Bible characters evidently produce good box office receipts in New York theaters. A couple of playwrights, MacLeish and Chayefsky, have put ancient Job and Gideon on the stage with marked success. Though at many points these stage impersonations may have small resemblance to the old seers, they have drawn good audiences and have gotten large write-ups from the critics.
Some of the latter have noted that in both Gideon and J. B. it is indicated that man has outgrown God morally and is pushing ahead toward perfection, leaving the Most High to His outmoded ethics. In Gideon we have the Lord saying that man has ambitions to be a “proper god,” and admitting that the time might come when he would arrive at that status.
Playwrights alone may not reflect this view, but it can be discovered in some theological quarters. Man isn’t satisfied with the biblical God. This God, somehow, doesn’t come up to man’s high expectations. He isn’t good enough, or intelligent enough. Man must be off on his eager quest for something better—through self-expression, self-approval, and self-glorification. Man is evolving toward loftier levels; and God is stuck in the old rut.
This fierce quest may lend stuff out of which successful plays are made; but it turns out, in the actual movement of history, to be a grim joke. Man’s freedom from the “old” God has not helped him. Morally he doesn’t seem to be improving too much, nor has he gained freedom. Moreover he’s terribly scared. He’s frantically digging holes in the ground to hide in. He is turning caveman in the midst of all his automation.
Patently this would-be god has intellectuality. But what does it get him? He is still a killer. Once, in his ignorance, he killed with spears and arrows; now, with his mighty wisdom, he slays with nuclear thunderbolts. He is a dustbound god, a creator trapped by creature instincts. He has power. He is mightier than Thor with his hammer. His rockets ride their fire-shafts into the heavens. His atomic gadgets cause proud cities to tremble. But he is like the man in the Hebrew proverb who has taken a town, but cannot rule his own spirit.
His evolution into a “proper” godhood has not made him happy. It has made him rather miserable. Catching the news-reports about him and his goings-on, we are tempted to think that he walks in great despair. He appears to have a genius for producing woe, generating fear, and building doom. With all his creativity he seems incapable of making a heaven; all he can make is a hell. Could it be that he is evolving toward evil rather than toward good? Is he becoming a god—or a devil?
It’s rather interesting to look into the first book of the Bible and find Satan promising man that if he broke off with God he himself could become a god! So man made the break. Ever since it seems be has been trying to see that Satan fulfills his pledge. He is not satisfied to be a creature; he must be a creator. He must rise from humanity to deity. And he does not seem aware that the thing that urges him on in his sacrilegious quest is that out of which all evil springs—human pride.
A Judean seer in a Babylonian concentration camp by the Chebar River once delivered a warning to a Tyrian prince: “You are proud of heart, thinking that you are a god, in a god’s seat … when you are no god but a man.” The prince’s godhood is doomed; his days are numbered. Enemies are stirring the dust in invasion. “A violent death shall you die, there by the deep. Will you still say, before your murderer, ‘I am a god? To your murderer you are no god, but a mortal!… Your brilliance depraved your wisdom … your fate is awful, there is no future for you” (Ezek. 28, Moffat).
Long ago it was written on a Christian document that the chief end of man was to glorify God. Have we outgrown Him sufficiently to cancel that ideal? Somewhere we took a wrong turn; we departed from among “the flashing thunderstones.” Perhaps we need another prophet to tell us what the Tyrian ruler was told. For it is ironical that we who have not made a good earth should try to make a heaven.
Man is no nearer godhood than was the top of the Babel-tower to God’s throne. We are not creators now more than when God asked Job out of the whirlwind: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 39:4, American Translation). We have got too big for our human destiny. It is better that we take Jesus’ advice and become as children again. We have never given a good performance in the role of God. That way lies night. The act is not only blasphemous, it is ridiculous. All our ambitious histrionics does not even produce comedy; it is cheap slapstick that shall end in cosmic tragedy. We had better ring down the curtain on the brave idiotic farce; there is no future for us in it.
Be Wary Of Federal Loans And Grants To Church Colleges
Two proposals that would provide federal loans for higher education facilities involve church-state issues far more deeply than appears on the surface.
A candid word should be said about Senate Bill 1241, the proposed College Academic Facilities and Scholarship Act, and House Bill 8900, the College Academic Facilities Act. It is quite apparent that both in committee hearings and on the floor Congressmen seem reluctant to investigate and to debate church-state implications of this pending legislation. These bills would authorize a five-year loan program (repayable within 50 years at 3½ per cent interest) to public and private four-year colleges. The Senate bill would provide $1.5 billion in federal loans for public community junior colleges. The House bill offers $600 million in loans to finance up to three-fourths the cost of any eligible project including junior colleges and provides an additional $900 million in matching grants to both public and private colleges (old and new) under a five-year program. The Senate bill would apply to the construction of any academic facilities except buildings involving an admissions charge to the public. The House bill applies to all construction except gymnasiums and recreation facilities, buildings that involve an admissions charge, or those used for sectarian teaching, places of worship, or divinity schools.
