The Church And Wealth In America
Chapter 14 of Tragic America
I decry the power of the Church and its use of that power, in America in particular! Throughout the world, as all know, the churches are so organized as to have the wealth, size and formation of a great corporation, a government, or an army. And in America, the wealthy individuals who rule in corporate affairs appear to be attracted to the church by reason of its hold not only on the mind but the actions of its adherents. Politically, socially and otherwise, they count on its power and influence as of use to them. And not without reason, since especially among the ignorant and poor, its revealed wisdom counsels resignation and orders faith in a totally inscrutable hereafter. In short, it makes for ignorance and submission in the working class, And what more could a corporation-minded government or financial group, looking toward complete control of everything for a few, desire?
And besides, the wealth of the Church elevates it to an unsurpassed prestige. The contributions of the congregations of twenty-five denominations in the United States for 1928 was $402,682,961.82. Can the Standard Oil of New Jersey show anything like that? Not even the greatest of our financial corporations can boast either the financial or social or political prestige of either the Catholic, Methodist or Episcopal churches here. Thus, the gifts from the living as well as income on permanent funds and legacies controlled by these twenty-five church denominations in America totaled in 1928 $532,368,714.80. The Methodist Episcopals alone, one little subsidiary of this great group, received in 1928, $98,758,030. The Presbyterians had $75,054,538 to spend. The Methodist Episcopals in the South, a separate group, collected $42,837,679; the Protestant Episcopals $46,088,274, and the Baptists, in the South only, $40,038,259. Obviously this is why the Church (speaking of all denominations collectively) is able to organize tremendous lobbies, and, as I will show, does; also to exercise a preponderance of influence affecting education. And not only that, but to enter upon — and for purposes of social and mental control always — a score of activities which include asylums, hospitals, orphanages, protectories graveyards, and what not else, all truly functions of government and functions which should never in any way be dominated by either the leaders or adherents of these ignorant and dogmatic religious institutions.
Yet the Church, realizing the power of wealth as well as mentally-controlled numbers, seeks to gather to itself all it can. Each year in America we see its influence grow, the political and “educational” activities of the Catholic Church in particular being everywhere apparent. Thus, the phenomenon of a religious adherent such as Al Smith, seeking from a people whose political as well as mental independence is not acknowledged by his Church, the official (in the sense that an American President has that) control of the same. And not only that, but the spectacle of many of the most grasping commercial magnates in America being elevated to leadership in the Church. The late Haley Fiske, life insurance president, who told his policyholders to denounce Government ownership because their life insurance funds were invested in private utility companies, was prominent in the Catholic movement of the Angelican Church. S.S. Kresge, of 5 and 10 cent store fame, and a Methodist, joined with his denomination in its assiduous fight for prohibition and religious control of public morality. Thomas F. Ryan was not only an adherent but a helpful donor to the Catholic Church. The list is much too long to append here, Yet men of this mental bent not only command the policies of corporate power in America but are evidently, from what I can disclose, an important factor in shaping church pursuits.
That the Church has the money to make itself felt is shown by the table given below:
Church Valuations in 1926 Baptist ................ $469,835,000 Congregational ......... 164,212,000 Jewish ................. 100,890,000 Methodist .............. 654,736,000 Presbyterian ........... 443,572,000 Protestant Episcopal ... 314,596,000
But the Roman Catholic Church property alone in America is valued at $837,271,000! The biggest and the worst. But what makes these organizations all the more dominating and far-reaching is that actually, in the large, they offer one and the same interpretation of life. It is the creation of a Ruler, whose intentions, purposes and rules have been revealed to them. More, as I have said, the guiding wish or mood of that Creator is resignation. Hence they are obviously advocates of things as they are. To pry or seek to know or change, as in science, sociology, government, is wrong. The God of each particular denomination knows all, directs all. Resignation to His will, as interpreted by them, is all. Hence they do not, as a rule, advocate the necessity, let alone the value, of change. And since heaven is for all, and the chief business of all is to achieve the hereafter or “sweet bye and bye,” why the urge for anything difficult, let alone revolutionary, here? And that is why wealth and government always look upon religion as, if not their handmaiden, at least their “side kick” in these, their earthly adventurings.
Worse, the growing commercialism of America has made it all the more possible for the churches to increase their wealth. Between 1916 and 1926, the value of church buildings rose $2,160,000,000; that is, an increase of one hundred and twenty-nine per cent. The most striking example in America, probably, of this land values is Trinity Church (Episcopal) at the head of Wall Street. It owns about $15,000,000 in real estate, with an income from that alone of $1,460,000, and it has a surplus of $14,000,000. And all from property practically given to it, and more, in so far as concerns portions of it which can be listed as of service to religion, tax exempt.
That the laws of this or any country should permit any such sums to fall into organizational hands, and especially such organizational hands as set up such claims and commands as those of our religionists, is obviously wrong. More, it is economically unsound, since most of it is untaxed, and permits the rise and support of a privileged class which does little, if anything, more than befog the human mind, For as any one can see for himself, religious doctrines are based on so-called revelation, not reality. And worse, with such wealth to direct, what political, and worse, mental, harm cannot be done! The unlimited use of propaganda! The millions spent on foolish campaigns designed to shape or change public opinion in regard to this or that: divorce, birth control, the falseness of the Darwinian theory, or almost anything in connection with science and history! The blather about saints and cures and bringing all to Jesus, the while taxes are evaded and the scummy politicians whom they endorse, or even nominate and elect to office, proceed to rob the public in favor of the corporations and churches whom they serve! No wonder ignorance, no wonder illusion, when those with power in the religious field knowingly delude and mislead the masses! The things told them! That it is important to vote for this or that crook; uphold religion; it is good for the people to go to war, to put religion in the schools, to give into the hands of these mental bandits the care and education of all children, so that they may be properly enslaved by religion! (A slave, in my opinion, is the man who does not think for himself. A man with knowledge is not powerless.) But always with suave and polished words. For it is not men who are talking, as they assert, but God through them! and so through the mouths of tricksters and social prestidigitators, and no more and no less, comes all this hooey in regard to the hereafter! No wonder then that Russia swept religion away! And it should so be done here! Men should be educated concerning the data of this world and the value to men of a properly organized social life, and the how of that organization, so that they may really live better and be better mentally and physically. But, no! Whisper! God has told me, and I will tell you, and you shall follow and sustain me as my servant who am the servant of God!
