Episcopal Bishop Anson Phelps Stokes, Jr., urges church people to make “required reading” of the report of the President’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. “This Lent,” says Bishop Stokes, “our spiritual reading need not be out of the Bible, for a spiritual and moral crisis has been presented to us all by an arm of government.”

If anyone still doubts that a crisis exists, he ought to take the bishop’s advice immediately, Lent or no Lent. The riot report is a disturbing, almost despairing, document. It finds that despite all the marches and all the violence and all the legislation of the last fifteen years, the plight of America’s 22 million Negroes grows progressively worse. And the rioting of last summer, indeed the whole “explosive mixture which has been accumulating in our cities since the end of World War II,” is traced to a basic single source. Says the commission: “White racism is essentially responsible.”

This is a severe moral judgment—one that ought not to be lightly offered or hurriedly credited. It is a somewhat surprising finding, too, since the report as a whole reflects a secular sociological tone. The makeup and methodology of the commission allowed for little in the way of a theological dimension. The role of the churches in urban crisis gets no study in the 250,000-word report.

But what of the charge? Is it really “white racism” that is behind our ghetto problem?

Careful analysis suggests another answer. The underlying evil is not so much prejudice as avarice. The inordinate desire for “more, more, more” is at the heart of the matter. Blame must be shared by Negro and white.

The white man ...

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