It is thought unlikely that a bill providing grants to both church-related and public institutions of higher learning can be pushed through Congress unmodified. But sentiment is being rallied for federal loans to both public and private colleges for buildings supposedly devoted to “nonsectarian” purposes. House Speaker John McCormack does not favor federal grants to denominational colleges, but he thinks federal loans should be made available to Roman Catholic institutions and other denominational colleges. Some Protestants have indicated that no pressures exist in their denominational ranks for such loans, and that they do not regard the non-provision of these loans as discriminatory. Unless it provides too little, the loan proposal will have the support of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
Three comments should be made at once on this mounting propaganda for federal funds to church related institutions. First: when dealing with a sectarian campus, one can find no valid criteria for distinguishing sectarian aspects (ineligible for federal funds) and nonsectarian aspects (supposedly eligible for federal funds). Even the dormitory of a church-related college cannot be viewed as nonsectarian—unless its erection with federal funds gives those of other religious persuasions access on an equal basis to freely propagate their contrary views. Second: some religious bodies will be delighted to build dormitories and other (supposedly nonsectarian) facilities of their church-related colleges with federal funds provided by the taxpayers. They can then deploy ecclesiastical funds to erect additional buildings more directly related to the indoctrination process. In this way federal funds become an indirect subsidy for sectarian purposes. The third observation is this: since the Constitution makes no distinction between higher and lower education, whatever is constitutional for higher education is therefore constitutional for lower education as well. The more American politicians allow the pressures of sectarian groups to influence their voting in respect to the use of federal funds, the more they will find themselves embarrassed by unhappy precedents.
CHRISTIANITY TODAY has previously stated its concern over the growing intrusion of the government complex into education. Those who brush aside the dangers of enlarging federal control tend to represent that segment of political leadership which is gratified by the growth of big government on the American scene. Such leadership presumably would be unperturbed were this process of the past 30 years to continue its direction and momentum for yet another generation. From this perspective the issue is not merely a Protestant-Catholic issue; spokesmen from both traditions have expressed concern about secular government pressures on education. We are convinced that the best way to cancel the political and religious compromises involved in school legislation is to take the Constitution seriously both in the specific matter of church-state relations and, beyond that, in its wider concerns for limited government.
American educators need be wary of the effect of federal loans bringing the church into involvements with the government over a long period of years. Not only is it possible, but recent history shows that it is probable, that controls not presently existing will be set up over such a period. Abuses of one kind or another provide either the context or the pretext for additionally legislated political controls.
The Twist: A Portent For Western Culture
There seems to be a continuing compulsion on otherwise respectable television shows to call for a demonstration of the Twist, latest dance craze. Done amid guffaws, it reminds us that many a sin is tossed off with a laugh. The dance is well named if it refers to twisted moral and aesthetic standards as well as to physical contortions.
Christianity has often banished pagan lewdness from the streets to have it reenter as a night club import from a far-off jungle. But now television often beams the imports into the home. One TV personality found the Twist reminiscent of a fertility dance. Another noted the serious intensity of participants and the apparent lack of enjoyment.
Apart from physicians’ warnings to those over 40, some observers have somberly spoken of soul sickness and see in the Twist a symptom of our culture crisis. Can it possibly be that in the writhing of the dance one can see reflected a convulsion of Western civilization? Is it yet another warning rumble of Vesuvius? a sign of internal crumbling while the Goths batter at the gates?
Absurd fancies? Such dances are always followed by something worse anyway. And yet, is it true there’s always a last time? There was that movie about the last days of Pompeii.…
Wanted: End To Work And Guaranteed Annual Wage?
The 9,000 electrical workers in New York have long enjoyed a 30-hour workweek and a guarantee of overtime even during a building boom demanding extra helpers. For almost 30 years their six-hour day has been union-blessed.
While President Kennedy and AFL-CIO bosses were communicating about labor’s self-restraint on wages to match industry’s self-restraint on prices, the electrical construction workers demanded a four-hour day. They won a new union contract for a five-hour day, twenty-five-hour week, at almost the same pay as before. The Kennedy administration did not intervene.
Simply stated, the objective was less work and improved pay, a program that could lead, as the New York Herald Tribune commented, “to the point of no hours at all and yet a guaranteed wage.”
The President And Rising Pressures For Special Favors To Catholics
Protestant spokesmen rightly commend the President’s refusal to bow to last year’s demand by the Roman Catholic hierarchy for federal aid to parochial schools. His avoidance of a repetition of President Roosevelt’s ill-advised appointment of a personal representative to the Vatican is also commendable. But the Christian Century’s judgment of his presidential record on church-state separation as “better” than that of “any other President … in the past 30 years” on the basis simply of Mr. Kennedy’s first year in office is starry-eyed.
The national Catholic magazine America complains that Mr. Kennedy has avoided public contacts with Catholic dignitaries and has “bent over backwards” to please Protestants. But we recall that Cardinal Cushing’s inauguration prayer got enough television network mileage to cover a full term’s presidential publicity for the hierarchy!
For the moment we don’t think Mr. Kennedy is genuflecting either forwards or backwards. On the parochial school and Vatican issues he is simply following the church-state course expected of an American president. The firmness of his stand here and on other church-state questions is yet to be tested. One significant test will come, should President Kennedy get a Congress-approved bill providing federal funds to church-related schools. His veto of such a bill would decisively answer those skeptics who regard Mr. Kennedy’s emphasis on the unconstitutionally of federal aid to parochial schools as a temporary political stratagem. Even Catholic critics who charge him with political motivation and lack of courage will then have their answer.
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