these enormous Church holdings, as I have said, goes not one cent of taxes on noncommercial property. But there are tricks by which certain denominations, by laying the foundation of a church or school and then resting, can and do hold property for years until, its value having greatly increased, it becomes advisable to sell for an enormously enhanced price, and then, of course, it is so sold. One would think from that that the Churches were a branch of the Government, a public institution, whereas they are only semipublic, being under the control of a special group of patrons, and as such should be taxed and made to pay the same as any other self-aggrandizing corporation.
More, I believe that all of the pursuits in which the Church engages in this country (except aesthetics, which they portray so meagerly, awkwardly, grossly, and unbeautifully) are actually functions of government. And if so, they should be a part of government and not of the functionings of a special and separate, if not private, group of theorists, or worse, political men of affairs seeking, via theory, and worse, revelation, to function as government. I refer to such things as hospitals, protectories, orphan asylums, schools, colleges, homes for the aged and infirm, graveyards, and industries of whatsoever nature.
To show some of the dangers, let me point out how the Church takes advantage of its property holdings, and how practically it profits by the same. Thus, when the Madison Avenue Methodist Church in New York City sold its site for an apartment building and moved to another plot of land nearby, it made a profit of $650,000. But I ask, why should religion be a profiteer? If the State permits them to go tax free, it should at least, should it not? enjoy and participate in any money-making of this nature, which is certainly no legitimate function of religion. Next, in 1926, the Temple Emanu-El likewise made more than $6,000,000 in this same manner. Its property on Fifth Avenue at Forty-third Street, New York, increased in value five hundred per cent between 1900 and 1929. All it had to do in order to garner this increment was to move up Fifth Avenue to Sixty-fifth Street, where it could buy cheaper. A like action in connection with St. Patrick’s Cathedral would yield the Catholic Church about $10,000,000. And considering how practical that Church is, it is a wonder it is not so moved. In Brooklyn and the Bronx, the Catholic Church owns several plots of land on which are erected only one-story buildings. What will these be, and what eventually will they be sold for?
But what is worse in connection with this untaxed architecture and the land on which it stands is this. By the overwhelming power of it as mass, if not art, in the eyes of the persuaded followers of any faith, both at once assume spiritual and even mystic significance, thus magnetizing to the organizations controlling them the faith as well as the money of those so mentally led. For it is not only doctrine but doctrine-joined-up-with-material- appearance that so intrigues and deceives the average mind. And in America, as well as Europe, how often the elegance of the town takes its inspiration from its principal religious edifice: in Europe, the Roman Catholic Church; in America, the Methodist, Episcopal and Catholic Churches The new Methodist Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, is valued at $1,000,000, entailing, in these days of strikes and unemployment, quite an obligation to society, I would say.
Well now, church buildings alone in America, without parsonages, investments, securities, schools, orphanages, hospitals and monasteries, are valued at $3,800,000,000; the personages alone, and apart from the above, are reported to be worth $500,000,000. Furthermore, an estimate in the Literary Digest concludes that $7,000,000,000, at least, constitutes the total securities and property of the churches in America. A more definite figure is the actual expenditure of the churches in 1926. This totaled $817,000,000. Well, this is the equivalent of six per cent on more than a $13,500,000,000 investment is it not? And all for the purposes of the most inane, unprogressive, and often scheming as well as ignorant, social parasites, their crack-brained theories and certainly mentally destructive aims! That they may lead and lord it over fools, or to put it more truthfully, that fools may lead fools!
But mere billions do not in any way indicate the scope of the church — its influence. Much more important is the total membership. In all, fifty-five per cent of America’s entire population are claimed as church members. Over one-half! And of these the Roman Catholic Church claims thirty per cent. In 1926, 54,576,000 persons belonged to the various denominations, or claimed to. If this is really true, such an organization can and should mold the mind of the whole populace. But does it? Whether the answer is yes or no, the Catholics, the most reactionary and mind-stultifying of all, seem to be the most efficient. At least they are the most forward in their efforts to direct, politically, educationally, legally and in every way. And as for concentration of effort, well, in 1926, there were 183,505 white Protestant churches for 23,515,000 members — an average of 128 to a church — and 16,615 Roman Catholic churches — for 18,104,800 adherents — an average of 1,089 per church.
So this is what the system has to work with. Yet despite this the country to-day is suffering from a lack of faith, recognized everywhere, but the depths of which may not yet be ascertained. Personally I believe it to be due not only to ignorance but to the dominance in churchly undertakings of economics and its related activities over spiritual development. The Church itself, as much as anything, has made the spiritual life unfashionable, and hence has degraded it. Against the sole hope and inspiration of Christ, it has given way to commercial standards of corporations and just when people need a simple aesthetic and mental haven to escape from corporate speed and complexity. All in all, it has sought to become a moving factor in national life, and by so doing has defeated its purpose of spiritual nourishment. And certainly, the seeking human hearts, so lost from the Church, are something to be reckoned with. Thousands who have followed it from childhood have wakened to find it an intellectual (which includes aesthetes, of course) loss.
