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Home  >  Features  >  Looking Back: Why I am Joining the Church

Looking Back

Friday April 25 2014

Looking Back: Why I Am Joining the Church

Writing in April 1939, Alexander Gordon explains why he rejected the Church in the 1920s, and why he had now changed his mind.

 

LAST Sunday I walked into the vestry of a Glasgow church and told the minister of my desire to join his congregation. Nothing unusual about that, you may say; but for me it was a decision of outstanding importance. It brought to an end a war that had been raging in my soul for years.

For the benefit of other non-churchgoing young men in their late twenties and early thirties, I should like to have the opportunity of reciting some of the incidents in the spiritual warfare that has ended in my suing the peace of Christ.

At the end of the Great War I was a lad in my teens. I was caught up by the infectious fervour of the social reformers who proclaimed that the time had come to build up a new civilisation. I warmed to their demands for better housing conditions, shorter working hours, and a more equitable distribution of the profits of industry. Their dream of a war-free world roused me to a high pitch of enthusiasm.

These men, I thought, were expounding a pure form of Christianity, although some of them irrationally declared themselves to be anti-religious. “By their works,” I reminded myself, “ye shall know them.”

At this period of my life, caught up as I was in the great struggle for social improvement, I turned my attention to the Church. I visited many places of worship, eager to hear what the disciples of Christ had to say about world events. To my sorrow, I found them painfully inarticulate in regard to the really vital movements that were going on around their very doors. They indulged themselves in academic sermons, always speaking above the troubled heads of their people.

The Great War, it seemed to me, had struck a mortal blow at the Church. Instead of being fired by a revolutionary zeal to make the world anew, it went on its way with an uninspiring stolidity, deaf to the appeal of a war-seared humanity. So I turned from the portals of the Church, and went out into the wilderness of politics.

For years I devoted my attention to the material betterment of my fellows. I fought for economic freedom with my pen and my tongue. If only men could get better homes, better wages, and shorter hours, the Kingdom of Heaven would be at hand.

Nor was I alone in cherishing these views. Many other young men thought along the same lines. We always spoke in terms of material betterment, and completely ignored the spiritual values of life. We searched in vain for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, completely blind to the glorious colourings at our very elbow. We acted as though a bulky pay-poke was a satisfactory substitute for the inspiring leadership of Christ.

And then came the September crisis!

In a flash I was brought back to earth. Material values, I realised, were of no consequence in a world that threatened to blow itself up with its frantically accumulated munitions. Around me I saw grave-faced people hurrying to church, probably for the first time in years, to pray for Peace. My mind was in a perfect turmoil at the thought of war. So I also returned to church to commune with my Maker at that sober hour.

Never can I efface from my memory the sweet calm that pervaded my soul when I bowed my head in prayer in that suburban temple. A new confidence surged up in my being. I came out of the church feeling that nothing could harm a man when God is on his side. My faith was reborn.

Further visits to various churches soon revealed the fact that this sacred institution had undergone a revolutionary change within recent years. Conscious of the world’s need of leadership, it was preaching a virile message of hope and salvation. Its challenging advocacy of tolerance, justice, and intellectual and spiritual liberty revived my faith. I always came away from its portals feeling happy. No longer did I feel that I was but a poor mortal struggling along unaided against a world gone mad. Life had become rational again.

 

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