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Problems of Humanity - Chapter V - The Problem of the Churches
Will the organized religions and the churches throughout the world recognize the opportunity and respond to the appeal of Christ and to the spiritual demand of countless millions? Or will they work for organizations and the churches? Will the institutional aspect of the world religions loom more largely in the consciousness of churchmen than the need of the people for a simple presentation of life-giving truth? Will the interest and the power of the churches be turned to the rebuilding of the material structures, the re-establishing of financial security, the recovery of the status of outgrown theologies and the attainment anew of temporal power and prestige? Or will the churches have the vision and the courage to let the bad old ways go and turn to the people with the message that God is Love, proving the existence of that love by their own lives of simple loving service? Will they tell the people that Christ forever lives and bid them turn their eyes away from the old doctrines of death and blood and divine appeasement and center them upon the Source of all life and upon the living Christ Who waits to pour out [137] upon them that "life more abundantly" for which they have so long waited and which He promised should be theirs? Will they teach that the destruction of the old forms was needed and that their disappearance is the guarantee that a new and fuller unlimited spiritual life is now possible? Will they remind the people that Christ Himself said that it is not possible to put new wine into old bottles? Will the potentates of the churches and the proud ecclesiastics relinquish publicly their wrong and material aims, their money and their palaces and "sell all that they have" and follow Christ on the path of service? Or will they - like the rich young man in the Gospel story - turn sadly away? Will they spend the available money in alleviating pain as Christ did, teaching the children the things of the kingdom of God as Christ did, and setting an example of simple faith, confident joy and assured knowledge of God as Christ did? Can churchmen of all faiths in both hemispheres attain that inner spiritual light which will make them light bearers and which will evoke that greater light which the new and anticipated revelation will surely bring? Can the materialism for which the churches have stood and the failures of their representatives to teach the people aright be swept away? These were the things which were responsible for the world war (1914-1945). There could have been no war if greed, hate and separativeness had not been rampant upon the earth and in the hearts of men; these disastrous faults were there because the spiritual values had no place in the life of the people and this was due to the fact that for centuries they have had small place in the life of the churches. The responsibility rests squarely upon the churches.

These are the questions with which the organized churches are confronted. Within the churches today there are men responding to the new spiritual idealism, [138] to the urgency of the opportunity and to the need for change. But the opportunity is controlled by reactionary minds. The movements towards the reorganization of the churches which are now proceeding all over the world still remain in the hands of the church dignitaries and synods and conclaves. The plans internationally being formed at this time would indicate that the authority is still vested in the wrong people.

There is no indication on any large scale within the churches of a basic change of attitude towards theological teaching or church government. There is no indication that the great Oriental religions are taking an active lead in producing a new and better world. And still humanity waits. Humanity wants above all else assurance that God Is and that there is a divine Plan - a Plan which fits into the scheme of things and which holds within it both hope and strength. Men want the conviction that Christ lives; that the Coming One - for Whom all men wait - will come and that He will not be Christian, Hindu or Buddhist but will belong to all men everywhere. Men want to be assured that a great spiritual revelation is due and cannot be arrested and that there lies ahead of them a spiritual future as well as a material one. It is with this demand and this opportunity that the churches are faced.

What is the solution of this intricate and difficult relationship throughout the world? A new presentation of truth, because God is not a fundamentalist; a new approach to divinity, because God is ever accessible and requires no outer intermediaries today; a new mode of interpreting the ancient spiritual teaching, because man has evolved and what was suitable for infant humanity is today unsuitable for adult mankind. These are imperative changes.

Nothing can prevent the new world religion from eventually emerging. It always has down the ages and [139] it always will. There is no finality in the presentation of truth; it develops and grows to meet man's growing demand for light. It will be implemented and developed by the spiritually minded in all churches, whose minds are open to the new inspirations of God's Mind, who are liberal and kind and whose individual lives are pure and aspiring. It will be hindered by the fundamentalists, the narrow-minded and the theologians in all the world religions, by those who refuse to let go the old interpretations and methods, who love the old doctrines and men's thoughts about them, and by those who lay the emphasis upon forms, upon rites and ceremonies, upon ritual and pomp, on authority and the building of stone edifices in these days of man's extremity, his starvation and his need.

The Roman Catholic Church here faces her greatest opportunity and also her greatest crisis. Catholicism is founded in ancient tradition, is assertive of ecclesiastical authority, is responsive to outer forms and rituals and - in spite of a wide and beneficent philanthropy - is quite unable to leave her children free. If the Catholic Church can change her techniques, can relinquish authority over the souls of men (which she has never truly had) and can really follow the way of the Savior, of the humble Carpenter of Nazareth, she can render a world service and set an example which will serve to enlighten the followers of every faith and of every branch of Christianity.

The problem of the freedom of the human soul and its individual relation to God Immanent and God Transcendent is the spiritual problem, facing all the world religions at this time. No longer must the churches interpose their authority and their interpretations between God and man. The time for that is past. This problem has been slowly shaping up for centuries, developing with the growth of the human intellect and [140] the self-consciousness of the human being and it is one which now cries aloud for solution.

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