In Search Of Proper Balance

What’s Right with Race Relations, by Harriet Harmon Dexter (Harper, 1958, 248 pp., $4); Segregation and Desegregation, by T. B. Maston (Macmillan, 1959, 178 pp., $3.50); The Bible and Race, by T. B. Maston (Broadman, 1959, 117 pp., $2.50); and The Racial Problem in Christian Perspective, by Kyle Haselden (Harper, 1959, 222 pp., $3.50), are reviewed by Tunis Romein, Professor of Philosophy, Erskine College, Due West, S. C.

This random collection of four books on race problems shows, upon examination, an unexpectedly neat design and progression in the perspectives of the writers as well as the locations of their home grounds.

Harriet Dexter is from the North (Ashland, Wisconsin), T. B. Maston is from the South (Houston, Texas), Kyle Haselden was reared in the South (South Carolina) but went North, and, irrelevant perhaps but necessary to fulfill the demands of symmetry, the reviewer was reared in the North but went South. By now the reader should be alert to possibilities of subtle interplay between fact, perspective, and plain bias which seems hardly avoidable in this juxtaposition of varied views about race problems.

Mrs. Harriet Dexter’s What’s Right with Race Relations is attractively written, informed with a fantastic number of everyday happenings expertly presented as if she had witnessed, or participated in, every one of them. For anyone tired of the dismal side of race relations, this book ought to be a tonic with its wide coverage of good news in the schools and colleges, in labor, housing, transportation, sports, churches, voting, press, courts, and the armed forces.

This good story, however, sometimes unintentionally creates a negative aftermath, perhaps because it is too much the good side. Accenting what is true out of context detracts from the force of the truth. Saying what is right and positive is admirable, but saying it beyond what is warranted in the circumstances weakens the author’s purpose, a point somewhat illustrated by Sören Kierkegaard’s story about the man who escaped from the asylum and resolved to prove that he was sane. This he did by telling everyone he met that the earth was round, whereupon his neighbors got worried about him and put him back.

In general I think Mrs. Dexter’s book speaks the language of a sizeable segment of our intellectual world which is convinced that it is best to emphasize the positive and to assume that things are not so bad in the long run; that our culture is endowed with an immanent predilection for better ways and in spite of occasional distractions and disturbances, e.g. our current racial stresses, the general progress is good basis for optimism.

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Whereas her book is not on the whole religiously oriented (although some of the chapters are devoted to the churches and the “motivating power of religion”), T. B. Maston’s two books are theologically oriented, which is appropriate in view of his professorship at Southwestern Theological Seminary. And whereas Mrs. Dexter looks at the Southern problem from a neutral corner, Mr. Maston does so in his own corner of the Southland.

In The Bible and Race, the author discusses man in the image of God; the oneness of the family of men; the question of who is our neighbor; being subject to the law of the land; and fallacious interpretations of the curse of Canaan. His theology is conservative, I think, although in his Segregation and Desegregation he often seems to speak the same language as Harriet Dexter with the same liberal overtones. At other times Mr. Maston writes sharply and radically, reminding us of Mr. Haselden’s book which is yet to be discussed.

For Mrs. Dexter the presentation of scientific findings to support the argument of equality of races seems consistent with her position, but for Mr. Maston, with his biblical orientation, these findings are interesting but not essential. Biblical truth is God-Truth somehow personally and existentially understood, and any sub-personal verification scientifically bolstered seems an affront to this kind of Truth. On the other hand it seems that Mr. Maston goes somewhat modern with his implications that if we do not treat the Negro right the Communists will make political hay, or that we must treat the Negro justly in order to enhance missionary programs in other lands. He would speak more authoritatively if he said that we must be constructively responsive to the Negro and all our other neighbors simply because this is God’s commandment, and this command is reason enough.

Especially in Segregation and Desegregation we see signs of cross currents in Mr. Maston’s thinking about these problems. This is understandable in light of the author’s aim to discuss the problems reasonably when reason must listen to the modern sociologist (one of the author’s degrees is in sociology), and to the dictates of Christian ethics (teaching Christian ethics is his main work), also to high level church dignitaries (he is active in Baptist affairs in the South), and not the least to his neighbors on the grass roots level in Houston where race relations is indeed more than an academic problem. Because reason tries to take into account the many facets of this problem, the book presents a well-tempered outline; but possibly it is a less forceful work than the crusading exhortations of Mr. Maston’s Baptist colleague, Kyle Haselden.

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Author Haselden acknowledges that he is a “protest” writer, no doubt nurtured by a heritage of “eight known generations” of South Carolinians whose state historically was no mean performer in the art of protest. But now Mr. Haselden reverses the field by protesting with vigor against all forms of segregation the preservation of which is undoubtedly important to his South Carolinian kinfolk.

The author writes fiercely about race problems and prejudice, and his literary style is well suited to the temper of his convictions. We have been thinking of Mrs. Dexter’s book as a liberal presentation and Mr. Maston’s books as a mixture: sometimes quite liberal, sometimes with a touch of the radical, and throughout with a gentle underlying conservatism. But of Mr. Haselden we must say that he is pretty definitely the radical member of the group. By radical I mean that he is deeply moved by the grim realities of evil in the world, and he wants action—forceful action wherever possible—immediately.

