The Ideal is only Truth at a distance.—LAMARTINE.
It is curious, if Christianity is from heaven, that it exercises so little power in the affairs of the human race.
Far from exercising power of any noticeable degree, it now ceases to be even attractive. The successors of St. Paul are not shaping world policy at Washington; they are organising whist-drives and opening bazaars. The average clergyman, I am afraid, is regarded in these days as something of a bore, a wet-blanket even at tea-parties.
Something is wrong with the Church. It is impious to think that heaven interposed in the affairs of humanity to produce that ridiculous mouse, the modern curate. No teacher in the history of the world ever occupied a lower place in the respect of men. So deep is the pit into which the modern minister has fallen that no one attempts to get him out. He is abandoned by the world. He figures with the starving children of Russia in appeals to the charitable an object of pity. The hungry sheep look up and are not fed, but the shepherd also looks up from his pit of poverty and neglect, as hungry as the sheep, hungry for the bare necessities of animal life.
This is surely a tragic position for a preacher of good news, and a teacher sent from God.
If the Christian would know how far his Church has fallen from power, let him reflect that, even after the sorrow and desolation of a world conflict, there is no atmosphere in Europe rendering the savagery of submarine warfare unthinkable—utterly unthinkable to the conscience of mankind.
Mr. Balfour and Lord Lee make a proposal to end this devilish warfare; the French oppose; newspapers open a crusade, here against France, there against Great Britain; the vital interests of humanity are at stake; the door will either be opened to disarmament or closed against peace for another fifty years; and Christ is silent—the Church does not lift even three fingers to bless the cause of peace.
Why is the Church so powerless? Why is it she has so fatally lost the attention of mankind?
Is it not because she has nothing to give, nothing to teach? Morals are older than Christianity, and sacramental religions as well. Men feel that they cannot understand the immense paraphernalia of religion and its unnatural atmosphere of high mystery; it is so tremendous a fuss about so very small a result. If God is in the Church, why doesn’t He do more for it, and so more for the world? The revenues of religion are still enormous. What do they accomplish?
Men who think in this way are not enemies of religion, any more than the Jews who came to Jesus were enemies of Judaism. They deserve the respect of the Church. Indeed, it is in finding an answer to their challenge that the Church is most likely to find a solution to her own problem. But that answer will never be found if the Church seeks for it only in her documents. There is another place in which she must look for the truth of Christ, a truth as completely overlooked by the modernist as by the traditionalist: it is in the movements of the soul, in the world of living men.