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so green as to be black, and there alighted before it a great scarlet Egyptian bird. And the beauty of that brought the tears to my eyes, so that I thought of nuns in their cells and barefoot friars in the hollow lands, and they striving for paradise. What did I care about paradise? A Venetian I. So why should I want to go to China?" "You have made a great case for the grandeur and beauty of Venice," says the sea-captain. "It is lovely, surely," say he, filling his pipe; "but finer poets nor you, my lad," says he, lighting it, "have tried to describe the grace and beauty of Tao-san Tuen, and," says he, taking a draw, "have failed."
"Tao-Tuen is a beautiful name. It is like two notes plucked on a harp. And it must be a wonderful place, surely, if great poets cannot describe it."
"I saw her before I left," says the sea-captain. "I was at the Khan's palace of Chagannor," says he, "seeing of the chief of the stewards was there anything I could get for him, and I in foreign parts. And as I was being rowed back along the river by my ten brawny sailormen, what did I pass but the garden of Golden Bells.
"And there she was by the riverside, a little brown slip of a girl in green coat and trousers, with a flower in her dark hair.
"And I lower my head in reverence as we pass by. But I hear her low, merry voice, by reason of which they call her Golden Bells.
"Ho, master of the vessel!' she calls. 'Where do you go?'
"And the sailors back water with a swish, and I stand up respectfully, for
"It is not a place," said the captain, all she is only a slip of a girl. "it's a girl."
"As for women, Venice"
"Venice be damned!" said the seacaptain. "Not in Venice, not in all the world, is there the like for grace or beauty of Tao-Tuen. They call her Golden Bells," he says.
"I go to foreign parts, Golden Bells,' I tell her; 'to far and dangerous places, into the Indian Ocean. To the Island of Unicorns and to the land where men eat men.'
"I hope you come back safe, master of the vessel,' she says. "I hope
“Is she a dancing-girl?" Marco you have a good voyage and come back asked. safe. It must be a dreadful strain on your people to think of you so far away.'
"She is not a dancing-girl," says the sea-captain, "she is the daughter of Kublai, the great Khan."
"A cold and beautiful princess," says Marco Polo.
"She is not a cold and beautiful princess," says the sea-captain. "She is warm as the sun in early June, and she may be beautiful and a princess, but we all think of her as Golden Bells, the little girl in the Chinese garden." "Did you ever see her?" says Marco, eagerly. "Tell me."
"In all this wide land,' I tell her, "there is none to worry about me. I have neither chick nor child.' "Golden Bells will worry about you, then,' she said, 'and you in the hazards of the sea. for luck.' And she gave me the flower from her hair. 'And let it bring you luck against the anger of the ocean and the enemies all men have. And let me know when you are back,
And take this flower
because I'll be worried about a man of China and him in danger on the open sea.'
"And was n't that a wonderful thing from a daughter of Kublai to me, a poor sailorman?
"The son of the King of Siam came to woo her with a hundred princes on a hundred elephants, but she would n't have him. 'I don't wish to be a queen,' she told her father. 'How could I be a queen? I am only Golden Bells.' Nor would she have anything to say to the Prince of the Land of Darkness, who came to her with sea ivory and pale Arctic gold. "The sun of China is in my heart, and you would n't have me go up into the great coldness to shiver and die?'
"So she remains in her garden by the lake of Cranes with Li Po, the great poet, him they call the Drinker of Wine, to make songs for her; and the Sanang Tung-Chih, the great magician, to perform wonders for her when she is wearied; and Bulagan, her
nurse, to take her to her heart when she is sad.
"And sad she is a lot of the time, they tell me. She sits in her garden in the dusk, playing her lute, and singing the song of the Willow Branches, which is the saddest love-song in the world. . .
"And why she should be singing a sad love-song is a mystery, for her soft, brown beauty is the flower of the world. For there would be no lack of suitors for her, nor is she the one to refuse love. The only thing I make of it is that the right hour has n't come.
"The beauty of Venice jumps to your eyes, but the beauty of this pulls at your heart. Little brown Golden Bells, in her Chinese garden, singing the song of the Willow Branches at the close of day. . the close of day... Is that not better nor Venice?"
But he got no word out of Marco Polo, sitting with his chin cupped in his hands. And that was the finest answer at all, at all.
(The end of the first part of Messer Marco Polo)
Four Immoralities of the Church
By FRANK CRANE
This paper is not presented as indicating the point of view of THE CENTURY regarding the church, but because it is a thought-provoking statement that raises many challenging questions.-THE EDITOR.
The purpose of what I am about to say is to estimate the church, not to denounce it. As, for example, I love my nation, but at the same time my mind criticizes the nation-myth; I be lieve nationalities are a passing phase, beyond which evolution is rapidly carrying us, and that many disasters befall us because of our national vanities and obsessions. Nationalism is the hot seed-bed from which wars spring.
So I believe that the church in its present alinement is a temporary stage in the progress of the Christian idea. The purpose, the program, of Jesus is permanent. That is the enduring tree. It bears from time to time leaves, flowers, and fruit, according to season. So it bore churches, creeds, cults, which, when they have
served their purpose, will fall away.
Jesus did not say He came to save His church, but to save the world. Christianity can triumph only as humanity, not as a group culled from humanity.
There are certain elements in the church, developed through its mixture with imperfect human nature and by infection from the vast heathenisms of the world's adolescence, which impede its growth. These I would point out.
