Cuckoo-Freedom and Inverted Tolerance
by Dr Warren A Candler
From Current Comments on Timely Topics, Cokesbury Press, 1926
Tolerance is a virtue much lauded at the present day by many who indulge intolerance toward Christianity and the Church, and who then invoke the law of toleration for their own protection while attacking revealed religion. With such persons it is entirely consistent with tolerance to apply a corrosive criticism to the Christian Scriptures, charging that those sacred books are filled with absurd myths, childish folklore, and bald contradictions; but it is quite intolerant for a Christian to doubt, or deny, any or all of the unproved theories of Modernism, so called. Simple faith is characterized as "fool-religion," and all sorts of coarse and contemptuous epithets are hurled at the heads of the faithful.
But this acrimonious spirit of liberalism does not mislead as many people as it once did. Men are beginning to see that it is the hollow cant of Pharisaic skepticism.
Recently the Chicago News gave the matter editorial treatment, much needed and well deserved. The editor said:
"There are, of course, two sides to the present contest over 'tolerance.' Certain Presbyterian authorities are denounced because they do not like to intrust a Presbyterian flock to a pastor who will lead it into non-Presbyterian or anti-Presbyterian pastures. This is called 'narrow-mindedness.'
Certain Episcopalian authorities are denounced because they think that a bishop who every Sabbath repeats the Nicene Creed from the steps of the altar ought to believe with his heart what he says with his lips. This is called 'medievalism.'
Certain Republican authorities are denounced because they cannot see why a senator should break all the Republican dishes, and then expect to eat from the Republican pie counter. This is called 'hunting political heretics.'
Various 'enlightened radicals' feel particularly bad about these things. It may be helpful to test the shoe by putting it on their own feet.
People in this country are perfectly free to form their own clubs and churches and political parties. Freedom to do these things constitutes precisely 'tolerance.' What is now frequently and loudly demanded is not merely freedom to preach one's own beliefs, but further freedom to preach those beliefs with the help of machinery established and maintained by others. This new further freedom is what might be called - without any intended offense - a sort of cuckoo-freedom, the freedom to lay eggs in other birds' nests.
In fact, tolerance cuts both ways. Therefore, if we are going to have tolerance for people's expressions of their views, we must also equally have tolerance for the house rules of other people's organizations."
That is a vivid and just description of the kind of liberty for which liberalism clamors - "a sort of cuckoo-freedom, the freedom to lay eggs in other birds' nests." Liberalists never tire of telling how in "this age of progress the old faiths are dead and advanced thought is advancing victoriously everywhere." Well, if liberalism is so popular why does it not make its own ecclesiastical organizations, build its own churches, and erect and endow its own colleges and universities? Why do liberalists strive to occupy the pulpits and professors' chairs of the evangelical Churches, and turn them against the faith of the saintly and generous people whose gifts made them possible? Is such a cuckoo-course quite fair to the dead or honest toward the living?
As a matter of fact, recorded broadly and luminously on the pages of history, orthodox Christianity has fought its way to power, not by the fierceness of bigotry, but by the fidelity of heroic labors and sacrificial suf-ferings. From the martyrdom of St. Stephen to the present hour, it has not hesitated to die, if necessary, for "the faith once for all delivered to the saints." Its epic conflicts and heroic achievements stretch through the lives of a long line of fearless soldiers of the cross, "who through faith have subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens." (Heb. xi. 33, 34.)
If liberalism has with it all "the truth," "reality," and "sincerity" which it claims, why has it not more courage and less cuckooisms? Does it hold that nothing it teaches is worth the cost of erecting churches in which to proclaim it and establishing educational institutions in which to teach it? Must it always lay its eggs in the nests of orthodox birds? Can it build no nests of its own in which to hatch liberalistic broods, honestly born and honestly fed ?
Liberalism has been particularly addicted to perverting colleges and universities from the purposes of their founders. Some bluntly call it "stealing educational property"; and, though the words are a bit sharp, they are not without justification. Harvard and Yale in former days were thus alienated from the ends which their founders intended them to serve. The venerable name of John Harvard persists with the institution that he founded, but his purpose in founding it has been nullified long since.
Recently a distinguished gentleman from one of the Northern States told the writer that all the wealthier colleges and universities of his Church had been shrewdly captured by the liberalists.
It is a significant fact they never seek to capture an educational institution in the period of its poverty when sacrificial service is required to maintain it. The cuckoos of liberalism pick carefully the nests they aim at occupying, and seek soft ones only.
Herein Southern colleges and universities are now in great peril. Through years of poverty and struggle heroic men have served and sustained them while liberalists would not lift so much as a little finger to support them. But now they are in better condition financially. Some of them have become wealthy, having magnificent buildings, excellent equipment, and considerable endowments. And behold, already some cuckoos are nesting in them, and drawing their fellow birds after them.
Our colleges and universities are now exposed to a danger far worse than the peril of poverty; and to save them much courage, patience, wisdom, and fidelity upon the part of their governing boards will be required. Efforts to eject from them cuckoos of liberalism, who are already nesting in them, will elicit from the whole brood cries of "intolerance," "academic freedom," "liberty of thought," and the like. But notwithstanding all such croaking and screeching, they must be gotten out of nests in which their eggs are dishonest deposits.
It is not too late to save our Southern institutions, but delay to save them is most unwise and dangerous. Soon it will be too late to save them. From them will go forth flocks of cuckoo alumni who will be quick to defend the misuse of them as nests for cuckoos. Then the task of cleansing will be far more difficult than if undertaken now.
Moreover, the stream of the cuckoos of liberalism flying toward our colleges and universities from nests in the North must be turned away. The cuckoos already nesting in our institutions of learning should not be increased by so much as one more fledgling of that variety.
The superstition which vainly imagines that every young academic, who has the degree of Doctor of Philosophy from a distant university possessed of wealth, is fit to teach must be exploded. It was never more easy than now to secure a doctorate, and its possession in its best estate was never proof that its possessor was a man who was qualified to instruct youths. In making up faculties for our educational institutions more regard must be had for native ability and strong personality and less store placed on mere alphabetic decorations that signify nothing more than academic degrees variously won.
Let our colleges and universities make and choose their own men; and from them take only such as have clear heads and clean hearts. This is not an intolerant sentiment, nor does it pro-pose an intolerant policy. It is simply a sentiment of self-respect, and it suggests a policy of self-preservation for our civilization and our holy religion.
The South is the stronghold of evangelical Christianity in the United States, and it should remain so. This service it owes and should render to the nation. But it will be utterly unable to fulfill this high and holy responsibility if its institutions of learning become infected with liberalism.
E-mail: Sean Richardson