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Problems of Humanity - Chapter V - The Problem of the Churches

The Problem of the Churches

The title of this chapter is not called the problem of religion but simply the problem of those people and organizations who attempt to teach religion, who claim to represent the spiritual life, to direct the spiritual approach of the human soul to God and to lay down the rules for the spiritual life. In writing on this theme we are treading on dangerous ground.

There is no justifiable quarrel with the religious spirit; it exists and is essential to a full and true life on earth. We can recognize the timelessness of faith and the witness of the Spirit, down countless ages, to the fact of God. Christ lives and guides the people of the world and He does this not from any vague or distant center called the "right hand of God" (a symbolic phrase), but from close at hand and near to humanity whom He eternally loves. When He said, "Lo, I am with you all the days, even unto the end of the world", He meant exactly what He said. The approach of the human Spirit to its Source, to that spiritual Center where divinity rules and to those Who guide and direct that approach, will inevitably go on; the way stands eternally open to pilgrims and all such pilgrims, all souls, find their way eventually into the Father's Home.

The fact of God, the fact of Christ, the fact of men's spiritual approach to divinity, the fact of the deathlessness of the Spirit, the fact of spiritual opportunity and the fact of man's relation to God and to his fellowmen - upon these we can take our stand. We should emphasize [123] also the evolutionary presentation of truth and its constant adaptation to the need of humanity at any given period in history.

Christianity is an expression - in essence, if not yet factually - of the love of God, immanent in His created universe. Churchianity has, however, laid itself open to attack and the mass of thinking people know this; unfortunately, these thinking people are a small minority.

For the sake of clarity and in order that the outline of the facts and of the potentialities may emerge clearly, we will divide this subject into the following sections, beginning with the most unpleasant and controversial and ending on a note of hope, of purpose and of vision.

  1. The Failure of the Churches. Would you, in all truthfulness and in the light of world events, say that the churches had succeeded?
  2. The Opportunity of the Churches. Do they recognize it?
  3. The Essential Truths which Humanity needs and intuitively accepts. What are they?
  4. The Regeneration of the Churches. Is it possible?
  5. The New World Religion.

Today the immediate need of mankind is emerging with clarity, and the steps which the churches propose taking to meet that need are also becoming clear. It seems essential, therefore, that we face the situation exactly as it is and that we isolate those truths which are essential to man's progress and enlightenment and eliminate factors which are controversial and unimportant; it is necessary also that we define the way of salvation which the churches should follow; if the churches are working and the churchmen are thinking in a Christ-like way, then the salvation of humanity is assured. It is above all else essential that a vision is [124] presented which will be a vision for all men everywhere and not simply a beautiful hope of a sectarian group or a fanatical self-satisfied organization. It is essential that we return to Christ and to His message and to the way of life exemplified by Him.

Churchmen need to remember that the human spirit is greater than the churches and greater than their teaching. In the long run, that human spirit will defeat them and proceed triumphantly into the kingdom of God, leaving them far behind unless they enter as an humble part of the mass of men. Pompous prelates and executive ecclesiastics have no part in that kingdom. Christ does not need prelates and executives. He needs humble teachers of the truth able to exemplify the spiritual life. Nothing under heaven can arrest the progress of the human soul on its long pilgrimage from darkness to light, from the unreal to the real, from death to immortality and from ignorance to wisdom. If the great organized religious groups of churches in every land and composing all faiths do not offer spiritual guidance and help, humanity will find another way. Nothing can keep the spirit of man from God.

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