But let us see how the Church seeks to influence sociologically, economically and politically, and, of course, seize power via numbers and the control of the same through faith. Orphanages, for one thing; schools, for another; Sunday schools for still another; and then hospitals, protectories, and the like. I want to speak particularly, however, of Sunday schools, schools, and homes for the aged run by churches. For first, the doctrine- flavored educational factor of the Sunday school is shockingly wide in its appeal. In 1926, 212 denominations here had 185,000 Sunday schools, with 21,000,000 pupils — only 3,700,000 less than the total enrollment of all the public schools in the United States! But what is taught in them? An aesthetic appreciation of beauty? Yes? A suggestion of the complicated nature of the organized society in which we find ourselves and the proper understanding of its functions and their value — one’s benefits from as well as duties to it as one of its beneficiaries? Never! That would be putting life above death, reality above mysticism, the here and now through which we really live and suffer over and above a mythical and unsubstantiated hereafter in which we are to be rewarded for what we suffer here. Rather a deadly indifference to the correction of those same ills here and now, all reality denounced, feared, buried, the while prayer, the only thing taught in the church which might be turned to aesthetic value, is dominated by a silly, narrow code of sins, confessions and selfish yearnings or needs, pathetically doomed to unfulfillment. In short, every worth-while phase of a proper knowledge of life evaded, the while the antithesis, dogmas relative to a mystical hierarchy which Christ never contemplated, is insisted upon. Indeed, his worded peace, order and unselfishness is almost totally ignored. Or if not, then united with dogma and rules never contemplated by him, and calculated by the Church, particularly the Catholic Church, to give it such power as to chain its adherents to slavish ignorance and obedience throughout their life here. Yet obviously, such power cannot be for the good of the individual here on earth or his government. It is against his mind. And when that is suborned or darkened, by whatever process, what else of value can remain?
From 1906 to 1926, while the percentage of pupils in our American public schools increased only fifty per cent, the total number of pupils in Roman Catholic parochial schools rose one hundred per cent — schools that belie science, deny the powers and plans of any earthly government not profoundly submissive to the mythical heavenly government which they proclaim and administer, and which boldly, and in the main successfully, seek to block all forms of education not wholly harmonious with their antiquated, false and mentally subversive data as to how life is organized and what its proper rewards as well as functions should be. And yet America propagandized abroad as progressive; the people of this country touted as being better equipped educationally as well as in every other way than those of any other part of the world! Only I believe that America is actually becoming weaker mentally, not stronger. And yet, all the rest of the world called upon to bow to the actions as well as the wisdom of this country as of the best, the ideals of the United States Government as mentally, morally and in every other way the highest! Yet Catholics and Jews alike demanding control of the education of their children, for this, for that and the other silly reason: morality, the salvation of their souls, etc., but in the latter sense, most certainly detrimental, since it can only be misshaping the wondering, formative mind of the child. And so, instead of joining with the American school system to make it truly constructive mentally, insisting on snatching their children from it either entirely or on any and every day or days they so desire, and for the purpose of having them celebrate this or that dogmatic event, observe this or that holy day, or the life of some fantastic saint whose worship or honor could only be destructive to any worth-while prosecution of education anywhere!
And all this without the least protest as yet on the part of our American educators or our citizens generally. Rather — whisper! — the Catholics, the Jews, the this, the that, have power and can cast you from office or cause you trouble! And since all is for office or job or money in America, the idea of doing anything for a worth-while ideal, educationally or in any other way, is beyond anybody. Whisper! In a corporation and priest-ridden world it isn’t a good thing for the rank and file to know too much, anyhow! It may make them restless! Hence — whisper! — don’t say anything! Let it go! It may not be good for business! And so, an ever-increasing number of children in Catholic and other sectarian schools, and all actually being drilled in mental as well as social misvalues. Yet it is known, and can be proved, of course, that these religionists, with their nostrums and their demands, constitute open rebellion against the fundamental principle of nonsectarian education in America. But does that matter? Will it before the education orientation of the nation is totally disarranged?
The following was given out in the fall of 1930 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference:
Pupils in 7,811 Catholic elementary schools ......... 2,283,000 " " 2,235 " high schools ................. 228,000 " " 171 " colleges ..................... 102,000 " " 77 " normal schools ................. 9,000 " " 187 " seminaries .................... 18,000
And relatively the same proportions holding for other denominations in America.
But more, the leaders of these sectarian schools, like Dr. Edmund P. Soper, President of Ohio Wesleyan College, arise to say that it is the right and duty of the sectarian educational representatives of America to control what the schools and their professors and teachers teach. And this gentleman gives as his reason that learning should follow Christian principles. But this, according to the present standards of these sectarians, means the acceptance and following of not only dogma as laid down by the religionists, and hence the ignoring of all science, but, and also, the inculcation of the present unrestrained individualism of Americans as represented now by the money-mad leaders who are dictating not only the economics but the philosophy of the country and using the religionists to help them. And if that is not so, count the ministers and churches now contemplating the state of the tramping masses in America who have one word (as opposed to the word of Capitalism and its present money-madness) to say in their favor. Count them and let us see who and where they are and what the nature of their economic and sociologic programs are!
Dr. Soper also states that his standards would and should be effected by choosing reactionary men and that these same should then be allowed to teach with freedom, yet as Christians — which means restraint. More, states Dr. Soper: in case they learn more and change their ideas, the professors must leave! In other words, when they are no longer ignorant enough for the ideals of the sectarian school, they must depart!
Well, in the United, States there are 624 four-year colleges and universities, and of these 376 are religious colleges: 75 Methodist, 55 Presbyterian, 46 Baptist, etc. And assuming Dr. Soper’s rule to apply, one can see not only what is happening but what is going to happen to true learning in these institutions. Science? History? Learning? Out! Let us have ignorant slave following ignorant master, as in so many of the past periods of recorded history. For what else can come?
But let us return to another of these energies of religion in America which border on and really are functions of government. Homes for the aged, obviously one phase of the business of government, now bring, instead, power to the churches, via the carefully cultivated goodwill and hence, in the main, adherence of thousands of inmates and their relatives — and this regardless of the false educational principles in complete control of such places — false in the sense that they present the sectarian church and its dogmas in the light of truth, its efforts and labors in every field as noble, charitable, etc. — whereas in reality the truth is that these so-called labors and charities are quite always on a paying basis and should not be permitted to usurp the mantle of charity, let alone a proper function of government. They open to sectarian illusion and dogma too wide a door, and that door should be closed.
