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them of it barely enough to keep body and soul together and to raise up
children who are doomed to follow in their footsteps; and then, when the
strength of their victim fails, to make amends for the robberies, by
giving the most highly favored among them beds in hospitals, poor-houses
in which to die prematurely, and nameless graves in potter's fields in
which to await hopefully a resurrection and ascension to an inheritance
of happiness in a sky, which was denied them on the earth.

The time is at hand when everywhere the unemployed and the underpaid
shall begin a resistless march towards the goal of economic levelism
under a banner containing this slogan: We want no charity but the right
to work and the fruits of our labors that we and our helpless dependents
may have every necessity to the fullest life for body and soul.

During more than a whole generation Mrs. Brown and I have not produced a
spoonful of any food, a thread of any garment or a shingle of any house;
and yet we have had foods, garments and houses in abundance with some to
spare, while their producers have had them in scarcity with much to
want.

While the world war was on, an ill wind for the producers blew a
thousand dollars to us and an ill wind for us blew it into the hands of
a committee, ostensibly for investment on behalf of a hospital of which
we approved, but really for the purchase of a bond in the interest of a
war of which we disapproved.

The fathers of the present generation of producers and distributors of
the necessities of life were robbed in order that we might inherit the
property from which our income is derived; the sons and daughters are
being robbed over and over again and again, year after year, in order
that the property may continue to yield this income to us.

We therefore paid nothing of our own for this bond. What we gave for it
was of the spoils which the great robber, capitalism, has bestowed upon
us, its favorite children, from what it has taken from its unfortunate
victims.

The same persons or their children and successors were or shall be
robbed first to create our property, then to pay the income of it, next
to buy the bond, and now they are being robbed to meet the interest on
it and finally they will be robbed to pay its face value. If capitalism
stands, of course the victims of the last of these robberies will
belong, probably, to a remote generation; but this delay is a misfortune
in store for many of all intervening generations.

If the robbery connected with this bond were limited to its original
cost, one thousand dollars, and to its accruing interest, which is
likely in time to aggregate several thousand dollars, it would indeed
be bad enough, yet not nearly as much so as it is under the melancholy
circumstances; for the money paid on account of the bond goes towards
killing or wrecking its producers, if not those who produced this
particular thousand dollars, yet others of their class to whom the world
owes all of its wealth; therefore the thousand dollars which went into
this bond has been devoted to the robbery of those who were robbed of it
and of the most precious of all things: life and limb.

You will ask: how can you and Mrs Brown, in the face of your theory,
according to which all who live by owning are robbers of those who live
by working, consistently receive and expend the income of your
inheritance?

The answer was given to a friend who asked us why we did not follow the
heroic example of a young American who had recently renounced what had
been inherited by him, and this is, in effect, what we said:

As we look at the question, our course is more rational than his,
because the wealth which he renounces may go to some one who is without
his sympathy for the proletariat. We prefer to receive our inheritance
and use it to overthrow the economic system which makes it possible for
us to do nothing and have everything, and for those who do everything to
have nothing.

Capitalists, as such, people who live by the owning of the machines of
production and distribution, instead of by the making and operating of
them, have much to say against the alleged anarchism of socialists and
yet they are necessarily what they accuse anarchism of being, robbers
and murderers. Every cent of profit, interest and rent is so much
robbing, and all wars are so many conflicts between the capitalistic
bandits or robbers in the countries involved, and the peace conferences,
which follow them, are so many attempts of the bandits on the successful
side to have the spoils as large as possible, and to satisfactorily
divide them.

It is Holy Week 1921. The week in which during all the years of many and
long ages benighted people sacrificed their Christs to Shylock gods. If
Jesus lived and was a Christ, unhappily He was neither the first nor the
last, for there were many both before and after Him. Were they who
superstitiously led these victims to their Golgothas greater sinners
against humanity than those who did avariciously during the war drive
large armies of young men to the terrible trenches, a wholesale
sacrifice of the lords of power and wealth and who do now drive the vast
majority of the nations involved in that war to a terrible body and soul
destroying poverty and slavery? No. The modern robbers even more than
the ancient ones are in need of the prayer: Forgive them for they know
not what they do.

