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Do you expect everything to have a happy ending. There's our view of the pool. Make us people or puppet. This series people or puppets is produced by the Union Theological Seminary of New York City in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center on today's program entitled used with good life good enough. You will hear the views and voices of author Edmund Fuller the loss of her kind of work and theologian John Bennett and Robert McAfee Brown. These are the men who will analyze some of the concepts created by our modern mass media and compare them with our traditional moral religious values. Here is the commentator poor people or puppets. The president of the Union Theological Seminary in New York Dr. Henry Pitney even
gives the Declaration of Independence guarantees us the pursuit of happiness. But can anything to you happiness. The average newspaper ad or television commercials seems to imply happiness if you will just use this particular product or that gadget. We don't take these suggestions too seriously. But what about the good life. The full life implications in our religious and spiritual institutions. A clear cut example from the very popular publication The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. According to your faith in yourself. According to your faith in your job according to your faith in God this far will you'll get no further. If you believe in your job and the opportunities of your country and if you believe in God and will work hard and study and put yourself into it you can swing up to any high place to which you want to take your life. And your service and your achievement
if in the depth of your mind you visualize the bath and employ the powers of faith and energy you will get the best. Students of modern dynamic thought are realizing more and more the practical value of the ideas and teachings of Jesus especially such truth. So the dictum according to your faith be it unto you. Does religion mean reserves. Doesn't faith mean special favor. Dr. Ronald neighbor disagrees. This excerpt is from a sermon delivered by Dr. neighbor at the Union Theological Seminary on February 1952. It just. That light if you didn't have a moral meaning. That you can validate the Christian way. By pure act of Providence in your
favor. I must. Admit. That I have a certain. Extent. About this issue in the great debate between Christianity and secularism a certain kind of secularism. As a manager over any point where to quote William Frey Christianity. An effort to lobby in the court of the Almighty. Professional favors. It is going. To find that when the great actors divide our water right out of our lives the whole thing which is God's will. In this book is private. Being a religious book. No charity and humility in it are only an absolute certainty that in every fight and in every have Calling God.
Is on. Your mind bringing a group of parents from a very popular preacher. Which consist essentially Sherman after a sermon on the assurance right of Providence even like this. I was speaking only yesterday to one of the great executives of New York whose name is so well known if I would mention it you don't know what he said to me Pastor. Every time I engage in a big business deal I pray to God and so forth and so on. For special favors. This is a. Round of religious immaturity. Not a christian religion. It is religion which borders upon. Even far into the path. Of the most primitive HOMO religion is a religion which cannot be the things altogether from Magic want to know whether it's magic or religion because you can average a band of as part
of nature to the human will while Will the jinn is always. Right. Finally via number one the current price of mission of the human will to the. Same degree in provable will of God. That was Dr Reinhold Niebuhr. We've asked our guest authorities to comment on the views you are producing. Philip asked our guests these questions What do you think of the kind of religion whose chief aim is to get results. If this kind of religion is incomplete What would you have. Done Coleman Bennett is a professor of Christian theology and dean of the pride of the at the Union Theological Seminary. Dr. Bennett is chairman of the executive board in action. Dr. Bennett what do you think of religion that gets results. The religion of warming. Well I think it misleads people in most cases. A certain you know
no religious guarantee of happy endings in our. Personal life or in our public affairs. And most of the efforts to use religion as a device for securing the happy ending are sources of real illusion and confusion while at the same time. Dr. Bennett. If an alcoholic. Might give up some of the drinks. And the cause of religion if a dope addict might have. He speired to try to break the habit through prayer. These are are gaining results in special favor from religion. Isn't this the purpose of religion. Well those individual cases represent a real appropriation of. The resources of faith and. These are all to the good. But they don't come easily. And there are so many cases
where people. Fall back because they don't count the cost. I have said it has not been at all to suggest that that good faith that the participation in the Christian community resources of divine grace may not greatly enrich life and make it more meaningful and make it possible for people. To overcome some of the. Great obstacles in their lives. And become truly victorious. But this kind of victory isn't very much like what is portrayed as a happy ending. EMILY BOURKE a lot of the bellow of a feather for a battle buddy in the behavioral quiet temperate California added People are Bennington College. Among many books the grammar of most of the rhetoric about the philosophy of literary form.