To make clear what I mean: the median rates per month for residents in quite any of these homes is $30, and the median per capita cost of operation is just about the same. More, in 182 of these homes for the aged, Catholic and others, the old folks work. Thus, one home, at the time of this writing, has 1,100 acres of corn, 25,500 strawberry plants, two acres of raspberries, etc. Last year the old people picked 5,000 quarts of strawberries, 1,000 quarts of raspberries, etc., which the organization marketed. Yet this same is pictured as a Christian charity, the while it makes for Christian adherents of the sect which operates it.
Not only that, but many of these homes have extensive properties which enjoy a natural increment which can but redound to the financial prosperity of the religion or sect operating them. Thus, one I have in mind is located on a 704-acre farm, with numerous timber lots, one of which is 84 acres in extent. Again, a Methodist home of which I know has 125 acres, another 858 acres, and one Episcopal home, 500 acres. These homes also frequently have extensive buildings. Several are valued at $1,000,000 each, and one at $2,000,000.
But to generalize a bit in connection with these homes, let me add that forty-four Methodist homes in America are now valued at $6,639,132 and more, exalt themselves under endowments totaling $3,863,761. Yet for all these investments and gifts, the people in them in many cases live like trusted prisoners. Also, according to the rules in some instances, residents may not leave the grounds, wash clothes, etc., without permission. Furthermore, obedience to these rules is insured, since on entering. these old people are compelled to assign to the institution such possessions as they may have — money, land, what you will — which naturally makes them from then on utterly dependent upon said institution until death. In each such institution, a house committee dictates what each inmate may have in his or her room and how the furniture is to be arranged. In addition to that, and regardless whether they desire it or not, religion is forced on these residents. For pay or no pay, it is good for their souls! And should you doubt the strength of my word “forced,” explain, if you can, the existence of the following rule: “… reverent attention during worship is obligatory.” And religion, to that extent at least, and in that manner, is administered to the inmates of the following homes:
Homes for the Aged in the United States Roman Catholic ................ 156 Baptist ....................... 20 Lutheran ...................... 47 Methodist ..................... 45 Presbyterian .................. 20 Episcopal ..................... 39 Miscellaneous denominations ... 148
Quite an influence, don’t you think: 475 homes with 27,298 residents?
More than that, our churches have already caught the corporate merger idea and are following their mentors in that field. Thus, in 1906 there was 1 church for 270 population, in 1916 there was 1 church for 300 population, in 1926 there was 1 church for 344 population. But although the number of churches, according to population, is decreasing, the membership rate remains the same.
In addition to this, though, numerous inclusive organizations for specific purposes are bringing about a united effort on the part of the Church as strong as that of any holding company: the A.T.&T., for instance. Thus, already the United Church of Canada has been formed, combining the Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists. And there have been proposals of extensive mergers among others.
That the leaders of this assumed Christianity are themselves bringing to the Church the psychology of our commercial enterprise and order is not only already plain but daily becoming more so. And presumably to strengthen their several positions. Thus, Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, for one, at the opening of the Riverside Cathedral, said: “If we were to put an electric sign in front of this church, I know where we would get it. I would steal it from one of the great electric utility companies: ‘Public Service, Light and Power’ the sign would read.” More, the constant use which ministers make of the term “profit,” “power house” and other industrial terms, shows that they are accepting as ideals the commercial standards of the day. But contrast, if you will, quite all of Christ’s comments on “profits” and “prosperity” and accumulations of wealth in general!
Now one of the movements resulting from Church wealth and prestige in the past everywhere was missionary work. And let us grant that this truly had a Christ-like beginning. For it is a fact, of course, that in the early days of the Church, men did go out and risk their lives and sacrifice comforts for a “spiritual” good which they imagined they contemplated and that decidedly they wished to share with others. And in the early days of the United States, that was true of the missionaries here. Yet listen to an American missionary writing to-day of his work: “Although the sacrificial life of the mission field has been lauded to our paying church members … all of these are based on more or less false assumptions.” And the reason for this comment could only be that at the present time the Church has drawn such wealth to itself that the day of any form of sacrifice for the missionary is over. He is usually reported as more or less of a lord as well as leader in his various fields of operation. At any rate, certain it is that 15 denominations now contribute $26,000,000 annually to mission work. (Yet for 1900, the figure was only $5,250,000.) And now our missionaries are frequently housed in splendor. Naturally, this has accentuated, and quite reasonably, some prejudice in some of the foreign lands to which these missionaries proceed. For instead of fulfilling the lowly role of helpful worker cooperating with those not able to do much for themselves, we find our plethoric missionaries of to-day, and particularly those from America, living richly and acting like lords among the foreign peoples upon whom they choose to bestow their service and whom they stigmatize as benighted. The Chinese, for instance, or the Hindoos! More, an American missionary to India has written that he could testify that “to-day the life of the foreigner there, be he missionary or government official, is the most lordly life on earth.”
But what are the aims and methods of procedure of these missionaries who proceed from America into China, India, Siam, and elsewhere? These are interesting, for, as you will see, they have their roots in something very peculiar here. In China, for instance, our missionaries — those of the Protestant persuasion, at least — work with the government there just as closely as do the corporations that have their origin in this land. And with the corporations there also. And are frequently as much the emissaries of American trade as of religion, and even more so. For whereas formerly the missionaries used to go to convey a spiritual message, to-day at least one very important phase of their purpose is to effect as well as share material or economic “blessings” for the natives, such blessings, for instance, as our ‘Very material corporations manufacture and seek to distribute as widely as possible; bathtubs, sewing machines, electric lights, or, refrigerators, or in other words, anything and everything that our modern corporations make. In other words again, “Make ’em modern!” That means more business for home corporations, doesn’t it? And I am not talking wildly, for only read, as I have done, the writings of our very up-to-date missionaries of this hour. And furthermore, most missionaries now believe that they should be protected with gunboats — they who supposedly represent that Jesus who taught peace! And to show the growth of our missions, the American Baptist Missionary Union, which was organized in 1846 and had nothing to go On, in 1893 had an income of $485,000. And now ….!