Communism and Christianism have, indeed, this in common, that their
object is to promote life, long life, and happy life, both lives in a
large and full measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.

Yet, with this sameness in the gospels of Communism and Christianism
there is this difference in the aims of the christs who preached them,
which separate them as widely as the east is from the west, leaving a
great and impassable gulf between them.

Marx, the christ of the Communist gospel, said: I am come that the
world might have terrestrial life for body, mind and soul, and have it
for each in the fullest of possible measures by co-operation with each
other in the discovery of the laws of nature and in making them serve
men, women and children by securing for them food, clothing, shelter,
health and comfort for the body, and leisure for the mind to think and
for the soul to grow.

Jesus, the christ of the Christian gospel, according to orthodoxy, said:
I am come that ye might have celestial life for mind, body and soul and
have it for each in the largest and fullest possible measure by
co-operation in persuading each other in particular and the world in
general to receive a revelation of the will of a conscious, personal
God, made through prophets, preserved in the bible and interpreted by
the church.

With me it is a melancholy but resistless and deepening conviction,
that, if orthodox Christianism should become associated with Marxian
socialism, as Kingsley and you would associate them, we should soon have
a glaring illustration of the truth of two proverbs: a house divided
against itself cannot stand; and no man can serve two masters.

Moreover, I believe that if Christian socialism were to become a door to
Marxian socialism, through which orthodox Christianism could enter and
make itself at home, the revolutionary aims of the slave class would be
thwarted and the world would enter upon a new dark age, as it did when
Constantine was converted to Christianity and Christians became the most
loyal citizens and valiant soldiers of the Empire.

At that time chattel slavery had run its course as wage slavery has
now; and, if it had not been prolonged by a military despotism, as I
fear this may be, the world would have had something of the feudal
slavery, but nothing of the dark age. This age was the baneful fruit of
Christianism. Christianity has held the world back from civilization
instead of advancing it towards civilization.

The Christianization of Marxian communism, in accordance with the
program of Kingsley and our Church Socialist League, would spell another
military despotism for the prolongation of a second system of slavery,
which has run its course and is in a fair way of being overthrown; but
if the revolutionists fail, as the result of being trampled under the
iron heel, we are at the threshold of a second dark age and shall soon
be passing through all the miseries of it.

My interest in the movement within our church looking towards a
Christian socialism of a more radical and revolutionary type would be
great, if only I could feel as I should so much like, that the Christian
socialism to which you have consecrated the whole prime of your life,
and the Marxian socialism, to which I have consecrated all of the little
that remains of mine, the fag-end, are not utter incompatibilities, so
much so that it is absolutely impossible that they can co-exist and
co-operate to any good purpose.

The irreconcilable incompatibility of Christian socialism and Marxian
socialism is due to the fact that, whereas the Christian is essentially
imperialistic in its character, the Marxian is as essentially
democratic. The reason for this fundamental and ineradicable difference,
and the consequent incompatibleness, is the fact that orthodoxism,
whether Christian, Jewish, Mohammedan or Buddhistic, is nothing unless
it is supernaturalistic and traditional; and Marxism is nothing unless
it is naturalistic and scientific, as much so as is Darwinism.

In order that you may see the reason, as I understand it, for this wide,
deep and bridgeless difference, I draw the following contrasts between
the essential beliefs of Marxian socialists and orthodox Christians:

1. Marxian socialism is essentially naturalistic. Orthodox Christianism
is essentially supernaturalistic. The consistent socialist says: I have
all the potentialities of my own life within myself. The consistent
Christian says: My strength is from God.

2. Marxian socialism is essentially classless. Orthodox Christianism is
essentially a class system by which the world is divided into two
classes, saints and sinners. The consistent socialist says: Every man is
my brother. The consistent Christian (like the theist of every
name - Jew, Mohammedan, Buddhist and the rest) says: Every true believer
is my brother, but those who are not are only potential brethren.

