Religious beliefs are not things apart from economic and social stability, in the opinion of Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace, the New Deal’s outstanding student of religion and human problems. Pointing out that “in the economic world there is remarkable identity of social creed on the part of the Protestants, Jews and Catholics,” he believes that it is high time that the three religious groups join hands “in an endeavor to find the broadest possible religious platform on which all can cooperate in a fervor for the common good without giving up any of that individual flavor which each group so highly prizes.”
The objectives recognized by the New Deal, Secretary Wallace says, “are not only those of the Christian religion but also of Judaism and other sincere faiths recognizing the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.” The supreme challenge to the Christian and Jewish conscience of this nation are embodied in whether or not the influential or wealthy members and adherents of the various faiths are willing to recognize as a substitute for enlightened self-interest, a community of responsibility to the economic world, and a recognition in the religious world that man is definitely more than an economic animal. Secretary Wallace believes that economic laws must be made the servants of the higher impulses of man. These higher impulses which operate in true science, art and literature, as well as religion, must master and give the reason for economic activities.
Too often have religious groups lost sight of the basic fundamentals and concepts which have been developed through the ages. Secretary Wallace calls attention to the fact that particularly in recent years the different religious groups have developed platforms in which definite social principles have been outlined. The principles stated in these platforms are to a large extent embodied in the principles surrounding the New Deal.
Secretary Wallace recently had occasion to cite the social creeds of various religions to show their similarity. In this citation he quoted selections from the Declaration of Social Principles of the Central Conference of American Rabbis of June, 1923.
Some of the selections included the following:
“It is part of the great social message of the prophets of our faith that salvation can be achieved only through the salvation of society as a whole. It is therefore incumbent upon all men to study the ills of the existing social order and to form intelligent opinions on the subject of social reconstruction.
“â€”We maintain that the unrestricted and unlimited exercise of the right of private ownership without regard for social results is morally untenable.
“â€”The solution of the ills which beset our social order are to be found not in any class conscious struggle but in the triumph of sound humanitarian principles which regard mankind as one.
“â€”We who uphold a religious philosophy of life cannot sanction a practice which tends more and more to treat labor as only an instrument.â€”
“Machinery and industry exist for man and not man for them.
“The same rights of organization which rest with employers rest also with those whom he employs.
“Contributions to the common good and not the selfish service of a class is the touchstone of all moral endeavor.
“In the stewardship of the earth, society must guarantee each of its members the chance to labor and to earn a living wage. Such a wage must be considered the first charge upon any industry.
“The right to work is a spiritual necessity. Unemployment not only breeds poverty; it is the source of moral disintegration from which every man and his family must be protected.
“â€”We advocate the adoption by business and by state and nation of some form of unemployment insurance, as well as some system of nationally interlocking employment agencies and vocational guidance agencies which will intelligently direct labor and aid in averting crises of unemployment. â€”We feel, moreover, that there should be an effort at some more permanent stabilization of employment than exists today.
“We record our endorsement of pensions for old age which give the worker and his wife dignity in age and rid him of the fear of ultimate pauperism and the poorhouse after a life of labor; of sickness and disability insurance which will protect the worker from poverty in event of accident or illness, or mothers’ pensions which will prevent the separation of children of poor widows from their natural guardian and protect the integrity of the home, of special protection of the worker from industrial dangers and diseases, and of the rehabilitation of industrial cripples under the direction of the state.
“â€”There must be for women in industry an absolute maximum of an eight-hour day. There must be no exploitation of women in industry by giving them less than equal pay with men for equal work.
“It is our moral responsibility to children to see that they are well born, properly nourished and educated and given the fullest opportunity to develop their physical, mental and moral powers. We therefore oppose child labor unqualifiedly and call upon society to enact proper legislation to bring it to an end.”
And, while the New Deal has embodied in it many of the social creed ideas expressed at some time or other by all of the religious groups, yet, “against the New Deal have come thundering highly individualistic business men, mostly of Protestant background but some Catholics, some Jewish, and all cast in the mold of nineteenth century economics and biology,” Secretary Wallace points out.
He describes these individuals as “ruthless go-getters, they are still determined to get theirs. The Protestants among them look on the Federal Council of Churches as a group of radicals and preach that the chief end of man is to work hard and save. The Catholics among them have not studied the Papal Encyclicals and assume as a matter of course that the Catholic Church, because it is on the side of law and order, is also on the side of the wealthy and powerful in their ruthless exercise of economic power. The Jews among them have all too often departed from their orthodexy of old to replace Jehovah with the worship of Mammon.”
The Roosevelt cabinet member points out that the experience of the past 100 years would indicate that there is no better equipment for material success in life than the training of a devout Protestant or orthodox Jewish family. As long as there was a frontier to be conquered, such training produced a truly social result.
But, he says, times have changed tionâ€”something which those with and there is need for re-orienta-influence or wealth have not realized. “In the old days when we still had a frontier in the west and we were a debtor nation, scrambling to produce to the limit to attain an excess of exports over imports with which to pay interest on our debts, the doctrine of enlightened self-interest was perhaps sufficient to preserve the necessary growth factor in our society and at the same time maintain all that was necessary of balance between productive and consumptive power.”