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REVOLT AGAINST TRADITION An Austin Community’s Unique Experiment between Lewis and Mathews. Lewis has the genius for soliciting money to keep the center going. The center, which has a budget of about $200,000 a year, is per petually on the economic ropes. Mathews’ role has been that of the spectacular lecturer, the chief attraction to the students, the brilliant and creative thinker. The walkout of Mathews and his followers will stagger the CFLC, but it will recover and go on, perhaps on a slightly more subdued note; but even on a more subdued note it will be counted very avant garde in religious circles. Another explanation for the breakthis one coming from the “ins”is that “they wanted to go much faster in the program than we want to go.” Other remarks, by both sides, indicate that the pace referred to concerns doctrinal matters. Since the break, says one of the remaining ins, “the phone has rung off the wall, ministers calling us and saying now we’ll send our students to you, now we will participate in your study programs.” But there are also rumblings from several UT professors who previously gave strong support to the CFLC, to the effect that if Mathews’ firing signifies a return to orthodoxy and a lessening of free inquiry, they will no longer be interested in helping the Community. CFLC founder Lewis was born and reared in San Angelo, center of the West Texas sheep country, where his father was a doctor and a pillar in the First Baptist Church. Lewis, who was chief yellleader at the University of Texas in 1936-37, took a degree in zoology and chemistry in 1937. Up until the previous year he had planned to become a doctor. But 1936 had been an eventful year for him: he married, he changed from Baptist to Presbyterian \(because he couldn’t accept the closed cornand he changed his professional goal from medicine to the clergy. Before he decided to enter the ministry, “Bigfoot” Lewis \(as he was nicknamed; he wears a size sion known as something of a gay blade. He took a bachelor of divinity from the Austin Presbyterian Seminary in 1940, was associate pastor of a Lubbock church and minister to students at Texas Tech and pastor of a mission church in a nearby cotton patch, all at the same time. Then he went into the Navy as chaplain in 1942, serving in the Marine Corps, a senior Protestant chaplain in the Solomons for 20 months. Half of the 4,000 Marines under his wing were Negroes. His work with the Negroes prompted him to stay on a year beyond his discharge date so that he could give the discharge lectures at Camp Wallace near Galveston, lecturing 72,000 sailors on their responsibilities as citizens. “I hit hard on the race issue,” he said. When he was discharged in 1946 he came to Austin to be minister. ‘Giant Centrifuge’ “By 1950,” he said, “the frustrations had set in. I wasn’t able to do the depth job on the student because of his other interests. The average student felt the University was a giant centrifugeanything that could be thrown out was; he felt he would wait till after college to deal with these important things that had been thrown to the rim. He didn’t see the relevance of Christian faith THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 6 April 28, 1962 in daily life, in taking hold of life vigorously.” Lewis threw in the towel in April 1950, and went to Scotland with his wife Mary and four children”back to the Valhalla of all Presbyterians to deepen our outlook.” It was on this trip abroad that he came across the idea of a residential student center where young men and women would, in addition to their college work, covenant to attend seminars in religious study and do a certain amount of religious studynot just Bible, but the modern theologians. “After World War II,” he said, “lay training centers began to emerge in Europe for the first time. After Hitler, people saw how irrelevant the church was to social, economic, and political conditions.” When Lewis got back in 1951, he told Houston Harte of his plans. Harte, co-owner of the Harte-Hanks newspaper chain in T ex a sSan Angelo, Marshall, Corpus Christi and, latest, San Antonio Expresstold him, “Jack, if you are crazy enough to think you can get students interested, I’ll chip in $500.” That was the beginning. Harte has been contributing ever since. But the program with which he started was not a success. “We started out with the Bible, with a layer of theology, topped with ethics, but it just wasn’t getting throughso we shifted gears in 1956.” The gear he shifted brought in Joe Mathews. With Mathews, the CFLC caught fire. Mathews came from the chair of Christian Ethics at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. He was there four years. Before that