Commonplace Book #173

We are all responsible. We all want the things which the factory produces and none of us is sensitive enough to care how much in human values the efficiency of the modern factory costs. Besides the brutal facts of modern industrial life, how futile are all our homiletical spoutings! The church is undoubtedly cultivating grace and preserving spiritual amenities in the more protected areas of society. But it isn’t changing the essential facts of modern industrial civilization by a hair’s breadth. It isn’t even thinking about them.

The morality of the church is anachronistic. Will it ever develop a moral insight and courage sufficient to cope with the real problems of modern society? If it does it will require generations of effort and not a few martyrdoms. We ministers maintain our pride and self-respect and our sense of importance only through a vast and inclusive ignorance. If we knew the world in which we live a little better we would perish in shame or be overcome by a sense futility.

Reinhold Niebuhr, Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic, 65-66.