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   Chapter 3 AN AMERICAN CHRISTIANITY

The New Christianity; or, The Religion of the New Age By Salem Goldworth Bland Characters: 38324

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


It will help us, perhaps, to understand still more clearly the religious revolution which is going on to-day concurrently with the social revolution if we survey the evolution of Christianity from another standpoint,--the racial. In the preceding chapter the effort has been to show that Christianity in its organization and even in its spirit has been profoundly affected by its social environment and has changed as that has changed. The most superficial study of the history of Christianity reveals, moreover, that Christianity has been, also, deeply affected by the characteristics of each race among which it has made its home.

1. Jewish Christianity.

The earliest form of Christianity was that which sprang up in Jerusalem immediately after the Resurrection and the ingathering at Pentecost. It was the Christianity of the apostles and of the first disciples. Perhaps it might be called a Christianized Judaism rather than a Jewish Christianity, for it was the old Judaism unchanged except by the acceptance of Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfilment of the national hope. The apostles remained good Jews, even stricter than before in their discharge of the duties of the old faith, and commanding through their strictness the respect of the Jews, James the brother of Jesus, in particular, being held in high esteem for his devoutness.

The chief characteristic of Jewish Christianity, it might almost be said, was its lack of almost all the features which have since been counted essential to a Church.

The ancient Jew, as has often been noted, markedly resembled the modern Englishman in many things, notably in an indifference to theological or philosophical speculation and in a strong sense of the value of the ethical and practical. These earliest Jewish Christians, accordingly, did not seek to analyze and systematize their faith. They did not seek to draw out its philosophical implications. They were interested in the construction neither of a creed nor of a theological system. They were content to hold their faith in Jesus as a vital loyalty and a great hope. Jesus was to them the long desired Messiah who would redeem Israel and establish the Kingdom of God upon the earth. That glorious consummation would take place when He returned, as they confidently expected He would, in the immediate future. Meanwhile, the door into the Kingdom of God stood open to all Jews who would accept Jesus as the Christ, and to such Gentiles as were willing to receive circumcision and identify themselves with Israel.

Overshadowed with the imminence of the Parousia, this Jewish Church of the first years had no interest in a reflective interpretation of its faith or in the elaboration of its organization. The apostles preached; alms were distributed to those of the disciples who were in need. No programme was drawn up for the future; no propaganda among the Gentiles was even dreamed of. The whole attitude was one of almost passive expectancy that clung to the ancient capital, the holy city, where the long-expected Hope of Israel would shortly, descending from the heavens, establish His throne.

Jewish Christianity had only the rudiments of a creed, only the simplest organization, and the most unelaborated and democratic form of worship. It was a seed with the germinating impulse unawakened, a bark launched and rigged but that had no thought of venturing out of the harbour.

This simple, undeveloped, undogmatic, unorganized, and Judaistic character of primitive Jewish Christianity is strikingly displayed in the early chapters of the book of the Acts and in the Epistle of James, which on most, at any rate, of the different hypotheses as to date and authorship is, at least, a witness to early Jewish Christianity.[#]

[#] A later form of Jewish Christianity, the obscure Ebionitism of the second century, does not fall within the limits of this sketch. It was, probably, not so much a development of Christianity as a perversion of it.

2. Greek Christianity.

But the expansive forces residing in this undeveloped Christianity could not long remain inactive.

An important element in the population of Jerusalem in the time of our Lord was the Hellenist. This name was applied to the Jews who for various reasons, mainly for trade, had made their home in the commercial cities of the Levant. Here they had learned to speak the prevailing language of the countries around the Eastern Mediterranean, Greek, and had been, to a varying extent, intellectually broadened and quickened by contact with the Greek world. Large numbers of them returned to Jerusalem for educational purposes or to gratify their devout feelings, but they were regarded by the Palestinean Jews with something approaching contempt for their willingness to live away from the sacred soil of Palestine.

It was in the Hellenist mind, thus stimulated and developed by the Greek spirit, that the first development of Christianity occurred. To the Hellenist Stephen, the first thinker, the first controversialist, and the first martyr of Christianity, belongs the honor of first discovering the universal principle of Christianity, and his interpretation of Christianity brought about his own death and kindled a persecution which scattered the Christians of Jerusalem up and down the Syrian coast of the Mediterranean.

