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What Is the Function of Religion in Human Living



The sickness of religion will con- made their astronomical and physical

tinue until her method and discoveries, requiring a radical recon

service are so clarified and struction of our whole view of the established that she can take her world; or than the crisis that arose rightful place with science among the from the teaching of Darwin and recognized functions of human living. Huxley in the field of biology; or that This does not mean primarily to which revolutionized our view of the develop a new set of ideas about historical background of Christianity God and salvation and heaven and under the leadership of such historihell. It is not merely a body of ac- cal critics as Strauss and Renan? At cepted doctrines which religion needs, the present time it is research in the although it does need that. But the field of psychology and sociology deeper and greater need just now is which is demanding a transformation for a clearly defined and generally in our thinking. This demand will recognized part to play in the econ- become more radical as these sciences omy of life and a distinctive method advance. Then, looming up back of for doing it.

them, too vast and complex for most Some devotees may deny that people to discern as yet, but sure to there is anything wrong with religion make even greater demands upon

the in modern life. But a careful exami- reconstructive powers of religious nation would probably show that thought, is the theory of relativity. while religion has its ebb and flow But why, it may be asked, should we like all other human interests, it has say there is anything critical in the on the whole been declining in power present situation, since these scienand place for several centuries. This tific discoveries and these changes decline has been largely due to its have been going on for more than inadequate adjustment to scientific three centuries? method and discovery.

Our answer is that the required But why, some may inquire, should reconstruction of the religious point the condition of religion be consid- of view has not been going on for ered any more serious to-day than it these three centuries. That is just was four hundred years ago? Is the the difficulty. If it had been propresent crisis in religious thought any ceeding there would be no crisis at greater than that of 1500 or 1600 the present time. But instead of A.D., when Copernicus and Galileo reconstructing itself as each successive wave of scientific research struck highest attainment of human life it, religious thought has merely than others. Hence there must be patched and repaired. It has never something of most value. That thoroughly reconstructed.

something which will lift human life Now, a system of thought, like a to its largest fulfilment, when proper bridge or machine, can endure for a adjustment is made to it, is God. In long time by merely patching and that sense God is a certainty. repairing. But if thorough recon- But to have religion we must have struction is required and is not made, more than mere intellectual certainty a crisis ultimately arises. The need that God exists. It is possible to is cumulative. A condition is finally have certainty without vision; and reached where a little change here religion requires vision. A man must and a bit added there are not suffi- not only be certain that this Object cient. It becomes a question of col- exists; he must have vision of it. lapse or reconstruction. Such seems That means he must have such apto be the crisis which religious preciation of this Object that it transthought is approaching. It is not be- forms his life, glorifies his world, cause the scientific views of to-day and fills him with a great enthusiasm are more revolutionary in their effect for life. He must be not only intelon religious thought than were those lectually persuaded but emotionally which pronounced the world to be stirred; not only cognize the fact but round and not flat, but it is because discern its value and catch its signifireligious thought did not thoroughly cance. He must so realize it that it and consistently adapt itself to scien- wins his devotion and shapes his will. tific procedure when that first To have this appreciation of the demand was made. It merely devel- divine Object, and thus to feel the oped a system of apologetics; it stimulus of it, is to have what we call merely patched and repaired. And vision of it. Vision involves emotion, it has been doing that continuously imagination, and conversion of the with each successive new scientific will in devoted self-surrender. advance. Hence the pressure for So we say the object of religious reconstruction becomes stronger and interest is not only an object of belief, stronger. It is in this sense that it is an object of certain knowledge, religion is approaching a crisis. because God is that Something which

is of supreme value for all human It may therefore be permissible to living. When apprehension of this suggest something concerning the Object becomes a vital and reconnature and function of religion. Re- structive factor in human living, we ligion is not merely a belief. It is have religion. To be religious is to be a vision and a certainty. Belief vividly cognizant and fully responfalls short of certainty. But God, in sive to the fact that the universe conthe sense of that Something, what- tains something which is of more value ever its character may be, which is of than anything else and to be stirred supreme value for all human living, to joy and enthusiasm by that fact. is a certainty. This is so because But we can scarcely attain to this some things have more value for the vision unless some concrete historic object of surpassing beauty and the vision we have described. They goodness is brought to our attention, differ only in the attaining of it. The through which the hidden glory can Christian attains it through the life be suggested in concrete

concrete form. of Jesus of Nazareth, the Buddhist Merely to know there is a light that through the life and teachings of never was on land or sea is not Buddha, the Mohammedan through enough. We must discern some glint the Mohammedan tradition. or gleam of it if it is to awaken that Through Jesus, so we Christians deep joy which is religion. The uni- believe, there shines more of the unverse may be a diamond in the rough, explored and mysterious goodness of but if we never see anything save the this universe, and in him there is dirt and the scratches and the ugly more promise of that unimaginable contortions of the rough outer coat, blessedness that may sometime flood if there never streams into the eye the world, than in any other. through this rough outer coat when Through him we make better conturned in the light something of the tacts with that which lifts the values beauty hidden there, it is not likely of human life to the highest level. one will cherish the rough stone as Therefore we are Christians. something exceedingly precious. It Jesus has been dawning on the is not likely one will fall in love with world of man for two thousand years. the universe with its ugly shame, its Scarcely yet is he well above the filth and pain, unless in some happy horizon. Far indeed is he from the moment of changing conditions what zenith. We do not yet receive from is hidden there gleams forth.

