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When it comes to a matter of money the only question is can you get away with it. Is this a view of people or puppets. This series of people or puppets is produce by the Union Theological Seminary in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters under a grant from the educational television and radio show. On today's program entitled Can you get away with it. You will hear the views and voices of author Edwin fuller anthropologist Solon Kimball and theologian John Bennett and these are the man who will analyze some of the concepts created by all of modern mass media and compare them with our traditional moral religious values. Here is the commentator for people or puppets. The president of the Union Theological Seminary in New York Dr. Henry Pitney even
the source for our information on a popular area of Xiamen the pursuit of the almighty dollar is one of the more popular present day reporters. Life magazine and this may be significant in itself. In the issue of the October 14th 1957. In an article on white collar crime Life magazine States. Most citizens merely read about violent types of crime but they actually brushed against quite collar crime at home and in business a hundred times a year. Violence is obviously dangerous to the peace of society but the habit of prod if it's Brandons can rock a society's marrow. Last year as much as 5 billion dollars probably changed hands in kickbacks payoffs and bribes. US employers also lost something like half a billion dollars to embezzling employees. Still more money evaporated in retail chiseling. A half billion went
down the drain in home repair product alone. Probably the greatest factor in the spread of white collar crimes today is the apparently popular conviction that a fast buck is a good buck as long as you can get it into your wallet unobtrusively. U.S. Attorney Paul Williams has called the killing and project and practices social and moral crimes but they will be regarded as crimes only to the extent that the American citizen looks behind the facade of official regulation to grasp the essence of his free society which is his individual sense of moral responsibility. If white collar crimes are not considered true crimes we are in trouble deeper trouble than any statistics. Indictments and case histories can ever show. Is Life magazine overly concerned here. Are Americans simple or realistic when it comes to money matters. If something is
to be done in bringing him back into economics in the Middle Ages it was a common belief that traffic and money and goods and danger the so can our modern moral religious institutions exert any effective influence. These are the questions our producers for the rest of our guest authorities. Dr. John Gordon Bennett a professor of Christian theology and dean of the faculty at the Union Theological Seminary. Dr. Bennett Kremen of the executive board of you know is a conflict. Between. Morality at least as presented in the earlier portion of this program when Life magazine is presenting a case for around money and money matters. And the very concept of money in this society a profit system a free enterprise it just goes to make as much as you can. Is there a kind of a
fundamental conflict here between the two. Well there's a conflict within the economy in this respect I think it is true that the OEM's the pun profit seeking does become a source of very great moral temptation. The same time the economy depends upon mutual trust to do a very remarkable extent as well. Vast system of contracts and credit which require the trustworthiness of innumerable people. What will bring people back to consider the fact that this basis of trust you get on a bus. You know the bus drivers going to go away as opposed to. Just just something that we just take for granted. Is it dangerous to lose sight of it that so much is based on trust and working together.
Yes I think there is a danger of losing sight of that. It's true that there's quite a difference in a community where everybody knows everybody else and where there's build up not only trust in each other moral basis but simply the. Fact that people are called to account the habits of trust become greater when both of these two things are reinforcing each other. Dr. Campbell family and community in Ireland part of the bigger story and other study of the Metropolitan. Dr. Campbell is now a professor of education at the College of Columbia University. In the ideal of the Protestant AFAIK. Which for so long has served as a basis of American behavior or at least of much of it. The individual stood alone. And responsible for his own behavior. This meant that.