To some of these fugitive Hellenist Christians, partakers of the thought of the martyred Stephen, belongs the not less lofty honor of being the first to overleap the jealously guarded barriers of Judaism and to open the door of Christianity to the Gentiles. "They therefore that were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to none save only to Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene [and therefore Hellenists] who, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus." Acts 11:19-20.

It is to be noted that it was, probably, this influx of Greeks into the Church hitherto composed only of Jews which made necessary a new name applicable to the composite body, and so it came about that "the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch."

A Church, in part Jewish but, probably, in still larger part Gentile, thus sprang up in Antioch, which became the mother city of Gentile, or world-wide, Christianity. From this centre the greatest of all Hellenist Jews, Saul of Tarsus, fired by that very universalism which had at first aroused the hatred of his bitter Jewish particularism, carried Christianity westward through Asia Minor, Greece, Italy and, possibly, even to Spain.

Thus transplanted from the deeply and exclusively religious and ethical Hebrew mind to the predominantly speculative mind of the Greek, Christianity began to undergo an immediate transformation. The Greek mind, probably never equalled for its curiosity, its acuteness, its subtlety, could never be content to ask, what? It must also ask, why, and how? To it we owe science, philosophy, all our ordered thinking. Christianity, as a mere affection felt for Jesus Christ or purely as a code of conduct, could not satisfy the Greek mind. The Greek mind, at first contemptuous of it as a mere vulgar superstition, fascinated at length by its rational monotheism, its lofty ethics, and, above all by the charm of its central figure, flung itself with ardor on the task of adapting this naive and untutored but fascinating religion to its own tastes and habits of thought.

A place was found for the Jewish Messiah in the philosophical world of the Greeks as the Logos, or Reason, of God, a familiar philosophical conception. Plato and Zeno were made His forerunners. The principles of His teaching were dissected out of the traditions of His ministry and organized into a coherent body of doctrine. The acutest minds of Greek Christianity disengaged the great problems which were involved in the worship paid to Christ and, after centuries of speculation and of strife (not always intellectual only), achieved those great solutions which, whether in every respect permanently satisfactory or not, must forever be recognized as among the sublimest constructions of the philosophic intellect,--the creeds of Nicaea and Chalcedon.

For good and for ill the simple, almost creedless Christianity of the Sermon on the Mount and of the Epistle of James had become through Paul, the author of the Fourth Gospel, the still more mysterious author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and countless Greek dialecticians and theologians, the elaborately and authoritatively dogmatic system which has, almost till to-day, treated unorthodox opinion as the deadliest of sins.

The undue emphasis on the intellectual element in Christianity, the tyrannical control of human thought we to-day must deplore, but he who repudiates Greek Christianity must also deny that Christianity had any mission to the Greek mind, and that men have any right to think out their religious beliefs and adjust them to the rest of their thinking.

3. Latin Christianity.

Latin Christianity cannot altogether be classed as a later stage than Greek Christianity. It was to a large extent a concurrent development. As far as its theological features were concerned, it was little more than the uncritical acceptance of dogmas worked out by the Greeks. But, eventually, the distinctive gifts of the Latin race asserted themselves and those races which had built up the Roman Empire, or as subjects of it had become embued with its spirit, applied their organizing genius to the Christian Church and moulded the Church of the West into a replica of the Empire, and in such closely-knit fashion that, when under its own inherent weaknesses and through the irruption of the northern barbarians, that mightiest of all organizations of antiquity collapsed, the Church that came eventually and fittingly to know itself as Roman took its place and proved itself an even mightier organization, subduing restless and fierce peoples on which Imperial Rome had never been able to impose her yoke.

The Latin mind, then, with its reverence for order and law, its genius for government, its detestation of lawless individualism, discerned the possibilities of the Christian Church as an organization, and out of the simple piety of Jesus and the reasoned theology of the Greeks fashioned the mightiest instrument of discipline and order the world has ever seen.

