Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 4, No. 5. June 6, 1941
No Man's Land
No Man's Land
Mr. Evison has condemned my concept of a Christian as distorted. Of course I was really referring to one sect only—the Oxford Group—but nevertheless I am willing to vindicate these remarks as applying to all Christians, and, indeed, most Pacifists.
When I refer to Christianity, I mean the results of the doctrine and the actions of those who profess the faith in all places at all times.
Thus it is an obvious objective fact that this Christian does not at the present day administer to the poor and tend to the drunk. The slum rents collected by the Church are proverbial. Nor is this real objective Christian a pacifist. He preaches militaristic sermons or teaches youths at the Y.M.C.A. how best to gouge out an enemy's eyes.
But of course "they shouldn't." Each sect of Christians will explain away the others as deviators. Has it ever occurred to Mr. Evison that whereas Christianity, based on the mass of contradiction which is the Bible, is torn with dissensions while Communists agree on every theoretical point, or cease to be Communists? That whereas Christianity, as all its adherents have been forced to admit, has led to more error than truth (or why are they not all Pacifists or Catholics or Jehovah's Witnesses—whichever is right)—Marx can be interpreted in only one way?
Could Mr. Evison have been serious when he hinted that Communism is the result of selfishness and conceit? I have too high an opinion of Christian fairness to believe that he knew what he was saying. These men (and women) who devote life and energy to the emancipation of the human race from an effete order—who stand firm whether their careers or lives are threatened—who alone have consistently opposed Fascism with its degrading results to humanity—who fought valiantly against overwhelming odds in Spain to stave off the monster which threatens to overrun the world to-day—dare you slander these people, Mr. Evison, dare you?
The Unchristian Life
Surely Mr. Evison knows of the sweatshops run by one religious organisation which prides itself of its social work, and of the vicars and parsons with their cars and good connections? The poor haven't got them.
He also says 'the Christian is a Pacifist because . . .' Well, I haven't seen much of that, either. Didn't I hear somewhere that this war was being fought for Christianity? Present-day Christians aren't Christians at all: if they were, they'd all be pacifists, instead of the small band of us who realise that Christ meant it when He said 'Love your enemies.
The keynote to the whole letter is in the closing words: 'As long as there are unselfish and humble people there will be Christianity.'
Just what our rulers need to keep us subject! Where is the early Christian idea of the dignity of man and of his labour? What a splendid catchcry for the bosses: be humble and your reward will come later.
We want no pie in the sky: we should have our heaven here on earth, and we can have it, but only in a world where the people are not fooled by a boss-made religion.
[Note.—Both of these have been reduced considerably.—Ed.]
The Beethoven Myth
The music of Beethoven is probably the greatest single contribution to the history of music and undoubtedly Beethoven stands out among the great masters for his genius and colossal ability. However as an interpreter of the finer feelings of man, he does not stand out in the same way. Beethoven was not a great composer; he was a great musician and probably did more for music than any other man.
He wrote at a time when the culture of the West which was his background, like the contemporary social and economic systems, was undergoing a great change. The old feudal and early commercial society was giving place to the more mundane capitalist society. It was the interim between the formal more intellectual music that the exclusive and dignified upper classes of the past demanded and the purely emotional romantic music that appealed to the new less intellectual upper classes of capitalism. The nicely completed formalism of Bach was too distant and thoughtful for these more, virile and mentally superficial followers of music. They demanded something more readily appreciated, something that appealed to their cruder emotional make-up. So music became more superficially emotional and exciting as in Frank and Debussy. Those who could afford the luxury of music were now more numerous and more worldly. They could not appreciate "Of Mice and Men," they demanded "Gone with the Wind," technicolour, deathbeds and all.
Beethoven was neither the old nor the new. He put his wares up in the old bottles of classicism but filled them with the new wine of romantism. He was at the same time both classical and romantic in his music, and as such being the genius he was, he [unclear: did] music its greatest service by preparing the way for the new spirit in music, romanticism unfettered by the old traditions. Consequently Beethoven has a double appeal. He pleases those who like the classical formalism but to whom the classical themes were too distant and unexciting and at the same time those romantics who like some form in their romanticism.
Beethoven as a great composer then is a myth, he expresses only an impure form of man's musical desire. He is the expression of neither the purely emotional nor the intellectual aspects of man's concept of the beautiful. He is the link between the two and as such is very important, but as a distiller of sheer beauty he is not one of the great.