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The Lord and John Foster Dulles | The Nation

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The Lord and John Foster Dulles

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The secretary of state's political views are rooted in his religion. Tell that to the leaders of his faith.

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Before entering politics, Secretary Dulles was a prominent layman of the Presbyterian Church and active in The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. As Secretary of State he has placed great stress on "moral and spiritual values" in foreign relations. But several denominations, including his own United Presbyterian Church, have sharply criticized his international policies--precisely on moral and spiritual grounds. Resolutions passed by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church at Pittsburgh last June contained, as Time remarked, "some remarkably tough criticism of Presbyterians Eisenhower and Dulles."

Although one timid delegate objected that "people will think we are pinko," the churchmen voted overwhelmingly for "coexistence." Mr. Dulles regards this as a dirty word, even, when prudently linked with the adjective "competitive," as approved by President Eisenhower. The Presbyterian Assembly said bluntly:

A false and baneful doctrine is being persistently proclaimed, namely, that in the present world situation there are only two alternatives, either victory over the new Communistic powers, or the annihilation of the traditional democracies. There was a time when Christians and Moslems fervently held that one group or the other had to be totally vanquished by force. But eventually they learned to live in the same world. At a later period in history, Protestants and Roman Catholics thought that one side or the other had to be wiped out. But the time came when they, too, learned to coexist as they do today... So, while still striving for the freedom of all men, we today must coexist with Communist nations. In this nuclear age, the only alternative to coexistence is coextinction.

The resolutions did not refer directly to a summit meeting with Russia, but the wording left no doubt that the Assembly favored it:

Wisdom teaches that in the pursuit of human understanding there can be no substitute for personal encounter. Estranged people must meet one another; they must talk to one another and strive to understand one another. They must probe the causes of their alienation. They must overcome enmity and distrust by the sharing of goods, knowledge and human resources for the welfare of mankind. When men who profess the Christian religion make no adequate provision for a face-to-face encounter with their enemies, they betray the religion which they profess. Yet in human tensions today, nations continue to talk at one another and about one another, instead of talking with one another. This is one of our greatest perils.

The assembled Presbyterians accused the United States Government of "international hypocrisy [which] should be abhorrent to Christians...":

Our fathers' concept of freedom is also being debased... We must be deeply disturbed by the contemporary myth of the free world. This nation counts among its allies some nations which are in no sense free. By our actions we proclaim to the world that lands where human freedom is utterly dead can qualify for membership in the free world simply by supplying military bases or strategic commodities. This kind of international hyprocrisy should be abhorrent to Christians, and in its presence the Church dare not keep silent. In the effort to achieve a posture of power, our nation must not ignore the suppression of God-given human rights in any land. We call therefore for a reappraisal of the current concepts of freedom and the free world.

Seldom before in American history can a leading religious body have officially denounced American foreign policy in such strong terms. From the quiet of the academy a few men like Arnold Toynbee had warned that the West was losing the "spiritual initiative" to communism. But here the speaker was the governing body of the church to which both President and Secretary of State themselves belonged.

Secretary Dulles was disturbed. He obtained copies of the resolutions before they had been officially published, and conferred with Dr. Edward Elson, Minister of Washington's National Presbyterian Church, where President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles (following the example set by seven other Presidents and seven other Secretaries of State) have regular pews. Dr. Elson ascertained that the resolutions were put in final form by Robert Cadogan, editor of Presbyterian Life, after written suggestions by ninety-nine persons. Dr. Elson indicated that in his opinion the force of the resolutions was qualified by the fact that, some years before, Mr. Cadogan had been a Quaker.

After two months of mixed indignation and indecision, the Board of Elders at National Presbyterian passed resolutions defending their two distinguished fellow-members against the criticism lodged at Pittsburgh. These have not been published but their tenor is known.

"Those resolutions at Pittsburgh," says Perry Morton, one of the elders and an Assistant Attorney General, "were pre-Job, going back to the time when God used the Assyrians to afflict the Israelites."