Here, again, there may be a protest. This Latinization, or imperialization, of Christianity may be indignantly termed a perversion rather than a development. This only need be said in reply, that it would be difficult for anyone who has studied, without prejudice, the period between the overthrow of the Western Empire and the Protestant Reformation to deny the providential character of Latin Christianity. No other form of Christianity has as yet rendered so great a service to the race. It is questionable whether any other form of Christianity, even if it had been in existence, could at that stage have rendered so great a service. It was precisely those features in the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church towards her people which are most uncongenial to the Protestant temper which were the disciplinary agencies needed by the lawless, seething Europe of the Dark Ages to qualify it for the personal liberty the vindication of which has been the faith and service of Protestantism.

4. Teutonic Christianity.

The Greek mind moulded Christianity into a reasoned and systematized theology; the Latin, into an organization closely knit and marvellously efficient for the end to which Latin Christianity was largely and, perhaps, inevitably content to aim,--external control. Now, at least, we can see how inevitable it was that a third development of Christianity should take place after it had been transplanted among the Teutonic peoples. That development was slower in taking place than either the Greek or Latin forms. Those northern races which, until their conversion to Christianity, had stood almost completely outside the circle of ancient civilization, coming under the spell of a powerful religion and a civilization, even in its decay, majestic, were brought so thoroughly under the yoke that for centuries they were content to be ruled by a spiritual imperialism enthroned at Rome.

But that authority never ceased to be regarded by the northern races as a foreign one. The Teutonic peoples whose home lay outside the limits of the old Roman Empire were never Latinized in spirit. When they attained intellectual maturity and sought the free development of their own nature, they shook off the authority of Rome and brought to light those free and individualistic and spiritual germs in Christianity which, hitherto, in the luxuriant and stately growth of Greco-Roman Catholicism had remained almost dormant.

The Protestant Reformation, as has been noted, was a complex movement. It involved many factors. But fundamentally it was the outcome of the determination, not always clearly conscious, of the Teutonic peoples to discover a Christianity which should be consonant with that passion for freedom and that high sense of personal dignity which from the beginning had characterized the men of the Teutonic stock.

It is an interesting illustration of this that the movement of reform, or, rather, of revolt, which swept like a prairie fire over all Teutonic Europe that had never been permanently subdued by the Empire, flickered and died as soon as it crossed what had been the boundary of the old Empire, and that that boundary is still the dividing line between those countries of Western Europe which are preponderatingly Protestant and those which are preponderatingly Roman Catholic. The Roman Church held only what the Roman Empire had won. Only where the old Teutonic love of liberty had been subdued by centuries of the masterful and, on the whole, beneficent rule of old Rome did it cease to feel the spiritual rule of the new Rome alien and irksome.

Another illustration of how essentially Teutonic is the spirit of Protestantism is in the slight influence Protestantism has had on the Celtic peoples islanded in the Teutonic populations. Celtic Brittany is the most fervidly Catholic part of France to-day. Celtic Ireland remains solidly and deeply Catholic. Celtic Scotland, despite overwhelming Protestant influences, is still largely Catholic. Celtic Wales has become wholly Protestant, but it has seized and developed the least prominent and least Protestant of all the elements embraced in Protestantism,--the emotional and the mystical.

The rule of Rome under the Emperors and under the Popes had been the rule of the machine--a superb machine, ingeniously contrived for what were conceived as the best ends, and operated with indomitable pertinacity and boundless devotion, but still a machine; and Protestant, or Teutonic, Christianity, in the last analysis, was the overthrow of the machine. To the Teutonic race belongs the honor of being the first on a racial scale to establish a religion without ceremonial or a priesthood or any privileged class whatever. Hebrew prophetism with its magnificent protest against ritual, and its culmination in the democratic simplicity of Jesus, now for the first time found recognition on a national scale.

Teutonic Christianity is the exaltation of the individual. It was born of individualism and glorifies individualism. It affirms the right and duty of individual judgment, the supremacy of the individual conscience, the privilege of the individual access to God. It finds the authority and proof of the Christian religion in its consonance with, and its satisfaction of, the capacities and needs of the individual soul.

