By G. A. Studdert-Kennedy
When Jesus came to
They hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands
and feet, And made a Calvary.
They crowned Him with a crown of
thorns, Red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days,
And human flesh was cheap !
When Jesus came to
Still Jesus cried, "Forgive
For they know not what they do!"
And still it rained the winter rain
That drenched Him through and through;
The crowd went home and left the streets, Without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall
And cried for Calvary.
from an address by the Rev. G. A. Studdert-Kennedy, Rector of the Church of St. Edmund the Martyr, Lombard Street; Messenger, Industrial Christian Fellowship. In Report of the Anglo-Catholic Congress, London, July 1923. [London], Society of SS. Peter & Paul, 1923.
THIS is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That, I take it, is a point upon which we are all agreed. The Church of Christ exists to save sinners. It is not, and never to be considered as an end in itself; it is a means to an end, and that end is the salvation of souls.
If that be granted, then I think that we might take one further step, and assume that whatever else the great word Salvation means -- and it would be impossible short of the Beatific Vision to exhaust its meaning -- whatever else it means, it does mean and must begin with the unification of the personality. The process of salvation must begin by giving to the human soul some measure of internal unity and peace.
Descartes said that all doubt must end with the fact of his own existence, but, in very truth, that is where all the deepest doubt begins. To say "I am as certain of this as I am of my own existence" is not to claim a very high standard of certainty for a large number of men, for the existence of any settled, united, and reliable self is the very thing of which they have no present assurance -- no right to be certain -- and is exactly what their conduct would lead us to doubt very seriously indeed.
We have to save souls from the world, the flesh, and the devil, and it is not for nothing that the world comes first, because it is through the world that the flesh and the devil make their main attack. The flesh and the devil change not, but the world is ever changing, and in these latter days it has changed rapidly, and has become a patchwork quilt, a tragic and terrible patchwork quilt, stained here and there with blood and tears. It has become an infinitely complex environment which tears and divides human souls. That is ever its way of attack -- it divides, and so destroys. It damns by division.
We cannot save men from the world by the method of retreat from it -- permanent retreat. The practice of periodic retreat is of enormous value, and ought to be an important part of our method of evangelisation. But however valuable temporary retreat may be, permanent retreat for most men and women is impossible. They must live in the world and yet not be of it. They must earn their daily bread, and they can only earn it by entering into, and becoming part of, the vast and complex industrial and commercial system by which we live; they must be members of a nation, they must be citizens of a city, they must be in business, they must work in factories or on farms. They must live in those relationships to other human beings, and, moreover, those relationships must be a part, and a very important part, of them -- each one of them. A man is, and ought to be, something more than the sum of his human relationships, and yet his human relationships are and must remain an essential part of himself. An Indian native is more than his caste, and yet his caste is a very important part of him, and is the part which he commonly finds it impossible to reconcile with Christ. The social system lives in the individual soul. It cannot be too strongly stated that our main business is, always must be, with the individual soul, but it is that main business, once we get to grips with it, which compels us to tackle the question of his social environment, because the social environment lives in the individual and produces in him a conflict with Christ. A man finds himself, as a member of a nation, doing things, and allowing things to be done in his name, which as a Christian individual he revolts from and detests. He finds himself as a citizen of a city obliged to tolerate slums, which are the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual disgrace. He finds himself as a business man obliged to accept standards of morality, standards of honesty and uprightness, and ideals of work and its meaning, which as a man he would regard as beneath contempt. He finds that as a worker in a factory he has to submit to conditions and tolerate abuses which his Christian soul abhors. He is, in fact, in a state of internal conflict, and it is largely a conflict of despair; he sees no way out. Now, I submit that Salvation must begin if not by putting an end to that conflict, certainly by making it a conflict of faith and hope, and no longer a conflict of despair. If he cannot find the right way out in Christ, he will find the wrong way out somewhere else. Nature abhors a conflict of despair as she abhors a vacuum, and she has her own ways out, and one of these ways almost every soul with whom we have to deal finds for himself. All the ways of nature apart from Grace are dangerous, and lead in the end to the disintegration of the personality, which is spiritual death, and which in extreme cases ends in madness.
The first method is that of disassociation. The attempt to live in watertight compartments and settle down to a permanently divided self -- with Dr. Jekyll in the drawing-room and Mr. Hyde in the study, and the Prince of Darkness in the cellar.