Well, before I go on as to this, though, I want to speak about John D. Rockefeller and his interest in the matter. Rockefeller, as you know, has always shown an extraordinary interest in the Church. He has been the most conspicuous, I am sure, of all our American capitalists who have exalted the Church with material dignity. In fact, in the early eighties it was that Rockefeller became a vice- president of the Baptist Theological Union of Chicago. And his first interest in the University of Chicago, to which he subsequently gave $35,000,000, related to its then proposed Baptist Union Theological Seminary, to which in 1889 he pledged $600,000. This school was to train men for missionary work abroad as well as the ministry here and soon occupied a social, economic and political position which I will discuss.
As I have related in my chapter titled “Is America Dominant?” to which you will come a little later, Rockefeller in the early part of this century had a big kerosene business in China. He was so powerful (wealthy and protected by American tariffs which aided him in his high prices here) that he was able to undersell the Royal Dutch Shell, thus causing it to lose many millions in China, the field which he was invading. But now in connection with this money given to this Chicago Seminary for the training of missionaries, it is significant to note (and I believe I am treating the matter fairly) that probably it was given with a view to material or financial return for Standard Oil. For as he himself wrote: “According as you put something in, the greater will be your dividends of salvation.”
At any rate, as his various public statements show, he well knew the value of religion not only as a sedative in connection with troublesome economic conditions everywhere, but also the great value of missionaries in connection with foreign trade. In fact, I myself have read articles in such papers as the Review of Renews, the Literary Digest, and others indicating how the oil-can followed the missionary. At any rate, Rockefeller started his missionary support by an early gift of $400,000 to this Baptist Missionary Union. Now this organization pivots from ten fields, one in each of the following sections: East China, West China, South China, Japan, Philippines, Burma, Assam, South India, and the Belgian Congo. And in these fields missionaries work from 127 stations and 3,237 out- stations. Conceive what that means to American business and then cogitate Rockefeller’s cleverness and his charity which has won him so many laurels. They operate 6 colleges, 35 theological seminaries, and 2,608 schools. And their equipment includes 3 printing presses. In this connection it may also be stated that the Park Avenue Baptist Church in New York, which Rockefeller supported and finally established as the Riverside Cathedral, is in the Northern Baptist Convention, which has 3,000 missionaries in China, Japan, Philippines, Burma and the Belgian Congo. And certainly in those fields the Standard Oil Company has flourished. But disregarding the import of this seemingly direct connection, whatever the material results, they could not mentally be less harmful than Baptist or other dogma, and is it not plain that what has been said here certainly illustrates the tendency towards the commercialization of church effort previously referred to?
Unfortunately I cannot, in this connection, discuss all denominations. The Methodists, however, have 893,881 in the mission fields (conceive that!) functioning most extensively in China and India. And an army of Catholic missionaries numbering 163,615 strong prey on foreign peoples from their 95 jurisdictions in China, 44 in India and Burma, 14 in Siam and Indo-China, 30 in South Africa, and 33 in South America. In fact, the Catholics claim 6,000,000 members in Asia and 3,500,000 in Africa. Management of these Roman Catholic mission branches is under the Catholic Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. The personnel for this project is trained in 5 universities, 309 seminaries, 1,117 superior schools, and 836 professional schools. Also, the Catholic Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith uses 164 printing shops. Is it any wonder then that the world is being overrun with this Catholic inanity? Or that America, so interested in trade from whatever source, should aid in the great work?
Now in this connection, it may be explained that universality has always been the goal of the Roman Catholic Church, whose missionaries have always begun where imperialistic armies left off. And while it is true that there are millions of non-Christians in many countries unexploited by capitalism, still where money is invested, it is always noticeable that the missionaries turn. And there are 500 American corporations in China. Yet when the missionaries come, Catholic or other, it is supposedly to claim a land for Christ. But in the light of the Rockefeller view of it, the capitalistic patronizing of the Chinese movement as a whole is quite explicable. And so, no wonder that China has been found such a stirring field for a new kind of missionary enthusiasm! In America, however, owing to the number of missionaries that issue therefrom, it might reasonably be considered to be Christianized and hence a pleasant place.
But now for a change consider the attitude of the Church toward the economic and social ills of the individual at this time. His unemployment, his abuse when he is employed, the immense class and individual injustices, which go unscathed save for wild words here and there, by the immense organizations which set themselves up as not only the teachers but the practicers of the teachings of Christ! You have seen (since I have shown where and how) the Negro disfranchised and burned in the South and rarely wanted in any white church. Also the capital and labor wars in which the minor individual has during decades past, and more so now than ever, been denounced, underpaid, starved and beaten, the while the Church in all its phases and under whatsoever sectarian banners it marches has stood by and done nothing, studied neither the economics, the sociology nor the government of the all too real world in which these laborers are compelled to live, nor how and why they are so compelled to live. Not the Church! For it is not the poor who build the magnificent church edifices of this day or pay the largest salaries, though as usual the Church, whenever it approaches the little man, and regardless of his inability to pay much, does so with a tin cup. More, when be comes to the church for anything, if he comes at all, he pays, and plenty! So much for a marriage, so many dollars; so much for a baptism; so much for a funeral service; so much for a mass or special prayers; so much for a plot in a carefully conducted — financially speaking-religious graveyard; so much for a bed in a charity hospital; so much for a bed in a home for the aged, or no bed; so much for the poor-box; so much for the “shrine of the little flower”; so much for his children’s education in a sectarian school; so much for membership in the “Catholic Boy Scouts”; so much for the favor of any saint in the immense and entire roster of saints, although disguised as an offering! And tickets, tickets, tickets, for this, that, and the other, and which the faithful must invariably buy! But as for help for the faithful in their great struggles, well, that is, in the main, the business of the general public, non-Catholic as well as Catholic, is it not? Or the State? Or the Government? Yet all of whom in their turn do as little as possible, or, in other words, pass the buck!