The distance between the spirit of Latin and that of Teutonic Christianity, and, also, it should be noted, the distance between the twelfth century and the sixteenth may be seen in the two appeals of Abelard and Luther. Peter Abelard, a great and pathetic and only a little less than a heroic figure, was a Protestant, and in the best sense of the term, a free thinker, three hundred years before the Renaissance and four hundred years before Luther. Accused of heresy by the saintly but censorious and bigoted Bernard, and brought to trial before a tribunal carefully packed by his relentless and unscrupulous adversary, Abelard, despairing of a fair hearing, refused to defend himself and appealed to the Pope. Another monk charged with heresy four hundred years later, inferior to Abelard in clearness and energy of thought but of more heroic moral fibre, before the most august assemblage Europe could gather, closed his defence with the undying words, "It is not safe for a man to do aught against his conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me, Amen."

Abelard appeals to the Pope, Luther to his conscience. That is the supreme contrast between Latin and Teutonic Christianity.

American Christianity.

Since the revolt of the Teutonic peoples, the most remarkable phenomenon of Christian history has been the growth of a branch of Teutonic Christianity under the novel political and social conditions of the new world.

This has been a transplantation of Christianity quite as significant as any of its transplantations in the past, and the new soil has produced just as unmistakably new a growth.

Doubtless none of the great phases of Christianity in the past knew themselves to be new. Neither Greek nor Latin Christianity was conscious of any departure from primitive Christianity. Indeed, to this day, in their conception of the history of the Church, they persist in impressing their own type on that primitive and undeveloped type.

Teutonic Christianity took centuries to come to clear consciousness of itself and of its irreconcilability with Latin Christianity. It is not wonderful, therefore, that hitherto, as far as I am aware, American Christianity has been, if at all, very dimly and imperfectly conscious of the difference between its spirit and that of the Teutonic Christianity of the old world.

American Christianity has not yet arrived. It is only on the way. It has not yet found itself. It is not yet conscious of its own individuality, not yet self-reliant, independent. It is a youth, but a youth rapidly approaching manhood. Perhaps the characteristics that are unfolding themselves can be most clearly brought out by an attempt to show wherein it resembles, and wherein it differs from, each of the four great phases of Christianity which have just been under consideration.

a. American Christianity compared with Jewish.

Compared with Jewish Christianity, American Christianity resembles the latter in its simplicity of creed, its emphasis on the practical and ethical, and (to a distinct and growing degree) in its brotherliness and democratic equality.

But its creedal simplicity is not the same as that of the primitive Jewish Church. That Church was wise in the brevity and simplicity of its creed, but it did not know its own wisdom. American Christianity is wi

se and knows its wisdom. It will not, like the Jewish Church, allow itself to be seduced into interminable theological controversies and into the superstition of orthodoxy. Seventeen hundred years of bitter wrangling and bloody conflict and cruel persecutions have taught it something. It has a short and a simple creed, not because it knows so little, but because it knows so much.

It differs, again, in its extensive and manifold organization, in the variety and elaborateness of its forms of worship, and, most markedly of all, in its attitude toward the present life. Primitive Jewish Christianity had no interest in the present social order. Intoxicated with apocalyptic visions, it stood on tiptoe awaiting with outstretched arms the return of the Saviour and the overthrow of this whole order by supernatural power. Its primary interest was eschatological. Its deepest feeling was expressed by St. Paul when he relegated all social relations and arrangements to the region of unimportance. "But this, I say, brethren, the time has been cut short, that henceforth both those that have wives may be as though they had none; and those that weep, as though they wept not; and those that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and those that buy, as though they possessed not; and those that use the world, as not using it to the full: for the fashion of this world is passing away." Cor. 7:29-31.

In this respect American Christianity is at the opposite pole. It does not look for the end of the world. It has largely ceased to believe in such a future and, where it still professes the apocalyptic faith, for the most part, it allows that faith little or no influence in actual life. American Christianity believes in the progressive and aggressive amelioration of things. It believes in this life and its glorious possibilities. It is bent on attaining them as no other sort of Christianity ever was before. It is steeped in optimism. It believes that the leaven of Christianity possesses the power to leaven all the relations and institutions of civilization. It believes that the fulfilment of our Lord's prayer, that God's Kingdom may come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, rests with the Church. Its real and, to an ever-increasing extent, its conscious and avowed faith is expressed by Dr. Henry Burton in the fine hymn:

There's a light upon the mountains and the day is at the spring,

When our eyes shall see the beauty and the glory of the King:

Weary was our heart with waiting, and the night-watch seemed so long,

But His triumph-day is breaking and we hail it with a song.

