Daily Reading for July 2 • Walter Rauschenbusch, 1918, Washington Gladden, 1918, and Jacob Riis, 1914, Prophetic Witnesses
Freedom is also the condition of a christianized social order. Men can have no fraternal relations until they face one another with a sense of freedom and of equal humanity. Despotism is always haunted by dread, and fear is not a symptom of the prevalence of fraternity. In tracing the moral evolution of the Family, the School, the Church, and the State, we saw that every social organization is on the road to redemption when it finds the path of freedom.
We are told that democracy has proved a failure. It has in so far as it was crippled and incomplete. Political democracy without economic democracy is an uncashed promissory note, a pot without the roast, a form without substance. But in so far as democracy has become effective, it has quickened everything it has touched. . . .
Capitalism has overdeveloped the selfish instincts in us all and left the capacity of devotion to larger ends shrunken and atrophied. But a little observation of actual life will show us that it is not dead. Whenever an individual enters a social group that calls for free obedience and devotion, there is some response of his moral nature. When a selfish man marries, he begins to labor with all his might to support the family group and even to protect them against want after he is dead. When a self-willed and obstinate little child from a lonely home enters the kindergarten, it soon submits to the higher will and the orderly collective life of the schoolroom. When a half-grown boy enters a shop, it may be no ideal place for him, but it is an organized community of labor, and it assimilates him and helps to make a man of him. The love with which men freely work for their church, their lodge, their union, their philanthropic society, their party, their city, their country, demonstrates what enduring loyalties a true social organism can evoke in its members. Make a man a trustee of an institution, let him serve it for years, and it becomes part of his life. He prays for it, plans for it, and endows it when he dies; yet it never did anything for him except to give him an honorable chance to serve his fellow-men. Would that same man be too selfish to serve the cooperative commonwealth with devotion? In our present economic order the accumulation of private property has been the only means of securing personal safety and advancement. Year in and year out men have to plan and labor intensely for their own business profit. Is it any wonder that the roots of their minds are coiled inside of that flowerpot? Compel them to think for the common good, connect their personal welfare and wealth with the prosperity and opulence of the community, spur them with the fear of public shame or the hope of public distinction, and see what heroic exertions they will put forth in the service of the commonwealth!
From Christianizing the Social Order by Walter Rauschenbusch (New York: Macmillan, 1912).