Saturday, 10 February 2018

Christ and Machinery by Greville MacDonald

Greville MacDonald's article 'Christ and Machinery' was the lead article in The Vineyard, February 1912.  The reference to the factory and power-looms were of particular interest to me.

"At first sight the different between this age and all others seems great, because now clever and powerful men have set up something between the poor and themselves to save their consciences: they have machinery.  They no longer compel the multitudes to till their lands and fight their battles; their machines, whether power-looms or Government offices, do the enslaving for them.  The weaker and poorer people are quite as much benefited, they assure us, as themselves; for they also have lost their simple independence along with all the simple art and, like the mighty in their seats, are become salves to complex mechanic contrivance.  The poor now, like the rich, have won an inheritance of parasitism, and find it almost as hard as the rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven...

design by Godfrey Blount,
The Vineyard, Feb 1912

"Will the world never understand why it is so hard for the rich man to reach Jerusalem, whose fields he sows with dragon's teeth, whose portals he fortifies with blast furnaces, whose harbours he guards with Dreadnoughts, whose empyrean he curtains with nebulous filth - all, lest himself get access to the joy within?  Christ's message concerns the sleeping birthright of man's own humanity, the gifts of his divinity that set him free from the dominance of those very things, all of which shall be given  into his hands when his spirit is inspired by love, worship, humbleness, so that he can use them and not be enslaved by them.  The Grace of God cannot be other than this gift of the Truth that makes us free.  It deals with the ancient simplicities of life - service, sacrifice, forgiveness - the things that count neither the cost nor the reward - the things that must be true, must be served,  must be submitted to, just because they are the Christ in us, the only way, the real nature of man.

"The rich man, dependent upon slaves, money, machines, to save him from labour and service, can hardly enter the Kingdom of Heaven, because that Kingdom is the consummation of the natural divine Life which he despises and crucifies.  And now the poor factory hand has not much more chance, because in him also he natural divine life - the way of Christ - even though he would still serve whom he loves, is starved and may die.  Christ's message to-day, as it was nineteen hundred years ago, is this, that the slave, be he rich or poor, cannot find place in this Kingdom, just because he would starve there.  Either we have never known what that message meant, or with open eyes we do actually uphold those machine-systems of art and thrift, government and scholarship, charity and peace, which, in exact proportion to their efficiency, plot for the final humiliation of Christ in more success than even Judas Iscariot in his greed or Pontius Pilate in his smith could encompass.

"But the Resurrection is eternal."

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