In the fading of the starlight we may see the coming morn;

And the lights of men are paling in the splendours of the dawn:

For the eastern skies are glowing as with light of hidden fire,

And the hearts of men are stirring with the throbs of deep desire.

He is breaking down the barriers, He is casting up the way;

He is calling for His angels to build up the gates of day:

But His angels here are human, not the shining hosts above;

For the drum-beats of His army are the heart-beats of our love.

b. American Christianity compared with Greek.

Of all the great historic forms of Christianity, it is the Greek from which American Christianity might seem, at first sight, farthest removed. The punctilious orthodoxy of the former, its bitter doctrinal polemic are utterly abhorrent to American Christianity. American Christianity is more and more indifferent to theological agreement, more and more tolerant of wide doctrinal differences. And it has little interest in the great historic creeds.

Yet it is not so far away from the Greek spirit after all. It is inquisitive and speculative and as interested as the Gnostics in great sweeping theories of the universe. America is of all Christendom, past and present, the most tolerant country, yet it is, at the same time, a hotbed of religious speculation, even of religious vagaries. But, at last, there has been born a kind of Christianity which can think and let think, which is interested in thinking, but does not believe that opinions determine a man's character here or his destiny beyond.

It should not be overlooked in comparing Greek and American Christianity that American Christianity in its most thoughtful form would have felt a great sympathy with the bold and free and comprehensive thought of the great Alexandrians, Clement and Origen. It is the later and narrower and bigoted Greek Christianity, which fittingly chose for itself the designation, the Orthodox Church, that I have been contrasting with American Christianity.

c. American Christianity compared with Latin.

The comparison of American and Latin Christianity is much more complex.

No two kinds of Christianity could well be more sharply opposed than these two in regard to the exalted claims of the clergy in the Latin Church. American Christianity is deeply and intensely democratic. Sacerdotalism in any form it instinctively rejects. The very idea of priest is passing out of its thought. The preacher it can appreciate. The competent ecclesiastical manager has its respect. The religious leader and pastor it can thoroughly understand and cordially recognize where genuine. But that any class of men should occupy a mediating position between God and man or possess a monopoly of any spiritual gifts is foreign to the American consciousness. "Kings and priests unto God and the Father." Those who are taught from childhood that they are kings are quite as conscious that they are also priests. The essential democracy of primitive Christianity has never established itself in any land before. This is the gift--and a great one--of American democracy to the Church.

What has been said of sacerdotalism holds true, to a still greater degree, of that thin, shadowy form of sacerdotalism, clericalism. The way in which the garb and badges of clericalism are disappearing in America is symbolical of the disappearance of the idea.

Latin Christianity, as we have seen, on account of the conditions of its origin and early history intensely autocratic, has always given a very humble place to the laity. Obedience and money were all that was required of them. The High Church theory, indeed, of the Roman Catholic Church and of the so-called High Church section of the Church of England is not a High Church theory at all. It is a High Clerical theory. The Church has been virtually identified with the clergy. Against the over-weening claims of Boniface VIII., Philip of France protested that "Holy Church, the spouse of Christ, is made up not of clergy only but of laymen." But that is not the working theory of Latin Christianity. A quaint medieval preacher suppressed what he thought was an undue bumptiousness on the part of his people by a sermon from the text Job 1:14, "The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them," which, he showed his too forward hearers, clearly indicated the functions of the clergy, who were typified by the oxen, while the duty of the laymen was set forth by the feeding asses.

Luther's flight to the monastery when he became alarmed about his salvation was partly prompted by a picture which made a profound impression on him as a boy and haunted him for years. It was "an altar-piece in a Church, the picture of a ship in which was no layman, not even a King or a Prince; in it were the Pope with his Cardinals and Bishops, and the Holy Ghost hovered over them, directing their course, while priests and monks managed the oars and the sails, and thus they went sailing heavenwards. The laymen were swimming in the water beside the ship; some were drowning, others were holding on by ropes which the monks and priests cast out to them to aid them. No layman was in the ship and no priest was in the water." (Cambridge Mod. Hist. II., 109-110.)