The Presbyterian Assembly has not been the only religious body to reprimand the State Department. Two months earlier, the Methodist Council of Bishops, meeting in Miami, had said:

When our major concern is defense... we may survive for a time but we shall never win the war for the minds of men. The restless millions of the world await positive proposals that express our idealism and are designed to establish lasting peace, continuing economic justice and abiding racial brotherhood. We are well aware of the duplicity of Communist leaders... but we play into Communist hands when we identify our humanitarianism with national self-interest.

The Catholic Church has in effect, if not in words, rebuked Secretary Dulles for his friendly tolerance of dictatorships in South America. Time has quoted a "high Vatican spokesman" as saying: "Experience has taught that a system of freedom is in the end best for church interests. Any privilege that may be gained through a dictatorship is soon more than offset by hatred against the church." This policy, Time said, "is rooted in the Vatican's conviction that dictatorships and poverty breed Communism."

Although the facts would appear to justify it, no church group (so far as this writer knows) has voiced an indictment of Secretary Dulles for an un-Christian readiness to resort to war. An irresistible urge to employ such phrases as "going to the brink" and "massive retaliation in places of our own choosing" hardly seems to comport with the teachings of the Prince of Peace. Martin Agronsky raised this question with Mr. Dullies in an NBC television interview, on September 15, 1957. Before the interview was over Secretary Dulles had all but made a preventive warrior of Jesus Christ. Agronsky asked whether it was not "impossible to reconcile the Christian ethic and the doctrine of masive retaliation."

Secretary Dulles: I don't agree with that at all. You quoted one verse out of the Bible and I will quote another one. Jesus said: "I came not to bring peace but a sword."

You can't take detached fragments out of the Bible and build a whole... philosophy just on an isolated sentence. ... [Jesus] didn't preach against war. There is plenty of war going on in the world today, and in his day... He didn't go in for that type of thing because he talked certain basic principles and left it for people to apply them as best they could. ...

Mr. Dulles did not point out that the context of "I came not to bring peace" shows clearly that it is figurative language. Succeeding verses make this plain: "And a man's foe shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father and mother more than me is not worthy..."

In testifying before a closed session of the House Appropriations Committee on April 28, Mr. Dulles seemed to explain why he is willing to go so far toward risking the outbreak of war. The testimony, given in executive session, was made public two months later. According to The New York Times of June 27, Mr. Dulles said:

I think we would win a hot war, and I do not know if we will win this "cold war" or not. It depends on whether we have an adequate program... But as far as the defense of the principles and ideals for which this country has stood from the beginning and to which it is dedicated, those are, I think, in greater jeopardy from a cold war than from a hot war.

It might appear that Secretary Dulles would prefer a hot war as the form of conflict which, in his judgment, we are more likely to wine His Christian impulses, it should be noted also, have not prompted him to urge adherence by the United States to the anti-genocide convention of the U.N., although fifty-odd other governments have signed.

One leading churchman, Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, has charged in an article for The New Leader that "Dulles is not always careful of the truth, for he has recently accused the Russians of breaking a Geneva promise on the unification of Germany which they never made." Walter Lippmann and others have also called Mr. Dulles on this point.

In a plainer case of laxity with the truth, Secretary Dulles charged in a speech at San Francisco that "Communist China took Tibet by force." Yet China has claimed suzerainty over Tibet since the Manchu Dynasty. So long as Chiang Kaishek held the mainland, the United States actively supported China's claim to Tibet. In 1947 the State Department refused to admit a Tibetan trade delegation until the members could produce Chinese passports. In 1950, Tibet appealed to the U.N. for aid against China, but the United States would not support the bid.