After thirty years of activity as a Christian minister, I record what in my judgment are the four fundamental immoralities of the church. I say immoralities, because I believe these things to be deeper than errors; they are radical departures from the norm of Jesus. These are: first, that it is exclusive; second, that it is respectable; third, that it is free; and fourth, that it is militant.
I say this is immoral, because the distinguishing characteristic of Christianity is that it is the first great nonethnic religion. Before it all religions had been national or racial expressions. The pride of the Jew was that he was not a Gentile. When the races fight on earth and sea, in Homer, their gods fight also in the heavens above. Jah, the Jewish god, quarrels through the pages of the Old Testament with the gods of neighbor states.
The thing that most offended the Jews in apostolic days was the fact that the new faith let the Gentiles in and gave them equal privileges with Israel. Against this narrowness Paul thundered. It took a divine vision to remove the prejudice from Peter's mind, and only an angel from above could utter so daring a command as "What God hath cleansed, that call thou not common."
And this same universality was the element in Christianity that puzzled and antagonized the Roman leaders. They refused for a long time to believe it to be anything more than another Jewish sect. They naturally took it for granted that anybody who came along with another god or set of gods than Rome's was trying to upset the Roman Empire and was a traitor. The martyrdoms in the arena were not prompted by religious ferocity or aimed at suppressing any one's religion: they were political; they were the proud protests of the "red-blooded Americans" of that day and place who would stand nothing but one hundred per cent. patriotism.
Christianity struck the world very much as the League of Nations strikes a "bitter-ender" in the United States Senate. And the fears of the Roman persecutor and of the stand-pat sena
tor are both well founded; that is, their instinct is true, for it senses that in the end Christianity means the decay and death of all ethnic religions, and in the end the League of Nations means the swallowing up of nationalisms by humanity.
Now, the inclusiveness of Jesus' program is its very essence; so that when we make it exclusive we destroy its very nature. We pierce its heart. That is why it is immoral.
The churches, as we find them today, are organizations. As far as their form is concerned, they are in the same category as political parties, lodges, clubs, and orders. The common idea seems to be that Jesus organized a group, which He called a church, very much as we organize a rotary club, and that His ambition was that this organization should grow, by arguing and preaching, by building great structures and establishing schools, by getting hold of people influential in society and politics, by amassing numbers, and by holding gigantic conventions, until at last everybody would join, and that would be the final triumph of Christianity.
But He not only had no such thing in mind, but such a thing is utterly heathenish, a stone blindness to His intention, and directly opposite to His mind.
He never organized anything. His twelve apostles were no club, but merely His chosen friends. They never had but one official, a treasurer, and he went wrong. He found twelve friends (really more, for masculine historians did not count the women), and said to them that as He had made friends with them, so they were to go out and make friends with the rest of the human race.
The idea was a gospel of contagious friendship, but it fell into a world obsessed with the triumphant fallacy of the Roman Empire, and sold its soul for a mess of organizationpottage.
Christianity is essentially unorganizable. When you organize it you destroy its chief charm. You change a living spirit into a dead steam-roller. It may be proper enough and advantageous to form societies, groups, brotherhoods, and other organizations inside Christianity to further the interests of Christianity, but for any such body to call itself the church, meaning that its membership is coterminous with the body of Christ's followers, is as absurd as for the Republican party or the American Legion to claim that not to belong to it is not to be an American.
The whole organization idea of the church is antiquated; it fits the time when men believed in a world-carpentry of seven days, each twenty-four hours long, and evolution was denounced as a heresy. But the world is past that form of thought. We know now that God does not make anything by carpentry, not even kingdom come. He grows things. If the kingdom of God ever gets here, it will be because it grew, not because somebody "put it across."
It was because of this fundamental apostasy that the church has made its amazing failures. When the Great War broke out, it had no sentiment by which to stop it. All it could do was to throw a few denatured platitudes into the devouring flame of mad nationalisms. If the church from the beginning had refused to be anything but coterminous with humanity, if it had set its face like flint against all barriers, whether of race, blood, creed,
or conduct, it would have bred a Christendom that would simply refuse to go to war. But what could a church do when it was represented by a whole motley crowd of denominations each more anxious to cry with the pack of nationalist propagandists and to increase its own organization and prestige than to find and fuse with the heart of its brethren everywhere?
The colossal crime went on. The message of Jesus was peeped by only a few "pacifists," who were despised and hated quite as roundly as troublemaking Christians were suspected, thrown to the lions, or roasted in the days of Nero, and hated for precisely the same reason; for universality was quite as much a crime in 1917 as it was in the time of Paul. Because of the primal sin of exclusiveness and delimited organization, the church, when the world went mad, had no arresting word to say.
With each regiment of the slaughtering armies went a chaplain, but all the poor fellow could do was to attend the mangled victims and extend to them a hope of that brotherhood in death which it had been treason to practise in life.
The result of this exclusiveness, this identifying of Christianity with an organization, has been that real Christianity has been forced out into the highway, since it could not grow in the garden. It could not die. It is the truth, and truth is inherently inextinguishable. There is more Christianity in the world to-day than ever before, but it is not confined to the temple. It is permeating homes, markets, politics, education, literature, every department of life, while congregations in the churches dwindle.
And perhaps this is destiny's design.