If he did good or evil in the world. He knew himself. Whether his behavior was good or evil. What has tended to happen in American society in recent years is a movement away from the sense of internal guilt. This is not to say that conscience is still not an essential element of American character but rather to say that there has been common to the American scene a concern a much greater concern with what others think about me rather than with what I think about myself. In anthropology we make the distinction between guilt cultures and shame cultures. And I think what has happened in America is quite. Expressive. Of these two types. Of early American culture as represented in its strictest Protestant form
represented a guilt culture. Contemporary American culture. Represents a shame culture. The difference between the two. Is that in the latter The question is asked what others think of me. I think a particular illustration which might be used here is the matter of American behavior around money. Some of the illustrations given in the preceding portions of this program have called attention. To the kickback. To people who are just honest who do bad on money who don't pay their full income tax and all the rest. And I'm certain that these kind of. Instances are quite true and in the magnitude which are presented here there are some areas in which chiseling probably goes on and the general feeling is that if you can chisel here and there it's perfectly alright. On the other hand it should be realised that probably there is no other
country in the world. In which there is as much of fundamental honesty in regard to money matters as in the United States. This is so perhaps even in spite or. Rather than because of any particular moral beliefs. It is because of the very nature of the American system demand that there be. Careful accounting. Of the financial aspects of one law one's life. When one considers the tens of billions of dollars which are now owed by consumers in the United States for goods bought on time. And the other billions of dollars for other kinds of debt. And the almost infinitesimal. Loss which those who loaned the money have to suffer. And when we consider that only the tiniest segment of American society is today borrowed from such loans then you can see how
pervasive is this fundamental if you will honesty or care. In the ways in which Americans meet their debts in regards to other people who were in Connecticut. There's analyse the peer regularly to review the American dollar. The New York Times Magazine and other public. Recent book in modern fiction. The question that one first asks in too utilitarian an atmosphere is not what is the right or wrong of something but what is the profit or loss in it. The question is not what's wrong with it if the question is what's in it for me. And if you have the general cultural model atmosphere that we have discussed. Well. But what's wrong with that. I now play devil's advocate obviously that if I'm not hurting anyone if I can get away with it everybody else does it
and that's perilously close to a pious phrase that has been decked out every now and then in our time of enlightened self-interest. One of the most beautiful pusillanimous tells us tickle phrases you can imagine the implication behind the phrase unlike in self-interest is that someone has said that any kind of self-interest is wrong. Well no there is a proper self consideration of proper self value of course but what we come down to is that your question of what's wrong with it why not. Doesn't that work. I think that this problem of it's alright if you can get away with it. Really. Can exist only when there has been a decline in our lack of acquaintance with some external object in standards of right or wrong. You see the question. Well why not. Or
everybody is doing it. Or OK if I can get away with it. This question cannot present itself to the mind of somebody who truly believes that there is a code of rights and wrongs which should and does guide the life of man. The there is accompanying such a tacit moral code. The fact that you don't do something because it is wrong to do it. And the person who believes in the commandment Thou shalt not kill. Doesn't kill for the reason that he's afraid you'll get caught and executed but doesn't kill because he believes it is inherently wrong to kill. I see young man a very successful lawyer living in a suburban area near New York who would not record his statement. I happen to show some of the scripts still. He said that he thought that in some respects all the questions here were a little
slanted a little unfairly stacked. And that is that they assume that people did not want to have values they assume that the major motivation of just about everybody is to escape morality. And his point was that the only real fault of conformity was that it took away all moral decision you just had to conform. There is no more right or wrong you just conformed and conformity and times are good. Easy seems to be very good but if he thought that it left a great void in emptiness that there was a need for people to be able to choose between right and wrong sometime in their life that they should live and die and never be a coward or a hero. I never even have to face that decision and that the need to have morality is possibly as great as the need some time to escape from it. How do you feel about that idea. I do think that there is a great need in the lives of people if they are to be vital to have the necessity to make moral choices. And it is quite
true that conforming to any kind of code or set of mores sidetracks the real individual moral decisions you know conformity is a very popular word right now but I'll go back to one that's been used a great deal longer the word conventionality from time immemorial. People have confused the conventional with the model. Philip caliber over frame problem our authority. A problem of the modern money matter book. Perhaps you should hear. That prevented if proven. No I think I think the concept of sin is a very important one. It has to be understood in religious terms as involving one's relationship to God. Sin is disobedience or.
Irresponsibility. In one's ultimate relationship. But the symptoms of it are always to be found in the particular things that we've been talking about. Dr. Kimberly Bowden I think probably. That. The matter behavior around money. Has in large measure passed beyond the necessities of morality. I think this is so because when any aspect of a culture becomes so prevalent. When it becomes so necessary. Then. The nature of the processes by which the conformance to this aspect is. Obtained. Makes almost certain that everyone falls within the necessary behavior. For example. There it was.
