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(This is a sermon or speech delivered by John B. Isom somewhere in Virginia in the early 40's.  I don't know what the exact occasion was but I'm pretty sure is was a State Baptist Convention.  Hand written across the top of the typed text are the words "state convention.")

State Convention Speech            by John B. Isom           

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus discussed many of the social relationships between human beings and the imperfections of many of the customary and traditional rules that governed the social order.  He then introduced what he considered to be the solution to the problems in our social relation - "You must always treat other people as you would like to have them treat you."  Since the program for the afternoon is designed to throw light on our problems in social relations let us fix in our minds, during this worship period, that social relations improve only as we learn to treat other people as we would like to have them treat us.  So I was glad to find that race relations is the problem to be discussed this afternoon.  I believe a solution to our problems of race relations would open the door to solving many of our other social problems, and the race problem is certainly at the front today.  Our racial superiority complex is one of the main causes for so much misery and suffering in our world.  It is one of the Pagan ropes by which Hitler pulled himself into power.  It is one of the main causes for the war between Japan and the U.S.  The international problem, the war problem, the class problem, and the economic problems can never be solved until something is done to greatly improve our inter-racial relationships.  And a lot of that improvement needs to be made right here in Virginia. 

A few  weeks ago I attended an interracial conference of preachers.  Across the isle,  a row or two in front of me, sat an old Negro preacher  who had been preaching for more than fifty years.  The speaker for the occasion was a white man.  He spoke of the unjust burdens the privileged have always forced the underprivileged to carry,  and as he spoke I saw tears trickling down the old Negro preacher's cheek,   his lips quivering with an uncontrolled emotion.    I could not help but feel something of the weight of the burden that he felt for his people.  During the discussion that followed the old Negro preacher expresses his appreciation for what the speaker had said and intimated that his race could not HELP being conscious of the unjust burdens imposed upon them by whites.  Then, in a nice but plain way he said, "you white preachers, as well as us Negro preachers, have been moral cowards when confronted with the race problem."   A few of the brethren resented the accusation  - but I do not believe deep in our hearts  any of us felt we had been falsely accused.

At that meeting I promised myself that I would try to find, preach, and use the Christian solution to the race problem.  For the time has now come when there must be a great improvement in our interracial relations if we are to avoid in the future a racial war.  If we are sincere in our desire to lay on the ruins of the old world a foundation for a better civilization we must not forget to put the Golden Rule down as the corner stone for race relations.  Whatever else may be said about interracial relationships it will have to be said that the problem will remain unsolved until we learn to treat other races as we would like to have other races treat us. 

To improve our social relations the Golden Rule must also be put down as the foundation for our economic system as well.  According to a study made by the Polytechnic Institute at Blackburg, and published in "Rural Poverty", between 1/3 and 1/2 of the rural white families, and 3/4 of the Negro families, or about 100,000 white families and 85,000 Negro families, in rural Virginia, in normal times, have an annual income of $600.00 OR LESS!  All of us know that it is not POSSIBLE for a father to properly feed, clothe and shelter his family on such an income, not to mention the medical care and educational opportunities that the members of his family may need.  You can look from now until dooms-day for a way to improve human relations that would make for a better civilization but you will not find it as long as about 1/2 of our population are forced to live and die in poverty.  Poverty is the breeding place for the causes that spoil our social relations.  Remove the causes that make for poverty and you will removed more that 50% of the causes for hopelessness, slowfulness, and crime, (and I dare say 90% of the conditions that make for war).

There is no greater problem facing society today than that of finding a way to appropriate enough money for all honorable occupations and professions so as to provide a meaningful job and wage to all faithful workers regardless of the nature of their work.  The Golden Rule is the only answer to this problem that I have found. You must ask that society do unto others, as you would like for society to do unto you.

Each one of you who serve society with the best of your ability and opportunity cannot help but feel that society should reward you enough for your work to make it possible for you to provide your family with a decent home, proper food, clothing, medical care, and educational opportunities that would make each member of your family a useful member of society.  We Christians cannot ask that such blessings be given to us at the expense of others.  We cannot ask for such rewards for our labor without asking that the same reward be given to faithful workers who work beside us in all other professions and occupations. 

In my work I am constantly being faced with those people who believe, "a social order and economic system built on the Golden Rule are wonderful ideals to dream about, but such things are not practical in a man's world and are beyond the reach of possibility".    I realize that such an attitude, like a mighty wind, blows against us all, but I raise the question, is it impossible?  Is it impossible for man to have a social structure under which he can treat his fellow man as he would like to be treated?   If such is impossible then we will have to say that Jesus gave himself to the impossible, and that settles it for all those who truly worship him.  If Jesus lived and died to make possible the impossible then it is our divine duty and noble privilege to follow in his steps.  Jesus, nearly two thousand years ago blazed for us a way of life that is still far from the realization of humanity.  Traditions and public opinion suffered under his leadership, and they in return made him suffer.  Our accepted traditions and customs today fall far short of the way of life that Jesus said was possible for us to have.  Somewhere, then, between what we are and what Jesus said we should be is our place of leadership.    The human events that we call progress will never approach the Kingdom of God, unless the churches have leaders who will stay out in front, doing their leading in no man's land, in the marshes and wilderness of ideas that lie between a lower and higher civilization.  If we are not found there, surveying the road toward a world more divine, then we are traitors to the Master Leader whom we profess to follow.

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