THE ARMY AND RELIGION* HAD this Report been issued by
an Archbishops' Committee, instead of owing its origin to the initiative of certain unofficial members of the several Churches, and to the generous support of the Y.M.C.A., its charaeter and content would have been other than they are. Its limits would have been marked out beforehand ; and the distinguished men whose names would have been appended to it would have said, no doubt bond fide, very much what it was desired and expected that they should say. As it is, it is less shipshape ; joints can be traced ; rough edges are recognizable ; the witnesses do not always see eye to eye with one another, or report the same thing. The result is a certain impression of spontaneousness and of the actual. The writers do not say what they f eel under an obligation to say ; or tell us what they, or those behind them, wish us to believe. They give us the facts, as they have come to their knowledge. The compiler, Professor D. S. Cairns, sums up, and he has done so admirably. But the verdict must come from the reader; and not all readers will give the same.
To the question, What does the soldier think of religion the answer, given with singular unanimity, is that he does not think of religion at all. Yet the same witnesses speak with enthusiasm of his virtues—courage, endurance, comradeship.
The Gospel of Hatred, preached to us at home so vigorously by politicians who " live of " it, is foreign to him. He hates war, indeed, and (though he does not use the term) he hates militarism—the system which takes him from his home or his farm to shoot or be shot by foreigners, with whom he has no personal quarrel, in Flanders ; but and, if we take our ideas from the papers, this is the most extraordinary thing about him—he does not hate, and has never hated, the Hun. Yet it is with difficulty that he can be got to go to church ; and his ignorance of religion is described as " colossal " ; " indeed, where residues of belief remain, they often seem a hindranoe rather than a help." So that, if we identify goodness with what is called " religious-goodness," we are puzzled.
For, though the soldier is good—" good " is often too weak a word—he is certainly not "religious-good." Does not this show that " something is rotten in the state of Denmark "--i.e., in the Churches ? It would be strange were it not so. For tee are the Churches ; and our faults of head and heart stare us—or, if they do not stare us, they stare those about us— in the face. And the evil is an increasing one :— " The loss of the younger manhood of the nation tends to accelerate when once it has begun. The departure of vigorous youth from the Churches throws their direction more and more into the hands of those who remain. Almost insensibly every religious community tends to think first of their edification, to consider their prejudices and their oomforts, and to avoid all measures that may grieve or unsettle them. They are the preponderant element, and nothing must be done to offend them. So the elements of initiative, reform, and revolution more and more pass out of the Churches, and what was a fissure widens into a gulf."
So the Churches become obese ; and where obesity begins, romance ceases. They practise the self-regarding virtues and the prudential vices ; the spacious, open-air, adventurous side of human nature is crushed. " The Church is regarded as feminine," says a soldier. This might be the highest compli- ment that could be paid it ; but the word was not used in this sense. What the speaker had in view was not the tenderness of the mother, nor the spell which a beautiful and gracious woman throws over those who are privileged to come into contact with her—" to love her was a liberal education," it was said of such a woman—but the querulousness of the termagant who bullies her husband, rates her children, and scolds her maids. If we read the so-called religious papers, the comparison is sufficiently appropriate. " Popular religion," said F. W. Robertson two generations ago, " only represents the female element in the national mind. Hence it is at once devotional, • The Army and Religion : an Enquiry, and its Bearing upon the Religious Id/ e uf the Nation. London ; Macmillan. Kn. ankj slanderous, timid, gossiping, narrow, shrieking, and prudish." He lived under the rule of the Record ; we are living under that of the Church Times.
In particular, with rare exceptions, the religious instruction given to children, even in what would be called eduoated in schools of all grades—for the Public Schools are little, if at all, in advance of the elementary—and from the pulpit, can only be described by two words : lamentable and scandalous. What can be expected in after-life from those who realize the extent to which they have been misinformed in their earlier years ? The compilers of this Report are justly severe upon these pious frauds in the matter of the Old Testament. But " few are the partisans of departed tyranny " : they do not define their attitude towards the New. Yet here veracity is even more essential. " Why," asks a soldier, " should we be taught things as children which, when we are grown up, we find are not true ? " It was this question which lay at the root of the Modernist movement in France a generation ago. In England, where, in the matter of ideas, we are always fifty years behind other people, it underlies the questions as to Creed-interpretation, origins, intercommunion, and interchange of pulpits with the non-Episcopal Churches, which are being discussed to-day.
Yet there is another side to the divergence between the " plain man " and religion. For there is a cheap scepticism as well as a cheap orthodoxy ; and the one is as worthless as the other. What is the refutation of each is the immensity of the horizons. The " plain man "—since, however plain he may be, he is a man—touches life here and now, and at a particular point. Religion touches its whole surface, and does so outside time and place conditions. The simplest religious service is a link between continents and ages, and connects primitive with modern men. It carries us back to early Hebrew civilization ; its presuppositions reach to an age behind history ; its thoughts to the foundations of mental and moral science ; its memories cover the long, mixed, and imperfectly deciphered record of mankind. The field is vast. And, " How shall he become wise that holdeth the plough ? " A brilliant, but not very profound, French writer once asked Hegel for a " succinct account" of his philosophy. The great man looked at him. " Monsieur," he said, " ces chases ne se dieent pas suctinctement —surtout en franfaie." The same may be said of religion. It cannot be compressed into a paragrap1, or made intelligible to persons who form their minds on popular newspapers. It is not unreasonable to ask that those who put large questions shall be at the pains of making themselves acquainted with the ground which those questions cover ; if they have not done so, they are " speaking into the air." On its own ground the objection raised is, as a rule, valid ; the inference drawn, or suggested, is, as a rule, invalid. " We shall not refute you," it has been said ; we shall explain you." The argument is two-edged. When you have really explained the miracles, the prophecies, the mixed modes and magnitudes of religion, the argument against Christianity with which they present us—at first sight formidable—is reduced to manageable pro- portions ; it is not the high explosive which its propounders supposed.
The moral argument of the " plain man " may be viewed in the same light. That clergymen are often dull, services wearisome, and sermons tedious is true. But do not let us ask for better bread than is made with wheat. If we will not go to church till the minister is like St. Francis, and the layman like " A Student in Arms," and the service unites the fire of the Salvation Army with the dignity of a Basilica, and the sermon combines the piety of St. Paul with the thought of Plato, clothing both in the diction of Mr. Lloyd George—well, we must remain outside. Such a Church does not exist, has never existed, and will never exist. The difficulty is that it requires a certain amount of thought to see this ; and thinking is not the " plain man's " strong point.
The religion which has the promise of the future will keep clear of these rival insincerities—that of belief, and that of unbelief. It is probable that it will not greatly concern itself with abstractions and speculations. It will have three leading characteristics. (1) It will embrace, not exclude; making short work, e.g., of denominational differences. " In a chaplain, personality goes for everything ; Orders for nothing " ; it will care for none of these things. (2) It will be inseparable from a far-reaching social and economic move- ment. It will lay a stress, hitherto undreamed of, on the altruism which is of the essence of the Gospel ; it will have
neither use nor toleration for the unbrotherly man. (3) It will be part and parcel of an increasing life and civilization. It will welcome all new knowledge, all new sympathies and aspirations, all new openings into the beyond. On all these three sides religion, as we see it, is defective. It possesses piety, benevolence, and zeal. But it is ignorant, and lacking both in truthfulness and in the sense of the actual. The rest will not save it. It is on its power of acquiring wisdom, truthfulness, and actuality that its future depends.