Preface to Religion in Social Action, September 1913

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<Preface to Graham Taylor book. J. A. took out of 2d 20 yrs page of a part of last page.>

This series of papers now appearing in book form embodies an able and conscientious attempt to state the actual relation existing between organized religion and social amelioration.

The author Graham Taylor has for many years been both a clergyman teaching in a theological school and a citizen actively identified with advanced movements making for political and social reform. He sees the need of more religion in all departments of life and he longs for the help of the churches in the various efforts for social amelioration which are now too often being carried on without their leadership and sometimes without their active participation.

In his careful analysis of our varied human relationships in the family, in the neighborhood, in the industry, in the city, and the changes they are undergoing through the sheer pressure upon them of modern economic conditions, Dr Taylor draws from a wide and varied experience in socialized action. [page 2]

Dr Taylor was among the first men to introduce a systematic study of sociology into a theological institution <therefore> from the standpoint of a student of social history, familiar with the [development] of organized religion, he knows the religious synthesis or, rather the competing religious syntheses, are constantly changing and differentiating themselves in response to special needs; that such adaptations in organized religion are evolved, not only because new needs confront the church from without as it were but also because there is a vigorous group within the church whom the existing forms of expression do not satisfy.

It is as a member of this inner group that Dr Taylor has written the following pages in which he directly and fearlessly points out the adaptation going on in the church at the present moment and the need for further changes. Because the desire for just human relationships has seized upon the imaginations of a multitude of our contemporaries, it is possible that a group within the church is now demanding that a new form of social action shall express their yearning sense of justice and compassion quite as the schoolmen once insisted that creeds and dogma should embody their scholarship and philosophy or the artists that their absorbing desire for beauty should be built into cathedrals and painted upon the walls of shrines. [page 3]

Certainly a distress of spirit for social wrongs, the burden of souls as Dr Taylor calls it, expresses itself in many ways, and <as> the most casual observer may see, something of that trend, outside the church.

Many a young person whose attention is fixed and his emotions absorbed by the vast and stupid atrocities of [contemporary] life -- its aimless waste, its meaningless labor, its needless suffering, finds his only relief from the abiding horror that such things exist, in the heated conviction that they are not inevitable. He expresses himself in well-worn phrases there must be some way out, "such a state of things was never intended," "human nature can no longer tolerate it."

To some of these young people the church with its chance of miracle, as it were, its divine help, its faith so invincible, <and> so [incalculable] offers itself as a refuge against unaided human effort and against the scientific estimate of the slow pace of social amelioration. It is said that human creatures almost as much as they require light and bodily warmth need the sense that others are thinking and feeling like themselves. The church assures the individual that thousands of his fellow creatures in thought and feeling and it is doubtless true that "the other poor little [brethren] gathered with us under the Madonna cloak keep us warm quite as much as the great mantle itself." Religion itself has always provided for deep-seated wants which mortals themselves cannot satisfy and has ever comforted man [for] his own [insufficiencies]. Doubtless there has always been a small number of people who came into the church because they found that they could not climb the steep and thorny road pointed out by life's noblest teachers and who were discouraged with their best conscious activities, quite as a multitude of those affrighted by the wrongs and [injustices] abroad in the world, have throughout the ages come into the church [page 4] for shelter. Many of these young people turning to organized religion as it is found in their own communities, hoping to find both as simplification of motives and an assurance of guidance, are bitterly disappointed. The desire to relieve at one and the same time, a personal compunction and to utilize forms of socialized activity to which they have been trained in college and elsewhere, is seldom gratified. The poignant sense of social wrong is seldom mentioned in the church, certainly not assuaged and they receive no suggestions nor directions for effective action. <This is the more remarkable in that> Of the two leading religions in America, [Judaism] and Christianity, the former has always upheld the ideals of social justice, its great prophets and great teachers from the beginning urged the redemption of the entire nation and considered [individuals] pious or impious as they aided or retarded this consummation; in the Christian such religious expression in social action would be the one thing able to unite the extreme individualism taught by the evangelical churches with that concerted action which is only possible when a central authority is acknowledged.

Such expression would be a veritable social growth, based upon the agreements of [experience] and verified by the current events in which all participate; without it, at this moment it is difficult to see how the church can adequately perform its traditional function in the world.

A popular novel has recently asserted that the Christian Church has no right to test the fitness of men for its communion, by their belief or non-belief in a set of creeds which were written and adopted by scholarly ecclesiastics who directed the church during the least spiritual period of her history. If, as this widely read book contends, the leadership of the church depends upon her ability to [guide] and enlighten men in the complexities and contradictions of modern life then the test of the [communicant] should be his willingness to bear a man's share in the [page 5] self-sacrificing labor involved in this period of [maladjustment] in which we find ourselves.