If it is a bit difficult to say that there is very much more reality concerned with the lighting of a stove in order to cook dinner there is more reality concerned with the use of a fire that might lead to harm of property or persons. But for all practical purposes with the tens of millions of Mac users which are lighted every day by Americans and the general care which they use in extinguishing the flame and making certain that no fire harmful fire results there from indicates that the use of fire in our society is has gone beyond the supernatural and immoral stage it has become so deeply embedded in the here bits will behavior that it no longer needs this kind of support. So also do I think that the A bitch will be around money. Has become so deeply embedded. That. Orality used. To give expression to the horror which people have when
misbehavior occurs is necessary but that most of the acts of Americans in terms of the use of money is outside the moral sphere. The earth out of hand the media say I want to say from my point of view and no sin certainly is not outdated. And I think that there could be few more wholesome. The factor is in modern life and a revival and recognition of the sense of Sam Watchmen cannot prevent people from fact and stealing and crime. But the sense of protection and defense of one's own integrity and a sense of one's own souls health and well-being. I mean only really powerful need terms in my opinion to misconduct. Dr Perel care or what pastor of The Holy Trinity Church in New York City for 25 years now Braun professor of homiletic at the Union
Theological Seminary Dr share is seen outdated. And. Well outdated sin. To put it will serve as the lowest common denominator. Could it not of all the principalities of have. And I am not exactly aware of living in any one of those prints about what is at the moment. But let's not identify sin with immorality. In money matters or anywhere else. Let's call it. What indeed the Bible calls it idolatry. In one form or another. And what do I mean by that. I mean that Sam is the attempt. To overthrow the government will be Universe and be God. On our own terms. So that when you seem to get away with it. You're simply being given over to the description of the self in the very attempt to gratify the self. And that's to say nothing at all of the ruin it makes of our common life.
The individual's sense of moral responsibility. Has to come not only of realizing this self in community. But of realizing it in the presence of God and under his judgement. Dr. ferret I ask you a very. Hat and pipe be a logical question but I know this kind of thing a lot of people feel they never really express it. That is. Do we really know. What God's word says. Who is to say. If sin is not living by God's laws. How does a person know. Where God's Word and God's laws are. And how. They. Might apply. I would say that. It is only relatively possible to know what the will of God is in any circumstance. As a matter of fact. The Christian life is the life that is lived in constant tension.
Between the selfish desires and the exaltation of self on the one hand. And what that life was. Former revelation if you like from what it knows of the life of Christ and His teaching. What had life conceived of being the will of God. Very dangerous to assume that we have direct knowledge of the will of God in any instance. A. Friend of mine once put it. The man who stands up and says Thus the Lord is either a fool or a prophet and the mathematical chances of his being a property are not very great. So that. When the self is oriented in so far as this issue mainly possible toward. What it understand in its own fragmentary way. Of God's will. Then it finds itself in a state of tension between what is
and what it can see God as willing to be. And I may well at any point along the road. And here is the place it seems to be in which. The Christian faith becomes an adult and not a copy but book Acts of Faith. Conscious all along the tension that must exist between what is and what it can see is God's will to be. I wonder if you aren't being a bit tolerant of perhaps $2 on a share of people who pose the kind of question that I asked you was that if they say well who is to say this is God's will because I think when that enters a person's mind it enters at times or they know very well what the will of God might be such as in the kinds of shady business dealings you see in these white collar crimes that we have discussed in the earlier part of the program. In other words it isn't really that the person doesn't know what's right and wrong they suddenly Poors this question
to which you've. Given AIT. A deeper answer. But to these people I don't think they would they're looking for the deeper answer I think what they're looking for at the time that they asked the question well who is to say whether this is right or wrong is an excuse or an evasion of a particular circumstance where they know very well or I think there's no dong. I was trying to conceive of situations and we meet them all the time where there is ominous. Misgiving. Almost question. You see this idea of right and wrong that we have is a Many Splendored Thing. It roots pock clear in what is accepted by the community. You see as good or ill for its own welfare groups beyond that for Christians certainly in what has been revealed about the will of God for human life. Now if the question is simply a means of excuse. Then you've got to deal with it differently.