3. Marxian socialism is essentially terrestrial. Orthodox Christianism
is essentially celestial. The consistent socialist says: Earth is my
home. The consistent Christian says: Heaven is my home.

4. Marxian socialism is essentially materialistic. Orthodox Christianism
is essentially spiritualistic. The consistent socialist says: The basic
necessities of life, and therefore its first concern, are foods,
raiments, shelters, comfort and leisure. The consistent Christian says:
Take no primary thought for these, but only for faith in and obedience
to God, regarding all else of secondary importance.

5. Marxian socialism is essentially proletarian. Orthodox Christianism
is essentially bourgeois. The consistent socialist says: I am, by reason
of my antecedents, a man, a woman, a child of nature on an essential
level as to my origin and destiny with every other representative of
humanity and indeed animality. The consistent Christian, like the theist
of every name, says: I am (by reason of my faith, baptism or conversion)
a prince or princess, the son or daughter of a king, God.

6. Marxian socialism is essentially democratic. Orthodox Christianism is
essentially imperialistic. The consistent socialist says: I live with
reference to the will of the majority. The consistent Christian says: I
live with reference to the will of a God.

7. Marxian socialism is essentially pacific.[F] Orthodox Christianism is
essentially belligerent. The consistent socialist says: Since you are a
man, I co-operate with you. The consistent Christian says: Since you
are not a believer, I contend with you.

8. Marxian socialism is essentially non-sectarian. The consistent
socialist says: All the world is my home and the desire and effort to
render service to men, women and children is my religion. The consistent
Christian says: Only Christendom is my home and the desire and effort to
serve a God is my religion.

9. Marxian socialism is, as to the source of knowledge and the means of
attaining it, essentially scientific. Orthodox Christianism is
essentially traditional. The consistent socialist says: The salvation of
the world is dependent upon what is learned by natural experience,
observation and investigation about the doings of a matter-force-law,
nature. The consistent Christian says: This salvation depends upon what
is learned by revelation, tradition and inspiration about the willings
of a father-son-spirit, God.

10. Marxian socialism explains the history of mankind on the
naturalistic theory that it has been determined during every period by
the existing system for supplying the materialistic necessities of life.
Orthodox Christianism explains this history on the supernaturalistic
theory that it is determined by the providential directions of a triune
divinity. The consistent socialist says: If you will tell me of the
economic system by which a people have fed, clothed and housed
themselves, I will tell you, at least in general outline, what has been
their history. The consistent Christian says: If you will tell me what
the providences of my God have been towards a people, I will tell you
their history.

11. Marxian socialism has inscribed on one of its banners: Liberty.
Orthodox Christianism has this inscription on its corresponding banner:
Obedience. The consistent socialist says: This Liberty-banner is the
symbol of my freedom as a son of man to be progressively learning,
living and teaching the unfolding revelations of nature - to know and to
live which is to have life, terrestrial life in an ever increasing
measure, all the life there is here and now or elsewhere and elsewhen,
if there is to be a conscious, personal life anywhere or anywhen else.
The consistent Christian says: This Obedience-banner is a symbol of my
slavery as a son of God by which I am bound to receive, live and teach
the faith once for all delivered to the saints in the Old and New
Testaments or else lose the permanent life in the sky which is to follow
this temporary one on the earth.

12. Marxian socialism has inscribed on another of its banners: Justice
to Man. Orthodox Christianism has on its corresponding banner: Love to
God. The consistent socialist says: It is my aim to do unto others as I
would have them do unto me if our circumstances were reversed. The
consistent Christian says: It is my aim to love God with all my heart,
mind and soul.

And if there be any further contrast between this Christianism and
Socialism, it is briefly comprehended in these three statements, - in
themselves sufficient to show how absolutely impossible it is for a
consistent Jesuine Christian to be a consistent Marxian Socialist:

1. Marx seeks to save by doing away with both the master and slave
classes - Jesus by exalting the slave class above the master class.

