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Voices of Europe it is perhaps particularly appropriate to this recorded interview that Milton Mayer should have met a Dutchman in Sweden who lives in Switzerland in 1924 as a pastor of the Dutch Reform Church. Dr. villain viscera tof became secretary of the World Council of the YMCA and in one thousand thirty one general secretary of the World Student Christian Federation in one thousand forty eight the first assembly of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam selected him as its general secretary. And in this capacity he turns up Cajun Lee he says in his office in Geneva more often in Bangkok Cape Town or Evanston Illinois. Today in the city of London Sweden Milton Mayer American author and broadcaster lecturer and professor in the Institute of Social Research from Frankfurt university interviews Dr villain Visser tof Dr Visser taught the existence of the World Council of Churches. Seems to me to presuppose the existence of a world.
I wonder if the presupposition that a world exists is well founded. I'm sorry that I have to begin by challenging their Sumption you make in your question. I would be inclined to put it almost the other way around. Namely to say that when there is not one world but a great many worlds that then precisely becomes the task of the Christian church to unite the people who in other ways fall it Achille socially nationally may be divided. Let me illustrate in the following way I would say that some of the best things that we've done as an ecumenical movement have been precisely in situations of great division. Gary for for instance to the Second World War when
we were able through all the contacts established in the AQ manical movement. Almost continually to keep in touch with the Christians on both sides of the conflict. And so I would say we must not take their existence of one world as our starting point. Moreover I don't believe that today we can really speak of one world. That was a slogan which came to us with considerable force at the end of their first World War. Today. A man like myself who has to travel a great deal in different parts of the world would never dream of using that slogan anymore because it's just no longer
term. Many people have discovered that we have at least two worlds. I would go gay definable and say we have a great many worlds. I would do not only think of the very fundamental the vision indicated by the Iron Curtain. I would think of so many other very real deficiencies. I for one feel very consumed about a great lack of understanding between America and Europe for instance. But I'm equally consumed with the demand that a lack of understanding between the whole Western world. And the easy world. And we could give a lot of examples but that may suffice for the moment to indicate that my feeling is that we are just now in a period of history where we have these wounds which are almost
impenetrable which have their own languages their own and maybe Yalit to use their own ways of looking at things and that it is in personally difficult to find a common language and a common up look at between those different worlds. Dr. Vizard thought this fact of life Aaron. It certainly appears to be one strikes me as an oddity to put it very very mildly that in the age when communication and transportation has made it possible for the first time in human history for one world to come into being you should find that there are not only two worlds but it doesn't. What is the cause of this. If I may say melancholy
decline in our situation. Well first of all I would feel that we have much overrate that what we really accomplish by purely technical devices in the way of unification of the world the fact that you can now go and I think it and then 16 hours by jet propelled plane from London to your highness burg. That's not a really mean that there's any better understanding between South Africa and the rest of the world. Perhaps you are trying to say doctor visit off what a Chinese said. In his own peculiarly Oriental way namely that
if I am a fool when I get in an airplane in Shanghai I am still a poor when I get off at papering. Yes and add another point namely that it is often far easier. To appreciate the man fire away. But when we have nothing to do then to appreciate a fellow in the apartment next door who plays the piano after midnight. But you've indicated here doctor visit of the condition or rather the negative condition of our situation by saying that technology itself has not really provided an answer. Are you prepared to say that our condition regardless of technology or perhaps even because of it
is worse than it once was. And if so why. I do not think that technology is the main reason. It has certainly have had and effect in the situation in so far as through technology. Many simple so society is have become tremendously transformed. I have and often pre-maturely in to a period of great transformation. I have seen for instance recently in South Africa that this integrating a fact of modern civilization on the whole will bend to population and a lot of very harmful effects that has again on the relationship between the races. But I would not put that as there as the first point I would
say in government people causes which to some extent independent of technology. I would like to put it in this way that it looks almost as in various parts of the world we live in different periods of history. And some parts of the world missions are just at the beginning of that historical existence and such a nation has a completely different outlook on life from all nations like some of the nations of Europe. And in between these very young nations in ACIM which have just come to a new national existence and to all nations of Europe. You have the United States which itself still thinks of itself as a very young nation. It's not often from other parts of the world is looked upon
as a nation that has already become conservative. Since we are addressing ourselves Dr. Besser talked to an American audience. I'd like to know what responsibility the United States has in the cure of this lamentable condition. This fragmentation of a world which ought to be won. Well the United States seems to me to have ended into a situation which shares not precisely and viable and that there whether it likes it or not. That is now either the most powerful nation in the world or at least one of the two most powerful nations in the world. You do not choose yourself
said share a historical destiny at. When I travel myself in the United States I often have the impression that the great mass of the people in the United States and of the dollar are very desirous to suddenly take on that world responsibility because of all its very difficult implications. But here here you are you're you're pushed into that situation. And I sometimes think that there's even something a little tragic about that because you're country after all was formed by people who wanted to get out of the conflicts of the world people and away from some of the power politics in other parts of the world particularly in Europe and here your push chattily into the middle of it even more than any other nation
in the world. But rest of the world doesn't understand very well that curious situation of the United States having at one time been a country that wanted to get out of all the conflicts and that now suddenly has to bear tremendous responsibility in the conflict in itself a big player to the conflict. And that I think explains that Amanda's misunderstandings between the United States and so many other countries in the world. I find it difficult to generalize too much on that because I find in that respect the great difference between Americans. I find that a great many Americans are making an enormous effort to understand the rest of the world.
