Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/371

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THEOLOGY VERSUS THRIFT.

peanuts, pickles, cheese and cakes—to the average amount of about four cents per child. The same average amount is temporarily kept by each child. As it is often stated, 'When I get some more to put with it I will get something I want. The idea of putting money away for some definite future use is rarely found.

Booker Washington's 'great quadrivium' for his people consists in the arts of acquiring 'property, economy, education and Christian character.' The success of Hampton and Tuskegee lies in the habits which they form of thrift and industry, and in the new wants which their students can supply by the exercise of their trades. No graduate from either school will be contented without a home of his own, sufficiently roomy to ensure decent privacy, supplied with clean and comfortable furniture, with pictures and with books, and with a plot of land large enough for vegetables and flowers. But in the Black Belt this constitutes the wealth which is condemned by the theology of an uneducated ministry.

This theology is undoubtedly an outgrowth of slavery. It was most desirable to suppress in slaves any ambition to own property. But the great obstacle to useful citizenship to-day is this very lack of ambition. For sloth and extravagance are justified by the belief that God has placed a ban upon the fruits of industry and foresight.[1]

It is a significant fact that only three children find any religious sanction for accumulating property. A girl of thirteen declares that: 'The Lord put something on this earth for everyone,' and another justifies herself by the statement: 'My Father in Heaven is rich.' An Alabama boy of seventeen writes, 'I would like to be rich because I could serve God better., I wouldn't have to plow and get angry with the mules.' A girl of eighteen sends a beautiful specimen of casuistry. "I would like to be rich, then I would be able to live above wants. Though the Bible says it is impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But I would trust God. Because there is nothing impossible with God,"

The different religious teaching of city children certainly accounts largely for their different attitude towards wealth. Among the negro clergymen of the cities represented are men distinguished for broad training, for careful investigation of social conditions and for rare personal devotion. Realizing that the progress of their race depends largely upon its industrial development they constantly exalt thrift and a good standard of living in their teachings. There is no present danger that the growth of avarice will destroy the negro's religious sentiment. Sufficient to keep this alive for many generations is his


  1. A Georgia deacon is reported who was deposed from his official position in the church because he had acquired 10 acres of land and was therefore considered unable to 'keep his mind on heavenly affairs.'