The long story of the way in which the forces of the Christian faith, though operating slowly, finally made a difference in how men lived, should give us, if we are willing to observe it, a practical hint about the problems that we face at the end of the twentieth century. Many, it is true, talk glibly of the sacredness of persons, and this includes several who have no conscious adherence to the faith of Christ, but it is quite possible that without a religious anchorage the doctrine of inherent human sacredness cannot be maintained. The forces of impersonalism, we must remember, are very strong. The deepest roots of what we call democracy are not to be found in ancient Greece, where democracy experienced one of its greatest failures. It was, after all, the Athenian democracy that pronounced the death sentence upon Socrates, “concerning whom I may truly say,” said Plato, “that of all the men of his time whom I have known, he was the wisest and justest and best.” (Phaedo, 118A). The deepest roots of democracy are found in the Bible, particularly in the revolutionary story of Naboth’s Vineyard, in which both king and commoner stand on exactly the same level because both derive from the Divine paternity.
Whether the dignity of the individual, which lies at the heart of the entire struggle for equal rights and social justice, can be maintained permanently on any other basis we cannot know, but we shall, if we wish to be realistic, pay careful attention to the one basis that is known to be an effective place to stand, and from which many loads may be lifted. When we realize, with Whitehead and other historians of ideas, the way in which a free society traces its roots back to a religious belief and commitment, we shall not lightly ...1
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