Church and Politics 1929
CAN THE CHURCH KEEP OUT OF POLITICS?
MUST POLITICS BE GIVEN OVER TO THE DEVIL, so far as the Church is concerned? Or should the Church enter the devil’s own parish, as some are apt to characterize the field of politics, and fight him on his chosen field? The question has long been a matter of dispute among theologians, and between theologians on the one side and laymen on the other.
Among the latest advocates of confining the ministry to the spiritual field is Dr. Caleb R. Stetson, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in New York, quoted in these pages August 24. Dr. Stetson, it will be recalled, urged that the Church should concern itself with the spiritual welfare of the individual and not with political activity. Now comes the Pittsburgh Christian Advocate, asking why the Church should not concern itself with both? “They are not exclusive of one another,” says this Advocate, “The Church ought to cultivate, of course, the personal character of its members, but that does not make its political activity impossible, or its social responsibility less heavy. We had supposed that this was a commonplace of present-day religious work.” How, we are asked, is a Church that refuses to turn its thought and time to such subjects as “world peace, disarmament, the liquor traffic, and other nefarious kinds of business, the soul-cramping conditions under which many men, women and children labor, the causes of blighting poverty and despair under which multitudes struggleâ€”how is a Church that ignores these problems, whose solution is so vital to human happiness, to defend its character as a Christian institution? ” As the Pittsburgh weekly sees it:
“We are in a world where public conditions, social systems, political acts and international relations affect for weal or wo the life of every individual. The Church wants, we may fairly say, the life of every individual to be the best and happiest possibleâ€”every individual, Christian or non-Christian, church member or outsider, worthy or unworthyâ€”every human being, no matter where. The Church has the power, through political and social action that is perfectly legitimate and Christian, through stirring public sentiment and creating international brotherhood, through encouraging law enforcement and rebuking the forces of injustice, to save and bless the individual.
“This is not only the business of the Church; it is her glory. Statesmen, publicists, writers, labor leaders, passionate lovers of humanity, who are mostly indifferent or antagonistic to the Church, snatch away the wreath that Christ offers His Church. The multitudes will always look with larger hope to these secular forces than to an institution, however holy it may call itself, that has only a parish instead of a world for its field.”
Source: The Literary Digest, October 5, 1929