he was assistant professor of philosophy and religion at Colgate University. His B.D. is from Drew Theological Seminary. He completed everything for his doctorate at Yale except the footnotes on his dissertation. He was an Army chaplain in the Pacific. ‘Greatness of Mind’ Mathews stirs conflicting feelings. One young man who lives in the Community said of him: “What’s he about? It’s hard to sum it up. When you meet someone with greatness of mind, unless he is head of a national science foundation, it’s hard to say what he is about.” He added by way of complimenting Mathews, “Every kind of wild distorted neurosis is dumped in Mathews’ lap by the students” in the Christian Faith and Life Community. “And we’ve had every kind go through there lesbians, unwed mothers, every kind of neurosis.” This student, who has studied under Mathews two years, at one point responded: “Is God dead? Do you mean the God of the sweet by and by? Yes, and good riddance.” But he argues that the CFLC is not outside the Christian tradition: “I think the Community is more like the early Church than other groups are today, because the early church didn’t give a goddamn about life after death. Neither do we.” Critics of Mathews say this cursing is a mark of his “cult.” They claim Mathews swears to “shock.” He also has dramatic gestures, covers the blackboard with diagrams and quotes, wipes his face with a handkerchief as did Billy Sunday, and stutters. Some people have even accused him of cultivating the stutter because it is striking. Once in a while a Mathews-style burial service is read. For example a couple in the CFLC lost a baby. In the wording of the rites are found such phrases as “the givenness of death.” And at one point the minister says, “I call upon us here to be present to the casket . . .” Or take the treatise titled “The Christ of History,” written by Mathews and called by Lewis “The most significant thing that has come out of the experiment.” Boiled down, it goes like this: Every man conducts his life in the great expectation that something will eventually happen to relieve him of the hardships of the present. This is the EverymanChrist. But then along came “this fellow of Nazereth” who taught, and lived the teaching, that the only salvation is now, in really living now; the kingdom of heaven is at hand; except what you have in the way of a life now as the best you are likely to get. This new “stance in life” is the Jesus-Christ \(or the Christman with the awareness that there is no messiah and never will be one, and furthermore, that this very reality is the Messiah . . Capitulation to the secret that there is no way out, becomes the very door and the way to being. This is the end of the road of selfunderstanding. There is nothing beyond it. There is no need. For one can now freely live in his negations, learn in his perpetual ignorance and walk in all his given creatureliness.” The CFLC doctrine discards traditional beliefs regarding virgin birth, resurrection, trinity, Christ, , God, and the traditional Christian code of conduct. And yet, as one of the ministers put it, “We feel we are right in the middle of the tradition of the Christian church.” They feel they have simply put the old meanings in 20th Century terminology. This is largely the handiwork of Mathews. It is one reason he is considered doctrinally old by the critics of the CFLC, who feel he has done just the reverse of what he claims to have done, namely that he has given new meaning to old terminology, creating utter confusion. As one young man, familiar with the CFLC but unsympathetic, expressed it: “They have taken the bottles with the old Christian labels, poured out the contents, put in different stuff, but left on the old labels.” No Eternal Truths Rev. Joe Slicker, assistant director of the Collegium and one of those who resigned, said: “The 19th Century saw a substantial universe, and eternal truths in a rational system topped by a supreme being. This God is dead. We have no eternal truths. “We point at life with both 20th Century language and with Christian symbols. If you drop the 20th Century language, what remains becomes superstitution. If you drop the Christian symbols, you cut yourself off from the historical roots of the faith-standpoint in life.” He said, “The gospels are not talking about a guy named Jesus. They are talking about a drama about a guy named Jesus.” PATRONIZE OUR ADVERTISER Rev. Robert Bryant, who is staying, gave this illustration of what they mean by “no Christian ethic.” He said a couple of years ago they had a girl in the Center from Holland who was still bothered by guilt feelings arising from an event that occurred during the war. She and her little sisters were hungry. There was no food in the house. Her