The Spike or Victoria College Review 1936
It's a Strange Thing.
A movement starts somewhere, insignificantly. Everyone ignores it. It is unheralded, unsung. Its proportions rouse nothing but pitying contempt in the minds of those who would have opposed anything of more threatening aspect. But into the lives of some few it brings a cataclysm. Or it may just supply a need. And then suddenly, by virtue of the enthusiasm of those who have been benefited, through the appeal of its novelty, it absconds from nursery, rompers, safety-pins, and all appurtenances of immaturity and obscurity, and rolls around the world like an animated avalanche. It doesn't matter much what the movement is. The world has been swept by every kind of movement.
The point will appear later.
Miniature golf swept the world. It left no converts. So did jig-saw puzzles. Presumably the original yo-yo enthusiasts still whirr the reel in their Japanese gardens, but among the multitudes of gentile worshippers, no votaries remain. And yet the things filled the shops, the game was given newsprint not accorded to weightier matters, and without a knowledge of the mechanism of the yo-yo, one was debarred from understanding some contemporary cartoons. Yet the yo-yo has followed the dodo.
Do these whims carry any significance? Yes, and an ominous one. The mobenthusiasm that makes these crazes a success, makes the warmonger's job an easy one. The impetus that plasters milk-bars around the world can also plaster the walls with recruiting notices. "The Athenians," reports Luke, "and the strangers which were there, spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing." Nor have we changed radically. The urge for something novel is always with us, and has its legitimate uses, but there are many to turn it to their own profit.page 4
Not that anyone would inveigh against the milk-bar or the honest jig-saw puzzle. It is when the dribbling idiocy starts pulling at the skirts of things that count that trouble arises. And the present craze is—Christianity.
It is not intended in the least to disparage Christianity. But no cause is well served by becoming fashionable. There was Billy Sunday. Billy was an evangelist who preached to 80 million people in his life. "He himself admitted that his manner of expression was crude, but his defence was that he always made himself understood." For a time he made religion fashionable in U.S.A. society circles, so that a hot-gospeller could attend a party, accuse the bright young things present of divers sins—and be invited again. But the results were wispy, and Bored Youth soon sought other crazes to stifle its ennui.
Now it is necessary to prove that the world is experiencing a religious avalanche. It undoubtedly started with the Oxford Group Movement. That Movement has been blamed for many things, but there is no gainsaying the fact that it has brought God into drawing-room conversation. Most people are willing to express their religious beliefs or disbeliefs, because the matter is fundamentally of interest to everyone, but for the same reason such expression is usually avoided, because it arouses strong feelings. But the Oxford Group Movement has resuscitated discussion on the subject. That religion is no longer a matter which may not be mentioned in "decent" conversation is shown by the casual remark of Eric Gill, the sculptor—"as perhaps it is no longer bad form to mention religion in public—."
In glancing over the contributions which were submitted for the current issue of Spike it is noticeable that very many of them bear evidence of an inquiring mind regarding "living Christianity"—much more so than in the past few years. . . . Trevor Lane, in the "Radio Record," deals with his own mental turbulency over the matter, artistically leaving the way open for an answer by Canon Perry of St. Michael's, Christchurch. . . . Beverley Nichols, author of "Cry Havoc," now, like so many other journalists, roped in by the Oxford Group, writes his testimony in his latest book, "The Fool Hath Said" thus: "My object in writing this book is different. . . . All I want is to get as many people as possible to share with me in the excitement of living Christianity." . . . We learn that the Bible is still the world's best seller, and furthermore have to acknowledge that works on all aspects of Christian living and thinking are on the increase as never before. Furthermore, Auckland University desires to have a Chair of Divinity established in New Zealand.
But is all this sudden enthusiasm necessarily to the good? Let us put it plainly. X equals a small number. There are X Christians at the University who know they are Christians, are proud they are Christians, and to whom their Christianity means something. Similarly there are X Rationalists in the University who know they are Rationalists, are proud they are Rationalists, and to whom their Rationalism means something. There are X cross-word enthusiasts, and X adherents to every mania, petty or prodigious. Their numbers never drop below that minimum. But in periodic movements, each coterie finds itself the proud nucleus of a stampede, recruited from the vast multitude who don't know they are nothing, don't care they are nothing, and to whom their very nothingness means—nothing.
As we remarked earlier—it's a queer thing. Fashion treats all her favourites impartially, and periods of glamour only precede times of languishing. But how does it affect the student? If he flings himself wildly into every caprice of fashion it would appear page 5 that he has forgotten the ideal of a University, but if he examines and weighs the evidence, he cannot err; for though no good cause is furthered by popularity, no good cause is harmed by investigation. If the student searches, and his search leads him to reject the movement, he has done well. If he searches, and accepts, he has done well. It is beyond the power of the University to insist upon correct judgment, but it does demand that every case shall be tried. But if the student follows the will-o'-the-wisp without troubling his mind about the value of it, he shall be left empty, with nothing in his hands, and only the promise of a fresh will-o'-the-wisp as he tires of the first.
Is your interest the outcome of your desire to understand and to acquire that which is good? Or is it just a by-pass round Boredom? If the latter, think again. You are not improving yourself, or the movement, or that standard of judgment which is supposed to be associated with a University.