And of course they must understand it simply because what they do affects the rest of the world so tremendously. Whether today a man in this country of Sweden and Holland or in Japan understands the rest of the world is a question of spiritual importance but hasn't very many many political effects with what the Americans do or the way the Americans vote the way the Americans act in their international lives or in their economic life has such tremendous repercussions for the rest of the world that we are bound to ask from the outside. And by the way I think. Do they really understand the rest of the world do they show sufficient imagination. And then they see on the one hand as I see it. And I would say on the whole the younger generation that is making a plan this attempt to understand the rest of the world. But I see also where you want me to
speak frankly many examples of a common little lack of understanding. One would all one would be bunk to mention there the effect of certain. Things that you export from the rest of the world to where they're from Russia. So I went to America to the rest of the world and I think I would almost put in the first series of your films. I think that few people in the United States realize what harm is done to the United States. By the films that go to the rest of the world and American film which gives a picture of life of normal life of normal people in the United States is next but very seldom shown.
And very seldom export from the United States. The films we get gangster of films films of people who spend most of their time at cocktail parties or films all give the impression that the United States is a country of money grabbing the leisure of hunting people but doesn't get any picture of the life of the farmer in the United States of the life that is lived in educational institutions in the United States and the life of a normal family in the United States. And that is one of the reasons why the rest of the world gets a very long picture of the United States similarly. I do not think that you have yet loomed the only bit of propaganda in the positive sense of the world. I think that
many of the magazines you export. Given completely on Explain impression I think you all realize what the enormous attention paid in magazines to such objects as the possible next war and the weapons that might be used in such a war make on the rest of the world because it gives the impression that everybody in the United States is sort of getting at it for the third war. And this considering it is apt absolutely inevitable and of course because they have happened to visit the United States more or less regular leave and that is by no means the general feeling in the country. Doctor visit art. I should like if I might to turn the tables on you here. Our films and our press our cultural export arises quite freely from our own national
character taste and development without any censorship whatever. And I'm afraid that we have to admit that to the extent what you say is true and certainly you are now the first European with whom I have talked who has made this observation. Our films and our press. Really represent the American people in that. They are part of our free enterprise as it is called and they come to the top. I don't think you would like to have us censor our press or control it through government because of the obvious dangers inherent in trying
to do so in order to improve the taste of either the films are the publications that we export. But in turning the tables. I suppose I might plead the United States of America guilty on this point and ask you in your position if the Christian church. Has lived up to its ideals any better than the American nation has lived up to its own. Her first like to make a come command on your remark about the press and the freedom of the press. Because I agree with you all that I must not be in be any imposed censorship.
But that is such a sound as a central ship that doesn't come from without but it come from within and I think that is precisely the police I would make with my American friends that they should shoulder the rest of the world. That freedom is not necessarily a purely arbitrary matter in which you will just let my sayings go it is not nice to see it only a less a free Alessi hourly. The great question seems to me whether there could not be a voluntary censorship from the people who themselves make the films and or themselves. All right. In the press. If they get enough imagination to know what the effect of their work is on the rest of
the world. But I must yield to the second part of your question where you ask about the cost to church. And I will say immediately that I am one who believes that the Christian Church has an enormous responsibility for the present state of affairs. And that in relation to what we have been talking about especially in two ways. First of all by the fact that it has adapted itself too much to withstand violent. That instead of giving a clear Christian message over against the world. It has far too often. Trying to have a successful place in the world and therefore lost the true edge
of its message. And secondly in that in this fragmentation of the world the Christian church is also responsible in that itself. It has gone through a process of fragmentation and this whole so-called ecumenical movement a movement for cooperation and unity in which. We are nowadays engaged and of which I happen to be a servant is precisely an attempt. To come again to an integration of the Christian forces in the world. We're still in the early stages of that movement. But even so all we can say that at least there the process of integration has begun again. But Dr. versatile off to the extent that you succeed in integrating.
