THE following editorial from the New York Sun, under the above heading, is very significant as indicating how the “Trust” idea is beginning to take root in the field of religion. If the combination of business concerns into a Trust is profitable financially, why may not a combination of churches be of advantage in religion? The question is being asked, and an affirmative answer is being given. The Sun says:—
“It is not remarkable that the system of combination in business undertakings known as the Trust, is now recommended for adoption by churches and other religious enterprises. The suggestion is made by a correspondent of the Church Economist, with reference to ‘church consolidation’ more particularly, but if the Trust would be saving of money and energy, then its advantages can be carried not less strikingly to all religious undertakings.
“This correspondent gives as an example one city where there are three churches of a single denomination in one block, and he calculates that by their consolidation a saving of $20,280 a year could be effected. If the ‘ordinary business man’ would be likely to think of the propriety of getting rid of useless competition by consolidating three churches. He asks, therefore, ‘Is it not really strange that rational men, who, in their affairs of business, count with exactness every item of expense, should allow themselves literally to be robbed in the conducting of their religious concerns?”
“If the churches of one denomination may be consolidated thus profitably, why should not all denominations unite in a Trust? Such a proposition is now actually under consideration, for that is what the ‘Religious Conference’ started in New York recently amounts to practically. It is to combine Trinitarians and Unitarians, Christians and Jews in religious effort, or essentially a Trust.
“The very proposition is an indication of a state of feeling among those making it as to questions of religion. It seems to indicate that the formation of such a Trust is possible with them, for it suggests that the radical difference of opinion out of which grew their religious competition has passed away and been succeeded by an indifference which can now be gratified by a religious Trust of Jews and Gentiles, infidels, agnostics and nominal believers.
“By following the plan of Bishop Potter and throwing over dogma, such a religious Trust will get rid of the sole reason for division. In place of contradictory belief in dogmas it can set up a religious philosophy, a system of philanthropy, in which there will be agreement. At any rate, there is nothing else for it to do if it is to have any practical issue.
“The Trust could then be extended to all religious enterprises, at a great saving of money, many millions of dollars; for in place of numerous competing machines in every field, one common machine would be sufficient for the purpose.
“Why, then, is not such a religious Trust formed, and when will it be formed actually? So long as religious conviction remains it is impossible, but it will be feasible if there shall ever come a time when men cease to have any religious belief.”
Not all the facts pertaining to this subject are observed by the Sun. The formation of a religious Trust is not by any means dependent upon the demise of dogma and religious belief. The very object of the combine may be, and will be, to promote dogma—to advance religious belief of a certain kind by driving other beliefs out of active existence. The main object of a Trust is to destroy competition; and in religion, such an institution will have the same nature as elsewhere. In all ages, men in the church have been eager to stifle religious competition, and if the Trust can be made to serve this end, the mere saving of dollars will be a matter of secondary moment in its formation.
Denominational rivalry has largely disappeared between the popular churches; but religious controversy, along certain lines, is as active now as in the past. Never indeed was there a time in the history of this nation when the question of Sunday observance was more generally agitated than it is to-day. And Sunday observance, be it noted, is the one dogma upon which the popular denominations stands [sic.] as a unit.
Here, then, is the foundation of a religious Trust; or, more strictly speaking, a Sabbath Trust. Such a Trust has been in process of formation now for a score of years, and about all that is needed to complete the undertaking is an act of the National Government, recognizing the Sabbath of the Trust as the true Sabbath, and commanding all citizens to take and use it as the Trust directs. And for this, millions of church people, old and young, are hopefully working.