And regard the granting of special favors. I once thought of a line like ducks the Guineas low and yes I like that beginning. Maybe the latter now as events are we do need it to be said for the asking as banker favors the underlying design of language involves this big word spoken. And they hear it. And among the most important functions of language is the function of getting others to cooperate when this point of view paragraph be guided in the design of or taken as serious as one can make it and read to an audience as perfect as when going to Magen is almost a paradigm of ideal communication. However conscientiously that the petition to make complicated petition by saying in effect not my will be done but die will be done in the land and now it is the petitioners asking things some are other bigots he would have them and I question when the human animal is capable of any praise or Thanksgiving so selfless
that is devout and does not have an implied hope of future favors for himself or those only especially favors. The kind of nagging the doctor kneeboard is delayed they can damage. But I wonder whether the trouble really lies in the appeal of for favors or in the uses to which secular field report in particular is deemed to mean there is a danger of this religion and the habit of unquestioning faith and there's habit of unquestioning faith make stand in areas of human ambition and deserve no sex. They could be kept continually under skeptical many many years ago I read a statement in the present figure do AUSMIN and I never forgot it and certainly I began a picture as blunt as he was good at. Holy Mother he said looks out for a man's interests but doesn't interfere with his business friendly enough. But getting out here on the plate really does favor one particular economic theory. Religion is things to me to be essentially conservative. Thank you due to constant distrust of the new powers you now but keep in mind in there where man's greatest
days there's greater danger. Above all where the piety of the body in the night bounds of major concern. They can should be gagged a bit to at least trial at well enough alone. We can at least try to show our gratitude for this handsome planet. Enjoying it grazes more and being led as an aside for devices that can rip it apart and pollute it was scientifically progressive poisons. The Act we had a development that are now too often being stepped in with whatever. Adam minister of the Presbyterian Church Dr. Robert McAfee Brown served as a Navy chaplain in the Pacific in World War 2. Dr. Brown is general editor of the Lehmann theological library and associate professor of the thematic theology and philosophy of religion at the Union Theological Seminary. I think in our culture at least we have heard more drastically in terms of of assuring ourselves in a rather frantic fashion that any problem
can be worked out and that given the full 30 minutes of the show we can be sure that it will be worked out to everyone's satisfaction. It seems to me simply to be a. Superficial view of life and of human relations and particularly so when it is assumed that Christianity will provide the magic gimmick which will always make everything come out right. Now to the extent to which American Protestant ism has succumbed to this kind of interpretation let me say first off that those of us who are unhappy about this turn of events must bear a large part of the responsibility for it. That is it's not enough simply to point the finger at Dr peel or someone else and say these are the people responsible. If we feel that this is an adequate part of the reason it has become so popular has been perhaps that we have failed to provide an alternative to it and that we have not made some kind of alternate faith or
some kind of understanding of the Christian faith that we feel is more adequate. We have not really made this compelling enough. Taking my cue from Dr. Brown. Criticism may be the easiest thing in the world. Offering something constructive may be the most difficult. Our authorities seem to be agreed that the Norman Vincent Peale approach leaves something to be desired. If this kind of religion isn't complete What would you suggest this is the question I put to our four guest authorities first. Mr. Edmund fall or. Edmund in Connecticut if you now agree that we are regularly in the Saturday Review the American dollar the New York Times Magazine and other public. Have been written book in modern fiction. I have sounded off on this issue in the public record a back about a year ago and the Saturday Review of
literature wrote an article. It was on the subject of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale the doctrine that religion pays off. The doctrine that appeal preachers is essentially one which in spite of all its apologists and all those who deny such implication seems to me to boil down to the formula how to be rich and successful to Jesus or what religion will do for you. Now my concept of religion like Dr Niebuhr's as I know my concept of religion is not something that you do for what you are going to get out of it it comes back to something I said in one of our earlier conversations. Religion is not a means to an end. And in so far as religion is valid it is blasphemous to think of religion as a means to an end. Religion is an end in itself or it is nothing. If this is the basis of morality.
