CLID: Early Interpretations

           The headline in the CHURCHMAN of Dec. 15, 1923, said ‘PREACHES SOCIAL JUSTICE ON THE RADIO.”  The lead paragraph was:

            ‘Cincinnati, Ohio–The Rev. William B. Spofford, Field Secretary of the Church League for Industrial Democracy, recently visited this city to make an investigation of the Nash Tailoring Company.  While here he broadcasted the following radio talk…and word was received that his listeners extended as far west as Spokane, Washington.

            “The Church League for Industrial Democracy is an association of Christian people who believe that the teaching of Jesus should be applied to every phase of life –to international affairs, to social affairs and to industrial affairs no less than to the problems we all face as individuals.

            “Further, we believe that only in the teachings of Jesus can we find the solution for the vexing problems that confront us today.  The Churches teach the Fatherhood of God, a doctrine which presupposes a belief in the brotherhood of man.  ‘We are members one of another’ is the way St. Paul expressed it.  Yet the fact of the matter is that the world, after nineteen hundred years of this teaching, is divided into warring factions today–employer against employee, race against race, nation against nation, Creed against Creed.

            “The Church League for Industrial Democracy is of the opinion that Jesus,  with His principle of cooperation, has the solution for these evils.  The Church to which I belong–the Episcopal Church–says in official ;pronouncements that we must have a fundamental change in in th3e working of our social and industrial life, and that the purpose of industrial life must be service to mankind rather than profits to owners.  That, I take it, is sound Christianity, based on the spoken word of Jesus. “We are members one of another”–and we must build a new world in which that ideal will be realized–a world, not in which the jungle law of competition shall hold sway, but a world in which every man recognizes that he is his brother’s keeper.  Jesus says: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all other things shall be added unto you.”  The world says:  “Seek ye first material prosperity and all things will be added unto you.”  Out of this world’s creed comes hatred, jealousy, envy, economic warfare, international warfare, and finally the destruction of those very material things we have so laboriously created.

            “A rapidly increasing number of thinking people realize today that we are on the wrong path and that we must get back to the right one even if things are upset in getting there.

            “To arrive at this ideal cooperative commonwealth will take time; it will require self-sacrifice, suffering and patience.  But the world is groping towards it–our great leaders are giving expression to it constantly.  We must have the courage to press on, for our hope and faith are upon the rock of the teachings of Jesus.

            “We invite membership to the C.L.I.D.  There are no membership dues; it is simply an association of like-minded people.”


Bill Jr:  In the 1990s [when this comment was written], when televangelists dominate T.V. and ‘talking heads’ smother radio-waves, this is a strangely optimistic talk. It does exude the optimism of the post-W.W. I era, at least from the Church’s ‘left’.  The great depression and W.W. II were but wispy clouds on the horizon and the driving issue was how to help workers organize for equity and justice.  The defeat of President Wilson’s dream of a strong League of Nations by the U.S. Senate isolationists, many of whom were fundamentally ‘populist’ in economic philosophy, was a fore-taste of what was building up.  Of course, this radio speech is an early version of “The Comrade Number”!

             Interestingly enough, in the next column over there is a box which is headed ‘A CALL TO CHINA’  It quotes Bishop Logan Roots of  China:

            “To quote from advertisements in Shanghai papers published in English, ‘There is a great opportunity for the investment of capital in China in the development of industry; unlimited number of workers, industrious, frugal and reliable and NO VEXATIOUS LABOR LAWS’.”

            Previously, in the Dec. 8, 1923 issue of the Churchman, there is an account of the western field secretary of the C.L.I.D, addressing ‘a large number of the 600 Episcopal students and faculty’ in appearances before the St. John’s Chapel Club and The Men’s Club.  Reported the chaplain, John Mitchell Page, on Monday, Dad was guest of members of the faculty for lunch and addressed a class of 250 students engaged in the study of laor problems.  (NOTE:  The chaplain, J.M.Page, was the same one who, in 1926, in the BOOZE, SEX AND ROARING TWENTIES issue on the campus, was adamantly against what THE WITNESS had printed.)

            The June 8, 1925, edition of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports on its front page with a jump to inside, that Dad was speaking at a conference of Episcopal and other social workers.  Realize that this is in the diocese of Colorado, Irving Peake Johnson, bishop.  He is sharing the podium with  Walter W. Pettit, assistant director of the New York School of Social Work, and with the Rev. Samuel Tyler, rector of St. Luke’s Church, Rochester, N.Y.  The reporter says:

Dr. Spofford’s remarks were provocative of much discussion and one of the  suggestions resulting from it was that the owners of securities in a corporation should feel some responsibility as to conditions in the factories.  ‘The church is in a position to tell industries what they should do.  The investment of religious  bodies is a tremendous power and can be wielded for the betterment of conditions in industry.’   He suggested the establishment of a committee to investigate the ethical soundness of a corporation before investments  be made, just as the financial soundness is investigated at present.”

Again, since most Church and educational  corporations now have committees on responsible social investment, (and if they don’t the stockholders and others are likely to show up at annual meetings wanting to know why not), we get a sign that the editor and CLID secretary was ahead of his time.