A very large number of the people who attend our services and partake of the Sacraments are disassociated personalities. They are one person on Sunday and another on Monday. They have one mind for the sanctuary and another for the street. They have one conscience for the Church and another for the cotton factory. Their worships conflicts with their work, but they will not acknowledge the conflict. I want to press home what seems to me obvious, that while this unfaced conflict exists, the soul is not on the road to salvation, and while we leave it in that state we are not doing our job. There is a kind of piety about which one would say what the schoolmen said about concupiscence -- it has of itself the nature of sin. It is the piety of the disassociated personality. The churchwarden who owns slum property; the devout layman who will not face the problem of war; the earnest brewer who presents a chalice to the church in the suburbs bought with the profits of the drink shops in town; the Christian workman who helps the vicar, and perhaps serves at Mass, and leaves his mates to strive for an improvement of conditions which he knows is short of justice and humanity, and takes gladly when he gets it, though he will not work for it. Don't you know him? The good, respectable fellow who keeps to himself, minds his own business, and is too Christian to be unselfish. All these -- and even the pious lady who attends daily Mass and evensong, and draws her dividends from goodness knows (but she doesn't know, nor care) where -- all these are disassociated personalities, and are not on the road to salvation.
The second method is that of rationalization -- the conflict ends in compromise. The Christian standard is watered down until it reaches the level of practical politics and practical business. The Christian adapts himself to the world because he cannot adapt the world to himself -- and despairs of doing so. He composes a new version of the Sermon on the Mount, which identifies the British Empire with the Kingdom of God and industrialism with the Divine Providence. He does not claim the world for Christ, but is content to stake out a limited claim for Christ in the world. The Church for him is a limited liability company -- more limited than liable. But the conflict is not really at an end; it goes on underneath, and from time to time it produces nausea of religion and disgust with its unrealities, a disgust which breaks out into violent criticism of the Church and bitter judgement of fellow Christians. Nothing can save these souls but a social gospel which declares war in the name of Christ upon the world.
The third method is that of repression. , And what is repressed is not the world, but the Christ. Men repress and choke back their aspirations and longings for better things. They repress the awkward impression that haunts them that Christ is right; and inasmuch as they do not see how his standard and principles can possible apply to the world in which they live, they dismiss, or endeavor to dismiss, them as mere ideals worthless for practical men who have to work in the world. The result of this repression is indifference, often tinged with antagonism.
Go back to your parish and do some evening visiting, and you will find specimens in every street. Is there a parish Priest here who has not beaten his hands in vain at that stone wall, and if he be in earnest, has not beaten until they bled? Behind that indifference there is a soul in conflict -- a conflict of despair . . .
It is always disastrous for man to attempt to put asunder those whom God has made one, and there is no divorce more morally disastrous than that between the reformer and the revivalist -- the divorce between the men, who, through Christ, are endeavoring to pour new life into the world, and those who are endeavoring to change the world so as to make it a fitting environment for and expression of that life. Each is poverty-striken without the other. A divorce between the secular and the sacred means the death of real religion. The secular without the sacred is a body without a soul, and that can do nothing but stink and foster parasites. The sacred without the secular is a soul without a body, and whatever that may be it is not human. It is neither what man is nor what he is meant to be. There is a natural body and a spiritual body, and the idea that we are meant to be bodiless spirits is neither Christian nor true. I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
We come, then, to this practical issue. If we are to succeed in the re-evagelisation of England and of the world, we must definitely recognise that what is often called the social message of Jesus Christ is an essential part of the Gospel. It is not an addendum to it, it is not something that follows conversion; it is that to which men need to be converted . . .
It is not enough to make the devotional life our main concern, and allow an occasional lecture or preachment on social matters to be added as a make-weight. The social life must be brought right into the heart of our devotion, and our devotion right into the heart of our social life. There is only one spiritual life, and that is the sacramental life -- sacramental in its fullest, its widest, and its deepest sense, which means the consecration of the whole man and all his human relationships to God. There must be free and open passage between the sanctuary and the street. We must destroy within ourselves our present feeling that we descend to a lower level when we leave the song of the angels and the archangels and begin to study economic conditions, questions of wages, hours and housing. It is hard, very hard, but it must be done. It must be done not only for the sake of the street, but for the sake of the sanctuary, too. If the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament obscures the Omnipresence of God in the world, then the Sacrament is idolatrous, and our worship is actual sin, for all sin at its roots is the denial of the Omnipresence of God. I have been to Mass in churches where I felt it was sinful -- sinful because there was no passion for social righteousness behind it. When ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make long prayers I will not hear you; your hands are full of blood . . . Cease to do evil, learn to do well. Seek judgement. Relieve the oppressed. Judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
Remember that medieval ritual was a natural expression of medieval life, which, at any rate, tried to consecrate all things to God -- tried to build the Kingdom of God on earth, and dedicated all arts and crafts, all human activities to him. In that setting it meant much; apart from that setting it means nothing, and worse than nothing -- it is a hollow mockery. The way out is not to destroy ritual, but to restore righteousness, and make our flaming colours the banners of a Church militant here on earth . . .
The Curse of Sodom:
"This was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride of wealth and food in plenty, comfort and ease, and yet she never helped the poor and the wretched." -- Ezekiel 16:49
Woody Guthrie's song to the tune of Jessie James exists in many different versions; the following verses draw upon several of them. In most versions, the third line of the chorus reads, "and a dirty little coward called Judas Iscariot", but I have kept a version that rhymes -- and is more fun to boot.