Tuesday, October 23, 1928

Shelby, N.C.

C. J. Mabry ….. President

J. Nelson Callahan ….. Business Manager

W. J. Cash ….. Managing Editor

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Site Editor's Note: Dr. William Louis Poteat, whom Cash quotes in the Moving Row part of this column, was the progressive president of Baptist-funded Wake Forest College, Cash's alma mater. Cash admired Poteat greatly for his stands, often directly contrary to the very regressive ("conservative", incidentally, is a radical misnomer) Southern Baptist Convention, (still so to this day, witness the recent flack over their policy of disallowing female ministers), and gave Poteat high praise in The Mind of the South as well as mention in his American Mercury pieces.

Perhaps, some all-too-visible self-proclaimed "leaders" of an all-too-visible contingent of the Christian Church today might profit mightily from reading this article and the words of Dr. Poteat quoted therein, (not to mention that portion of Proverbs which indicates that blessed are they who have a "liberal soul"). The words of this Cash article seem to us to embody a self-evident truth--but one which is regularly ignored by the silly, self-serving (listen to that silver jingle and jangle) proselytizers and their sycophants of today's self-proclaimed Mo-ral Squad, very much at work in Cash's day as well, who apparently divine their views of Mo-rals from fundament-inspired, crescent-moon half-reads providing their supposed "literal interpretations"--but literal to whom? for who's to say what's the meaning of "is"--of the Scriptures, Scriptures passed from word of mouth through the convenient vehicle of parable--here, we cite no better authority than Jesus, himself--easy to recall stories deliberately framed in symbolic poesy, and from this word of mouth, written by dedicated monastic scribes into Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, picking up along the way large doses of Greco-Roman mythology--witness, for example, the reference to "gods" in the opening chapters of Genesis--and finally into King James' Elizabethan English (which few even educated people today bother to glean very well) by his Divine and very Royal Proclamation in 1508 (cf. large doses of Shakespeare for a better understanding, as some suggest the Bard was a pen in the King James Version, and so it might seem reasonable to assume for his consistent royal patronage and admiration)--all this passing and translation progressing over a period of several thousand years. Pass one true fact around the block one time in one hour among twelve of even the most dedicated to truth and accuracy and see what happens to the story--even though the underlying wisdom of the story, as opposed to its literal attributes, divined from a true and careful hearing of the sum, might remain a fair constant. Could it be that this is why our juries are comprised of twelve "good and true"? Why, I never.

And witness that the New Testament subtracts certain of the Ten Commandments of the Old--yes, it does--notably the ones about not laboring on the Sabbath and never taking the Lord's name in vain. Practicality, my Nice-Nellie and Simon Pure. (And, incidentally, Nellie and Simon, we do not neglect that part about: "Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: neither by the earth; for it is his footstool. Neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King; Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." This was, according to that attributed to him they called Emmanuel, in contradiction to what "them of old time" had counseled: "Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shall perform unto the Lord thine oaths." "But I say unto you...", said Jesus, according to Matthew. As "forswear" means to deny something under oath or to commit perjury under oath, is not the proper interpretation of the proscription counseled by Jesus to avoid taking such oaths in the first place? Doesn't seem to have much to do with cussing in any event. "Swearing", saith the philistine, by Heaven, is cussing. But it would rather seem to be in reference to swearing under an oath under penalty of perjury, swearing "in vain" as 'twere, would it not? Or praying publicly and idly over things such as sporting events and wars--or even, yes, at school or school board meetings, using "vain repetitions", maybe. In vain? And what of those who command we speak to the Star Chamber--under such an oath--especially when it pertains to personal mo-rality? Christian? Mo-ral? Or, Nell and Si, is that something which perhaps "cometh of evil"?) That way, it would seem that no one shall, by consideration of themselves as excluded for the more minor transgressions, find convenient rationalization to break the more central ones--like the proscriptions against thieving and killing, for instance. "Well they got me already on that one, why not break them all then?" After all, it would seem, the Prophets decided by around 30 A.D., that Heaven should not be refused to those who, for need of provender, must labor on the Sabbath while nevertheless still honoring it in their own private way; and, likewise, rather than having Heaven bear inevitable similitude to some Country Club membership committee, perhaps admission ought not have as an antecedent the total lack of utterance of the dreaded curse upon one's self or another, uttered as it often is in frustration when angered to on some valid (or even mistaken) point, especially if that point has some truth about it, for god's sake. (Is it in vain to release tension so one doesn't haul off and become the fully uncontrolled Cavalier, perfect exemplars of which, nay, even children, we see often displayed in chains and cuffs on our televisions these days? But repress them more, some say… Just say no, nay--never "yea, yea", eh?) To those we might suggest, perpend: Jesus was a carpenter and, by his simple proclamation, the Son of Man.

