Clergymen: Commanders-in-Chief or Tolerated Chaplains?
A KEEN assessment of current American life was presented in “Unnoticed Changes in America,” an article by D. W. Brogan in the February issue of Harper’s magazine. Mr. Brogan, a professor of political science at Cambridge University and author of a half-dozen books about America, said regarding the current religious trend: “There has been a revival of religion, but that ambiguous term does not imply a revival of the sense of sin.”
He explained further: “The average man is ready to listen to the professional religious teacher. And this brings me to the center of the religious problem. What are these teachers saying? It is surely surprising, even in so pragmatic a country as the United States, that the question is so seldom raised: Is what these teachers are saying true? If it be said that, of course, it is true, one is forced to reflect on the fact that the denominations often affirm contradictory things.”
He continues: “A great deal of the present ‘religious revival’ is, so it appears to me, political in a very wide sense, where it is not the result of a shocked fear of the world in which we all—agnostics and ‘believers’—have to live. There is a marked identification of ‘religion’ with ‘Americanism,’ which in turn seems so often to mean ‘the free enterprise system.’
“What are the theological implications of the recent insertion of ‘Under God’ in the pledge of allegiance to the flag? Partly, no doubt, it is a meaningless evocative phrase, borrowed from the Gettysburg address. Partly it is the deliberate association of God with ‘the American Way of Life.’ How often has it the meaning Lincoln gave it, the submission of the American way of life to the judgment—to the possible condemnation—of the all-judging and harsh God of the Second Inaugural? Very seldom, is my guess.”
The conclusion: “The belief in God bred by fear in foxholes is not what the United States needs; something tougher, more firmly based on belief in a divine plan for human destiny, will be required—and in great amounts—if the churches are to be leaders not auxiliaries, commanders-in-chief not mere tolerated chaplains.”