2. Marx exhorts the slave class to look to itself for
deliverance - Jesus taught it to look to a God for this.

3. Marx promises salvation for this world here and now, a world about
which everybody knows much - Jesus promised it for another world
elsewhere and elsewhen, a world about which nobody knows anything.

The world has never had a gospel which is at all comparable in its
excellency to that of Marxian Socialism. The gospel of Jesuine
Christianism, according to the orthodox interpretation of it, is no
exception; for, granting it to be superior to the Mosaic, Buddhistic,
Mohammedan and other gospels, it is, nevertheless, almost infinitely
inferior to the Marxian gospel. Gospels are for the purpose of saving
the world from its suffering. The Jesuine and Marxian gospels are alike
in having for their object the salvation of the proletarian world.


V.

About three years ago I discovered that I had spent a long, strenuous
and open-handed ministry in preaching lies to the permanent ruin of my
health and the temporary embarrassment of my purse; therefore I had the
unhappy experience of being forced to see that all this part of my life,
its prime, had been mostly, if not wholly wasted and worse. What was to
be done?

My friends told me as plainly as they could, and some succeeded in
making it brutally plain, that in losing my faith in the
supernaturalistic dogmas of traditional Christianism, as they are
literally interpreted in the doctrinal standards of the orthodox
churches, I had lost the pearl of great price.

My soul told me that I had never possessed this jewel, but that, even
with the little time and enfeebled strength that remained to me, I might
yet find it, if only I should cease looking for it in the field of
supernaturalism, under the direction of divine authority, and begin
looking for it in the field of naturalism, under the direction of human
reason.

Happily, where faith went out courage came in, and it increased with my
desperation until (though standing on the shore of death where the deep
and unknown stream lies darkly between the present and future) I could
and I did undertake the supreme task of my life - the breaking of the
chains by which I was bound as a slave to the degrading superstition
that I was, both by an inherited and cultivated disposition, a doomed
man, and by an inherent weakness, a helpless one with no power to
emancipate myself.

Of such enslaving chains I mention three among the strongest, the
severed parts of which, with those of all the rest, now lie scattered
about me: (1) the chain of the fear of God; (2) the chain of the fear of
the devil, and (3) the chain of the fear of man.

Hitherto I had been a child, thinking as a child, understanding as a
child and speaking as a child.

Henceforth I was to be a man, the greatest, conscious, personal being
who has anything to do with this world; and as a man, I put away the
things of a child, especially the most childish of all things, fear, the
fear of God, the fear of devil and the fear of man.

Preachers of the supernaturalistic interpretations of religion say that
the fear of God is salvation. It is damnation. No one who has fear of
any conscious, personal master whomsoever or wheresoever, God in heaven,
devil in hell or man on earth, is free or other than a slave. Nor has
any such attained to the full stature of manhood.

There is only one fear which saves and that is the fear of ignorance.
The world's destroyer-god is ignorance. There is no other devil on earth
or in hell below it, and this one lives, moves and has his being in the
fear of knowledge.

The world's saviour-god is knowledge. There is no other Christ on earth
or in any heaven above it, and this one lives, moves and has his being
in the fear of ignorance.

Happily, I listened to my soul and I have found the pearl of great
price, yes, a whole bed of them, so that I am now in position to
substitute in my preaching a truth for every lie I used to preach, and
thus save myself; but woe unto me unless I make the substitution by
ringing out the lie and ringing in the truth.

Within the last three years I have learned that, as I have not been,
since the beginning of my Christian ministry, more than a generation
ago, a producer, I have nothing of my own to give to charity, and what
is true of me is true of Mrs. Brown.

No one is a producer who does not grow things on the farm, make things
in a shop, discover things in a laboratory or render some necessary or
helpful service to those who do such things. I have done nothing of the
kind. If I had been preaching truths I might have rendered such
service, but I preached lies.