By this test no man has a better right to speak for the church than the author of this book, [although] this <is> by no means his only qualification. No one <can> be really useful in the long and delicate task of social adaptation unless in addition to the unresting desire for universal justice, he is informed on the economic situation and the changes being urged by various bodies of people.

As a student of social movements, sympathetic and understanding of the larger hopes of men, in the early days at the Chicago Commons, Dr Taylor every week presided over an open floor discussion where men of all social faiths were made welcome. Chicago was at that time characterized by a challenging discussion of the existing social order. Each school of social philosophy, preached not so much its own sroice of remedies as the necessity of clearing away much of the present industrial organization before any remedies could be applied or rather before social reconstruction could begin. <Even among the socialists there were> many radicals socialists of more zeal than learning, <who> felt that the end of the competitive system was approaching and <urged> the morality they urged was such as could be applied only to a world on the brink of destruction, they were not anxious to conserve but to destroy that rebuilding might begin promptly. These ardent speakers therefore distrusted all tendencies towards social improvement and denounced any compromise on the part of socialists with the existing state; they looked askance at any accommodating spirit evinced by a capitalistic society and at the growing humanitarianism of an enfeebled bourgeoisie. Above all they disliked the theory of the common interest of labor and capital for which the settlement stood, if not for the <gradual> interpenetration of the two classes. [page 6]

In spite of these radical differences Dr Taylor held the respect of these men of various social beliefs, shall we say because of his religious faith in the unity and solidarity of mankind. He judged them righteously and generously not as demagogues and disturbers of the peace but as men who like himself were concerned that the knowledge of economic forces should be intelligently applied to the progress of society. He did not despise half baked theories <because> nor lose patience with their supporters. as a student of economic history Dr Taylor is <he was> familiar with the statement <fact> that each distinct historical epoch begins with striking economic changes which society joyfully hails as indubitable signs of progress but that soon after the more sensitive men of the epoch begin a long struggle to make the social readjustments and that at last the epoch ends with a more or less reorganization. As he points out in his chapter, on "Industrial Relations", the abrupt changes in the early years of the 19th century brought about untold distress, overcrowding in towns and mills, long working hours, child labor and all the rest of the dreary list with which we are so familiar. In the first rush for increased prosperity no one was concerned to adjust social conditions to the striking economic changes. And yet the epoch thus introduced must go through a long period of slow readjustment before society can work out a fitting reorganization, the outlines of which are new but vaguely apprehended. In this middle period of readjustment in which our generation finds itself, many people conscious of the social misery and convinced that much of it is unnecessary have been brought to a state of mind scarcely to be endured. Although knowledge of social development gave Dr Taylor patience with those driven to rebellion yet his own temperament and training place him in the list of those <social reformers who believe in a gradual modification of society.> [page 7] of the social reformers who believe in a gradual modification of society.

Here once more he presents "fruits for life" or to use a more familiar phrase he justifies his faith by long and arduous works.

This may be illustrated from only a few of the public and quasi-public commissions with which he has been identified during these later years, whose findings have changed public opinion and have resulted in remedial legislation.

As a member of the well known Chicago Vice Commission, he became [conversant] with the breakdown of moral [fiber] which so easily takes place where a large city offers concealment for illicit relations and where many young people grow accustomed to consider the [pursuit] of pleasure a legitimate occupation; and vividly realized that implicit in city conditions is the grave danger resulting from the withdrawal of social control at the very time the inner restraints of religion are confessedly less compelling. The commission made a large number of painstaking recommendations for immediate action but always considered the final goal the [absolute] [abolition] of commercialized vice -- a drastic conclusion, founded not upon vague ideals of human conduct but upon a careful study of human nature as it reacted to every possible temptation a great city could provide.

As a recent member of a Commission to determine the employers liability in industrial accidents and diseases the recommendation to divide those burdens hitherto borne by the workman alone with the employer and the state, could not have been so willingly received by the very people to whom it meant an increased expenditure of money, unless there (<2> had been previously aroused to) (<1> the public mind) <that> renewed appreciation for the value and dignity of human life, <which is> said to characterize all moments of [spiritual] awakening. [page 8]

In the matter of municipal reform Dr Taylor has been actively identified with the Municipal Voter's League of Chicago, one of the pioneer organizations in America to purify once corrupt city councils by arousing public sentiment against evil practices which had been unchallenged for so many years that they had been accepted as inevitable.

That Chicago demands not only <honest> aldermen but those devoted to the higher interests of the city, is due to the fearless men who first recognized and fostered a changing conception of public duty and insisted that the ideals of Democracy are still operative in America.

Dr Taylor has lived for twenty years in the Chicago Commons which he himself founded in one of those shifting city districts to which men of a score of nationalities are drawn from all parts of the world in response to industrial opportunities in factories and shops which too often exploit them but seldom unite them.

