Is it a Condition of the Success of the
Apostolate of the Modern. World
By STANLEY B. JAMES
THE apostolate for the Christianisation of the modern world is a phrase which may sound /magnificent, but, without further definition, is apt to lose ,itself in vagueness. In spiritual as well as in military warfare something in the nature of strategy is essential. One must try to seize key positions. Before battle is joined decisively there is a period when the. contending. forces manoeuvre for position. Divinely guided, the apostolate of the first century had a goal. St. Peter and St. Paul converged on Rome, the centre of the world. If Rome was won, the rest of the Empire in due course would follow.
The conclusion of the war will tell us who is to govern the world of to-morrow. We believe that it will he the United Nations, and that in this alliance the English-speaking peoples will take a leading share. Our strategy therefore Imust have some 'relation to that fact. Attention must be concentrated on the Christianisation of the British Commonwealth and the United States. If we seem to he somewhat preoccupied with the task this sets us. it is not merely because it is to this federation of peoples we ourselves belong. We can justify our preference on the objective probability that the -religion of the English-speaking peoples is going to mean a great deal to the rest of mankind. But even this limitation of our immediate object leaves the matter somewhat nebulous. Not merely the geographical distribution of these people but the variety of types found within them is bewildering. Can we say more particularly what we mean by the Modern Man as found in the communities indicated?
A CRUCIAL TEST FIERHAPS that question is best answered by ' asking another question: What are we fighting about? We can set on one side the facile replies which serve better to glorify our cause than to state the case realistically. But there is one thing which ever more clearly distinguishes us from our enemy and supplies a bond of union between ourselves. 1 he discovery of what that thing is may be somewhat disturbing, but the revelation ought not for that reason. to be denied. Nor ought its seeming remoteness from the struggle and its historical origins to render the conclusion unacceptable. It is indisputable that we have been given a horrifying realisation at least of what it is that we are fighting against. Hitler's cold-blooded efforts to exterminate by the cruellest methods an insane sadism can devise the whole Jewish Community within the occupied territories has. more than anything else he has done, cast a lurid light on his sinister figure. Anyone reading Victor Gollancz's pamphlet. Let My People Go. referred to in the last issue of this paper. will get a glimpse into Hell such as history. happily, rarely provides. That glimpse does really seem to give us an understanding of the evil we are combating. And the profound hatred of anti-Semitism which it has provoked finds other forms of expression. One of the tests used to determine the attitude of 'the French Imperial Council in Algiers is as to . whethet it will repeal the anti-Semitic laws previously operative in the Colony. Their respective attitude towards the Jew is coming to be a crucial test. the reaction to which determines on which side the nation stands. It is not suggested that our conscious aims are thereby defined. Probe deep enough, however. and it will be found that the suggestion is not far from the truth.
THE MODERN MAN THE. reason for this championship of the Jew is not sheer humanitarianism. If that had been the motive, we should not have allowed the Strums with its 769 Jewish passengers to seek vainly for some hospitable port. Nor should we now be virtually forbidding Hitler's Jewish victims to find a refuge among us. No, it is something other,. than humanitarianism that makes us the Jew's champion, something more even than the fact that the sufferings he has borne are useful propaganda in stirring up hatred of the enemy.
The fact is that the Jew, as we know him imapur great urbanised centres, in a curious and even in a mysterious way. symbolises and embodies that modernity which feels itself threatened by " Fascist" reaction. This is especially evident in the exclusive interest both of the Jew as such and of our generation in this world. That characteristic runs through the Old Testament no less than through modern literature. It may be exhibited as a noble ethicalism deeply conscious of. its obligations here and now, or it may be displayed in a gross practical materialism; but whether we consider the Jewish outlook or that characteristic of the type commonest in our civilisation, we find the same exclusive concern with the present order. It is also true that the Jew. through the effect of the persecution to which he has been subjected, has developed an urban mentality in complete harmony with the standpoint of the city-bred modern crowd. If the chief interest of the Jew (through the same circumstances as those just mentioned) is commercial, so is that of the people whom Napoleon called a nation of shop-keepers and their Transatlantic allies. So obvious is it that there is scarcely need to mention the rootlessness which is common to both and which distinguishes them so strikingly from the peoples of an older time. Those who are exiles under centuryold compulsion and those whom the Industrial Revolution deprived of their rural birthright and in whom easy modes of transport have accentuated the desire to travel are now kindred nomads. These are' but a few points of contact, but they might be multiplied.
And this particular Jewish type is found in all classes and in conjunction with the most violently opposed tastes. It is sheer folly in anti-Semites to talk of a Jewish conspiracy. The differences within Jewry are far too great for that. It is to he identified exclusively neither with plutocraCy nor with Communism. It is Liberal and it is Conservative. It displays artistic genius and it is preeminent in science. Within the limits defined there is a wide catholicity. In fact. between this widely scattered and yet racially-united community and that of Catholicism there is a striking parallel. The one natural,. the other supernatural exhibit a strong likeness to each other.
EXILES • THE task before us is now sufficiently clear. Whether it is correct to speak of the present age as apocalyptic we cannot say. But in one respect at least we may regard it as revolutionary. The course of the apostolate of the Primitive Church, it would seem, has to be reversed. Then it was a mission to the nations. Now, it is a mission to Israel conducted by " the sons of adoption."
That mission has one plain line of approach. The deepest, most poignant need, eloquent in all Israel's history for the last nineteen hundred years is that of a Home in which the wanderers may rest, not an improvised home. not a home to which by cruel circumstances they are forced to adopt themselves but one in which, prompted by truly native surroundings, the songs of Sion will spring spontaneously to the lips.
That applies not only to Israel but, as we have seen, to the vast mass of those in the modern world with whom he is associated. It is a commonplace of the criticism directed against present-day tendencies that they are destroying domestic life and making the old privazy and stability impossible. There seems little hope that those tendencies will become weaker. We are, in every sense of the phrase, an uprooted generation, restless, dissatisfied, frustrated, yet without quite understanding
t we are not to regard this condition as an unmitigated evil. It was during its exile in Babylon that the prophets of Israel acquired that more spiritual conception of Jerusalem which was to pave the way for Christianity. To find a Home in which the spirit may rest in peace and charity is more important even than to sit by one's own hearth in one's native land. And it was by the . loss of the latter that the more enlightened of the Chosen People learned the meaning and value of the former. Is it a wild conjecture that the homelessness of the modern world has, in the wisdom of Providence, a similar lesson to teach? If that conjecture be right we can see a meartirag in those monotonous streets of our cities and suburbs cornposed of houses which are not homes. Threading through the gloom and mystery of the world we have made for ourselves runs the bright thread of a Divine Design intended to lead us back to that Abode to which we belong and in which alone we can find rest. Even the stark ruins of bombed dwellings are not, in this connection, without their significance. Detachment from the material and the earthly must condition the discovery of the spiritual and the real.
THE LINE OF APPROACH THAT defines for us the way of approach to the A Jew and to the Modern Man whom he, in so
many . ways, represents. The presentation of Christianity as a European product of comparatively recent origin is not only untrue to the facts but has made impossible the reconciliation of
Israel. It is the function of the Church to give back to Israel the God Whom so many of them have lost and to restore to them that tradition, deepened and enriched by its fulfilment in the Messiah in which, even though continuing, as far as the body is concerned, an exile existence, their spirits may find peace. And, in doing that, in reviving the continuity with the past which was so vivid a thing for the first generation of Christians, we shall be presenting our religion in a form that will appeal also to our generation. The forward movement of the apostolate in the modern world is conditioned by a backward movement to our historical origins and antecedents.