This is from a little treatise called, “The Challenge of the Present Crisis” by Harry E. Fosdick. Written in response to the first world war. Even more relevant after a second world war, the rapid increase of nuclear weapons, the growth of technology that makes taking lives easier and more remote, and as we are still in the longest war in US history.
“If religion has such a part to play in the program of internationalism, we, as Christians, are challenged to a searching examination of our faith and works, and to a fresh devotion to our cause. One of the wisest and most picturesque explanations of the present crisis is attributed to Bergson, the Frech philosopher. He says, in effect, that the chief work of science has been to enlarge man’s body. Telescopes and microscopes have increased the power of our eyes; telephones have stretched our hearing to some three thousand miles; telegraphs have made our voices sound around the earth; locomotives and steamship lines, better than the seven-league boots of ancient fable, have multiplied the speed and power of our feet; and French big guns have elongated the blows of our fists from two feet to twenty-five miles. Man never had such a body since the world began. The age of giants was nothing compared with this. But man’s soul - there the failure lies. We have not grown spirits great enough to handle our greatened bodies. The splendid new power which science furnishes are still in the hands of the old sins - greed, selfish ambition, cruelty. We must have a new access of moral vision and power or we are utteerly undone.
“As a thoughtful Christian stands before the challenge he must repent, for himself and for the churches, the lamentable inadequacy of our organized religion to meet the crucial need. This war will fail one of its most beneficent results if it does not drive the sense of shame into Christian churches with a poignancy that no excuses can palliate. In the presence of abysmal need, we stand tithing “mint, dill, and cumin, and neglecting the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness.” We are challenged by this war to a renovation of our popular Christianity, to a deep and unrelenting detestation of the little bigotries, the needless divisions, the petty obscurantisms that so deeply curse our churches, to a new experience and a more intelligent expression of vital fellowship with God. Unless we can answer that challenge, there is small use in our trying to answer any other. We must have a great religion to meet a great need.
“The saddest aspect of Christian history is the misrepresentation of Christ and the spoiling of his influence, not by irreligious men but by the official exponents of religion. The belittling of religion by it devotees is the most tragic narrative of Christendom.”