REVIEWS AND CRITIQUE
A PRACTICAL CHRIST Vs. Ragnar Redbeard's Might is Right, or the Logic of To-day.
-All socialists are not Christians, but all Christians are socialists.
Jesus Christ has been read out of the capitalistic church. It has been discovered that the meek and lowly Nazarene was a socialist, an agitator and an unpractical dreamer.
New Occasions has no desire to become involved in any religious controversy, and will not intentionally offend any consistent Christian. We thoroughly indorse the teachings of Christ, the socialist.
All socialists are not Christians, but all Christians are socialists. Those who announce themselves as Christians and oppose socialism are ignorant either of the teachings of Christ or of socialism. This is not a subject for debate. It is a solemn, indisputable and glorious fact.
No great capitalist or successful businessman is either a Christian or a socialist. No money lender, bond-holder or speculator ever was or ever can be a Christian. No defender of the existing social and industrial system ever was or ever can be a Christian. These are facts and are not subject to honest or intelligent denial. All Christians are followers of the teachings of Christ, who was a socialist. All persons who claim to be Christians and not socialists are either impostors or are ignorant of the precepts they are supposed to follow.
In the April number of Bibliotheca Sacra is an article by Z. Swift Holbrook. Mr. Holbrook is a professed Christian, a Chicago capitalist and the defender of every institution which is fortified by money. He is a fairly able spokesman of the “rich Christians,” the money-lending pew holders, and the wealthy rack-renters, who dominate what is known as the Christian church in this country. He makes as good a defence of an absolute wrong as is possible, and for that reason his remarks are worthy of more than passing comment. His article is entitled “Christianity and Social Problems,” and is an answer to Dr. Lyman Abbott.
In substance Mr. Holbrook insists that Christianity has nothing to do with social problems; that the prayers and pleadings of impoverished and distressed humanity should be addressed to God and not to the church; that business is business, with a code of ethics which does not concern the church. His exact views on this important question may be better understood by quoting from his article. Mr. Holbrook says:
What the outcome will be of this intense desire to demand of Christianity the remedy for unjust social conditions, and thus to unite utility with beauty, no one can predict. One thing is certain: if literature is now to come forth on Christ the Banker, the Merchant, we must know him, not as the creation of any particular imagination, nor as an impracticable idealist, but as he was and is— interpreted through the enlightened Christian consciousness of to-day. The state recognizes two kinds of corporations—one for pecuniary benefit, and the other philanthropic. Does Christianity demand the repeal of laws making this distinction, and insist that all corporations must be philanthropic? Does it oppose the current ideas of sound principles of banking? Does it deny the right to acquire, destroy the sense of ownership, and ignore the natural rights of man? Shall the laws of economics be re- written at its behest, that consumption, production, distribution, accumulation, may revolve around a new center—duty to neighbor, instead of self?
Yes, yes, yes; a thousand times yes, Mr. Holbrook. Oh, hypocrisy, thy name is Sanctified Greed! I suppose that according to you, Christ was an “impracticable idealist” when he drove the money changers and speculative robbers out of the temple. I suppose you pretend to imagine that Christ was an “impracticable idealist” when he urged the wealthy to give their money to the poor. I suppose that John D. Rockefeller and J. Pierpont Morgan represent that “en- lightened Christian consciousness of to-day,” with which to “interpret” what Christ meant when he declared that it was impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. I suppose, Mr. Holbrook that you and Mr. Pullman are going to fix the size of that needle's eye. No, no. Christ did not speak in riddles. He was the enemy of sordid and selfish commercialism, and if he came back to earth to-day the “Christians” with bank accounts would railroad him to the gallows. Here is what Mr. Holbrook says of the Christ of the New Testament:
“Such a pseudo-Christ would at once usher in a flabby and insipid social condition, where every man is minding his neighbour’s business, and paying no attention to his own; where the fruitage of a proper regard for self, such as self-respect, self-reliance, and a host of similar virtues, are positive sins; where life, liberty, property, reputation, are meaningless terms, because the ego has been so lost in alter that a cartilaginous substance has taken the place of the backbone; where mental and moral virility and heroism have been supplanted by a senseless sentimentalism. This is the new human nature of Bellamy; and all we need to fit to it to make the picture complete is the Christ of modern birth, and we have some problems to solve that make the present social problems seem as child's play.”