Of N-N and S.P., sopped and sotted as they usually are in their All-Hallowed televised/radioed soap-selling religious proclamations from the high and mighty Antennae, could we dare to ask, are you, with your interwoven politics, coppers, and religion, Christian in the manner of Jesus, "Christ-like"? Or might you rather be more in the manner of some semi-educated boob posing in his or her best pose, and so undoubtedly a poseur of the Antennae, a self-anointed medium to the "one true god"--in short, a philosophaster, i.e. a philistine, Pharisee? (Cf. "Sadducee") Oh, I forgot. They just lived way back then.

Ah well, if you are reading this, you likely need not this bit anyway, so recommend it to someone who does.

The article's second section might also suggest that the phrase, which in our opinion is a silly non-starter, "just say no", carries with it implications which extend far beyond issues of morality and temperance. Just say no to life itself, huh? A better approach to the same end, as Cash suggests, might be to say "yes", stated in metaphor and simile and poetry, to reason and understanding, with "individual responsibility" as the strongest watch words. More time-consuming, but who's keeping time? That, better than catch phrases from television advertising and self-promotion slogans. In this alternative, it would seem that there is bred a resident understanding of this world and its relationship to that beyond rather than simply the burden of phrases memorized and carried about like an elementary schoolbook, to be discarded or read and recited at will, but devoid of any notion as to meaning; hence show one of these Neo-P's a novel situation and they usually fluster to uncontrollable pique and punitive action, just as did Pilate and the mob, and all perhaps for want of a corollary defining principle from the verses they have so diligently memorized but obviously so thoroughly failed to comprehend. (How does one square "an eye for an eye" in the Old with Forgiveness of transgression in the New? Well now, there are those Laws which in practice fail to work and are then Amended. But… What?) Recite the alphabet, fine. (One might need it someday in a field sobriety test.) But also, it is perhaps wise to understand, too, what "A" means and how it works to relate to the other twenty-five and how those combinations in turn relate to other combinations to form sentences, sometimes even run-on ones, and those in turn to form short and long sub-idea enclosures we are apt to call paragraphs... Then.

Dr. Herbert Work, chairman of the Republican National Committee, has sent a telegram to Oliver D. Street, national committeeman for Alabama, rebuking (sic) him for distributing 200,000 copies of a pamphlet entitled "Governor Smith's Membership in the Catholic Church and its Proper Place in the Campaign". From which we gather the idea that Dr. Work's notion of the way to deal with murder is to strike the murderer on the wrist thrice and with great force--like that! you naughty boy!



The Hon. Robert L. Owens of Oklahoma, a gentleman with a Presidential-itch, is told by some anti-Smith people that the North Carolina voting laws are very, very wicked indeed, that, in fact, there is nothing to prevent election officials inserting national tickets for those who scratch them, (nothing, we should say, except common honesty and some hawk-eyed Republican brothers who are always looking for something that savors of fraud.) And the Hon. Robert L. Owens, of the Presidential bee, is mightily wroth, saying that we are really quite so bad in this State as wicked and accursed Tammany.