Mr. Dulles enjoys one important advantage over his moral or religious critics. Much of the American press is as ready as is Secretary Dulles himself to condone diplomatic hypocrisy and tricks of propaganda. There have been, for example, almost no editorials against lumping all of America's assorted "allies" together under the term "free world." Stories which would point up the extent to which the subjects of some of our allies are not free get little notice. For example, stories about the slave labor camps conducted jointly by the Portuguese and the South Africans in the South African gold mines, are printed in some Continental newspapers but rarely in the United States. In a story illustrated with photographs, the Paris newspaper Le Figaro said on May 22:

The gold mines of Johannesburg employ about 400,000 Negroes. These men live in the camps, without their families, in the immediate proximity of the mines. Wages are very low, about 180 francs [43 cents] so the recruitment of labor is difficult. To fill the need, methods rather brutal but efficient are used...

Two hundred thousand natives are "furnished" each year by the Portuguese colony of Mozambique. A stupefying contract has been concluded with the Portuguese Government, which takes responsibility for recruitment. On a fixed day, the labor contingent is delivered and half the salary [still 43 cents a day] is paid to the Portuguese Government. A century ago that was called slavery.

By its support of Portuguese imperialism, as in Goa, the United States, becomes, in a measure, party to this virtual slavery. It is not a good way to promote belief in either American democracy or Christian morals. The average Asian or African begins to doubt that we live by the precepts we tell him so much about.

At this point the Communists bring in their interpretation. This was stated clearly in an interview which Nikita Khrushchev gave to William Randolph Hearst II:

Now, as regards to God, Dulles leans on him... God is but a mask those people put on. Their acts are contradictory to humanism. They lean on the Word of God and then violate it.

How can we understand it when churchmen, clergymen, throw holy water on guns that are intended to kill people. Is that the highest showing of man's spirit? ... We will fight against those feelings. You will never succeed in teaching your people to hate us through God. ...

When the Presbyterians declared that "communism" and "capitalism" can learn to live in the same world, as Moslems and Christians learned to do, they came to the crux of the matter. The contest between communism and capitalism is, historically, a new phase of the age-old interaction of East and West.

Modern history sees the Crusades less as religious wars than as gigantic freebooting expeditions. Steven Runciman, author of the authoritative History of the Crusades sums up as follows:

Enmity between Eastern and Westem Christendom reached its climax in the greatest tragedy of the Middle Ages, the destruction of Byzantine civilization in the name of Christ.

One of Pope Urban's expressed aims in preaching the Crusades was to find some useful work for the turbulent and bellicose barons who otherwise spent their energy in civil wars at home...

In the same way, the motives of the unstable fringe who today preach a holy war against communism seem confused, mistaken and politically self-serving. World progress will be served if East and West can work out their destinies in peace. In this way the Russian and Chinese civilizations may make cultural and scientific contributions as important as the great gifts of Arab culture which nursed the Renaissance at the end of the Middle Ages.

Unless some modus vivendi can be reached, the doleful prophecy of the exiled Russian divine, Nicholas Berdyaeff, may materialize: "We are witnessing the end of the Renaissance, and of the humanism which was its spiritual basis. Our faith in man is shaken to the foundations. This is a time of spiritual decadence, of loneliness and dereliction."

Eight years ago, when he was looking in from the outside, Mr. Dulles wrote, "It is not like us to be on the defensive and to be fearful. This is new in our history... The trouble is not material... What we lack is a righteous and dynamic faith... Today our military leaders... draw a line which, like the Maginot line, we then fortify as our defense... We have no affirmative policies beyond, for we cannot go further with material things."

But Mr. Dulles has gone further than his predecessors in relying on Maginot lines and material things. For such humanitarian impulses as it has shown, the Administration can thank not the Secretary of State but President Eisenhower, whose parents were members of a humble sect called the River Brethren.

Mr. Dulles appears to see Christianity as a faith which needs to confirm itself through the hatred of heretics and infidels. But the Brotherhood of Man will be achieved--if it is ever achieved--by easing human insecurities, tensions and aggressions through the emotional appeal of common humanitarian ideals. It will never be achieved through the pious belligerence of those who would make of religion a prop of the status quo.

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