#445, February 25, 2007
COLUMBUS: Last week I received a nice note from a fellow asking, “What was Will’s feelings toward the church? What did he believe on the subject of Christ or the Christian church?”
At first, I wasn’t sure how to take the inquiry. But then I realized the Academy Awards are tonight (Sunday), and since I’m kinda associated with Hollywood, my faith might naturally come into question.
Besides I have kidded preachers and joked about religions just the same as congress, bankers, lawyers, real estate agents and Chambers of Commerce. If a man just reads these remarks that were intended to have more humor in ’em than theology, it’s easy to see how he could get the wrong idea.
In 1920 I was challenged to a debate by the famous Baptist preacher, Dr. James Whitcomb Brougher on the topic, “Resolved, that cowboys have contributed more to civilization than preachers”. I didn’t know till five minutes before we started I was supposed to defend the cowboy. In the debate, conducted in front of the Advertising Club of Los Angeles, I claimed, “The cowboys went across the plains in the early days, fought every foot of the way, killed Indians and fought buffalo, and opened this beautiful country of California up. And the preachers came along and closed it.” Well, he came right back at me, “The first thing the preachers had to do in advancing civilization was to catch a cowboy and civilize him.” So, that went on for most of an hour, with no clear winner but we both got a lot of laughs.
During the famous Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, I wrote a few things on evolution: “The Lord put all these million of people over the earth. They don’t all agree on how they got here, and ninety percent don’t care. But He was pretty wise when He did see to it that they all do agree on one thing. (whether Christian, Heathen, or Mohammedan) and that is that the better lives you live the better you will finish.”
“As far as Scopes teaching children evolution, nobody is going to change the belief of Tennessee children as to their ancestry. It is from the action of their parents that they will form their opinions. There is a terrible lot of us who don’t think that we come from a monkey, but if there are some people who think that they do, why, it’s not our business to rob them of what little pleasure they may get out of imagining it.”
“I was raised predominantly a Methodist, but I have traveled so much, mixed with so many people in all parts of the world, that I don’t know just what I am now. I know I have never been a nonbeliever. I have worked with every denomination in the world because one is just as worthy as the other. I don’t think any one religion is the religion. If I am broad-minded in any way (and I hope I am in many) but I do know that I am broad-minded in a religious way. Which way you serve your God will never get one word of argument or condemnation out of me. There has been times when I wished there had been as much real religion among some of our creeds as there has been vanity, but that’s not in any way a criticism.”
“The Lord didn’t leave any room for doubt when he told us how we should act. His example, and the Ten Commandments are plain enough. Whoever wrote the Ten Commandments made ’em short. They may not always be kept, but they can be understood. They’re the same for everyone.”
Since the movies are on everyone’s mind tonight I’ll close with a comment praising one in 1927: “Say, I just now saw the movie ‘The King of Kings.’ This is not an ad. It’s a duty to let you know of it. The only way you could make a greater picture would be to have a better subject, and I doubt if there will ever be a better subject during our lifetime than the story of Christ.”