The Christians of the world don't chew by that very fact succeed in building the barrier still higher between the Christians of the world on the one hand and on the other hand the very large majority of the people of the world who do not confess Christ. I speak not only of course of the nonbelievers the agnostics and the atheists but of the non Christian believers who constitute a majority of the people of the world. I would answer to that that that. Clear and definite convictions clearly expressed do not necessarily make for deeper division.
I think there can be respect between people who hold strong convictions. But I would say secondly that from our point of view that question is not the ultimate question. The ultimate question for the questions is whether they are taught to that what they believe themselves to believe that have been given to them and which is not according to them of their own invention but an object of talks. And now the point where this story becomes relevant to the way that state of the world is that it is quite clear that the Christian faith was meant to be a world faith. A universal faith. It was meant to be a community of
people who did not let questions of race or class or nation or any other human form of division come between them. And what we are trying to do get it back is that universality in the Christian faith and even if we cannot unite more than a section of humanity the very fact that that section would be there breaking through all the barrios and transcending the front deos would be a clear and strong witness to the fact that nations and all races and classes must not have the last word in our Stargell situation. But Dr. versatile art is the World Council of Churches. In any better position
than the secular world itself to elucidate these clear and definite convictions clearly expressed on such desperate questions as war for example or racial distinction or the character of the economic order. I would say that since this whole movement toward unity is still a relatively young movement we must admit that we have only made the first steps towards a tool integration in this matter. That very important questions in which we
are still deeply divided. You mention war and the whole constituency of the World Council of Churches. They're still very different opinions on that. We have those who are deeply convinced that in the cause of the defense of peace and justice Christians must also take up arms especially when this should be done in an international context such as for instance a United Nations situation as we have for instance today in Korea. There are those not a very large number but nevertheless the goal we take very seriously which take the full capacity first attitude and feeling that under no circumstances Christians must bare bones.
Now we have However the good thing there are at least two kinds of people are constantly in discussion with each other. And out least looming a gift from each other. The other question which are much more united you mentioned raised in the matter of race. We as a World Council of Churches and the pronouncements which we've made for instance at the assembly in Amsterdam and since far more at one. And there stands very much more unitedly against racial discrimination in economic and social questions. We've also made much progress after all the name came first into this movement in 1925 in Stockholm. It was almost impossible to get in the kind of common ground between questions on social affairs in Amsterdam we went a great deal further.
We had already discovered a great many points for which we would have to stand together. And as we now move towards our next Assembly in 1955 for and we have again put on our programme as one of the subjects this question of what we call that a sponsible society. That is to say society responds opposed to that which is above it which for us is God and the society which has a sense of West Brom's ability for its members. I think we will again go forward in finding a learner driver measure of common ground. And so we are slowly working towards a greater integration of the question with us in this respect also. Thank you Dr. Besser Taft Milton Mayer has been interviewing the general secretary of the World Council of Churches in London Sweden. This program has been made possible under a grant from the fund for adult education an independent
Voices of Europe
Dr. Willem Visser t'Hooft
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
An interview with Dr. Willem Visser t'Hooft about his work with the World Council of Churches.
Series Description
Interviews with noted Europeans on a variety of subjects, conducted by Milton Mayer, American author and broadcaster, lecturer and professor in the Institute of Social Research at Frankfurt University.
Broadcast Date
Global Affairs
Spiritual life
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Interviewee: Visser 't Hooft, Willem Adolph, 1900-1985
Interviewer: Mayer, Milton, 1908-1986
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-37-42 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:18
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Chicago: “Voices of Europe; Dr. Willem Visser t'Hooft,” 1953-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 27, 2023,
MLA: “Voices of Europe; Dr. Willem Visser t'Hooft.” 1953-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 27, 2023. <>.
APA: Voices of Europe; Dr. Willem Visser t'Hooft. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from