Well I think that's the original question. Kind of had in mind yes. In other words don't bother us with this kind of thing and our lives itself and the world order tared will be there on Sunday will be good church members but don't introduce the. Concept you see that was applying to the kind of thing that we discussed earlier. Business relationships human relationships certain social political things I care just treating people with dignity not humiliated and that kind of thing which are occurring around us. Well religion when it's conceived at any depth it would seem to me. Has to do primarily with the relation between God and a human soul. What Martin Gilbert calls constantly the eye of all relationships the realisation that the world is fundamentally personal that there is person a will. Governing the world. And the confrontation that takes place between an individual
human life and that person. Is really the area in which religion moves. Now if that is so then this is a fundamental consideration. And cannot be kept out of. Any sort of moral involvement. It cannot be held as a category or pigeonhole alone by itself. It's something that creatively changes and transforms the whole of existence. All our personal relationships all our dealings in money matters in business in economics all the rest of it a profoundly different place to be because of the realization of this deep involvement with one who is at the center and core of the universe. And now for a commentary on today's program. Here is the Roosevelt professor of systematic theology and president of Union Theological Seminary Dr. Henry pepper I've been doing this discussion began with a very mundane personal matter.
Dishonesty in money matters chiseling on income tax returns and so forth. It concluded in a highly theological around the individual soul face to face with the writer's God in between. Something was said about the influence of social attitudes and standards rationalizing and justifying one's private behavior because everybody's doing it. The elements of conformity to widely prevailing practices in conclusion I would like to focus our thought on this middle ground the bearing of social practices and social responsibility upon individual ethical behavior. And in two senses which at first sound contradictory or in the present day popular jargon paradoxical or dialectical. On the one hand we need to be less influenced by what others do in determining our personal conduct. But on the other hand we
need to be more aware of others in developing our personal ethical standards. How like Dr. Kimberly is that a guilt culture in which the sense of individual wrongdoing was determined by personally accepted principles of objective right and wrong has been replaced by a shame culture in which the individual judges himself by what others think. The person whose life is governed by what someone has called a persistent sidelong look to discover what others are thinking is not a free man. Here's a slave to convention and mouse approval. The beginning of freedom is emancipation from just such conformism on the other hand I believe my good friend and colleague Dr. sure States the religious solution of the problem in somewhat too simple too abstract terms as just the confrontation of each person
and God. There is a scent in which Jesus knew nothing of an eye or relationship it was always an eye they relationship whoever he say's he loves God and hates his brother is a liar. The poor Christian solution is the recognition that I cannot truly know God unless and until I face my brothers God's other children and have rated my relations with them that full religious perspective embraces and should solve the questions of honesty in money matters even income tax chiseling. That was Dr. Henry Pitney even given the president of the Union Theological Seminary and the commentator for this series of people or puppets. Next week at this same time people or puppets will bring you an authoritative
analysis and dramatic presentation on doctors appeal and the pursuit of happiness is the good life good enough. The guest authorities discussing this topic will be author Edwin fuller but also for Kenneth Burke and theologians John Bennett Robert McAfee Brown and Dr.. People for puppets has written moderated and directed by Philip Gale. But the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Executive producer for the seminary professor John W. Bachman. Alpert Brooks. Your announcer. The line in this series is made possible by a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center for distribution by the National Association of educational broadcasters. Join us again next week for an exciting analysis of doctors on the pursuit of happiness. In the good life good enough. People.
This is the end of the B Radio Network.
People or puppets?
Can you get away with it?
Producing Organization
Union Theological Seminary (New York, N.Y.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Can you get away with it? Relationship of morality to money matters.
Series Description
Discussions of values and ethics, modern versus traditional. Faculty from Union Theological Seminary, authors Kenneth Burke and Geoffrey Wagner, critics Edmund Fuller and Martin Dworkin, Dr. Solon Kimball and broadcaster Edward Stanley are featured.
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Composer: Brooks, Alfred
Guest: Fuller, Edmund, 1914-2001
Guest: Kimball, Solon Toothaker
Guest: Bennett, John
Host: Van Dusen, Henry P. (Henry Pitney), 1897-1975
Moderator: Geesy, Ray
Producing Organization: Union Theological Seminary (New York, N.Y.)
Writer: Gelb, Philip
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-7-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:16
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Chicago: “People or puppets?; Can you get away with it?,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2023,
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APA: People or puppets?; Can you get away with it?. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from