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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/571

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

are fighting against those who would make the state the teacher of any system of theological doctrines however elementary or fundamental whatsoever. The most striking address delivered in support of religious teaching was that of Dr. William A. Butler, who took up the position that, while in this country there is an absolute divorce between church and state, there never has been any divorce "between Christianity and the state, or between the state government in its administration and the Christian religion, as revealed in the Scriptures." The inference which the speaker drew was that it was entirely lawful and proper for the state to sanction "the reading of the Scriptures in the public schools, without note or comment, as also the use of the Lord's prayer, and the inculcation, under proper safeguards, without admixture of human doctrine, of Christian morals."

This view of the case was vigorously combated by Dr. Ward, editor of The Independent; and, we must confess, it seems to us amazingly weak. Far be it from us to argue against religious teaching in schools under private control, or to assert or imply that the religious element is not a most important one in education generally. That was not the question before the conference, nor is it one with which we should think it right to concern ourselves. The question is, Can the state teach religion? Dr. Butler thinks it can, because there has never been any divorce between the state and Christianity. The reason is glaringly insufficient. A "divorce" means a tearing asunder; there has been no divorce between the state and Christianity for the excellent reason that there never was any union of a formal or legal kind to sever. A majority of the population, it may be assumed, are professed adherents of Christianity, but it does not follow from that that they have authorized the Government to give effect in any practical shape to such convictions as they may have on the subject. Before the Government can act, it must have a very clear mandate; and manifestly the people could not give the Government a mandate on this subject without stating clearly what they understood by Christianity, and with what degree of detail they wished its doctrines to be made matter of instruction in the schools. The idea of a government deciding such questions for itself is simply ridiculous. In certain cases, where technical knowledge is required, the state can call experts to its aid—architects, engineers, chemists, electricians; but imagine for a moment the Government calling for expert assistance in a question of theology! But to come down to facts, the people do not want the state to undertake any theological or religious business on their behalf. They know, they deeply feel, its utter incompetency in that sphere. They know that it is as much as they themselves can do in their several churches to avoid causes of dispute and separation; and they have not the most remote idea of inviting the politicians whom they have elected to office to make amateur theologians of themselves for any purpose whatsoever. The very idea is so incongruous with the spirit of the time that it is hardly worth while to insist on the fact that the Christian community is itself divided by the most serious differences of opinion upon various theological questions—so much so that, in the eyes of certain Christians, others who claim the name have no title to it whatever. The differences of opinion, for example, between Trinitarians and Unitarians, and between Universalists, who look forward to the salvation of all, and those who, as the Scotch woman said, "hope for better things," or between Roman Catholics and those who think that Roman Catholicism is "the beast" of the book of Revelation and the Papacy the "scarlet woman," are fundamental, and any religious teaching that was meant to gain equal approval from