Yet when it comes to rounding up the faithful or “selling” the idea of religion to the masses regardless of its benefits, note the new and quite up-to-date, also corporate, methods of handling this great problem. It is none other than our old and effective friend propaganda, vitalized by the use of money for publicity and directed by the best of our American publicity agents who cook up the same “hot dope” on the churches as do the professionals laboring for the great railroad and manufacturing systems in this country. These publicity agents, as things go now, take any sermon anywhere and, regardless of its dullness and inanity, proceed to give it a snappy head and lead, whereupon it is sent to the local or metropolitan newspapers. Thus, Edward L. Wertheim, one of New York’s well-known religious publicity agents (the Church must have them as well as the circus!) rewrites news for the Greater New York federation of Churches, the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, Calvary Church, Grace Episcopal Church, Manhattan Congregational Church, etc. The H.S. Howland Advertising Agency publicizes for the Church of the Intercession; Walter Irving Clark, of Philadelphia, manages publicity for the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America; Herbert D. Rugg is editorial secretary of the National Council of Congregational Churches; Dr. Steele reports and propagandizes for the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, etc.
These publicity experts write feature stories which must bring wide popularity and acclaim to the ministers represented, or there will be no publicity agent or at least no pay for his work. For as in other practical fields, his labors must bring results. Yet contemplate this in connection with the mental refinement and method of Jesus, who said: “Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” Many churches or groups of churches now employ such “go getter” publicity agents. Some of them, unfortunately, are trained according to the standards of New York’s second-rate newspapers, so that to-day editors are not infrequently in receipt of word that the sermon the following Sunday in this or that big church is to be so striking (and it is given a shocking but meaningless title to arrest popular interest) that a special reporter is sought by the church to cover it.
But the church brings its moral significance to bear just how? I do not see how any one can do otherwise than indict the various organizations carrying on the following petty and foolish regulation campaigns when the world is so full of such severe psychologic as well as economic ills as have here in this volume been shown. Contemplate, for instance, the platform of the Lord’s Day Alliance Movement in America, drawn as it has been and fought for by Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Episcopalians, etc. By disseminating endless syndicated stories and sponsoring bills to the end that a thoroughly “blue Sunday” may be universal, it seeks to prohibit the following on Sunday: concerts, plays, movies, debates, skating, dancing, rail and water excursions, baseball (even amateur), garage repairing, and all entertainment, as well as the sale of candy, delicatessen merchandise, etc. But considering the real ills of the world, and those of America in particular — the state of the little man here — what an annoying and profitless interference with private life! You are to be good or religious whether you want to be or not! But such petty ways of being good — sitting idle and folding your hands! And this backed up by the Lord’s Day Alliance speakers all over the country! Indeed, the business of bawling “Sin!” in connection with nearly every amiable interest, recreation, or weakness of the living men and women of the world is typical of almost every phase of our present-day American religions. And the result has been to make it all so shallow and hollow as to suggest — and that presently and without external interference or opposition of any kind — a complete and final internal collapse.
But to consider further for a moment this business of this Lord’s Day Alliance in making America better, religiously at least. For one thing, merchants doing business on Sunday were recently arrested in New Jersey. South Carolina arrests Sunday golfers, etc. You cannot buy gasoline on a Sunday morning in Georgia, nor go anywhere in your shirtsleeves. So it is with this minute dictation of personal life by all church factions. Rules are handed out to be followed to the letter, whether they are for the betterment of the individual or not, and frequently backed up by the argument that they are divine law — an argument carrying no more weight than any other idea or interpretation of life by any earthly being. Thus, the Roman Catholic Church widely denounces birth control as against divine law. Well, in one sense one can understand this when one remembers its great need of the child from whatsoever source in order to turn it, before six or at least by twelve years of age, into a Catholic. But why the rest of America or any other government should decry something so temperamentally and economically valuable as this to human beings at this time is more than I can understand. Certainly those held closest to this anti- birth-control position are among the most degraded representatives of society to-day, the poorest and most unfit.
True, some Protestant denominations state that they favor birth control, but they beleaguer its use with so many reservations as to make it taboo to all save the diseased and poverty stricken.
And yet consider, if you will, some of the problems to which the American Church, if it would (had the heart, brains, initiative) could turn. There is child labor. And humanly the Church might battle against that! But does it? Or there are the thousands of men and women who are compelled by the New York subways and elevated roads, the bus lines, railroads, etc., to work eight, ten and twelve hours on Sundays. And to work in addition seven days a week. Couldn’t the churches and the Lord’s Day Alliance do something about that, especially since by so doing they would give work to so many of the present-day unemployed and prevent them from desecrating the Sabbath by so working? And will it? Well, wait and see! More, there is unemployment insurance. And what does the Church do about that? Or old age pensions? Or our inhuman prison conditions? Or peonage in the South? Or forced and inhuman labor anywhere? Pah!
But the churches do not — and more, cannot — so wisely or tenderly act, because it is against the Interests of the capitalists, and the capitalists, being the opulent subscribers to the Church, cannot be repelled by having the Church go against them. Who does not know that? Thus, our capitalists, or our corporations or both, and all such so minded, control the Church in America to-day. Yet in order to keep the minds of churchgoers off the essential truth of this, the priests and ministers and all of their sinister, if silly, organizations and societies are busy over “issues” and “doing good,” all of which are not good at all. In short, the congregations of the various sects, as well as the under dog of any or no sect, are to be kept ignorant in order that they may be dominated.