The writer begins immediately with the Church and its shortcomings in the handling of race problems. She is “a mother of racial patterns … a purveyor of arrant sedatives … a teacher of immoral moralities.” Then, in a well-ordered series of chapters, the author outlines the rights of minority groups, namely the right to have, the right to belong, and the right to be. Finally, in the view that all men are of one blood, Mr. Haselden discusses the urgency of establishing a racially united Church.

Sometimes Mr. Haselden writes like a modern prophet with a constitutional antipathy to social quietism in his sharp demands for social action, and in this respect he proceeds appropriately as a Rauschenbusch lecturer. At other times the author sounds like an ancient prophet as he thunders down at proud entrenched and sinful humanity: “There is no sin which is not primarily or ultimately a sin against God.… Racial prejudice is an externalized and objectified form of that self-centeredness, a visible part of that invisible pride which must subdue all rivals and whose last rival is God. We can say, therefore, that prejudice, put theologically, is one of man’s several neurotic and perverted expressions of his will to be God.… Prejudice, all forms of it, is rooted in the sinful will of every man to surmount, by their extinction if necessary, all other men and at last to assault in final challenge the sovereignty of God.…”

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In many chapters, however, the author seems to concentrate so intensely on racial prejudice that he loses the prophetic perspective of human sinfulness in general. Indeed, “the Jew had his gentile; the Greek had his barbarian; the Roman his non-Roman … the Nazis … their non-Aryans; and now the white man has his Negro.” But surely the author could have added, “the integrationist has his segregationist and vice-versa.”

What is worrisome sometimes about modern prophecy is the tendency to launch out on crusades which seem admirable but which in the end turn out to be deep-seated rebellions or sublimated aggressions reflecting inner personal frustrations. As the writer points out, race prejudice may often be an expression of inner frustration, but a wider look at ourselves may also indicate that some of the unnaturally intensified attacks and crusades against persons guilty of race prejudice may in themselves be signs of some sort of modern internal disturbance.

In some ways it seems that Mr. Haselden combines Christian faith with a contemporary social reconstructionist outlook in his intense preoccupation with utopian goals. From a conservative viewpoint I admire the crusading spirit and the rigorous commitment to a cause, but what about the anticipated practical fulfillment of these utopian visions? Ecumenicity in the churches, integration of races, substantial strides toward the elimination of prejudice—how can these developments come about when the Church is spiritually weak, numbed by the inroads of secularism and materialism? The author himself points out that although blacks and whites are closer together in some ways, they are nevertheless in a deeper sense more tragically estranged than before. He mentions that an essential problem for the Negro is to be wanted (actually an essential problem for us all). But how can he speak optimistically about the fulfillment of this deep personal need when the world becomes daily more collectivized—grows in its inhuman tendencies toward depersonalization and increases in its fragmenting impingements upon our daily lives?

Sometimes our writers speak forcefully like ancient prophets; sometimes they speak not so convincingly like modern prophets. Possibly the unconvincing part reflects the disconnectedness of our times with a wedge being driven between our passion for the freedom and equality of men on the one hand and our concern for the redemption of their souls on the other. Surely one of the difficult problems involved in the discussion of race problems from a Christian perspective is the question of a proper balance between what may be good and what must come first.

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Celestial Visitant

Jungle Pilot, by Russell T. Hitt (Harper, 1959, 303 pp., $3.75), is reviewed by Clarence W. Hall, Senior Editor, The Reader’s Digest.

Here is surely one of the classic evangelical biographies of our time. To the growing literature on that missionary epic called “Operation Auca” Russell Hitt has added an inspiring title.

Readers of such books as Through Gates of Splendor and Shadow of the Almighty, as well as the many magazine articles done on the subject—most of which necessarily were able to touch only sketchily on Nate Saint and his part in the historic attempt to reach the savage Ecuadorian tribe—will want this fuller account of the imaginative and dedicated young flyer upon whose ingenuity the whole operation so largely depended. And for those—if there be any left—who have not yet been inspired by any other account of the five young martyrs and their daring exploit for the Kingdom, this book could be no better introduction. For here, in the essence of one man’s life, is epitomized the spirit and dedication of all.

This is a book that should be in the library of every minister in the land. One could wash too that it could be placed in the hands and hearts of every Christian youth. Today’s young people, too shy of “heroes” these days, could find no better hero than Nate Saint.

It is fortunate that Nate Saint has had for his Boswell so capable and sensitive a biographer as Russ Hitt. With the sure hand of the seasoned editor, Hitt has excepted from the vast bulk of Saint’s carefully preserved letters, diaries, and other writings the most revealing anecdotes and quotes, and knitted them together into a fine portrait of a God-possessed man.