him all the light he has to give. Yet, Now there is nothing that can thanks to two millenniums of thought adequately give human beings a hint and aspiration and research, there of the best this universe has to offer may be some to-day who know him save a human life so lived that there better than ever he was known before, shimmers through it a loveliness so certainly better than he has been different from the grimy facts of daily known since the first century A.D., life as to seem like a dream and yet and probably better than any of his be not a dream. This brings us to immediate disciples knew him. Jesus Christianity.

still has much to give us that we have What we have already said about not yet been able to receive. religion and vision applies to Chris- But it would be a very narrowtianity along with other religions. minded Christian indeed who would We have said nothing to distinguish say that the life of Jesus is the only the Christian religion from any quarter in which the most precious other. But there is a difference. object in this universe is to be found. And yet many professing Christians That something which gives the are less like one another, in this mat- deepest and most abiding joy human ter of vision and the consequent life can know is to be found in many manner of life, than some Christians times and places—in landscapes and are like some Buddhists or Moham- sunsets, in many human situations medans or members of other reli- and individual lives, in works of art gions. The saints of all religions have such as song and drama, painting and poetry, in deep love and absorbing But underneath all the machinery work and in the hour of profound and all the superimposed activities of meditation. There are many ways the church, its true reason for being of quickening the vision that is reli- is to provide opportunity for this gion, and many places where it greets mutual cultivation of religious vision the soul. God is that behavior of the through sharing the joy and the universe which yields such joy wher- thought of this precious thing which ever that behavior may be found. they have found. Wherever two or

three are gathered together to conWhen this religious vision comes verse about this matter, we have a to two or more individuals they are genuine church. inclined to seek one another out for Such was the church, and the only the sake of sharing their joy and sort of church, that Jesus established. developing the vision of each through The twelve disciples gathered about interchange of thought and senti- him were not controlled by any mament. They hold a secret joy in chinery. They had no officials, no common which is a secret only be secretary, no president; and their cause others cannot understand it. treasurer was the one failure in the They cannot talk to others about the enterprise. They were bound to precious and exceeding wonderful gether only because of a common vision mystery they have discovered in the and a common joy. During the first universe because others have not years after the death of Jesus, when made the discovery and the talk Christianity spread so amazingly, will sound to them like foolishness. the disciples went about in a sort of Their talk will sound to these others daze, so filled were they with the as the talk of a mother about her exuberance and the wonder of what new-born baby would sound to the they had discovered this universe ears of an old bachelor.

might contain Those who have new-born babies What then is the function of reliare likely to drift together because of gion in human living? Is it not to their common joy and the wonder provide enthusiasm for the greatest that has befallen each of them. It is good that may ever enter human life for the same reason that religious from out of the mysteries of all time folk forgather into churches. It is and space? Thus it should give a true that the church with its cere- drive to life, a receptivity to all good, monies, regulations, dogma, officials, and a groping after the best. It and cumbersome machinery does not should enable men to mount up with serve this purpose very well. Once wings as eagles, to run and not be an institution becomes established weary, to walk and not faint. The and acquires social machinery method for achieving the best, in so adapted to do many things, it enters

far as its achievement depends upon into divers activities, some of which human ingenuity, must be provided may be diametrically opposed to the by science. But the vision, without original good it was designed to serve. which aspiration must perish, is the Such is the case with the church. work of religion.


Only Broken Bits Remain of the Life of Old New Mexico


LBUQUERQUE. Everybody knows long even before the first Protestant

Albuquerque. In what State protested, Albuquerque was a recog

it stands is of the slightest nized point on the desert trails of importance. It has a name—a name man and beast. Peaceful Indians to misspell and mispronounce in a from their lovely terraced villages to variety of ways, a name never to north and south and east and west forget. Even the most casual trans- passed each other there as they continental traveler remembers Al- visited from pueblo to pueblo. On buquerque as the town where he that particular muddy stretch of the first saw real Indians, where there Rio Grande camped also the nomads was a remarkable collection of Indian of the desert, wild men who harried and Spanish curios, where he bought the peaceful pueblos, stole their a bow and arrow. Few, however, garnered food, and made life a terror realize what lies back of the modern for them. To-day these very people Albuquerque. Its background of are to be seen in the streets of Albunatural beauty is plain for all to see querque. Pueblo people bring grapes -clear electric air, skies of brilliant to sell in the fall, turquoise in the blue, and a range of mountains winter, baskets when the willow changing in the light through every withes are most supple in the spring. shade of purple, mauve, and rose. Their brilliant-shawled women, fatOf its human background few have legged with many yards of buckskin, a suspicion. Yet Albuquerque is offer pottery at the station. The the microcosm of the Southwest. nomads are there too, no longer Sitting at the cross-roads of the cen- wild but with a savage dignity; tall turies, Albuquerque has seen every stately Navajos in blankets and phase of Southwestern life, has par- wide hats. Their women wear the ticipated in most of it, still has sweeping calico skirts forced on them walking up and down its streets by the missionaries and carry brightpeople who represent every period eyed babies on their backs in blanof its long history-Indians, Mex- kets. There too are to be seen the icans, cattle- and sheep-men, modern descendants of the first white conboosters, and Easterners in what querors of New Mexico, and their they consider Western garb.

speech, the Spanish of Cervantes, is Long before the first Pilgrim felt still spoken on the streets, and even a faint stirring of the wanderlust, in the courts and political gatherings.

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