mother told her to go out and steal some food. She knew the Bible said not to steal, but she knew the Bible also said to obey your parents. So she stole. Bryant’s position is that “conflicts in the code show the unreasonableness of it.” He says the Christian has the freedom to use his critical intelligence to adjust his code from moment to moment. How do the students in the experiment react to it? Some are resisters, but they seldom are offended by the modernism. The others seem to be thoroughly sold on the “new” Christianity, though they generally admit to having been anti-religion when they came to the University. One boy said his Baptist roommate wasn’t changed by the one semester he lived in the center did come to see that one should examine the absurdities of one’s fundamental beliefsand then reaffirm them.” One of the students characterized the teachings as aimed at “radical freedom.” Most of the boys interviewed thought questions relating to their attitude toward traditional Christian symbols “irrelevant.” The modernism of the center apparently does not drive students away from religion. In the decade the center has been in existence, 150 students, or more than one-tenth the total, have gone into the ministry. \(These are And the affection for the place abides with its alumni. Forty percent of the former students are now contributing $10,000 a month to the center’s operating expenses. The “thrust” \(one of the Comthe contemporary makes this a very pragmatic venture. As Slicker said, they are out to reform the church into being “not a place to scratch your spiritual ulcer,” but “a group of people who have banded together to carry out their mission and to support each other in their missions.” Not surprisingly, debate among students is likely to center very rarely on whether a person should be baptised, and very commonly on such problems as militarism, racism, and poverty, and the pressing social issues of the times. Heroic Act In 1954, the leaders of the CFLC decided to integrate. This was before integration on the campus was more than a faint, faint hope. It was an heroic act, for by so moving, they automatically closed many doors where they previously had obtained financial support. Many of thise doors are still closed. The first Negro girl admitted student. Only one CFLC student withdrew when she entered, and she withdrew on the order for her father who was, interestingly enough, a Jew who had switched to the Catholic and later to the Episcopalian Church. Miss Bowie was an Episcopalian too; so it was white Episcopalian objecting to the presence of black Episcopalian. Four years later, the CFLC was still getting insulting phone calls. Today the average year will see five or six Negroes enrolled. There are also students from many foreign countries. Four years ago, the CFLC opened Laos House \(a Greek This is the place where the program for in-training for parish laymen and parish clergymen has since been conducted, and where the visiting campus ministers recently met. Parish clergymen from all over Texas come here for 48-hour study periods, once a month for four months. Lewis says the four most influential writers for his staff are Richard Niebuhr \(“we feel he is much more profound than ReinBonhoeffer. Lewis calls the “church fathers” Kierkegaard, Luther, and Augustine. How Does Man Live? Slicker said: “We want to help accept the world, grasp the world, work with it as it is. An African doesn’t have the right breakfast, he gets his rifle, and the world shakes. We can’t afford withdrawal. But Western culture has lost its thrust. The whole mass of the people don’t know how to get hold of themselves, much less the rest of the world. Our whole thrust is toward the guts of an individualhis practical lif e whether he’s going to the bathroom or working or in diplomacy. By individual I do not mean individualism or piosity or withdrawal.” Rev. Bryant summed up one way: aspect of CFLC doctrine in this v “Man finds himself always set in the midst of a world of conflict. It is the affirmation of the conflict and the freedom to decide without appeal that is the essence of a man of faith. It is this style of life to which we point with the symbol Jesus Christ.” Bryant defines church not as “an island of peace,” or “guardian of a body of truth,” or “a force that is to bring some order and structure to the world,” but rather as “a style of life relevant to our time. The new saint is the new moral manthe man who is perfectly lucid about his life, lucid about his limitations, who does not hide or pretend. He knows what he knows and he sees what he sees. And he is utterly sensitive. He is like the safe cracker who files down his fingertips until he is sensitive to every movement of the weights. He is the