Then the right Hon. Robert L. Owens, of the Presidential-ache, proceeds to bring down a Republican house with reference to "that grand old Democratic Senator, M. F. (sic) Simmons!" Which is a fine lot of consistency. For, as every wight above the age of five in North Carolina well knows, the election laws of North Carolina are exactly what that grand old Democratic Senator, M. F. Simmons "made 'em."

Incidentally, the Hon. Owens, of the Presidential blues, devoted his entire time to lamenting Tammany in his speech at Raleigh. Which by no means explains just what he was doing asking Al Smith to lend that Tammany aid to his (Owens') Presidential dreams at Madison Square Garden in 1924.



Dr. John P. McConnell, president of the Anti-Saloon League in Virginia, announces intention to support Al Smith on the ground that the election "is not a prohibition referendum."

Of course, the election is not such a referendum. There are a thousand and one things which complicate that issue and, indeed, it is highly likely that the question ranks below religion and immigration in general interest. That the notorious Ku Klux Klan chooses the latter two issues on which to make its campaign of untruths is significant. We suspect, in fact, that the people will never actually be able to make themselves clear on Prohibition in any campaign. What they actually want in the matter of liquor control will be clear only when they are given a chance to vote "yes" or "no" on a ballot which is concerned with nothing save that question. And we can't see for the life of us just why such a referendum shouldn't be held. Certainly it is the obvious and simple solution of a matter which hangs perpetually suspended in mid-air. The question ought, in the interest of common decency and honesty, to be settled one way or the other.

But, that aside, the dry cause would profit if it had a few more friends of the calm, near-seeing temperament of the Virginia Anti-Saloon chief. The insane fanaticism of some so-called leaders of the cause is calculated to bring it more swiftly into disfavor than all the efforts of the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment.



It may be that you are one of those who have already fixed upon casting a vote against Governor Smith. It is your privilege. But--as the end nears--you ought, in justice, to pause and reflect, to count well the cost. Quite possibly yours may be the hand that taps the knell of the Democratic Party as a national force, that commits the nation irrevocably, for many years, to a one-party system of Government. It is the Conservative Party which you would thus elevate--the party of Big Business, of the Few at the Expense of the Many. It is the Liberal Party which you may knell. Both have their uses. There are times when a Conservative Government is imperative. But recall the fate of those nations which handed themselves bodily over to such Governments. Eight years have given you a mere glimpse of the amazing rot and corruption which distinguish such Governments when they become drunk with power.

Weigh carefully the fact that, if your vote counts, you are certainly isolating your vote from the currents of national life, from the waters of the South. If religion sways your vote, it is the incontestable fact that all unbiased investigators deny your belief concerning the aims and powers of the Catholic Church. You are deliberately violating the spirit of the Constitution, setting at naught the ideals of the Founding Fathers. Al Smith has governed New York eight years. The Pope has had nothing to do with that. You are setting up a precedent of the mixing of religion in politics that quite possibly may tomorrow prove a boomerang to you or yours. So with Prohibition. Ask yourself what you may logically expect from the heir of Coolidge. But, if, in the end, you prefer the word of the Fellowship Forum, of the Ku Klux Klan, to that of the State's best and most honorable leaders, it is your privilege. For it is your privilege to vote to destroy the Constitution, to set up another form of Government. There is nothing holy about any of it. And you are free. Free even to destroy your freedom and guarantees thereof, if you like.

But don't cut off your noses in mere spite. Don't scratch Max Gardner and Bulwinkle merely because they have supported Smith. That is to be wholly intolerant, to deny to these gentlemen the same right you demand for yourself, that of following your own mind. Major Bulwinkle has been in Congress long enough now to actually begin to be of service. He has acquitted himself well in the past. Jonas is an unknown quantity. Moreover, even though elected by bolting Democrats, he is and must remain the tool of a machine that represents a minority of the voters of the district. Gardner is Cleveland's own. What is much more, he is much better qualified than his opponent to handle the duties of the Governorship. In purely selfish terms, it is clear that no reasonable Cleveland man is going to vote against him. As a native son, he understands better than anyone else the needs of Cleveland. As Governor, he will have the power to meet many of those needs.