That political reforms were inaugurated in his own ward, that the community was rallied to strenuous endeavor, could have been accomplished only through an appeal to those profounder spiritual [experiences] which [although] they transcend all differences of creed and ritual are at the foundations of all religious faiths.

It requires <an unfaltering courage> to act year after year upon the belief [missing text?] [page 9] 

Dr Taylor has come to be regarded as an "expert" advisor in the best sense of the term, his long familiarity with the men who are "down and out", both the vagrant and the convict has enabled him to give advice of great practical value in their institutional care, in the founding of the <a> Municipal Lodging House <in Chicago,> in the abolition of the segregated district, in the establishment of the Morals Court and many another.

With other worried and harried social workers who found themselves giving much time to public speaking and to pamphleteering because they felt impelled to share their knowledge with the community at large realizing that the community alone could bring about needed reforms, Dr Taylor for years gave much time to public speaking. He constantly preached "the Christianizing of the social order <from orthodox>" pulpits, <he roused young men to a sense of social responsibility> through series of lectures at leading universities and colleges, he spoke before summer gatherings, before Y.M.C.A. audiences and wherever he was eagerly summoned by people eager for help in understanding the <new demands of a> collective morality.

When the social workers, each with his store of festering knowledge, met [from] year to year in annual conference, they found that they tended more and more to discuss the economic conditions underlying the poverty disease and overwork which they were seeking to ameliorate. The discussion of the sources of the low standards of living, of the protection of the worker from the risks of industry grew in interest at each meeting of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections, and that Dr Taylor was elected president of that imposing national body only a few months ago, was a recognition both of his personal achievements and of his sympathy with the newer development in philanthropy.

While <many of the> members of the conference were content with a mere general statement of the relation between unregulated industry and poverty, Dr Taylor was closely identified with a small group who felt that the time [page 10] had come for a more definite [indictment]. The members of this group were convinced that some of the worst conditions which depressed whole communities of working people and kept a promising generation of youth from following its better impulses, were localized and definite, and although these spots of glaring economic wrong might be exceptional, their very existence implied many others at best less sensationally wretched.

In their previous efforts to arouse an indifferent public, the social workers had eagerly welcomed the help which had come from the so-called "muckraking" of certain magazines and even the exaggerated tales printed in the daily press; the [authoritative] statements of those economists who in increasing numbers felt the responsibility for public wrongs; the cumulative results of the governmental investigations into the industrial conditions, for while all of these latter were [necessarily] national in scope so that each community found it easy to shift responsibility for that which was so widespread, there was gradually brought about a [widespread] conviction that industrial conditions could be bettered.

In order to provide definite information in the early days of the Settlement, Dr Taylor had edited a small paper entitled "The Commons", in which he gathered information of current efforts of social reform with suggestions to (<2> laymen) and (<1> clergy). Later this publication was merged with "Charities" a paper performing a similar service in New York, and the two have since developed into The Survey a journal which not only reports constructive [philanthropy] and social <civic> undertakings but points out to its readers the gaps and failures in the social structure. It was through The Survey that it was first made clear that with the help of a small number of people trained to careful economic investigation, the thorough study of one community might fix the responsibility where it could not be avoided. The local investigation isolating the conditions from the [page 11] rest of the country in such wise as to make them appear abnormal, pointed out the wretched results of such conditions in the community itself -- the lack of protection against industrial accidents in a huge steel plant had meant <the injury of> so many men among the employees during the year; the insanitary housing in a given city ward had caused an abnormally high death rate among the babies of that ward, and many another conclusion from which it was difficult to escape. When such investigation was accompanied by a picture of normal industrial conditions vividly portrayed as they existed elsewhere and was followed by an appeal to civic patriotism, in many instances an enthusiasm for better things was evoked and even a spiritual unrest.

But while the conviction of sin could thus be made through an objective and economic investigation, the regeneration which was supposed to follow must of course depend upon spiritual forces.

The necessity of following each such presentation of special <civic> needs by a revival of religion in that particular city, is to put it baldly, but some such plan was finally evolved in the effort to match the will power of the community to match its knowledge [rallied] the audiences and brought <men under conviction of dereliction.> 

Of course such an attempt to connect religious enthusiasm with civic and economic needs implied the full cooperation of the clergy and that <there was a generous> response in so many cities indicated perhaps that they were eager to meet the challenge.

Dr Taylor published the material in this book as his contribution to The Men and Religion Forward Movement at the very time the communities themselves were beginning to ask for surveys of their own conditions, willingly bearing the expense involved, It is as if cities were insisting upon a social expression for their religious sentiment, <was> and asking to have the road laid out.