As anyone knows who has read even the briefest extract from the famous Nate Saint letters and diaries, the young flyer had a striking talent for expressing himself—colorfully, dramatically, and without benefit of those religious clichés that too often render evangelical writing incomprehensible save to the sanctified. Hitt’s achievement is that he has resisted any temptation to paraphrase his subject’s own language, and has allowed Saint to speak for himself.

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A life as great as that of Nate Saint is not made in a moment, but is the result of many influences and experiences. Recorded here are the inspiring facts of life that made the colorful flyer what he was: the boyhood in the lively Saint household, the careful Christian nurture by godly parents; the temptations met and overcome; Saint’s early love affair with aviation; the buffeting adventures of army and college life; the tender love between Nate and Marj (surely one of the choicest examples of Christian wifehood in modern literature); the battles with himself and the calling to missionary service he could not dodge; his inventive genius in flying the rickety “celestial rafts” provided by the shoe-string missionary fellowship and which he patched up into something resembling flying machines; the inception and denouement of the audacious effort to reach the Aucas.

In the author’s words: “Birth is the beginning and death the end of the life chronicle of most men. But there are those, like Nate Saint and his four companions, who learn to walk with God and live in the dimension of the eternal. They are in the true spiritual succession of Abel of whom it was said, ‘He being dead yet speaketh.’ ”

Through this deeply moving book, Nate Saint will indeed go on speaking. His “witness” has just begun.


Communicating The Gospel

Two Thousand Tongues To Go, by Ethel E. Wallis and Mary A. Bennett (Harper, 1959, 308 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Frank W. Price, Director of Missionary Research Library.

At the end of the fifteenth century there were 14 translations of the Bible, at the end of the seventeenth century there were 53, at the end of the nineteenth century there were 575, and now the Bible or parts of the Bible have been translated into more than eleven hundred languages and dialects. All around the world they can say, “We hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”

The translation of the Holy Scriptures is a miraculous and fascinating story. Missionary history is full of accounts of men and women who have been threatened, beaten, and even killed because they dared to bring the Word of God to people who had not read or could not read it. Tyndale and Wycliffe paid the price of suffering when they gave us the first English translations of the Bible. Many on all continents have followed in their train.

We know of the great work of the Bible societies in the past two centuries. That the days of pioneering in Bible translation are not over is clearly revealed in this well-written, exciting book about the Wycliffe Bible Translators. Although the Bible is available today to 95 per cent of the world’s people in languages familiar to them, there still remain hundreds of tribes in the Americas, Africa, and the isles of the Pacific which do not possess even one of the Gospels in their own tongue. And these, the 875 Wycliffe missionaries believe, are just as precious in the sight of God as the nations and civilizations for which the whole Bible has been translated.

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It began when Cameron Townsend went as a colporteur of Spanish Bibles to Guatemala in 1917. He took an interest in the Indian tribes people in the markets, with their strange dialects. The movement to reach the Indians grew, and in 1933 the Wycliffe Bible Translators was born, along with its famous Summer Institute of Linguistics. From Central and South America the Translators have reached out to New Guinea and the Philippines and other areas. The bold enterprise has fired the imagination of Christians everywhere. Even political leaders like President Cardenas of Mexico and President Magsaysay of the Philippine Republic have paid the Wycliffe missionaries high tribute. Here is a difficult, scientific adventure, calling for thorough preparation in languages and linguistics, unremitting study of primitive social life, and daring faith. Here is an effective means of evangelizing the “regions beyond” and a way of civilizing unlettered and often savage tribes.

The “two thousand tongues to go” are the languages of an estimated two thousand tribes, large and small, yet to be reached with the Christian message. Some of these have but a few hundred people; some of the tongues spoken are dialects related to one another; other languages are spoken by larger numbers. But even though this total “un-Bibled” population may be but a few score millions, the task of giving them God’s Word in their native speech is one of the greatest challenges of the modern missionary enterprise. The men and women answering this call would be the last to call themselves heroes, but their names are certainly worthy of a place in any twentieth century postscript to Hebrews chapter 2.


Proclaiming The Message

Preaching, the Art of Communication, by Leslie J. Tizard (Oxford University Press, 1959, 107 pp., $2.25), is reviewed by Andrew W. Blackwood, Professor Emeritus of Homiletics, Princeton Seminary.

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This is a series of five inspirational addresses by the most recent successor (recently deceased) of R. W. Dale and J. H. Jowett at Carr’s Lane, Birmingham, England. From a doctrinal viewpoint he is more liberal than Jowett or Dale. The writer says many bright, clever, and suggestive things about “What Preaching Is,” “The Personality of the Preacher” (two chapters), “The Art of Communication,” and “Pastoral Preaching.” This last chapter is perhaps the most nearly original.

Any pastor who already knows what to preach, and why, can profitably read this book as an example of style rather than content. No one ought to buy such a little book solely for inspiration, but any mature servant of God can learn from this Britisher something about presenting familiar ideas in a form clear, pleasing, and at times forcible. Would that we evangelicals were as careful and skillful in preaching the different Gospel in which Jowett and his hearers found delight!


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