“Revolution in Life and in Thought,” by Rhoda E. McCulloch
June 24, 1946
Many of those who analyze the present scene in the United States tell us that we are in the midst of a radical revolution—economic, social, and political. The problems of life have overtaken our ability to find creative solutions. Action is deeply revolutionary; thinking about this action and its implications is far from revolutionary.
Looking toward the more recent past, we are still not too sure in our understanding of the real forces which brought on the war. We are confused by the present, and horridly fascinated by the future. There is a vague sense that our destiny as a nation is now at the hour, with an equally vague idea of the way that we must travel if we are to match this hour.
In the wavering uncertainty of our leaders, there is less hope than in a scene in which sharply defined policies and programs are in bitter conflict. It is not enough to blame men in high places for momentary expediency. It is time for each one of us, as citizens, to speed up the glacial movement of our thinking, and come to some ordered approach to the problems of a social system which now must be considered in terms of a world rather than a parish. It is not only soldiers and sailors who have come home to a strange new world. We are all trying to find our footing on an unfamiliar terrain. Remarks overheard on commuting trains, angry tappings of hateful news columns in the morning papers show more frustration than constructive thinking.
All that is loosely gathered up and affirmed in devotion to democracy has swiftly taken on unfamiliar implications. In many quarters there is fear of the rising power of the workers, but this kind of fear is part of the growing pains of a democracy in which groups, once unequal participants, are beginning to have more bargaining powers.
The machinery of operating a democratic government is an international scene in which the United States is both powerful and inter-dependent, and calls for new tools and modes of expression in political life. The techniques for determining what kind of men and women are needed as legislators and executives are more difficult to learn than the easy business of throwing them out of office when they displease us.
A recent survey produces evidence that 90% of Americans want the United States to be part of an international organization. The missing element in this conviction is knowledge of what is involved for us in such an organization, and willingness to pay the price. This same survey showed that 80% of the people believe that our military forces should be at the disposal of the international organization in putting down aggressors. Many of these same people may still be holding on to the ancient contention that our national sovereignty is sacred.
The old “that-is-human-nature” explanation of prejudices and resentful discriminations directed toward minority groups lives on in many people who, at the same time, see how fatally divisive these attitudes are in a nation struggling to be a democracy.
It is folly to assume that the lines of the new society are not yet drawn; we are all at the same beginning point of learning how to live in it. We need to learn how to analyze and criticize the scene, and to be as skillful in training this analysis upon ourselves as we are in criticizing those who hold the opposite position. We need to test our belief that the value of a democratic society must be judged by the quality of the people that it produces. Beneath all the shouting and confusion, the people of this nation are now testing out the strength of this fundamental idea. As a people, we are not very skilled in relating high objectives to the ways and means that match them. Greater than the need for more effective leaders is the need to find ways by which the growing sense of responsibility in the people at large can be mobilized and directed to the guidance of the nation.
The revolution is more than political, or economic. It is a revolution in thinking about the relation of religion to life, for we are growing in understanding of God by every move that we make in realizing the interdependence of the human family.
Rhoda E. McCulloch (1884 – 1978) wrote on education, religion, social progress, working women, marriage, and the women’s movement in Christianity and Crisis, The Association Monthly, and The Woman’s Press. She wrote The War and the Woman Point of View and was the editor-in-chief of The Woman’s Press, a publication of the Young Women’s Christian Association.