American Christianity is bent on an ever larger place for the laity in the Church and an ever-growing activity. The Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A., the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor and the Epworth League, the Laymen's Missionary Movement, the Men and Religion Movement, all illustrate the increasingly practical and lay aspect of American Christianity.

The Papacy, too, is another feature of Latin Christianity peculiarly out of harmony with characteristic American thought. The remoteness of the United States from the cradle of that institution, the hostility with which Washington inspired the young republic in regard to entangling alliances with European nations, its intensely American and democratic consciousness, all conspire to make the idea of a foreign ruler uncongenial to the American mind. The national consciousness of the United States is as exacting as religion. Its first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other country and no other ruler than the United States.

The authority of the Pope in the United States is maintained by being carefully withheld from all danger of challenge. The American Catholic is not conscious of any restraint in the tie that binds him to Rome because the rope is always paid out as freely as his movements require.

Again, it would seem that the Roman Catholic exaltation of the contemplative life over the active can never be accepted by American Christianity. There are no Catholics to whom the monastic life makes so faint an appeal as the Catholics of the United States. Perhaps a stronger admixture of the spirit of Mary might be beneficial, but American Christianity is emphatically a child of Martha.

On the other hand, however, there is much in Latin Christianity that appeals strongly to the American. His extraordinary genius for organization, in which he probably surpasses even the modern German whose great organizing capabilities have less of individual initiative, and the ancient Roman with whom, again, it was the characteristic of a class rather than of a people, dispose him to appreciate the great organizing skill that has always been shown by the Roman Catholic Church.

Further, the catholicity of that Church, its wonderful power to assimilate and build up within itself all races and languages and classes, cannot but appeal to a people engaged in solving a parallel problem. Modern American Christianity, moreover, is more and more unsectarian, even anti-sectarian. It does not glory in division and isolation. There is in it a growing passion for unity, a growing yearning for a strong, commanding, national type of Christianity that is much more akin to the imperialism of the great Popes, like Gregory VII. and Innocent III., than to the parochialism and sectarianism that have generally and naturally been associated with Protestantism. American Christianity is fast losing all interest in denominationalism. All this is bringing it nearer to the temper of Latin Christianity.

d. American Christianity compared with Teutonic.

It may seem absurd to try to compare Protestantism and American Christianity, since the American Christianity that is here being discussed is mainly the Protestantism of America. But it is not exclusively the Protestantism of America. The Roman Catholicism of the United States shows, though less markedly, the same traits. And within the Protestant Churches of America another kind of Christianity is growing up as the butterfly develops within the chrysalis. And, moreover, it is not wholly within the organized Protestantism of America that the new Christianity is developing. There is an unknown but vast amount of the new American Christianity outside the organized Churches of America. A part of this was once in the organized Churches but has lost interest in their spirit and aims. A part of it has never been attracted by the organized Churches. Another great--probably the greatest--element in the coming American Christianity is the Labor movement which, as it has been suggested, needs only to be broadened and more consciously spiritualized to be identical with the coming true and indigenous Church of America. It is, indeed, a grave question whether the coming American Christianity will gradually capture and transform the present Churches or whether, as in the Protestant Reformation, the new wine will have to be poured into new bottles, and a new Church arise distinct from, and even in conflict with, the present Churches.

One thing, at least, is clear.

Protestantism in its present form will not survive. The very name is inadequate. It is not self-explanatory. It can only be understood by reference to another and earlier Church. It is negative. It has no positive or vital content. It carries with it the unhappiness and partialness of division. It is essentially and incurably sectarian. The more extensive and comprehensive the body becomes, the less intelligible becomes the name. If Protestantism should become really catholic, that is, universal, the name would become a complete misnomer.

American Christianity, so far as it still calls itself Protestant, only continues to bear the name through unthinking habit. As soon as it reflects upon the name, it must disown it. American Christianity is too essentially catholic and comprehensive, too little concerned with the past, too impatient of the old outworn disputes, to be content with a name that must always convey a flavor of division and controversy.