The only Christ New Occasions knows anything about is the one named and described in the Bible. He taught the doctrine of unselfishness and of kindness. He gave utterance to the Golden Rule—which is not used as a wall decoration in any bank that we know of. He was the champion of the weak and down-trodden and spoke in scorn only of the rich who were their oppressors. Speaking of Christianity, Mr. Holbrook says:
“It is a spiritual law, and is not to be taken into account by courts of justice or in deeds of transfer. For all practical purposes, ab- solute ownership is the commercial idea. The letter killeth, the spirit giveth life, must be observed when the attempt is made to govern commercial circles by laws intended to govern man in his personal relations to God. * * * This age is not so practical nor so civilized, nor will any other age become so, that duty to God can be sup- planted by duties to society, or that man's obligations to himself can be overlooked in any assumed enthusiasm for altruism or social reforms. * * * The theory that neighbour equals unity, and self-equals zero, finds no sanction in Christian ethics, and any philosophy founded on such equations will never become a working principle in commercial circles. It sounds good, but it is not the gospel of the practical and sensible Christ.”
If this means anything it means that the gospel of Christ as contained in the Bible is not to be followed by the practical and would-be successful business man. You certainly are right about that, Mr. Holbrook. The only way a man can succeed in business under present social and industrial conditions is by disregarding everything which Christ taught. Imagine a “practical Christ” coming to Chicago! Such a Christ would first appoint a press agent and then sit for his photograph. He would then interest a lot of capitalists and raise enough money to lease the Auditorium. He would write out his sermon and send advance proofs to the papers and the Associated Press. He would praise the rich, denounce the extravagance of the poor, launch into a eulogy of “sound money,” take up a collection and start for New York or St. Louis on a special car.
Christ was not “practical.” No reform in history was practical. You may search the records of the past in vain for the name of a great man who was “practical.” Judas Iscariot was a “practical” man. He sold his Savior for thirty pieces of silver, and had he been more “practical” would have extorted a higher price for his business sagacity.
Hundreds of years after the business men of Jerusalem had crucified Christ it became necessary for certain men of the Holbrook type of Christianity to invent a more “modern Christ.” They added new chapters to the scriptures. Into the mouth of the Christ who said “Peace on earth, good will toward men,” they blasphemously placed the awful utterance, “I come not to bring peace, but a sword.” Do not imagine that Christ said such a thing as that. Every Bible scholar knows how it came to be inserted in the modern translation. If the rich hypocrites who now cloak their crimes with the mantle of Christianity had their way they would insert a chapter in favor of gold monometallism, bond issues, trusts and monopolies, and threaten with hell fire all who dared deny the inspiration of such verses.
Might was Right when Caesar bled upon the
stones of Rome,
Might was Right when Joshua led his hordes o'er
And Might was Right when German troops
poured down through Paris gay;
It's the Gospel of the Ancient World and the
Logic of To-day.
Behind all Kings and Presidents all Government
Are army-corps and cannoneers to hold
the world in awe.
And sword-strong races own the earth and ride
the Conqueror's Car—
And Liberty has ne'er been won, except by deeds
What are the lords of hoarded gold—the silent
What are the plunder-patriots—high-pontiffs,
priests and kings—
What are they but bold master-minds, best fitted
for the fray,
Who comprehend and vanquish by the Logic of
Cain's knotted club is scepter still—the “Rights
of Man” is fraud.
Christ's Ethics are for creeping things—true man-
hood smiles at “God.”
For Might is Right when empires sink in storms
of steel and flame;
And it is Right when weakling breeds are hunted
down like game.
Then what's the use of dreaming dreams that
“each shall get his own”
By forceless votes of meek-eyed thralls, who
blindly sweat and moan?
No! a curse is on their cankered brains—their
very bones decay:
“Go! trace your fate in the Iron Game,” is the
Logic of To-day.
The Strong must ever rule the Weak is grim
On earth's broad racial threshing floor the Meek
are beaten straw;
Then ride to Power o'er foemen's necks, let
Nothing bar your way;
“If you are Fit you'll rule and reign,” is the
Logic of To-day.
You must prove your Right by deeds of Might,
of splendor and renown;
If need-be march through flames of hell, to dash
If need-be die on scaffold high, in the morning's
For “Liberty or Death” is still the Logic of
Might was Right when Gideon led the “chosen”
tribes of old,
And it was right when Titus burnt their Temple
roofed with gold;
And Might was Right from Bunker Hill to far-off
By land and flood it's writ in blood—the Gospel
“Put not your trust in princes” is a saying old
“Put not your hope in Governments” translateth
All Books of Law and Golden Rules are
fashioned to betray.
“The Survival of the Strongest” is the Gospel of
Might was Right when Carthage flames lit up
the Punic foam,
And when the naked steel of Gaul weighed down
the spoil of Rome;
And Might was Right when Richmond fell, and
It's the Logic of the Ancient World and the
Gospel of To-day.
Where pendant suns in millions swing around this
It's Might, it's Force that holds the brakes, and
steers through life and death;
Force governs all organic life, inspires all Right
It's Nature's plan to weed out man and Test who
are the Strong.
Article fromThe New Time 1897:2