"The gold rush is on," he says, in his opening line. It's not the gold rush of 1848, but the gold rush of 1946, "equally devastating in its results." Why? "Skeletons of tragedy" lined the ancient trails of California's 1848 gold rush, he claims, but today he says things aren't much different, "school boards frantically searching for teachers, school houses deserted, classrooms empty, churches padlocked, hospitals and sanitariums understaffed, mission posts unmanned, social agencies neglected." What's happened? "The post-war world finds men not interested in service but in salary."
I find that assessment amazing. If, in my lifetime, people ever look back at some "golden age" in American cultural history, it's the post-war boom, when "our boys" returned triumphant from Europe and the South Pacific, had families, built homes, and created immense prosperity. The Fifties will feel forever like Ozzie and Harriet, a remarkably innocent time when America seemed to run on every last one of its cylinders, when respect and industry and humility reigned, when America's immense losses during a long and horrifying war made peace itself almost heavenly. I was born in that era. I'm a boomer myself.
But Rev. Schuring says the culture of post-war America has gone materialism mad, and he'd never even seen Mad Men.
I don't know where I got this old tract. I'm sure some well-meaning person sent it to me, thought I'd like it, and I do. For years, like other flotsam and jetsam of my life, it's been stuck into the frame of my office bulletin board, and, once again, in cleaning up after all these years, I'm conscious of its presence.
An asterisk claims this address was given over "a chain of radio stations" on July 21, 1946, just 11 months after VJ Day, part of a new broadcast ministry that called itself "The Back to God Hour," something my parents listened to religiously (no pun intended). It was their program, and what Schuring says, I'm sure, harmonized with the pattern of their thinking, and mine.
"Once this ideal ["seek first his Kingdom"] becomes the sole passion of our life we will insist that every part of life takes its proper place in striving for that goal." That's the foundational ethic which stands--or stood--at the core of the faith with which I was raised. "But all these spheres [the parts of life he talks about earlier] and those who make them must be reborn by the grace of God and then lined up for the victory march to the goal of realizing God's kingdom everywhere."
Vintage Kuyperianism. Until I read it just now, I had no idea that this yellowing tract tucked into the corner of my bulletin board is itself a calling card of the very mission of the college where I taught for 36 years, the goods that birthed the institution. "Beg God that a new spiritual activity and power may grip us whereby one holy passion shall fill our frame, the seeking God's kingdom first, everywhere"--that's the way he preaches it.
It's hard to believe that someone might just pick up this track in a railroad station or the rest room of some department store and actually read the whole thing--it's eight pages long, for pity sake. Nobody reads that much anymore. Besides, the hectoring that goes in this little meditation is a little old school; you can feel Schuring's pointer finger in your sternum once in a while.
Look, the truth is, I admire this old tract. It's not flowery full of cheap grace. It's not shy about the love of money's honored NT place in the cavalcade of human sin. It's a bit strange maybe, so oddly critical of a post-war moment many, many Americans (most of them white) now think of as almost beatific; but it knows what gospel it wants to bring to those who might, in fact, read it.
Here's the way I see it: this old Back to God Hour tract of mine is as rife with weakness as it is with strength, as silly, maybe, as it serious. It speculates a ton, but it's also full of truth.
It's like us, I guess. It tells our story and it is our story. It's what we do--it may even be the very best of what we do, God helping us.