Then. You cannot fall back into the question of saying well if I'm not going to be rewarded for being good I won't be good. Good should be its own reward. There should be the realisation that even Socrates would have stated it. That. To do the good. It is a benefit and a reward in itself. Not that it causes some other external reward to be handed to you on a platter. It is it is a reward in that it is the best fulfillment of the potential of the self. We return to you Dr. John Bennett. Does religion have anything else to offer other than ease. Rewards and overcoming these obstacles as you stated. Actually what else can religion. Give us. And these kinds of things.
It isn't so much what it gives us it is that it brings us into. The right relationship to God who is the source of our life and the goal of our life. It brings us into into right relations with that which is. Truly real. It isn't just a gadget or something which is good for us subjectively gains which come to us are by products of being. Related. To the center of life. In the way that. We were made for at the same time. We live in a society and culture and economy. Which seems to equate. The good life with the for one. With material advantages. With returns results. It would seem to me that the religion that you just described. Isn't exactly. Appropriate to us. Going on a culture that I described.
Yes that's certainly true and many people were disappointed in it. But actually it isn't what so many of the people you are describing really want is a stable family life of affection and loyalty. They really want this more than they want they want. Well. Isn't it true also that people hunger for forgiveness and for a sense of belonging to whatever is most real in their in their own estimation. Is really what they want and that these other things are pretty frequently. Poor substitutes. Truth and. And friendship. If you wanted two words that might be the most important things. And these would be seen in. The dimension of religious faith as well as in dimension of personal.
And personal relations. Mr. Kenneth Burke if the religion that gets results is an adequate What else would you suggest. Maybe at this point it wouldn't be irrelevant for me to add some remark that I think humanism might fit into the design. Regardless of whether that humanism in-ground secularly or theologically the physical sciences the science of emotion have been especially fertile of late in adding you to the world the social sciences the science of action or seeking divine way to perfecting our ability to control these by controlling people with regard to them. It was George's science that don't exist in working up the social controls that the new powers and new political powers require then you'll really go by remain beyond our control on the other hand if directed at controls are found and put into effect then a great deal more Guckert ization will have been imposed upon us is not a pretty figure in either case. But there is
one faintly possible out of the area of humanism of what in my terminology would be glad of the signs of symbolism. Here is that in a mild speculative unimaginative lad you might still be Primitivo here might be the round in which the assumptions that underlie our present historical trains can still be systematically question. Mike just criticism of going to the building of the modern technological edifice. We should by completing this damage being black and it is out of as round things out when a criticizing of itself. Would be the position of conservative human ethic piety be it secularly or theologically grounded where religion spread fear of God and guys finding strength that is dragged would be upon the fear of words. And that's very evolved terminologies. We get bored and guided the technological upswing and the stammers guys finding norms of crime the idea of the good life and so on. Back around if this religion that gets results is inadequate. Where has it gone
wrong. If I'm asked then where the place is where this kind of popular religion of today has gone askew. It seems to me that in terms of my own Christian faith I have to say that this kind of religion is forgetting at least one essential factor in the Christian faith. And this is that it has a cross very firmly embedded in the midst of it. To many people these days seem to want the faith of Easter without the experience of good right to have a kind of rosy glow without a recognition that there were some hard times involved and some rather catastrophic times involved. Before the Easter they could be affirmed. I would want to say right away that one needs to be careful not to commit the opposite. That is not to stop simply with good Friday to say that life ends in bleakness and chaos and apparent tragedy. But I get no impression from the
New Testament that we are promised any exemption from the kind of thing that Good Friday the cross represents. Simply by being close to God by praying by being good. When we twist him around to make his will conform to our will. We are engaged in a complete inversion of the New Testament faith so that the fact that there is some kind of real pain agony suffering in the living of life seems to me this is something that Christian faith should lead us to expect rather than that it should provide bland promises of doubled incomes and ulcer free stomachs and secure jumps up the ladder to success in our business. This proportion has been thrown very much askew by the strong and almost total emphasis upon the success side of the story. But the thing which concerns me is the degree to which by and large it is felt that
all of these things can be had rather cheaply. That the way to avoid war is simply not to let the negative thought that there might be a war enter into our consciousness in others of his writings in other writings similar to this. Dr peel and others are just never to discuss the possibility of a third world war. At a dinner party because this is negative thinking this kind of attitude simply seems to me to be trying to shut out the fact that there are ugly and evil and potentially disastrous sides to life and I would much prefer a fate which can face up to these honestly and openly and then try to develop resources for meeting these situations rather than for suggesting that we can skirt around them without having to face them head on. I would hope that an alternative we can develop in America a kind of.
