God.
Notes on Contributors
Rabbi Morris Adler, rabbi of Congregation Shaarey Zedek,
Detroit, since 1938, is the author of Selected Passages from
the Torah and The World of the Talmud and a contributor
to leading Jewish publications.
A graduate of the College of the City of New York, Rabbi
Adler was ordained, and graduated with highest honors, from
the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1935. He has
been chairman of the Public Review Board of the UAW-CIO
since its founding, is a vice-president of the Jewish Community
Council, and a member of the State Cultural Commission of
The Rev. Will D. Campbell is the author of Race and
Renewal of the Church and executive director of the Southern
Project, Department of Racial and Cultural Relations, Na-
tional Council of Churches.
Born in Amite County, Mississippi, Rev. Campbell received
his A.B. degree at Wake Forest College, studied sociology and
psychology at Tulane University, and received his B.D. degree
at Yale. He has been a race relations specialist with the Na-
tional Council of Churches since 1956.
Dr. Dan W. Dodson, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Edu-
cational Sociology, is a professor in New York University's
176 Notes on Contributors
School of Education and director of NYU's Center for Human
Relations and Community Studies.
Dr. Dodson received his B.A. degree from McMurry College
in Abilene, Texas, in 1931; his master's from Southern Method-
ist University in 1936; and his Ph.D. from NYU in 1941. From
1945 to 1948 he helped the Brooklyn Dodgers in their prepara-
tions to break the 90-year-old color line which kept Negro
baseball players out of the Big Leagues.
The Very Rev. Msgr. John J. Egan is Director of the
Archdiocesan Conservation Council of Chicago, to which
position he was appointed in May of 1959 after serving for
thirteen years as Director of the Cana Conference of the
Monsignor Egan is a member of the Board of Directors of
the National Housing Conference, and a member of the
Board of Governors of the Metropolitan Chicago Housing and
Planning Council. He is Chairman of the Interreligious
Council on Urban Affairs of Chicago.
Professor Abraham Joshua Heschel, professor of Jewish
Ethics and Mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary of
America, is internationally known as a scholar, author, and
theologian. Dr. Heschel's major work in two volumes, Man
Is Not Alone and God in Search of Man, has been acclaimed
for its profound and creative approach to religious philosophy.
He was born in Warsaw, the descendant of a long line of
Hassidic scholars. Professor Heschel received his Ph.D. in 1933
at the University of Berlin. He returned to Warsaw, but in
1939 departed for London. There he established the Institute
for Jewish Learning. He came to the United States in 1940.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King., Jr., has gained national
recognition for his leadership in the struggle to secure civil
rights for all United States citizens. Dr. King is president of the
Notes on Contributors 177
Southern Christian Leadership Conference and co-pastor with
his father of the Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
He is the author of Stride Toward Freedom and The Mea-
sure of Man. Dr. King received a B.A. degree from Morehouse
College, Atlanta, in 1948; a B.D. degree from Crozer Theologi-
cal Seminary, Chester, Penn., in 1951; and his doctorate in
systematic theology from Boston University in 1955.
Dr. Franklin H. Littell, professor of church history at
Chicago Theological Seminary, has written numerous scholarly
and religious articles, and written or edited nine books.
He received his B.D. from Union Theological Seminary in
1940, and his Ph.D. in 1946 from Yale. Dr. Littell is a con-
sultant to the National Conference of Christians and Jews in
the area of religion in higher education and to the Association
of Coordinators of University Religious Affairs.
Rabbi Julius Mark is Senior Rabbi of one of America's lead-
ing Reform Jewish congregations, Temple Emanu-El in New
York City. He is president of the Synagogue Council of
America, national co-ordinating agency of all three branches
of American Jewry.
For many years he has been active in the leadership of the
National Conference of Christians and Jews. Dr. Mark was
graduated from the University of Cincinnati and was ordained
at the Hebrew Union College.
Albert, Cardinal Meyer was appointed in 1959 to the
College of Cardinals, and has since been named by Pope John
XXIII, to the Pontificial Commission for Biblical Studies for
the Second Vatican Council. Cardinal Meyer is a former pro-
fessor and rector at St. Paul's Seminary in Milwaukee, where
in 1903 he was born and in 1953 was named Archbishop.
The 59-year-old prelate is widely known in Roman Catholic
178 Notes on Contributors
educational circles as a past president general of the National
Catholic Educational Association, and former Episcopal Chair-
man of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Depart-
ment of Education.
J. Irwin Miller was the first layman ever elected to the presi-
dency of the National Council of Churches in 1960. He holds
this office through 1963.
A noted industrialist, Mr. Miller is chairman of the board of
the Cummins Engine Company, and a member of the boards
of a number of other major corporations. A member of the
Christian (Disciples of Christ) denomination, he makes his
home in Columbus, Indiana.
R. Sargent Shriver was appointed director of the United
States Peace Corps in April, 1961. During the past two years
he has traveled thousands of miles on behalf of this agency of
Mr. Shriver has years of experience in civic, social and edu-
cation work. He has served as president of Chicago Board of
Education and for five years as president of the Catholic Inter-
racial Council of Chicago. Mr. Shriver is a lawyer and received
both his B.A. and LL.B. degrees from Yale University.
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