More, I decry the ignorance of American ministers who so viciously direct millions of lives and whose seminary-filtered knowledge has absolutely nothing to do with the reality of to-day. And in this connection, consider, if you will, the silly, unspiritual emanations of our great pulpits, and at this time. The sawdust or confetti sprinkled upon our assembled American dunces! “Getting over the Blues”; “Being a Good Sport”; Seeing it Through”; “You Can!” — fitting themes for individuals hired to make bad times seem good times, or the unbearable ills of mankind bearable, but hardly laudable from a pulpit voicing the communism of Christ! And these from some of our best pulpits the land over! The trouble is that neither science, politics, economics, sociology, history, taxation, government are truly, if at all, taught these creatures who are later to lead the masses to Christ. They would prove too disarming. Nor does it help that three out of every eight ministers in eighteen white denominations and more than three out of every four ministers in the three largest Negro religious organizations; that is, forty-one per cent of, the Protestant ministers and 6.6 per cent of Catholic priests, and one minister out of five in the cities and one out of two in the country, are not graduated from any college or seminary. For even so, before they enter upon any sectarian church, must they not be adherents of that faith and talk whatever “revealed” nonsense is ordained by said faith? And should they talk otherwise, is not the corporation-financed American world certain to blacklist, denounce and pursue them? The absence of any minister or priest of any standing uttering a single worthwhile economic thought in connection with the present immense social crisis should tell the story, should it not? Either they have not the brains or they have no conscience!
But to return to Church mentality, to say nothing of liberality in any sense. Thus, so great a conference as that of Lambeth in the Anglican Communion in 1930, and one lauded at the time as being liberal and even radical and thus marking a turning point in church history, busied itself with such folderol as denouncing divorce and proclaiming that “Sex is holy, and therefore the relations of man and wife are holy,” and added that “Trial marriage destroys the reverence and discipline for both body and mind on which the happiness of married life so signally depends.” Also, birth control was given quite a setback by a statement that desire for children should govern sexual intercourse. And such little rules and narrow dicta as: the Protestant Episcopal minister can marry divorcees only by civil ceremony; the Catholics cannot marry them at all; and more, a civil marriage, to that organization, is neither legal nor binding. In other words, it is not that Church that owes allegiance to any State but rather every State owes allegiance to that faith, and is looked upon in that light by that faith; i.e., as a subject state, to be led and guided by that wholly political organization which has now dominated the minds of the masses to their confusion and ill for nearly two thousand years!
Yet with all this quite fantastic lack of mental understanding, and with all its irritating and at times devastating potency of numbers, the Church plunges headlong into politics and economics. For instance, the National Catholic Welfare Conference in America, endorsed by the Pope, functions exactly as any other lobby, although the Catholics will not admit that it is a lobby. This lobby seeks to and does influence education, immigration, marriage, divorce, eugenics, censorship, what should or should not go through the United States mails, control and sterilization of the incompetent, etc. More, it has several methods of leverage. Firstly, in so far as it can without treading on the ground of stronger powers, it sees that laws governing these restrictions are not violated. Next, it furnishes all manner of aid to the Roman Catholic broadcasting stations, which work night and day in its noble behalf. Lastly, the “Catholic Conference” also has a news organization which sends “canned” editorials to the Catholic papers all over America, and likewise news items under the supervision of a former Hearst newspaperman.
And the quite terrorized awe with which Americans of all walks of life and belief or non-belief touch upon anything relating to the Catholic Church! Its rumored power and machinations, and the definite reality of the same! While other countries — Spain, Mexico, Italy, France — retain the courage to denounce and even regulate the Roman Catholic Church (in 1915 a separation agreement was drawn up between the Roman Catholic Church and the Government of Chile; Mussolini in Rome is dosing Catholic clubs and playgrounds and dissolving the Catholic Action, etc., etc.) America stands in either ridiculous fear or reverence. Whisper … no one must say anything about it here! That is the attitude. No one dare even justly attack its policies or their meaning, or its mental and social effrontery. Is it overawing in politics? Silence! Is it working secretly in the American labor unions to control labor? Silence! Is it doing its best to undermine the mental freedom of the American school? Silence! Beware! No one dare say a word, for if one does, the Church will pursue that person and do him up! Imagine! Consider only the whispering campaign against Al Smith, nominee of Tammany Hall and the Catholic Church for the Presidency of the United States in 1928! Did any one dare say openly he was just that, or that once in office he might favor those wretchedly practical and wholly power-seeking organizations? Hush, hush! Attack Catholicism? Silence! Vote but don’t talk! It’s too powerful! It’ll do you harm! And so, Al Smith defeated, but by an enormous silent vote. And to this hour, whisper, whisper, or silence! But just why, in this connection, have the American people lost their courage to say out loud what they think? Are we so weak, so characterless, or socially meaningless, that we dare not discuss with this Church what its policies, and more, its political and social intentions, are? And since when?)
The Lord’s Day Alliance which, as I have said, is an interdenominational organization, keeps lobbyists in legislatures all over the country, trying to get this, that and the other inane law passed. Numerically, if not mentally, weighty, and the ballot being a weapon which it can use, a group like this is able to and does at times bear down on the helpless individual quite as does a trust. As an example of the bills sponsored by it, I offer the New York State Jenks Bill, outlawing Sunday baseball (including even playing “catch”) before 2 p.m. More, this Lord’s Day Alliance lobby defeats on an average of forty State bills per year. Recently their lobbyists in New Jersey defeated thirty-nine commercial bills which they believed would interfere with Sunday reverence. Yet it is this form of visionless and trivial pettiness which makes of America the asinine, nonintellectual specimen that it is to-day.
But now for the Methodist Board of Temperance, Prohibition and Morals. The wealth of this particular institution may indicate something of the means at its command to carry out its propaganda. To begin with, it is housed in a luxurious building of marble and limestone very near the Government buildings in Washington. More, here fine apartments are rented to senators and representatives — perhaps of the right persuasion. Next, this Board was created and is now dominated by one Dr. Wilson, formerly a soap-box and platform orator on local option in the Northwest. Wilson got himself into the good graces of the Methodists, and later headed their simple little society out in Topeka, Kansas. Within a short time thereafter, though, he had reached the above described proportions. And to his organization and its buildings now come subscriptions from all over the country and from all sources, financial as well as religious, It has even been charged that its subscribers include not only our corporations anxious to take the minds of voters off the trust movement and government ownership issues, but also bootleggers who, finding that this war against liquor serves them in their trade and its profits, are ready also to contribute. I include the idea for what it is worth. Certain it is, though, and as any one with half an eye can see, that if those who are of influence in America to-day really wanted Prohibition as a benefit to the people, it would be enforced. But is it? Our futile churches talk and collect money, but in New York City alone are thousands of speakeasies, and the number for the United States must be colossal. Yet to what political dimensions has the above organization reached! It functions, and there is liquor for everybody!