"We are no more than a moving row
of fantastic shapes that come and go."


Dr. W. L. Poteat, speaking at Chapel Hill, points the obvious reason why the church must not enter politics. Here Him:

"When Jesus was meditating his plans in the Jordan solitudes it was suggested to Him that He adopt the policy which had proved successful in the world kingdoms established before His day." Dr. Poteat said, "But Jesus repudiated the suggestion under the most solemn sanctions. He would win His kingdom, not by force, but by an inward spiritual ministry. He would achieve social righteousness by the leaven of individual righteousness."

"Jesus left no specifications for the construction of His regenerate social order, no creed, no code of laws, no instructions in the duties of citizenship. He spoke no word about political institutions, but He is the only radical and sure reformer of them, and that, because He deals with men, not mechanisms, with the springs of action, not activities. It follows that His church cannot enter politics."


Dr. Poteat has an almost uncanny way of being right, I think. And I believe no man in America more clearly understands what Jesus, the most misunderstood figure of all times, teaches. In nothing have I counted him more right than in this statement.

And I am reminded that William Allen White has an editorial in which he points out that the battle in America is the age-long one between Puritan and Cavalier. Puritan, in saddle just now, lays on with whip and spur, but the Cavalier is as impatient of the bit as ever. And he is likely so to remain.

That is the whole trouble. We never seem able to get away from the extreme of the ascetic--St. Simon atop his pillar in the desert--on the one hand, or that of the court of Charles the Second or a Louis XV on the other. Yet surely Jesus was neither. Nor do his teachings suggest either.


Negativism reigns. We'll prohibit this and that, unmindful of the fact that law cannot make men moral or raise the moral level of a society. For law properly is the agreed morality of men. It is in operation before it is enacted. Other so-called laws are mere statutes, political enactments. It is amazing that men will continue efforts to reform society by Force, to superimpose the good when History is strewn with the wreckage of just such efforts. Cops cannot and do not crowd men into the Kingdom of Heaven. For that kingdom is of the individual.

And so I suspect that what the Church really needs to do is to abandon negativism, to forget the American delusion that politics is a specific for every ill, to cast aside the Puritan as an ideal, and to adopt the positivism of the Cavalier. It is quite true that the Cavalier is probably sadly lacking as an ideal. For one thing, he needs control. But that control must come from within. It can never be thrust upon him by the Puritan. It must be the control of the positive. "Thou shalt," not that of "thou shalt not." And I have an idea that the combination of the Cavalier positivism with Christianity is the thing which the world most sadly needs.

* * * * * *

Lieutenant-Commander H. C. MacDonald, of the British Navy (retired), had a "hunch." That is to say he was seized with the "knowledge" that he could successfully fly the Atlantic in a tiny Moth plane. So, without announcement, he suddenly leaped off into the void in the tiny ship, carrying barely enough fuel for 24 hours flight, the best time from Newfoundland to the coast of Ireland. A ship reportedly saw him in mid-ocean and that is probably the last certain thing that will ever be reported concerning the lieutenant-commander. He is gone with all the best of others who have gone in this madness of attempting to imitate Lindbergh.

One admires MacDonald's pluck, his daring. In no other respect, we submit, is he admirable. His madcap stunt, coming as a shock to his wife, leaves her on the verge of a breakdown. His son is robbed of a father. And without reason. Lindbergh's spanning of the Atlantic was, perhaps, of some use in that it proved that such things were not outside the realm of possibility. But the time when airplanes may safely negotiate the trip is as yet far distant. To believe otherwise is to be guilty of blind and senseless optimism.

Moreover, Lindbergh's trip was planned with mathematical precision. There was not a single contingency that might be foreseen which had not been provided against. Chance rode with him. MacDonald threw his life away in a silly rush of over-confidence made up of reasons which one has not taken. "Hunches" are just that or they are trouble to formulate. And reason remains man's single safe guide.

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