Protestantism, sectarian in its nature as in its name, is inadequate to express the genius of American Christianity. The dominating principle of Protestantism has been individualism, and the dominant note of American Christianity is fraternity. America is the chosen home of fraternal societies. It is Rudyard Kipling, I think, who has said that of the famous revolutionary motto, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, the Frenchman cares only for equality, the Englishman is resolute for liberty and despises both equality and fraternity, while the American who knows neither liberty nor equality will forgive a man for anything if only he is a good fellow. The American loves a "good mixer." A shrewd French observer nearly twenty years ago in "La Réligion dans la Société aux Etats-Unis" caught the spirit of this nascent American Christianity.

He found it, first, a social religion, and, as such, concerning itself more with society than with individuals; secondly, a positive religion, in its interest in what is human rather than in what is supernatural. It stands chiefly, he thought, for the idea of morality. It encourages a strong recognition of the fact that good people, without professing the same faith, are governed by the same rules of conduct, and that, if dogma divides, morality unites.

"The Americans," he said, "make fraternity, the actual form of which is social solidarity, the essence of Christianity. The moral unity for which they strive under the name of Christian unity is only the co-operation of all for the increased establishment of fraternity and solidarity. High above sects whose diversity seems a matter of indifference to them, they organize a religion which pervades society throughout its length and breadth, and tends towards being only a social spirit touched by the evangelical feeling.

* * * * *

"This moral unity is indeed a religious unity and a Christian unity; this positivism is a Christian positivism. American humanism has received from Christianity all the traditional, sentimental, and poetical elements which distinguish a religion from a philosophy. American positivism is only a Christianity which has evolved.... The American religion may be called a Christian positivism or a positive Christianity. It has received from the past the traditional and the evangelical spirit. Traditional, it preserves the names and the forms of the Churches even when it changes their customs; it develops them from the interior. Evangelical, it keeps the figure of Jesus Christ before all, even when it does not recognize his divinity.

* * * * *

"Therefore it is not Protestantism.... The title of Christianity is the only one broad enough to designate it; yet this must be taken in its evangelical sense.... The American religion is living and fruitful because it is national."

To discern a distinct American Christianity in 1902 showed much more insight than its recognition indicates to-day. American Christianity has developed greatly since then and is now developing still more rapidly under the forcing conditions of the war and the great reconstruction. The work of reconstruction will not have been carried very far before the incongruity of this new type of Christianity with the hard, individualistic, militant spirit of Teutonic Christianity will become apparent to all.

When American Christianity comes to full and clear self-consciousness, when it, so to speak, finds itself, it will be found to have a very simple and brief and intelligible creed. Not a shallow creed, however, but a deep and vital one. It will put, probably, no other question to candidates for membership than the Apostolic Church put, Dost thou believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?

Its emphasis will be where Jesus placed it, not on opinions, but on spirit, the spirit of brotherhood.

Democratic it will, therefore, be as well, for democracy is bound up with brotherhood.

Finally, with a little creed it will have a big programme. It will live to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth. Its helpful, healing, redeeming, Christ-like activities will be infinite in the Christian and in the heathen lands.

And as pre-eminently practical, clericalism will die out of it. Preachers, teachers, missionaries there will be, but the gulf that has divided these from the laity will be closed. Sacerdotalism, even in its most attenuated and vestigial forms, will disappear.

Throughout this chapter, it is, perhaps, hardly necessary to add, the word, American, is used in its proper continental sense. By American Christianity is meant the new and distinct type of Christianity which is developing in the Protestant churches of the United States and Canada and also, though less markedly, in the Roman Catholic. Politically distinct as these countries are likely to remain, socially and religiously they cannot escape the influences of neighborhood.

In some respects, as has been noted, the United States, on account of its republican constitution, its political rupture with the old world, and its more strongly developed self-consciousness, has been more favorable than Canada to the growth of that new form of Christianity, yet signs are not wanting, especially in that western section in which the coming Canada seems to be most clearly discernible, that the younger and smaller and so, perhaps, the more mobile country may outstrip her older and greater neighbor in the formation, out of, at least, the Protestant denominations, of a national Christianity, simple, yet free and varied, practical, democratic, brotherly, in a word, truly catholic. Institutions which have outlived their usefulness usually retain an appearance of strength until the hour of collapse. Denominationalism in Canada is still a stately tree, but the heart is dust.

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