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On January 18, 1919, it was privately stated in New York that the latest phase of the so-called "Laymen's Movement" was an agreement reached that morning to concentrate the resources of the organization upon an "InterChurch Survey." Imagination at once suggested that "the business man's point of view" will doubtless penetrate into phases of contemporary life in a way which will alter the relations of light and shadow in the usual religious surveys of the world. For some time the present writer had been asking himself what modifications he would make in the direction of religious effort if it were within his power to determine the policies of American churches for the next generation. He had been jotting down a record of his reflections in attempting to frame an answer to that question. The result is not an academic man's discussion of merely abstract theory. It is a faithful reflection of an academic man's attempt to get his bearings within present obscurities which are not academic. In the writer's judgment, the most serious question which religious men can ask today is, What may and should religion mean to the world in the immediate future? The memoranda which follow, in the form of an open letter, are faithful transcripts from the writer's notes while he was trying to clarify his own judgment, first, about the most Christian course that can be advised in general, and, second, with respect to that particular factor of the religious problem which, if the past is an index of probabilities, is least likely to receive adequate attention from organized Christianity. The contents of the letter will sufficiently indicate the writer's further conviction that the faulty sense of proportion thus in evidence in the history of Christianity

accounts in large measure for the margin between what religion actually does count for, and what by essential fitness it should count for, in the present generation.


It makes no difference what our private opinions are about class conflicts. It would be incautious to doubt that the world is to have more of them before it has fewer, and that the United States will be no exception to this rule.

It makes no difference what our private opinions are about Bolshevikism. Decent prudence dictates that each country in the world should be prepared to cope with it. In every western country there are certain symptoms of and certain materials for the same outbreak of one class against all others.

There are men of wide acquaintance throughout the world, men who think themselves competent to compare conditions elsewhere with those in the United States, who declare that Americans are living upon a slumbering volcano; that not merely something distantly like Bolshevikism, but Bolshevikism itself, with all its extravagance of theory, with all its intolerance, with all its brutal ruthlessness, is to run its course in this country not less than in each country of Europe. These men declare that we are not to have the privilege of learning how wide are the differences between social classes today by assisting as mere spectators at a tragedy staged in Russia; on the contrary they assert that, along with Western Europe, North America must pass through a bloody convulsion before civilization can make its final reckoning with this latest type of assault upon its ideals and its achievements.

For the purposes of this letter it is not necessary to become prophetic, one way or the other, about this particular prognosis. It would amount to dilatory tactics if we should allow ourselves, without more facts than are now available, to be drawn into a discussion of the probability of this forecast. It would retard more than it would advance my main purpose if I should digress into an examination of the likenesses and unlikenesses between Bolshevikism and those types of class protest which have been recognized factors in our American situation for more than a generation. Certain things may be assumed as matters of common knowledge, and they justify

appeal to certain considerations which the facts urge with extraordinary force.

In the first place, it is notorious that all over the world, in proportion as industry has passed from the type which we may call one-man enterprise to the type which may be called mass enterprise, class distinctions have come into the open between those who have nothing but their current earnings and those who control in their own legal right land or capital, or both. In the United States few people began to be aware of this particular class cleavage until after the Civil War. Since that time it has grown more and more real and evident, yet we Americans are still trying to ignore its existence. One of our American peculiarities is our illusion that the word "democracy" in our talk guarantees democracy in our lives.

Everyone who has given fairly mature thought to the facts knows, further, that the class distinctions which the words "labor" and "capital" draw are not precise. There is a no-man's-land between members of the two classes. In this zone are people who in the main fall under the one description, while their decisive interests group them with the class indicated by the other description. Thus, on the one hand, the interests and the sympathies of certain small proprietors carry them for practical purposes into the class known in Europe as the proletariat, while many men of the professional and employee types, who would often have difficulty in putting up collateral enough to get a small loan at a bank, are committed by their bread-and-butter interests to solidarity with the capitalist class.

It is common knowledge, too, among people who pry into these things, that this latter fact has been an efficient stabilizer of our social conditions. The people in this intermediate zone have actually served as effective social shock absorbers. Because of them the differences which definitions make out between the capitalist and the non-capitalist groups have been less absolute in practice.

It is well known, again, among both theoretical and practical students of the subject, that from the beginning of actual stratification between the capitalist and the non-capitalist types, and

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