The Inaugurating Editorial of The St. Croix Review
Angus MacDonald founded Religion & Society, the educational foundation that publishes The St. Croix Review, in February 1968. The following is his first editorial.
With this issue, we are offering another magazine to the American public. Because there are many excellent magazines, such a venture can be undertaken only if there is a clear and urgent need.
The hope is to clarify the religious bases of society. Our belief is that few magazines are speaking to the true heart of America. On the one hand there are the so-called liberal magazines distributed by the large denominational publishing houses. These are not sure of what they believe in religion, having turned to politics as a substitute for the traditional expressions of their faith. For example, it was once thought that the best way to improve the circumstances of the poor was to bring the gospel to them. People were encouraged to have a strong faith in themselves, and in God, and they were encouraged to be the best men and women they were capable of being. If they lacked ambition, they were counseled to be clean and to be happy. Poverty being no disgrace, indeed, being thought for the greater part of the Christian tradition to be one of the greatest virtues, the poor were taught to be virtuous. Now, the goal of the journals published by the major denominations is to counsel the poor to seize what they consider desirable. There is an advocacy of revolution. Religious leaders, calling themselves “churchmen,” are of the opinion that the ills of society will be cured by political legislation rather than by counsels of individual worthiness. Some of us remain of the opinion that we should be Christian, each one of us, rich and poor alike, and that this preachment offers the only real blessing. “Seek first the kingdom of his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” We shall serve those who are interested in preserving traditions of individual responsibility.
With their commitment to political revolution and with a lack of clarity in what they believe, except in political action, liberal journals are horrendously inadequate. So, I fear are most of the conservative journals. These latter are sound in their instincts. They desire to preserve our heritage. They are horrified at the exchange of Christian faith for political activism, and they rightly perceive the abyss toward which we are blindly rushing. They believe in the efficacy of the Christian faith rather than in a churchly power structure that will be able coerce the government or any dissident individual. The limitation of the conservative journals is that they react to present evils so strongly that they fail to engage the liberals on their own terms. They oppose to the authority of the church institution and the government the authority of the Bible. They say that if the Bible is not accepted as the ultimate authority we are left with only the authority of men, either in church or state, and the end in either case is dictatorship. Much is to be said for this position, it being a hundred times sounder than the position of the liberals. The fact is, however, that Americas do not desire to submit either to the authority of the church, of the government, or of the Bible. Americans won’t believe something because it is in the Bible; they insist that it be obviously true. Americans demand freedom and intelligence.
We are being confronted with two distasteful choices: either we shall accept the liberal premises and advance a totalitarian state, or we shall be conservatives and run the danger of religious fanaticism.
Americans are confused and lonely. They dislike what is happening to their country and to their churches, but they are unable to find an expression of their true beliefs. The faith is present, but it lies hidden, implicit, waiting for someone to bring it forth and put it in clear words. We shall address ourselves to this task, believing that the need is urgent. Various men of national repute will write for the paper: Howard F. Kershner, Russell Kirk, William F. Rickenbacker, Samuel J. Mikolaski, Edmund A. Opitz, Irving E. Howard. The editor will use the space allotted to him as circumstances suggest what is wise. He may submit articles as illustrations of one man’s attempt to express the fundamental relevance of our Christian faith. He may comment on the passing scene, if he has something to say that is not being said in other journals. Having spent much energy over many years in the pursuit of religious literature that is sensible, and believing that an acquaintance with sound religious classics is uncommon, he may name and discuss important books that must be kept in print. How well known, for example, is Irving Babbitt’s Rousseau and Romanticism, yet this fertile book is basic as a critique of style, in understanding the nature of imagination, and as an analysis of our intellectual heritage. This book, in the judgment of the editor, illustrates the type of thinking to which religion must return if it hopes to contribute toward the preservation of civilization.
We solicit your support. We believe that our country is in need of a journal such as the one we are launching. *