I am happy to speak to you from my own home on the evening of a Sabbath Day which has been observed in so many of your home communities as Brotherhood Day. The National Conference of Jews and Christians has set aside a day on which we can meet, not primarily as Protestants or Catholics or Jews but as believing Americans; a day on which we can dedicate ourselves not to the things which divide but to the things which unite us. I hope that we have begun to see how many and how important are the things on which we are united. Now, of all times, we require that kind of thinking.
There are honest differences of religious belief among the citizens of your town as there are among the citizens of mine. It is a part of the spirit of Brotherhood Day, as it is a part of our American heritage, to respect those differences. And it is well for us to remember that this America of ours is the product of no single race or creed or class. Men and women—your fathers and mine—came here from the far corners of the earth with beliefs that widely varied. And yet each, in his own way, laid his own special gift upon our national altar to enrich our national life. From the gift that each has given, all have gained.
This is no time to make capital out of religious disagreement, however honest. It is a time, rather, to make capital out of religious understanding. We who have faith cannot afford to fall out among ourselves. The very state of the world is a summons to us to stand together. For as I see it, the chief religious issue is not between our various beliefs. It is between belief and unbelief. It is not your specific faith or mine that is being called into question—but all faith. Religion in wide areas of the earth is being confronted with irreligion; our faiths are being challenged. It is because of that threat that you and I must reach across the lines between our creeds, clasp hands, and make common cause.
To do that will do credit to the best of our religious tradition. It will do credit, also, to the best in our American tradition. The spiritual resources of our forbears have brought us a long way toward the goal which was set before the Nation at its founding as a Nation.
Yet I do not look upon these United States as a finished product. We are still in the making. The vision of the early days still requires the same qualities of faith in God and man for its fulfillment.
No greater thing could come to our land today than a revival of the spirit of religion—a revival that would sweep through the homes of the Nation and stir the hearts of men and women of all faiths to a reassertion of their belief in God and their dedication to His will for themselves and for their world. I doubt if there is any problem- social, political or economic—that would not melt away before the fire of such a spiritual awakening.
I know of no better way to kindle such a fire than through the fellowship that an occasion like this makes possible. For Brotherhood Day, after all, is an experiment in understanding; a venture in neighborliness.
I like to think of our country as one home in which the interests of each member are bound up with the happiness of all. We ought to know, by now, that the welfare of your family or mine cannot be bought at the sacrifice of our neighbor's family; that our well-being depends, in the long run, upon the wellbeing of our neighbors. The good-neighbor idea—as we are trying to practice it in international relationships- needs to be put into practice in our community relationships. When it is we may discover that the road to understanding and fellowship is also the road to spiritual awakening. At our neighbor's fireside we may find new fuel for the fires of faith at our own hearthsides.
It would be a fitting thing for an organization such as the National Conference of Jews and Christians to undertake this kind of project in neighborliness. I should like to see Associations of Good Neighbors in every town and city and in every rural community of our land. Such associations of sincere citizens like-minded as to the underlying principles and ideals would reach across the lines of creed or of economic status. It would bring together men and women of all stations to share their problems and their hopes and to discover ways of mutual and neighborly helpfulness. Here perhaps is a way to pool our spiritual resources; to find common ground on which all of us of all faiths can stand; and thence to move forward as men and women concerned for the things of the spirit.