Every possession rightfully belongs to the productive worker and nothing
to the unproductive idler. This is one of the two greatest and most
salutary among all the truths known to mankind. Recently I made
acknowledgment of it on the pledges to a good cause, that of the Red
Cross, by writing on their upper left hand corners: "The gift of Unknown
Laborers through Bishop and Mrs. Brown, whose possessions are the fruits
of their enforced toil and sacrifices."

By this acknowledgment I rang out a great lie - the lie which makes the
salvation of the world depend upon the capitalists with their servants,
the preachers on the right and the politicians on the left hand.

Salvation or, what is the same reality, civilization, always has been
and always will be dependent upon the producer. It will never be
attained until the laboring class has done away with the capitalist
class. The ideal civilization (which is the salvation of the world from
its unnecessary sufferings, especially the overwhelming ones due to the
great trinity of evils, war, poverty and slavery) is in the very nature
of things an impossibility on the basis of class sectarianism, such as
we have even in our Anglo-American Christianity, the best interpretation
of traditional religion, and in our American democracy, the best
interpretation of traditional politics.

Among the pathetic things about war, there is this, the laboring class
makes by far the greater sacrifices, not only of life and limb, but also
of money.

Quite contrary to the general impression, capitalists, as such, pay no
part of the enormous and ruinous pecuniary cost of war. When Mr.
Rockefeller pays out three million dollars in war taxes he is disposing
of what rightfully belongs to laborers, because they, not he, earned it.
Capitalists, as such, neither earn nor pay anything, in time of either
war or peace.

So much for one of the two great truths. The other, which is the greater
because it includes its companion, is this: Man has within himself all
the potentialities of his own life. This is true of the universe as a
whole, and, therefore, necessarily so of all that therein is.

The sum of both truths is that the salvation of the world is wholly
dependent upon productive laborers and that they must look individually
only to the exertion of their own mental and physical powers and
collectively to co-operation with each other for the accomplishment of
their mission.

Through the whole of my past ministry in the field I rang out these
great truths and rang a great lie in by representing that the salvation
of the world depends upon a potentiality which is in the sky and not in
man, that heaven is above the earth and hell below it, not on it.

When I commenced my present ministry in the study,

I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell;
And by and by my Soul return'd to me,
And answer'd 'I Myself am Heaven and Hell!'

Omar, the poetic astronomer, might have added a stanza which would have
closed. "I myself am God." This is, in effect, what Jesus did say: "I
and my Father are one." This is as true of you and me and of every man,
woman and child as it was of Jesus.

And Jesus represented that God, both as Father and Son, dwells in the
hearts of believers. But every relevant fact which has been
scientifically established as such (and there is a whole mountain of
such facts) points to the conclusion that Christians are no more divine
than other people, and that, as to his essential nature, no man would be
less divine than he is if Jesus had never been born.

Gods in the skies (Jesus, Jehovah, Allah, Buddha) are all right as
subjective symbols of human potentialities and attributes and of natural
laws, even as the Stars and Stripes on a pole, Uncle Sam in the capitol
and Santa Claus in a sleigh are all right as such symbols; but such gods
are all wrong, if regarded as objective realities existing independently
of those who created them as divinities and placed them in celestial
habitations.

What is true of the gods is equally so of all the supernaturalistic
dogmas of the several traditional interpretations of religion. Insofar
as they are not pure superstitions they are symbols of imaginary events
which people think should or must have occurred in the past or should or
must occur in the future; not statements of historical events which have
occurred or are to occur.

So far I have not found it necessary to renounce the Christian God or
any of the things which go with him and I have no idea of doing this,
any more than I have of renouncing the American Uncle Sam and the things
which go with him, but I place the Brother Jesus of the Christian
religion and the Uncle Sam of the American politics on the same footing
with each other and with others of their kind as subjective realities. I


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Online LibraryWilliam Montgomery BrownCommunism and Christianism → online text (page 5 of 15)