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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 8. June 13, 1957

Christians Should Take Their Coats off

page 6

Christians Should Take Their Coats off

Religion seems to be booming in New Zealand University life, and politics to be suffering from a slump.

That might augur well for Christianity—if it were not for the fact that the brands of religion most fashionable are (in the words of Dr. Donald Soper) "Those whose spiritual allegiance to Christianity means that they have got their hats and coats on ready for the next world, and are passing their time in this one 'watching and waiting—looking above' (to quote from a popular glucose chorus hymn)."

From recent conversations with a few local E.U.. S.C.M., and C.S.G. members on such subjects as Christmas Island tests, relations with Asia, and alcoholism, it seems that like the fat English yeomen described by Samuel Butler, they seem to be the kind of Christian who would be "equally horrified at hearing the Christian religion doubted, and at seeing it practised.

The tendency is not confined to New Zealand. An English clergyman recently wrote as follows in a prominent weekly:

"Whenever religion is discussed today, one sign that is quoted as proof of its revival is the fact that at the universities religious meetings and associations are .so much better supported than political.

"As a parson, I cannot pretend to be sorry that people support their faith. But the lack of political interest amongst students is most unhealthy, and bodes ill for the future.

"I do not, myself, think it is good either for democracy or religion."

Many—maybe most—of our Christian students will be shocked at the suggestion that it is as important for Christians to be active politically as religiously. We recommend to them Dr. Soper's special message to "Salient" printed in a box on this page.

We also draw their attention a statement of Dr. George MacLeod, now moderator of the Church of Scotland, during his recent visit to New Zealand.

"Religion today." he said ("Dominion" 7/1/57) is becoming too spiritual, instead of coursing through the body politic . . . Sabbatarianism, drink and sex are Not the most important issues before the Church. Every body-talks about these topics to stop thinking about the H-bomb."

What Dr. MacLeod would say to Rev. Dr. D. W. B. Robinson (the gentleman whom readers of our last issue were advised to hear when he came to V.U.C.), who recently stated ("Dominion" 27/5/57). "Most of the clergy who had protested (against H-bomb tests), claimed that there was a moral issue . . . The Sermon on the Mount was for the guidance of the individual Christian, not a system of justice within the community, nor a code of international law.

"I cannot see that a nation can possibly be controlled by the same ethics which can govern an individual.

This shocking utterance epitomises me views of the consciously a political Christian.

To deny the political relevance of Christian moral doctrines is to exile Christianity entirely to the hereafter Many Christian students are apparently happy to do this—it makes Christianity much more comfortable and less disturbing to their smug consciences.

No wonder, when their consciences are awakened by the prospect of civilisation being disintegrated in a radioactive holocaust, the Christian student sometimes looks elsewhere than to the Church for moral leadership.

At this awful moment of the world s history, he finds the representative mouthpieces of Christendom talking about the wickedness of over-indulgence in alcohol or smutty Christmas cards.

Mr. E. K. Braybrooke, lecturer in Law at V.U.C., was recently quoted in the press ("Evening Post" 21/5/57) as posing the question: "Why does the student entering University lose his Christian faith?" We don't believe, in fact that many really do lose their faith—not enough to do any real good to the sort of Christianity that is current in the University. But if they Do, we do not believe Mr. Braybrooke's answers art in any way adequate.

His answers are three: (I) That "University students knowledge of the Christian faith is too immature to measure up to the new challenge." (2) That the "essentially critical approach to University studies had a disintegrating effect on the student's faith." (3) That the University and the community as a whole "were thoroughly and basically secular."

If the next-worldly, Pharisaical brand of Christianity we find in our religious societies is what Mr. Braybrooke is calling "immature", we can only agree with him. But is there any evidence that people whose religion is of this kind in youth becomes any more mature as they grow older?

As to the impact of the "critical approach" if the student's faith does not stand up to this challenge, it must be a poor thing. The whole basis of a university, and the tradition of V.U.C in particular, are grounded in the free clash of ideas. And, as Milton says, "Whoever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?"

The third argument is equally invalid. Where there is no unanimity in religion, public education roust necessarily be secular. The job of the wayfaring Christian is not to moan about his view being left out in the cold, but to take off his coat (the one he has got on all ready for the next world), get in, and prove in action that his view is superior.—B.