Again to C. Wright Mills, In A Pagan Sermon to the Christian Clergy he said, “But you may say, ‘Don’t let’s get the church into politics.’ You might well say that with good conscience, were the political role of the church to be confined to what it has been and what it is. But in view of what it might be, you would say, ‘This world is political.’ Politics, understood for what it really is today, has to do with the decisions men make which determine how they shall live and how they shall die. They are not living very well, and they are not going to die very well either. Politics is the locale of both evil and good. If you do not get the church into politics you will simply offer another distraction from reality, you will be unable to confront evil and you cannot work for good. You will be a subordinate amusement and political satrap of whatever is going. You will be the great Christian joke.”
Let me be as concrete as possible. The shaping of a new society, and the manner in which we shall live in it, are political matters. This process includes, of course, the areas of moral and intellect. If we believe that these areas should be related to our activities which make a difference to the people as a whole, then personal morals and politics become closely enmeshed. If our religion or philosophy is not to become escapist and irresponsible, it will require us to take a political stance, to become involved. This is true for us an for the people with whom we work, in and out of our churches.
You and I have an obligation to break vulgar stereotypes about political activity. Many of those in power today, in government, in the press, in business and in industry, and most certainly in the military, do not wish to see more aroused political activity. Certainly the Southern Congressmen will try everything in the book to keep millions of negroes from voting in their own states. Politics affects your own style of life, or it is a hoax and a fraud.
Long before the Unitarians were hammering out of some of these axioms for human progress, Thomas Aquinas, that sensible empiricist of the Sicilian court, though not particularly interested in politics, possessed one political principal that survived in the Catholic heritage, namely, the function of the state is not negative, but positive; its duty is actively to create conditions in which the good life can be lived. He is a spokesman akin to Plato, St. Ignatius, and Karl Marx. Apparently Pope John XXIII had also been rereading his Thomas Aquinas recently, if I understand his Easter Encyclical, “Pacem in Terris,” aright.
The Primacy of Politics
Whether Amos, Jeremiah and Isaiah added as richly to the theory of the state I leave others to say, but certainly we Unitarians and Universalist should have no sense whatever of being prematurely radical in our insistence that we must help our members to grasp the primacy of politics in times such as we are passing through today, politics which involve deep personal moral commitment. It is indeed our duty to agree fervidly with James Baldwin when he speaks in the words of the old-time spiritual of “the fire next time.” Or maybe you will prefer the words of that distinguished British journalist, Paul Johnson, “If the apostles of social change eschew violence they must embrace speed.” Our task is not merely to improve but to change society, because only with a changed society can men live as human beings, rather than as appendages to our mechanical progeny, machines.