Yet the following other church organizations have also fought for Prohibition, and collected money so to do; the Southern Methodists, under Bishop Cannon; the Presbyterians, the Disciples, and semiofficial, the Catholic Father Matthew Society and the Association of Catholics. The Methodist Board of Temperance, Prohibition and Morals sends out about 2,000,000 columns of news annually. Its platform includes compulsory teaching of the Bible in public schools, uniform marriage and divorce laws (I suppose all to be as stiff as New York State’s); no cartoons, jokes or songs that are immodest, and in this category, according to their avowed principles, goes European art; no professional or collegiate boxing, no tobacco, etc.
In sum, in America as elsewhere, the Church — speaking of all sects and creeds as one — has consistently expounded views calculated to make the underdog content with his wretched lot, and in all crises which have meant hunger, abuse, and even death, as in our great labor wars, has left him to do as best he may. More, the Church, and particularly the Roman Catholic Church, is more concerned with a system of sins, confessions, judgment, punishment and rewards relating to the hereafter than it is with the world of to-day, its economics, polities, sociology and government; that is, in any honest or helpful way. More, it leaves, as it always has, the underdog to suffer as he may here, the while it seeks to turn his eye on supposed grace hereafter. So true is this that from an American Federation of Labor symposium on religion, influenced, of course, by the current religious attitude of Americans and their churches in general, I gather that its chief philosophy is that the poor should help the poor, since the rich will not, neither their trusts, banks nor government, and that in doing so they will bring about a Christlike contentment, if not better wages. And more than that, questioning a religionist voicing such views on a street corner a few years ago, I found from his own confession that he was then and there being paid by a certain religious organization to preach such views. But who was financing the religious organization? I have often since wondered!
But to further illustrate what I mean, let me add that when four strikers were shot down by sheriffs and their deputies (maybe private police) during the recent great textile strike in North Carolina, James Myers, industrial secretary of the Federal Council of Churches, down there to help the workers, was invited to make the funeral address. As usual with our present-hour religionists, who if not consciously are still subconsciously corporation-minded, he made this his opportunity to advise strikers, who were out against indecent conditions, to fight no longer and choose the way of love! Not only that, but I personally can name scores of cases where ministers have refused to do anything for strikers, or where ministers who have aided strikers have been attacked by capitalistic representatives.
Yet the Church goes in for politics in a big way in legislative elections for Congress and State assemblies. Religious participation in economic issues pervades all political life. Many of the great denominations have economic research bureaus which outline reforms. The following sweeping issues have been made their business: support of the World Court, the League of Nations, lower tariffs, reduction of armaments, regulation of school curricula, subversion of the Monroe Doctrine, etc. Our churches have also meddled in Government investigations, sought to have Japanese admitted to this country, and have asked pardon for convicts, etc. And in 1926, under the leadership of ex-Ambassador Gerard, Bishop Manning had ten Episcopal bishops protest the United States proposed Treaty of Lausanne with Turkey, because Turkey was non- Christian. Yet the beneficiaries of this action, if you please, were British oil interests!
And more, economic as well as spiritual pronouncements are alike heightened by a supposedly divine authority. The claim of the Roman Catholic Church is that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ and the Vice-Regent of God over men under divine authority. And accordingly, everything possible is done, even to this day, to make this seem true. Will some one kindly page Mr. Einstein or Charles Darwin? Indeed, Pope Leo XIII, in his Encyclicals published in New York in 1903, stated: “… over this mighty multitude God has placed rulers” (the Roman Catholic bishops) “with power to govern, and He has willed that one of them should be the head of all.” The Catholics, likewise, are great on show and mystery, honoring men by making them “Knights of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre in the United States,” “Officers of the Militia of Christ,” and this and that!
But all too often, this religious interference in economic issues takes the form of being in no true sense leadership but merely the making of excuses for capitalistic actions. Thus, the Committee on the War and Religious Outlook merely excused the war, because obviously denunciation of the same as unchristian would have been opposed to the sentiments of their great material patrons. In amelioration of their peculiar attitude, they added that one set of standards existed for the State and another for the individual. This was the verdict of a committee of professors and ministers, which under the chairmanship of the Very Reverend Harry Emerson Fosdick sat to pronounce on this matter in 1914.
And of course, and long since (always, in fact, I judge), politicians enlisted the spell and domination of the Church as a means of finding favor with the people. By this method, and under the leadership of President Harding and Secretary Hughes, the Washington Treaties relating to the Great War became very popular. And S. Parkes Cadmiln, a very popular if not any too well-informed, and maybe (I do not know) too sincere, Englishman functioning as a minister in the United States, has expressed the highly ideal economic view (an epitome of that of hundreds of ministers in America and elsewhere to-day, I think) that the Golden Rule is at this hour in practice because millionaires give to charity! Well, that makes this dear United States of ours a Utopia, doesn’t it? And this book a joke! Just the same, though, if at another time this same Cadman had called the Communistic theory of Marx a very powerful economic analysis — which he did — how would he reconcile our present corporate economic state with that or with the Golden Rule? And if he could not, should not that cost him his present American religious prestige? I hope so!
P.S. I have tried here, by facts, to show the subtle relation of money and economic policy to religion and capital, also that capital has changed religion into a far different thing from the teachings of Jesus Christ. In conclusion now I offer the conviction that in due time this particular alliance of Church and capital is quite certain to result in the downfall of religion in its present secretarian and dogmatic form. And, may I add, good riddance!