Religious faith first of all takes real account of the dimension of. Possible tragedy the pain of suffering which inevitably hovers over every human life. For example it seems to me that the unmarried service in the denomination which I belong is particularly realistic at this point. It does not say to the couple now you're married. You've been blessed by God. You can therefore count upon the fact that everything is going to go smoothly in the vows which are said Promises are made about end about staying with the one when it will be with one another in sickness and in health in plenty and in want in joy and in sorrow. Both sides of life are acknowledged here in a very clear way. And the thing which I think the current return to religion is in danger of missing is a recognition that there is a more ultimate dimension to the full life than simply that of being centered in our own wants desires material fulfillment
and so forth and the kind of thing which would represent to me the attitude which. Sees the fullness and depth of the given situation more adequately. It would be a verse from St. Paul's letter to the Romans where it seems to me he has captured something that we need tremendously to recapture for ourselves very right something to thank if we live. We live in the Lord if we die we die under the Lord. Therefore whether we live or whether we die we are the Lord's. It seems to me that a person who could truly say for himself whether I live or whether I die. I am the Lord's. Such a person has the resources which make it possible for him to meet whatever a day may bring and the resources which make it possible to meet the fact that he may not become a vice president. Or he may not double his income next year. He may get thrown out of a job he may. He
may be unable to make as much money as he did before but that these do not become the index of the vigor and the reality of his faith or of the faithfulness of God. And now for a commentary on today's program. Here is the Roosevelt professor of systematic theology and the president of Union Theological Seminary Dr. Henry Patton even gives this whole series of discussions on people or puppets is concerned with the contrast between the values and concepts which are central in modern culture and the values and concepts of our moral religious traditions but our moral religious traditions themselves are profoundly influenced by cultural ideas and standards the cultures in which these traditions were formed and developed and also contemporary culture. There could be no clearer illustration of this influence of culture upon religion than the
present discussion. This informant is all too evident in the preaching. Be religious and you'll be happy. Worship God and he'll give you what you want. Success because influence appears also and more subtly in the fact that even the spokesman for religion in these discussions unconsciously tend to argue from secular that is non-religious consideration. Or in any of them to fail to compel us to confront the full teaching of religion. Well the latter inadequacy cannot be leveled against the concluding statement of this discussion. Dr. Brown has forced our attention to come face to face with Good Friday with the cross in the eyes of the world the world both of Jesus day and of our own day complete abysmal failure. Tragic pathetic failure yet
by a common acknowledgement both from that failure has come more influence and power for mankind's good than from any other single event in history. As with the master so with his disciples. The religious man does not court failure in the world's eyes but he expects it and will not pledge from it for he knows what really comes. The central Christian truth in this whole matter of success is the saying more often repeated by Jesus than any other. He who seeks to save his life shall lose it. But there is also the corollary. He who loses his life for my sake shall find it. That was Dr. Henry Pitney of India's And the president of the Union Theological Seminary and the commentator for this series people or puppets.
Next week at the same time people or puppets will bring you an authoritative analysis emblematic piece and cation on by humans in the mass media. What kind of adventure stories do you like. Guest authorities discussing this topic will be novelist Geoffrey Wagner and I just saw him Kimbo theologians around his who looked them over and doctored and gives the people more puppet is written moderated and directed by Philip Gallo for the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Executive producer for the seminary professor John W Bachmann by Albert Brooks. Your announcer Dean Lyman on with 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 violence in the mass media.
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People or puppets?
Is the good life good enough?
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Union Theological Seminary (New York, N.Y.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Is the good life good enough? Religion that gets results.
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: Burke, Kenneth, 1897-1993
Guest: Brown, Robert McAfee, 1920-2001
Guest: Fuller, Edmund, 1914-2001
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: 59-7-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:25
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Chicago: “People or puppets?; Is the good life good enough?,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 30, 2023,
MLA: “People or puppets?; Is the good life good enough?.” 1959-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 30, 2023. <>.
APA: People or puppets?; Is the good life good enough?. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from